It is only the modern scholars who have made an argument of this
since the Buddha merely stated as an observed fact that, the predominant
cause of these inequalities was karma. The fact is in principle's
verifiable but the argument appeals to one's moral sense, and is
of value only if such a moral sense is universally present and shared
by all mankind.
The above arguments are, therefore, for one reason or another, unsatisfactory
and have little force in proving the truth of rebirth or survival.
The truth or falsity of rebirth, therefore, rests on the relevant
empirical evidence, (ie deriving knowledge from experience alone)
We may classify the main evidence into two sorts, (i) experimental
and (ii) spontaneous. The other evidence may be considered separately.
The experimental evidence is based on age-regression. Under hypnosis
a subject can recall or relive his past experiences. With regard
to this life when regressed to age six, for instance, the subject
would behave, write and talk as he or she did at that time and recall
the past experiences, which it may not be possible to recall by
normal means. The handwriting and the memories could be independently
checked. Such experiments have convinced psychologists and psychiatrists
today that the authentic buried memories of one's childhood experiences,
which cannot be called to mind in normal consciousness, can be unearthed
It may be asked whether the subject is not just responding to the
suggestion of the hypnotist and is merely play-acting or shamming.
That this is not so has been proved experimentally. Dr. H. J. Eysenck,
who was Professor of Psychology in the University of London and
Director of the Psychological Department at the Institute of Psychiatry,
Maudsley and Bethlehem Royal Hospitals, states that, 'in one case
it was found that when a twenty-year old girl was regressed to various
ages she changed the chalk to her left hand at the sixyear level;
she had started writing with the left hand, but had been forced
to change over at the age of six'.
In another case, a thirty year old was hypnotized and regressed
to a level of about oneyear of age on a chair arranged in such a
way that with the release of a latch it would fall back into a horizontal
position. When the latch was released the behaviour elicited was
not that of an adult but of a child. An adult, it is said, would
quite involuntarily extend both arms and legs in an effort to maintain
balance. Since the subject made no movement of the limbs but screamed
in fright and fell backward with the chair, urinating in the process.
Eysenck comments. 'It is unlikely that such behaviour is simply
due to playacting'. Intelligence and achievements tests have been
used to assess the nature of the behaviour of regressed subjects
and it has been found that 'people tend to behave on tests of this
type in a manner roughly appropriate to the given age.' Eysenck's
observations with regard to the possibility of faking such behaviour,
are as follows: 'Such reactions, of course, could easily be faked,
but it has been shown that when, for instance, the eye movements
of subjects are photographed, a considerable lack of ocular co-ordination
and stability is found when regression to a relatively young age
occurs. Such physiological phenomena are characteristic of young
children and are difficult, if not impossible, to produce voluntarily.
A remarkable fact is that the psychological experiences had when
the physiological condition of the body was different, are re-enacted.
To quote Eysenck again: Even more impressive is another case of
a subject who had a colloid cyst removed from the floor of the third
ventricle. Prior to this removal, the subject had been suffering
from blindness in the left half of the right eye. After the operation,
vision had become normal, but when the subject was regressed to
a time shortly before the operation, the visual defect again reappeared
during the regression. The expected physiological reaction is not
only appropriate to the age but reflects the physiological condition
of the body at the time.
In the light of the experimental evidence, Eysenck concludes: 'Experiments
such as those described in some detail above, leave little doubt
that there is a substantial amount of truth in the hypothesis that
age regression does, in fact, take place, and that memories can
be recovered which most people would think had been completely lost'.
This is the consensus of opinion among orthodox psychologists today.
So genuine memories not accessible to normal recall are generally
evoked or the experiences relived at the suggestion of the hypnotist
in age-regression. So at least as far as this life is concerned,
to say that the memories recalled under age regression are hallucinatory
or delusive is not correct.
Introducing The Writer
The Late Professor K. N. Jayatilleke
Ph. D. (Cantab) was born in 1920; educated at Royal College, Colombo.
He was learned in Pali, Sanskrit, Indian and Western Philosophy
(Classical and Modern) Professor of Philosophy at the University
of Ceylon, Peradeniya, and read papers on Buddhism at Oxford (1961),
Havard USA and at Princeton University (1966). He passed away when
only 50 years of age, in July 1970.
Few are the beings born again among men;
more numerous are those born elsewhere than among men - Anguttara