Rebirth is a foundational axiom of Buddhism (Buddha Dhamma.) There is much evidence from rebirth accounts, Near Death Experiences, child prodigies, and other areas.
Revised January 18, 2020; September 3, 2020; rewritten February 25, 2023
Download/Print: “3. Rebirth – Axiom of Buddha Dhamma“
1. Most people in Western societies are not familiar with the concept of rebirth. However, that is changing because there is a lot of evidence emerging, and scientists and philosophers are beginning to take it seriously.
- One needs to look at the mounting evidence without any preconceived ideas. There is no plausible way to explain these accounts from a purely “materialistic” point of view, i.e., that consciousness arises from inert matter. The brain does not produce consciousness but plays a critical role in human consciousness: “Brain – Interface between Mind and Body.”
- Here is a video of a recent discussion on Western research on children’s past lives, Near Death Experiences, etc.:
OBE and NDE Studies
2. Near Death Experiences, or NDEs, are unique and fascinating phenomena that occur when an individual comes close to death, either through a life-threatening event or a medical emergency. Even with being declared dead with no brain function, individuals report seeing their “dead bodies” from above and what happened even in other rooms. They could move with their “mental bodies.” In recent years, modern science has become interested in NDEs because some accounts of those who go through such experiences can be tested. Ongoing studies may significantly impact scientific thinking about consciousness in the coming years.
- Here is a popular youtube video on the presentation of a physician on Near-Death Experiences:
- The following is a documentary on this area of research.
- There is an ever-growing number of reports of Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE) and Near-Death Experiences (NDE) that not only support rebirth but also are consistent with the concept of a ‘mental body” or “manōmaya kāya“; see, “Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) and Manōmaya Kāya” and other related posts.
3. There are many youtube videos, but here are three recent books on these subjects:
- “Consciousness Beyond Life” by Pim van Lommel (2010) gives detailed accounts of case studies on NDE by a renowned cardiologist.
- “After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond” by Bruce Greyson (2021).
- “Brain Wars” by Mario Beauregard (2012) is a book by a scientist on NDE, OBE, and the mind-body problem in general.
- “Dying to be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing,” by Anita Moorjani (2012), is a personal story of a cancer survivor who had been diagnosed to die within a few weeks but had an “unexplainable recovery” within days during which time she had an out-of-body experience.
4. The late Professor Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia conducted over 20 years of research on the authenticity of rebirth accounts, which Professor Jim Tucker is continuing.
- These two professors have written several books about rebirth. A good book is “Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation” by Ian Stevenson. By the way, Professor Stevenson became a Buddhist later on in his life, presumably because of his studies (see “Rebirth as Doctrine and Experience” by Francis Story (2003); first edition 1975). He mentions this in the introduction he wrote to this book by Francis Story; I have scanned that introduction: “Introduction to “Rebirth by Francis Story – Ian Stevenson.”
- Here is a video that discusses the work of the late Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Jim Tucker, and colleagues at the University of Virginia:
5. In their book, “Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot,” Bruce and Andrea Leininger detail the amazing story of their son’s recount of a past life.
- Here is a recent YouTube video on James Leininger’s rebirth account:
- Here is another story of the rebirth of a Civil War General:
- Here is a three-year-old chanting Buddhist suttā (and doing a very good job). Can a three-year-old memorize such complex lines of suttā?
- Also, see the post, “Boy Who Remembered Pāli Suttas for 1500 Years.” This is a true story about a boy (Dhammaruwan) who recited complex and lengthy Pāli suttā at five years of age, which sounded very different from current chantings. Furthermore, he remembers accounts of his previous life 1500 years ago, when he accompanied the famous Buddhaghosa on his trip to Sri Lanka.
Another piece of evidence comes from child prodigies. Here is a report on “10 Mind-Blowing Child Prodigies”:
- Here is a list of child prodigies from Wikipedia. You will recognize many of the names:
- Here is the link to the Wikipedia article on child prodigies:
Evidence for Rebirth Much Stronger Than Perceived
6. Many people say that direct “proof” for rebirth cannot be given; it is the other way around. If one’s memories are in the brain (as science believes), all those memories will be lost when one dies. There is no “physical connection” between the brains of those involved in the rebirth stories.
- Therefore, even if just one of those rebirth accounts can be proven true, there is no way to explain that other than rebirth. How can the brain in this life recall memories from the brain in a previous life?
- If there is a connection between two lives that lived in two geographical locations (also separated by time), there is no explanation for that in current science, i.e., no way to make a connection between the DNA of those two “persons.” A purely materialistic view cannot explain it.
- Recent scientific findings show that matter in different locations is entangled at a fundamental level; see “Quantum Entanglement – We Are All Connected.” Also, “a living just going from one physical body to another”; see, “Who Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“.
7. Also, it is by having this presumption of rebirth that all of the seeming anomalies and inequalities of life can be explained; see “Vagaries of Life and the Way to Seek Good Rebirths.”
- And how could we ever explain the birth of such prodigies as Jeremy Bentham, who, already in his fourth year, could read and write Latin and Greek? John Stuart Mill read Greek at the age of three and wrote a history of Rome at six years of age. Babington Macaulay wrote a compendium of world history at age six. Beethoven gave public concerts when he was seven; Mozart had written musical compositions before his sixth year. Voltaire read the fables of Lafontaine when he was three years old.
