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Purva Janma In Hinduism – Previous Life Connection


The previous life of a person in Hinduism is known as purva janma. It is believed that the self undergoes repeated embodiments until it achieves salvation so there is a previous life connection. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “Many are the births you and I have taken” (IV – V).

 The self with the subtle body (mind, pranas etc) is said to leave the gross body at death and, after experiencing the effects of actions (karma) in other worlds, get re-embodied (Bhagavad Gita Chapter IX).

A few reasons are given for inferring purva janma.

The young of all species start feeding soon after birth, leading one to surmise that they have had prior experience, which is possible only if there had been a previous birth.

Again, if virtue and vice have positive and negative results, respectively, the question as to why the virtuous suffer and while the wicked prosper. It is explained that these are the effects of actions now and unknown, but carried out in a past birth.

Puranas are replete with stories referring to purva janma as having an effect on present circumstances.

It is said that an infant remembers its past life just prior to birth but forgets everything after birth. Through practice of spiritual disciplines, memory of past births will arise. Saintly King Bharata, reborn in another body, remembered his past birth and avoided hindrances to liberation.

Both hide-bound Charvakas (materialists) who deny the self and the uncompromising non dualists (who hold only the absolute as real) do not accept Purva Janma.

Bibliography
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VIII page 344 – 345 - IHRF