Have We Met?

Reincarnation within families

By Tara Katir, Kapaa, Hawaii

Apart of reincarnation’s magnetism is the belief we can be reborn and be with loved ones we already know. “Some take comfort in the belief that after we die we will be reunited with the souls of our deceased loved ones in spirit, in heaven,” Carol Bowman writes, in her newest publication Return from Heaven: Beloved Relatives Reincarnated within Your Family (263 pages, Harper Collins Publishers, us$23). “But what if you knew it was possible to be with them again in this lifetime without having to die first? What if I told you there is strong evidence that the souls of our loved ones who die can return from heaven to be with us again not in a dream or vision or through the aid of a medium or psychic, but in reality, through reincarnation as a baby born into the family?” Inundated with e-mails and letters following the publication of her first book, Children’s Past Lives, Bowman recognized a high percentage of the correspondence talked about stories of children who were experiencing “unmistakable memories of a recently deceased relative. I’ve collected hundreds of cases since 1988. They come from people who have always believed in reincarnation, and also from people who clearly did not believe in reincarnation,” writes Bowman. Much of her information comes from the extensive scientific research on “children’s spontaneous past life memories” by Dr. Ian Stevenson, former head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Virginia. Stevenson compiled “nearly a thousand cases in which the child made enough detailed and specific statements about their previous life that the deceased could be positively identified.” Take for instance Victor Vincent who, before he died, said he would reincarnate as his niece’s son, and to look for two birthmarks in places where Victor had scars. Sure enough she had a son with those birthmarks and many other similarities.

“When you go to heaven, you have a little time to rest, kind of like a vacation, but then you have to get to work,” said four-year-old Courtney. “You have to start thinking about what you have to learn in your next life. You have to start picking out your next family, one that will help you learn whatever it is you need to learn next. Heaven isn’t just a place to hang around forever. It’s not just a place to relax and kick back. You have work to do there.” With additional notes and a bibliography for further reading, Bowman’s book makes a compelling case for reincarnation. A fascinating look at one of Hinduism’s core beliefs.

Return from Heaven: Beloved Relatives Reincarnated Within Your Family By Carol Bowman. Harpercollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 USA.


Healing Plants

Contemporary allopathic medicine can trace much of its pharmacopoeia from the forests, grasslands and gardens of the world. Some herbs and plants, used for generations by people in developing countries, have proved so effective in healing that Western pharmaceutical companies have attempted to patent them. One example is the humble tumeric root. Fortunately, turmeric has been used for centuries in India to treat wounds and stomach ailments and was thus declared “not a novel invention” and unpatentable. Starting in 1845, the traditional medicinal plants of India were brought to the Caribbean by indentured Indians. Identification of the curative plants used in the Caribbean by the Indian community has gone largely unnoticed, until recently with the publication of Kumar Mahabir’s wonderful handbook, Medicinal and Edible Plants used by East Indians of Trinidad and Tobago (167 pages, Chakra Publishing House, us$4). Mahabir collected 63 specimens known for their restorative properties, mostly from backyard gardens throughout Trinidad. To encourage layman’s use of this handbook, the plant’s common name is listed first, then the scientific name. Description of botanical details, chemical composition, medicinal, edible and other uses along with pen and ink drawings make for easy identification and use. One of the most commonly known plants for medicinal use,aadi, or ginger, is appropriately the first listing. Of interest for ethno-anthropologists, Mahabir includes folksong lyrics to illustrate the dynamic manner in which this folk knowledge has moved through the generations. The book also includes an extensive bibliography, listing of oral sources and glossary of botanical and culinary terms. Check out this handy kitchen pharmacy guide for any household.

Medicinal and Edible Plants Used By East Indians Of Trinidad And Tobago by Kumar Mahabir with 70 original drawings by S.K. Ragbvir, Chakra Publishing House, Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies.

Children’s Books

By Tara Katir, Kapaa, Hawaii

There are three excellent children’s books that will surely captivate both kids and adults. The first reflects on one of life’s most fundamental questions, “Who am I?” This enchanting little book, Becoming Me, is a story of creation by Martin Boroson and illustrated by Christopher Gilvan-Cartwright (28 pages, Skylight Paths Publishing, us$16.95). With the fewest of words and intensely colorful illustrations, the fundamental truth that we are God unfolds page by page. Here is a wonderful book for young children, or anyone appreciating an elegantly unpretentious expression of spirituality.

