The Secret of Past Lives: Hearing about it from a realized soul

Published: 08.08.2017

Even without asking questions about it, just by listening to some extraordinary spiritual person, some thought is triggered which leads to the recollection of a previous birth, like Mahavir told Meghkumar.

Some Jain acharyas and Tirthankaras, as well as some other people of similar calibre have experienced this kind of recollection, say the ancient texts. Some monks cannot remember their previous births but when conducive conditions trigger that stimulus, they are able to recollect. The reason for this sudden recollection, it is said, are:

  1. Sublimation of mohaniya karma (deluding karma)[1]
  2. Determinate cognition facilitated by a pure impulse(contact with an insightful person)
  3. To search out the path through self enquiry

Nami Rajarshi attained enlightenment by sublimating his mohaniya karma. Mrigaputra was able to recall his previous birth through a saint. Harikesh Bal could recall with the help of discussion with people of wisdom. Chit Sambhuti could also recall his previous birth. Both the sons of Bhrigu purohit renounced everything after coming in contact with ascetics and thereafter they got initiated into the fold. Meghakumar recollected through guided self enquiry. The story of Meghkumar has already been told. The other stories follow in Chapter 9.

The previous birth is recalled when the covering deluding karmas are destroyed. The recollection may or may not be provoked by an immediate cause. When the deluding karmas are destroyed and recollections of previous births occur, it is one without a provocative cause. However, when an external stimulus causes the recollection to happen, it belongs to the category where the recollection has an immediate provocative cause. This is a type of knowledge, mati gyan, as it is called, is one through which the past nine human births can be discerned.

According to Chapter 19 of Acarang Vriti:

Smaranastu niyamataha sankhyaniti

One can recollect many births of the past, human births. One cannot talk about births other than humans because they cannot express themselves. So sometimes if one has been born as a tree, all one sees are trees, but that is not expressive enough.

At the time of death, man is generally not alert and so all the past experiences fade out. Very few people remain alert and aware till the last moment. Such people say that they had some recollections when they were born but not being able to express, they could not give it voice.

There is a story about Mahavir, which is well known and recorded in the Agamas. He felt that by moving about in the womb he was causing discomfort to his mother and so began to be still in the Kayotsarg mudra. Mother Trishala noticed that there was no movement and she got into a panic. On seeing her so distressed, the whole family got worried. King Siddarth came to know of the condition of Trishala. The palace, the people of the city everyone got worried and life came to a standstill. The entire city seemed to be lost in gloom. Music, dance, singing, everything fell silent.

The fetus wondered what had happened? Had his intention not been quite the opposite? But now he found the entire city sitting in worry with his mother. What will happen when he renounces the world, later in life? Thinking thus, he resolved, even in the womb, that he would not renounce in his parents' lifetime. He started moving about again. Mother Trishala was joyous and the whole city celebrated.

In the sacred texts of the Jains that is the "Agamas" there are a number of instances relating to previous birth and rebirth. They contain detailed discussion on the different births taken by the soul and how and over what time period they move through the different types of births. Much research can be undertaken on this. Briefly it can be described thus.


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Title: The Secret of Past Lives
Authors: Muni Kishan Lal
Publisher: B. Jain Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2017

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharyas
  2. Agamas
  3. Antarāya
  4. Body
  5. Chit
  6. Gotra
  7. Gyan
  8. Karma
  9. Karmas
  10. Kayotsarg
  11. Mahavir
  12. Mati Gyan
  13. Mohaniya
  14. Mohaniya Karma
  15. Mudra
  16. Nāma
  17. Soul
  18. Tirthankaras
  19. Trishala
  20. Vedanīya
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