There are phenomena that are inexplicable under our normal understanding of life and death. The body dissolves, certainly, and the vital being and mental disperse soon thereafter and return into their native planes. Yet we find that occasionally it seems like a particular understanding or capacity has been continued as if from an earlier life, and we have to explore how this may occur.

The phenomenon of the reincarnation of the high Lamas of Tibet, such as the Dalai Lama, who are in fact located and identified by their clear affinity to and memory of physical tools or things they used in the prior lifetime, gives us an insight to a facet of existence that goes beyond our normal perception, and which occurs in highly evolved and advanced souls who are able to organise their consciousness and their mental and vital powers in a very high degree, such that they can hold together beyond death.

We also note that sometimes a child is born with capacities that simply were not possible to be acquired and learned fresh in that infant’s short life. When we hear of great composers such as Mozart or Beethoven and their exploits in the musical realm at such an early stage, it becomes clear that this capacity has been brought forward somehow from a past developemnt.

There are also documented instances where an individual may know a language other than one from the land where they are born, or may have clear memories of places, people and events that occurred in a past time and place. These things make it clear that in some cases, albeit rarely, the mental or vital formation of one lifetime is able to survive death and continue in some fashion in a new life and individuality.

The Mother notes: “When it has become an almost completely formed and already very conscious being, it presides over the formation of the new body, and usually through an inner influence it chooses the elements and the substance which will form its body in such a way that the body is adapted to the needs of its new experience. But this is at a rather advanced stage. And later, when it is fully formed and returns to earth with the idea of service, of collective help and participation in the divine Work, then it is able to bring to the body in formation certain elements of the mind and vital from previous lives which, having been organised and impregnated with psychic forces in previous lives, could be preserved and, consequently, can participate in the general progress. But this is at a very, very advanced stage.”

“When the psychic is fully developed and very conscious, when it becomes a conscious instrument of the divine Will, it organises the vital and the mind in such a way that they too participate in the general harmony and can be preserved.”

“A high degree of development allows at least some parts of the mental and vital beings to be preserved in spite of the dissolution of the body. If, for instance, some parts — mental or vital — of the human activity have been particularly developed, these elements of the mind and vital are maintained even ‘in their form’ in the form of the activity which has been fully organised — as, for example, in highly intellectual people who have particularly developed their brains, the mental part of their being keeps this structure and is preserved in the form of an organised brain which has its own life and can be kept unchanged until a future life so as to participate in it with all its gains.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter VIII The Psychic Being and Inner Growth, pp. 157-158

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.