Question - A friend has asked:
what is the relation between meditation and jati-smaran, past life
Osho - Jati-smaran means: a method of recalling past lives. It is a way to remember our previous existences. It is a form of meditation. It is a specific application of meditation. For example, one might ask, "What is a river, and what is a canal? Our answer would be that the canal is a specific application of the river itself -- well planned, but controlled and systematic. The river is chaotic, unrestrained; it too will reach somewhere, but its destination is not certain. The destination of the canal is assured.
Meditation is like a big river -- it will reach to the ocean; it is sure to reach. Meditation will surely bring you to God. There are, however, other intermediary applications of meditation also. Like small tributaries these can be directed into canals of meditation. Jati-smaran is one such auxiliary method of meditation. We can channelize the power of meditation towards our past lives also; meditation simply means the focusing of attention. There can be applications where one's attention is focused on a given object, and one such application is jati-smaran -- focusing on the dormant memories of past lives.
Remember, memories are never erased; a memory either remains latent or it arises. But the latent memory appears to be erased. If I ask you what you did on January 1, 1950, you will not be able to answer -- which does not mean that you might not have done anything on that day. But suddenly the day of January 1, 1950 feels like a total blank. It could not have been blank; as it passed, it was filled with activity. But today it feels like a blank. Similarly, today will become blank tomorrow as well. Ten years from now there will be no trace left of today.
So it is not that January 1, 1950 did not exist, or that you did not exist on that day -- what is implied is that since you are unable to recall that day, how can you believe it ever existed? But it did exist and there is a way to know about it. Meditation can be focused in that direction as well. As soon as the light of meditation falls on that day, to your surprise you will see that it looks more alive than it ever was before.
For example, a person enters a dark room and moves around with a flashlight. When he turns the light to the left, the right side becomes dark -- but nothing disappears on the right side. When he moves the light to the right, the right side becomes alive again, but the left side remains hidden in the dark.
Meditation has a focus, and if one wants to channel it in a particular direction then it has to be used like a flashlight. If, however, one wants to turn it towards the divine, then meditation has to be applied like a lamp. Please understand this carefully. The lamp has no focus of its own; it is unfocused. A lamp merely burns and its light spreads all around. A lamp has no interest in lighting up one direction or the other; whatsoever falls within the radius of light is lit up. But the form of a flashlight is like a focused lamp.
In a flashlight we keep all the light and shine it in one direction. So it is possible that under a burning lamp things may become visible, but hazy, and in order to see them clearly we concentrate the light on one place -- it becomes a flashlight; then the thing becomes clearly visible. However, the remaining objects are lost to view. In fact, if a man wants to see an object clearly he will have to focus his total meditation in one direction only and turn the rest of the area into darkness.
One who wants to know the truth of life directly will develop his meditation like a lamp -- that will be his sole purpose. And, in fact, the lamp's only objective is to see itself; if it can shine this much it is enough -- that's the end of it. But if some special application of the lamp has to be made -- such as remembering past lives -- then meditation will have to be channeled in one direction.
I will share with you two or three clues as to how meditation can be channelized in that direction. I won't give you all the clues because, most likely, hardly any of you have any intention of using them, and those who have can see me personally. So I will mention two or three clues which, of course, won't really enable you to experiment with remembering past lives, but will give you just an idea. I won't discuss the whole thing because it's not advisable for everyone to experiment with this idea. Also, this experiment can often put you in danger.
Let me tell you of an incident so that what I am saying becomes clear to you. For about two or three years, in respect to meditation, a lady professor stayed in touch with me. She was very insistent on experimenting with jati-smaran, on learning about her past life. I helped her with the experiment; however, I also advised her that it would be better if she didn't do the experiment until her meditation was fully developed, otherwise it could be dangerous.
