Hoping to escape from the depressing ongoing events of the Covid 19 corona virus pandemic, I returned this week to thinking about those remarkable children who speak of past lives.
Among the cases studied by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, there is one that stands out for me because of something unique about the memories of Dolon Champa Mitra, a girl born Aug 8, 1967 south of Calcutta.
Her father was a ‘superintendent of the Poultry and Dairy Section’ so they were not poor, but her memory of a past life involved a wealthier family living in Burdwan, a city northwest of Calcutta about 100 kms from Dolon’s home.
She was not able to name the young man she claimed to have been, but she had a lot of detail from his life. Stevenson says she made 44 statements about his life and almost all were proven correct. They fit only one person, Nishith De, a young man in university who died of a suspected brain tumor after three weeks in hospital. He was, according to hospital records, 25 years-old.
- She claimed she could find the De house if they took her to the street outside the Maharajah’s place in Burdwan. This was done when she was 4 yrs old, and she failed. But a few months later they tried from a different location, and she found it.
- Along the way to the house from the place where she was ‘set free’, Dolon led the party in a direction away from the most direct route to the De house and past the house of one Himansu Hazra, with whose daughter Nishith was said to have been in love with before he died. Dolon stopped at this house and looked at it for two or three minutes without saying anything.”
- In the house she recognized what she called her bedroom, and when she saw a photo of Nishith De, who she had not been able to name, she said “Here am I”.
- Playing cards one day with Mrs M, a friend of her mother’s, she “ for no apparent reason …..bent her head back to look at the ceiling and held her head in that position. [Mrs M] asked Dolon why she was doing that. Dolon replied that when “she” had been in the hospital she had had pain in the back of her head and had held her head back in the same position,” apparently to relieve the pain.
- Another time she said she had fallen out of bed while in the hospital. Hospital records determined that Nishith De was found on the floor one day, clutching at his bed but unable to get up. He became unconscious shortly after.
- Nishith died in the hospital after a 3 week stay. Dolon said that she was carried from the hospital by “friends and relatives” to be cremated. Stevenson determined that a group of cousins carried De from the hospital to a truck that then took him to the cremation site. Only there did some of his friends join the funeral.
There are many interesting aspects of this story. For example, when Dolon met Nishith’s mother in the house, the mother pushed her away, then said to Dolon’s mother, “Let your daughter remain yours.” Mrs De then locked herself in her room, and when her own family members asked her to come out, she demanded that Dolon’s family leave. Dolon was in tears on the way home.
Mrs De later said to someone, “If she be my son Bulti (a nickname for Nishith), why has he not taken rebirth in our family and why has he changed sex?” To this, Stevenson attached this footnote:
This statement betrayed both a degree of intolerance and an ignorance of cases of the reincarnation type in India. Cases in which both subject and previous personality belong to the same family occur rarely in India, although they certainly do occur there sometimes …. Indians rarely claim they can voluntarily control the selection of their next parents or the sex of their next bodies. They believe that such matters are left to the processes subsumed under the heading of karma, which derives from the balance of one’s merits and demerits; and from the case material of India there is almost no evidence to suggest that Indians can in fact influence the choice of parents or sex for the next life.
He has elsewhere insisted that the evidence of ‘past life’ children almost never supports the precepts of the Karma concept. That is one reason why not everyone in India is fond of them.
A little further on, Stevenson adds this:
Perhaps her remark….that her son ought not to have been reborn elsewhere and as a girl, tells enough about her motives for rejecting the case. But if another factor influenced her, it could have been the great anxiety many wealthy persons have concerning the willingness of other persons to separate them from their money. …….. The irrationality of such suspicions seems little reduced by the reflection that even if a subject’s family were to make some demand for support, they would have no legal grounds whatsoever. In any case, such claims ……. occur with exceeding rarity. I have heard of a few secondhand reports of this kind but have never met with any in the hundreds of cases that I have investigated.
Dolon never wanted to see her past life mother again, but she longed to meet the father. She frequently asked people if he, Anath Saran De, would one day come. He never did, according to this account in Stevenson’s Cases of the Reincarnation Type, published in 1975. But “Dolon persisted nevertheless in asserting that she had two fathers and two mothers. Her hopes seemed to triumph over her experience.”
One more little girl whose statements speak of something immeasurably bigger than the world that we like to think we know.