By Maria Wirth
The belief in rebirth is in the blood of most Indians and it is not a blind belief. There is a lot of evidence for it, as Maria Wirth discovered
I don’t remember which Bollywood movie it was. Two heroes were wooing the heroine. Naturally, one had to die in the end, because she could not marry both. As it happened, he died fighting to protect the other two. It was a sad end, because he was a nice guy. Just then a voice ended the movie by saying, “Vapis aega – dusre roop mein.” It suddenly brought in a philosophical angle. The movie had not touched me, yet this last sentence did. This can happen only in India.
Right from the beginning of my stay in India, I have felt that death is not so terrifying here. Of course, here too there is fear of death. Friends and relatives suffer when a dear one is lost. Yet death is still part of life, as it were and, not as final as in the West. One major reason why death is not so final and stings less is certainly the belief in rebirth. This belief is in the blood of Hindus and it is not blind belief. There are many good arguments in favour of it. The law of karma, for example, makes much more sense when it is not applied to only one life. The differences between human beings appear in a different light. Why is someone born in a palace and another in a hut? Why does one baby have loving parents and another not? Why is one man healthy and another sick? Why is one person bright and intelligent, and another mentally retarded? Such questions cannot be answered and lead many people to despair about a just god. Yet rebirth gives a reasonable explanation. Everything is always in a flux. Who cries today, may laugh tomorrow, and who laughs today may cry tomorrow – in a continuous circle of life and death.
Since several decades, some scientists support the theory of rebirth. Though I had studied psychology, I discovered only in India that there exists a vast body of research on the subject. Some 3000 cases of rebirth have been systematically studied, and are filed in the archive of the Division of Perceptual Studies of the University of Virginia, USA. Ian Stevenson, who died in 2007 at the age of 88, was the initiator and main authority of the studies.
Their research came to the conclusion that rebirth is the most plausible and most rational interpretation of their findings. Nothing new for Indians, yet in the West this theory got a mixed response. Many Western scientists still refuse to consider the possibility of rebirth.
|Everything is always in a fl ux. Who cries today, may laugh tomorrow, and who laughs today may cry tomorrow – in a continuous circle of life and death|
They cannot get over their brainwashing in childhood that there is only one life. Ian Stevenson’s greatest frustration was not that people dismissed his theories, but that most did so without even reading the evidence he had gathered. “Either (Stevenson) is making a colossal mistake, or he will be known … as ‘the Galileo of the 20th century’,” a psychiatrist wrote about him. It shows that academics in the West are either like frogs in a well or extremely arrogant. A great part of humanity takes rebirth for granted. Yet this academic feels that Stevenson will be credited with discovering this theory if it turns out to be confirmed.
In India, Professor N.K. Chadha of Delhi University worked together with Ian Stevenson. I met him in 1990 and though he had given me an half an hour appointment, he talked for two hours as the time just flew.
Here is how he proceeds with his research:
It happens occasionally that the professor gets wind of a child, only three or four years old, who claims with all the conviction he is capable of, to be a certain adult giving details of the name, the life and even the death. The professor’s team visits the child, gathers information, tries to identify the person who had died, and if identified, crosschecks all insider information. A case is considered solved when the person who the child claims to have been, has been identified, all insider knowledge of the child crosschecked and no discrepancies found. Then it can be safely assumed that the child is a case of rebirth.
Prof. Chadha had examined 25 cases out of which 11 were solved at that time. Take the case of Titu Singh.
Titu was born in December 1983 in a village near Agra. As soon as he could speak, he started to claim that his name was Suresh Verma, that he owned a radio shop in Agra and that one evening, when he came home, he was shot dead. Further, he said, he had two sons and a wife named Uma. He spoke in detail about his death – he had driven home in his Fiat and honked so that his wife would open the gate. Suddenly, two men came running and fired at him. One bullet hit his head.
Titu was aggressive towards his ‘new’ parents. He did not believe they were his parents. His ‘real’ parents, he stubbornly maintained, lived in Agra. Titu’s elder brother finally went to Agra and was shocked to find, indeed, a ‘Suresh Radio Shop’ in the bazaar. He gathered information: the owner – a certain Suresh Verma – had died in August 1983, exactly in the way that Titu had described. Uma, the widow of Suresh, went together with her parents-in-law and Suresh’s three brothers to the village of Titu. Titu immediately ran towards ‘his parents’ and embraced them. He shyly glanced at Uma and then turned to his brothers. “Why did you not come in my Fiat?” he deplored. They had sold the Fiat after Suresh’s death.
