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In which realm do beings remember their past life(s)?

Generally human beings and animals dont remember their past lives,

so 1. why is that? and

  1. Why practice Buddhism at all if we won't remember our temporary life in our next life?

If we dont remember anything in the next life, why strive for enlightenment at all? Isnt it true that I wont remember anything of my temporary life in my next life?

  1. Do for example beings in the hell or heavenly realms remember their past life? Why would a person be afraid of being reborn in the hell realm if said person wouldnt even remember his/her past life?

  2. Are there tulkus/rinpoches etc. who are known to remember their past life(s)?

Comments

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    Interesting questions, @manoman. I like @Kerome's answer very much. The benefits of practising should be sufficiently evident in this life.

    I feel like a lot of teachers would leave it there. I can't remember which sutta it's in, but the Buddha certainly turns away people who ask theoretical questions like this. And I can see the teaching point there. Alan Watts called it "eating the menu instead of the dinner". Why speculate about things that are beyond our experience, when there's so much work to be done here and now?

    However, I enjoy speculating. And I appreciate teachers who meet students on their own terms, i.e. who answer the question they've been given.

    So...

    1. Why do beings forget their past lives. I don't know. I feel like perhaps the most detailed explanation for this is in Tibetan Buddhism. Others here know considerably more about it than I do, but I've definitely heard that Tibetan Buddhists believe only a very subtle form of consciousness progresses from life to life. No personality, no memories, just basic awareness.

    2. Why practise Buddhism if we won't remember it in the next life? Theravada monastics say that the practice we do in this life sets us up for meeting the Dhamma again in the next one. This set-up comes from our Kamma. We're planting the seeds of good practice now—the fruits might ripen in this life or a future one, we can't know. Essentially, some progress is saved; we may not have memories, but we're not back to square one.

    3. Why would we be afraid of hell realms, if we don't remember past lives? Well, even without memories, it's still possible that the same awareness persists from now into our next life. So if I'm going to a hell realm, I could still experience that suffering personally. And anyway, we don't want any being to experience hell, whether they are "me" or not.

    4. Are their teachers who are known to remember past lives? I believe there are, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. Tibetan Buddhism is definitely full of hints and intuitions. I don't think there are many accounts of people fully remembering past lives, but there are certainly stories about vague memories or snapshots.

    There you go! I don't think I answered your questions very well, but at least I had fun! Interested to see others' responses.

    personFoibleFull
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited August 27

    @manoman said:
    Generally human beings and animals dont remember their past lives,

    so 1. why is that? and

    The very arising of this present karmic conglomeration of life comes from the inertia of a plethora of past delusions(sometimes called past lives). This multiplicity of past intents do not lend themselves to any specific dissection's or identifications within this current vessel of ego because such an action would simply contradict the hard sought validity of our own identity. In one sense, our habituated responses to all phenomena that define the solidity of our imagined identity are largely dependent on the denial of what truly constitutes the ephemeral nature of reality, that past lives clearly point out.

    1. Why practice Buddhism at all if we won't remember our temporary life in our next life?

    The practice of Buddhism is about learning how to walk directly along the path towards suffering's cessation. This cessation of suffering is for all sentient life, not just for some imaginary sense of identity that mistakenly thinks it could possess it.

    If we don't remember anything in the next life, why strive for enlightenment at all? Isn't it true that I wont remember anything of my temporary life in my next life?

    Past life experiences are about unresolved expressions of Karmic inertia. You are just a temporary conglomeration of them. A Buddhist's job is to simply bring some of these inherited expressions of karma to a state of resolution while not creating any more. To the degree that you are able to address your own attachments to anything is the same degree to which you will be able to address the inertia of your own karmic inheritances. Some future conglomeration of karmic inertia will probably include, somewhere, some aspects of your present representations of it but this will not really represent much of who you presently think you are. At best, all that is likely to be shared is some tendency towards being susceptible to the same expressions of delusion.
    To strive for enlightenment is to actually strive towards selflessness.

    1. Do for example beings in the hell or heavenly realms remember their past life? Why would a person be afraid of being reborn in the hell realm if said person wouldn't even remember his/her past life?

    This question, like the others, actually depends upon a foundation of believing and continually rebuilding of the solidity of an imagined identity/ego/selfish self in any realm.
    A committed effort in a Buddhist practice will illuminate such a foundation to both be illusionary and also the major cause of anyone's suffering in life.

    1. Are there tulkus/rinpoches etc. who are known to remember their past life(s)?

    I have had extensive experiences with past lives and can attest that they have little to do with spiritual accomplishment. A Buddhist practice is more about how we relate to anything rather than about the thing itself.

