Published on October 22nd, 2022 | by Madhudvisa dasa


Finding out About Our Past Lives?

How does one find out what one was in their past life? I have been very curious about this. I sometimes have powerful feelings towards Napoleon. I sometimes wonder if it’s possible that I could have been him in another life. I also have visions of being a monk in Greece, living in a monastery worshiping Jesus day and night.

Certainly we were something in our past lives, but that is not really very important.

Srila Prabhupada gives us an example in this regard. The example is that when one falls into a well his main concern is not how he fell in and what he was doing before he fell in. He is drowning in the bottom of the well, his main concern is how to get out of the well.

So we are in that position. We are drowning in this material world.

Our main business is to get out. It doesn’t really matter how we got here or why. In any case the way out is the same:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Dreaming about our past lives will not help us to get out of this material world and get us back home, back to Godhead. For that we have to practice thinking of Krishna 24 hours a day. And to help us do that Srila Prabhupada has given us so many books describing the pastimes of Krishna and Krishna’s pure devotees. So we can chant that Hare Krishna mantra, that will force us to remember Krishna, and we can read the books Srila Prabhupada has given us about Krishna. And then we can talk to our friends, and tell them about the things we have heard about Krishna from Srila Prabhupada. That is preaching, and it will not only help our friends, but it will help us as well.

If I talk about Krishna to someone else, then he hears about Krishna, he thinks about Krishna, and so do I. So we are both benefiting.

I don’t know if you realize it but as soon as almost anyone hears about reincarnation they start to imagine that in the past they were some famous person. They never consider they may have been some nobody. But in reality we are a nobody now, we were probably a nobody in our past lives also. There are so many more nobody’s than there are famous persons. It is like the Christians. They hear that Jesus is going to come back so there are tens of thousands of Christians out there imagining that they are that Jesus who has come back. I know it. I have met dozens of these usually young Christian preachers, who are convinced that they are Jesus, and that they have come back to save the world. Of course they are not Jesus and have no potency to save the world.

But that is what they are thinking.

The mind is a wonderful thing. It can conjure up so many wonderful stories and images. If we are not very careful we may begin to believe these stories conjured up by the mind… The mind can either be our best friend or our worst enemy. If the mind is controlled it is our best friend. But if we let it run wild and believe all the amazing ideas it comes up with, then it is our worst enemy.

All these thoughts are “mental speculation.” There is really no way of knowing if they are true or not, and I tell you there is very little chance of them being true that you were Napolian, etc. And even if it was true then, “so what!” It makes no difference whatsoever. You are still in exactly the same position now and the solution to your problems is still exactly the same:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

It is not easy to find out about your past lives and it is not important to know it, however a good astrologer can give some indications as to what one was in his previous birth and you can see for yourself to a certain extent what you were in your previous birth. This life is a continuation of our previous life. Everyone is born different. Of course as a baby these differences are not apparent. But as soon as the child grows a bit his natural tendencies become obvious. Any mother knows this. You know this. You were interested in certain things in your childhood and those interests have carried through your life. They came from your previous life also.

It is safe to assume that one who takes a great interest in music at a young age was interested in music in his previous life for example. This life is a continuation of our previous life so our previous interests carry over from one life to the next.

If a great scientist is working on some project very seriously and it remains unfinished at the time of his death there is a very good chance he will take birth again and as soon as he is old enough he will be remained of the scientific mission of his previous life by Supersoul, Krishna within his heart, and will once again take up that same unfinished work from his previous life.

There are 3 components which work together to make us what we appear to be here in the material world. One is the material body made of earth, water and fire. That is as far as the scientist’s knowledge goes. They try and explain everything in terms of chemical reactions which are simply the interactions of earth, water and fire. They tell us there is nothing else. that is like a child telling us that the motor cars are moving all by themselves. The child has no idea of the engine within the car which is powering it, nor does he know that there is a person, a driver, controlling and directing the car from within.

So the first of the three components is called the “material body.”

