Janis, 2 January 2018
I would like to ask two following questions, if I may.
First – why cannot we remember our past lives? If we have lived billions of lifetimes (and even at least one as a Brahma), why cannot we remember a single detail of these lives? I have asked this question on this forum before and received answers – because the experiences of death were too traumatic and such memories would cause mental issues related to multi-identity. Yet still billions of years is a very long time and I think at least something memorable enough should have happened.
Second – how did the species of Earth originate? Did Brahma create them momentarily or did he do the evolution of single cell->multi-cell organisms->fishes->reptiles->mammals->humans?
Chakravarthy, 2 January 2018
My understanding for your first question is as follows.
We are here in the first place since we wanted to enjoy ourselves separately from the Lord and due to His kindness, he arranged us the material body on this planet. All living beings are attached materially to several things, the foremost being the immediate family, friends, and so on. If one were to remember his past life(s), it would be difficult to enjoy the current life due to the past attachments and unfulfilled desires.
If one were to remember or know prior spouses and kids as an example, it would be impractical to his current and prior relations. Where will one’s interest lie due to multiple identities? Imagine having a million(s) kids in all different species. This would not be an enjoyable situation. So, due to His kindness, he takes our memory away facilitating the false happiness we came in for. Similarly, we are able to get past the traumatic experiences in this current life by forgetting them. In this material world where reality is true only when one perceives through the five senses, should one know his past life and death and acquiring a new body after (with certainty), will he be able to enjoy in his current body? To my mind, it seems impossible as fear will dominate of the impending death. We are able to enjoy because we don’t think death is around the corner.
Hope this helped.
Brajanath Das, 2 January 2018
Hare Krishna Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
All Glories to Srila Gurudeva!
Regarding – Why can’t we remember the past lives?
Imagine the hardships of trying to live one life while plagued with memories of another. If we were to remember the hell we went through in our previous births, we would be suffering from a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and would not be able to function properly in this present life. So the forgetfulness of our previous hellish suffering is Krishna’s kindness upon us so that we can live this life peacefully and cultivate Krishna consciousness in a happy mood in preparation for going back to home, back to Godhead.
I hope that helps.
Dra Varni, 3 January 2018
Hare Krsna!! Good Question
REMEMBERING OUR PAST LIVE: My first question for a person who has been born. Is why do you want to remember your past life? Secondly, how do you know that you weren’t born into your past life? What you do know is, you were born into material reality. A question such as: What if I was not born into material reality. What would I know then about myself?
Janis, 4 January 2018
Thank you very much for your answers! I had an approximate idea that it is Krishna’s inconceivable kindness to erase our memories, otherwise they would break our mind. But I was hoping – maybe someone knows more details about the mechanism how the memories are erased.
To answer Dra Varni questions:
1) because the idea of reincarnation fundamentally changes the way I understand how my memory works. I can look back a few years and am able to remember (or at least think I remember) events of my life. If reincarnation exists and I try to look back prior to my birth, I have zero memories. So it raises the question – why?
2) regarding how I know I was not born before – I don’t have memories about that time, so I don’t know anything about it.
Reincarnation is the biggest issue I have with spiritual faith. I believe, when I die, I simply cease to exist. And theory of reincarnation confirms it, because it erases my memories – and since I identify me with my memories, it destroys me.
On a side note – I was thinking about the purpose of hellish planets and paradise planets. For example, from samsara point of view, hell is important step for degrading soul’s intelligence until it is fit to enter less intelligent body. But from functional point of view – if purpose of hell is punishment as means of teaching the soul – what is the point of this punishment, if you cannot remember what you have learned?
Humbly asking for enlightenment.
Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 4 January 2018
I do appreciate your sincerity.
Past life memories are available to be dredged up – any number of “past life therapists” are doing good business all over the world. There are even books like “Many Lives Many Masters” which claim to have revived past life memories in individuals. But we cannot endorse any of those because of several reasons – we feel it is unnecessary, and also that it is a distraction from genuine spiritual life.
Srila Prabhupada says (paraphrased) that when you have an arrow in your back, your first duty should be to get out that arrow, instead of beginning an investigation as to where that arrow came from and who shot it.
So coming to your question – how are the memories erased?
The memories are not erased from our subtle mind, they are simply not present in the gross mind. The entrapped spirit soul wears 2 bodies, the subtle material body consisting of mind, intelligence, and false ego, and the gross material body which we can perceive with our gross material senses. One indication of past life memories is “inclination”. A naked person of the opposite gender may be available to 2 individuals, one is enamoured, and the other is unaffected, similarly other things like drugs, or sports, or even philosophical speculation.
The subtle mind is projected onto the material body and the brain consisting of its neurons, is an “interface” – it is not actually the mind.
One example is that at the same time as I am writing this, the radio signals and television signals and wireless radio channels of thousands of sources are present in the space where I am sitting. But I don’t hear any of them. Doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, just means that I don’t have the equipment to tune into those signals. With the right receiver, I can receive all those channels, simultaneously if I want to.
