Rebirth And Karma In Hinduism : Remembering Our Past Lives

'As long as the root remains, the Karma must be fulfilled, resulting in various social situations, life spans and experiences'.

Commentary: Each must reap what he sows. Various life experiences are due to the Karmic situations that each has earned for himself by his thoughts, words and deeds.

Why do we not remember our past lives?

Answers : Such remembrance under our existing limitations would considerably complicate our present life. Therefore, the wise and beneficent Lord has so ordered our mental evolution that we cannot recall our past lives until such time as it is good and helpful for us to remember. Such instances may well form a cycle which is all clear to us when we come to the end of it, when we see a whole rosary of lives threaded upon the one personality.

Why God causes man to forget experiences of past incarnations?

It is God's mercy that a benighted soul, ailing from various material discrepancies, becomes forgetful of these from one incarnation to the next. This oblivion to the miseries and shortcomings of previous existence is one of the most gracious of mental anesthetics given by God to each human being, that he be not burdened by memories of all the physical and mental sorrows of past lives. He is spared from carrying with him the evil and discouragements of one life into another, and is thus given a fresh start on the straight and narrow path leading to his highest goal. It is enough that proddings of his innate good or evil tendencies—the effects of good and bad karma of previous lives—remain with him as reminders of lessons yet to be learned and victories already won.

When death is predestined and also is nothing but a pause to change the clothes, why is it, then, a sin to commit suicide and also to kill living beings for a certain cause?

Answer: Suicide as well as killing of other beings are both considered to be great sins, as they block the course of evolution of the Jiva. Moreover, putting an end to the present gross body by force does not help one to put an end to his sufferings. Sufferings and pleasures due to him by virtue of his past actions won't leave him until and unless they are enjoyed by him completely.

On the contrary, by suicide one is inviting more miseries, for it may take some time for him to get another gross body in which he can enjoy the effects of his actions, and during this interim period, he may have to move about in the form of a Preta or ghost. It is, of course, needless to say that killing a human being is a criminal offence legally and is totally heinous from the point of view of spiritual progress, barring, of course, such contingencies as in a war.

'By perceiving "samskaras"(subtle impressions) comes knowledge of the previous birth'.

When 'samyama' is performed on the 'samskaras', or habitual impressions of one's mind, knowledge of past births comes. This is because of the Karma that must be worked out in this life depends on the impressions carried over from past lives that were not dealt with at the time.

Whenever consciousness, like a shining sword, enters the various scabbards of Nature's twenty-four principles, its appearance differs according to the specific covering. This encasement of consciousness- in intelligence, mind, ego, feeling, senses (five instruments of knowledge and five of action), and the five elements of the body—is called birth. The time between death and rebirth is spent in the astral sphere. The ego cannot remember its experiences in the prenatal or embryonic state or even in the postnatal state of infancy; similarly, unenlightened men do not recall their existences (after physical death) in the astral worlds; nor do they remember former lives on this earth.

The all-seeing light of Cosmic Consciousness gradually illumines and reveals to the yogi the heretofore dark gulfs linking incarnations. In the advanced state, the yogi sees the Cosmic Light, or manifested Spirit ("Me"), and the soul ("thee") as having existed together through many incarnations. He realizes that his forgetful body-identified pseudosoul, intoxicáted with the delusion of mortal consciousness, was utterly oblivious of that divine togetherness.Every human being is assured that someday, after his liberation, he will know all about his rebirths as individualized manifestations of Spirit, whether on this earth or in other planes of existenee. The liberated yogi transfers his consciousness from one soul wave to the Spiritual Ocean with all Its many waves of incarnated beings. The fully freed devotee realizes that it is the Spirit which has taken the various forms of all his rebirths. Then he does not say: "I took so many forms," but, "The Spirit appeared in all the forms that encased my soul until final liberation."

How to free ourselves from Karma?

Answer:  Feel, as you do your daily duties, that you are only a witness of all that goes on around you, of even your own actions. This is called Sakshi Bhav. You should inwardly realize that you are different from the active principle in you. This is the method of Vedanta.

There is the other-- easier, but equally potent  method of Nimitta Bhav. Feel that the Lord alone is the real doer of all actions and that you are an instrument in His hands. Your actions will be transformed into worship of the Lord, and you will not be bound to them. Work without expectation of any reward and without egoism. Root out the idea of agency; feel, "I am not the doer". You will be freed from the shackles of Karma. You will not accumulate new Karma. Allow your Prarabdha Karma to work out; and you will attain liberation.

Continued from.... Soul Rebirth And Reincarnation in Hinduism

Musings of A Mystical Yogi
Karma and Diseases Of Past Lives
Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali

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