“Why Do We Not Remember Our Past Lives?”
“Enq: But how can people believe in that which they do not know, nor have ever seen, far less put themselves in rapport with it?
Theo: If people, and the most learned, will believe in the Gravity, Ether, Force, and what not of Science, abstractions “and working hypotheses”, which they have neither seen, touched, smelt, heard, nor tasted – why should not other people believe, on the same principle, in one’s permanent Ego, a far more logical and important “working hypothesis” than any other?
Enq: What is, finally, this mysterious eternal principle? Can you explain its nature so as to make it comprehensible to all?
Theo: The EGO which reincarnates, the individual and immortal – not personal – “I”; the vehicle, in short, of the Atma-Buddhic MONAD, that which is rewarded in Devachan and punished on earth, and that, finally, to which the reflection only of the Skandhas, or attributes, of every incarnation attaches itself.
(There are five Skandhas or attributes in the Buddhist teachings: “Rupa (form or body), material qualities; Vedana, sensation; Sanna, abstract ideas; Samkhara, tendencies of mind; Vinnana, mental powers.
Of these we are formed; by them we are conscious of existence; and through them communicate with the world about us.”)
Enq: What do you mean by Skandhas?
Theo: Just what I said: “attributes”, among which is memory, all of which perish like a flower, leaving behind them only a feeble perfume.
Here is another paragraph from H. S. Olcott’s “Buddhist Catechism” which bears directly upon the subject. It deals with the question as follows:
“The aged man remembers the incidents of his youth, despite his being physically and mentally changed. Why, then, is not the recollection of past lives brought over by us from our last birth into the present birth?
Because memory is included within the Skandhas, and the Skandhas having changed with the new existence, a memory, the record of that particular existence, develops.
Yet the record or reflection of all the past lives must survive, for when Prince Siddhartha became Buddha, the full sequence of His previous births were seen by Him….and any one who attains to the state of Jhana can thus retrospectively trace the line of his lives.”
Thus proves to you that while the undying qualities of the personality – such as love, goodness, charity, etc. – attach themselves to the immortal Ego, photographing on it, so to speak, a permanent image of the divine aspect of the man who was, his material Skandhas (those which generate the most marked Karmic effects) are as evanescent as a flash of lightning, and cannot impress the new brain of the new personality; yet their failing to do so impairs in no way the identity of the reincarnating Ego.”
H. P. Blavatsky