Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 26 Aug 2020


Senses Cannot See Past Births

[Shri Bharath Krishna asked: Namah Shivaya, Shri Datta Swami! I am Bharath Krishna. I had posted on Facebook, Your answer to a devotee’s question titled “Why does God send death to every man?”. In it You have quoted the following Vedic verse:

parāñci khāni vyatṛṇat svayambhūstasmāt parāṅpaśyati nāntarātman ।
kaściddhīraḥ pratyagātmānam aikṣad āvṛttacakṣuḥ amṛtatvamicchan ।। 2.1.1 ।।

You have interpreted that verse in the following words, “In the new life, the memories of the previous birth are suppressed by the God, as said in the Veda.” One of my friends commented that your interpretation of the verse is not correct. He supported his point by providing an English translation of the verse and its commentary on a website.

I request You to kindly explain the meaning of the verse and how it is relevant to the context in Your writing. I do not know Sanskrit, that is why I could not answer him. He has been studying Sanskrit, hence he particularly payed attention to the verse. Swami, since I do not know Sanskrit, I ignore the Sanskrit quotations which You quote in Your discourses. However, I deeply analyse the English text given by You in all of Your discourses and I have found that the knowledge given by You is wonderful and perfect. From this I understand that You are always perfect and I share Your knowledge, even when I do not know the meaning of Sanskrit verses. Is it wrong to do so? Kindly clarify my above doubts. Thank You so much for patiently answering all my questions. Padabhivandanam Swami.]

Swami replied: O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! The Vedic hymns can be applied to several contexts in spiritual knowledge. The translation sent by you means that God damaged our senses so that they can see only external items and not the inner soul. It further means that one blessed person, aspiring for divinity, can see the soul by developing an inward wisdom. This means that all are unable to see the soul, but one soul devoted to God and blessed by God can see the soul (itself). Here, seeing means knowing since verbs of action can also indicate knowing (Gatyarthānāṃ dhātūnāṃ jñānārthakatvam…). The conclusion is that all people do not recognize the soul, but one rare person, aspiring for the immortality of the soul, recognises it with the help of inward knowledge. In other words, the person identifies himself or herself as the immortal soul.

I am drawing a different meaning out of the same verse, which, of course, is very close to the above meaning. Here, instead of taking the word antarātman to mean the soul, we can also take it to mean ‘inside of the soul’ or even ‘inside the body’. Also, in the translation referred to by you, the meaning of vyatṛṇat is stated as killing, which is not perfect. Vyatṛṇat here only means the partial damage of the sight or the scope of the senses. Full damage would mean that both the inward sight and the outward sight would be lost. So, killing or the total damage of the senses cannot be the meaning of vyatṛṇat. Vyatṛṇat literally means nipping grass with one’s nails so that the grass is partially damaged, but it can grow back. It does not mean uprooting the grass completely. It is clearly told in the verse that the senses are unable to see inside, but that they can see outside. Hence, the senses are said to be parāñci, which means externally active or outward-looking.

There is a reason for My taking the meaning of antarātman as ‘inside of the soul and the body’. The senses are unable to see or know the systems present inside the body. The senses are also unable to see the thoughts of the soul. The soul directly knows its thoughts, but the senses do not. Hence, the prefix antar-, which means ‘inside’, when placed before the word ātman (soul) can mean, ‘inside of the soul’. Even if you take the meaning of seeing as knowing, it is only the soul which knows the various thoughts in the mind. The senses do not know the inner thoughts. The senses merely carry external information to the brain, by which the soul identifies and grasps the information.

Lack of Memory of Past Births

The individual soul, which is pure awareness, is embedded in three states: (1) The first is the conscious state in which the information brought by the senses is known. Also, in this state, information acquired during this  birth and stored in the brain (cittam) is known. (2) The second state is the subconscious state, which contains information from the immediate previous birth. (3) The third state is the unconscious state, which contains the information from births before the immediate previous birth.

A person’s consciousness in the conscious state is unable to get detailed information from the subconscious and the unconscious states. But the conclusions related to those details flow from the subconscious and the unconscious into the conscious state. I will explain this point with an example. Let us suppose, the subconscious and the unconscious of a certain soul contain the details of the actions done by the soul out of greediness in latest previous birth and in the other earlier births respectively. Even though these details do not flow into the conscious state, the conclusion of these greedy actions, which is greediness is found in all the three states of consciousness.

The qualities are always present in the consciousness or awareness, which is known as the individual soul, even after the death of the physical body (Manomayaḥ prāṇaśarīranetā…—Veda). The individual soul leaves this gross body and takes up a new body in the next life, after visiting hell for temporary reformation in between. When the individual soul, along with the qualities enters a new body, the individual shows the same qualities as in the previous births like greediness etc. But the details of the actions done out of greediness in the previous lives, which are present in the subconscious and the unconscious, do not enter the conscious state of the new individual soul. So, it has no information about its previous births. This point is very important and is indicated in this verse.

