Rebirth, as opposed to reincarnation, is a fascinating topic and the following two stories have been taken from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (available from Amazon books). The second story, that of a child, came to the attention of the Dalai Lama and he sent a special representative to interview her and verify the story.
There have been many other rebirth stories published and the subject holds a special fascination for me. I believe in rebirth!
Recently, on BBC Television, the playwright Jonathan Millar, had a three-part documentary series run about atheism. I only saw part three and found it very interesting. My ears especially pricked up right at the end of the programme after Millar, himself a confirmed atheist, said the one thing he couldn’t understand was where consciousness goes!
Sogyal Rinpoche asks a similar question in his book (page 89): “Where does consciousness come from? It cannot arise out of nowhere. A moment of consciousness cannot be produced without the moment of consciousness that immediately preceded it.”
The Dalai Lama said: “The basis on which Buddhists accept the concept of rebirth is principally the continuity of consciousness……” ibid.
Here are the two stories I mentioned earlier:
1) There have been documented cases of 'Reincarnation' or rebirth, some of which are very hard to dismiss. One that springs straight to mind is Arthur Flowerdew, an elderly man from
2) Kamaljit Kour was the young daughter of a schoolteacher in a Sikh family in the Punjab in . One day, on a visit to a fair in a local village with her father, she suddenly asked him to take her to another village some distance away. “I have nothing here,” she told him. “This is not my home. Please take me to that village. One of my school-friends and I were riding our bicycles when we were hit by a bus. My friend was killed instantly and I was injured in the head, ear and nose. I was beyond cure so my relatives asked to take me home.” Her father was shocked, but when she insisted, he finally agreed to take her to the village.
Kamaljit Kour recognised the village as they approached it, pointing to where she had been hit by the bus. The little girl and her bewildered father then made their way to the house she said belonged to her former family. Neighbours confirmed to her father that the girl’s story was true. The dead girl of the village was called Rishma and had been 16 years of age when she was killed. Kamaljit went straight up to Rishma’s house, recognised Rishma’s grandfather and her uncles and named them without mistake. She pointed out “her” own room, asked for her school books, ribbons and her new maroon suit – which were all confirmed! She was then led away to her uncle’s house, where she identified more items. The next day she met all of her former relatives and when it was time to catch the bus home she refused to go, announcing to her father that she was going to stay. Eventually, however, he persuaded her to leave with him.
Kamaljit Kour was born ten months after Rishma died. Before she even started school she could remember the names of all her school friends in Rishma’s school photograph. Kamaljit Kour had also always asked for maroon-coloured clothes. Her parents discovered that Rishma had been given a new maroon suit of which she was very proud, but she had never had time to wear it. The last thing Kamaljit Kour remembers of her former life was the lights of the car going out on the way home from the hospital; that must have been when she died.
Rishma’s own family did not know whether or not Sikhs accepted reincarnation but they were convinced beyond any doubts that Kamaljit Kour was in fact their Rishma.
There is a subtle difference between rebirth and reincarnation, but I have left the words exactly as they were written in Sogyal Rinpoche’s book as for ease there is some interplay allowed. In reincarnation it would appear something is exactly reborn - say, for example, a soul - as it was in a previous life but in another form, whereas in rebirth what is passed over is consciousness, which is not exactly the same nor entirely different from its previous form. E.g. take the flame of a candle. It is not the same flame that started down the wick but it is not entirely different, either. Bits have been burnt off on the flame’s descent down the wick.
I’d appreciate your thoughts.