As it is, a single life's memories are difficult to bear -- should the memories of the past three or four lives break the barrier and flood in, a person can go mad. That's why nature has planned it so we go on forgetting the past. Nature has given us a greater ability to forget more than you can remember, so that your mind does not have a greater burden than it can carry. A heavy burden can be borne only after the capacity of your mind has increased, and trouble begins when the weight of these memories falls on you before this capacity has been raised. But she remained persistent. She paid no heed to my advice and went into the experiment.
When the flood of her past life's memory finally burst upon her, she came running to me around two o'clock in the morning. She was a real mess; she was in great distress. She said, "Somehow this has got to stop. I don't ever want to look at that side of things." But it is not so easy to stop the tide of memory once it has broken loose. It is very difficult to shut the door once it crashes down -- the door does not simply open, it breaks open. It took about fifteen days -- only then did the wave of memories stop. What was the problem?
This lady used to claim that she was very pious, a woman of impeccable character. When she encountered the memory of her past life, when she was a prostitute, and the scenes of her prostitution began to emerge, her whole being was shaken. Her whole morality of this life was disturbed.
In this sort of revelation, it is not as if the visions belong to someone else -- the same woman who claimed to be chaste now saw herself as a prostitute. It often happens that someone who was a prostitute in a past life becomes deeply virtuous in the next; it is a reaction to the suffering of the past life. It is the memory of the pain and the hurt of the previous life that turns her into a chaste woman.
It often happens that people who were sinners in past lives become saints in this life. Hence there is quite a deep relationship between sinners and saints. Such a reaction often takes place, and the reason is, what we come to know hurts us and so we swing to the opposite extreme.
The pendulum of our minds keeps moving in the opposite direction. No sooner does the pendulum reach the left than it moves back to the right. It barely touches the right when it swings back to the left. When you see the pendulum of a clock moving towards the left, be assured it is gathering energy to move back to the right -- it will go as far to the right as it has gone to the left. Hence, in life it often happens that a virtuous person becomes a sinner, and a sinner becomes virtuous.
This is very common; this sort of oscillation occurs
in everyone's life. Do not think, therefore, that it is a general rule
that one who has become a holy man in this life must have been a holy
man in his past life also. It is not necessarily so. What is necessarily
so is the exact reverse of it -- he is laden with the pain of what he
went through in his past life and has turned to the opposite.
I have heard.... A holy man and a prostitute once lived opposite each other. Both died on the same day. The soul of the prostitute was to be taken to heaven, and that of the holy man, however, to hell. The envoys who had come to take them away were very puzzled. They kept asking each other, "What went wrong? Is this a mistake? Why are we to take the holy man to hell? Wasn't he a holy man?"
The wisest among them said, "He was a holy man all right, but he envied the prostitute. He always brooded over the parties at her place and the pleasures that went on there. The notes of music which came drifting to his house would jolt him to his very core. No admirer of the prostitute, sitting in front of her, was ever moved as much as he -- listening to the sounds coming from her residence, the sounds of the small dancing bells she wore on her ankles. His whole attention always remained focused on her place. Even while worshipping God, his ears were tuned to the sounds which came from her house.
"And the prostitute? While she languished in the pit
of misery, she always wondered what unknown bliss the holy man was in.
Whenever she saw him carrying flowers for morning worship, she wondered,
'When will I be worthy to take flowers of worship to the temple? I am so
impure that I can hardly even gather enough courage to enter the
temple.' The holy man was never as lost in the incense smoke, in the
shining lamps, in the sounds of worship as the prostitute was. The
prostitute always longed for the life of the holy man, and the holy man
always craved for the pleasures of the prostitute."
Since you have asked, I shall tell you a few basic things so that you can understand the meaning of jati-smaran. But they won't help you to experiment with it. Those who wish to experiment will have to look into it separately.