The second component, which the scientists have no idea of, is the “subtle body.” The subtle body is composed of the material mind, the material intelligence and the false ego. False ego is the sense of identifying with the material body. The idea that “I am an American man” expresses identity. Ego means “identity,” but the idea that “I am an American man” is false, because actually only my body is an American man’s body, I am something completely different which we will explain in the third component below.

The third component is the soul. I am actually the spirit soul present within this body. I am not the gross body nor am I the subtle body. The gross and subtle body are like layers or coverings of the spirit soul. The example of clothing is sometimes given. As onc can change the cloths he is wearing but still remain the same person, both the gross and subtle bodies can be changed but I remain as the soul.

So the purpose of all this description of the three different components of the “people” we see before us and of ourselves and its connection to reincarnation will become clear below.

When we “die” what happens is that simply the gross body, made of earth, water and fire, is no longer a suitable place for the soul to live, so the soul and the subtle body leave the gross body. As soon as the soul leaves the gross body appears to be “dead.” Of course it was dead all along. It only appeared “alive” because the soul was present within it.

But the important point you will note here is that not only the soul is changing from one body to another, but also the subtle body consisting of the material mind, the material intelligence, and the false ego. That is also going with us into the next body.

There is information given to us in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that a pious child within the womb can remember many of his previous births and in that position, which is not at all comfortable, he is praying to Krishna that this birth, “Please don’t let me forget You.” However the pain of birth is very traumatic and as a result of this trauma the child looses his memory and as soon as he takes birth the hellish conditions of the womb are replaced by the comparatively comfortable position of his mothers arms… And everyone is interested in him, all he has to do is cry and there will be so much attention… He has completely forgotten his past births…

However you can see from this that although we forget our past births at the time of this birth because we are carrying the mind, intelligence and ego with us from our previous birth the memories of our previous birth are with us, stored in our mind, so those memories from the past still effect us in this life and may appear in dreams. They are there in our sub conscious.

Some hypnotherapists have shown very credible evidence that they have been able to access this information from past lives by hypnotizing people and doing “past life regressions.” Of course there are so many cheaters also… However there is enough solid evidence to show that many, many people have been able to remember things from places and countries that they could not have known about unless they had been there in a previous life. This field has been studied quite extensively and there is a lot of literature out there about it. But reading it will not help you become Krishna conscious, it will not help your future.

So overall, yes, we have all had past lives, but knowing about them is not very important. And if still you are so anxious to know about it the only 2 methods I am aware of for finding something out is astrology and past life regression. But both fields are full of cheaters and con artists. Finding a proper qualified astrologer in the US is practically impossible. Here someone reads half a book about astrology and gets a computer program to print out astrological charts and then puts up a sign “Fred Smith–Vedic Astrologer.” But astrology is a great science and can not be learnt so easily.

Overall devotees are not concerned with these things. It is a waste of time, it doesn’t matter what you were in the past, you can not do anything about it anyhow, it matters what you will be in the future, and you have full control over that if you take advantage of Krishna consciousness.

Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

Madhudvisa dasa

PS: Thanks for the great questions.

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About the Author

My first contact with a Hare Krishna was a most merciful Mataji in Oxford Street, London who sold me a "Higher Taste" cook book in 1984 while I was on holidays there. I started seriously reading Srila Prabhupada's books in Australia 1985 and by 1986 Srila Prabhupada had convinced me "Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead" and "we should surrender to Krishna." I joined the Hare Krishnas in Perth, Western Australia in 1986. Since then I have been chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, reading and distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and preaching as much as I can. That's my life and full-time occupation now really. I like it more than anything I've ever experienced before. Srila Prabhupada's books are so amazing... Even after reading them all many times they're still fresh and new. They are truly transcendental! That's it really. Now I'm just hankering to once again see the world chant Hare Krishna, dance and feast and float away in the ecstasy of Lord Caitanya's Sankirtana movement as it did in Srila Prabhupada's physical presence. Let the whole world drown in the ecstatic flood of love of Krishna!

