For most individuals, the process of birth, death and rebirth is essentially automatic and out of their conscious control. With the death of the body, the vital being and then the mental being eventually lose their integrity and dissolve as well. The psychic being, with its increasing store of experience, not attached to any particular ego-personality then takes a new birth. The Tibetan Book of the Dead provides a step by step overview of the process and explains how most souls get attracted to their next birth. 

Yet there are instances that seem to indicate that a mature, advanced psychic being can actually have considerable if not total influence on shaping its future body, life and mind. We can see this illustrated in the rebirth of the Lamas of Tibet, including of course the Dalai Lama. They are able to be located through signs and indications they either leave behind or manifest at the time of departure from the then current lifetime. When the candidate is found, they are tested by a number of means, one of the most prevalent being the ability to correctly choose, without failure, a variety of items utilized by the Lama in his previous incarnation. 

We also note that some young children come into a particular life with already highly developed understanding, sense or skills in a particular area. Mozart and Beethoven were clearly such prodigies. How could a three or five year old child have this skill set so finely developed? This leads to the conclusion that they brought it with them from a prior lifetime and experience.

While this is certainly not the usual experience, such incidents guide us to an understanding that highly developed, advanced souls can indeed control, or at least influence, the formation of their next lifetime and the shaping of the mental, vital and physical instrument and even the location and environment within which they take birth so as to carry on their development or their focused efforts continuously from birth to birth.

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.”

“In artists, as for instance in certain musicians who have used their hands in a particularly conscious way, the vital and mental substance is preserved in the form of hands, and these hands remain fully conscious, they can even use the body of living people if there is a special affinity — and so on.”

“Otherwise, in ordinary people in whom the psychic form is not fully developed and organised, when the psychic leaves the body, the mental and vital forms may persist for a certain time if the death has been particularly peaceful and concentrated, but if a man dies suddenly and in a state of passion, with numerous attachments, well, the different parts of the being are dispersed and live for a shorter or longer time their own life in their own domain, then disappear.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 6, Some Answers and Explanations, pp. 220-222

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 19 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.
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