Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Reincarnation Game

The idea of reincarnation, that living beings transmigrate from one life to another in a cycle of birth, death and rebirth, has been advanced by many diverse religious and philosophical traditions down through the ages. For many of these traditions the process of reincarnation is viewed negatively, as something to be either eradicated or transcended.

Personally, I have never been able to adopt the idea that living beings reincarnate. Moreover, I have not been able to adopt the belief that any type of existence whatsoever awaits those who relinquish their corporeal existence. Nevertheless, if reincarnation was in indeed a reality, I would certainly view it as something positive. The chance to experience life again, even though it be rife with suffering, would, to my mind, be preferable to the nothingness that I suspect awaits me at the end of my journey.

Recently, I decided to play a little game with myself and imagine that reincarnation was indeed a reality. I then asked myself if there was anything in my life that might be a mental or emotional carryover from a previous life. Below is what I came up with:

1) I have always had an extreme aversion to having things touch the anterior portion of my neck. While it is extremely uncomfortable to wear a tie, I can manage it for a short time. Turtleneck sweaters I can absolutely not endure. A simple touch of my throat area will generally cause me to cower. My wife has always joked that I must have been either hung or strangled in a previous life. Hmmmm, maybe I had.

2) Occasionally, perhaps three or four times a year at most, I will have an experience that is difficult to qualify. It is strictly a physical experience without any accompanying conceptuality. The sensation is localized within the upper chest and face, principally in the inner chest, mouth, throat and nasal areas. It is neither a pleasant nor unpleasant sensation. It lasts but a few seconds and then dissipates. I have not been able to ascertain a catalyst for the experience, but it seems to arise during moments of relative passivity - lying in bed, watching television, riding in a car. I have, with some concentrated effort, been able to induce this experience once or twice in my lifetime by merely thinking about it. I have come to think of this sensation as a memory of some type of kinesthetic experience from early childhood, perhaps a feeding experience during infancy. Perhaps this “memory” stems from an experience prior to my birth.

3) When I was very young I had a recurring dream. This particular dream would occur infrequently, maybe four or five times a year. When I stopped having the dream is not known, but I suspect that it had ceased to invade my sleep by my teens. The dream would commence with me and my family (not necessarily my real family) in our house’s living room just moments before sunset. We would all be engaged in some action that we knew would need to be ceased upon the setting of the sun, because if any noise was made after sunset, the horrible monster-man would come up from the cellar and drag the noise-making culprit down into the basement where he would toss him/her into the furnace. Needless to say, I was the one who invariably made some incredibly small sound and wound up tossed head first into the furnace. Now, I have always wondered about this dream. Why did I have it and why did it replay itself repeatedly throughout my youth? I have always just assumed that it was a common nightmare where a child’s fear of the basement was transformed into a Bogeyman dream. However, when I played my little reincarnation game, this dream was the first thing to enter my thoughts. It reminded me of the story of Anne Frank and how she and the others with her were discovered hiding in an upstairs attic and sent to a concentration camp. Now, I am in no way suggesting that I was Anne or any of the others who were hiding with her. But the linking of my dream to the story of Anne Frank got me thinking. Could this dream, with its theme of abduction and death by furnace, have been an intrusion of a past life memory into my dreams? Might I have been a Holocaust victim? It is interesting to speculate.

4) Recently, during certain moments of death contemplation, I will have the “feeling” that I have experienced a Bardo-type state before. I have no rational explanation for this.

5) When my youngest daughter was no more than two years old I asked her where she lived before she was born. She stated, without hesitation, “Japan.” Needless to say, I found her reply fascinating. I wondered where she picked up that word and how she knew that it was a place. Kids learn the darndest things. Or maybe she remembered it! Incidentally, she was born with a Mongolian spot on her tushy, which is especially prevalent among children of East Asian descent. (OK, technically this is not something in my life that suggests I may have lived before, but it does have some relevance to my discussion of reincarnation. Besides, my daughter will get a kick out of her cameo in my blog…except the part where I mention her tukhus [from the Yiddish תּחת tokhes, meaning butt]. )

So, what have I taken away from all of this? I’m not sure. It was an interesting exercise, but I’m not sure if it had any value other than being a mental workout. What about you…do you subscribe to the notion of reincarnation? If so, tell me about your past life(s). If not, what anomalous things in your life might be indications of a past life? Play the reincarnation game and leave your comments.

1 comment:

Pallas Renatus said...

I would say that I believe in reincarnation, but I'm holding out on exactly what form it takes.

Population increase always made the idea that our souls leave our bodies intact and find a new one a little off for me. Some say there's a whole community of souls, larger than the population of the earth, and that they "take turns" incarnating. Meh, maybe.

I was always more a fan of the idea of there being a number of "greater beings" (higher selves? beats me) that incarnate bits of their essence in multiple bodies at the same time; we are "reincarnated" in the sense that our essence is resorbed into that greater being, and the same "stuff" (in various proportions) goes into making a new soul. Comparing to the evaporate-rain-pool-evaporate cycle of rain is helpful.