Need to re-visit reincarnation to
put a stop to fanatic behaviourin name of religion
What is the proof of reincarnation?
Consequence of reincarnation
Reincarnation myth or real? Explored at Ernst and Young office in City of London
Reincarnation explains the Gay phenomenon
Reincarnation explored at Southampton
Detailed discussion about Reincarnation
Hinduism and Homosexuality
Analysis of Research by Professor Ian Stevenson
Introduction to Dr. Ian Stevenson's Research
Dr. Stevenson's reincarnation research began in 1960 when he learned of a case in Sri Lanka where a child reported remembering a past life. He thoroughly questioned the child and the child's parents, including the people whom the child recalled were his parents from his past life. This led to Dr. Stevenson's conviction that reincarnation was possibly a reality. That same year, Dr. Stevenson published two articles in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research about this child who remembered having a past life. The more such cases he discovered, the greater became his ambition to scientifically quantify the possibility of reincarnation - one of the world's greatest mysteries - which had been virtually ignored by science in the past.
In 1982, Dr. Stevenson co-founded the Society for Scientific Exploration. He authored around 300 papers and 14 books on the subject of reincarnation. His 1966 book, "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation," became a classic in the annals of reincarnation research. In 2003, Dr. Stevenson published his second book on reincarnation, "European Cases of the Reincarnation Type". In 1997 he published his major classic: the 2,268-page, two-volume book, "Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects," which focused mostly on deformities and other anomalies children are born with which cannot be traced back to inheritance, prenatal or perinatal (created during birth) occurrences. This monumental classic contains hundreds of pictures presenting the evidence he discovered. It documents 200 cases of children having memories and birthmarks which corresponded with the lives and wounds of deceased people whom these children recalled as having lived in a past-life. In 1997, Dr. Stevenson published a condensed version of this book for the general public entitled, "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect." Dr. Stevenson's research into reincarnation also became the subject of two important works, "Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives" authored by Tom Shroder (a Washington Post journalist) and "Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives" authored by Dr. Jim B. Tucker(www.jimbtucker.com) a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia. Many people, including skeptics and scholars, agree that the cases presented by Dr. Stevenson offer the best evidence yet for reincarnation.
During his original research into various cases involving children's memories of past lives, Dr. Stevenson did note with interest the fact that these children frequently bore lasting birthmarks which supposedly related to their murder or the death they suffered in a previous life. Stevenson's research into birthmarks and congenital defects has such particular importance for the demonstration of reincarnation, since it furnishes objective and graphic proof of reincarnation, superior to the - often fragmentary - memories and reports of the children and adults questioned, which even if verified afterwards cannot be assigned the same value in scientific terms.
In many cases presented by Dr. Stevenson there are also medical documents available as further proof, which are usually compiled after the death of the person. Dr. Stevenson adds that in the cases he researched and "solved" in which birthmarks and deformities were present, he didn't suppose there was any other apposite explanation than that of reincarnation. Only 30% - 60% of these deformities can be put down to birth defects which related to genetic factors, virus infections or chemical causes (like those found in children damaged by the drug Thalidomide or alcohol). Apart from these demonstrable causes, the medical profession has no other explanation for the other 40% to 70% of cases than that of mere chance. Stevenson has now succeeded in giving us an explanation of why a person is born with these deformities and why they appear precisely in that part of their body and not in another.
Philosophy of Life after death
Contemporary Views on Life after death:
NDE (near death experiences) The greatest criticism to the belief in life after death is that there is no scientific evidence. Recent studies in the phenomenon called Near Death Experiences (NDE) suggest that people who came close to death, or in some cases who were pronounced clinically dead have reported very strange experiences suggesting that the 'individual' person somehow continues to live even after the body has stopped functioning. Surprisingly there seems to be a broad agreement about their experiences. They report leaving their bodies and in some cases actually seeing and hearing the people talking at their bedside. They report:
● A Feeling of well being and freedom even though they do not seem to have any link with their body.
● A tunnel of light that seems to pull them in a loving manner.
● When they come to the end of the tunnel they come into contact with and recognise many of their dead relatives. They seem to be able to communicate with them. In many cases the dead relatives ask them to turn back and return to their bodies.
Criticism to such interpretations comes from the scientific community suggesting that when the brain is about to switch off it produces electrical and chemical activities that give the false sense of seeing light and dead relatives. The suggestion is that these experiences only take place when there is still some remaining brain activity that can explain away these paranormal experiences. It is just the brain conjuring up images from its memory bank. Some research institutes are carrying out tests to see if a person going through a near death experience is actually able to leave his body and see some coded messages kept hidden close to the ceiling. As of yet no conclusive evidence to corroborate this has come to light.
