Updated: Oct 17, 2021
I recently finished reading The Scientific Proof of Causal Reincarnation by Dr. Zhong Maosen, and it's one of those life-changing books that I wish I had known about way earlier in life!
Here is a clickable table of contents to help you navigate this article:
In the west, mainstream culture regards reincarnation, spirits, ghosts, and the like as superstition because they cannot be seen by the naked eye. I was raised with this mentality, but this book did an excellent job to convince me that reincarnation is not woo-woo superstition. The book used tons of scientific case studies from hardcore scientists, and in these case studies, the scientists concluded without a shadow of a doubt that reincarnation must exist. This follows the scientific spirit of “a hypothesis must be true if it cannot be proven wrong.”
Author Background: Dr. Zhong Maosen
To give some quick background on the author, Dr. Zhong Maosen graduated from a high-ranking Chinese university for undergrad, then he got an MBA and PhD in the US from Louisiana Tech University. He taught at the University of Texas and Kansas State University for several years.
Later, he studied under the Buddhist master Chin Kung, and then he delivered a speech about reincarnation in Taiwan in 2006. That speech was then transcribed and translated to become this book. You can watch the whole speech (~6 hours) with English subtitles here.
Purpose of the Book
Dr. Maosen wrote this speech/book to help Westerners with a scientific mindset to accept reincarnation, as well as to promote world peace because if people understand karma, then they naturally wouldn’t do bad deeds. The author also hopes to help us transcend the suffering of reincarnation as evidenced by the final chapter of the book.
These scientific studies fall under five areas:
The existence of the soul
People who remember their past lives
Reincarnation studies using hypnosis
Studies of life in different dimensions
The study of supernatural power
I appreciate how the author doesn’t just use scientific case studies to prove that reincarnation is real, but also weaves these case studies in such a way to teach us about karma, our world, and how to transcend suffering. Without further ado, here are my summary notes from the book.
Area 1: The Existence of The Soul
Western science has proven the existence of the soul through studying near-death-experiences and astral projections.
A NDE is when a surgery patient almost dies, then their soul travels outside their body, allowing them to observe the room like a hovering spirit. Later, the patient recovers and can tell others what they saw and experienced.
According to the well-known American research company, Gallup, at least 13 million adults who are still alive today have reported having NDEs where their soul went out-of-body. Reports of NDEs are often published in famous medical journals such as The Journal of Near-Death Studies and The Lancet.
British doctor Sam Parnia conducted experiments where he hung a piece of wood from the ceiling above a surgery table and put some objects on the wood. More than 100 patients had near-death-experiences on that surgery table, and many were able to accurately describe what they saw on the wood when their souls left the body and drifted to the top of the room.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has researched more than 20,000 cases and confirmed there are a variety of near-death experiences. Her books are popular around the world and include On Life After Death and On Death and Dying.
Astral projections are when people can voluntarily separate their souls from their bodies. Professor Charles Tart at the University of California conducted scientific experiments on healthy people who are able to do astral projection. He used a computer to print out a randomly generated 5-digit number, then he put that paper on a high shelf. He told his subjects to lie down, separate their soul from their body, float to the top of the room, memorize the number on the paper, then come back to the body and say the number. One woman was able to do this within minutes. The mathematical probability of guessing correctly is 1 in 100,000, yet that woman did it correctly multiple times.
Example Case: A Soul That Bought a House
Here's a quick story from the book:
"A woman in Ireland often had astral projection experiences. One time, while she was astral projecting, she saw a house that she was fond of. Afterward, her soul visited this house several times. She really liked the house, from the inside to the outside, from the furniture to the layout. She liked it all. But she did not know where this house was.
Later, she and her husband moved from Ireland to London. They searched the advertisements for a bargain house and visited a few. The woman immediately recognized the house she had seen in her astral projections. From the inside to the outside as well as the layout, the decoration, the color, everything was exactly the same as what she saw. And the price was surprisingly cheap! The agent warned them that the house was haunted, but they decided to buy it anyway. So, they made an appointment to meet with the owner. As soon as they saw each other, the owner screamed out loud, “Ah! It is you, the ghost!”
