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What Evidence is There of Past Lives or Reincarnation?
Reincarnation Images from Different Cultures
Reincarnation and Past Life Resources
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.
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.