The first thing is that if the purpose of jati-smaran is simply to know one's past life, then one needs to turn one's mind away from the future. Our mind is future-oriented, not past-oriented. Ordinarily, our mind is centered in the future; it moves toward the future. The stream of our thoughts is future-oriented, and it is in life's interests that the mind be future-oriented, not past-oriented. Why be concerned with the past? It is gone, it is finished -- so we are interested in that which is about to come. That's why we keep asking astrologers what is in store for us in the future. We are interested in finding out what is going to happen in the future. One who wants to remember the past has to give up, absolutely, any interest in the future. Because once the flashlight of the mind is focused on the future; once the stream of thoughts has begun to move towards the future, then it cannot be turned back towards the past.
So the first thing one needs to do is to break oneself completely away from the future for a few months, for a certain specific period of time. One should decide that he will not think of the future for the next six months. If a thought of the future does occur, he will simply salute it and let it go; he will not become identified with and carried away by any feeling of future. So the first thing is that, for six months, he will allow that there is no future and will flow towards the past. And so, as soon as future is dropped, the current of thoughts turns towards the past.
First you will have to go back in this life; it is not possible to return to a past life all at once. And there are techniques for going back in this life. For example, as I said earlier, you don't remember now what you did on January 1, 1950.
There is a technique to find out. If you go into the meditation which I have suggested, after ten minutes -- when the meditation has gone deeper, the body is relaxed, the breathing is relaxed, the mind has become quiet -- then let only one thing remain in your mind: "What took place on January 1, 1950?" Let your entire mind focus on it. If that remains the only note echoing in your mind, in a few days you will all of a sudden find a curtain is raised: the first of January appears and you begin to relive each and every event of that day from dawn to dusk. And you will see the first of January in far more detail than you may have seen it, in actuality, on that very day -- because on that day, you may not have been this aware. So, first, you will need to experiment by regressing in this life.
It is very easy to regress to the age of five; it becomes very difficult to go beyond that age. And so, ordinarily, we cannot recall what happened before the age of five; that is the farthest back we can go. A few people might remember up to the third year, but beyond that it becomes extremely difficult -- as if a barrier comes across the entrance and everything becomes blocked. A person who becomes capable of recalling will be able to fully awaken the memory of any day up to the age of five. The memory starts to be completely revived.
Then one should test it. For example, note down the events of today on a piece of paper and lock it away. Two years later recall this day: open the note and compare your memory with it. You will be amazed to find that you have been able to recall more than what was noted on the paper. The events are certain to return to your memory.
Buddha has called this alaya-vigyan. There exists a corner in our minds which Buddha has named alaya-vigyan. Alaya-vigyan means the storehouse of consciousness. As we store all our junk in the basement of a house, similarly, there is a storehouse of consciousness that collects memories. Birth after birth, everything is stored in it. Nothing is ever removed from there, because a man never knows when he might need those things. The physical body changes, but, in our ongoing existence, that storehouse continues, remains with us. One never knows when it might be needed. And whatsoever we have done in our lives, whatsoever we have experienced, known, lived -- everything is stored there.
One who can remember to the age of five can go beyond that age -- it is not very difficult. The nature of the experiment will be the same. Beyond the age of five there is yet another door which will lead you to the point of your birth, to when you appeared on earth. Then one comes across another difficulty, because the memories of one's stay in the mother's womb never disappear either. One can penetrate these memories too, reaching to the point of conception, to the moment when the genes of the mother and father unite and the soul enters. A man can enter into his past lives only after having reached this point; he cannot move into them directly. One has to undertake this much of the return journey, only then is it possible to move into one's past life as well.
After having entered the past life, the first memory to come up will be of the last event that took place in that life. Remember, however, that this will cause some difficulty and will make little sense. It is as if we run a film from the end or read a novel backwards -- we feel lost. And so, entering into one's past life for the first time will be quite confusing because the sequence of events will be in the reverse order.
As you go back into your past life, you will come across death first, then old age, youth, childhood, and then birth. It will be in reverse order, and in that order it will be very difficult to figure out what is what. So when the memory surfaces for the first time, you feel tremendously restless and troubled, because it is difficult to make sense; it is as if you are looking at a film or reading a novel from the end. Perhaps you will only make heads or tails of an event after rearranging the order several times. So the greatest effort involved in going back to the memories of one's past life is seeing, in reverse order, events which ordinarily take place in the right order. But, after all, what is the right or reverse order? It is just a question of how we entered the world and how we departed from it.
