Monday, December 07, 2009

Science, Superstition, or Bollywood?

NDTV Imagine’s new reality show, “Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka” has been going on the air from 7 December 2009 at 9:30 p.m. and as a daily prime timeslot from Monday to Thursday. The show is based on Past Life Regression Therapy (PLRT), where some Bollywood celebrities like Shahrukh Khan, Sushmita Sen, Sanjay Dutt, Karishma Kapoor , Celina Jaitely, Shekhar Suman, and Monica Bedi will appear with other common people to subject themselves in PLRT. According to news source, Dr. Trupti Jain, the PLRT therapist of the reality show claims that she will use a meditative technique to take people back in time to rid them of their present-day fears, phobias, and physical ailments by finding their roots in their previous lives.
The idea of Past Life Regression is based on Hindu philosophy. In Bhagwat Gita, it is told that the soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. According to this theory, the ‘atma’ or soul takes rebirth or reincarnation, as people often leave their old cloths to wear a new one. The ancient Indian Yoga philosopher Patanjali told about the soul being burdened with the accumulation of impressions (samskara) of karmas from previous existence. He advocates the practice of yoga meditation for alleviating the soul from such interminable encumbrances.
The Buddhist concept of Nirvana works along similar lines. The main motto of Nirvana is to stop this reincarnation.
Greco-Semitic religions do not believe in a past life. These religions believe that humans are only born once and only die once and that there is no endless cycle of life and death and rebirth, an idea inherent in reincarnation theory. These religions also believe that after death, we face final judgment, meaning that there is no second chance, like there is in reincarnation and karma, to live a better life. You get one shot at life and living it according to God’s plan; and that is it.
The idea of rebirth and reincarnation was introduced to the West through theosophy. Madame H.P. Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, introduced these ideas to the Western world. But much before the formation of Theosophical Society, Allan Kardec, a French spiritualist, wrote about reincarnation and karma in his book, The Book of the Spirits (1857). But the first person to use regression as a therapy was probably Dr Denys Kelsey.
A book co-authored with Joan Grant, Kelsey's Many Lifetimes (1967) is the first book on PLRT and focuses more on the therapeutic aspect of the technique rather than on stories of relived experiences.
Practitioners of PLRT use methods of hypnosis for inducing patients to regress to their past lives and identify the root of their present problems. This is the first phase (the 'realistic-cathartic' stage according to Jungian psychotherapist, Roger J. Woolger). The next step ('symbolic-archetypal') is for the patient to project the present himself/herself onto a past personality. The third step is to come to terms with what has been relived through regression in this 'integral-mystical' stage. However, the therapy proves to be beneficial only when the patient is able to accept the past trauma and is ready to progress beyond that. If the patient does not accept that past trauma, the therapy fails.
It is highly debatable if there is any scientific basis of this process, though the experiences described by the ‘subjects’ may be ideas hiding within their sub-conscious mind.
NDTV Imagine may use this therapy in a reality show to increase their TRP, but I have some doubts about the truthfulness of this method:
1) Why does no one who subjects himself or herself to this therapy ever finds himself or herself as an animal or an insect or a bird or even a plant? Hindu reincarnation theory states that the atma can travel through different ‘yonis’ or species.
2) If we take it, then, as a hypothesis that humans reincarnate into humans only, then how does the population of humans increase from day-to-day? Even today, we find the birth rate is higher than the death rate.
3) In the show aired on 7th December 2009, therapist Trupti Jain asked the’subject,’ who had allegedly lost her past life in a plane crash in 1966, if there was a watch inside the plane near the dead body. How could Dr.Jain know that there would be a watch there inside the plane near the dead body?
4) Ravi Kishan, the host of the reality show, claims on the screen that no hypnosis is used for the programme, but viewers witnessed Dr. Jain hypnotize the ‘subject’ to apply her therapy.