Memory Loss

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Memory Loss

Postby clw_uk » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:54 pm

Is there a Buddhist or Theravadin position reguarding this point


If say you practice for 50 years but then lose your memory because of an accident, do you lose all your insights that you had so basically you have to start from scratch again or no?
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby thecap » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:58 pm

One would have lived 50 insightful years. :anjali:
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:55 am

Hi Craig,

clw_uk wrote:If say you practice for 50 years but then lose your memory because of an accident, do you lose all your insights that you had so basically you have to start from scratch again or no?


If by "insights" you mean vipassana knowledges attained, then no. These accumulate in the mental continuum and are never lost, even if one has to wait for some future life for them to be "reactivated".

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Re: Memory Loss

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:05 am

When I was reborn I lost all memory of my previous lives. I guess I must have done some practice before to get the opportunity to meet the Buddhasāsana, although I was born in a non-Buddhist country without any Buddhists in my family or among my childhood friends.
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby appicchato » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:24 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:When I was reborn I lost all memory of my previous lives. I guess I must have done some practice before to get the opportunity to meet the Buddhasāsana, although I was born in a non-Buddhist country without any Buddhists in my family or among my childhood friends.

Same here... :smile:
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby Mawkish1983 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:39 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:When I was reborn I lost all memory of my previous lives. I guess I must have done some practice before to get the opportunity to meet the Buddhasāsana, although I was born in a non-Buddhist country without any Buddhists in my family or among my childhood friends.

Me too (and I learned a new Pali word :) thanks)
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:26 pm

Dhammanando wrote:If by "insights" you mean vipassana knowledges attained, then no. These accumulate in the mental continuum and are never lost, even if one has to wait for some future life for them to be "reactivated".

This is good to know. Some other traditions place great emphasis on the last thought moment as if nothing else you did in your life matters.

Also, about 2 out of every 3 people over 80 will get Alzheimer's, so in case any of us get that we 'keep' any insights gleaned.
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby Annapurna » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:25 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
Dhammanando wrote:If by "insights" you mean vipassana knowledges attained, then no. These accumulate in the mental continuum and are never lost, even if one has to wait for some future life for them to be "reactivated".

This is good to know. Some other traditions place great emphasis on the last thought moment as if nothing else you did in your life matters.

Also, about 2 out of every 3 people over 80 will get Alzheimer's, so in case any of us get that we 'keep' any insights gleaned.


Yes.

Some other traditions place great emphasis on the last thought moment as if nothing else you did in your life matters.


And which are those?
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:35 pm

Annabel wrote:And which are those?

Some of the Vajrayana schools.
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby SeerObserver » Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:34 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
Annabel wrote:And which are those?

Some of the Vajrayana schools.

I'm not too familiar with these schools, but am aware of some teachings on final mind states. How do these schools you refer to actually emphasize these final mind states as rebirth factors?

An overall virtuous person may be reborn in to a less than favorable condition because of a deluded mind state at the time of death. But their meritorious karma should cause that existence (in hell for example) to end quickly and they would "die" out of that state and be reborn into more favorable conditions. It would also then be the case with a non-virtuous person. Towards the end they may have a clear and more virtuous state of mind (finding god in prison?), and any favorable rebirth they had would certainly be relatively short-lived. Things like this happen all the time.

Being born human is a privilege earned in that it is among the more conducive (arguably the most conducive) states to be born in to pursue the path. However some humans do not live long enough to be able to take advantage of that state, and some who do live long enough never find the means to pursue the path. So it would follow that final mind-states are a factor in causation of the subsequent rebirth, but not an end-all by any means.
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby cooran » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:21 am

Annabel wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Dhammanando wrote:If by "insights" you mean vipassana knowledges attained, then no. These accumulate in the mental continuum and are never lost, even if one has to wait for some future life for them to be "reactivated".

This is good to know. Some other traditions place great emphasis on the last thought moment as if nothing else you did in your life matters.

