Sometimes, people use the phrase “Who am I?’ as a tool for introspection. It helps people go deeper within themselves to discover their inner truth.
However, I wanted to be different and tried to use another phrase:
‘Who was I?’
Trust me, it really worked!
In other words. I meditated on who I was in my previous existence, or existences. At first, it seemed an impossible task, but as I went deeper into the question, the glimmerings of an answer began to emerge.
The first thing I noticed was that I get a very strong feeling of Deja Vu when I read certain ancient texts like the Upanishads. In this lifetime, I first read the Isha Upanishad in an English translation. I had a feeling that I had read these words in their original Sanskrit format in some previous existence, and that they had meant a lot to me. To understand the words better, I learned the Sanskrit language on my own. I am not an adept, but at least, I understand the meaning and the basic rules of Sanskrit grammar. Maybe, this is why it’s important to study classical languages like Sanskrit; they connect us to the past and, sometimes, to our past lives.
I get the same feeling of Deja Vu when I read the Bhagavata Gita or the Durga Saptashati. However, it doesn’t work that way with all Sanskrit texts, certainly not the more recent authors like Kalidas.
I also love Indian classical music, listening to the ancient ragas does a number on me. Some of these ragas have existed in their purity for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.
From all of this, I conclude I must have been born to Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma, in a previous existence.
However, when I listen to the Azaan, or the Muslim call to morning prayer, the sound goes straight to my heart. It seems that I have this sound a hundred times before, and, it has definitely not happened in this lifetime. We have never lived in an area where this sound is played, we just hear it occasionally when passing by a mosque. Of late, I have also grown fond of Sufi music, it touches some deep chord inside me. This music, too, is based on the ancient ragas that have been around for hundreds of years on the Indian sub-continent.
Could I have been a Muslim in a previous lifetime? Who knows?
Even stranger thing happens when I read the Bible. I never read this book when I lived in India, but I came across a copy in a hotel room in Toronto, Canada a few years ago. When I read certain passages from this mysterious book, I literally got goosebumps over my body. When I read the passage “ My house has many mansions”, I got an eerie feeling that I had studied this passage before, in a previous existence.To me it meant that there are many pathways, or religions, leading to the same truth. I do realize, however, that this is not the standard explanation that a Christian preacher would give. There are many other passages in the bible that are beautiful beyond all understanding. The Sermon on the Mount is very inspiring and it has inspired people like Mahatma Gandhi.
Could I have been a Christian before, in a previous existence? Who knows?
This brings me to my final conclusion; there is no guarantee that we followed the same religion or the same culture in previous lifetimes. We could have been born anywhere in the world, in any part of the human race, we could even have switched sexes in succeeding lifetimes. Hence, it is important to respect all religions, all races, all classes as though our life depended on this. Perhaps, it does.
We should respect any one who serves us, because the roles could be reversed in a future existence. We should never oppress any one or any group because it would be only poetic justice if, in a future existence, the oppressed become the oppressors.
It seems to me that being kind to others is the single most important thing we can ever do. We have to practice kindness all the time, we have to learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
Om Swami ji has emphasized kindness in many of his books and discourses. He talks again and again about random acts of kindness. Meditation practices, according to him, have no value unless we develop kindness and empathy for others.
I fully agree. My introspection on “Who was I?’ leads to the same conclusion. I could have been anything in a previous lifetime, any religion, any sex. I could have been born in any part of the world.
The only proper way to live this life seems to be to treat everybody, every religion, every race, every country, with the greatest possible respect.
Who knows what we will be in a future existence?