REINCARNATION OF SKILLS
In “The Mystery of Past Life” (April 2010), Murari Gupta Dasa reported a few reincarnation cases. It appears from the facts given that individuals carry with them into their next life certain special skills and talents they may have developed in a previous life be it painting, acting, or music.
However, in the purport to Bhagavad gita (2.40), Srila Prabhupada says that if you are unable to complete a material activity (if life is cut short), then you have to start again from zero in the next attempt. Whereas, by contrast, a devotee, even if he has been able to only make a beginning in devotional service in one lifetime, simply carries that over into the next life and starts from that point. He does not have to start from zero.
Your article gives the impression that this is true not only of bhakti yoga but also of mundane activities like art, drama etc. How do you explain this? (Sugita Vani Devi Dasi)
Reply by Murari Gupta Dasa: Srila Prabhupada’s exact words in the Bhagavad gita (2.40) purport are slightly differnt: “Material activities and their results end with the body. But work in Krishna consciousness carries a person again to Krishna consciousness, even after the loss of the body.”
We agree. For example, someone may be a rich man in one life but it does not guarantee that he will have the same bank balance in the next life. Whereas in Krishna consciousness, persons begin in the next life from where he has left in the previous.
In Bg. 15.8 9 it is described: “The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another.”
We know that the mind carries memories into the next body. There is an example of Bharata Maharaja in Srimad Bhagavatam, who recalled his past two lives, and also there are numerous scientific studies by Dr. Ian Stevenson and other scientists about the spontaneous recall of past life memories in young kids. It could be possible that in rare cases, the mind carries strong impressions from the past life into the next and such impressions may lead to cases of child prodigies or past life artistic abilities manifesting again. Another explanation is that such propensities develop in rare individuals due to karma. For example, I know a person, who as a child would spontaneously percuss empty tins and pots at home. Now he is an expert mrdanga player.
Caitanya Carana Dasa adds: Our current existence is at three dimensions: physical (related with the gross material body), mental (related with the subtle material body) and spiritual (related with the soul). At the time of death, the soul along with the subtle body goes to the next gross body, leaving this gross body behind. So things related with the gross body wealth, home, family members, degrees, trophies are left behind and endeavors to acquire these bring zero carry over returns to the next life. This is the main thrust of the statement of Srila Prabhupada that you have quoted.
We also need to understand that, as the same subtle body carries onto the next life, aspects related to the subtle body desires, fears, skills are carried on from this life to the next. This is indicated in the Bhagavad gita (15.8).
Whether these aspects will be remembered in the next life or not will depend on, among other factors, the extent of impressions that have been created in the mind by the activities related to these desires, fears, and skills.
For example, Dr. Brian Weiss of the Sinai Medical Research Center, USA, among many scientists, has cured multitudes of people with mental problems especially phobias through hypnotically induced past life regression. These originate from a traumatic previous life death caused by the very object toward which one has phobia in this life. For example, a person having hydrophobia may have died due to drowning in a previous life. The above points illustrate that desires and fears can be carried over from previous lives. Similarly, skills can be carried over.
Srila Prabhupada’s emphasis in the Bhagavad gita (2.41) purport is the contrast of the ultimate futility of material endeavors with the ultimate eternity of spiritual endeavors. As the skills even if carried over to the next life are still temporary, that emphasis is not contradicted by the examples cited in our article.
Sugita Vani Devi Dasi adds: Thank you for taking the trouble to answer my query fully. I have been carrying this query for some time, your article brought it to the surface of my mind and gave me the opportunity to raise it. The distinction Caitanya Carana Prabhu makes between our material assets built up in one life (left behind at death) and subtle body assets skills, fears, desires (carried forward to next life) is an important one.
When I am not teaching Bhakti Shastri in Mayapur, I am preaching in Kerala and more recently in Russia. In Kerala, people talk about how somebody has a particular vasana (natural inclination towards some skill or art) and how they have good samskaras (loosely translated as good culture or more specifically as mental impressions from past lives). So it is good to be very clear what Prabhupada means in his purport and to be able to protect and stand by that understanding.
Also the articles on the Supreme Court ruling (May 2010) would have given some badly needed relief to devotees who are still grappling with the implications of this judgment.
I would like to add two points to this discussion:
1. We learn in Bg. 17.4 that men in the mode of passion worship the demons. Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport, “During the Second World War a man in Calcutta worshiped Hitler because thanks to that war he had amassed a large amount of wealth by dealing in the black market. Similarly, those in the modes of passion and ignorance generally select a powerful man to be God. They think that anyone can be worshiped as God and that the same results will be obtained.” It appears that all those misguided fans who have built a temple for actress Khushboo would fall in this category.
2. As for the judge who passed the ruling, his mentality is part of a pseudo secular ethos that prevails amongst India’s elite. Our preachers would do well to bear this in mind while preaching to this group.
There is a full discussion on this topic in the book Crimes Against India: And the need to protect its ancient Vedic tradition by Stephen Knapp in part 3, chapter 12, entitled, “The Condescending Attitudes of India’s Elite.” The author can be reached on Facebook.
Full of Devotion
Every once in a while, BTG publishes something that deeply moves my heart. I refer to the poem published in June 2010 issue “Poem to a Friend” by Sundari Priya Devi Dasi. Even though by ordinary standards, the poem is unsophisticated (and perhaps even repetitive at places), still the author’s single minded desire to be exclusively dedicated to Krishna marvelously comes out. The poem humbled me very much. This kind of desperate calling for shelter is missing very much in my life. Complacency can destroy one’s spiritual life and I hope someday I can achieve this kind of desperation.
Srimad Bhagavatam says that even if a literature is imperfectly composed, sincere devotees will be able to appreciate the essence of the effort. Thank you for encouraging budding writers who may not have spectacular writing skills, but have stupendous devotion. (Nadbhuja Dasa)
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