Area 2: People Who Remember Their Past Lives
Professor Ian Stevenson from the University of Virginia has spent over 40 years to compile over 3000 cases of reincarnation where people remember their past lives. He has published several books, the masterpiece of which is Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. In case you’re wondering, he does not have any religious connections since he says that would affect the credibility of his research.
Dr. Zhong shares many case studies in this area, such as
Shanti: A young girl who visits her past life’s family, could accurately recognize each person, knew her past-life husband’s secrets, and even cried when she saw her past life’s son.
Jasbir and Shankar: The soul of a 22-year-old man possessed the dead body of a three-year-old boy and could explain his past life and how he was murdered without anyone knowing.
Venerable Chao Kung: A man who died right before his sister gave birth, then his soul went to see the baby and ended up going into that baby. He retained all his memories after being reborn as an infant.
Wang Yangming: A senior monk to prophesized his future life, which was proven true.
Parrot is owner’s past husband: After a woman’s husband died, she bought a parrot. After the parrot learned to talk, he said he is the woman’s past husband and could accurately describe intimate marriage details.
Example Case: The Pollock Twins
The Pollock family had two daughters named Joanna and Jacqueline. On May 5, 1957, when Joanna and Jacqueline were 11 and 6 years old, a car drove onto the sidewalk and killed these two girls. In October 1958, the mother gave birth to twin sisters and named them Gillian and Jennifer. When these twins were between 2-4 years old, they could remember their past lives as Joanna and Jacqueline. When investigators tested them, the two sisters would retrieve their favorite toys from their previous life and even used the made-up names that the deceased sisters had given the toys. One time, the girls drove past their previous life’s school and said, “Hey! That’s the school we studied at before!” even though they were still too young to go to school.
In the previous life, the older sister (Joanna) loved to teach her younger sister (Jacqueline) to write. In this life, the older twin (Gillian) learned writing quickly, while the younger twin (Jennifer) struggled to hold a pen correctly and clasped the pen in her fist, just as Jacqueline had before. The twins were also born with birthmarks in the same locations as their deceased sisters.
From the thousands of cases he studied, Professor Stevenson theorized that talent acquisition and birthmarks can be carried over lifetimes. How else can we explain a musical genius like Mozart who was composing complex symphonies before age 6? For birthmarks, the place where someone was killed might result in a birthmark in the next life.
Area 3: Reincarnation Studies Using Hypnosis
A state of hypnosis is very similar to a state of meditation; the hypnotized person feels peaceful and concentrated and sometimes can recall incidents from far in their past. Doctors of psychology invented this method to help patients find the root cause of their symptom. By recalling these traumatic incidents, the patient can settle their mind and return to normal.
Some doctors unexpectedly found their patients remembering details from past lives. This ignited reincarnation studies via hypnosis. The number of people engaged in such research is considerable, and it academics and doctors in psychiatry and psychology. Famous people include Dr. C.J. Ducasse, Dr. Helen Wambach, Dr. Edith Fiore, Dr. R. Woolger, Dr. Rick Brown, and Dr. Brian Weiss.
There are tons of cases in this area. For example, just Dr. Brian Weiss has treated over 20,000 cases of mental disorders related to past lives. He is famous for the book Many Lives Many Masters.
Another expert, Dr. Bryan Jameison, accumulated over 40 years of experience in this field and is famous for many books, including The Search for Past Lives.
Dr. Zhong shares many case stories such as
Sailor Jim: A man who had a fear of water due to being drowned in a submarine in his past life.
Catherine: A woman who had many phobias, each with a different traumatic cause from a different past life.
Alan Lee: A man who recalled 16 past lives, including that of a Pharaoh (which was verified to be historically accurate) and even an alien spirit on the planet of Neptune!
Sylvester Stallone: He was a boxer in his previous life. No wonder his acting as a boxer looked so realistic!
Barbara: This woman developed an inexplicable fear for birds at age 26. Under hypnosis, she recalled a past life where she was a white man who raped a Native American girl. The girl’s family then sent kidnappers, who tied him up, dragged him to the desert, cut his chest, and left him to die. Vultures then came to eat him, and he was literally scared to death. That year he was 26, the same age that Barbara developed the inexplicable fear of birds.
