Countless Imaginary Past Lives?
Recently, there is a ‘method’ out there in the market, that claims to use Buddhist principles for recollection of past lives for healing purposes. Below are points of consideration about this method. (Yes, there is money involved in learning the method.) Please send this link to your friends who are involved. In the long run, it is negative materially (due to forking out too much money) and spiritually (as it doesn’t really help advance towards enlightenment). It’s possible to be addictive too.
1. Many Dharma concepts mentioned are sound, but when it comes to the ‘science of the regression method’ used, it seems shaky…. The Buddha recalled his past lives only on the brink (night) of enlightenment in samadhi, which suggests it is not easy to realise 宿命通. The mind must be very calm and very clear to recall past lives – which takes much spiritual practice. 宿命通 is considered a 神通. To easily attain a 神通 is too good to be true.
2. Even Arhats can only recall around 500 past lives, while the method suggests the ability to recall countless past lives.
3. Conscious recollection without meditation actually allows self-created, self-visualised and self-rationalised stories easier than via hypnosis or deep meditation. Note that all the participants already believe in rebirth and karma to some extent before participating. They are thus highly auto/self-suggestive. Hypnosis for non-meditators is also probably much more accurate.
4. Neither the facilitator nor the participant has actual 他心通 or 宿命通, which makes it impossible to check the accuracy of all the ‘regressed memories’. A case mentioned a past life as an alien lifeform. How can this ever be verified? Are the facilitators to accept whatever is ‘remembered’ blindly, just as the participants are too? As more and more stories might be spun, layers of delusion are built upon one another, that can lead to more confusion and assumption. One’s present life then becomes built upon a stack of self-created lies.
5. 宿命通 is considered a 神通 – and the Buddha forbade all 神通 to be popularised publicly, as they can attract people for the wrong reasons – as such mystical matters are hard to verify. The Buddha never suggested the masses to recall their past lives as a form of therapy probably due to this reason – plus the difficulty to verify the therapist’s skills and the participant’s ability to recall.
6. Those who are seriously inexplicably ill should consult advanced Buddhist practitioners (e.g. high Tibetan monks) who have actual 他心通 or 宿命通. Their visions, as trained by intense spiritual practice, are probably much more direct and reliable. And they can offer relevant Dharma advice too.
7. Most of the participants who go through regression are reported to be females – probably due to their more emotional nature. This also means they are likelier to self-rationalise or self-concoct scenarios of past lives.
8. If participants lack wisdom, they might not ‘create’ or ‘recall’ their past lives properly, in a way that they can be resolved. Yet, if they keep going through regression sessions, there will eventually be some resolution, given enough time – because they want to resolve them and will (sub-)consciously do so in some way. But it’s still unclear if the memories are genuine from a third party point of view. For reliable cases of recollection of past lives, it’s good to see Dr Ian Stevenson’s scientific research.
9. The Buddha never suggested looking endlessly into the endless past to resolve issues – because it would be an endless process. Resolution for countless past lives cannot be completed in one lifetime via regression. The Buddha instead proposes looking at the present moment to create merits to dilute past negative karma, to train in compassion, forgiveness and such for as many beings as possible, including those we have conflicts with.
10. The method generally seems to discount the efficacy of traditional repentance methods, when they have benefited many and continue to do so.
11. If one continually and truly looks into past lives, there will be unimaginable issues that are unresolved that will be discovered. This is actually overwhelming for the average person – who lacks the compassion and wisdom to handle the truths. E.g One will at one point discover that one had eaten one’s mother when she became an animal. (Truths along this line the Buddha did discover and teach about.) One might also realise that one’s beloved ones were past murderers of oneself for example. Resentment might arise if one is not ready to accept such truths. In short, our past lives are actually to some extent a cosmic can of worms unpalatable to most.
12. The method still seems effective for some – probably because the participants self-rationalise within their own palatable means. And this can indeed create ‘placebo effects’ in healing one’s present problems. (E.g. If I’m timid, I might self-rationalise in ‘regression’ that I was bullied in the past, by creating an image of being bullied. Realising this, I visualise myself standing up for myself back then, before snapping out of the regression. And since the regression was done consciously, the idea that I now have no more reason to be timid will be a conscious one. And I will appear cured of timidness, though using ‘medicine’ that was purely imaginary. This might seem harmless, but in the long run, we are supposed to seek the truth, and not based our lives on lies – which do not lead to the complete realisation of truth in terms of enlightenment.
13. For the ineffective cases, the ‘therapists’ can say something along the line of - ‘Your mind not relaxed/focused enough.’ For the ‘effective’ cases, if the customer buys it that the tale oneself spun is real, it’s good enough for the ‘therapist’ too. It’s as good as cunning two-way deceit – be it intentional or not. Remember that even the customer does not know if the ‘visions’ is due to imagination – while none of them are verified by proper historical research.
14. Pureland is the safest place to attain 宿命通, as offered by Amituofo, because there, the beings cannot give rise to attachment or aversion due to the nature of the environment. When they are able to look into past lives of themselves and other beings, compassion and wisdom will arise swiftly and steadily. Anywhere else in Samsara, having 宿命通 is likely to swell one’s ego and create a host of other related problems. Having 神通 when one is not strong in compassion and wisdom is likely to amplify the ability to create negative karma. What’s worse is when the 宿命通 might not be real… If great Buddhist meditation masters endorse the method, it might be worth a much deeper look.
Pureland practitioners look forward to the one most fortunate future life,
not endlessly backwards towards countless previous unfortunate lives.