Dazu wheel of reincarnation

Death: the final frontier

Quite a few people have had a near-death experience (NDE). 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. These are out-of-body experiences (OBE). To some people, this is proof of an afterlife, but 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 an OBE claimed they were fully aware of it. Their memories were vivid. Is this a hallucination of a dying brain? Those who have gone through such an experience differ. But scientists claim that our consciousness is just chemical processes in our brains. That is why pills can cure depression or psychosis. And research indeed indicates that brain chemistry causes OBEs. However, this does not explain the evidence suggestive of reincarnation.

A psychiatrist named Ian Stevenson searched for evidence of reincarnation. Stevenson started in 1960 when he learned of a child in Sri Lanka who remembered a previous life. He questioned the child, his parents and the people the child named as his parents in his former 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.

The YouTube film below shows five reincarnation stories:

Stevenson’s work generated a lot of criticism, but his integrity remains beyond doubt. The main problem with his research is that it does not meet scientific standards, even though he carefully collected the data and investigated the possibility of fraud. Stevenson’s former assistant claimed that in only eleven of the 1,111 cases he checked, there had been no contact between the families of the deceased and the child before the interview. This kind of contact is difficult to avoid in real-life situations.

But why are there only a few thousand credible reincarnation cases? If we reincarnate, then why aren’t millions of people remembering previous lives? And why is there so much evidence of our consciousness being the result of chemical processes inside the body? At least the evidence suggestive of reincarnation seems good enough to count.

In virtual reality, your consciousness can be in computer memory, so someone else can receive your memories and even your personality after you die. And so it may only appear to us that our minds come out of chemical processes inside the body.

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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