Children Remember Past Lives as Buddhist Monks

The idea of reincarnation is strongly rooted in the Buddhist worldview. There have been numerous reports, studies and documentaries of children remembering past lives within Buddhist communities. . In most cases these memories fade away with time and rarely someone follows-up to record and study these cases. As children enter the educational system these memories do not serve them as no one speaks about theses things and are eventually lost.

In 1999 two past-life researchers (Haradlsson and Samararatne) investigated three cases of boys from Sri Lanka claiming to have past life memories of living as Buddhist monks. The researchers found that all three kids demonstrated behaviour appropriate for a monk. At the early age of two to three they began to show an active interest for Buddhism with no apparent external influence. They also aspired to become monks and often expressed their desire to eventually join a Buddhist order. 

Living as a Chief Monk

One of the boys (by the name of Duminda) born in a rural Buddhist family, at the age of three started to speak of his life as a chief monk at the Asgiriya monastery in Kandy Sri Lanka and expressed the wish to visit the temple. He repeatedly mentioned that he died after having a chest pain and been taken to hospital; he owned a reddish car and an elephant; taught apprentice monks and had friends at the Malvatta temple which he used to visit.

Duminda also demonstrated many monk traits in his everyday life. He would often speak about wanting to visit various temples and follow many customs specific to monks (i.e. using a white cloth to sit when visiting a temple; not letting his mother (a woman) touch his hands; plucking flowers and taking them to places of workship). Also he often demanded that his family would call him “podi sadhu” (little monk)

The research team collected Duminda´s memories and after interviewing locals, other monks and looking at records were able to identify a very close match with a senior monk that was an abbot at the Asgyriya temple from 1921 until his death in 1929.

A Victim of a Violent Incident ?

Sandika was born in a Roman Catholic middle-class family at the outskirts of Colombo, the capital of Sri-Lanka. At the age of three he started talking about living in a monastery that he did not specify (but mentioned it was near his present home) with some other four or five fellow monks. He would often speak about the chief monk that had a big bowl in the monastery and about his last memory; an incident involving some kind of shooting or explosion during a religious ceremony. Other memories from his life as a monk included the fact that there was a child monk in the monastery; that the monastery had jack-fruit tree and that he had a brother of fair complexion that did not wear a shirt.

The boy demonstrated a fear of crackers, explosions and sudden noises. When he would hear such sounds he would instinctively place his hand on his right chest where he also had a small dark birth mark. The memory of the violent incident lead researchers to suspect that maybe in his past life he was one of the Buddhist monks that were killed during the armed communist revolt of 1971 against the government.

Sandika followed Buddhist traditions and traits such as worshiping every day; asking for monks to conduct ceremonies in the family house. He also requested a Buddha statue and did not want to have his hair cut (since he always had it short in his previous life). By the time the boy was nine much of the  past life memories as monk had faded away but he visited Buddhist temples and often tried to convert his Catholic parents into Buddhists.

A Buddhist monk again

Ruvan was born in a family that had no special connections to Buddhism. He started to speak of his previous life as a monk at the age of two; almost from the moment he started to speak. He stated that he was a monk at the Pitumpe monastery in the are of Padukka, 20 miles from his home. The Pitumpe monastery was unknown to his parents until Ruvan started to reveal his past life memories. The boy also spoke of a clay monkey decorating the temple. After some research the family was able to verify the existence of a temple with a clay monkey in Pitumpe.

Ruvan never asked for toys but only pictures of Buddha. He followed many Buddhist habits and traits. He chanted in a local dialect that he was not taught at home or school. His case was kept secret by his parents until a neighbor mentioned the case to local journalist. According to an article published by a local journalist on the case, Ruvan was taken to the monastery he claimed to have lived. In the shrine he was able to point out to the clay monkey which was not prominently placed and said “That is the monkey I told you about”. While in the room of the chief monk at the time, Ruman was able to identify the picture of the former chief monk that lived in the monastery during his time.

Eventually his parents were convinced and let him join a local monastery.

What does all this mean?

There are strong indications that these are genuine past-life memory cases. Imagine your 2 year old child starting to talk about memories of being a priest or monk without any influences from his environment? If not past-life memories what else? Could such phenomena have an alternative and equally intriguing explanation? 


E. Haraldsson, G. Samararatne. Children who speak of memories as a Buddhist monk: Three new cases. Jpournal of the Society for Psychical Research, October 1999, Vol: 63, No: 857.

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