Another example of how memories get erased – ask a woman who has given birth to a child how much pain she felt during childbirth – she cannot tell you. Ask a child how much pain she felt when she was being born. She cannot tell you. Intense experiences do get blotted out, and we have many such experiences. I was present when my wife gave birth to my son. Both of them were in intense pain, I could see them both in their intense agony. But both of them don’t remember any of the pain.
The experience of birth, and death, is extremely intense.
The Srimad Bhagavatam 11th canto describes birth thus:
O most charitable Uddhava, what is called birth is simply a person’s total identification with a new body. One accepts the new body just as one completely accepts the experience of a dream or a fantasy as reality. SB 11.22.40 (https://www.vedabase.com/en/sb/11/22/40)
The very next verse states this “Just as a person experiencing a dream or daydream does not remember his previous dreams or daydreams, a person situated in his present body, although having existed prior to it, thinks that he has only recently come into being.”
And then ” Because the mind, which is the resting place of the senses, has created the identification with a new body, the threefold material variety of high, middle and low class appears as if present within the reality of the soul. Thus the self creates external and internal duality, just as a man might give birth to a bad son.”
I do invite you to experience this reality, but it is an experience, you cannot theoretically understand it.
You can experience this yourself only by practicing Krishna consciousness fully and wholeheartedly, just like you can feel the water in a lake only by jumping into it, and no one can define what salty is, what sweet is, you need to put substances which taste salty and sweet into your mouth.
Re your belief that you cease to exist upon death, no one can stop you from believing whatever you want to believe, but just think – you didn’t start with a clean slate, you started with a specific set of circumstances that others don’t share exactly with you. Why do you have special circumstances that are different from others’? That line of thinking leads you to believe that you are just a bunch of chemicals, at which point I ask you, when did a bunch of chemicals ever worry about their existence or heaven or hell.
Re what is the purpose of heaven and hell when you cannot remember the punishments? Maybe you cannot remember right now, but I have met people who have nightmares that resemble the various punishments in hellish planets. Those dreams are vividly real and one man was asking me if he would have to go back there. I also have met people for whom the standard of sense gratification here is very low, they seem to recollect that there is a higher standard of enjoyment elsewhere, and they determinedly pursue that enjoyment without giving into lower forms of enjoyment here.
You don’t necessarily have to remember what you learned – after experiencing hellish or heavenly planets, one is put into a situation that constrains one to that situation from where one came from. It is natural.
It is like I am qualified as an electrical engineer. I have probably forgotten 95% of electrical engineering because I now work in the computer software industry for the last 20 years. But I still get paid as much as an engineer would ordinarily get paid, maybe more. One may argue what is the use of going to university to study electrical engineering, but one can also see that I am reaping the rewards of the penance of working hard whilst in university.
God creates a situation in which both the atheist and theist can both exist by their own free will. If you want to be an atheist, you are given full freedom to follow that path. But you are not free from your actions and their subsequent reactions, which you will reap in due course of time.
If for example, reincarnation was provable by gross material means, how would the atheists remain in their own concoctions? That would be taking away the atheists’ free will to be as they want to be.
tarko ‘pratiṣṭhaḥ śrutayo vibhinnā
nāsāv ṛṣir yasya mataṁ na bhinnam
dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyāṁ
mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu continued, “‘Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahājanas advocate.’” CC Madhya 17.186 (https://www.vedabase.com/cc/madhya/17/186)
We are on that path of the progressive path of the great self-realized souls, and we can experience our progress by a progressive disappearance of our confusions, but only if we truly follow.
I pray that this is in some way shape or form helpful to you.
Janis, 5 January 2018
Hare Krishna! Thank you very much for your answers!
The following two points answered my question very nicely:
1) people have “unexplainable” inclinations since their birth
2) analogy of a soul transmigrating bodies with a person dreaming. The soul – still identifying itself with false ego/intelligence/mind – accepting the next body (not able to remember previous life) is similar to a regular person falling asleep in current life (cannot remember previous dream).
I have issues understanding the following:
1) blocking painful experiences – I agree that in psychology there are such phenomena, however I am able to remember many painful experiences of my current life.
2) identifying myself with a bunch of chemicals and worrying about heaven or hell – there can be chemical reactions in my neurons that result in these worry processes in my brain.
On a theoretical side note – why only human-like species have suitable intelligence to be able to choose God over matter? Maybe it would be too lenient from Krishna’s side to constantly provide this opportunity for all life forms, but still – why not have a constant chance for everyone to be able to learn?
I also would be grateful if you could explain how evolution is compatible with Vedic history – for example dinosaur fossils, carbon dating. Oldest traces of human species are dated approx. 500 000 BC opposed to the age of humankind being approx. 4 million years according to Vedas (adding up the three previous yugas).
I understand that without practice (which I do not have at the moment) I have small chances of realizing non-material processes, because I have material consciousness and these realizations can only be bestowed by Krishna if He wants to. I plan to resume my practice in approx. two years, when I have finished my studies.
Abhay Charan Das, 5 January 2018
Nice question by Janis and wonderful answers in the group. Srila Prabhupada speaks about life after death, putting a part of the morning May 9, 1975 in Perth
Paramahamsa: Many of them say we cannot prove there is any life after death.
