I saw a girl who was six years old in New York City. She could play on piano Bach and Beethoven and all the difficult music with such an ease and such a perfection that you would be surprised. She could hardly span the octave and yet she was playing this rapid music with most wonderful expression. Her mother was with her and she was not a musician. Her father was never a musician. How do you explain that? Heredity cannot explain. But we can explain that theory easily. Because this child was a musician and the soul of this child was a musician in her previous incarnation, and now she has manufactured another form with a little brain. Her brain is not developed enough to understand such music, but the musician is overshadowing the brain and manipulating all these strings of the brain and the nerve-cells and producing all this wonderful music. That is the only rational explanation.
If we deny pre-existence of the soul, we cannot explain immortality. Immortality does not mean that it has a beginning at one end and endless existence on the other. Pre-existence explains the continuity of life in the past, and immortality explains the continuity of life in the future. immortality means an eternal life. You cannot accept one half and deny the other half, because each would be incomplete. So the complete soul-life means eternal past and eternal future. The soul was never born and was never created out of nothing. It is the grandest theory and it is satisfying. It is comforting that we have not come into existence out of nothing, but we have everything in the beginning. If we are the images of God, then we possess all the powers. God was not a substance that came into existence suddenly like a mushroom, but He is eternal, and naturally our soul-life must be as eternal as God’s life. In fact, we are parts and parcels of God.
In this way, if we understand how great and grand and beautiful we are, we do not have to accept any such idea that after death we will discontinue to live. But, on the contrary, we can say that so long as we have desires and those desires that are to be fulfilled on the human plane under our present conditions, we will come back to this plane. If our desires change, we will go to other planes. For instance, if I have a desire to become an artist like Michael Angelo and if I in this life cannot become a Michael Angelo and still possess the desire in my soul, do you think that desire will have no fulfilment or manifestation? Nothing will stop the fulfilment of that desire, because that desire will bring me back to the proper environments and other conditions where I will gravitate and then start from my childhood with a tendency to become an artist. Nothing can stop me and I will continue so long as that desire is strong. I will continue until I become a master artist. And that is the law of nature. So whatever desire we possess, if that desire be strong, then that desire will mould our future, create our destiny, and make us accordingly.
This idea has been given in the Bhagavad Gita:
“Whatsoever desire is very strong during the lifetime becomes predominant at the time of death, and that desire moulds the creation of the subtle body of the individual and that determines the future of the individual.”
So that gives us an opportunity to find out what we shall be in future. We will make our future by our thoughts and desires. If you desire to be a great politician, you will be a great politician. If you desire to be a great saviour, you will be a great saviour. If you desire to be a great artist, you will be a great artist. In fact, you live in the eternity. Do not despair. If you cannot be a great artist in this life, there are hundreds of lives coming to you, till you get that desire. And when one set of desires is fulfilled, another will spring up. As each individual soul possesses infinite potentialities and possibilities, so it can express an infinite variety of manifestation. Because we are all eternal .
The idea of pre-existence of soul and reincarnation has settled the questions and solved the problems of life and death amongst the ancient philosophers like Plato, Pythagoras and the Neo-Platonists and also amongst the poets like Wordsworth, Tennyson, Walt Whitman and others. Walt Whitman said:
“As to you, Life, I reckon your are the leavings of many death. No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.”
MEMORY IS NOT SO IMPORTANT
Now you may have noticed that there are persons who cannot accept this theory of pre-existence of soul and reincarnation, because they cannot remember. They say, well, if we existed before, why do we not remember what we did ourselves? Do you remember what you did in your childhood? Can you remember what were you doing on 23rd july 25 years ago?Would you say you did not exist then, because you cannot remember? Certainly not. What you did when you were a child? All the existence you have gone through and the details have passed out of your memory, but the knowledge you have gathered through those experiences, is the part and parcel of your being and that has shaped you as you are. MEMORY IS OF SHORT DURATION, and it is sometimes powerful and sometimes very weak.
But modern spiritualism has thrown a different light on this subject. It says that the souls that have passed out remember their relatives, remember the conditions under which they passed. So the memory continues. Take the case of Raymond, the son of Sir Oliver Lodge. He remembered everything how he died and so on, and he communicated to his father and mother and told them. So that shows that we retain our memory even. But the instruments, the brain and the nervous system are destroyed. Therefore the memory is not the product of the function of the brain, but it is a power of the mind which we retain so long as there would be the mind.
However, the memory is not so impoRTANT. If we do remember our past, we might make bad use of our present. Therefore it is not desirable. Suppose somebody knows or understands his past, and knows that he had committed wicked deeds, and he is going to suffer for it, and he would be constantly thinking of that. He would lose all these opportunities and make a bad use of his present. He would not be able to do any work properly. He would be worrying about how to avoid the misfortune that is coming. He would not be able to sleep even, or eat a good meal. Therefore the Vedanta philosophy tells us not to think of the past but to mould our future and present, so that we can make our future better.
Of course, there is a method by which we can remember our past, because all the experiences that we have gained during our lifetime are stored up in our subliminal or subconscious mind where all these impressions are pigeonholed. We can bring them out, if we focus our intelligence upon any particular branch of the experience which we like to remember.
WE ARE THE CREATORS OF OUR OWN DESTINY.
There are cases again like two lovers who fall in love at the first sight. There we can explain that these souls loved before, and naturally they remember that and feel as if they had met each other. And what is love? Love does not mean any passion. It means the attraction of two souls. It is not on the physical plane, but must be on the soul-plane, because love is God. It is the divine force; it is the divine attraction of two souls. If there be pure love between any man and woman, that pure love will continue to hold them together even after death of the body, because the body cannot interfere. But at the same time we must remember that love must be mutual. If the husband loves the wife and the wife loves the husband truly and unselfishly, then that love is mutual. But if you love somebody and that somebody loves somebody else, then there would be no meeting again, until both were attracted to each other. Therefore it is necessary to develop that kind of love which would be mutual and then that love will hold the lover and the beloved together throughout eternity. There is no separation in it. So you need not be afraid of being separated from your beloved, and if your beloved be born again, after you go from this plane, you will be born again and you will come together unexpectedly and enjoy the beautiful effects of pure and divine love.
Therefore, if we study this carefully, we see that pre-existence and reincarnation go hand in hand and they explain all the difficulties and problems of life and death as well as of existence and also that we are the creators of our own destiny.
Our present life is the resultant of our past and our future will be the resultant of our present. Whether we remember or not, that does not make any difference. We are subject to this eternal law. But there are souls who can remember. If we rise on the height of our spiritual consciousness, we can see our past and future just as if it were eternally present. Therefore Sri Krishna said to Arjuna:
“Oh Arjuna, both you and I have passed through many births. You know them not, but I remember them all.” 1
So anyone, who reaches that state of superconsciousness, develops a sight. By developing that sight one can see the past and the future and remember all the experiences that one has and gone through all the experiences that one will go through. And when he understands that life is eternal, he does not worry about the conditions of the failures and successes or diseases or sufferings of this earthly plane. This life on this plane is only for a short time, BUT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF ETERNAL LIFE WE ARE NEVER BORN AND WE ARE NEVER GOING TO DIE, BECAUSE WE ARE BIRTHLESS, DEATHLESS, ETERNAL, IMMORTAL, and also part and parcel of the infinite Spirit which is worshipped under different names among different races….
~ SWAMI ABHEDANANDA , LIFE BEYOND DEATH, CHAPTER VII ~