There are discussions about previous life recall and it is can't be scientifically proven. According to modern science memory are electrical traces on neuron cells in brain and that is scientific fact and modern scientist have recreate memory artificially as it is. So memory has physical aspect rather than mysterious spiritual aspect. My specific question is how do it prove that recall of previous lives which does't cope with facts?

  • I didn't understand the last sentence, which contains the question. What's the question?
    – ChrisW
    Dec 28 '17 at 10:00
  • recall of previous lives related to memory.my question is memory only has physical aspect as it electrical traces in brain. Dec 28 '17 at 12:04
  • Your statement or claim, the "fact" which you say is true, is that "memory only has physical aspect as it electrical traces in brain". What is your question though? The last sentence is asking something about proof and facts, but I don't quite understand what it's asking.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 28 '17 at 12:28
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    So the question is something like, "Given that memories are recorded in (or linked to) the brain, can you explain how people remember a previous life?"
    – ChrisW
    Dec 28 '17 at 13:34
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    yes you are closer to it Dec 28 '17 at 13:38

You asked something about "proof" which I don't understand.

I think that changes to neurons aren't "proof" of memory. The proof of memory (i.e. evidence that memory exists) is for example being able to find your keys again, recognise people you know, etc.

I guess there are different kinds of "evidence" for memory of past lives, used in Buddhism:

  • It says so in the scriptures: e.g. in suttas, there's something about the Buddha recollecting his past lives -- though some people say that this is a mistranslation or misunderstanding); there are also stories like this, which explain today's events based on what happened in past lives.

  • People look for (and sometimes find) contemporary evidence, of children who seem to remember something of a past life: see e.g. searching for the next Dalai Lama; or see e.g. Ian Stevenson who looked for tales that he couldn't disprove of people remembering a past life.

  • Logical argument: e.g., "If there's no rebirth then why not suicide?" and "How are bad people punished, and good people rewarded?"

I think it's for these kinds of reasons (this kind of evidence) that people believe in rebirth and past life memories.

Then when you're considering the subject (of memory) you might wonder what the mechanism for that is ("I wonder how it works, where is memory recorded?"):

If your question was meant as proof, I wasn't (logically) convinced by its argument: for example you wrote, "so memory has physical aspect rather than mysterious spiritual aspect", which I doubted, because maybe it has a physical aspect and a mysterious spiritual aspect? Or something else, maybe it has a physical aspect which survives the breakup of the body? The fact that a sight is recorded in a photograph, for example, doesn't mean it can't also be recorded another way as well.

Anyway I don't want to argue the topic one way or another: because it seems to me to be examples of various kinds of identity-view, a "thicket of views", of the type we're warned against in suttas like MN 72 and SN 12.15.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 29 '17 at 14:10

Think of the brain as a proxy server connecting you to the internet(all past life memories). Just because your browser can only see the proxy server, is it wise to assume that the whole internet is contained in the proxy server?

Think of the electrical traces stored in neuron cells as the information stored in the cache memory of the proxy server. If somebody alters or adds new content to the cache memory, it will be shown on your browser. Then is it wise to assume that the whole internet is just electrical traces stored in the cache memory of the proxy server?

The brain is simply a tool used by the mind. Mind doesn't cease to exist even if the tool breaks.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 31 '17 at 11:47

According to modern science memory are electrical traces on neuron cells in brain and that is scientific fact and modern scientist have recreate memory artificially as it is.

Is it according to modern science?

If you corner a serious neurologist to be precise about the real cause for remembering, they would not say those words (specially if they understand philosophy of science). What they would be forced to say is something in the lines of:

We've detected co-relations between activities in certain areas of the brain and the act of remembering.

In a serious scientific field, it is expected that scientists write their work with that kind of care. Non-scientists have a hard time with this, for example, being bias to think co-relation means causation, or that a certain cause is the primary source of an event when it's just a symptom. Particularly journalists, who tend to exaggerate the claim of scientific studies.

That's why you would probably have a hard time finding a scientific paper stating that remembering is simply caused by electrical traces on neuron cells in brain. For a scientist to state that, they have to show evidence of causality, beyond co-relation and show that there's no earlier cause and so on. Which is very, very hard to do.

For example, imagine a scientist centuries ago thinking about memory. He would then ask a few people to describe to him a past event from their lives and notice the subjects raising their eye balls. He might be tempted to conclude that "looking up" is the cause of memory retrieval.

So, the fact that A and B are observed to happen together does not mean that A causes B. Maybe B causes A. For example, maybe remembering is what causes "the electrical traces on neuron cells". Or, further yet, maybe there's a cause C, beyond the observed data, that causes both A and B. In that case, brain activity and the effect of remembering would be just symptoms of an earlier event.

It's evident that memory has physical aspects to it, alzheimer being one obvious field of study. But even if changes in the brain affect memory (either making it difficult or easier to remember), the changes themselves don't explain the mechanism of recalling -- how they were originated and why. It doesn't explain if these physical activities are symptoms or cause. So you are back looking for the cause C, which remains unknown.

In conclusion, recalling past lives is not a closed question.


Your problem is with the nature of science. You are not distinguishing between scientific theory and scientific fact. Science has yet to solve the mind-body problem. That is a scientific fact. The notion that the brain is a computer and that the mind is a program that runs that computer is strictly a working hypothesis. The Buddha used his siddhis (psychic powers) to solve the mind-body problem. The answer to your question: Get on with your practice, gain Enlightenment, and see for yourself. Of course, you could wait for science to solve the mind-body problem. But you probably will not live long enough, because the mind-body problem defines a true and very scientific (not “spiritual”) mystery. You might google the “hard problem of consciousness.”


In the Pali suttas, the words translated as "recalling past lives" are "pubbenivāsā­nus­sati­ñāṇāya". The word "nivāsā­", in particular, does not mean "lives" ("jiva") but means "abodes", "dwelling" or, literally, "homes".

The Pali dictionary makes no difference between the words "nivāsā­" & "nivesā­". The word "nivesa" means "adherences", as found in the Haliddakani Sutta, as follows:

And how, householder, does one roam about homeless? The desire, lust, delight, and craving, the engagement and clinging, the mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies regarding the form element: these have been abandoned by the Tathagata, cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that they are no more subject to future arising. Therefore the Tathagata is called one who roams about homeless.

nivesa settlement; a dwelling-place, a house, a home. settling (on or in), attachment (to); where one settles.

In summary, the practise of "recollecting manifold past abodes" is only described in the Khajjanīya Sutta. If the Khajjanīya Sutta is read, it will become apparent that "pubbenivāsā­nus­sati­ñāṇāya" is unrelated to recalling past lives but related to recalling when in the past the mind ignorantly attached or adhered to one or more of the five aggregates as "self".

  • Answer undeleted.
    – user2424
    Jan 2 '18 at 11:56

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