A group of 1970’s Hippies: They were Native Americans in their past lives who got killed by the new immigrants to the US. They were reborn as children into these white families to seek revenge, hence they were very rebellious and caused social disorder.
Through past life regression therapy, many therapists have helped people with mental disorders find the root source of their problem in their previous lives. Once the person is aware of the cause of the problem, the problem starts to fade away.
Example Case: Alan Lee, Former Egyptian Pharaoh
Alan Lee is a 38-year-old Philadelphia native. He is a middle-school dropout, and after receiving a cancer diagnosis, he went to see Dr. Irving Mordes for hypnotherapy. During the hypnosis, he recalled being a pharaoh named Kallikrates between 344-341 BC. In the hypnotic state, he could speak ancient Egyptian fluently and even write Egyptian hieroglyphs. His spoken tone and attitude were arrogant, as if he were a supreme king. The whole session was recorded.
Later, Dr. Mordes collaborated with Maryland State University to check whether what Alan Lee said matched the historical records, and indeed they did! His hieroglyph writing were also correct. The only thing the researchers couldn’t verify was if his spoken Egyptian was correct because no one alive today can speak ancient Egyptian. But we can confidently say that this middle school dropout wouldn’t falsely pretend to speak ancient Egyptian out of the blue.
Alan Lee recalled 16 past lives under hypnosis, and in one of those lives, he said he lived on the planet Neptune in our solar system! He said he was a spirit in that life, not existing in physical form. Later in that life, he came to Earth and existed in the flesh. At that time, humans hadn’t even appeared on Earth yet. He recalled his name to be Nolan, and in his hypnotic state, he demonstrated the language of Neptune as a high-pitched tone. He also wrote down characters of that language, which look similar to the sign language that we have nowadays.
Area 4: Studies of Life in Different Dimensions
Different dimensions refer to lives that cannot be seen by our naked eyes. Westerners might call them ghosts, deities, heavenly beings, or angels.
Talking with Spirits by Radio
Dr. Marcello Bacci communicated with spirits using radio technology. Experts in supernatural science, as well as mothers of deceased children often came to participate in these experiments. In one recording, a child’s voice said through the radio, "Dear mother! Don’t be sad. One day you will eventually know our mystery. When you leave the body, you will find out that your soul has entered a different level of life."
Dr. Bacci collected abundant amounts of data over decades. One day, a critical piece of technology was missing from the radio, but the spirits still talked as usual, proving that the communication isn't even reliant on our technology.
Capturing an Image of a Spirit
In February 2004, an Indian professor and a Japanese anthropology student went to live in an indigenous tribe on a forest reservation in India. One day, they walked to a sacred graveyard that was off-limits to outsiders, but they didn’t know that. The Japanese student posed in front of a grave and when the Indian professor took the picture, the student fell unconscious. The village elders came, chanted a mantra, gave then fallen student some medicine, and then the student recovered.
Later, when the Indian professor went back to his university and went through the pictures, he saw a spirit standing behind the Japanese student in that photo he took.
Image Source: Dr. Zhong's talk on reincarnation, time stamp 41:42.
We can speculate that the spirit living there got offended by this student’s impoliteness and knocked him unconscious.
Why could the digital camera capture the image? Well, 98% of the universe is invisible to our naked eye. Only 2% of the optical spectrum can be detected by our eyes. The photosensitivity of the digital camera is broader than the human eye, so it could capture the image of different dimensions.
Area 5: The Study of Supernatural Power
Some people are recognized as having supernatural power, such as curing incurable diseases, seeing the past, or predicting the future. The book focuses on Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), who treated 14,000 cases of illness that doctors couldn’t treat.
Cayce diagnosed 2500 cases related to reincarnation. Examples include:
A woman who had severe allergies: Cayce observed it’s because she poisoned many others as a chemist in her past life. Cayce instructed her how to repent, which finally cured her.
