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Buddha Dhamma -
The Case For The Buddhist Theory Of Survival And Kamma

By Late Professor K. N. Jayatilleke Ph. D. (Cantab) - Courtesy Vesak Lipi

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 Evidence
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 by hypnosis.

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 Nikaya I.

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