    Wishing for a past life makes as much sense as wishing to have a kidney stone. Whereas if you're lucky it might pass by relatively un noticed, others can just as likely introduce you to states of a shared discomfort you shouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

    lobsterShoshinFoibleFullコチシカ
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yeah. What they all said.
    It's an unconjecturable, and best left alone, really. Focus on the Now. After all, that's all any of us have, at any given moment.

    Aren't we lucky, to even have 'Now'...?

    FoibleFullコチシカ
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @manoman said:
    2. Why practice Buddhism at all if we won't remember our temporary life in our next life?

    Why do anything, we are going to die anyway? Buddhism does not set a dogma. It has many useful/skilful possibilities. Just as many lead a satisfactory life free of assumptions and unresolved searching.

    Many of us find answers useful to our life in Buddhist practice. What have you found? Or are you lost?
    https://tinyurl.com/y946su7f

    personhowBunksShoshin
  • manomanmanoman New
    edited August 30

    Thank you all for all of your responses. I think I understand rebith and the Buddhist path clearer. I think I was too attached to remembering past lifes.

    I think we could make an analogy for this problem through dreams.
    When we dream, the dreamworld that we are in is at that moment real for us. It is the only thing that is real for us at that moment. In that dreamworld we interact and live and dont remember anything from our wakeful state before the dream. Although we dont remember our wakeful state before the dream, we observe in the dream and are aware of everything that happens there. Similarly in the next life we will not remember our past life (wakeful state before the dream) and will be in another illusory dream (next life) where we are aware etc.
    When we look at our life now, we can see that this very life is also illusory like a dream. When this dream ends, the next illusion manifested through our mind (and karmic imprints) will begin. Although we will not remember our past dream or delusion, we will be aware in our next as if that dream were living in then is the only thing we know.

    It doesnt matter if we dont remember our state before we are in a dream. Because we live in that dream as if it is real before we wake up. We feel all kinds of emotions.
    What do you think about this analogy?

    how
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    From what I have been taught:

    1. why is that?
      We are only our imprints (karmas/patterns/habits/predispositions). Ur belief that our identity is permanent is merely an illusion. In reality, we are just existence within a constantly-changing framework of moment-to-moment awareness (or lack of awareness!). If we want to know who we were in a past life, just look at our predispositions in THIS life. If we were to look back and see our past life, we would understand that this was our past life, but we would not think, “Oh, that was ME.” Since “me-ness” is merely an illusion, it does not persist and move on … only the condition of being, heavily influence by our imprints.

    2. Why practice Buddhism?
      Everything we do creates imprints within us. Both inner and outer actions. Every second we are alive, even while asleep. These are our karmas.
      So when we do our practice, these actions become part of our imprints. In our next life, we will have this urge to seek out spiritual practice, will be drawn to and will draw TO us teachers and fellow practitioners.
      The fact that you are on this site suggests that you have imprints/karmas from previous lives where you did spiritual practices, and so now you are again drawn to this pursuit.

    3. Do beings in the hell or heavenly realms remember their past life?
      No, beings in the hell or heavenly realms will not remember their past life. In fact, any of us COULD have had our past life IN either the hell or the heavenly realm. It all depends on what as-of-yet-not-ripened karmas we are carrying within us, either acquired during this lifetime or in any of our previous countless lifetimes. We are taught that we ALL have been thieves and murderers somewhere in our past.

    4. Are there tulkus/rinpoches etc. who are known to remember their past life(s)?
      I have never heard or read of any who admit it. And I have heard/read those who say they do not remember. Tradition says that Buddha saw all of his past lives … but it takes countless lifetimes to become a Buddha, and we cannot assess the awareness of the tulkus, rimpoches, or even our teachers. And if doesn’t matter. The Buddhist tradition is NOT to talk about ourselves, as this just reinforces our illusion that we are a permanent identity. Praise a monk, and he responds with some fact about him (past or present) that makes him "look bad" .. in this way, they teach us the importance of NOT puffing ourselves up. Being around your teacher is important, because much of what you learn most deeply lies in what they do .. or do not do ... much more than their actual teachings.

    howShoshin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @manoman said:

    In which realm do beings remember their past life(s)?

    Who wants to know ?

    1. Why practice Buddhism at all if we won't remember our temporary life in our next life?

    Why do you want to remember ? Will knowing make you any happier/end suffering ?

    When the intellect ventures into where it does not belong, it becomes lost in its own confusion:)

    A little bit of Taoist philosophical thought....

    Bearing in mind...

    We are just a vibrating bundle of energy flux held together by karmic glue continually laying future's foundations by what we think say and do

    Your posts @manoman are interesting and often remind me of this.....

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice—gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place."

    ~Sensei Sevan Ross,~

    Keep up the good work 👍...but don't let the mind become too charmed by its own thoughts....Everything in moderation...including moderation

    BunksWalkerlobster
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