Join a rigorous scholar and Buddhist monk on a brisk tour of rebirth from ancient doctrine to contemporary debates.
German Buddhist monk and university professor Bhikkhu Analayo had not given much attention to the topic of rebirth before some friends asked him to explore the treatment of the issue in early Buddhist texts. This succinct volume presents his findings, approaching the topic from four directions. The first chapter examines the doctrine of rebirth as it is presented in the earliest Buddhist sources and the way it relates to core doctrinal principles. The second chapter reviews debates about rebirth throughout Buddhist history and up to modern times, noting the role of confirmation bias in evaluation of evidence. Chapter 3 reviews the merits of current research on rebirth, including near-death experience, past-life regression, and children who recall previous lives. The chapter concludes with an examination of xenoglossy, the ability to speak languages one has not learned previously, and chapter 4 examines the particular case of Dhammaruwan, a Sri Lankan boy who chants Pali texts that he does not appear to have learned in his present life. Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Current Research brings together the many strands of the debate on rebirth in one place, making it both comprehensive and compact. It is not a polemic but an interrogation of the evidence, and it leaves readers to come to their own conclusions.
"Bhikkhu Analayo moves effortlessly from an illuminating presentation of classical Buddhist conceptions of birth and death to a meticulous investigation of intriguing, though inconclusive, paranormal reports. In so doing this erudite and intellectually generous monastic scholar offers sound historical and philological instruction, while at the same time bringing home essential Buddhist wisdom about our calling to face death mindfully and with serene hope. A fascinating study."
– Carol Zaleski
“From his unique perspective as an academic scholar and a monastic, Bhikkhu Analayo provides a thorough explanation of the early Buddhist doctrine of rebirth and the debates about it in ancient India and early imperial China, as well as a judicious analysis of various phenomena that some people have taken to be evidence for rebirth. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in these fascinating topics.”
– Evan Thompson, author of Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy
“Bhikkhu Analayo offers a detailed study of the much-debated Buddhist doctrine of rebirth and a survey of relevant evidence. He also investigates the Pali chantings of Dhammaruwan, who at a very young age would spontaneously chant ancient and complex Buddhist suttas. I first met Dhammaruwan when he was seven years old, when my teacher, Anagarika Munindraji, and I visited him and his family in Sri Lanka. Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Current Research illuminates a complex topic with great clarity and understanding.”
– Joseph Goldstein, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening
“Bhikkhu Analayo’s book Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Current Research is a refreshing breath of fresh air. While drawing on the most authoritative sources in the Buddhist canons to explain the Buddha’s unique insights into rebirth and karma, the author also cites current research into the continuity of consciousness from one life to the next. This book points to the principle of conservation of consciousness, analogous to the conservation of mass-energy, as one of the fundamental truths of the natural world.”
– B. Alan Wallace, president, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies