Past Lives

Disciples of various paths and various masters love speculating about past incarnations they have had; and our path and those who follow it are certainly no exception.

Lion statueFor the most part we like to imagine that our past lives have been generously sprinkled with regal, spiritual or statesmanlike incarnations although in Auckland much unflattering speculation has circulated about the likely former lives of other centre members and I have often tossed and turned in my bed at night, bristling with indignation at remarks about my ancestry.

I remember, incidentally, at the Auckland Zoo in 1995, Sri Chinmoy giving a spontaneous and wonderfully moving talk before an enchanted audience of about one hundred people, including the delighted head zoo keeper, about the connection between the human world and our distant relatives in the animal world of the zoo.

My good friend Prachar a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Canberra in Australia, owes me an eternal debt of gratitude for some insights he has regarding one of his former incarnations. Once while we were playing tennis together in New York, I loudly commented on my magnanimity in playing with a reincarnated rodent (yes, him!).

This joke was somehow relayed to Sri Chinmoy and after some deliberation this spiritual Master who can see very clearly back into time corrected my facetious judgement and revealed that, no, in fact Prachar had been... – but wait, I feel I should stop here and not divulge this truly sensational titbit!

I too would like to think that I was a great yogi or an emperor or at very least a hugely important political figure in a recent incarnation but sadly I know that this was not the case – at least some of us must have been among the anonymous and nondescript millions who came, saw and did not conquer, leaving this world unknown.

You must read Sri Chinmoy's book Death and Reincarnation sometime – compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand the great 'life / death / more life' conundrum.

My father loved the great outdoors and my soul’s choice of parents indicates a formerly rural, outdoorsy incarnation - on my fifteenth birthday I was given a large birthday package which I mistakenly thought was a cricket bat but which turned out to be a high powered hunting rifle. For the next few years I roamed the mountains near my hometown terrorising my distant relatives in the animal kingdom and hunting anything that was marginally edible. I loved riding horses and vast open spaces and solitude – Gosh! I must have been a cowboy!

After my discipleship began, a certain lingering attachment remained in my heart for nature's majestic, uncluttered landscapes and I had to consciously turn away from this nostalgia for another time, another self, another life and refocus on the here and now. Robert Frost's lines often echo in my mind: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

This calls for a short poem of my own!


Cowboy silhouetteBoothill, buzzards, buttes, badlands,
an old shack on the river’s edge
and the lazy brown hills
climbing away into pale silhouette
high blue, faraway.
And at dusk
smoke from the fires,
saddle smells, carbine and cordite
sweet earth
and the fragrant wind out of the dark.
Then the long nights
strewn with stars,
almond blossom white and bright
in the cold vault of sky.
Yes, I remember, I remember.
Ride on ghost cowboy,
this life ain’t big enough for both of us.

– Jogyata.