AJungianIdeal wrote: The second. Past life recollection? I'm iffy about it;
I think that this doubt is based on the premise,very hard to get away from, of an intrinsically existent 'self' that hops out of one set of body parts and into another. Even for many Buddhists who accept, intellectually that nothing arises that can be called such a self
(atman) they still (unknowingly) assert it, and this is almost always the stumbling block to really understanding concepts such as karma, rebirth, various realms and so forth.
So, if you think that having a consciousness that can leave one body and enter another is nonsense,
and you wonder how can Buddhism assert such nonsense,
the answer is that this isn't really what Buddhism teaches.
If, in the struggle to define what "life' actually is,
meaning, for example, what constitutes and individual person,
if we define it as that particular set of body and brain parts,
and from that, we say that a person's life begins with those parts coming together (moment of conception)
and ends when those parts stop replicating (cells) and begin to fall away (moment of death)
and we assert that cognition, which is experienced as a "self"
is purely the byproduct only of those parts
then that "self" cannot possibly reconstitute in or as some other being.
However, there are many problems with that series of assumptions,
including the very basic problem that none of the parts of the body or brain
actually witness, cognitively, their own existence.
There is no "self".
The brain is made of fat and water and amino acids and salt,
and has electricity running through it.
In various parts of the brain, certain activity corresponds to various cognitive mental states
but that brain activity itself is not those mental states.
For example, what is experienced as happiness may be a big dose of endorphins.
It may show up as some bright color on a computer screen during a brain scan.
But who---or what---experiences
that chemical reaction as an emotional state,
as a thought, as a personal experience?
That is the question you have to ask (and answer)
if you are talking about "remembering past lives" because
this "experience" is the stuff that is supposedly going to be remembered.
It will take too long to go into everything here.
My understanding is this:
What reoccurs and is reconstructed as an experience of memory
of something yesterday or 100 years ago,
are objects of awareness, arising in the ground of awareness
and that coming together of awareness and objects of awareness is experienced as
cognitive thought, sensory awareness, emotion, memory, and so forth,
and is not limited to the cognitive function of a particular person in a particular 'lifetime'.
The thinker and the thought are both objects of awareness.
and the fact that something happened
before this present set of body parts began to emerge
doesn't actually matter.