Shonin wrote:The experiences of past existences that occurred in this life ARE the memories encoded in our brains.
Right, of this
life, but not previous lives. We can safely imagine there is a physical mechanism for the storage and retrieval of our current-life memories. We cannot imagine, however, a physical mechanism which can retrieve memories of past lives, as our biological brains has had no physical contact with the conditions to which those memories were formed.
Shonin wrote: We have no reliable data on how or even if the experiences of previous lives are recalled. Therefore, your conclusion is entirely unsafe.
I'm making a leap of faith here with regard to the validity of claims regarding past life recollection, so yes, my conclusion is unsafe.
Also this seems to raise other philosophical problems such as:
If the past continues to exist now, where does it exist and in what sense can it be said to exist?
Everything that exists is subject to impermanence. What if someone changed it?
If it's unchangeable then this violates impermanence.
If the past exists now, it isn't the past anymore, it's the present.
The Mahayana philosopher Nagarjuna decimated this sort of essentialist thinking.
'Where does the past exist?'
I think that is as silly a question as asking 'where does our universe exist?' An event exists relative to events past and future to it.
'Everything is impermanent.'
I can't help but believe that the 'permanence' of the past is dependent on the continuance of samsara. End the cycle of rebirth and end the past and future.
'If the past exists now it's the present.'
No argument here. The past may 'exist' insofar as it can be recalled.
I'm not adamant on these points, it's just me thinking through the problems myself.