Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

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Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:22 am

Maybe worth a look:
http://www.time.com/time/health/article ... 36,00.html

Is there life after death? Theologians can debate all they want, but radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long argues that if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. Drawing on a decade's worth of research on near-death experiences — work that includes cataloguing the stories of some 1,600 people who have gone through them — he makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife. Medicine, Long says, cannot account for the consistencies in the accounts reported by people all over the world. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience, the intersection between religion and science and the Oprah effect.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article ... z0dUao0hYV

Sometimes, as Buddhists, we get easily stuck in arguing finer points about rebirth - how can it happen without a soul?
Or, arguing against other religious perspectives - have the Christians got it right? How does it fit with Dharma?

But often I think, in the modern world, the view gaining most ground is materialist annihilism - nothing at all after death.
From a Dharma point of view, that is a really pernicious nasty wrong view, leading to a lot of dukkha.
In comparison, even the rather misplaced ideas of the next life proposed by Christianity and other religions, are preferable.
Any serious discussion in society about the truth or validity of these views is something worth looking into.
Particularly where intelligent and qualified persons, in fields outside religion such as the sciences, medicine, etc. can provide insight.

If it's true, then it should be there for all to see, well, those who seriously look into the matter, at least.

A couple of good sites on this, with a scientific perspective:
http://www.nderf.org/
http://www.iands.org/
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Guy » Sun Jan 24, 2010 4:49 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Sometimes, as Buddhists, we get easily stuck in arguing finer points about rebirth - how can it happen without a soul?
Or, arguing against other religious perspectives - have the Christians got it right? How does it fit with Dharma?

But often I think, in the modern world, the view gaining most ground is materialist annihilism - nothing at all after death.
From a Dharma point of view, that is a really pernicious nasty wrong view, leading to a lot of dukkha.
In comparison, even the rather misplaced ideas of the next life proposed by Christianity and other religions, are preferable.
Any serious discussion in society about the truth or validity of these views is something worth looking into.
Particularly where intelligent and qualified persons, in fields outside religion such as the sciences, medicine, etc. can provide insight.

If it's true, then it should be there for all to see, well, those who seriously look into the matter, at least.


Well said Venerable and thanks for the links!
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:06 am

Venerable,

I'm wondering how NDEs fit into a Theravada perspective. My understanding was that Theravada doesn't posit an intermediate state between one life and the next (though please educate me if I'm wrong about this!!!).

Also, if there is an intermediate state, what is its nature? Is it a kind of formless state, or does a subtle body arise?

While I don't doubt the Buddha rejected materialism, it seems to me that rebirth per se does not necessarily tell us anything about the mind-body relationship. Indeed, isn't there a sutta somewhere which has consciousness being conditioned by nama-rupa, as well as the other way around?
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby cooran » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:10 am

Hello Lazy-eye, all,

What is a bardo except an immediate rebirth into a short-lived state?

See this response on SanghaOnline from a Theravada Bhikkkhu, Ven.Nagasena:

Antarabhava or immediate rebirth ?

The concept of Antarabhava has been a controversial issue over millennias between Mahayana and Theravada. Both arguments are rather philosophical than that of empirical reality. Even though some suttas mentioned about the process of rebirth e.g Maha Nidana sutta, patticcasamuppada Samyutta and so on, i personally cannot find any detailed or distinctive account of Anantarabhava or Antarabhava either pro or against it, especially from early Nikaya sources. However, in terms of Abhidhamma, no intermediate state of life is found when a person passed away. Life is spontaneous without a gap in between. Otherwise,Buddhism can be soul oriented being. However, there are realms of spirits to which a life can temporarily be born such as peta or Asura etc. To such life, Mahayana from my view, Tibetan Buddhism is said to have claimed as a Antara period. They even specify the days of Anantara (49), which are likely to be definite state, of a being who passed away, remained unavoidable. In Tibetan language, it is called the state of Bardo. This concept is one of the very popurlar acceptances in the west now, especially in the tranformation of Bodhi Citta and Rebirth.

