What Happens to our Experiences and Memories after Death?
The brilliant imagery used by Shri. Ramakrishna to describe the birth of Vivekananda and his origins was a very mesmerizing account that I read when I was young. In that account Ramakrishna describes how a small portion of the memory of a Rishi came down to earth and was born as Vivekananda. I was always intrigued about the nature of that memory and especially about how it came from the outer space to earth.
I have written before about how our memories go into knowledge space (KS) and influence our actions on this earth. It seemed the description of Ramakrishna about his and Vivekananda’s birth tallied with that though we are still not sure about the nature of knowledge space and where it is located.
So what happens to our memories after death? Throughout the history of mankind every civilization and thinkers in those civilizations have grappled with this subject. All life forms are afraid of death. We not only want to preserve our forms but also our memories and experiences.
So if they are lost after our death, as most people believe, then I feel it is such a waste of effort to live and experience life. Thus there has to be a better answer than that. The whole basis of Darwinian evolution is transfer of information from generation to generation and memories are a very important part of that.
In almost every society, resurrection, reincarnation, rebirth etc. are frequently mentioned but very little information is available on what happens to lifetime memories and what is reborn. Similarly in all our ancient Indian scriptures (Mahabharat, Bhagwat Gita, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra etc.) death is frequently described and discussed; with reincarnation as an accepted fact, but what is passed and how much, has always remained a mystery.
Buddhists very strongly believe in reincarnation but do not say what passes through after death and also what happens to memories. The discussion in all these scriptures generally skirt the subject, with emphasis given on living a good life so that better rebirth or after life can take place. It seems in the absence of knowledge this is a cop out!
One of the pioneering works on reincarnation was done in the 1970s by Dr. Ian Stevenson, a U.S. researcher. He interviewed almost 3000 children worldwide regarding reincarnation. Most of them had experienced traumatic and violent death and the recall was only of how they met their untimely end. Interestingly they recalled very little about the previous birth and with age (by 7–8 years) even that memory waned.
That is the nature of life and probably a good thing since most of the mundane and other memories are not transferred, otherwise each life would be burdened with all the baggage of previous lives weighing down on it. Every new life should start with as clean a slate as possible. Somehow the traumatic death allowed the information from the previous life to pass to the next one.
A possible mechanism of this memory transfer could be that a username and password might pass through death and this helps access the memories in KS. When the death is violent and hence very traumatic, somehow this username and ID gets triggered. For most of us even if we do not remember our previous birth events, however sometimes in our life there has always been a sense of déjà vu about places, events, or people. I feel that is because of our past memories.
Since all our strong memories which include emotional and other memories, go into knowledge space each person or life have their unique KS. These memories are a product of deep thought on a single subject and are mostly earth bound and are part of the abode of spirits, ghosts, and other entities.
Then there are memories, which are the result of even deeper thought and are achieved via Dharmamegha Samadhi. They have the ability to form a soliton which is very stable and can interact with gravitational field and hence can go into deep space. This could have been the basis of Rishi memory that Shri Ramakrishna saw. The formation of such a soliton probably leads to Mahasamadhi — leaving of body by will as was done by Vivekananda.
Some of the experiences, knowledge etc. that a person accumulates in his/her lifetime could partially be transferred genetically (through children); transferred through writings, speeches, interaction with others — physically or through the internet; or through deep thought in KS. Thus the sum and substance of life is not lost but goes in helping the evolution of mankind. So even after death this aspect of knowledge remains.
I also strongly believe that one of the major aims of human life is intergalactic travel. In the present technological era it is nearly impossible to do so. If we get the UFO technology, then it might be possible. We are not sure when that will happen though there are tantalizing signs that some countries are working on it.
Thus in the present scenario the best way to travel intergalactically is via the soul route after death. In Indian scriptures this is called reaching the abode of Gods — probably the place described by Ramakrishna in his vision of Vivekananda’s birth.
One of the ways by which a memory remains attached to the earth gravitational field is via remembrance. If a large number of people think about a great soul, then his/her chance of leaving the earth becomes less. Maybe that is the reason why the gods, deities and great souls who may have come from other planets have remained on earth. So to leave the earth’s gravity a possible way is not to become known and very famous.
Since our most significant memories remain after death and go in KS, we should all live a full, purposeful, and happy life — a life doing good deeds and karma. And whatever knowledge we have gained should be shared freely with others. This collective knowledge together with our memories will help in the evolution of mankind.
1. Anil K Rajvanshi (2004), “Death, Karma and Reincarnation”, https://nariphaltan.org/death.pdf (ref. 57)
2. Anil K Rajvanshi (2004), “Thought in Higher Dimensions”, https://nariphaltan.org/dimensions.pdf
3. Anil K Rajvanshi (2021), “Why Life is Attached to Form?”, https://nariphaltan.org/form.pdf
4. Ker Than and Ashley Taylor (2021), “What is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?” https://www.livescience.com/474-controversy-evolution-works.html
5. Kevin Williams (2019), “Dr. Stevenson’s Reincarnation Research”, https://near-death.com/ian-stevenson/
6. Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler, “Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations”, Nat Neurosci. 2014 Jan; 17(1): 89–96.
7. Anil K Rajvanshi, “Tunneling of Soul”. nariphaltan.org/soul.pdf