Sunday, 23 November 2014

Book review: Many Lives, Many Masters

Many Lives, Many Masters
Brian L Weiss
Fireside, Simon & Schuster, 1988

As with a few other landmark books, this is a book recommendation, not a review.  It is a true story about a doctor; a psychiatrist, who is also the author of the book and his therapy sessions with a single patient.  He undertakes past-life regression therapy in a desperate bid to rid her of her anxiety, which has not responded to conventional medication or behaviour therapy.  What he uncovers in the process is unprecedented, extraordinary and life changing.  It certainly cures the patient of her anxiety completely.

It is important to consider a few salient points of this story as it has a bearing on the message conveyed by the story.  Both the patient and the doctor are White Americans, they are Christians by faith, but not very religious.  They had no prior idea about anything to do with reincarnation, karma, Vedanta, or anything to do with Hindu philosophy per se.

Yet, what is revealed during the past-life sessions is nothing short of extraordinary, and confirms the very principles of Advaita, which is the core of Hindu philosophical teaching.  Karma and its after-effects; the debt that one has to repay in the next birth, and the whole phenomenon of reincarnation is reiterated, vindicated and given a stamp of authority through the experiences of these two individuals.  

The patient describes more than 80 previous birth experiences, and each time she dies, she is transported to an ethereal place of light where she meets other souls and the masters.  The masters are higher, more evolved spirits who guide the other souls through their inter-birth sojourn and towards their next birth in the karmic cycle.  In between the lifetimes, the masters use the patient as a medium to communicate directly with the doctor and in the process reveal several life/death secrets:

"We have debts that must be paid", they say.  "You progress by paying your debts".  [The karmic theory].
"There are seven through which we must pass before we are returned". 
They also talk about the soul's progress through harmony and balance, love and wisdom, progress toward a mystical and ecstatic connection with God.  [God realisation as described by Upanishads].

Needless to say, there has been much criticism of the contents of the book by sceptics who are either too logically oriented to accept spiritual matters, or by those who can't digest the face that the tenets of some other faith other than their's has been given credence in the doctor's work.  

In the preface, the doctor does explain his dilemma as to whether or not to share his extraordinary experience with the world and expose himself to rigorous scientific scrutiny by his own peers and the subsequent ridicule that is sure to ensue.  However, he later felt compelled to share his experiences with everyone.  As he puts it, "I knew that no possible consequence I might face could prove to be as devastating as not sharing the knowledge I had gained about immortality and the true meaning of life".  

Ultimately, as with any spiritual experience, it comes down to a matter of faith.  Or actually experiencing the whole thing yourself.  

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