31 Responses to Finding out About Our Past Lives?

  1. sheetal says:


    I am confused. What if a person has been hurt very badly by another person and after taking to krishna consciousness suffered minimum amount of pain but the pain is still very bad in terms of experiencing it. Is this person still being hurt? It is karma, I get it but u said that once u come into krishna consciousness it gets over. Krishna changes the karma of the devotees. See, the person is still beginner, it’s not possible to instantly chant 16 rounds everyday and worship, we need time to fix ourselves and there is maya to attack us also. Whatever efforts we are giving, no matter how minimal but from our side it is 100% so I can’t understand. Sometimes u just start crying, it’s not as much as it was before coming to KC but it still gives u a lot of pain.

    Prabhu, please explain. Why after coming to KC, we still experience bouts of frustration, anger, resentment? Why does Maya still affect so badly? Chanting isn’t 16 rounds since it will take some time, we are not robots, we have to sort out issues with maya also. I read bhagavatam and chant but my situation is such that I can’t do other devotional processes. What to do Prabhu?

    Please I need some guidance.

    – still struggling with maya

    • Hare Krishna Sheetal

      Yes. Of course Krishna responds to us to the degree that we surrender to Krishna. So I suggest you surrender to Krishna more. Really we have to do these things, chant at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra every day, that is nothing to do with being a robot. You just set aside the time for chanting every day and do it every day. And we have to follow the four regulative principles [no illicit sex, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication] and we have to read Srila Prabhupada’s books at least 1-2 hours a day. These things are not optional. We have to surrender to at least these points if we want to start on the path of advancement in Krishna consciousness.

      And you can not expect it to be easy always. Nothing is easy in the material world. And when we decide that we want to become Krishna conscious, that is like declaring war on maya, and she will fight back. So we have to be ready for that…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  2. mandi says:

    Thank you Madhudvisa dasa, for sharing this knowledge. I have begun reading your explanations to my 14 year old son. We talk about Krsna consciousness daily, as I have been studying the Vedic literature translated by the Divine Grace of Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada, & even though he constantly admits to being a fence-sitter in regards to surrendering to the existence of God and the Absolute Truth, I feel he was born to me for the very purpose of being exposed to Krsna consciousness through me, as many others about me are being exposed. The good news is that most people like to hear what I have to tell them about Krsna consciousness, but, the Transcendental word also stands as a litmus test for the degree of spiritual understanding I have noticed…in observing some individuals fleeing, at the first sense of God coming into their awareness. God’s name came elicit the most extraordinary reactions in some individuals, ranging from pure hatred to ecstatic joy. This is the exhibited range of levels of consciousness, & I feel blessed, in my present lifetime, to consider Krsna as my eternal best friend, who I am slowly introducing to my family, friends and local community by way of words, actions, & gifts of Prabhupada’s books, for deeper understanding of where I am at….so they can comprehend, the importance of this human life. Not everybody is ready to hear this knowledge however, I have realised.

  3. Dharti parekh says:

    What is my previous birth?

    • Hare Krishna

      It does not matter what your previous birth was. It is in the past and you can not do anything about the past. But you can change the future by becoming Krishna conscious. There is an example in this regard. If a man is walking in the field and somehow he falls into a well and is drowning at the bottom of the well there is no point for him to be pondering over how he came to fall in the well. No. He has fallen into the well and he is drowning in the well. His business should be to thing of how to get out of the well.

      So it is like that for us. We have fallen into this material world and we are drowning here. So we need to concentrate on how to get out, not bother ourselves about how we got here. We are here now and there is nothing we can do to change that. But if we read Srila Prabhupada’s books and chant Hare Krishna we can very easily get free from the suffering of the material world and return back home back to Godhead where we can uncover our original spiritual consciousness which is eternally youthful, full of ever-increasing transcendental bliss and full of knowledge.