The individual soul can be known and can even be seen through the latest equipment in the form of pulses of inert energy. This was already told in the Veda (Dṛśyate tvagrayā buddhyā…) and the Gītā (Paśyanti jñānacakṣuṣaḥ…). The soul may be known and seen. Its qualities can also be known. But the details of the actions of previous births cannot be known, under any circumstances, through any effort of the soul. The reason these details are hidden is so that the soul is not disturbed by the details of previous births and it can peacefully lead its life in the new birth. Hiding that information thus helps the soul’s spiritual effort. It is for this purpose, that God has nipped out the insight of the senses, preventing them from knowing the details of previous births. Since God Himself has blocked this information from souls, there is no way that the senses and the soul can know the details of previous births. But God also wants to give proof for the rebirth of the soul, which is actually the rebirth of its body (Dhruvaṃ janma mṛtasya ca…Gītā). The reverse, which is that the soul (its body) is born to die, is seen by everybody (Jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ…—Gītā) and so, it needs no special proof. To prove rebirth, the details of the previous birth stored in the subconscious state enter into the conscious state, by the will of God, in the case of a rare soul. So, that rare soul remembers the details of its latest previous birth, in its present life. If God wants, even the details of all the past births can enter into the conscious state of a soul in its present life. But a few of the details of the latest previous birth alone are convenient and sufficient. Since this information is recent, it can be easily verified, making it easy to prove rebirth. The details of all previous births are not necessary to prove the rebirth of the soul when the details of the latest previous birth are sufficient to prove the rebirth of the soul. The specific soul selected for giving this proof of rebirth is mentioned in the second line of the verse (Kaścit dhīraḥ…). Proving the rebirth of the soul also indirectly proves the existence of God since this system of repeated births of souls requires the existence of a ruler or controller, who is God. The word amṛtatvamicchan refers to proving the immortality of the soul in spite of the death of the body (Na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre…—Gītā).

Multiple Correct Interpretations

We have no objection to the angle from which the verse has been interpreted in the translation sent by you. But it is not the only correct angle. The Veda or the Gītā is spoken by God and hence can be interpreted from different angles. None of those angles should be denied, provided all the statements can be conveniently correlated from that angle and also provided that the resulting interpretation is not wrong and illogical. If this verse is interpreted as a description of the rebirth of the soul, it is not a wrong interpretation since rebirth of the soul has been clearly told in the scriptures. The scripture can thus have several simultaneous correct interpretations. The interpretation given by Me is very strong because the senses or even the soul can never find out the details of previous birth through its own efforts, without the wish of God (Na tvaṃ vettha parantapa…—Gītā). God, who nipped the insight of senses alone, can restore the insight. This point correlates well with My interpretation as compared to the interpretation sent by you. As per the version sent by you, this verse is about knowing about the soul. But one can know about the soul, even upon hearing from a spiritual preacher.

The best way of interpretation of the above verse is that the human being cannot see or know the unimaginable God, who is beyond spatial dimensions. The senses have spatial dimensions and even their functioning, which is a work form of energy has spatial dimensions. We know that energy has spatial dimensions because energy propagates in the form of waves which have wavelength. Therefore, the senses cannot understand the unimaginable God despite any amount of effort. Only the existence of the unimaginable God can be known by the sense called mind (Astītyeva…—Veda). Here, mind is taken to be the sixth sense (Manaḥ ṣaṣṭhāni indriyāṇi…Gītā). Thus, even the mind cannot understand the unimaginable God. It means that the inherent nature (svarūpa lakṣaṇam) of God can never be understood by the intelligence (Na medhayā…—Veda). One blessed soul can understand and even see the unimaginable God in the form of the contemporary Human Incarnation (Yamaiveṣa vṛṇute…—Veda, Kaścit māṃ vetti tattvataḥ…—Gītā). As per this interpretation, amṛtatvamicchan means that such a soul aspires for its immortality, which is the grace of God. This grace of God makes the soul become a Human Incarnation in the future. But the way to attain that grace is by serving one’s contemporary human form of God by assisting Him in His programme of propagating the true spiritual knowledge in the world.


| Shri Datta Swami | Senses Cannot See Past Births | Gatyarthaanaam dhaatuunaam jnaanaarthakatvam Antaraatman Vyatrunat Chittam Manomayah praanashariiranetaa Drushyate tvagrayaa buddhyaa Pashyanti Jnaanchakshushah Giita Gita Dhruvam janma mrutasya Jaayate maranaayaiva Kashchit dhiirah Amrutatvamichhan Na hanyate hanyamaane shariire Na tvam vettha parantapaa Astiityeva Manah shahshthaani indriyaani Swaruupa lakshanam Na medhayaa Yamevaisha vrunute Kashchit maam vetti tatvatah Amrutatvamichhan