We sow a seed in the beginning, and the flower appears in the end. However, if one were to take a reverse look at this phenomenon, the flower would come first, followed in sequence by the bud, the plant, the leaves, the saplings and in the end the seed. Since we have no previous knowledge of this reverse order, it takes a lot of time to rearrange memories coherently and to figure out the nature of events clearly. The strangest thing is that death will come first, followed by old age, illness, and then youth; things will occur in the reverse order. Or, if you were married and then divorced, while going down memory lane the divorce will come first, followed by the love and then the marriage.
It will be extremely difficult to follow events in this regressive fashion, because normally we understand things in a one-dimensional way. Our minds are one-dimensional. To look at things in opposite order is very difficult -- we are not used to such an experience; we are accustomed to moving in a linear direction. With effort, however, one can understand the events of a past life by following, in sequence, the reverse order. Surely, it will be an incredible experience.
Going through memories in this reverse order will be a very amazing experience, because seeing the divorce first and then the love and then the marriage, will make it instantly clear that the divorce was inevitable -- the divorce was inherent in the kind of love that happened; the divorce was the only ultimate possible outcome of the kind of marriage that took place. But at the time of that past life marriage we hadn't the faintest idea it would eventually end in divorce. And indeed, the divorce was the result of that marriage. If we could see this whole thing in its entirety, then falling in love today would become a totally different thing -- because now we could see the divorce in it beforehand, now we could see the enmity around the corner even before making the friendship.
The memory of the past life will completely turn this life upside-down,
because now you won't be able to live the way you lived in your past
life. In your previous life you felt -- and the same feeling exists even
now -- that success and great happiness were to be found by making a
fortune. What you will see first in your previous life is your state of
unhappiness before seeing how you made the fortune. This will clearly
show that instead of being a source of happiness, making the fortune
led, in fact, to unhappiness -- and friendship led to enmity, what was
thought to be love turned into hatred, and what was considered a union
resulted in separation. Then, for the first time, you will see things in
their right perspective, with their total import. And this implication
will change your life, will change the way you are living now completely
-- it will be an entirely different situation.
The monk replied, "In my previous birth I had disciples who later turned
into enemies. I have seen the whole thing and now I know that to make
disciples means to make enemies, to make friends means to sow the seeds
of enmity. Now I don't want to make any enemies, so I don't make any
friends. I have known that to be alone is enough. Drawing someone close
to you is, in a way, pushing the person away from you."
Such recollections are possible, though neither necessary nor inevitable, and sometimes, in meditation, these memories may strike unexpectedly as well. If the memories of past lives ever do come all of a sudden -- without being involved in any experiment, but simply keeping on with one's meditation -- don't take much interest in them. Just look at them; be a witness to them -- because ordinarily the mind is incapable of bearing such vast turbulence all at once. Attempting to cope with it, there is a distinct possibility of going mad.
Once a girl was brought to me. She was about eleven years old. Unexpectedly, she had remembered three of her past lives. She had not experimented with anything; but often, for some reason mistakes do happen all of a sudden. This was an error on the part of nature, not its grace upon her; in some way nature had erred in her case. It is the same as if someone had three eyes, or four arms -- this is an error. Four arms would be much weaker than two arms; four arms couldn't work as effectively as two arms could -- four arms would make the body weaker, not stronger.
So the girl, eleven years old, remembered three past lives, and many inquiries were made into this case. In her previous life she had lived about eighty miles from my present residence, and in that life she died at the age of sixty. The people she lived with then are now the residents of my hometown, and she could recognize all of them. Even in a crowd of thousands, she could recognize her past relatives -- her own brother, her daughters, and her grandchildren -- from the daughters, from the sons-in-law. She could recognize her distant relatives and tell many things about them even they had forgotten.
