what happens after death?

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what happens after death?

Postby ciprian » Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:20 pm

My grandmother just died today and I was wondering what happens to the consciousness immediately after death according to Theravada Buddhism. is it floating around searching for a new body like it is said in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And is it possible for the living to assist in some way the dead man to achieve a good rebirth?

:anjali:
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:06 pm

Sympathies and condolences. Hope you're ok.

This thread might point you toward an answer.

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Re: what happens after death?

Postby catmoon » Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:59 pm

Ah, so sad. May you bear the loss lightly.
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby ciprian » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:44 pm

thank you for the sympathy. I guess I am fine. Her death was predictable for she was so weak that life was a burden for her. What I can't figure out yet is that I am not mourning because of The Dhamma, because my past reflections on impermanence, or because I didn't loved her enough.
I found "the great rebirth debate" thread that will probably answer some question, but now I have to go to see my grandma.
Thank you a lot again. :bow:
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby SamKR » Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:52 pm

ciprian wrote:My grandmother just died today and I was wondering what happens to the consciousness immediately after death according to Theravada Buddhism. is it floating around searching for a new body like it is said in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And is it possible for the living to assist in some way the dead man to achieve a good rebirth?

:anjali:


I found this article interesting: What Happens at Death?
http://www.vridhamma.org/en2000-03.aspx
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby cooran » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:23 pm

ciprian wrote:My grandmother just died today and I was wondering what happens to the consciousness immediately after death according to Theravada Buddhism. is it floating around searching for a new body like it is said in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And is it possible for the living to assist in some way the dead man to achieve a good rebirth?

:anjali:


Hello ciprian, all,

I have found this article by Bhikkhu Bodhi on Rebirth to be worth the read:

EXCERPT:
Rebirth without a transmigrating soul
The concept of rebirth without a transmigrating soul commonly raises the question: How can we speak of ourselves as having lived past lives if there is no soul, no single life going through these many lives? To answer this we have to understand the nature of individual identity in a single lifetime. The Buddha explains that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates. The five aggregates fall into two groups. First there is a material process, which is a current of material energy. Then there is a mental process, a current of mental happenings. Both these currents consist of factors that are subject to momentary arising and passing away. The mind is a series of mental acts made up of feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousnes. These mental acts are called in Pali "cittas". Each citta arises, breaks up and passes away. When it breaks up it does not leave any traces behind. It does not have any core or inner essence that remains. But as soon as the citta breaks up, immediately afterwards there arises another citta. Thus we find the mind as a succession of cittas, or series of momentary acts of consciousness.
Now when each citta falls away it transmits to its successor whatever impression has been recorded on itself, whatever experience it has undergone. Its perceptions, emotions and volitional force are passed on to the next citta, and thus all experiences we undergo leave their imprint on the onward flow of consciousness, on the "cittasantana", the continuum of mind. This transmission of influence, this causal continuity, gives us our continued identity. We remain the same person through the whole lifetime because of this continuity.
What continues from one life to another
The physical organism - the body - and the mental process - the stream of cittas - occur in close interconnection. The body provides the physical basis for the stream of cittas and the mental process rests upon the body as its instrument or basis. When death comes, the body can no longer function as the physical support for consciousness. However, when the body breaks up at death, the succession of cittas does not draw to an end. In the mind of the dying person there takes place a final thought - moment called the "death consciousness", which signals the complete end of the life. Then, following the death consciousness, there arises the first citta of the next life which springs up with the newly formed physical organism as its basis. The first citta of the new life continues the stream of consciousness which has passed out of the deceased body. The stream of consciousness is not a single entity, but a process, and the process continues. When the stream of cittas passes on to the next life it carries the storage of impressions along with it.
http://www.theravada.gr/rebirth.html

You may also like to search for articles about the Sharing of Merits with the deceased ~ though this is only applicable to those who are reborn in particular realms.

metta
Chris
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby ciprian » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:10 pm

thank you all very much.
I have read a book about kamma and rebirth and assisting the dying. A lot of things came back into my head while reading Mr. Goenka's article.
you are all so nice and compassionate. thank you again :bow:
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:05 pm

Chris wrote:
ciprian wrote:My grandmother just died today and I was wondering what happens to the consciousness immediately after death according to Theravada Buddhism. is it floating around searching for a new body like it is said in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. And is it possible for the living to assist in some way the dead man to achieve a good rebirth?

