Source: Paranormal Review
Reincarnation has been in the headlines in Spain and Canada recently with two remarkable stories that underline the impact of the belief and the huge cultural differences that surround this fascinating subject.
Case One concerns a Muslim boy living in the Canadian province of Newfoundland who, after a visit to India, became convinced that he had lived a previous life in that country. This was so unsettling for him and his family that he was taken to a psychiatrist to be "cured". Interestingly, the psychiatrist could not attribute the cause of these past-life flashbacks to any mental disturbance and has published a paper in a medical journey about the experience.
Case Two, on the other hand, involves a Spanish boy who was identified in 1985 as the reincarnation of a revered guru by the Dalai Lama and others, when he was just 14 months old. His parents agreed for him to be taken to a remote monastery in India, where he was worshipped and received spiritual instruction for the best part of two decades. Now back in Spain, he is reported to have denounced that life, describing it – according to the media – as "living a lie".
But I have discovered there's another side to this story. Let's look at these cases more closely.
The Canadian teenager has not been named and his parents have turned down the opportunity to speak about the case. His experiences have just come to light with the publication of a paper by Dr Amin Muhammad Gadit, who treated the boy, in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
The paper, "Myth of reincarnation: a challenge for mental health profession", is disappointing from an evidential point of view because its focus is the dilemma that the author faced, as a health care professional, in confronting the issue – one that is clearly rare.
After discussing briefly the various religious attitudes to belief in rebirth, Dr Gadit explains that a multidisciplinary team approach and the involvement of an Imam, with the emphasis on psychotherapeutic input, proved beneficial for the boy. Those treating him adopted a positive attitude, assuring the teenager that "maybe everyone has past lives – the only difference is that you can remember yours". That's not an unreasonable assumption, given that "his history and examination of mental state did not lead to any diagnostic category".
Fortunately, National Post journalist Tom Blackwell managed to extract more information about the case from Dr Gadit in a report headlined "Haunted by past lives? Academics wrestle with treating the 'reincarnated'".
He reveals that the boy, who was born and raised in Canada, was visiting his parents' Indian hometown, Jaipur, when he became consumed by vivid memories of a past life, insisting he belonged with another family and viewing his parents as "alien".
He described his past life, as a man named Ram, who had three brothers and a sister and died aged 29 from a hole in the heart. He was also able to give other details, including describing the inside of his house.
Locals are said to have confirmed that a man named Ram lived there about 30 years ago and verified other details he provided.
When taken to see Dr Gadit by his parents in March 2006, he teenager recounted his memories "with a strong, emotionally charged tone" and the psychiatrist accepts that the boy is convinced he has lived before.
After treatment he appears to have come to terms with his experience but is said to be still haunted by the past-life memories.
Meanwhile, in Spain, Osel Hita Torres – known to his followers as Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche – has apparently done the unthinkable and rejected the past-life robes that were wrapped around him at the age of 14 months by those looking for the reincarnation of Lama Thubten Yeshe, the founder of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
His parents were students of Lama Yeshe and within five months of Osel's birth, some followers suspected Yeshe had returned. He was taken to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, in 1986 and was soon chosen out of nine other candidates as Lama Yeshe's reincarnation.
In a recent interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo Osel, now aged 24, described what happened next: "They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a great deal."
According to The Guardian which picked up the story, Osel "is now studying film in Madrid and has denounced the Buddhist order that elevated him to guru status".
It's a story that is spreading fast on the internet, but I suspect it's not as black-and-white as El Mundo would have us believe. I say that with some confidence, having checked out the FPMT website. Admittedly, when I first did so, I got blank pages and error messages on the links I had to Osel Hita Torres, suggesting the foundation believed the report was accurate.
But those links have now been re-established – including an excellent 1996 Mick Brown feature in the Telegraph Magazine together with three chapters from Reincarnation: The Boy Lama and five chapters from Reborn In The West both by Vicki Mackenzie.
What's more, there are a couple of contributions from Osel which case a very different light on his attitude to the challenges of this particular life. He explains, if the FPMT's Annual Review (February 2009):
"Some people seem to expect that because this [Osel] is Lama Yeshe's reincarnation, then he's going to be just like Lama Yeshe. But today is not like being in Tibet many years ago, or even when the hippies were in Nepal and India in the 1970s. The world has changed a bit, and so I'm trying to find a different way of communicating.
"One of the ways is through music, movies and audio visual techniques. In a movie, you can condense so many different stories. You can put in music; you can put in different situations and messages. Even just the sunset can be enough to give you some peace and help you find a moment for meditation. There are so many millions of possibilities.
"It is one thing to plan and another for things to actually happen, but for now, that's what I am hoping to do. I'm really, really grateful for all the help everyone gave me. Thank you for all the support and help. – Osel"
And an even more up-to-date communication from him appears under this introduction:
The person recognized as the incarnation of FPMT's founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe, was in his early life known as Lama Osel. Today he prefers to be called simply "Osel". Osel is completing a course of Western studies in Europe, at which he is doing extremely well. The following is a current message from Osel:
It is important to have a good experience of what life is. I have been really lucky to be able to experience both western and eastern cultures and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me in both cultures. In combination, being in India and the West has been a rich experience that I've been privileged to absorb from both sides.
There were times in India when it was hard to accept the destiny. Being treated differently, and feeling apart. But that experience was really good and I so appreciate it.
However, certain media find ways to sensationalize and exaggerate an unusual story. So I hope that what appears in news print is not read and taken too literally. Don't believe everything that is written!
Experience shows that however hard one tries in interviews to sincerely and honestly convey key information, the printed result can tend towards sensationalism to get the most attention.
FPMT is doing a great job and Lama Zopa is an immensely special person - very inspiring and a great yogi.
Personally, my job is to find new ways in which to discover the true nature of our being. There is no separation between myself and FPMT – we are all working together in so many aspects and terrains. Humanity is our office. Besides, I don't really qualify very much in Buddhist studies, because I didn't finish them, so working together is the clue.
He ends his message with "Big Love – Osel".
Edited by: Lawyer Asad