“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
“Do you ever get the feeling that you have been in a situation before? Almost like the exact same place, with familiar surroundings, in a predicament that mirrors what you faced before. It is an eerie feeling, but I have almost one hundred percent certainty.
“At the same time, recorded observation and memory contradict the assertion. That is to say, I know that I have not been to this place previously. I was not brought here as a child, prior to my first memory. It was not like I had a sudden blackout and forgot everything that took place.
“It must be from a previous life. I get this sometimes, especially with the sensation of flying. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been flying in a dream. It feels so real, like I know how to do it. It is comfortable and exhilarating; sort of like a natural state. Is this proof of having lived before?”
Shri Krishna confirms that not only have we lived before, but there has never been a time when we did not exist. For the mature human being, there is no greater fear than death. The comparison is to the ripened fruit, which hangs off the tree and knows what lies ahead.
यथा फलानां पक्वानां नान्यत्र पतनाद्भयम्।
एवं नरस्य जातस्य नान्यत्र मरणाद्भयम्।।
yathā phalānāṃ pakvānāṃ nānyatra patanādbhayam।
evaṃ narasya jātasya nānyatra maraṇādbhayam।।
“As a ripe fruit has no other fear than to fall, so a man who is born has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
This fear in the human being is understandable. I have a general idea what lies in the days ahead. I will wake up tomorrow morning at a certain time. Follow the daily routine, turn on the computer and log into a meeting with colleagues at work. The weather is unpredictable, as today it was sunny but tomorrow will be cloudy, but I have a general idea of the climate at any particular point in the year.
I know that this relative predictability will not continue indefinitely. I did not always have this routine. At one time I may have been living in a different house, working for some other company. Prior to that I was in college, and before that I did not even know how to read and write.
Time is the great devouring agent, and in its full and complete manifestation it will force me to leave this world. After that, I lose a clear picture. I don’t know what will happen to me. There are competing ideas, but they seem to be based on speculation. No one that I know who recently passed has come back to tell me what happened to them.
In truth, I should be just as concerned for the past, since I lived prior to birth. Think of the millions of years of history going backward. At every step of the way I was somewhere. Perhaps not as a human being, but I can’t be sure. The memories are gone. All I have is the current conception of life, carried over from the previous ones.
शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
Fortunately, such memory is not a requirement for success in life. Neither is it necessary to recall every specific lifetime in order to find an eternal life of happiness and bliss. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, remembers everything. He is always with me in the heart as Supersoul. He has always been with me in the past and will continue to be my greatest well-wisher in the future.
With this specific human birth, I have the opportunity to be spared from déjà vu in the future. I don’t have to take rebirth. This appearance in the material world and emerging in the different ways available, such as through perspiration, an embryo, or an egg, is the initial cause of my suffering. It has been downhill ever since.
Through a purified consciousness my conception of spiritual life will carry me towards a spiritual birth and circumstance in the future. No more dichotomy between body and spirit. No more vulnerability to birth and death and the three sources of misery attacking every living entity.
I will be together with the all-attractive one in His home of Vaikuntha, which is free of anxieties. At the point of such an achievement the past mistakes no longer matter. The many births I had will be corrected, all through the favor of a single person.
Living with Him forever,
Taking birth again never.
Through His favor won,
That with transmigration done.
The past many or just a few,
But at death started anew.
So why so much upon to dwell?
Better focus on what acharya to tell.