Disclaimer: This post is based on stories and previous research carried by a group of people at the University of Virginia. It also reflects my own ideas and imaginations on the subject. This is not a scientific study, review or conclusion. This, however, is an attempt to highlight the fact that there are still many mysterious events and phenomena that require more attention as our current understanding of science isn’t enough to provide sound explanations for them.
Consciousness is an interesting subject. Over the years, the scientific community had different opinions regarding the nature of consciousness. Descartes was the pioneer in the field and he believed in dual nature of consciousness. Most of the dualist theories had suggested that a part of our consciousness is independent of the brain and survives death.
However, with the advancement in experimental techniques, scientists started developing a detailed, comprehensive model of the brain. Now, they can attribute the parts of the brain responsible for memory, vision, smell, language, and even emotions and humour. This lead to the downfall of dualism and advent of the materialistic theory of consciousness. According to this theory, the brain is the centre all the aspects of consciousness. Naturally, with the brain death, our consciousness ceases to exist. This seems to be a fairly solid theory on consciousness. But we are still in a phase where we are putting “theories” on the subject. So, let me introduce a relatively rare phenomenon that challenges this materialistic theory of consciousness. It is none other than reincarnation.
In Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that atman (soul is different) is indestructible. After death, according to your karma, your Atman attains different fates (rebirth, freedom from birth-death cycle). You and your body are two different entities. Your body drives you towards materialistic desires and goals which are the essence of evolution. However, the one who can control his body and mind is the true yogi.
I will focus on two things from his teachings. The indestructible nature of atman. And its fate after human death, one of which is reincarnation.
Fast forward, there has been numerous cases where people claim to remember their past lives. Maybe they are crazy, they need some psychiatric attention, or maybe they are lying. But they are some stories that are documented and are so accurate that it rules out all of the above. Yes, there are true reincarnation stories.
For nearly 15 years, a researcher from UVA Medical Center’s Division of Perceptual Studies, J. Tucker has been investigating claims made by children, usually between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, who say they’ve had past lives.The children are sometimes able to provide enough detail about those lives that their stories can be traced back to an actual person—rarely famous and often entirely unknown to the family—who died years before. These cases are rare but not unique. Tucker has studied 2500 cases!
Bare in mind, this is a reputed institution and scientist we are talking about. He has conducted his study in a proper scientific way. So, the cases he compiled are indeed authentic.
But here comes the best part. His hypothesis for explaining these reincarnation stories.
Material world may be derived from consciousness and not the other way round! Not only does this mean consciousness is independent of the material world but some form of consciousness is the source of this materialistic universe itself (God?).
This sounds familiar. Similar kind of ideas is preached by the Upanishads.
“Atman is Brahman, and Brahman is Atman. Brahman is the true essence of all reality, not just you.”
Brahman here being the cosmic consciousness and Atman the individual consciousness.
Quantum physics is strange. The Upanishads are awesome.
Further reading: http://uvamagazine.org/articles/the_science_of_reincarnation