Some time ago I said something about memory, cerebral memory and non-cerebral memory in Ranchi.
Human beings can remember many things in their lives, but they also forget many things. They study and learn, and what they learn today they forget tomorrow. Many people, however, remember things from their past lives. They can remember a few particular episodes – not of this life but of their past life. They see them like dreams, though they are unaware that these episodes are known to them. But they remember them.
Such memories are called non-cerebral memories. Once I demonstrated in Ranchi what a man observes when his mind is taken back fifty, one hundred or five hundred years.
Actually, what is this non-cerebral memory? In general terms, memory can be explained in this way. What you store in your brain through the medium of the nerve cells is your cerebral memory. But in the case of non-cerebral memory your nerve cells will not come forward to assist you. They cannot help you because no memory of your past episodes remains stored in your present nerve cells to enable you to remember them. Along with the rest of your previous bodies, those nerve cells got burnt to ashes when the bodies died. What people learn or observe in their present life remains stored in the present nerve cells of their brain as memory. That is, the episodes of their previous lives are not stored in their present nerve cells because the nerve cells of their previous bodies got burnt to ashes along with the bodies of their previous lives. So how will one remember them? How can the memories be recollected by the mind?
When people expire, the saḿskáras or reactive momenta of their previous life accompany their spirit, soul or átmá. What are these reactive momenta? They are nothing but the unfulfilled consequences of one’s karma or actions performed in the previous life. That is, actions were performed but they did not bear any fruit. The unfulfilled potential of the past actions lay resting along with the mind in the form of a seed of possibilities. That seed of possibilities (that is, the unrealized consequences of the actions which were performed but bore no fruit) takes a shelter or base in the next life which is most suitable for materializing these possibilities. The saḿskáras seek out and get the kind of body and nerve cells which best serves their expression.
In those instances in the previous life where actions were performed but the results were not achieved – where actions were performed but they did not bear any fruit – saḿskáras or reactive momenta remain with which the individual is personally involved. That is, in the previous life both the person and their mind were deeply involved with these actions. The unexpressed tendency of those particular episodes in which the mind was deeply involved will remain restive in them. Having this tendency by birth, those episodes are still remembered in their mind, but in some cases the tendency remains stored in an indistinct and unclear form.
For example, when one is sitting alone, suddenly a strange imagination may start playing in the mind. One may feel, “I was the owner of that plot of land. I used to cultivate it.” How does this occur? It is because the saḿskáras of the previous life were involved, which is why one can suddenly remember the episode. However, in this case one does not realize that one has remembered an episode of one’s previous birth. Such things occur in the lives of everybody. But in some people, a true picture of exactly what had happened in their previous birth remains vividly clear in the mind. Such things only happen in three types of cases: first, in those who have a very well-developed personality; secondly, in those who have commanded their own death or who have died with full consciousness; and thirdly, in those who died through accidents. In these three cases, the episodes of the previous life remain visible and clear in the mind.
Generally, such a memory does not last long. A part of it remains vividly clear up to the age of twelve or thirteen years, but after that age it gradually recedes into oblivion. This is because, if one remembers it all the time, one will develop a dual personality. Suppose in this birth a boy has the name Ramkumar and in his previous life he was known as Harihara, the same person will have two personalities. This is the situation.
Those who do remember their past lives up to the age of twelve or thirteen years are called játismara in Sanskrit. If one can concentrate the mind and transform it into a point, then one can recollect everything. One can remember every word of one’s previous birth in one’s next life provided that one’s reactive momenta remain unfulfilled. But I will never advise any sádhaka or spiritual aspirant to try to become a játismara. What is the use of recollecting the history of your past life? Try to learn only about the future.
What is this future? What should be the future? You should become one with Parama Puruśa by merging into Him. Then everything will be known and revealed to you. Unite with Him and enjoy the bliss of spiritual ambrosia. The meaning of unification with Parama Puruśa is to enjoy Parama Puruśa. What is the use of knowing the history of your previous births? Such knowledge will never help your spiritual advancement.
9 December 1978, Calcutta