A woman who was blind since birth: Cayce observed it’s because in a past life, she was a barbarian that tortured enemies by blinding them. Cayce instructed her on how to repent, and within three months, she acquired 10% vision.
A woman with extremely painful menstruation: Cayce observed it’s because in a past life, she was a Catholic nun who used the bible to chastise others harshly in public, which made them ashamed to see people. Hence this life, she was horrible menstruation that made her ashamed to see people.
In all these cases, doctors couldn’t cure the person’s illness because the illness was caused by past-life karma. Cayce explains that karma is similar to a boomerang:
“Whatever you do, the impact of karma will come back to you. If you do good deeds, you will get good rewards. If you do evil deeds, you will get evil retributions.”
That concludes the five areas of scientific studies for reincarnation. The rest of this article share lessons that the author weaves throughout all the case studies in the book.
In most spiritual practices, it is common knowledge that we are not the body. We are simply inhabiting the body temporarily. Reincarnation is like our soul looking for a new house. This begs the question, why can’t most of us remember our past lives? Dr. Zhong explains that suffering in the womb causes us to forget our previous lives.
A good death leads to a higher rebirth, but a good death can only be achieved by cultivating good virtues. Sage education is all about cultivating good virtues, and sage education starts with filial piety, which means being dutiful and respectful towards our parents. Many people might have negative relationships with parents and other people due to past karma, and only sage education can turn past enemies into loving family members.
The Buddha explained that there are four karmic relationships among people:
Returning a debt of gratitude
For example, why is it that some people you meet, you naturally get along really well with, yet some people you meet you instantly dislike them for no logical reason? This has to do with past life karma.
We can also use the family as an example. Some families get along really well; that's probably a karmic relationship of repaying gratitude. Other families are full of conflict, which is influenced by a karmic relationship of collecting debt or seeking revenge (such as the 1970's Hippies mentioned earlier).
The way we treat others in the past, they will treat us the same way in a future life. For example, Dr. Zhong explained that the reason why science chastises religion right now is because when science was still new, religious people chastised scientists.
On Our World
The world is manifested by the heart and altered by consciousness. By “the heart”, we refer to our true nature, which is beyond life and death. By “consciousness”, we refer to our thinking mind, which is full of attachment, discrimination, and wandering thoughts.
Our mind is actually able to change physical matter. Dr. Masaru Emoto proved this in his famous water experiments. He took two glasses of water, and on one glass, he taped a paper with vicious words (e.g. disgusting, annoying), and on another glass he taped wonderful words (e.g., love, thankful). After a period of time, he used a high-powered microscope to observe how the water would crystalize in cold temperatures.
From the picture, we can see that water changes in accordance with the feeling that we send to it. Just think how much of our body (and planet Earth) is water, and how that water is being affected by our thoughts. Furthermore, it’s not just water that gets affected, but all matter.
For example, Dr. Emoto then did an experiment with rice. Here's a 1-minute video summary:
We can see that the rice that was given positive emotions stayed pleasant, while the rice given negative emotions or indifference went bad.
On Karma and Causality
At the end of the book is a transcript of a lecture given by Venerable Master Chin Kung on the law of causality. You can watch the lectures with English subtitles here. Master Chin Kung emphasizes the importance of karma education by saying,
“How can we save people from creating evil karma? How can we save this turbulent society? There is nothing more effective than to promote the education of causality.”
He then says that to promote education on karma, we must understand these five basic rules of causality:
Cause and its effect happen at different times
Cause and effect run through three time periods
Small causes result in big effects
Good and evil karma do not offset each other
Causality is not illusive, karma will not be undermined
1: Cause and Its Effect Happen at Different Times
Cause and effect is analogous to farming. After you plant a seed (cause), it takes time for the seed to reach fruit; it’s not going to be immediate. Furthermore, it takes proper conditions, such as sunlight and water. The same is true for karmic seeds.
If you do a good deed now and immediately receive a good reward, the reward is not a result of the good deed you did recently, but rather the result of good karma from your past. Your current good deed was a “helping condition” to help that past seed fruit good results for you faster.