In favour of life after death: There are examples when patients seem to have been declared as clinically brain dead for very long periods of time. They were undergoing such experiences without any recorded brain activity suggesting that the mind seems to have an independent existence from brain activity. The unusual feature of the experience is that the patient only sees people who have passed away and not anyone who is still alive. Random images from memories would not account for that. The uniformity of the experience and the sensation of not being in distress but feeling warm and loving even though the body has stopped functioning suggests that there is more to life than brain activity.
Psychic evidence of Mind as something different from the body:- Society of Psychical research studying Parapsychology supports mind surviving the body.
ESP Telepathy - Duke Univ suggesting some cases of one in billion chance of coincidence of telepathic messages being transmitted between two people (without any physical radiation able to traverse the gap) Criticism - maybe just coincidence
PK Psychokinesis Dr Rhine at Duke Univ move objects using power of the mind. Lighting up light bulb at will Criticism: It is just skilled staged magic.
Spiritualism Contacting dead person through a medium. (Criticism Residue memories? Says John Hick)
The Atheistic view:
People like the Humanists believe that there is only one life - the one we live now and the belief in life after death is just wishful thinking.
There is no scientific evidence about the afterlife. It is just human aspiration that has no basis in reality.
In favour: The endearing aspect of this approach is that it makes us value life even more and
People who belong to the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) believe that we have two lives. This one and the next one, which will last for eternity.
In favour of: This view makes the followers of these religions very aware about the importance of leading a religious life. These approaches make the believers lead a very moral and disciplined life and become more aware of the codes of conduct prescribed by their religions.
Criticism of this view- It does not explain why we exhibit different personalities at birth. It also offers an infinite reward for the finite work we do in this life (i.e. lead a moral life). This does not seem right as the risk/reward ratio seems dramatically skewed and can make the ardent devotee of these faiths carry out serious misdeeds in the name of religion. I.e. Carry out fanatic acts like killing themselves or other people in the name of religion so that they can live in heaven for eternity. The third criticism of this view is that even if we were to live in heaven for eternity it will get boring at some stage! And if we have to endure that for eternity -- hell!
Hinduism and Reincarnation:
Reincarnation according to the Hindus is the disassociation of individual mind from one body at death and its re-association with another body at re-birth. The Jivatman (embodied Atman) or the soul, is said to transmigrate between the bodies. Atman only percolates through the mind and body hence it does not transmigrate. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (2.20) "Atman does not have birth nor does it die with the body." The personalised mind with its impressions associate and disassociate with different bodies. The idea that the mind actually travels would be considered nonsense as 'here and there' are projections within the mind hence the mind can only be understood as all-pervasive. So neither the Atman nor the mind actually migrate. So the usage 'jivatma' or the soul transmigrating is a misnomer. For the individual there is no coming or going but for other observers there is coming and going of the individual hence the usage the soul transmigrates. The theory also suggests that just as at the time of sleep we create our own universe and inhabit it; between re-births the individual creates his own world and resides in it until he has an urge to reincarnate in another body.
Buddhist and Rebirth
Buddhists view this Hindu concept of reincarnation as flawed, and offer their own theory of rebirth as a better explanation about what happens after death. Idea of reincarnation of the soul is compared with water shifted from one bowl (equated to the body) to another bowl. When one bowl becomes worn out i.e. when the body is nearing death, the water it contains is shifted to another bowl. Buddhist prefer to use the metaphor of a lit candle to explain the theory of Rebirth. Just as when one candle when about to burn out can light another candle; one death signals the start of another life. This is called rebirth and not reincarnation. The Hindus would however refute this metaphor, as they believe that neither the Atman nor the individual mind actually move from one body to another.
The only difference between the two philosophies is that Hinduism says: - The ego transmigrates. Buddhism says the ego is an illusion (Anatman) so 'nothing' really transmigrates hence the process should be called rebirth rather than re-incarnation. But the conclusion of the Hindu tradition in 'Advaita' philosophy also says the 'ego' is not real it is just an 'appearance' of the Self so really transmigration is a mere appearance nothing substantial like the Atman actually travels from one body to another. Rebirth or reincarnation? Just a play of words, storm in a teacup!
The atheist (materialistic) criticism of both these ideas would be:
▪ Belief in reincarnation is a psychological ploy to give us a sense of continuity to counter our inherent fear of death. This could be countered as this phenomenon is not just a matter of belief, there are many cases where an individual is able to recall vast amounts of information of previous life. This is a matter of fact and not belief. A question can be asked of the materialist, "Why should a lump of sophisticated carbon (human being) be prompted to look for continuity? We know of no property of matter that can be linked to promoting 'living or dying or preserving or looking for continuity.'
