Ayahuasca and Karma: Remembering Past Lives

The spirit of ayahuasca is known as the “Mother of the Plants” to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and because of her role as the creatrix of the world, she is believed to have the power to connect us to many different levels of reality.

Ayahuasca and Rao Nete

According to the Shipibos, an Amazonian tribe believed to be the first practitioners of ayahuasca shamanism, the mother of ayahuasca is called Ronin, a giant serpent who serves as a bridge between the earth and sky(1)https://www.braveworld.cc/serpent-dna/ Known as oni in the Shipibo language, ayahuasca is considered the most sacred and powerful of all healing plants because of her ability to connect users to Rao Nete, or “medicine world,” a nonphysical realm associated with transformation and healing as well as with mystical and occult knowledge.(2)https://shipiborao.com/the-ayahuasca/

Because accessing Rao Nete can provide shamans with information about distant people and events, ayahuasca visions can often encompass both past and future incidents. Indigenous people claim that the reason this is possible is that the knowledge gained while in Rao Nete has no bounds, meaning there is no limit to what we can learn while under the influence of ayahuasca.

Drinking ayahuasca means that we leave ordinary consciousness behind, exploring the infinite worlds of Rao Nete which can make the effects of ayahuasca surprising and unpredictable, with no two ceremonies ever being the same. While some people may experience nausea and vomiting, others report feeling no uncomfortable physical sensations at all, often describing feelings of bliss and weightlessness. Because of its connection to the spirit world, ayahuasca can take us beyond the physical, revealing to us unresolved emotional patterns that are holding us back and keeping us from living our true potential.(3)https://templeofthewayoflight.org/information/shadow-work/

Ayahuasca and Past Life Recall

As is often the case when drinking ayahuasca, some people may receive visions that are more than they bargained for, including images of a past that extends further back in time than their own individual lifespan…

While modern western science absolutely refutes the possibility of reincarnation and past lives, it was once a widespread belief amongst most ancient cultures of the world and is still upheld in Dharmic religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. In indigenous Amazonian belief systems, life and death are seen as part of a larger cosmic cycle, and it is generally understood that life doesn’t end when someone dies. Death merely heralds the ending of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one. (4)https://doubleblindmag.com/ayahuasca-for-grief/

The number of incidents of people spontaneously remembering past lives while drinking ayahuasca cannot be chalked up to “coincidence.” When asked about this, many shamans usually reply that ayahuasca has the power to show us things that are beyond this world, including times that have come and gone. Sometimes this encapsulates a specific life lived by a person, while other times it is limited to general visions of past events, which the individual had no knowledge of prior to drinking ayahuasca.

For example, I was once sitting in a ceremony with a well-known shaman whose ceremonies always drew in many spiritual seekers from across the globe. About an hour into the ceremony, a Japanese woman started screaming at the top of her lungs and flailing around on the floor, violently thrashing her arms and legs. The shaman tried to calm her down by singing icaros (magical incantations) to her but she continued like this into the small hours of the morning.

The next day, she explained to the shaman that she had been transported back to a past life in which she had been brutally murdered by an enemy who had cut her up into thousands of small pieces. She said that ayahuasca had forced her to re-experience this murder throughout the ceremony.

“But why?” she asked the shaman “what’s the point of remembering something so horrific?”

The shaman gave a cryptic answer about the mysterious nature of ayahuasca and how it is often necessary to just accept her lessons rather than try and understand them using linear thinking.

Ayahuasca and Karmic Inheritance

While it isn’t the most commonly reported experience, compared to say, purging or visions of serpents(5)https://www.psymposia.com/magazine/psychedelic-stories-snake-spirit-ayahuasca/, there are enough people describing visions of past lives that there is clearly a link between ayahuasca consumption and memories of previous incarnations.

One explanation as to why this might be is that, as per Hindu rationale, the karma that we incur in our past lives creates the impetus that leads to future births. If we do not resolve these conflicts, we continue the cycle of death and rebirth until the lessons of these karmas have been resolved and integrated.(6)https://study.com/academy/lesson/karma-in-hinduism-definition-law-symbol.html Since the ultimate aim of life according to Hindus is to free ourselves from the cycle of death and rebirth, the accumulation of negative karma is seen as a barrier to attaining enlightenment, thus perpetuating the karmic cycle. As well as causing obstructions in one’s life, incurring negative karma also suggests a lack of balance at the level of the mind and body(7)https://study.com/academy/lesson/karma-in-hinduism-definition-law-symbol.html.