If you do good deeds now but receive bad retributions, it does not mean your good deeds will not have good results. It means that your past bad karma has now matured and appeared first. However, the good deeds you do now will act as a “barrier-condition” to lessen the bad retributions from that bad cause. If you weren’t doing good deeds now, the bad retribution would be even worse. This is the intricate relationship between cause, condition, and effect.
Many people do not believe in karma and causality because they don’t understand this foundational principle. They see people committing sins and still enjoying good fortune, or they see good people who live in poverty and indignity. They then conclude that there is no punishment for evil deeds and no rewards for good deeds.
In reality, the people who are committing sins right now yet still enjoying good fortune must have accumulated great goodness in their past lives, and their fortune has not been used up yet. After their fortune is depleted, the dreadful retributions will appear. The law of causality will never go wrong.
2: Cause and Effect Run Through Three Time Periods
The three time periods are past, present, and future. The Buddha Dharma states,
If you want to know your past lives,
look into your present conditions.
If you want to know your future lives,
look into your present actions.
The Buddha Dharma also explains that giving results in receiving:
Giving wealth results in being wealthy in the future
Giving knowledge and wisdom results in intelligence and wisdom in the future
Giving fearlessness and peace-of-mind results in health and longevity in the future
For example, if you suffer poverty and illness in this lifetime, you must have committed the karma of miserliness and killing in past lifetimes. If you are wealthy, you must have given a lot of wealth to help others in past lives.
There are four types of retributions based on when the retribution manifests:
Current life retribution*: The cause is planted this life, and the result is received this life.
Next Life Retribution: The karmic seeds planted in this lifetime will beget retribution in the next life. This is the most common phenomenon.
Later Lives Retribution: The karma seeds planted in this lifetime will beget retribution in the third, fourth, or even later lifetimes.
Uncertain Time Retribution: The karma seeds planted in this lifetime can receive retribution in any lifetime depending on what conditions you encounter.
*For current life retributions, this happens when you create tremendously big good or evil karma, hence you receive the result in this life. The book Liao Fan’s Four Lessons talks about this kind of situation, proving that we can change our karma in our current lifetime. The result in this life is called the “flower-retribution.” It is like flowers blooming before a plant bears fruit. The real karmic effect is in future lives, and the severity of the “fruit-retribution” will be even greater.
3: Small Causes Result in a Big Effects
A small watermelon seed buried in the dirt will grow into many big watermelons, each of which is full of many more watermelon seeds. The same is true for karmic seeds. As proverb goes,
“Give one and beget ten thousand in return.”
Example 1: One Sincere Act of Goodness Results in Huge Karmic Rewards
A servant was taking some spoiled food out of the house to dump. When she stepped outside, she saw the solemn and magnificent demeanor of the Buddha. Her heart gave rise to deep and profound respect. She wanted to make an offering to the Buddha, but all she had was the spoiled food in her hand. Just as she hesitated, the Buddha began to smile and emit light. He came over and happily used His bowl to scoop some of the spoiled food from the old woman’s hands.
The Buddha turned His head and told Anada, “This woman is wholeheartedly devout. Because of the merit of her sincere offering to a Buddha, in the future, she will have fifteen kalpas, such a long time, to enjoy happiness in heaven. And after the fifteenth kalpa, she would descend into the human realm where she would have the karmic condition of being a monk.”
*A kalpha is an unimaginably long time. There isn’t one definition for kalpha, but at the low estimate it would be 16 million years, while at the high estimate it would be 1.3 trillion years.
Example 2: A Single Evil Act Results in Tragic Retributions for Kalpas
One of the Buddha’s students was named Maudgalyāyana. In a past life, he tried to kill his blind parents. He pretended that some robbers came and then he started to brutally beat his parents. Unexpectedly, his parents did not call on him to save them, but shouted for their son to run for his life. He was so moved by his parents’ unconditional love that his conscience returned. He then knelt down and repented for his wrongdoings.
Due to this evil karma of intending to kill his own parents, his life was shortened. That was the flower-retribution. The fruit-retribution came after. In the next life, he fell into the torturous hell realm for a very long time. After leaving hell, he still had to endure the misery of the hungry ghost realm and then animal realm. When he finally reincarnated as a human, he was brutally beaten until his bones were pulverized into pieces for 500 lifetimes.