      So we should do that. Chant Hare Krishna and go back home back to Godhead, not bother with what we were in our previous lives, etc.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  4. Arsha says:

    Hare Krishna

    ji,all of us in my family is in a confusion.I have a humble question to ask.Is it possible that someone who had a close relationship with Krishna in his/her past life take birth in this world?If yes,what should that person do?

    • Everyone has a close relationship with Krishna but we have a limited degree of independence. So that means we can, if we want to, reject that close relationship with Krishna. So it is when we reject that close relationship with Krishna that we are forced to take birth in this material world.

      The fact that we have taken birth in this material world and the fact that we have a material body is the proof of our sinful life and our rejection of Krishna. So we can understand if we are in the material world we have rejected Krishna and we are sinful. We are in maya, in illusion. And the only solution to this is to become Krishna conscious by reading and following the instructions we find Srila Prabhupada giving us in his books.

      So do not be puffed up and think you are so great. We are not great because we are in a material body in the material world. We are fallen, we are demons, we are sinful. We have to rectify ourselves by becoming Krishna conscious. It is a science and to learn this science we have to read Srila Prabhupada’s books.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  5. madhudvisa says:

    Hare Krishna Uma

    The karma of Krishna’s devotees is changed by Krishna. So it does not matter for devotees, Krishna takes special care of his devotee.

    Actually devotees are joyful, that is the nature of devotees. If we are not joyful we are not very much advanced in Krishna consciousness. This joyfulness is one of the symptoms of a devotee.

    So as we advance more we will become joyful. Devotees are transcendental to karma. They love Krishna, they do not serve Krishna for any return, they serve Him out of love. They do not want anything from Krishna, they just want to please Krishna.

    Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

    Madhudvisa dasa

  6. Shruthi says:

    Wonderful article! These topics can really help help devotees in preaching. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. radhabharathi says:

    what about my past life

    • It doesn’t matter about your past life. It is in the past and you can’t change that. What is important is the future. You can change the future by your actions now. So you have to find out how to create a good future, a spiritual future… Forget about your past life, it is not important.

  8. Aiswarya.K says:

    actually i have faith on the pastlife….. i’m eagerly searching for this

    • Aiswarya.K says:

      i wnt to achive a lt in my life…. i love my father very much…. without my father knowledge i won’t do anything

  9. geetha says:

    If our future births are already decided what will happen to the good and bad deeds we have done in this birth. Then there is no meaning in doing good or bad as our next birth is already decided.

    • The future is shaped by our actions in this life and in previous lives. So what we do now we will have to suffer the bad karma and enjoy the good karmic reactions in the future either in this life or in future lives.

      It is like a stock of seeds. They are all there within us and they all germinate in different times, so when the karma seed germinates we experience the corresponding good or bad reactions.

      So we are still shaping the future by our actions. Our good and bad deeds in this life will cause our consciousness to be a particular way at the time of the death of this body and that will decide what our next birth is. If that next birth happens to be human then we have some limited free will again and we can choose to do good or bad things and we will suffer or be rewarded the results of these activities again in the future.

      But if we take an animal body or a plant body there is no question of free will or doing good or bad things. An animal just acts on instinct. He has no ability to choose between good and bad. He will gradually rise again to the human platform where he will again have a chance to make decisions that effect his future.

      So this human form of life is very special. We should not waste it…

  10. Amanda says:

    Hare Krishna, I have been studying the Gita and have been mindful of my emotional involvement in this earthly existance, but still I struggle to balance truthfulness (to my authentic self) with being polite and kind to others in their decisions, with which I do not agree. When these choices have no direct effect on my life, I feel comfortable with indulging their choice; however, when there is the potential for someone to be hurt, how do I know when it is right to speak my truth, and when to give false support to be “kind”.

