[INDOLOGY] sources for the idea that reincarnation is a semi-random process?

Gleb Sharygin gleb.sharygin at gmail.com
Thu Nov 19 19:08:26 UTC 2020

 Dear Dean, you wrote:

"There might be approaches which could address such issues but most
scientists are simply not interested. Many also feel that expressing an
interest in this could hurt their scientific career.

I'd be interested in other's thoughts about this."

I know two serious attempts at scientific investigation of the matter of
reincarnation/rebirth. First is of American (but Canadian-born) Professor
of psychiatry Ian Stevenson, who analyzed many cases of remembrance of
previous lifes and studied uncanny cases of inborn injuries or birthmarks
on those areas of the bodies of supposedly reincarnated person, which were
damaged due to their violent death in their "previous life/lives"
(accident, murder etc.). Stevenson, being a scientist, tried to apply
rigorous scientific methodology in his research, but, as the critics
pointed out later, he still could not avoid bias in his research, so most
of it is considered to be flawed.

A very recent attempt is that of ven. Bhikkhu Anālayo, a key figure in
current scholarly research into early Buddhism. In his book "Rebirth in
Early Buddhism and Current Research" (2018), which I can highly recommend
as an introduction to that area of inquiry, he takes up the research of
Stevenson, provides a necessary theoretical background for the study of
reincarnation and adds new empirical dimension to it: a philological one
(!). He argues that a Sri Lankan boy, who at a very early age "remembered"
his previous life as famous ancient Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosa,
"remembered" the portions of the ancient Buddhist canon that are unique,
having analyzed the tapes of the recitation of the canon by the said boy.

Regarding your initial question: as Prof. Rupert Gethin answered above: the
Buddhist tradition (at least the Southern one) holds, that rebirth is (or
may seem) random from the point of view of an unenlightened person (i.e.
including our modern science and philosophy), but strictly determined from
the point of view of the Buddha. I may add here that the Buddha says that
one should not think about the workings of karma(n), because it will drive
them insane (because of complexity of the matter).

Kind regards,
Gleb Sharygin

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