Past Lives

[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by an Ananda devotee)

Nothing else but karma carried over from past lives could explain the intense antagonism I felt for a woman in the community and the equally intense antagonism she felt toward me.

One night I had a vivid dream of a previous life in which she had inflicted great suffering on people I loved. When I told Swamiji about it he said, “I am inclined to believe your dream is true.”

I didn’t tell her myself, but somehow the woman heard about my dream and Swamiji’s comment. To even the score, she consulted a psychic who obliged her by describing an incarnation in which I had treated her in an equally brutal manner.

When Swamiji heard about this he asked us to meet with him together. He saw that instead of using our past life memories to overcome karma, we were heading down the slippery slope of further karmic entanglement, using the events of the past to justify wrong attitudes in the present.

“This is a very old spiritual family,” he said to us. “We’ve been together for so many lifetimes, we have been all things to one another—friends and enemies. It is not important what you did in past lives, what matters is who you are now. ‘The past lives of all men,’ Sri Yukteswar said, ‘are dark with many shames.’

“Whatever you did you have paid for it with suffering. Why dwell there? ‘Everything in future will improve,’ Sri Yukteswar also said, ‘if you make a spiritual effort now.’

“Self-evidently you have learned from your mistakes. In this incarnation and for many lives before now, neither of you would be capable of such terrible actions. You are both sincere devotees. Concentrate on that aspect of one another’s character. Forget the past and relate to life as it is now.”

The anger and mistrust between us was deep-seated and it took years of persistent effort to break the hypnosis of the past and “relate to life as it is now.” Eventually we succeeded.

Without Swamiji’s timely intervention, though, the negative karma might have continued not only in this life, but for incarnations to come. Because of his clear advice, we were never able to justify our wrong attitudes, but always saw them as delusions to be overcome.

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