On the other hand, there are a number of Therava practices we can see over the death. This practice normally performs within seven days Dana followed by monthly or yearly Dana in the memory of the dead person. If the dead person has Ananatarabhava, there is no reason to perform such ceremony because he has already and immediately born to different states of life in regard with his or her Kamma.

From my view, this concept should be understood in terms of middle way, the way of four noble truths and dependent origination. That is not only to understand, but also to experience before you conclude the concept. You can do it when the practice with four noble truhs are improved such as without a cause, no effect can arise. What i mean is that you should leave it to the law of dependent origination to justify the answer: ''When this (y) is presents, that (x) comes to be, from the arising of this (y), that (x) arises; when this (y) is absent, that (x) does not come to be, on the cessation of this (y), that (x) ceases".

Even though we dont know it in an empirical fact, there is no Antarabhava in Theravada Buddhism, but if you know this theory, the firm denial or acceptance is, from my point of view, not necessary. It should keep open to the condition of cause and effect. Remember the Buddha's statement to Ananda: Consciousness is like a seed, craving is like a moisture and Kamma is like a field. A seed cannot plant without a moisture place of a field. This means that Vinnyana cannot go beyound the Kamma and Tanha. Moreover, both Kamma and Tanha is an individual momentun. One thing I would like to add here is that Kamma operates under the law of Samkhara - both condition of internal and external elements. When these conditioned factors are favourable, Vinnyana can be born at anywhere conditioned appropriately. Whether or not there is a gap, it is matter of philosophical and individual argument but is not univrsally and impirically verified. So leave it open to the middle way of thinking and work with dependent origination, with four noble truths and law of the nature. You would not get lost.

Nagasena Bhikkhu
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SanghaOnline/message/911

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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Kenshou » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:11 am

It's interesting to think about. That article pointed out something I hadn't thought about before on this subject:

If these people have no brain function, like you have in a cardiac arrest, I think that is the best, closest model we're going to have to study whether or not conscious experience can occur apart from the physical brain. The research shows the overwhelming answer is absolutely yes.


If they are able to indeed show that the experiences of these people occurred at a time when no brain function was apparent, that would strike me as a big deal. Though, I don't know if there are certain known limitations on our current brain-activity monitoring technology or anything like that that might be able to account for that discrepancy. Though, if the experiences are that vivid and precise, I would think that they would under normal circumstances register a normal amount of brain activity that there would be no problems in detecting. I don't know enough about those subjects to say though, just some thoughts.

I'm wondering how NDEs fit into a Theravada perspective. My understanding was that Theravada doesn't posit an intermediate state between one life and the next (though please educate me if I'm wrong about this!!!).

Also, if there is an intermediate state, what is its nature? Is it a kind of formless state, or does a subtle body arise?


I don't know how this fits in with NDE's in real life, but what you said there brought this sutta to mind: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"But, Master Gotama, at the moment a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, what do you designate as its sustenance then?"

"Vaccha, when a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, I designate it as wind-sustained, for the wind is its sustenance at that time."

"And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, what do you designate as its sustenance then?"

"Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time."


Though Theravada doesn't posit some intermediate state anything like the Bardo of the Tibetans, it seems to me that at least -some- sort of subtle intermediate state would be required, even if it is so short that it may as well be called immediate, as the Theravada position seems to be. This sutta is saying that after death, the sustenance of the "flame" that allows the cycle to continue is craving, and as we all know that underlying craving is the cause of further births. So, perhaps during that small intermediary period, the subjective world of that being is reduced to nothing -but- that residual craving which lets the cycle start up again, somehow.

However as far as I know NDE's tend to seem more lucid and similar to OBE's, though I haven't read the actual studies yet so I dunno. I suppose if people made it to that hypothetical subtle state they would already be too far gone to report it, and probably unable to anyway if they did make it back, considering the nature of it.