Since ayahuasca works at bringing balance to the individual by integrating the mind, body and soul, it is not surprising that some people remember or re-experience events from their past lives as a way of helping to restore greater balance in their current incarnations. According to the indigenous Amazonian cosmovision, ayahuasca is the most powerful of all healing plants, and since she has the power to remove the root cause of any illness, she also has the power to remove the karmic patterns from which these illnesses arise(8)https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-84746-0. By releasing the chains that bind us to past karmas, the spirit of ayahuasca can help people achieve a new sense of balance and wellness because the root cause of a recurring illness has been removed and no longer has the power to cause further obstruction in one’s life.(9)https://yosiocha.com/ayahuasca-plant-medicine/

Ayahuasca and Jakon Nete; a “World without Stain”

This is supported by the indigenous Shipibo belief in jakon nete, which literally translates to “good world” or “world without stain.”(10)https://omspirit.net/retrets-centers/maloca-shipibo-jakon-nete/ Jakon nete illustrates a central belief in the Shipibo cosmovision that posits that the very act of living is about returning to harmony within oneself, as well as returning to harmony with the whole of nature, including the spirits of the plants and the sky-beings who reside in other galaxies(11)https://raokaibo.org/the-shipibo-cosmovision/. This suggests that the process of healing that a person undertakes while working with ayahuasca can lead to surprising revelations about the origins of both mental and physical illnesses.

For example, one gentleman from New York attended a series of ceremonies at an ayahuasca retreat centre where I was once working as a volunteer. After nearly two weeks of ceremonies, he was disappointed to be going home after making no progress with healing from chronic depression. He had described the feeling to the shaman as a profound heaviness that had been weighing down on his heart since as far back as he could remember. Although the shaman confirmed that she could clearly see the heaviness and energetic blocks in this man’s heart, there was nothing she was able to do. The energy was “stuck.”

On the evening of his final ceremony, he had a breakthrough.

The shaman was able to locate what she described as a demon that had been chained inside his heart from a lifetime stretching back to ancient Egypt when an evil sorcerer had placed a curse on him, vowing that this demon would be live on in his heart for all eternity. With the help of ayahuasca, the shaman was able to locate this demon and coax it out. After an evening of blood-curdling screams, the demon left the man’s body and was burned. The following morning, he said that the heavy feeling in his heart had been lifted and that he had never felt so light and so happy in his entire life.

Although many skeptics might have a hard time believing this story, it was a very “real” experience for both the shaman and her patient, not to mention the other people attending the ceremony who were there to witness the man’s screams. While this is an extreme example of what working with ayahuasca can do for an individual with regards to helping them heal from past life karma, many others have reported merely watching past lives play across their closed eyes, like images on a movie screen. Although in this example there is no visceral processing of physical traumas as in the two examples mentioned earlier, individuals who have had this experience claim that merely seeing and “knowing” about certain incidents from a past life was all they needed in order to heal and grow.

Healing Disintegration: Reconnecting the Body, Mind and Spirit

Since ayahuasca enhances extrasensory perception as a vital part of the healing process, people still carrying the seeds of old karmic illnesses are able to see and understand the root cause of these blockages and, in many cases, release them entirely. It is widely accepted amongst indigenous and mestizo shamans alike, that working with ayahuasca allows us to process different levels of the human experience according to what her spirit thinks we need in order to heal and achieve balance in our lives.(12)https://yosiocha.com/ayahuasca-plant-medicine/

Sometimes what our bodies and souls require most is to get back in touch with the needs of the physical body, since this aspect of human existence is often the first to be neglected in a world that places increasing value on A.I. and virtual reality. For many westerners coming to ayahuasca for the first time, there is usually an unacknowledged desire to connect back to the visceral reality of the body, as well as a need to release toxins that have accumulated in the different organs(13)https://ayahuascaincolombia.com/2023/08/27/why-do-you-purge-when-drinking-ayahuasca/. These are usually released through purging and sweating, however some people can also experience acute diarrhea as part of the elimination process(14)https://ayahuasca-retreat.com/ayahuasca-vomit/. Other effects of drinking ayahuasca can be more emotionally cathartic, with symptoms such as crying and shaking being widely reported amongst ayahuasca drinkers.