:anjali:


Hello ciprian, all,

I have found this article by Bhikkhu Bodhi on Rebirth to be worth the read:

EXCERPT:
Rebirth without a transmigrating soul
The concept of rebirth without a transmigrating soul commonly raises the question: How can we speak of ourselves as having lived past lives if there is no soul, no single life going through these many lives? To answer this we have to understand the nature of individual identity in a single lifetime. The Buddha explains that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates. The five aggregates fall into two groups. First there is a material process, which is a current of material energy. Then there is a mental process, a current of mental happenings. Both these currents consist of factors that are subject to momentary arising and passing away. The mind is a series of mental acts made up of feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousnes. These mental acts are called in Pali "cittas". Each citta arises, breaks up and passes away. When it breaks up it does not leave any traces behind. It does not have any core or inner essence that remains. But as soon as the citta breaks up, immediately afterwards there arises another citta. Thus we find the mind as a succession of cittas, or series of momentary acts of consciousness.
Now when each citta falls away it transmits to its successor whatever impression has been recorded on itself, whatever experience it has undergone. Its perceptions, emotions and volitional force are passed on to the next citta, and thus all experiences we undergo leave their imprint on the onward flow of consciousness, on the "cittasantana", the continuum of mind. This transmission of influence, this causal continuity, gives us our continued identity. We remain the same person through the whole lifetime because of this continuity.
What continues from one life to another
The physical organism - the body - and the mental process - the stream of cittas - occur in close interconnection. The body provides the physical basis for the stream of cittas and the mental process rests upon the body as its instrument or basis. When death comes, the body can no longer function as the physical support for consciousness. However, when the body breaks up at death, the succession of cittas does not draw to an end. In the mind of the dying person there takes place a final thought - moment called the "death consciousness", which signals the complete end of the life. Then, following the death consciousness, there arises the first citta of the next life which springs up with the newly formed physical organism as its basis. The first citta of the new life continues the stream of consciousness which has passed out of the deceased body. The stream of consciousness is not a single entity, but a process, and the process continues. When the stream of cittas passes on to the next life it carries the storage of impressions along with it.
http://www.theravada.gr/rebirth.html

You may also like to search for articles about the Sharing of Merits with the deceased ~ though this is only applicable to those who are reborn in particular realms.

metta
Chris

Why is there a gap in memory resulting from death consciousness? Like all people, I can't remember my previous life or infancy, and I can barely remember early childhood. But I can remember everything after that clearly. When you talk about rebirth-linking consciousness, how is this similar or different from what we might conventionally call "consciousness" or "mind"? Does it include long-term memory and, if so, why the gap between lives?
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Guy » Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:50 pm

Hi Individual,

Individual wrote:why the gap between lives?


I have heard that if we are mindful at the time of death in a previous life we will be able to remember that lifetime in this one. If this is true then it would suggest that most people die unmindfully since most people don't remember.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:48 am

Guy wrote:Hi Individual,

Individual wrote:why the gap between lives?


I have heard that if we are mindful at the time of death in a previous life we will be able to remember that lifetime in this one. If this is true then it would suggest that most people die unmindfully since most people don't remember.

With Metta,

Guy

I understand why people would not remember the conditions of their death; it's a painful experience. When people get into car accidents or are sexually assaulted, they frequently don't remember the event. The mind or brain has a mechanism of blocking out painful thoughts and memories. However, post-traumatic amnesia is rare and there are circumstances more painful than death. And many people die in their sleep, without being aware that they died, so I don't find that explanation very convincing. In this life, memory isn't totally dependent on mindfulness, since we seem to remember things automatically to a degree. What makes death so special?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Guy » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:47 am

Hi Individual,

Individual wrote:In this life, memory isn't totally dependent on mindfulness, since we seem to remember things automatically to a degree. What makes death so special?


I think one of the reasons why "ordinary" (for lack of a better word) experiences are easier for us to remember is because these type of experiences are familiar to us. Its easy for us to conceptualize and categorize an "ordinary" memory in terms of where we were, what we were doing, what time of day it was, etc. because this is what human consciousness and intellect is used to. The other levels of consciousness (where we don't have a human body with it's six senses as a reference point, where the conceptual mind cannot go) are harder for us to put to words or even imagine.

I hope this is clear, I am not sure if I have explained it very well.

I also think that your argument about repressing painful memories is another possible reason. Perhaps a combination of both.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby pegembara » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:42 am

Just thinking , why is it that we can't remember our deaths, births and early childhood? Is it because our brains are not developed until some time during childhood and as such cannot form coherent thoghts yet?

If you read the book by Prof of Psychiatry Dr. Brian Weiss " Many Lifes, Many Masters" it looks like it is possible to remember through hypnosis one's early childhood back towards in utero experiences and finally towards past lifes.

Past life regression psychotherapy seems to be increasingly accepted by hypnotherapists

http://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/sto ... =lifefocus

Knowledge of past lives can help one lead a more virtuous life but does nothing to lead one out of samsara and may even strengthen the sense of self . One still need to sit on a cushion and meditate.
Last edited by pegembara on Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:54 am

Guy wrote:Hi Individual,

Individual wrote:In this life, memory isn't totally dependent on mindfulness, since we seem to remember things automatically to a degree. What makes death so special?


I think one of the reasons why "ordinary" (for lack of a better word) experiences are easier for us to remember is because these type of experiences are familiar to us. Its easy for us to conceptualize and categorize an "ordinary" memory in terms of where we were, what we were doing, what time of day it was, etc. because this is what human consciousness and intellect is used to. The other levels of consciousness (where we don't have a human body with it's six senses as a reference point, where the conceptual mind cannot go) are harder for us to put to words or even imagine.

I hope this is clear, I am not sure if I have explained it very well.