Her elder brother is still alive. On his head there is a scar from a small injury. I asked the girl if she knew anything about that scar. The girl laughed and said, "Even my brother doesn't know about it. Let him tell you how and when he got that injury." The brother could not recall when the injury occurred; he had no idea at all, he said.
The girl said, "On the day of his wedding, my brother fell while he was mounting the marriage horse. He was ten years old then." The elderly people in the town supported her story, admitting that the brother had, indeed, fallen from the horse. And the man himself had no recollection of this event. Then, as well, the girl displayed a treasure she had buried in the house she had lived in during her previous life.
In her last birth she died at the age of sixty, and previous to that birth she had been born in a village somewhere in Assam. Then she had died at the age of seven. She could not give the village name, nor her address, but she could speak as much of the Assamese language as a seven-year-old child could. Also, she could dance and sing like a seven-year-old girl could. Many inquiries were made, but her family from that life could not be traced.
The girl has a past-life experience of sixty-seven years plus eleven years of this life. You can see in her eyes the resemblance to a seventy-five to seventy-eight-year-old woman, although she is actually eleven years old. She cannot play with children of her own age because she feels too old. Within her she carries the memory of seventy-eight years; she sees herself as a seventy-eight-year-old woman. She cannot go to school because, although she is eleven, she can easily look upon her teacher as her son. So even though her body is eleven years old, her mind and personality are those of a seventy-eight-year-old woman. She cannot play and frolic like a child; she is only interested in the kinds of serious things old women talk about. She is in agony; she is filled with tension. Her body and mind are not in harmony. She is in a very sad and painful state.
I advised her parents to bring the girl to me, and to let me help her forget the memories of her past lives. Just as there is a method to revive memories, there is also a way to forget them. But her parents were enjoying the whole affair! Crowds of people came to see the girl; they began to worship her. The parents were not interested in having her forget the past. I warned them the girl would go mad, but they turned a deaf ear. Today she is on the verge of insanity, because she cannot bear the weight of so many memories. Another problem is, how to get her married? She finds it difficult to conceive of marriage when, in fact, she feels like an old woman of seventy-eight. There is no harmony of any kind within her; her body is young but the mind is old. It is a very difficult situation.
But this was an accident. You can also break open the passage with an experiment. But it is not necessary to go in that direction; however, those who still wish to pursue it, can experiment. But before moving into the experiment it is essential they go through deep meditation so their minds can become so silent and strong that when the flood of memories breaks upon them, they can accept it as a witnessing. When a man grows into being a witness, past lives appear to be no more than dreams to him. Then he is not tormented by the memories; now they mean nothing more than dreams.
When one succeeds in recalling past lives and they begin to appear like
dreams, immediately one's present life begins to look like a dream too.
Those who have called this world maya have not done so just to propound
a doctrine of philosophy. Jati-smaran -- recalling past lives -- is at
the base of it. Whosoever has remembered his past lives, for him the
whole affair has suddenly turned into a dream, an illusion. Where are
his friends of past lives? Where are his relatives, his wife and
children, the houses he lived in? Where is that world? Where is
everything he took to be so real? Where are those worries that gave him
sleepless nights? Where are those pains and sufferings that seemed so
insurmountable, that he carried like a dead weight on his back? And what
became of the happiness he longed for? What happened to everything he so
toiled and suffered for? If you ever remember your past life, and if you
lived for seventy years, then whatever you might have seen in those
seventy years, would that look like a dream or a reality? Indeed, it
would look like a dream which had come and withered away.
We generally dream of those things which we have not fulfilled in life, and so the king, sitting by his only son, his dying son, dreamed that he had twelve strong and handsome sons. He saw himself as the emperor of a large kingdom, as the ruler of the whole earth, with large and beautiful palaces. And he saw himself as extremely happy. As he was dreaming all this....