The physical release provided by ayahuasca can be more than enough to help people move on from past traumas, which is why many people report feeling happier and lighter after a ceremony(15)https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/pharmacology/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.721537/full. It is also not uncommon for individuals to report feeling like they have “shed” or “released” something deep inside that was holding them back in life.(16)https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-84746-0 If we take the word karma to denote “action”(17)https://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/syllabi/w/wattles/hkarma.htm, then it is clear that ayahuasca can help us release accumulated karmas by physically discharging them from the body through purging or crying. This suggests that in some cases, there is no need to remember the events of a past life at a mental level since they have been physically released and purged from the body at a physical level and are therefore no longer causing obstruction in the individual’s life.

Ayahuasca as a Tool for Spiritual Growth

Ingesting ayahuasca is said to accelerate spiritual growth and development, which is why many ayahuasca drinkers report feeling more clear-headed after a ceremony. By purging the past on both a physical and emotional level(18)https://ayahuascaincolombia.com/2023/08/27/why-do-you-purge-when-drinking-ayahuasca/, more energy is freed up to expend in more positive and life-affirming ways that can help foster greater jakon nete in the world.

According to indigenous shamans, purging is believed to be a vital part of the healing process while working with the spirit of ayahuasca. This is why curanderos (ayahuasca shamans) celebrate the act of vomiting in ceremony, since it is believed to be a sign that the ayahuasca is working at removing accumulated physical and emotional impurities from the body and mind.

Although historically it was only the shaman who drank “the vine of the soul,” the nature of ayahuasca consumption has changed in modern times and people are now more likely to attend ceremonies and partake of this ancient brew themselves rather than solely relying on the shaman to do so(19)https://chacruna.net/you-will-never-get-traditional-ayahuasca-treatment/. The increasing number of people who have experienced the effects of ayahuasca has created a large body of evidence to suggest that, while its effects vary greatly from person to person, there are certain experiences that are so common they are believed to form part of the archetypal experience of ayahuasca consumption(20)https://hummingbirdhealingcenter.org/ayahuasca-ceremony-what-to-expect

The growing number of individuals who have reported seeing or experiencing past life memories suggests that drinking ayahuasca appears to facilitate past life recall, which perhaps is one of the reasons why it is known as “the vine of the dead” in the Quechua language(21)https://johnnymotley.com/ayahuasca/ So, if you are one of the growing number of people who’ve had the opportunity to attend an ayahuasca ceremony, but haven’t been able to remember any of your past lives, fear not, because you’ve probably unknowingly released their negative hold on you every time you purged.


1 https://www.braveworld.cc/serpent-dna/
2 https://shipiborao.com/the-ayahuasca/
3 https://templeofthewayoflight.org/information/shadow-work/
4 https://doubleblindmag.com/ayahuasca-for-grief/
5 https://www.psymposia.com/magazine/psychedelic-stories-snake-spirit-ayahuasca/
6, 7 https://study.com/academy/lesson/karma-in-hinduism-definition-law-symbol.html
8, 16 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-84746-0
9, 12 https://yosiocha.com/ayahuasca-plant-medicine/
10 https://omspirit.net/retrets-centers/maloca-shipibo-jakon-nete/
11 https://raokaibo.org/the-shipibo-cosmovision/
13, 18 https://ayahuascaincolombia.com/2023/08/27/why-do-you-purge-when-drinking-ayahuasca/
14 https://ayahuasca-retreat.com/ayahuasca-vomit/
15 https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/pharmacology/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.721537/full
17 https://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/syllabi/w/wattles/hkarma.htm
19 https://chacruna.net/you-will-never-get-traditional-ayahuasca-treatment/
20 https://hummingbirdhealingcenter.org/ayahuasca-ceremony-what-to-expect
21 https://johnnymotley.com/ayahuasca/

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