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What Evidence is There of Past Lives or Reincarnation?

Updated on March 26, 2013

Reincarnation Images from Different Cultures

Hindu illustration of reincarnated lives.
Hindu illustration of reincarnated lives. | Source
The Buddhist Wheel of Reincarnation at Dazu, China, representing a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs.
The Buddhist Wheel of Reincarnation at Dazu, China, representing a mixture of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs. | Source

Reincarnation and Past Life Resources

Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives
Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives

Jim Tucker's work is featured in the video below.

 

Evidence For and Against Reincarnation

Most of the evidence for past lives and reincarnation is anecdotal, however some research effort is being put forth that involves detailed physical and psychological analyses to determine whether reincarnation has indeed occurred for an individual. The empirical, or anecdotal, evidence is sometimes shaky, sometimes convincing and frequently too hopeful for skeptics to believe. In some cases, the sheer number of anecdotal accounts seems convincing enough to convert a skeptic. Some of the disputed evidence is based on the testimony of children who apparently have an awareness of a previous incarnation, as well as the corresponding physical, emotional and behavioral patterns of the presumed prior life.

A 2007 paper published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies by Jonathan Edelmann and William Bernett (a downloadable pdf) entitled Setting Criteria for Reincarnation Research , reviewed prior Western-based research into the topic and suggests proper research criteria for study of this phenomenon. They mention prior work by Ian Stevenson, Antonia Mills and Erlendur Heraldsson; and, they also believe that their work provides enough evidence to back up further research.

Ian Stevenson's book "Children Who Remember Previous Lives" is reviewed skeptically on skepticreport.com. He worked on 14 cases that provided either evidence of reincarnation or delusion in a Lebanese Druse community that believed in reincarnation. The critic who did the review notes that all of the evidence is anecdotal, but this type of information would obviously predominate in these cases. I find the review weighted heavily on the negative, but then again, professional skeptics remain skeptics.

As an alternative viewpoint on Stevenson's work, I suggest reading Reincarnation, The Evidence is Building, by Titus Rivas and Dr. Kirti Swaroop Rawat. This scholarly review relies on parapsychological evidence for this phenomenon. This book is based on Dr. Rawat's research.

Another interesting site that provides evidence for individuals who have had previous lives is Reincarnationexperiment.org. This organization is devoted to the scientific investigation of reincarnation, using a quantitative biometric analysis test and a five-part psycho-physical examination. On this site is the evidence for the reincarnation of the 13th Dali Lama to the 14th and for the reincarnation of the French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. There are also various initiatives going on under the banner of this organization led by Paul Von Ward. The video below is produce by his organization.

Paul Von Ward on the Reincarnation Case of Paul Gauguin

Research by Dr. Jim Tucker, University of Virgina School of Medicine

Dr. Jim Tucker carries out research on children who have been born in the United States, as opposed to the overseas work that was carried out by Dr. Ian Stevenson. He has proposed that remembering frequently occurs in children who have suffered traumatic deaths, and that in some cases, birth marks appear on the child's body that correspond to the wound that led to death. This trauma then leads to a survival of the past life consciousness in the reincarnated body. A YouTube video that describes his work is given below. There is also below a reference to the book he has written on the subject.

A painted depiction of the Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Samsara.
A painted depiction of the Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Samsara. | Source

The Wheel of Rebirth

The bhavacakra of Tibetan Buddhism is illustrated in the photo of a painting in a Tibetan monastery. It is also called the wheel of samsara, depicting the cyclic nature of existence. It is believed, that through good works, humility and spiritual development, one can be freed of the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. However, enlightened beings such as the Dali Lama, choose to be reborn in order to help along other souls on their path towards liberation from samsara. These reincarnated beings are called tulkus and there is a system used in Buddhism to gather evidence of their reincarnation. Reincarnated Tibetan leaders are often placed in the same position as the deceased leader to resume their duties.

For Further Reading

Dharmawardena, G. 1996. Reincarnation is Now a Scientifically Acceptable Phenomenon. University of Colombo. Presented at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Sri Lanka Associated for the Advancement of Science. - Dr. Dharmawardena describes approaches for the scientific study of reincarnation and how it can be investigated beyond Cartesian-based science standards. He also reviews the types of evidence that exist at the moment.

Tucker, J. B. 2005. Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives. St. Martin's Press, New York, NY.


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    • profile image

      Kumari 

      3 years ago

      So. You've discovered the joys of tanevlirg off-season. Me and Joan have been taking advantage of it for years.You just can't beat it. Interesting to see that you don't have to go all the way to the Himalayas to get rugged, snow-capped mountains.Gorgeous scenery! This blog is fantastic; you've really got a knack for it.Just one little thing though. The next time we see pictures of you in winter I think that it would appropriate for you to be wearing full animal peltsjust like Mongol raider. The boots look good but are hardly enough to bring fear and terror to the local population. Work on it.

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Beautiful, Randy.

      Anecdotal? Perhaps, but the really juicy stories seem to leap far above mere local legend and urban myths.

      I remember many of my past lives (most not in any great detail).

      But the stories of young children distressed over their most recent family (prior to the current) is most persuasive. Like one boy who was distressed until he could get word to his former wife about where he buried the family gold. Details like this are subject to casual slips.

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Meditation helps tie it together for me. And I do it in several different ways. Thanks for the mention of the article, I can find it easily enough without a link. I am interested in this and how they think it links to their concept of God.

    • TravelAbout profile image

      Katheryn 

      6 years ago from United States

      You might find this of interest if you haven't yet read about it

      Higgs Boson: Physicists See Best Proof Yet of 'The God Particle'

      I don't know if sharing Yahoo news links is allowed on these forums or I would have provided it. It was very interesting. Yes, I agree, we are much more than what is presented in this life and I do believe in God; I just can't tie it altogether.

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      TravelAbout: I believe that we are more than the material aspect of our being and that (?) is what survives the body and is tethered to earthly existence if it doesn't work on being conscious in this life. The evidence given in this article and in other places that I have of read similar research and in Buddhist texts like the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is quite convincing of reincarnation phenomena.

    • TravelAbout profile image

      Katheryn 

      6 years ago from United States

      I have always had a strong interest in any thing related to what happens to us after the death of our bodies. I believe the soul goes on and there seems to be more and more scientific evidence to support this. The video was fascinating. I am trying to work on my next assignment but I keep getting wrapped up in reading so many interesting hubs :)

    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      6 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Thanks shiningirisheyes (what a nice pen name). I plan to add more later on Tibetan Buddhist writings about reincarnation, like the information contained in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. A solemn, but deeply meaningful work.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Very informative and insightful article on something I have always been deeply interested in.

      Voting up.

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