Idea of transmigration of souls: Are we born again?
Dr Satyapal Anand
Well, I was born a Hindu and so, from my very childhood, I had cultivated the idea of transmigration of souls. In my mature age, I read teachings of two major religions of the world, namely Christianity and Islam – and neither of these two world-wide religions, ever mentioned, positively or negatively, of the claim that human soul, being imperishable, finds a new body for itself every time it leaves its old home, a human body. Buddhism, an off-shoot of Hinduism and Jainism, of course, not only supports the idea in its nascent form but also teaches practical steps to be taken by an individual to get out of this cycle of birth and re-birth.
In my life I have been searching for verifiable answers to this question in books on the subject and in religious texts. Buddhist literature, I have read and re-read to the extent of memorizing some of its sutras. So has been the Hindu supreme text Bhagwad Gita. However, at least four instances have occurred in my own life where my own eyewitness account will leave my readers with this question ‘Are We Born Again?’ with the redoubled force of an interrogative sign. Here is one of them, recapitulated by me as punctiliously as I could.
Back in 1963, on the campus of Panjab University, Chandigarh,where then I was a Lecturer, we had a visiting scholar from Montreal, Canada, an India-born Hindu with a French born Christian wife. This was their second trip as they had got married in India itself about five years ago when the young lady was visiting the country as a tourist. The couple had gone back to Canada to be with the wife’s family. A girl was born of the union there. Now when this baby was three years old, they had come to India on a visiting assignment.
Being of the same age, this colleague and I became friendly enough to be on visiting terms. One day he asked me to come over to his house. Once we were settled over a soft drink, he told me that his little daughter, the three-year old Emily, talked in her sleep in a language that sounded like French but they could not understand a word of it. Even in the afternoon while she was asleep, she bubbled out strange words that sounded like complete sentences. “….She often raises her hands in supplication and cries out,” he said.
He thought that the words she uttered were in French, but a jargon that his wife, a Canada born lady of French origin, had never heard before. The baby, he said, was never exposed to anything but English in which the husband and wife conversed. In fact, the baby was learning to speak English rather slowly and although she was about three years old, she could utter only a few babyish words in English for mom and dad and for her toys. “My wife,” he told me, “knows a little bit of French but all that we could decipher was that the baby was asking for her mother all the time – in a language that she never was exposed to much less know to converse in.”
I was intrigued. I stayed for the day and watched the baby asleep in her crib. At least on three different occasions I saw the baby raise her hands and heard her bubbling forth in French, babyish speech but discernible in French, even to me. “I want my Ma; my Ma I want.” She repeated again and again. “Where is my Mummy?” she reverted to English but then again lapsed into French.
We had a gracious old lady who taught short courses in French on the campus. Mrs. Bool Chand (pronounced Ma’am Bool Shawn) had her office on the same floor of Arts Block –I, where we had our English Department. I talked to her. She was more than happy to be with us one afternoon. she came over to my house and brought a tape-recorder with her. This contraption, back in the early sixties, was a novelty. It was a teaching aid she used for her students of spoken French.
The baby’s parents and I sat on chairs a little distance away while Mrs. Bool Chand sat next to her on the bed. Suddenly the baby started speaking, beseechingly, urgently. Mrs. Bool Chand switched on the recorder. Once or twice she interjected and asked a short question in French, to which the baby replied after a moment’s hesitation. It was indeed an awe-inspiring moment for all of us. Then suddenly the baby woke up and started crying. She wouldn’t be pacified untill her mother took her into the other room.
“I don’t fully know,” said Mrs. Bool Chand, “but her babyish speech was clear. She wanted her mom who had been taken forcibly away by soldiers ….” And then, being the senior-most in age, she advised, “Don’t go to physicians or psychiatrists … Let me find someone for you who can read more in her words than I can. It would be my pleasure…. No expenses involved. ”
A few days later she came with an elderly gentleman who had been summoned by her from Delhi. She told us that the padre’ looking man was her friend from Pondicherry, a French enclave in India where French was still taught in school curriculum. The man was Franco-Indian, with a French father and an Indian mother. The specialty about him was that he was steeped in Indian devotional lore as, after his parents had died in an accident, he was brought up in the Krishnamurti ashram. He stayed with my friend and his family for three days, befriended the little baby, sat with her during daytime and slept next to her crib in a rocking chair. He spoke to her in the particular jargon of French while she slept peacefully, but occasionally she answered his questions in a voice that was still babyish but a little different from her own.
His final diagnoses were that the baby was re-born to this young couple in this, the latest of her birth-cycles. Her story went back almost thirty years, in the waning years of World War II, when she was born, a French baby in some small little town, and her mother was herded with other young French women in a truck by Nazi soldiers. She was left crying in her crib where she died soon after. She had had three more births but each time she died in infancy. This was her fourth incarnation and she was still searching for her original mother…The old man’s face got more wrinkled, he said, “I am sorry, I don’t know but she might survive this time. She has a loving mom and a loving dad and she is free of her bonds to Europe.”
I lost touch with my young friend when he and his family went back to Montreal a few months later. However, back in 1982, while visiting friends in Toronto, I found an old diary with his phone number in my baggage and called him. He was overjoyed and asked me to come over to Ottawa where he was teaching. So, I went by coach to Ottawa and he was there at the bus stand to receive me. We went, first to the City College where he was the Chairman of the Faculty and then to his house. I never asked him about his wife and daughter while he drove me in his car. However, when we got out of his car and he went ahead to open his locked house, he just said: “You do want to know, I presume …?” And when I nodded, he said, “Soon after we repaired to Montreal, Jenny died before her fourth birthday.”
“What about your wife?” I never asked this question, but while having a drink inside his small, sparsely furnished house, he said, “Joan couldn’t bear the loss of the baby. Somehow, somewhere, I don’t know how and why, she had cultivated this belief that if she had another baby, it would be the same girl ….and that she would die again….. So, we decided to plow the lonely furrows of our lives separately from one another.”
My friend, (I have never revealed his name for obvious reasons) is now no more. We had been in touch during these years. He expired three years ago of kidney failure. About Joan, his wife, where she was … I have had no idea then or now. Whether the little girl’s soul has found her real mother or is still searching for her, by hopping from one human body to another, only God knows.
The above rendition has been told to be one of the real life experiences of the writer. The material is copyrighted content of the Trafford Publishing. However, Dr Satyapal Anand has very generously offered aikRozan his personal rights of publication. We appreciate his kind gesture.