Question: Can you say something about past lives?Sri Chinmoy: One has to be very careful when one deals with reincarnation. Suppose you are extremely eager to know about your past and you go to someone who claims to be able to tell you about your past lives. There are many clairvoyants, mediums, card-readers, etc. Ninety-nine percent of them are simply fabricating interesting stories. Most of these people are fakes. Some people claim to know about their own past incarnations and there are dozens of pocket books on the bookstands full of fascinating accounts of what people claim to have experienced in their past lives. But to a spiritual person, one of the signs that these accounts are totally untrue is that very frequently the person who claims to remember his past incarnation claims that he or she was a person of the opposite sex. Now a genuine spiritual Master knows that a woman will reincarnate as a woman and a man will always be a man in every lifetime. The exceptions are so rare that they can be left aside for the purposes of this discussion. So here is the first sign that their truth is no truth.
Secondly, their past lives as they describe them are often very bizarre or flamboyant or most extraordinary. These people almost never have past lives that are quiet or ordinary or modest. And there are many more things I could say about the consciousness of people who claim to remember their past lives. It is not easy to see your past lives. It is very hard to know one's past incarnations. Except for rare glimpses and flashes, you have to be an advanced seeker before your soul will give you the knowledge of what it did before.
Now there are some spiritual Masters who have the capacity to tell you anything about your past incarnations. They can easily tell. But what will it accomplish for you? Suppose a Master tells you that in your past incarnation, you were a thief … a dacoit. What will be your immediate reaction? You will say, "I was a thief. Then it is useless for me to think of God in this life. In my last life, I was so low. I was such an unspiritual soul." So you feel that in this life also you will be doomed to disappointment. Now the Master has told you about your past life. He has played his part. But who is the sufferer? You, yourself. If, on the other hand, he tells you that you were the President of the United States, you will immediately think, "Now in this present incarnation, where am I? I am nowhere near that." Immediately you will be disheartened. You will feel, "O God, in my last life, I was so great, but in this life I am nothing. So I see that it is useless. I will not aspire because I can never be what I was." So knowing that you were someone very high only created disappointment in you.
Now here is another possibility. If someone tells you that in your past incarnation, you started your inner journey, your spiritual journey, that you cried inwardly, you meditated, then that is a different story. You did not complete your task. You did not come to the end of the road; you did not reach your Goal. When you learn this, you get true inspiration. You say, "There is a Goal and I started my journey. Let me go forward. Let me aspire to reach the Goal. This is the purpose of my life."