This story illustrates why awakened beings like Buddhas and Bodhisattvas fear the cause, while deluded mortals only fear the result. When awakened beings receive bad retribution, the know it is brought about by past bad karma. But when deluded mortals receive bad retribution, they commit more evil such as becoming angry or cheating others in an attempt to benefit themselves. This then creates more evil karma, and each life gets worse and worse.
4: Good and Evil Karma Do Not Offset Each Other
Good and evil karmic seeds cannot offset each other. When the conditions are in place, each seed will have its own effect.
However, good and evil seeds can affect each other. Planting good seeds now is an “assisting condition” to the previous good karma you have planted; it will increase the effect of good results. It also serves as a “buffering condition” to past bad karma and weaken the bad effect. Conversely, doing evil deeds now will strengthen the influence of past evil karma and weaken the effect of past good karma.
5: Causality is Not Illusive, Karma Will Not Be Undermined
The karmic seeds of good and evil are stored in what’s called our Alaya consciousness (Alaya-vijnana). These seeds will never be lost nor deteriorate. When the conditions are in place, the effects will come back upon you. Therefore, as long as we are within the six realms of reincarnation, we can never escape the cause and effect of karma. That is why only deluded mortals dare to create bad karma. Awakened beings dare not create bad karma because they understand that the retribution of causality is exceedingly exact.
How to Transcend Reincarnation and Suffering
Now we know that the endless birth and death of reincarnation, especially given all our negative karma that we have generated, is very painful and tragic. How can we transcend reincarnation? Although science has discovered proof for reincarnation, it has yet to provide solutions for how to transcend reincarnation. That’s where Buddhism comes into play.
Quantum physics is now affirming a lot Buddhist teachings, as explained this video, Where Science and Buddhism Meets:
In an article called Religion and Science, Einstein affirmed Buddhism as a non-dogmatic religion that matches the modern scientific need:
Buddhism explains that there are six realms of reincarnation, which from lowest to highest are hell, hungry ghost, animal, asura, human, and heaven. The six realms exist because we are deluded. Due to delusion, we create karma, then we suffer retributions. While receiving retributions, we create more karma, and hence we are stuck in never-ending reincarnation.
So what are we deluded about? The three most fundamental delusions are
Ignorance (Delusion of view and cognition): We see ourselves as separate beings rather than as one entity with everything
Discrimination (Delusion of dust-sand): you vs. me, good vs. bad, etc.
Attachment (Delusion of Avidya): I want this, I can’t let go of this
Even if we understand that wandering thoughts create karma, which then create retributions, we can't stop our wandering thoughts due to "karmic habits". Fortunately, the Buddha prescribed a special method for us: reciting Amitabha and seeking Pure Land rebirth.
Amitabha is a Buddha who created the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss to help all sentient beings swiftly attain Buddhahood. To be born there, we simply need to believe in his Pure Land, vow to be born there, and then chant Amitabha.
How do we chant? A poem from the great Buddhist laity Xia Lian Ju explains:
Amitabha teaches me to recite Amitabha,
Listen attentively to my own recitation while reciting;
Amitabha, Amitabha... one recitation after the other…
It turns out that Amitabha is reciting Amitabha.
When chanting Amitabha (either out loud or in our mind), we must focus our attention on this name of Amitabha and pay no attention to our wandering thoughts. It’s quite similar to mantra chanting in that sense, with Amitabha being the mantra. “Amitabha” is our true self-nature, so by listening to this chanting clearly and maintaining this “pure thought” continuously, we will recover our true self-nature little by little. When our mind wanders while chanting Amitabha, we must increase our vigilance right away and bring our wandering thoughts back to “Amitabha.”
If you understand the law of cause and effect now, you would believe that
Reciting Amitabha is the cause, and becoming a Buddha will be the effect.
Try it! You will be amazed, just like the people in this video:
Below are two more videos for a short and entertaining explanation of Amitabha.
Amitabha Buddha in Minutes
What is the Meaning of Namo Amitabha?