Dazu wheel of reincarnation

Death: the final frontier

Quite a few people have experienced near death. In most cases they saw a bright light at the end of a tunnel. Often they had a feeling of absolute peace. Others travelled outside their own body while hearing doctors discussing what to do. To some people this is proof of an afterlife but most scientists are not convinced. These experiences could be hallucinations of a dying brain lacking oxygen. Drugs can produce similar effects. Some psychologists contend that people believe in an afterlife to cope with their fear of dying.

People who experienced their consciousness making a trip outside their body were fully aware of it. Their memories were vivid. Is this a hallucination of a dying brain? Those who have survived such an experience beg to differ. Scientists often claim that there isn’t any evidence for the idea of a consciousness independent of a body while the evidence to the contrary is abundant. That is why pills can cure a depression or a psychosis.

A psychiatrist named Ian Stevenson searched for evidence of reincarnation. What he discovered should have raised some red flags in the scientific community, but it didn’t, possibly because his findings never helped to cure diseases, while the idea of the consciousness residing in the brain proved to be much more useful in this respect. Stevenson started off in 1960 when he learned of a child in Sri Lanka who remembered a previous life. He questioned the child, its parents and the people the child named as parents from its previous life. Stevenson worked through thousands of similar cases.

It is possible to plant memories in someone’s brain so that he or she will see no difference between real memories and fake ones. But many memories of previous lives were spontaneous. Stevenson hired a sceptic to join him on his investigations to verify the way he conducted his research. Soon the sceptic became a believer.

There were cases of people speaking languages they never learned and children having birthmarks corresponding with wounds inflicted upon their alleged previous reincarnations. In many of these cases it was very unlikely that anyone close to these children knew anything about the deceased person the child claimed to have been in its previous life.

The YouTube film below shows five reincarnation stories:

Stevenson’s research generated a lot of criticism but his critics failed to prove him wrong. They could only question his integrity or make outlandish suggestions, so that the best explanation of the evidence, the possibility of reincarnation, remained unchallenged. But if we reincarnate then why do so few people remember a previous life? And why is there so much evidence of the consciousness residing inside the body?

The answer to these questions might be a bit discomforting. If this universe is a virtual reality created by an advanced civilisation, reincarnation may be possible despite consciousness apparently residing inside the body. You may not have a soul that can return. Your body and consciousness might just be part of the simulation and your memories could be stored in a computer memory and put into another person.

Featured image: Relief from the Dazu Rock Carvings in China outlining the Buddhist cycle of reincarnation. User Calton (2004). Wikimedia Commons.

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