“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
Friend1: I think people will have a hard time believing that they lived before.
Friend2: What do you mean by “before”? I lived yesterday. So did you. What is hard to believe about that?
Friend1: A past life.
Friend2: Oh. As in reincarnation?
Friend1: Yes. Well, it depends on where the discussion is taking place, in which part of the world
Friend2: I was just going to say that. In terms of numbers, there are millions of people who firmly believe in it. They take it as the reason for the present circumstances. In other words, placement into a particular womb is not random.
Friend1: Such as a person born with a silver spoon in their mouth, as they say. Another one born into poverty.
Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada likes to use the example of war. Today I am fighting for one side. I am a patriot in the sense that I support the country in which I took birth.
Friend1: That determines your nationality. It may have associated physical features, such as eye, hair and skin colors.
Friend2: If I perish in combat, there is the possibility that I take birth in the land that I was fighting against.
Friend1: And now you are a patriot for the other side.
Friend2: In essence, what is the point? This entire world is God’s creation, after all. Better to try to live in peace. War is inevitable sometimes, but at least try to see the spiritual equality.
Friend1: In parts of the world where they won’t be receptive to the idea of a continuous cycle of birth and death, one reason for the skepticism is memory.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: I can’t remember those previous lives. Nothing about them comes to mind. Maybe there are hints given in dreams.
Friend2: Like when I am flying through the air. It feels like I am actually doing it. This means that I have some past experience.
Friend1: From birth in the form of a bird. Again, there is no direct confirmation. If I can’t recall, then how can I be sure?
Friend2: Well, there is already so much that we can’t remember from this lifetime. No one has direct confirmation of the birth process.
Friend1: But we see others taking birth. We understand that is how the new life enters this world.
Friend2: You never saw your own, though. Perhaps you were the exception to the rule.
Friend1: Yet the rule you are forwarding is that everyone took birth before.
Friend2: Again, memory is not important. We take the principle from authority. Shri Krishna says so in the Bhagavad-gita. He reminds Arjuna, the disciple, that only Bhagavan can remember those previous lifetimes.
Friend1: Okay, but wasn’t that a special case? Krishna revealed that both He and Arjuna had appeared in this world many times before. Krishna could remember but Arjuna could not.
Friend2: Yes, and so the same applies to us. We may not be constant companions to the level of Arjuna, but we take many births, as well. There are several references to the fact, such as when discussing how long it takes for a person to finally understand the Almighty.
The Sanskrit word is bahunam. This means “many.” In other words, more than one. This present existence is not everything. Memory is not a determining factor on existence. Accept this highest philosophical information on faith in the beginning and then through steady practice in yoga slowly begin to get confirmation.
Friend1: What do I gain from such information?
Friend2: That you and I are eternal. That there is something beyond the present existence. The soul cannot be extinguished. I can shape the outcome of the existence. I have some say in where I will end up next. The same may not have been true before.
Friend1: Why not?
Friend2: Because there is no karma for non-human species. They cannot make rational decisions relating to piety and sin, right and wrong. There are no duties prescribed for them. These concepts are exclusive to the human species precisely because the enhanced level of intelligence gives an opportunity for escaping the cycle.
Friend1: You mean no more birth and death?
Friend2: Turn the bahunam into anta. The end. No more. Think of Arjuna’s guru at the time of death. He is actually the adi-guru, or the original teacher. He can reveal much more than past lives to me. He can open a world of endless opportunity for bliss, which is possible even prior to exiting the present body.
The many into end turning,
When knowledge of soul earning.
Maybe not remembering now,
But proof from this birth how.
That of past initially trust,
And soul into future thrust.
With lifetime starting again,
Better for higher goal then.