Who the hell knows, eh? It's fun to think about though.
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 25, 2010 4:21 am

Hi Venerable
Paññāsikhara wrote:A couple of good sites on this, with a scientific perspective:
http://www.nderf.org/
http://www.iands.org/

Thanks for opening this very interesting discussion. I thought the Time articles were interesting and I had a look at some of the material on Long's website. One of the things that concern me greatly is the quality of Long's research and whether research of this type is driven by the theological position of the sponsors and/or researchers. What I am getting from Jeff Long's site is that he is informed by fundamentalist christianity yet no reference to it is actually found on the site.
A couple of other issues relating to authority and credibility:
--In one article by Jody Long, 7 out of 11 references were by the same author, and
--the articles are 'published' on the author's own website rather than a peer-reviewed academic journal.

But often I think, in the modern world, the view gaining most ground is materialist annihilism - nothing at all after death.
From a Dharma point of view, that is a really pernicious nasty wrong view, leading to a lot of dukkha.


I couldn't agree with you more about materialist annihilism being a deeply pernicious view, but I tend to believe that it is no worse than eternalistic theism.
metta

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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:03 am

what i dont understand is how a near death experience tells us anything about what happens after death. these people obviously didnt die, they didnt experience death or what happens after, rather they just experienced a rather traumatic event in and of life.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby dspiewak » Mon Jan 25, 2010 4:49 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:what i dont understand is how a near death experience tells us anything about what happens after death. these people obviously didnt die, they didnt experience death or what happens after, rather they just experienced a rather traumatic event in and of life.

I think that point of view has an unnecessary duality, and as it turns out is not reflective of the experience of death as researchers have come to know it. If you've been in the presence of a dying person, you can see that the notion that one is alive, and then crosses an infinitely thin boundary after which one is suddenly dead, is not how it really is.

Death is actually a slow process that consists of many parts. We have a cultural tendency to arbitrarily define the lack of a strong, regular heartbeat as the point when we do not consider a person alive any longer. However, we also have a tendency to take it reflexively and assume that the end of a regular heartbeat is the "moment" of death. The truth is that there is no "moment" of death at all. Several things happen - the brain activity changes and eventually grows quiet, the heartbeat becomes inconsistent and weak, and the chemical processes of life slow to a stop. New chemical processes start that begin the process of cell necrosis. There have been people in whom living function has been restored at several points in this process, but of course it becomes more difficult to resume living function the further you go along that path.

Even walking through a doorway is not instant. It is a process that happens along a gradient. If we all must eventually walk through the door, is it not interesting to hear from people who have opened the door and then been pulled back?
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:12 pm

but i cant see any reason to assume they have in fact died, as in dead, like in the same way james dean is dead, now if james dean woke up and decided to tell us what had been happening since the car wreck i'd listen, but or even if someone had been dead say a day at the least, but some bleeps and bloops on a machine while youre on the operating table isnt convincing to me. and hasnt it been shown that if you screw with certain parts of the brain you can recreate the NDE?
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby kayy » Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:26 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Maybe worth a look:
http://www.time.com/time/health/article ... 36,00.html

Is there life after death? Theologians can debate all they want, but radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long argues that if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. Drawing on a decade's worth of research on near-death experiences — work that includes cataloguing the stories of some 1,600 people who have gone through them — he makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife. Medicine, Long says, cannot account for the consistencies in the accounts reported by people all over the world. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience, the intersection between religion and science and the Oprah effect.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article ... z0dUao0hYV

Sometimes, as Buddhists, we get easily stuck in arguing finer points about rebirth - how can it happen without a soul?
Or, arguing against other religious perspectives - have the Christians got it right? How does it fit with Dharma?

But often I think, in the modern world, the view gaining most ground is materialist annihilism - nothing at all after death.
From a Dharma point of view, that is a really pernicious nasty wrong view, leading to a lot of dukkha.
In comparison, even the rather misplaced ideas of the next life proposed by Christianity and other religions, are preferable.
Any serious discussion in society about the truth or validity of these views is something worth looking into.
Particularly where intelligent and qualified persons, in fields outside religion such as the sciences, medicine, etc. can provide insight.