Time runs faster in a dream; in a dream timing is totally different from our day-to-day time. In a moment a dream can cover a span of many years, and after waking up you will find it difficult to figure out how so many years were covered in a dream that lasted just a few moments! Time actually moves very fast in a dream; many years can be spanned in one moment.
So, just as the king was dreaming about his twelve sons and their beautiful wives, about his palaces and the great kingdom, the ill, twelve-year-old prince died. The queen screamed, and the king's sleep came to an abrupt end. He awoke with a shock. Worriedly, the queen asked, "Why do you look so frightened? Why are there no tears in your eyes? Why don't you say something?
The king said, "No, I am not frightened, I am confused. I am in a great
quandary. I am wondering who I should cry for? Should I cry for the
twelve sons I had a moment ago, or should I cry for this son I have just
lost? The thing that's bothering me is, who has died? And the strange
thing is that when I was with those twelve sons, I had no knowledge of
this son. He was nowhere at all; there was no trace of him, or of you.
Now that I am out of the dream, this palace is here, you are here, my
son is here -- but those palaces and those sons have disappeared. Which
is true? Is this true, or was that true? I cannot figure it out."
When we watch a movie it appears to be real. After the film has ended, it takes us a few moments to come back to our reality, to acknowledge that what we saw in the theater was merely an illusion. In fact, many people who ordinarily are incapable of giving vent to their feelings are moved to tears in a movie. They feel greatly relieved, because otherwise they would have had to find some other pretext for releasing their feelings. They let themselves cry or laugh in the theater. When we come out of the movie, the first thing that occurs to us is how deeply we let ourselves become identified with the happenings on the screen. If the same movie is seen every day the illusion gradually begins to clear. But then we also forget what happened to us during the last movie, and once again, when we go to a new film, we start believing in its events.
If we could regain the memories of our past lives, our present birth would also begin to look like a dream. How many times before have these winds blown! How many times before have these clouds moved in the sky! They all appeared and then they vanished, and so will the ones here now -- they are already in the process of disappearing! If we can come to realize this, we will experience what is known as maya. Along with this we will also experience that a}l happenings, all events are quite unreal -- they are never identical, but they are transient. One dream comes, is followed by another dream, and is followed by yet another dream. The pilgrim starts from one moment and enters into the next one. Moment after moment, the moments keep disappearing, but the pilgrim continues moving on.
So two experiences occur simultaneously: one, the objective world is an illusion, maya -- only the observer is real; second, what appears is false -- only the seer, only the witness of it is true. Appearances change every day -- they have always changed -- only the witness, the observer is the same as before, changeless. And remember, as long as appearances seem real, your attention will not focus on the onlooker, on the witness. Only when appearances turn out to be unreal does one become aware of the witness.
Hence, I say, remembering past lives is useful, but only after you have gone deeper into meditation. Go deep into meditation so you may attain the ability to see life as a dream. Becoming a mahatma, a holy man, is as much of a dream as becoming a thief -- you can have good dreams and you can have bad dreams. And the interesting thing is that the dream of being a thief is likely to dissolve soon, whereas the dream of being a mahatma takes a little longer to disappear because it seems so very enjoyable. And so the dream of being a mahatma is more dangerous than the dream of being a thief. We want to prolong our enjoyable dreams, while the painful ones dissolve by themselves. That's why it so often happens that a sinner succeeds in attaining to God while a holy man does not.
I have told you a few things about remembering your past lives, but you will have to go into meditation for this. Let us start to move within from this very day onward; only then can we be prepared for what follows next. Without this preparation, it is difficult to enter into past lives.
For example, there is a big house with underground cellars. If a man, standing outside the house, wants to enter the cellars, he will first have to step inside the house, because the way to the cellar is from inside the house. Our past lives are like cellars. Once upon a time we lived there, and then we abandoned them -- now we are living somewhere else. Nevertheless, we are standing outside the house at this point. In order to uncover the memories of past lives, we shall have to enter the house. There is nothing difficult, bothersome or dangerous about it.
Source - Osho Book "And Now, And Here"
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