Teachings offered by Upasaka Culadasa

Is Reincarnation Real?

[Culadasa’s answer references the well known case of a child named James, who seems to remember a past life as a WWII pilot. Videos telling James’ story are popular on the internet.]

Yes, I’ve seen it before. Other than being on video, its not much different from hundreds of others I’ve reviewed. And it has not been nearly as thoroughly investigated as the others in order to rule out possible sources of information contamination.

But my point is the same. Yes, people can definitely tap into the minds and memories of other people, both living and dead. It happens far more than most people realize. But why assume that it is anything other than that? Especially, why jump to the conclusion that it must be reincarnation? There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that the boy James is the same “person” as the pilot whose last name was James. Only that he has retrieved some (a very, very small part actually) of the information in the dead pilot’s mind.

The Buddha made it clear that whatever gets reborn, it’s definitely not the person (puggala), not any kind of a self (atta). And I know with certainty from repeated direct experience that my subjective self is only a constantly changing construct that cannot possibly be reborn. On the other hand, someone may someday sample a few memories from my life, and I hope they enjoy them and are benefited. But I hope they don’t get caught up in the notion that they were somehow me. I’d much rather they sampled a wider variety of memories from many, many other people and came to the same conclusion as the Buddha: There is no such thing as the separate self we imagine ourselves to be. Or maybe if they tap into the right memories from the right part of my life, they’ll know right away that the self is an illusion.

[There is no audio file, as this was a written submission to a discussion group]

One thought on “Is Reincarnation Real?”

  1. skeptic says:

    The story of the figher pilot “James 3” :


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