Posts Tagged ‘afterlife’

Lately, television audiences in our country have been treated to a particularly despicable ‘reality’ show on the channel NDTV Imagine, which professes to find solutions to mundane emotional and psychological problems through hypnotism and something called “past life regression therapy”. Apparently, if you suffer from claustrophobia, you have, in all likeliness, died inside a burning elevator, filled beyond capacity and trapped between two floors in your previous life! Perhaps the name of the channel itself is a disclaimer of sorts regarding the degree of reality that is being shown.

The fascination with the possibility of past and after-lives is understandable as long as it is exercised within the scope of fiction. Everybody enjoys the Bengali film Sonar Kella, as it should be enjoyed, without taking it literally (though many, I fear, do take it literally), but if such a thing as hypnotic regression to reveal secrets of one’s previous life is performed on reality television, it definitely is a matter of concern. I used to think that uneducated viewers were most vulnerable to such mumbo-jumbo, but I was surprised to find a college professor and even family members professing faith in such dubious ideas. A distant relative was even a participant in one of the episodes, which was why I happened to watch it in the first place. (For the record, there were glaring historical inaccuracies in his tale, but one should perhaps allow for some data transmission error across lives.)

I wonder why those who believe in a multiplicity of lives do so. None of the believers whom I have met have ever experienced it themselves, or have any evidence to support such claims. For them, even a fifth-hand account of a long-deceased person, whose claims can no longer be examined, is sufficient evidence. There is a reason why the gullible are called gullible! I personally think it may have something to do with our fear of eventual death, and the fact that we will not have a role to play in the affairs of anybody, or partake in any significant event, after we pass away. But do such fears befit an intelligent and thinking species whose brain has been shaped through millions of years of slow and tedious evolution, and which now considers itself the pinnacle of creation? Should our intellect be so shallow as to take refuge in myths and fantasies that offer false hopes of outlasting one’s scheduled time on Earth? A pigeon does not need such myths to help it through its life, and neither should we.

I believe the only sense in which we outlast our life-span is that the elementary particles that make up our body are destined to outlast all the planets, stars and galaxies in the universe. Life, otherwise, is in all respects transitory, and this eternal truth is poetically reflected in every line of the popular Hindi song Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon, Pal Do Pal Meri Kahaani Hai. At the risk of sounding philosophical, I will, however express my concurrence with the thundering yet deep import of the following lines from Bertrand Russell’s essay, What I Believe:

“I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man’s place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.”


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