By Saurabh Bhattacharya February 1999 A California-based New Age guru brings to Indian shores the novel technique of rebirthing that he claims may be Man’s route to immortality Inhale. Your psyche immerses in the fountain of life. Exhale. The mind studies the breath’s exit— smoothly, naturally. In, out, in, out. Energy tingles on your fingertips, arms, legs and throat. Psychic blocks give way, one by one, slowly but surely. Gradually, as you reach a trance-like awareness, you feel your Self being reborn. Free, pure, complete—perhaps immortal…‘So, how did it feel?’ asks Sheeba Loganey, an Indian reiki practitioner based in Delhi, the ghost of a smile flitting across her face. I have just opened my eyes and am at a loss for words. What could be the reason for such unique sensations—the strong tingling that remains in my limbs even an hour after the session, the sudden switching off of the mind and a feeling of blissful weightlessness? It can’t be magic. ‘Not magic. It’s your primal energy that’s triggered off in the body by rebirthing,’ replies Sheeba who, along with her sister Shalini, is one of the earliest rebirthing instructor in India. The Loganeys consider the breathing exercise of rebirthing as ‘the best way to clear hidden birth traumas’. If all this sounds like New Age mumbo-jumbo, don’t blame yourself. The root of rebirthing lies in the hotbed of New Age—California, the home of the technique’s founder, Leonard Orr. His tryst with rebirthing began in 1962, in a bathtub. ‘I used to take long baths in warm water and meditated in my bathtub,’ reminisces Orr. ‘That day, I was meditating as usual, when suddenly my mind was filled by flashbacks of my own birth.’Over a period of time, Orr relived his birth trauma and primal death urge through rebirthing. ‘My mother had already delivered six children and did not want another child,’ he says, describing his experience. ‘I was the last—an unwanted child whose existence upset my mother. To please her, I tried to kill myself. I tried to hang myself on my umbilical cord. But I failed. I was a breach birth, with the cord wrapped around my neck three times.’ Orr stayed in the bathtub for two hours before he could gather the strength to climb out. The pioneer of what the New Age Almanac claims is ‘one of the most prominent New Age transformational processes’ describes his technique thus: ‘Rebirthing helps release the psychic blocks created by birth trauma by re-connecting to the primal breathing pattern. It’s the basic form of prana yoga that we are born with but lose over time.’ According to Orr, human beings are a reservoir of divinity. But most people remain unaware of this because of the trauma that they go through during birth. Through rebirthing, the moment of birth is relived and the trauma of that moment is released. The concept of birth trauma is not unique to Orr’s philosophy. About 20 years ago, in 1950, science fiction author and founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, discussed this idea at length in his path-breaking book Dianetics. Describing how ‘engrams’ or energy blocks are created in an unborn child, Hubbard wrote: ‘…Life in the womb does not seem to be the paradise it has been poetically represented… Mama sneezes, baby gets knocked ‘unconscious’, Mama gets hysterical, baby gets an engram… People have scores of pre-natal engrams when they are normal. Each contains pain and ‘unconsciousness’.’ From 1962 to 1975, Orr developed rebirthing largely in a bathtub—first by being immersed in the water, and then trying it out underwater with a snorkel and nose-pins. In 1975, he noticed a certain rhythm in the breathing mechanism of most people while rebirthing. Orr next experimented with this connected breathing rhythm outside the bathtub. This resulted in the creation of dry rebirthing. Explains Orr: ‘Many people may not be prepared for the intense experience of the bathtub which actually throws you back into a foetal state. Moreover, getting into a hot tub in the nude, except for a snorkel and nose-clips, may be a little esoteric for many. I evolved dry rebirthing, or connected breathing, as a preparatory stage that can be considered complete in itself. This involves rhythmic breathing for a minimum 10-12 sessions of one to two hours.’ Each session should have a gap of about five-seven days. The training requires more time—first the instructor goes through 10 sessions and then has to conduct 10 more sessions of rebirthing with at least three people. Orr promotes the technique all over the world through his California-based organisation, Rebirth International, that has developed a full-fledged training seminar and certification process. And, since 1975, he has trained thousands of rebirthers. ‘I do not demand any fee,’ says Orr. ‘Instead, I let the individual concerned set the fee. Despite, or perhaps because of, this I am now a millionaire.’ The father of rebirthing has rebirthed his son innumerable times and his daughter was born underwater. On the spiritual plane, what Orr discovered through his rebirthing experiments has been explained by his friend Bob Frissell in the preface to Orr’s book Breaking the Death Habit: ‘…Prior to proper breathing, one’s stuck energy is physically held in place by shallow breathing. Our lives are shaped by stuck energy in ways that limit our expression and individuality. The stuck energy bears stress and painful bodily symptoms, eventually leading to disease, illness and death.’ This led Orr to the concept of physical immortality. During his search for immortal yogis, he came across a yogi called Hairakhand Baba near Haldwani in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Convinced that Babaji was actually immortal, Orr placed his rebirthing ideas before the yogi for his comments. ‘I asked Babaji: ‘Does rebirthing produce mrityunjaya (victory over death)?” says Orr. ‘Babaji replied: ‘Rebirthing produces mahamrityunjaya (supreme victory over death).’ And that was all I needed—a confirmation of my theories from an actual immortal.’ At first sight, Orr looks the epitome of age—tall, thin, withered, frail old age. But the person behind this persona refuses to accept the finality of death. And his logic is simple: the fact that you are alive now means that your life urge is stronger than your death urge. So, to remain immortal, all you have to do is keep this life urge strong. And this, Orr states, is possible by managing the energy within through rebirthing. ‘Physical death is self-created by three things: ignorance, emotional energy pollution and poor diet,’ says Orr. ‘If people learn to manage the energy body and clean it, it’s possible to attain physical immortality.’ For this, he recommends elemental cleansing: controlling diet and exercising forms earth purification; bathing twice a day and doing pranayama in a bathtub is part of water purification; rebirthing is air purification; and conducting agnihotra (fire ceremony) is fire purification. Till date, Orr claims to have met eight immortal yogis in India, the youngest being 300 years old. In fact, Orr believes that Hairakhand Baba is actually the immortal Mahavatar Babaji mentioned in the famous Indian yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.Describing the role rebirthing plays in what Orr calls the ‘Great Game of Immortality’, he says: ‘Each session dissolves body memories and emotional traumas forever, especially the birth trauma. This also helps heal diseases such as epilepsy, asthma, migraine headaches and common cold. In fact, rebirthing is a siddhi, or the ultimate maturation of the soul. It has healed every disease known to man. I have even had experiences of biolocation.’ Sounds far-fetched? Not if you go by other people’s experiences. ‘For a while, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to go through it,’ says Nidhi Dalmiya, a rebirthing enthusiast in New Delhi, India, who’s gone through nine sessions. ‘But then you get into a trance: you feel aware and yet in a state of limbo. Rebirthing has solved my nausea problem and has raised my self-esteem as well.’ Nidhi also claims to have glimpsed ‘the image of an embryo and some disturbing noise in the background. I later asked my mother who said that there was some noise during my birth.’ Another Indian rebirther, Manisha Kriplani, explains her experience thus: ‘I felt cramps in my arms and hands, apart from a strong tingling sensation. This was because of my trying to hold on to my past. I have also seen a lot of images that must have been from my past lives. And I think that Orr’s thesis on immortality is also possible. I would love to attain physical immorality in my present form.’ Orr himself is quite matter-of-fact about the immortal potentials of rebirthing. In fact, he claims to have achieved temporary immortality through this technique. ‘I reached senility around 1988-89,’ says he, ‘and it took me five years to overcome it, thanks to rebirthing. I can now confidently say that I’m a senility graduate.’ In his bookThe Secrets of Youthing, Orr voices his own ambition thus: ‘Longevity is a superficial goal; I am on the path of mastery. Mastery is a wonderful goal.’ And how old is he exactly? Anybody’s guess. The seeker of immortality is silent on this subject.
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