  11. Mamta says:

    when we say that whatever we are going trough now is because of our karmas of our past lives..but in this life we dont remember what wrong i did that i am going through this difficuly in this life.. how do i still be HUMAN…inspite of all the pain i am going through now..i still believe that god has a plan for me and for everyone…but my belief gets shaky.. so many things happen in my life and in the lives of many ppl.. ppl who dont deserve to have such a life… i know it would be becoz of our past karmas… but i dont know what i did SO wrong to go through this now… i am confused.. what if i really want to know what i did in my my past life taht i am going thru this now.. it would help me to ease my pain.. it would help me to know and undersatnd and relate to gods justice.. i need help.. i want to know WHY???

    • Hare Krishna Mamata

      We had so many past lives, unlimited, so we have done so many things. And if we see many bad things happening in our lives and the lives of others that is the proof that we have done so many sinful things in our previous lives. It does not matter what bad things we have done and there is no benefit in trying to find this out. We know there are many sinful activities in our past lives. That is all we need to know.

      And we know the cure for this. The cure is chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, surrendering to Krishna’s pure devotee and following his orders. So we simply need to take the cure and chant Hare Krishna and be happy. That’s all. That will solve all the problems. There is no need to know why you got sick. You simply need to take the medicine and get well and the medicine is:

      Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
      Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dear Prabhu,

    As you have explained well, sometimes our interests are carried over from previous lives. Like music, art or career interests…
    Is it also possible that we carry experiences and even close relationships from previous lifes as well?

    Sometimes in life, it may seem that people hurt us without reason. I’ve heard that the relationships we hold in our life are there for a karmic reason. Wouldn’t understanding the past help us free our karmic debt towards that person and be able to fast track our journey towards Godliness?

    Please excuse my ignorance,
    thank you

    • Hare Krishna

      Yes. We carry things from our previous lives. And if we hurt someone in our previous life then yes it may well be that karma arranges it in such a way that they take birth and hurt us in this life.

      We always deserve what we get. But it may not be coming from this life and we may not know why we are getting this punishment. But if we are being punished it is a result of our bad activities in the past, in this life or in previous lives.

      There is nothing you can do about these karmic reactions. They will come. If you understand the past or if you don’t understand the past, it doesn’t make any difference. You can not free yourself from a karmic debt by understand how you got that debt.

      The only way to free yourself from karmic reaction is to chant:

      Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
      Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

      and act in such a way that you do not generate any new karma. It means performing every action in your life for Krishna. Because if you work for Krishna then you will not generate any karmic reaction. Such service to Krishna, on the contrary, will free you from the bonds of karma.

      So Krishna consciousness is the only solution, the only escape from this endless cycle of birth and death, samsara…

      That is the fast track, and actually in this age the only track to Godliness…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  13. nirmalya says:

    Dear Prabhuji,
    As you mentioned astrologers (not the Fred Smith type) , are there really astrologers of such calibre who can foretell with a degree of convincing certainty? If so, can they do the same for the past (births) as well ? Whatever they foretell, can these be altered over the course of one’s life?

  14. michael says:

    This example, “that when one falls into a well his main concern is not how he fell in and what he was doing before he fell in. He is drowning in the bottom of the well, his main concern is how to get out of the well.”

    I have a concern. You do not think that knowing how you fell into the well would have a bearing on how you get out? For instance just the knowledge that you have fallen down into the well says you must go up to get out. Perhaps other useful gems like the knowledge of people outside the well who might perhaps hear your screams and throw a rope?

    In any case I have only recently today learned that Krishna is a figure in our species history that possessed the memories of all of his lives? How did he come by this knowledge? I am astonished frankly.

    • Hare Krishna Michael

      It does not matter how you came to fall in the well. Falling in the well is actually the same thing, no matter how you fell in. You end up stuck at the bottom in the water. So your only concern actually is how to get out. And it does not matter how you fell in, no matter how you fell in you still end up in the water at the bottom of the well. Your concern is how to get out and that has nothing to do at all with how you fell in.

      Krishna is not in “our species history.” He appeared in India five thousand years ago and stayed for one hundred and twenty-five years and then disappeared again. But Krishna does not accept a material body like us. Krishna appears in His original eternal spiritual body. That is why Krishna can remember everything, past, present and He knows the future as well. But we can not remember because we have accepted this material body, every time we take birth in the material world we forget our previous births.

