In my August 4/18 post, I presented psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, who spent decades investigating children who speak of past lives.
Here is the first of those children, the first in his book Ten Cases of the Reincarnation Type in India.
Gopal Gupta was born Aug 26, 1956 in Delhi. One day, age 2 and a half, when he had given a guest a glass of water and was asked to remove the glass, he startled everyone responding, “I won’t pick it up. I am a Sharma.”
Questioned, he said he had another father and two brothers in the city of Mathura, and one of the brothers shot him. He said he’d had a quarrel with his wife and he owned a company that dealt in medicines, giving the name for it – Sukh Sancharak.
When a friend told his father, S. P. Gupta, that there was a company with that name in Mathura, S.P. decided to check out his little son’s statements. He went to Mathura, found the Sukh Shancharak Company and spoke with their sales manager. The man was impressed with the similarity of Gopal’s statements to events in the life of Shaktipal Sharma, a member of the company who had been shot and killed by his younger brother when he was 25 years old.
The Sharmas were Brahmins, higher in caste than the Guptas. Shaktipal Sharma had been a leading figure in Mathura. His father had started the company that sold medicines across India. Shaktipal had BA and MA degrees, spoke multiple languages and lived a ‘playboy’ life until his father died and the business was left to him and another brother. A third younger brother, Brijendrapal, was left out, but Shaktipal gave him a share anyway.
Shaktipal had also been elected ‘Chairman of the Municipal Board’ for Mathura, a position similar to mayor.
One day Brijendrapal, who was in debt, asked Sahaktipal’s wife Subhadra to lend him 5,000 rupees (wives in affluent families in India often controlled family money). She refused, so Brijendrapal asked Shaktipal, who then asked his wife for the 5,000 rupees himself, and she refused him too. Brijendrapall then showed up at the company office, quarrelled with his two brothers, pulled a gun and shot Shakitipal in the chest.
More than eight years separated the murder of Shaktipal Sharma and the birth of Gopal Gupta.
Subhadra heard about Gopal and paid a visit to the Gupta home along with her sister-in-law (sister of Shaktipal) when Gopal was eight years old. During this visit, Gopal was very reserved with Subhadra, and refused to say who he thought she was, but he liked the sister. When they were leaving, he said goodbye to the sister, but not to Subhadra.
Up to this point, Gopal had never talked about having a wife. When the two women were gone, his father asked if Subhadra had been his wife and he replied, “I do not have a wife.” A couple of days later his father pressed him again and Gopal admitted that Subhadra had been his wife. “Then why not say so?” his father asked. Gopal replied, “I am angry.”
Asked to explain that, he said he had asked Subhadra for money and she didn’t give it to him.
Despite Gopal’s coolness towards Subhadra, she invited the family to come to the Sharma house, so, when he was nine years old, Gopal and his parents finally went together to Mathura.
When they reached the Hindu temple, they first walked to the office of the Sukh Shancharack company. Because Shaktipal Sharma had been a celebrity in the city, and there had been much talk about the statements of Gopal published in the local newspaper, a large crowd followed them.
Knowing the way to the office himself, S. P. let Gopal lead the way. At one point though, as an experiment, he tried to misdirect his son. Gopal said, “Don’t consider me a child. I know the way.”
At the Sukh Shancharack company, Gopal would correctly identify a room as the one where ‘he’, as Shaktipal, had once had an office, then identify the positions of Shaktipal and his two brothers at the time of the shooting.
Next they set out for the Sharma house. Neither father or son knew the address and the crowd was no longer with them so, instead of asking directions, Gopal led. There is a scene where they emerge from another unproductive lane and Gopal says, “There is a betel shop in front of my lane.” Then they meet a betel shop and go down the lane next to it until Gopal stops in front of a residence and says, “Papa, here is my house.”
Subhadra was waiting for them with other members of her family.
In the house he was shown photographs in which he correctly identified many people, including two photos of Shaktipal – “me” – though Shaktipal was only visible from behind.
Gopal correctly identified a room as his bedroom. When his mother reproved him for touching a piano he said, “Why should I not touch it? It belongs to me.” He then demonstrated that he could play it a bit, though he had never received lessons.
The above is a brief summary of Stevenson’s account of Gopal Gupta/Shaktipal Sharma and their two families. Gopal was typical of many of these children, except that at nine years old Stevenson says most have lost their memories of the past life. As late as 1971, at age 15, Gopal told Stevenson that he still remembered the past life, though he now wished to forget it.
Think of what this means if it’s true. Given the quality of Stevenson’s investigation, I don’t see how it can be considered not to be true.
How can a mind be connected to the mind of someone who died eight years earlier? This is not telepathy where two people share images or thoughts. This isn’t the ‘afterlife’, what research psychologist J.B. Rhine called the ‘Mount Everest of paranormal phenomena’. This is something even bigger than that.
Of course, the traditional view is that a soul has exited one body and re-entered another. Reincarnation. But this, I think, is only useful as a metaphor, not as an explanation.
That idea leaves DNA out altogether. But genetic research has barely begun to scratch the surface of DNA. You can be sure that when researchers of the future are able to probe deeper, there are going to be surprises. One of them may be the answer to the enigma of Stevenson’s children.
Can memories be stored in DNA? Well, in writing his book Origin of Species, Darwin said memories appeared to sometimes be inherited in some animals. Modern scientists smiled at that idea, believing it to be more evidence of the limited understanding of the scientists of the past. But new research (‘epigenetic memory’) is beginning to support Darwin.
Memories deposited in DNA though is not a full answer. Why should the DNA of Gopal Gupta be connected with the DNA of Shaktipal Sharma?
Well, there is a research project for somebody. At least, that is what Stevenson hoped. Unfortunately, western science has chosen to ignore him and his volumes of evidence.
For the time being, I’m just happy to have access to Ian Stevenson’s books, and I’m going to comment soon on more of these interesting children.,