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Lions Roar : May 2018
two of the pairs, the boy made no choice. In the remaining six, he chose correctly. In another case, a seven-year-old girl named Nicole remem- bered living in a small town, on “C Street,” in the early 1900s. She remembered much of the town having been destroyed by a fire and often talked of wanting to go home. Through research, Tucker hypothesized Nicole was describing Virginia City, Nevada, a small mining town that was destroyed by fire in 1875, where the main road was “C Street.” Tucker traveled to Virginia City with Nicole and her mother. As they drove down the road into the town, Nicole remarked, “They didn’t have these black roads when I lived here before.” Nicole had described strange memories of her previous life. She said there were trees floating in the water. She said horses walked down the streets. And she talked about a “hooley dance.” In the town, they discovered that there had once been a massive network of river flumes used to transport logs to the town to construct nearby mineshafts. They discovered that wild horses wandered through the streets of the town. And that a “hooley” is a type of Irish dance that was popular there. “We weren’t able to identify a specific individual,” says Tucker. “But there are parts of the case that are hard to dismiss.” As her plane was lifting off from Nevada, Nicole burst into tears. “I don’t want to leave here,” she said. Her mother asked if she really believed Virginia City was her home. “No,” said Nicole. “I know it was.” TUCKER IS TRYING TO INVESTIGATE scientifically a ques- tion that has traditionally been the province of religion: what happens after we die? Two of the world’s largest religions, Hin- duism and Buddhism, argue that we are reborn. Certain schools of Buddhism don’t particularly concern them- selves with the idea of rebirth, and some modern analysts argue that the Buddha taught it simply as a matter of convenience because it was the accepted belief in the India of his time. Most Buddhists, however, see it as central to the teachings on the suf- fering of samsara—the wheel of cyclic existence—and nirvana, the state of enlightenment in which one is free from the karma that drives rebirth (although one may still choose to be reborn in order to follow the bodhisattva path of compassion). Buddhists generally prefer the term “rebirth” to “reincarnation” to differentiate between the Hindu and Buddhist views. The con- cept of reincarnation generally refers to the transmigration of an atman, or soul, from lifetime to lifetime. This is the Hindu view, and it is how reincarnation is generally understood in the West. Instead, Buddhism teaches the doctrine of anatman, or non- self, which says there is no permanent, unchanging entity such as a soul. In reality, we are an ever-changing collection of con- sciousnesses, feelings, perceptions, and impulses that we strug- gle to hold together to maintain the illusion of a self. In the Buddhist view, the momentum, or “karma,” of this illusory self is carried forward from moment to moment—and from lifetime to lifetime. But it’s not really “you” that is reborn. It’s just the illusion of “you.” When asked what gets reborn, Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche reportedly said, “Your bad habits.” Researcher Jim Tucker, author of Life Before Life, has collected hundreds of cases of children claiming past-life memories. Ian Stevenson pioneered the field of reincarnation research. Tucker continued his work at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 45