This law of rebirth can be made comprehensible only by the subconscious life-stream (in Pali, bhavanga-sota), which is mentioned in the Abhidhamma Pitaka and further explained in the commentaries, especially the Visuddhimagga. The fundamental import of bhavanga-sota, or the subconscious life-stream, as a working hypothesis for the explanation of the various Buddhist doctrines, such as rebirth, kamma, remembrance of former births, etc., has up to now not yet sufficiently been recognized, or understood, by Western scholars. The term bhavanga-sota, is identical with what the modern psychologists, such as Jung, etc., call the soul, or the unconscious, thereby not meaning, of course, the eternal soul-entity of Christian teaching but an ever-changing subconscious process. This subconscious life-stream is the necessary condition of all life. In it, all impressions and experiences are stored up, or better said, appear as a multiple process of past images, or memory pictures, which however, as such, are hidden to full consciousness, but which, especially in dreams, cross the threshold of consciousness and make themselves fully conscious.......
The existence of the subconscious life-stream, or bhavanga-sota, is a necessary postulate of our thinking. If whatever we have seen, heard, felt, perceived, thought, experienced and done were not, without exception, registered somewhere and in some way, either in the extremely complex nervous system (comparable to a phonograph record or photographic plate) or in the subconscious or unconscious, we would not even be able to remember what we were thinking at the preceding moment; we would not know anything of the existence of other beings and things; we would not know our parents, teachers, friends, and so on; we would not even be able to think at all, as thinking is conditioned by the remembrance of former experiences; and our mind would be a complete tabula rasa and emptier than the actual mind of an infant just born, nay even of the embryo in the mother's womb.
Thus this subconscious life-stream, or bhavanga-sota, can be called the precipitate of all our former actions and experiences, which must have been going on since time immemorial and must continue for still immeasurable periods of time to come. Therefore what constitutes the true and innermost nature of man, or any other being, is this subconscious life-stream, of which we do not know whence it came and whither it will go. As Heraclitus says: "We never enter the same stream. We are identical with it, and we are not." Just so it is said in the Milindapañha: "na ca so, na ca añño; neither is it the same, nor is it another (that is reborn)." All life, be it corporeal, conscious or subconscious, is a flowing, a continual process of becoming, change and transformation. No persistent element is there to be discovered in this process. Hence there is no permanent ego, or personality, to be found, but merely these transitory phenomena........
Buddhism teaches that if in previous births the bodily, verbal and mental kamma, or volitional activities, have been evil and low and thus have unfavorably influenced the subconscious life-stream (bhavanga-sota), then also the results, manifested in the present life, must be disagreeable and evil; and so must be the character and the new actions induced or conditioned through the evil pictures and images of the subconscious life-stream. If the beings, however, have in former lives sown good seeds, then they will reap good fruits in the present life.......
What I chiefly wanted to make clear by this lecture is: that the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth has nothing to do with the transmigration of any soul or ego-entity, as in the ultimate sense there does not exist any such ego or I, but merely a continually changing process of psychic and corporeal phenomena. And further I wanted to point out that the kamma-process and rebirth-process may both be made comprehensible only by the assumption of a subconscious stream of life underlying everything in living nature.
rowyourboat wrote:Is bhavanga citta a teaching of the Buddha or was it used ad a tool invented later to explain 'bits which were missing' from the Buddha's teachings?
I personally don't feel the need to use bhavanga citta to explain anything as the effect of a previous cause does not have to be immediate and does not have to arise as soon as the cause fades away. That is to say, the last conscious moment becomes the cause for the next conscious moment (it might be a dream or upon waking up).
Apparently the Buddha does not infer anything in the 'four fold emptiness': 'I do not imagine a self in the aggregates, any substance in the aggregates, any thing else beyond the aggregates..' and so on according to 'Concept and Reality' by Ven Katukurunde Nananda. Therefore I do not see a need (nor a place in the dhamma) for bhavanga citta. In fact I think it brings with it subtle hints of permanence suggesting the concept was created by someone who wasnt even a stream entrant.
rowyourboat wrote:I dont think Bhavnga citta is in the suttas (correct me if I am wrong) and I wonder if that is because it does not lead to dispassion, cessation etc.
In vipassana it takes weeks/months of unbroken practice of seeing impermanence to cut through the delusions of permanence/self etc. So teachings like bhavanga citta, that cannot be perceived (and will apparently go undetected in vipassana), as simply impediments to progress IMO, because they carry with it a sense of continuity. Conversely we must be able to see destruction and ending of every moment (bhanga) to a degree which causes fear (bhaya). If we slip in bhavanga citta in there, the illusion of continuity will be maintained.
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