There have been claims that some people can remember their previous life, their life before they are reborn. I can't say these are true or not.

Is it possible to remember our previous life?

If so, is there any method to help us remember our previous life through meditation or any other means?

  • We hardly remember our current life...
    – Rabbit
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 7:07

4 Answers 4


The Visuddhimagga provides a pretty comprehensive explanation of how one obtains this and all the other psychic powers mentioned by the Buddha. Briefly, the method is as follows:

  1. Obtain the four rūpa-jhānas

  2. Exit the fourth jhāna and remember the last thing one did before one sat down.

  3. remember the last thing before the thing remembered in the last step. If at any time, one is unable to remember a given experience, one should revert to step one, and after leaving the fourth jhāna attempt to continue where one left off.

  4. repeat step 3 until one is able to remember the first moment of conception.

  5. Attempt to remember the last moment before conception (i.e. the death moment).

At this point, the Visuddhimagga says:

25. But the mentality-materiality in the previous existence has ceased without remainder and another has arisen, and consequently that instance is, as it were, shut away in darkness, and it is hard for one of little understanding to see it. Still he should not give up the task, thinking, “I am unable to remove the rebirth-linking and make the mentality-materiality that occurred at the death moment my object.” On the contrary, he should again and again attain that same basic jhāna, and each time he emerges he should advert to that instance.

26. Just as when a strong man is felling a big tree for the purpose of making the peak of a gable, but is unable to fell the big tree with an axe blade blunted by lopping the branches and foliage, still he does not give up the task; on the contrary, he goes to a smithy and has his axe sharpened, after which he returns and continues chopping the tree; and when the axe again gets blunt, he does as before and continues chopping it; and as he goes on chopping it in this way, the tree falls at length, because each time there is no need to chop again what has already been chopped and what has not yet been chopped gets chopped; so too, when he emerges from the basic jhāna, instead of adverting to what he has already adverted to, he should advert only to the rebirth-linking, and at length he removes the rebirth-linking and makes the mentality-materiality that occurred at the death moment his object. And this meaning should also be illustrated by means of the wood cutter and the hair-cutter as well.

Path of Purification (XIII.25-26)

I know a man who undertook this practice without really mastering the four jhānas, and he claims to have remembered bits and pieces of what he thinks was a past life. Not really reliable, but interesting nonetheless. Maybe you can let us know how it goes!


From the book: Being Nobody Going Nowhere by Ayya Khema

Chapter 7 - Kamma and Rebirth:

We also may get the idea to use each day to its fullest advantage. That means growth - spiritual, mental, emotional growth. It doesn´t mean rushing about and doing as many things as one can.

This is a far more important aspect of rebirth than thinking about one´s next life. What will happen next time is completely dependent upon what we are doing now, therefore only ´now´is important. ´Now´ is the cause, next life is the result. It´s also much more imprtant than trying to figure out what happened in one´s former birth. That is all over. That most of us can´t remember past lives has a good reason. We experience enough dissatisfaction in this life without having to resurrect the sufferings from earlier lives. A mind still battling with its present defilements is incapable of dealing with such double suffering.

Our rebirth this very morning can bring us that feeling of urgency which is an important ingredient of the spiritual life. Urgency arises when one knows true suffering, the urgency to do it now and not to wait.


Can I try a scientific approach?

It is clear for me that this is not a simple task and it must change one's life, one thing that would borrow me in the moment is: How can I know if this is a past life memory or just my unconscious mind playing a movie with some hidden stuff that I heard or read many years ago?

The unconscious mind is extremelly powerful and it knows much more than we think, including blocked memories from this life. I guess the key here is probably checking this past life, do some detective work, if you are able to find who you were it can significantly increase the chances of being a real memory from a past life

  • What if you could remember how you died? Would that still be some hidden memories from this life or at best, some forgotten dreams?
    – Mawia
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 11:54
  • very hard to tell, that is exactly why I said we must investigate, the more evidence you gather the better, my point is: our unconscious mind can play tricks on us, so we must be careful :)
    – konrad01
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 12:22
  • Yeah. Our eyes and mind can really play tricks on us. They say "You are the prisoner of your mind".
    – Mawia
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 13:00
  • an excellent book I can recommend is the "interpretation of dreams" by Freud, he explains how the unconscious mind works when we sleep and he gives incredible details about how and why we dream the way we do, it is an amazing book if you wish to get insights on the unconscious mind.
    – konrad01
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 13:15

I have read whereby people meditating on the 12-nidanas (12 links of dependent origination) have remembered their previous lives.

  • Hello and welcome to Buddhism SE. A good way to increase the quality of an answer is to add references to other sources, preferable the buddhists texts. We have also a Guide and a Resource section for new users that you might like.
    – user2424
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 21:41

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