The scientific community has labelled a new reality television programme that deals with past life regression therapy to be an irresponsible propagation of blind superstition.
The show, Raaz Picchle Janam Ka, which NDTV Imagine began airing on December 7 and claims it addresses people’s fears by connecting them to their past life, has prompted scientists and rationalists to question its effect on millions of Indian television viewers.
“When India is trying to be scientific and development-oriented, a show like this is highly regressive, perpetuating superstition while playing on peoples’ vulnerabilities, said Jayashree Ramadas, Dean, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education. “So-called past life regression through hypnotism has been tested and debunked, and besides, it has dangers.
From watching the show for fun, many will start believing it, and it may take hold of their lives, leading to trouble for them and their families.”
Past life regression therapy claims to use hypnosis to delve into the memories of people’s past lives. It has no scientific basis and there is no evidence to show that hypnosis helps recall past life events.
“Science has not been able to establish that we have a past life. Psychologists and psychiatrists do not accept it either,” said Dr Yusuf Matcheswala, a practicing psychiatrist. “The concept of a past life is more of a cultural and religious belief. An unconscious mind can go to any limits. One’s thoughts could also be based on what’s read in history.”
But Nikhil Madhok, vice-president of NDTV Imagine, said that the show was not pitching the therapy as a panacea for medical problems. “The therapy is specific to people who cannot resolve the extreme phobia and paranoia they possess,” said Madhok. “It will not dent scientific beliefs.”
He said that the show has found many viewers because many people believe in a past life. “The channel received 600 phone calls every day for six weeks when we opened telephone lines those wishing to participate,” added Madhok.
In a country where many believe in reincarnation, academicians and rational thinkers feel that the show will reinforce such beliefs. “The show tries to prove to the gullible masses that all their physical and mental problems are derived from their past lives,” said Sanal Edamaruku, president, Indian Rationalist Society.