Reincarnation exists, if I am to believe my own experience. When I first started the spiritual journey, I joined a weekly meditation group. One of the things this group got into was past life regression.
My first experience with past life regression showed that I had a knack for reading past lives as I caught images and impressions while others were being regressed. The two people leading the past life regressions then took me under their wing and taught me how to do it.
I spent a few years working with past lives (my own and others’). I also learned to do self-regressions (in which I just looked into my own past lives unassisted). At times, I wondered if we were just fooling ourselves and this was a fantasy. But we used past life regression for healing…not as an entertainment.
I remember one time a friend introduced me to a friend of his. His friend took an instant disliking to me. He insulted and harassed me whenever he had the chance the whole day. This was someone I knew I would have to see again; and so I wondered what could be done.
I intuited that such an instant dislike was unfounded within the interaction I had with him and he did not know me yet to dislike me…and so it might be past life related. One night, after a short meditation, I looked into my own past lives for ones where we both crossed paths. I set the intention for any past lives in which I slighted or harmed him. A couple came to my mind’s eye.
After getting a sense of what I did to him in a past life that might carry over as an unconscious grudge into this life, I thought I would have to make amends. I did not know where this person lived and I didn’t have any contact information. Besides, he did not believe in past lives (it was a topic of discussion the day we met) and so I thought I would have to do what I can remotely and without his conscious knowledge.
I knew we were all connected on higher levels of consciousness…and spirit could go anywhere (out of body experiences, for example). So in my minds eye, I went to him on a higher plane. I explained that I realized I am at fault and apologized. I asked for forgiveness and he seemed to nod back in acknowledgement. With that completed, I went on with my life and didn’t have a second thought about it.
About a year later, we bumped into each other again. This time he was not hostile (as before), but neutral. As we spoke, he warmed up. Funny enough, we became friends. About a decade later, he admitted to me that upon meeting me he did not like me at all, but he didn’t know why. He was also puzzled that it went away by the time we next met.
I offer this story from my life only to say I have examples of past lives affecting present lives. Then fixing the issue and having the present life relationships improve. As there is this effect of working with past lives, I have to believe my experience of past lives (and it is not just a fantasy). Especially as I have had times when a few people (who also remembered past lives) and I have had met and we both had similar memories of the past lives (when trying to pull up common ones in which we met). They seem to confirm each other…the relationships and past common experiences in other lives.
How does this fit into nonduality though?
This life is like a dream…and why do we assume this physical world and one life is the only dream? There are dreams within dreams. It does not matter though…it is just a different game on a different level.
In Indian philosophy, there is the idea of multiple sheaths (i.e. bodies). There is the physical body, but also several more subtle bodies (i.e. astral, mental, etc.). In a way, it is like a Russian nesting doll. When we die in this life (i.e. physically), we drop the outermost doll shell. What remains continues on a more subtle plane of existence. In Indian philosophy, the idea is to escape the wheel of birth and death by dropping all the sheaths/shells.
As we have a physical body, which many misidentify with and call “me”…there are subtler bodies that we also tend to call “me”. The soul is just a more subtle sheath that one day is dropped (in my opinion). Because these other more subtle bodies exist, people can have spiritual experiences like astral traveling, out-of-body experiences, soul travel, near death experiences, etc. You are just taking one of the more subtle sheaths for a drive outside of the physical form…which is totally possible.
After the outermost sheath is dropped upon physical death, what remains continues on a more subtle plane of existence. Eventually, it may be born on the physical plane again (i.e. reincarnate)…that is to take on a new physical sheath. So it is like switching only the outermost shell of a Russian nesting doll with another outermost shell that is empty. The inner sheaths just transfer from one outer sheath to another outer sheath. Kind of like how we change cloths from one day from the next…just the outside changes. What is under the cloths stays the same.
Of course, none of this really matters. It is still the dream, the game, the illusion that we know now…just made more complex with multiple levels of existence. When someone awakens, they see that they are not just this body-mind in the wide world…but also they are not any of the more subtle bodies either. The existence of more subtle bodies or higher planes of existence changes nothing for nonduality.
It is, however, other levels of play that can entrap or distract one. I know people who have spent many years delving into past lives, but they still have not seen through the mirage of the ego. If anything, the ego is stronger than ever. They say things like – I was this person too or I did these things in history or whatever. Basically, just adding to the egoic sense of “me”.
For people interested in awakening, enlightenment, liberation, self-realization, etc. (using any word you want for it), past lives are a distraction. An entertainment. Knowledge of past lives will not bring you any closer to realizing the illusions of the mind and seeing through the illusions…be it the ego of this life or the ego of past lives.