      In one sense this forgetfulness is Krishna’s mercy. We come to the material world to try to become Lords and Masters of the material world. But actually we can never become the Lord and master, because Krishna is the Lord and master, our real eternal occupation or sanatana dharma is to serve Krishna. So when we decide that we do not want to serve Krishna, but rather we want to become the master ourselves and get others to serve us by Krishna’s mercy we are placed in the material world. Actually it is not possible to become the master, and we have tried to do this for so many lifetimes, and we still want to do it. So also by Krishna’s mercy at the time of birth we forget all our previous lives and our previous attempts to become the controller, the master, because they all failed, they were all frustrated. If we could remember that we have done the same things we are doing in this life thousands and millions of times before in previous lives and every time they ended in frustration and defeat we would not be very enthusiastic to try for becoming the lord and master again… So by Krishna’s mercy we forget our past lives at the time of birth…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

    • nirmalya says:

      Dear Michael,
      As per the Bhagavad Gita, we are what are souls are, the thousand part of a hair end. Krishna, on the other hand is the Supreme Master of all Universes. He does not belong to our species.

  15. ashish says:

    Hare Krishna Prabhuji,

    All Glories to Srila Prabhupada

    i have a doubt …According to Shastras we have
    received the present body as per the karmas performed
    in previous lives …But animals dont accumulate any
    karma ,they are “Bhoga Yonis” .So when we are talking
    about reactions of past karmas ,are they the ones
    performed in the past human lives only or otherwise…
    And if thats the case then if somebody falls in the
    lower species and passes through the complete
    evolutionary cycle then as far as I know the paap
    karmas get exhausted when living entity passes
    through the lower species ?

    I would really appreciate if u could reflect more on it.

    • Hare Krishna Ashish

      It is a very good question. Animals do not have free will like human beings. They do not really have much of a choice. They are motivated by the base desires of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, and they do not commit sinful activities. They have no ability to do this. When they are hungry they search for food, when they are agitated by the sex desire they search for a mate.

      So when an animal dies it is automatically elevated to the next higher rung on the evolution of consciousness ladder. That soul will gradually come back to the human platform and when he reaches the human platform he will again have more developed consciousness and will again get the freedom to choose between good and bad, between serving Krishna and serving maya. And with this choice comes responsibility. So if in the human form of life the living entity makes the wrong choices he will generated bad karma and will be again degraded into the animal forms of life. If he makes the right choices, however, he will be elevated to higher planets or if he can remember Krishna at the time of death he will go back home, back to Godhead.

      In one human life by the misuse of his independence, a living entity can generate so much karma that he will be forced to suffer in so many animal births. For example it is stated in the Vedas that the punishment for someone who kills or eats a cow will be that he will have to take birth and suffer in the material world as many times as there are hairs on the cow. So you can just imagine how many hairs there are on a cow and a cow killer or a cow eater will have to take birth and suffer in animal bodies practically eternally for killing just one cow. Just imagine how much suffering is in store for someone who spends his whole life eating cows!

      Hope this clears it up a bit.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  16. Homer says:

    Since the cheating propensity is so powerful and easily assumed, it seems as though people like me, low of character and lazy to boot, might aspire for a miracle, an accident, a happenstance where they will, at their last breath, produce Holy words such as those uttered by the (in)famous Ajamila at the moment of his death.
    How a message of inspiration meant to encourage faith and strength is distorted by cheating as a way to “beat the system,” is proof of the power of Maya and also the lowness rascals such as myself may sink.
    Of course I am ashamed, afraid even, that I am not only capable of such low thinking but that I at times do desire such an easy way out.
    Please forgive me if my words disturb your sincere thoughts.

  17. abhishek singh says:

    we know krishna, we love him we praise him worship him.we know all his character, but we can not able to feel or realize him , how could we feel him ? how could we feel his presence and krishna anand in every second in our life

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