Samskra saksatkaranat purva jatijnanam.
Samskara = impressions; saksatkaranat = by perception; purva-jati = past birth; jnanam = knowledge.
By direct perception of the impressions, knowledge of the previous birth (III/8).
It is normally believed that we are product of our heredity and environment. But when two identical twins brought up in identical environment behave in a dramatically different way then it makes us think about the third factor. According to Indian thinking it is due to past birth. The impressions (Samskaras) carried from previous birth in the seed form, fructify in the present birth. Fortunately, it is possible, through yoga, to eradicate them.
A yogi, by Samyama on the Samskaras (impressions which manifest in form ofbehavioral pattern of an individual) can find out one's past birth just like the impressions on a gramophone record can faithfully reproduce the sound that was recorded. Indian literature is full of stories where a wise man tells, in graphic details, past birth and associated events of a character. One such folk tale is given below.
Long back in a forest there used to be a hermit with some pet animals abandoned by their masters. Among them were a she donkey, a cat and a bitch. He grew fond of them and wanted them to lead a good human life. With his yogic powers he turned them all into beautiful girls and got them married to suitable husbands. He wanted to know how they were in their new incarnation. So, one day he set out to meet them. When he reached the house of first one, herhusband, on inquiry, replied: "She is fine but once a while her gets very violent and starts kicking me". 'Oh' thought the hermit, 'she must be the donkey'. When he proceeded to the house of second one, he husband reported, "She is fine but God knows what happens to her all of a sudden, she starts scratching me for nothing". 'Oh' thought the hermit, 'she must be the cat'. And third one's husband complained of sudden bites from his wife and the hermit knew her to be bitch.