Prabhupäda: Yes, this if proof. Just as the boy is there and the father is there, the boy is going to become father. This is future. Both of them are there. The boy is going to be the father, and the father is going to be the grandfather. Where there is no future? The rascals, they do not know, say that, but there is future. How can you stop it? The boy is going to be father, the father is going to be grandfather. This is future.
Amogha: But then he dies, and they cannot see any future after that.
Prabhupäda: Your seeing has no power. This is no argument, “I cannot see.” I cannot see the other side. That does not mean there is nothing. This is all rascaldom. He has become authority “I want to see.” What you can see? Now this is Indian Ocean. On the other side there is India, and other islands, but you cannot see it. Does it mean there is nothing? So, these are foolish questions. Because they are rascals they put such questions and nonsense. That is the proof that they are rascals. They are simply taking authority his little vision. That’s all. What is your vision? Why don’t you see what is the other side? But does it mean there is nothing because you cannot see? When one says “I cannot see,” that means he is a rascal number one. He’s believing so much upon his seeing. He does not know that he is a most insignificant person, so there is no value of his seeing. That he does not know. Therefore he is a rascal. Is it not? He’s believing his eyes so greatly that “I cannot see.” And what is the value of your seeing? What you can see?Conversation with A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Irrespective of whether we remember or not of our past life, the very fact we want to live forever is the proof that we are eternal and the very fact that we have a temporary body now is the proof that we must have had different bodies before, since we are eternal. Because we do not remember we take the help of Shastra to learn the truth.
Bg 2.22 — As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
And in SB
kecit kevalaya bhaktya vasudeva-parayanah
agham dhunvanti kartsnyena niharam iva bhaskarah
Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Kṛṣṇa can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays.SB 6.1.15
By executing our Devotional service our understanding gradually becomes solid over a period of time.
And to understand how Species originate this is a good book http://www.humandevolution.com/ where the proofs are given using both Modern Science Methods and the Shastras.
Hope this helps.
At your Service
Abhay Charan das
Sacinandana Das, 5 January 2018
Thank you for sharing Srila Prabhupada’s conversation Prabhu ji. It was amazing to read it.
Filip Misic, 8 January 2018
You have very smart questions, which is good, because they are signs of intelligence. You mentioned that your studies are disabling you from doing spiritual Krishna Conscious practice. But please know, that it is actually not so hard to be Krishna Conscious and lead a spiritual life while simultaneously living a material life. It is possible to balance these two, that is, if one really wants to.
Krishna explains thoroughly in the Bhagavad Gita, how one can be Krishna Conscious at all times.
First He says to his dear friend Arjuna (12.8):
mayy eva mana ādhatsva
mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva
ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ
“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.” However, to reach this stage of devotion and love towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not accomplished easily. Therefore, taking this in to notice, Krishna goes on to speak (12.9):
atha cittaṁ samādhātuṁ
na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram
mām icchāptuṁ dhanañ-jaya
“My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.”
If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.” How you can Janis practice bhakti-yoga and work for Krishna, is nicely described by Srila Prabhupada in his purports. Because Krishna is so merciful, He goes further on to say (12.10):
abhyāse ’py asamartho ’si
mad-artham api karmāṇi
kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi
“If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.”
then further (12.11)…
athaitad apy aśakto ’si
kartuṁ mad-yogam āśritaḥ
tataḥ kuru yatātmavān
“If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.”
and even further (12.12)
śreyo hi jñānam abhyāsāj
jñānād dhyānaṁ viśiṣyate
tyāgāc chāntir anantaram
“If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.” https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/12
To better understand how to be Krishna Conscious and spiritual by following the above mentioned instructions given by Krishna himself, I would suggest to you Janis that you get to know Srila Praphupadas commentaries on these verses, as well as the entire Bhagavad Gita. Srila Prabhupada is the authority on the Krishna Conscious- science, and all the knowledge we get comes from him, which originally comes down from the disciplic succession Guru Parampara.
The point I am trying to make, is that you can easily practice spiritual life, nevertheless your current situation as a student. You see, I am also a university student and have much work to do, but I also read Prabhupada’s books and visit a Hare Krishna temple often. So I think you can consider visiting a temple, where you can get answers to every question you have. So I truly hope that you turn your “material consciousness” into a more spiritual and blissful consciousness Janis and i don’t think anyone should wait 2 years for that when given the rare opportunity.
I write to you in an uttermost friendly way 🙂
Sacinandana Das, 8 January 2018
Wonderful answer Bhakta Filip. You are very lucky that you came into Krishna Conscious during your university studies. It is Krishna’s unlimited mercy upon you.
I heard in Srila Gurudev’s lecture in Iskcon Greater Noida bace where Srila Gurudev likes going very much to a student. Srila Gurudev said finish your 16 rounds and then you can study(Not exact words but gist is the same)
Filip Misic, 8 January 2018
Hare Krishna Sacinandana Prabhu,
Very nice. I will try and live up to that standard 🙂
your servant, Filip
Janis, 10 January 2018
Thank you for your encouragement! I will try to increase my practice sooner than within two years 🙂
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