M. J. Rose introduces us to the back story of her book The Reincarnationist in a guest post for The Buddhist Blog. I thought we ought to re-post it here on our own blog…

It’s fun to think of cross-posting as a sort of “reincarnation” for words (see the last paragraph of M.J.’s post below for more on that idea) – 🙂

The Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang said: “To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of ones past actions.”

When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known.

He was not a Buddhist but a Kabbalist – and reincarnation is as much a part of mystic Judaism tradition as it part of Buddhism. As he continued to talk to me about these memories, my great grandfather became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone from his past.

My mother – a logical and skeptical woman – argued with him about what she called his “old fashioned” ideas but over time and more incidents, she became curious enough to start reading up on the subject.

And so reincarnation was an idea I grew up with. A concept that my mom and I talked about and researched together. We studied what Buddhists and Kabbalists and Hindus wrote. We read scientific articles and skeptical arguments. We debated and postulated.

If you had asked me at twenty if I believed, I would have said “I don’t not believe.” But I was fascinated. And remained fascinated.

In my early thirties I studied Zen Buddhism and learned to mediate. It was about the same time I started writing fiction and found myself very much wanting to write a novel about reincarnation.

But it wasn’t until my mother died ten years ago that I finally began to make notes for that novel… a story about someone like her who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. At the time I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to work on the project. The grief was too close and too raw.

Then four years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece, who was almost three years old told me about experiences I’d had with my mother… experiences my niece couldn’t have known – moments I had never shared with anyone.

There was no turning away anymore. That experience convinced me it was time for me to finally explore my ideas and questions about reincarnation through my novel.

Josh Ryder, the main character in The Reincarnationist has my mom’s initials, her spirit and her curiosity and like her, he’s a photographer. But there the similarities end.

When Josh starts having flashbacks that simply can’t be explained any other way except as possible reincarnation memories he goes to New York to study with Dr. Malachai Samuels — a scientist and Reincarnationist who works with children helping them deal with past life memories.

In the process Josh gets caught up in the search for ancient memory tools that may or may not physically enable people to reach back and discover who they were and who they are.

Thich Nguyen Tang said: “So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth.”

I think writing is a rebirth like that. Thoughts reborn as words that in a way die for the author once they are put to paper but are then reborn again for the reader who picks up the book and experiences the ideas and thoughts of the writer in his or her own personal way.