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Buddhists often cite the research of people like Ian Stevenson or Jim Tucker in support of their views on rebirth. My understanding however is that these researchers consider their evidence supports the idea of reincarnation - i.e. that they believe in a strong form of body/mind or matter/spirit dualism which allows for the same spirit to inhabit a series of new bodies and thus retain their memories (which are perforce not stored physically in the brain, but psychically in some as yet unknown medium that is available to beings whatever body they happen to be in).

Doesn't this approach contradict Buddhist doctrines on rebirth and dependent arising? Given that it conflicts with our fundamental doctrines, how do we explain the popularity of such reincarnation research amongst Buddhists?

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As far as I'm aware, experiments of Dr.Ian Stevenson are referred to by Buddhists to convince materialists & the followers of monotheistic religions that there's a Samsara. There's no intention of getting them to believe in a soul. The approach isn't perfect as you have pointed out. But it could be effective for monotheists and those who refuse to accept anything other than what scientists say. Putting Anatta into the mix can make it too confusing for newbies. So as long as the emphasis is put on Samsaric existences, it should be ok. A question related to memory and persistance is answered here.

  • Ha. Yes I coincidentally answered this question at length this morning. – Jayarava Sep 7 '15 at 16:36
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Buddhist more frequently refers Edgar Cayce:

Edgar Cayce (1877–1945) founded the non-profit Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in 1931, to explore spirituality, holistic health, intuition, dream interpretation, psychic development, reincarnation, and ancient mysteries—all subjects that frequently came up in the more than 14,000 documented psychic readings given by Cayce.

The concept of reincarnation shocked and challenged Edgar Cayce and his family. They were deeply religious people, doing this work to help others because that's what their Christian faith taught. Reincarnation was not part of their reality.Yet, the healings and help continued to come. So, the Cayce family continued with the physical material, but cautiously reflected on the strange philosophical material. Ultimately, the Cayce's began to accept the ideas, though not as "reincarnation." Edgar Cayce preferred to call it, "The Continuity of Life." As a child, he began to read the Bible from front to back, and did so for every year of his life. He felt that it did contain much evidence that life, the true life in the Spirit, is continual.

With an international headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., a regional headquarters in Houston, regional representatives throughout the U.S., Edgar Cayce Centers in 37 countries, and individual members in more than 70 countries, the A.R.E. community is a global network of individuals. http://www.edgarcayce.org

**Body/mind or matter/spirit dualism**

Buddhist equivalent is nāma-rūpa/viññāna.
Explained using Dependent arising (paṭiccasamuppāda).

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Doesn't this approach contradict Buddhist doctrines on rebirth and dependent arising?

I think that some forms of Buddhism have a doctrine of reincarnation. I'm unqualified to explain it but for example, there's a page about Reincarnation on the Dalai Lama's web site.

Given that it conflicts with our fundamental doctrines, how do we explain the popularity of such reincarnation research amongst Buddhists?

I don't know that they are especially popular but you can use this search to see the contexts in which Stevenson is cited on this site.

  • Thanks for the other answers. The range of approaches is broader than I might have expected. – Jayarava Sep 7 '15 at 16:21

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