If it's true, then it should be there for all to see, well, those who seriously look into the matter, at least.

A couple of good sites on this, with a scientific perspective:
http://www.nderf.org/
http://www.iands.org/



I don't know about this.

As regards the scientific studies and so on done on people who have experience NDEs, it's very interesting but an NDE is not death. One of the other posters on this thread made a nice comparison with going through a door. Sure - it's perhaps as close to death as we can get whilst still being able to come back from the brink... but it's NOT death. It's, what, a few seconds or a few minutes of an experience, and I don't see how we can compare it to death as we can't speak to any dead people to confirm that this is really what death is like.

But more importantly, IMHO: does it even matter? In the stuff I just read online (from the links you guys posted) there doesn't seem to be anything very useful about what happens when we actually die: are we re-born? Do we go to heaven? Do we just hang around for a bit then go somewhere else? I know Buddhism and other schools of thought / religions have views on this, but as we're talking here from a modern scientific perspective, there isn't anything in that field to show us what happens after death.

I would say that as Buddhists, we get caught up and stuck in arguing finer points of life and death: such as, is there life after death? Personally speaking, I just don't know. I don't mean that I don't care. I think about it a lot and I would love to know! But I really, honestly don't know. And I'm not sure I'll ever know unless I get to ask a dead person.

Do you really know?
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:48 am

Actually, from a modern medical perspective, a proper NDE is death, in that the person is clinically dead for a period of time - minutes to hours to even days - with no pulse, huge drop of blood pressure, often no brain signal (if hooked up to appropriate machine), and then becomes clinically alive again. So, may be best to define what is meant by "dead" if one wishes to argue that NDEs are not death.
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:46 am

Greetings bhante,

Paññāsikhara wrote:So, may be best to define what is meant by "dead" if one wishes to argue that NDEs are not death.

Indeed. As Bhikkhu Ñanananda stated in his 24th Nibbana Sermon... "All concepts of 'going', 'coming', 'being born', 'growing old' and 'dying' are to be found in the prolific. They simply do not exist in the nonprolific."

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:12 am

is that your facebook quote or something, cause i swear i just read that somewhere else
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:28 am

Greetings JC,

jcsuperstar wrote:is that your facebook quote or something, cause i swear i just read that somewhere else


It's my Dhamma Wheel signature, as sourced from Nibbana Sermon 24.

Bhikkhu Ñanananda is cool 8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby cooran » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:55 am

Hello all,

I'm only posting this because it's in the Lounge Forum. Honest!

There are klingons off the starboard bow! It's worse than that, he's dead Jim!
It's life Jim but not as we know it, not as we know it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCARADb9asE

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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:40 pm

Since the term "death" raises various problems, perhaps a more exact way of formulating the question would be "do NDEs suggest/show that consciousness can continue without a physical base"?

Otherwise it would be easy to get caught up in a game of definitions.

A strong answer ("shows" rather than "suggests") would require us to exclude any possibility of a physical explanation. Is that the case here? There may be much about the brain we don't yet understand, and our observations could be faulty.
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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby parth » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:28 pm

Could it be that what is referred to as a stage of after life is one of the 32 bhumis is outlined by the Buddha ? since anyways nobody stays in afterlife forever. But don't know for sure since my experience of vipassana tells me that there actually nano second to nano second death and living so the process of death should be similar.

But this probably is one of the greatest mysteries. Would want to read some good books on afterlife if somebody suggests. This mystery otherwise I guess can get resolved only at the stage of sakdagami since along with this 2nd experience of nibbana one also gets past life memories.

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Re: Time: Q&A: Is there life after death?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:12 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Since the term "death" raises various problems, perhaps a more exact way of formulating the question would be "do NDEs suggest/show that consciousness can continue without a physical base"?


The problem is that NDE's are near death experience. The body has not actually died. Memories of OOBE's might have been physically got when the body was temporary in coma, or when the body has restarted.

Did anyone return after real death of the body and tell scientists "I am ok!". Were such cases ever reported and confirmed?
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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