- Does it not seem infinitely more probable that all these prodigies and geniuses, who in many cases came from illiterate parents, had already, in previous births, laid the foundations for their extraordinary faculties?
Healing with Hypnosis
8. The late Dr. Richard Feynman was skeptical about the claims in hypnosis studies until he subjected himself to hypnosis on two occasions. In both instances, he verified that hypnosis works if done correctly. He describes these two cases in his book, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (1985), pp. 66-68.
- Therefore, hypnosis provides yet another set of “supporting material.” There are many cases of people remembering past lives when hypnotized. It is hard to evaluate the validity of most such cases.
- However, there is a branch of hypnosis that uses it as therapy. Some people seem to have “phobias” based on a horrific event from a past life. They cannot determine why they have these phobias, but they become cured when a hypnotist brings out that experience. Here is a 20/20 documentary of three such cases, where they vouch for the authenticity of the therapy sessions:
9. There are hundreds of youtube videos on rebirth stories and many on child prodigies and hypnosis-based curing of specific ailments.
The following books are also good reads:
- “Many Lives, Many Masters,” by Brian Weiss (1988).
- “Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation,” by Gina Cerminara (1988).
- “Children’s Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child” by Carol Bowman (1998)
- “Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives,” Jim B. Tucker (2013).
One White Crow Is Enough to Disprove the Hypothesis, “All Crows Are Black”
10. If even a SINGLE rebirth account or an NDE is valid, then the hypothesis “consciousness arises in the brain” is false. American philosopher William James stated the following that is widely quoted today (“After the White Crow: Integrating Science and Anomalous Experience,” Jerry E. Wesch (click on the link to download pdf)):
In order to disprove the assertion that all crows are black, one white crow is sufficient.
- That is a logical statement. It is unnecessary to prove that all or even many rebirth accounts/NDE accounts are true. Even if just one account is valid, that is enough to conclude that the brain is not the “seat of the mind.”
- We have thousands of rebirth/NDE accounts scrutinized by scientists/physicians.
- Also, see “Near-Death Experiences (NDE): Brain Is Not the Mind.”
11. Some of you may wonder whether there is an inconsistency here. I have repeatedly mentioned that the Buddha clearly stated that it is extremely rare to be born a human. Yet, from the above rebirth case studies, it appears that people have been born in the human realm in successive lives. If it is so hard to attain a human birth, how can this be?
12. There is nothing inconsistent. The critical problem here is another misinterpretation. “Bhava” or existence is not the same as a “jāti” or a birth; see “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”
- Upon exhausting the kammic energy for one existence, a living being grabs hold of another strong kammic potential for the next existence. A human existence (bhava) can last thousands of years. Yet, each human birth (jāti) lasts only about 100 years. Therefore, there can be many births (jāti) within human existence (bhava.)
- Between successive births, that human lives in para loka with just the “mental body” or manōmaya kāya. Another word for that entity is gandhabba. The concept of gandhabba is explained in simple terms in “Ghost 1990 Movie – Good Depiction of Gandhabba Concept.”
- The same is true for the animal realm. The life of a dog is less than 20 years, but a “dog bhava” can last thousands or more years.
13. Thus, if one has done a highly meritorious deed and at some point in samsāra (rebirth process) latches on to that “kamma seed” (see, “Saṅkhāra, Kamma, Kamma Bīja, Kamma Vipaka“), that energy may be able to sustain that existence for many rebirths.
- In these cases, when physical death occurs BEFORE exhausting the energy of the kamma seed, the manōmaya kāya (also called gandhabba) leaves the dead body and waits until a suitable womb is ready; see, “Manomaya Kaya (Gandhabba) and the Physical Body.” In this case, the gandhabba may carry a physical resemblance to the next life, including scars of any significant wounds, birthmarks, etc.
- When rebirth occurs, the new physical body could resemble parts of the old body. In many rebirth cases, such physical resemblances have been confirmed (as in the case of the civil war general in one of the above videos).
14. In summary, it is essential to remember that in Paṭicca Samuppāda, it is “upādāna paccayā bhavo,” i.e., grasping or craving (upādāna) that leads to existence (bhava): for example, existence as a dog.
- That existence (bhava) may have enough kammic energy to support many repeated births as a dog. Therefore, once a given bhava or existence is grasped, the next step of “bhava paccayā jāti” will lead to repeated births as a dog until that kammic energy is exhausted; see “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”
15. Conversely, if the kammic energy for that “bhava” has run out when death occurs, a new “bhava” will be grasped at the death moment.
- For example, a human may exhaust the kammic energy for that human existence (bhava) and grasp a kammic seed for bhava (existence) of an elephant. In that case, an “elephant gandhabba” will come out of the dead body of the human. Then it will stay in that “mental body” until a matching “elephant womb” appears. That means the mother elephant must have a gati similar to this new elephant.
16. It may be difficult to grasp these concepts initially. One must carefully examine the evidence provided in the links and go back to several layers to grasp these ideas. It is not possible to explain everything in one post. Buddha Dhamma can be very deep if one wants to comprehend how nature works.