Her Father’s Garden by James Vollbracht, illustrated by Janet Brooke (37 pages, Wisdom Publications, us$12.95) is the enchanting story of a girl named Mi Shan who lives high in the Himalayas in “the Village High Above the White Clouds.” Though quiet and shy, she is known to all for her kind and gentle ways. She dreams of a garden in this land of ice and snow, while others regard the village as inhospitable,”a place where no one belongs.” Through a series of small events, Mi Shan’s inner beauty begins transforming others, until one morning everyone experiences a shared vision of her garden, and their lives are changed forever. This is a simple tale of a young girl’s perspective and ability to uplift and transform everyone around her.

The third book, A Treasury of Asian Stories & Activities for Schools & Libraries by Cathy Spagnoli, illustrated by Paramasivam & Michi Ukawa (73 pages, Alleyside Press, us$14.95) is a gem that encourages and teaches the ancient art of story telling for grades k-3. Keys for basic story telling, how to prepare your environment for maximum effect, and a detailed description of props pave the way for anyone’s success. Spagnoli introduces tales from Japan, Burma, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, to name just a few, for any budding story teller to use. Included with each story are activities, kolams for an Indian tale, geographical information on the country, and additional books where children can learn more. Suggestions for further reading, on and offline, round out this fabulous resource.

Becoming Me, a Story of Creation by Martin Boroson and Christopher Gilvan-Cartwright, Skylight Paths Publishing, Sunset Farm Offices, Route 4, P.O. Box 237, Woodstock, Vermont 00509 USA. Ph: 802.457.4000 Fx: 457.4004


Her Father’s Garden by James Vollbracht, illustrated by Janet Brooke Wisdom Publications, 361 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115 usa.

A Treasury of Asian Stories & Activities for schools & libraries by Cathy Spagnoli, illustrated by Paramasivam & Michi Ukawa, Alleyside Press, an imprint of Highschith Press W5527, Highway 106, P.O. Box 800 Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin USA. Ph: 800.558.2110



Hindu Yoga

Yoga has become hugely popular in America. From upscale studios in Manhattan to simple storefront workshops, yoga’s appeal is burgeoning. Checking out what was available on a popular online bookstore, we discovered a collection of over 2,000 items covering some aspect of yoga. But very few of these books discuss the depths of yoga or even mention its roots in Hinduism. On the other hand, the book Yoga for the Three Stages of Life by Srivatsa Ramaswami (262 pages, Inner Traditions, us$19.95) is not shy about mentioning Hinduism. Ramaswami’s book offers more for yoga disciples than just breathtaking asanas. The end result is a broader understanding of the classical yoga practices as found within Hinduism. Detailed descriptions with photographs show budding and experienced hatha yoga devotees how to achieve the many asanas. Additional chapters are devoted to the benefits of pranayama, asanas specifically for women and a glossary. Young, old or in between, this book will give you a complete yoga routine.

Yoga for the Three Stages of Life by Srivatsa Ramaswami, Inner Traditions Publishers, One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont 05767 USA.


Scholarly Tomes

The Swaminarayan Fellowship and its respected leader, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Hinduism Today’s 1995 Hindu of the Year, are well known for their magnificent temples and outstanding community service. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism (253 pages, Cambridge University Press, us$21.95) by Raymond Brady, gives us a history and global perspective of this large and highly successful organization. Originating in Gujarat, the fellowship has spread far beyond its borders while “keeping its integrity andstrength in the land of its birth.” Brady’s aim is to “present a comprehensive account of the history, doctrines, organization, discipline and rituals” of the Fellowship. This book is an inspiring look into a unique group.

India’s major social movements, such as the RSS and its political action group, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and related organizations, deliver a unique expression of Hindutva. Dr. Koenraad Elst’s presentation, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism (657 pages, Rupa & Co. Publishers, Rs. 595) details the 1988-1998 period when “mass campaigns and electoral victories brought Hindu revivalist leaders to the front pages worldwide. The presence of the BJP in Parliament is an eloquent indicator of this stormy evolution. It had few allies in 1996 and a great many in 1998.” If you want to understand the modern evolution of Hindutva, this is the book for you.

An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism by Raymond Brady Williams, Cambridge University Press, 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY USA 10011. Hardback US$59.95 Paperback US$21.95.


Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism by Dr. Koenraad Elst, Rupa & Co. 7/16 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002 India.