How would we know there are previous and future lives?
By Thich Trí Siêu
22/11/2011 15:39 (GMT+7)
Kích cỡ chữ:  Giảm Tăng

The fundamental ability of a common person cannot see into his/her previous or future lives. Only the upper-level meditation practitioners, who are able to go deep into their own inner mind, who have attained many meditative stages, or who have acquired the divine celestial eye (s. Divyacaksus) and the divine transcendental knowledge (s. Purvanivasanusmrti), can see into their numerous previous and future lives.

The majority of people falls into two main categories of beliefs (or mental attachments):

1) the belief that there is an eternal soul: the soul still exists after death of the physical body; it either would be banished down to hell for everlasting punishment, or enter heaven for perpetual rewarding happiness. In this case the people indirectly and unintentionally accept the notion of an afterlife.

2) the belief that death is the end: nothing is left behind, finished, gone forever.

It is extremely difficult to explain the re-incarnation theory to these two categories of believers. Their mind’s already set, there is no possible persuasion. It is like an upside down cup, no effort whatsoever is likely to fill it full with water.

We – the mundane beings – do not possess the heavenly eye and divine knowledge, so we have to use our meager understanding to realize and believe. For example, how would you know that there are bacteria and viruses? Your own eyes cannot see these micro-organisms. But you believe that they exist, don’t you? Most of us, even the young children, believe that there are bacteria that make us sick. We cannot see them ourselves, but the physicians and the scientists visualize them clearly under their microscope. So to them, micro-organisms are the real things, not just a belief. When we are sick, we come to the doctor, and he told us that these bacteria or that virus infects us, we believe right away. Why? We don’t see them on our body. But why believe it? Because we figure we can trust the doctor. He makes sense, he has gone through ten or more years of strenuous training and learning, he’s knowledgeable. Besides, why would he lie to us? It does not matter what virus he said infects us, it’s important only that he gives us the right medicine to get rid of our pain and our illness.

So, again, why do we believe that we are infected with bacteria and viruses when we cannot see them? Why do we believe that the medicine will cure us when we don’t even know what ingredients are in them? If we really want to see those creatures that make us sick, then we need to stick our eyes on the microscope and spend years learning. If we want to know the stuff in the pill we swallow, then we’d better become the doctor or pharmacist to know its ingredients, its use, its effectiveness and its treating ability…

Then, it is the same thing with re-incarnation. If we want to know our previous life, or see into our future life, then we’d better start to cultivate, practice, meditate in order to acquire the divine eye and the transcendent knowledge for this task. The Buddha, after enlightenment, has realized the celestial sight, and the superpowerful knowledge to view indefinitely into innumerable lives of the past and the future, those of his own and of others… just like a person with a video camcorder who records pictures, voices of everything and everyone around. And then many of his great disciples also realized enlightenment that allowed them to see their previous and future lives as well. The Buddha is an Enlightened One, his disciples are also saintly Arahats, with no more sufferings, pain, and affliction; they have gotten their heavenly knowledge and power.


So, here we are, as mere Buddhists with plenty of ignorance and affliction that veil over our humanly eyes; we cannot see, but we should believe in their words and their teachings: that there is absolutely a previous life and a future life… the same way we believe the doctor saying that bacteria exist.

Another example: we cannot see “yesterday”, yet we believe that yesterday exists. We know that yesterday did happen because of our memory. After one good night sleep, it isn’t long enough to erase our ability to remember, so we know by remembrance. But how would we remember exactly and correctly what we did, where we went, and what we said 10 or 20 years ago? Well if you cannot even remember all the old things in this very life we’re living now, how would you remember anything from a previous life after going through a death, a re-birth, and assuming a brand new body (that now acts like a thick fog covering over the mind, the memory); how could you remember anything at all? What about a certain person going through anesthesia for a heart or brain operation; it often takes hours or even days after coming out of surgery to remember who and where he is. Or consider the ones suffering from Alzheimer disease where their memory is wiped clean; to them yesterday or even a moment ago is not even existing, let alone the previous year or previous life. With today’s advanced technology, of course, we could use a camera or a video recorder to memorize everything in our lives ten years ago. Now, eventhough we don’t “see” those events anymore, we might not even remember them, but we can be reminded of them if we watch the video and look at the pictures. Just like that, everything that we do, all lives we have lived are recorded in our mind-consciousness. This internal conscious mind is like a huge storage shed that stocks up everything that takes places in all of our lives – past, present, and future. In the Doctrine of Consciousness (aka Mind-Only Study), it is called Alaya-Vijnana or Storehouse Consciousness. Whomever, who is able to “enter” this deepest region of his mind-consciousness (the storehouse), will “see” all of his numerous past lives. And to attain this ability, one ought to diligently practice meditation. Nowadays, it is also possible to enter this Alaya consciousness through Hypnotism, but one can only see into the recent past, or at the most some events of one or two previous lives, as in the example of hypnotic expect Edgar Cayce. The Tibetan people obviously believe in re-incarnation theory, because many of the high Tibetan lamas can specifically remember previous life after they die and re-born. Even as young children, they can specify their previous home, family members, disciples, and recognize their previous personal items, and who they were, etc…

The reason why we cannot see or know about our past lives is because our mind-consciousness has not been educated, cultivated, and developed. Science indicates that human only uses about ten percent of his mind’s potentiality, the rest (about 90%) is not yet explored and recognized. Therefore, smart and erudite people should always keep an open mind for learning and discovering new things, instead of being obstinate and persistent in just believing things that they can actually see, hear or touch with their senses.


                                                            Viên Minh (The Buddhist Translation Group)

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