Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge
A Peek into Your Past Life
Interest in past-life regression (PLR) therapy has been soaring across India. As patients with everything from diabetes to depression line up for flashbacks, is it hokum or healing?

She would step into the shower and turn it on. The moment her eyelids flickered shut under the warm jet of water, the horror would begin. A body floated up in front of her. It was the same every time. She learnt to shower with her eyes wide open, but even then, the sound of running water filled her with unease. In the bedroom, the phobia took a more vicious turn. Night after night, she dreamed that she was being raped. Water and sleep are both natural agencies of healing, but for this 22-year-old, they were contaminated by a dread so deep that its origins twisted beyond her frightened reach. And then suddenly, the curtains parted, and all was staggeringly clear. In a tragic life that she had lived before her present humdrum one in Noida, she had watched mutely as her sister was raped and pushed to her death under a waterfall. When she saw her sister’s body crash to the ground, she had leaped out of hiding only to be swept away by the thundering torrent. This dramatic epiphany was revealed to her when she consulted a past-life therapist who hypnotised her in order to help her find an answer for the bad dreams. By reliving that terrible experience, she rid herself of the watery corpse, and for the first time in years took a shower with her eyes closed.

The woman who facilitated this jigsaw perfect catharsis was none other than Dr Trupti Jayin, whose television show Raaz Pichle Janam Ka has sent interest in past life therapy soaring.

Kruti Parekh, 25, India’s first test-tube baby has become the poster-child for regression therapists. Parekh was born into a business family, but is an accomplished magician who can walk through walls and make monuments disappear. On Jayin’s television show she regressed into her past and learnt that she was the king of an island laden with gold and that she had the power to hypnotise a tiger. This explained a curious childhood incident that occurred when she was taken to the circus by her parents who backed off at the sight of a lion standing uncomfortably close, but young Kruti patted the big beast.

Leap of faith
Simply put, past life regression is a journey a person takes to his or her past life while he or she is hypnotised. It is a journey usually undertaken when one is in search of a spiritual experience or when one wishes to cure an illness — physical or emotional. Practitioners say that memory is a powerful touchstone of understanding but sceptics are inclined to dismiss these vivid flashbacks as “false” and imply that they are cleverly prompted. In a predominantly Hindu country like India, the concept of a past life and karma is as ancient and accepted as time itself, and finds mention in the Upanishads and Patanjali’s Yogasutra. It needs no televangilisation. But while the belief in the good-and-evil karmic cycle is implicit, the received wisdom also is that one cannot re-enter a life that is over, or have any access to a memorial inheritance that belonged to a different life-body in a different time frame.

This is where PLR requires its patients to take a leap of faith by using hypnosis as a time capsule to travel through the pages of one’s personal history. Faith is open sesame in time travel. A dogmatic mind is an impediment, as is a befuddled one. One therapist remembers a client who had OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder. She was unable to help him mainly because his faith — which does not sanction belief in past lives — came in the way. “It is a bit like the searching for filenames options in a computer,” explains clinical hypnotherapist and past-life therapist Jyotika Chhibber of the Light of Life institute in Mumbai. “Once the client is guided into a state of trance, his mind is pointed towards the source of his problem. In case his condition is past life related, he automatically gets led to that past life which has a significant connection with his problem.”

The modern sage of past-life therapy, Dr Brian Weiss, was a robust sceptic himself until a patient stunned him with details of his family life, which she could not have possibly known. This intermingling of her life and his is the basis for the analogy that he uses most often to explain the mystery of multiple lives and crossover memory: “We are like ice cubes, which are made from water. The water melts and now there’s no individuality anymore… We melt into a spiritual sea. Love is the organising spirit of it all. God is in all of us. We are all souls and we are all connected.” That is why, says Weiss in his best-selling book ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’, in a journey into past lives one changes race, religion, colour and gender. As the great Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung explained, we are all inheritors of a collective mythology.

Savita Mahajan, assistant dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when someone pointed her to ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’. “I had a deep-rooted insecurity since my childhood of losing my loved ones. I lost my mother when I was six, and my brother when I was 34.” A friend suggested PLR as a healing therapy and Savita found that she had been “a very poor girl, who lost her entire family early, and died a lonely death, without anyone to call her own”. She says she is much calmer now and her relationship with her husband and children is less strained.

For India’s most well-known regression therapist Dr Newton Kondaveti – who claims to have facilitated about 1,000 individual and 30,000 group regressions – meditation was the medium that revealed to him that he was a Buddhist monk in Takshashila. After a year of medical practice in Kerala, Newton decided to follow his heart, or rather, his soul, to research past life and life in general. He founded the Life Research Academy in Hyderabad in 2000. “We are looking at PLR as a new-age therapy to ease human suffering and as a step towards attaining spiritual enhancement,” he says.

Doubting Thomases
The response from the medical community to stories about rape and monks has been less than warm. For most doctors, all this talk of past life still smacks of magic or fraud. Newton says with wry humour that the “soul is not yet considered part of the medical universe”. Most psychotherapists practice past-life regression under the guise of hypnosis to keep the critics at bay. But there are very respectable scientists and doctors who are not ready to dismiss it outright. Professor BK Mangaraj, who has a PhD in fuzzy logic from IIT Kharagpur says that quantum physics, which is about the theory of possibilities, supports the theory of PLR. “Regression, whether of animate or inanimate data, is a statistical phenomenon,” he says. “The degree of accuracy may vary, but both mathematically and scientifically PLR has been validated empirically.”
Even more encouraging for regression therapists are attitudes of doctors like Parthasarathy Deb, a neurologist with Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad. “Some phenomena are beyond the realm of data,” Deb says. “How does one explain physical pain despite all medical tests proving excellent health otherwise? One of my patient’s severe abdominal pains only subsided after PLR.”

Reservations about the therapy remain. How is it, ask doctors, that all those who claim to have regressed come back with stories where they are either royals and generals or victims who have been brutalised? And how is it that past lives are always so much more exciting and eventful than our boring present-day slogs? But those who have found health and healing by entering this trance-like state can’t stop being grateful for an imperfect past that has made their future less tense.

Deja vu
There are three ways of conducting PLR: hypnosis, the bridge technique (verbal or visual bridges are used) and the re-birthing or breathing technique. Hypnosis is the one used most widely. During hypnosis, the person is made to relax in a progressively graded way leading to a trance-like state when the mind is comatose. This is the stage at which reliving occurs. It could take up to three hours. Regression is a cycle. It starts with reliving or identifying past memories, transmission or going between lives (described by most as being most blissful), the release or catharsis, and finally, the integration of the experience. A proper integration of the wisdom and understanding gained during the session with one’s current life is key to closure. Self-regression is not advised. One can misinterpret the insights gained and this can cause anxiety.

(Extracts from article by Swati Sucharita & Sharmila Ganesan-Ram, Times News Network)

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