Titu was taken to Agra. The brothers, all adults, drove past the radio shop to test him. However, the four-year-old pounced on the driver, “Stop! Here is my shop,” he shouted.
Prof. Chadha and Dr. Antonia Mills of Virginia University examined the case over almost four years. Once, when Prof. Chadha asked the little Titu to greet Mahesh, the 35-year-old younger brother of Suresh, he refused. Interestingly. Mahesh was the only member of the Verma family who had some doubts. He changed his stand after he tested Titu himself. He grasped the wrist of Titu, Prof. Chadha narrated, and did not let go of it. “Tell me what happened during my wedding?” he demanded. The boy reacted annoyed. “I threw plates.” Now, Mahesh was also convinced. It was true. Suresh had spoilt the atmosphere of the wedding when he angrily threw plates.
The scientists discovered something else intriguing. Titu has a strange depression on his right temple. They studied the autopsy record and found that the bullet had entered Suresh’s head at exactly that place. Strangely, in about four out of ten rebirth cases, the child remembered a sudden, violent death, through either accident or murder.
The interval between death and rebirth was also significantly shorter, if the remembered person had died of unnatura
|Maria Wirth is a German national |
who came to India for a holiday
and never left, drawn to this
country’s devotion to the Divine.
l causes. In Titu’s case, it was only five months before he took rebirth. On an average, such rebirths are below two years. The short span between death and birth, may make the memory easier to access, and the identification with the earlier person dominates.
“Do you personally believe in rebirth?” I asked Prof Chadha. His answer was a clear, “Yes”. Most Indians do not need scientific proof. It is logical, the best possible explanation for all the differences between humans. “However, parents usually don’t want their children to remember an earlier birth, as there is the superstition that such children die early. In rural India there are even methods to make children forget, if they remember, like seating them on a potter’s wheel,” Prof. Chadha explained.
From death to life
The Times of India reported in an article (dated 17.4.08) on a case where a boy, before dying, promised to return, “Their son died, but kept his promise to return.” On April 29, 2005, 13-year-old Rakesh died five days after sustaining severe head injuries when the scooter he was pillion riding on with his brother to go to tutions met with an accident. Yet a few hours before he died, his mother Maniben started to hallucinate. She claimed that Rakesh stood before her and wanted to bid adieu. He promised to return if she sent him away with a smile. Finally she did bid adieu and within seconds, the hospital staff called to inform that Rakesh was no more. A year later, on April 22, 2006, Maniben gave birth to a boy. They named him again Rakesh. TOI published photos of the two boys when they were two years old, and indeed, the similarity is amazing. “When we visited our ancestral home in Palanpur, Rakesh called out to my niece Anila. Anila, who is now 15, was Rakesh’s playmate,” This knowledge of rebirth is ancient – probably as ancient as mankind. It was there in ancient Greece and in early Christianity. Jesus himself (reported by Matthew in chap. 17, 12/13) hints that John the Baptist was the prophet Elias reborn. Yet at the second council of Constantinople some 500 years after Jesus’ death, Christianity did away with this belief for good. Yet today 25 per cent of Americans believe in rebirth, a poll quoted by Newsweek magazine of Aug 31, 2009 suggested.
Reincarnation in Tibet
Tibetan society not only believes in rebirth, it has institutionalised it. When high lamas die, their reincarnation is systematically searched for. The present Dalai Lama, the 14th in the line of Dalai Lamas and born in 1935, is considered the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama who had died in 1933. In his autobiography My life and my people, he describes in detail how the search party of high lamas found him in the remote village that he was born in, and why they became convinced that he was the 13th Dalai Lama reborn.
Yet in spite of all the evidence for rebirth, there is no rebirth on another, higher level of truth. “Find out whether you have been born in this life,” the sage Ramana Maharshi exhorted a visitor who wanted to know about his previous births. Moreover, when asked whether there is rebirth, Ramana replied, “There is rebirth, and there is no rebirth.” He probably meant that on the appearance level it is there. In absolute truth, where only one exists, there is no place for different persons to be born and reborn.
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