▪ Mind is just an epi-phenomenon of brain activity and that just ceases when the body of the individual is declared brain-dead. The metaphysical explanation of how an individual can transmigrate is missing in both these philosophies. What is the essential mechanism that is used as a transmitting mechanism? This could be countered by saying that the mechanism involved is essentially non-physical hence no physical explanation can be offered. Mathematics is a metaphysical entity as it can not be viewed as 'sense data' and yet we use it all the time. Russell the well-known mathematician said, "We have no idea what is mathematics - it just works". The same can be said about the transmission mechanism between rebirths.
▪ The numerous reports of past lives remembered by children investigated and researched by Ian Stevenson can be offered as the best proof of continuity of the individual through reincarnation. This is countered by the atheists as 'mere coincidences.' This ploy can be used in every research that yields any unusual result. Such an attitude can be used to explain away all unexplained phenomenon. Mere coincidence would not be the acceptable as scientific explanation in any other field. Scientific community too suffers from common blind spots. The work of Professor Ian Stevenson is not given due credence as the results do not fit in with the accepted materialistic paradigm science operates under. The findings of Ian Stevenson are a matter of fact that requires an explanation. The best hypothesis that fits the facts of his research offers validity to the theory of Reincarnation.
Resurrection in Islam:
According to the Qur'an, at death the body turns to earth while the soul sinks to a state of unconsciousness. Then, at a time called 'The Hour', Allah decrees the 'Day of Resurrection' and the 'Day of Judgement'. The earth will be 'rent asunder' as all the deceased will be resurrected; bodies will rise out of the earth and reunite with their souls. The purpose of the resurrection is to judge all individuals on their deeds and to decide their fate of eternal bliss in heaven or eternal damnation in hell. However, after the resurrection, men must wait a long time before they are judged. In this time men will pray to their respective prophets to appropriate redemption.
▪ When the trial is over, those destined to Paradise will be able to cross the bridge to Heaven with ease. They will gain eternal peace and joy in the garden of Allah. Those who are destined to Damnation will tumble into Hell. Here they suffer both the pains of the body and the soul.
Criticism: Too simplistic and at best very unjust and cruel.
Resurrection in Christianity: **
The apostles proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. All that the Jewish leaders had to do to disprove this fact was to produce the corpse of Jesus from his grave. However, if the Jewish leaders had done so, there were have been no New Testament and no Church today. The Resurrection infused confidence in the disciples and invigorated them to set up one of the largest movements in the world.
One possible explanation for Jesus' resurrection, is that Jesus, despite his wounds recovered in the tomb and escaped. This explanation is highly problematic, as it would imply that Jesus cheated death rather than overcame death. Another possible explanation is that the witnesses were hallucinating that Jesus appeared before them. However, hallucinations happen to individuals rather than groups of people hence this theory is also refuted. Jesus states: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and he who lives and believes in me will never die. " The validity of this statement depends on the truth of the resurrection itself.
▪ Hindu Criticism: Religions offering infinite bounty for behaving well or infinite suffering for misbehaving in the hereafter are seriously flawed. The ratio of risk and reward is so severely skewed (infinite for the price of finite) that the sense of justice has been abandoned absolutely. Measured risk against measured rewards as offered by the theory of Karma and Reincarnation of the Hindus would be a fairer system. This skewed risk/reward ratio is the best prescription for producing fanatics who would kill themselves or kill others in the name of religion (as is happening now). This idea of infinite reward has to be re-assessed.
▪ Physical body/Age:The idea of the body actually being taken out of the earth and being resurrected is favoured in some Orthodox Abrahamic traditions is worrying. Most of the people who died would have been very old or very ill. Are they restored at the same age? They may object to that, as it may not be the best age to relive. Who decides what age and why that age and no other age? The more liberal views within this tradition say that the resurrection is non-material. Then why call it resurrection as that implies regaining the body? There is a huge amount of arbitrariness surrounding the whole idea of resurrection
▪ Fitness: If the body is resurrected exactly as it was before then the mind that accompanies the body would be expected to be exactly the same as it was before death. But then would these minds be fit for associating with God? If so then why were they not fit to associate and experience God while they were living on earth? . Though many liberal Christians and Jews would say that the body and mind resurrected are not physical but continue to have an identity with the earlier mind and body. Question can be asked if they continue to have a link with the old 'less than perfect' mind and body then this imperfection will show through in their new locations.
▪ Location: If the bodies resurrected are physical then they can only survive in a plane that is physical. If that is the case then 'heaven and hell' too must be physical places. So where are they?
▪ Escathology: Idea central to Resurrection is that all wrongs will be righted, in a very physical and mental sense. Infinite rewards for finite good work or infinite punishment for finite bad actions cannot be called justice at all. Why inflict suffering on mankind and then somehow to make up for it by dishing out infinite reward? This does not seem to be the work of an intelligent God but more of an apologetic invention of mankind.