Also, about 2 out of every 3 people over 80 will get Alzheimer's, so in case any of us get that we 'keep' any insights gleaned.


Yes.

Some other traditions place great emphasis on the last thought moment as if nothing else you did in your life matters.


And which are those?


It is important in the Theravada Tradition:

Death-proximate Kamma
The realm where rebirth takes place depends only on the last moment of consciousness at death, but this last moment is conditioned by actions and thoughts done when death is near. So the Buddhist tradition is to encourage dying persons by reminding them of good deeds they have done. Children should try to be equanimous — if they weep or cling to their dying parents this may lead to unwholesome mental states and unfortunate rebirth. The importance of the final moments is clearly illustrated by the following true story from the time of the Buddha.

A large gang of robbers was caught by Buddhists who offered to spare the life of any one of them who would execute all the others. The robber chief, Tambadāthika, volunteered to do this, executed all his former comrades, and remained in public service as the executioner until his old age. On the day that he was due to die, the executioner met Venerable Sāriputta, the chief disciple of the Buddha, and offered his own meal to him. Venerable Sāriputta tried to teach the executioner, but he could not listen attentively due to remorse over his many evil deeds. Venerable Sāriputta then asked him if he had wanted to kill all the people that he had executed. He replied that he had only done what he had to do. This put his mind at rest so that he could pay attention to Venerable Sāriputta’s teaching. By meditating effectively as instructed, the executioner attained a deep stage of insight knowledge close to his death, and when he died he was reborn in a heavenly realm. (see Dhamapada v 100)

This shows how important present actions are, compared to past kammas. Even in the midst of doing evil deeds it is possible to have wholesome thoughts such as, “This action that I am doing is very shameful and is liable to lead to evil consequences.” Conversely, while doing a good deed we can have many unwholesome thoughts such as, “I am a very kind and generous person who only thinks about the benefit of others.” The law of kamma is very profound. To predict the results of a given kamma is only within the understanding of a Buddha or someone like him. Nevertheless, we can easily understand that it is vital to cultivate wholesome thoughts, speech, and deeds at every opportunity. We do not need to cultivate unwholesome thoughts, since they grow like weeds without any encouragement. To purify the mind through meditation is crucial, and to straighten out wrong views we must study the Dhamma thoroughly.
http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/Reb ... birth.html

metta
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:19 am

Chris wrote: (see Dhamapada v 100)

Hi Chris,

That is from the Dhammapada commentaries, correct? I have heard that there are no direct teachings on last thought moments in the Canon itself and that they are in the commentaries. Do you know of any direct teachings from the Canon (not counting the Milindapanha)? I like the MIlindapanha, but know that most Theravadins (outside of Burma) don't include it as Canon.
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Re: Memory Loss

Postby cooran » Sat Mar 14, 2009 4:45 am

Hello TheDhamma, all,

I'll leave it to our Bhikkhus t comment further on the reliability of the source. As it was a quote from Bhikkhu Pesala's writings, perhaps he will see this thread and give us the benefit of his understanding.

I think the influence by the last moment of consciousness on the next rebirth follows what is taught in Conditionallity, Paticcasamupadda (Dependent Arising).

Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda teaches:
"from the Buddhist perspective, death is not the end and each birth too is not the beginning of a life. In fact death is the beginning of life and conversely birth is the ending of life. It is just one part of a whole process, a whole cyclic process of birth, death, rebirth and dying again. If one has some understanding of this on-going process, death begins to lose its ability to create morbid terror, because it is not so final after all. T is only the end of a cycle; just one cycle along the way and then the way continues a infinitum with other cycles. The leaves fall off the trees, but it is not the end. They go back to the soil and nourish the roots; next year the tree has new leaves. The same can be said of human life. Conditioned by the moment of death is rebirth. An understanding of this basic principle helps to relieve ourselves of the fear about death."
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... ertain.htm

metta
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