Why do we not remember our past lives?
Certainly this is a good question! Before we offer you one of the answers (there are several), we’d like to HIGHLY recommend that you read the book Karma and Reincarnation, from the "Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda" series available from Crystal Clarity, our publishing house.
Many people do remember their past lives. There are many reports and studies on this topic which give various kinds of proof that a person is actually remembering one or more past lives. But the deeper reason is that most of us have far, far too many past lives to be carrying around all that information all the time! It would be too much of a burden to have to remember them all, especially all the violence, pain, and suffering which we have all experienced in the past. We couldn’t bear it.
It’s really enough dealing with the lessons coming to us in our present lifetimes. Much better for the soul, as it reincarnates into a new body, to have a clean slate to start again, fresh and new. However, the past does linger within us in a certain way, even if we don’t remember it consciously, in the form of subconscious vrittis (little whirlpools of energy lodged in the energy or astral spine) and these definitely do influence us — our mental, emotional, and mental well-being. All the practices of yoga and meditation were designed to help us release and dissolve away these past influences, especially the harmful ones. Eventually, in our spiritual evolution, the Great Ones tell us that we do achieve the power to remember all past lives. But at that point, we also have the power to deal with it and let it all go so that we can be completely purified of all past karma and achieve oneness with God.
It is always good to keep this saying of Sri Yukteswar’s (Yogananda’s guru) in mind: “Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.” — from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.