I also think that your argument about repressing painful memories is another possible reason. Perhaps a combination of both.

With Metta,

Guy

This idea of a unique "level of consciousness" after death and before birth, is this a Theravada idea or in the suttas? No matter what the case, I am sympathetic towards it, but seek proof.

pegembara wrote:Just thinking , why is it that we can't remember our deaths, births and early childhood? Is it because our brains are not developed until some time during childhood and as such cannot form coherent thoghts yet?

If you read the book by Prof of Psychiatry Dr. Brian Weiss " Many Lifes, Many Masters" it looks like it is possible to remember through hypnosis one's early childhood back towards in utero experiences and finally towards past lifes.

Past life regression psychotherapy seems to be increasingly accepted by hypnotherapists

http://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/sto ... =lifefocus

Yet mainstream psychologists are skeptical, because it's been shown to be able to create false memories, through creative encouragement of fantasy, like dreaming.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Guy » Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:21 am

Hi Individual,

The Jhanas, as I understand them, would be a different level of consciousness where the human body is no longer a frame of reference. Also heavenly realms, animal realms, ghost realms and hell realms are all going to be vastly different from human conscious experience. These different states are all explained in the Suttas.

As far as I know the Suttas don't back up my theory that one of the reasons why we don't remember is because death is such a different experience to day-to-day human experience. Even though it's not mentioned in the Suttas (as far as I know) this doesn't necessarily make it untrue. But if it is true, since it hasn't been mentioned, it probably just means it's not important to the path. The"Handful of Leaves" Sutta comes to mind.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby pegembara » Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:49 am

"Yet mainstream psychologists are skeptical, because it's been shown to be able to create false memories, through creative encouragement of fantasy, like dreaming"


Precisely.
What are memories real or imagined which are all mental processes which are impermanent and not self? Even our present moment experiences are not self what more "past life" ones.
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:07 am

pegembara wrote:"Yet mainstream psychologists are skeptical, because it's been shown to be able to create false memories, through creative encouragement of fantasy, like dreaming"


Precisely.
What are memories real or imagined which are all mental processes which are impermanent and not self? Even our present moment experiences are not self what more "past life" ones.

There is a difference between what is imagined and what is real. The alien abduction phenomenon is attributed to improper use of regressive hypnosis.
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby pegembara » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:59 am

Chris[/quote]
Why is there a gap in memory resulting from death consciousness? Like all people, I can't remember my previous life or infancy, and I can barely remember early childhood. But I can remember everything after that clearly. When you talk about rebirth-linking consciousness, how is this similar or different from what we might conventionally call "consciousness" or "mind"? Does it include long-term memory and, if so, why the gap between lives?[/quote]

Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives[1] is a 2005 book written by psychiatrist Jim Tucker, which presents an overview of more than 40 years of research at the University of Virginia Division of Personality Studies into children's reports of past life memories. The book also discusses "birthmarks and birth defects that match those of a deceased person who is identified by the child".[2] The foreword to the book is written by Ian Stevenson.[3]
This book challenges the notion that consciousness is only the result of a functioning brain. It suggests that consciousness can be considered separately from the brain, which provides a basis for claims of reincarnation.[2] The book also discusses objections to reincarnation: the paucity of persons who actually claim to remember a past life, the fragility of memories, the population explosion, the mind-body problem, fraud, and others.[3]
Tucker recognizes that none of the cases examined are perfect, and "faulty memory by informants" is seen to be the "best normal explanation for many of the cases" reviewed in the book.[4] Tucker discusses this, referring to several relevant studies which have been done, and argues that there is no support for the conclusion that informants must be remembering statements or events incorrectly.[4]
Tucker basically agrees with Ian Stevenson who said "reincarnation is the best -- even though not the only -- explanation for the stronger cases we have investigated".[5] Tucker recognizes that this may seem to be an "astounding statement" to some readers -- that "memories, emotions and physical injuries can sometimes carry over from one life to the next".[5] However, he argues that this is no more astounding than many currently accepted ideas in physics seemed to be when they were originally proposed.[5]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Before_Life

The Buddha did teach kamma as encompassing more than 1 life

6. "Ananda, there are four kinds of persons existing in the world. What four?

(i) "Here some person kills living beings, takes what is not given, misconducts himself in sexual desires, speaks falsehood, speaks maliciously, speaks harshly, gossips, is covetous, is ill-willed, and has wrong view.4 On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell.

(ii) "But here some person kills living beings... and has wrong view. On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, in the heavenly world.

(iii) "Here some person abstains from killing living beings, from taking what is not given, from misconduct in sexual desires, from false speech, from malicious speech, from harsh speech, from gossip, he is not covetous, is not ill-willed, and has right view.5 On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, in the heavenly world.

(iv) "But here some person abstains from killing living beings... and has right view. On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html


When we say that whatever we do intentionally is Kamma, that whatever we intentionally do leaves an imprint in our stream of consciousness. This imprint no matter how subtle is Never forgotten. This is why when one is under hypnosis, one is able to recall events long "Forgotten", and even past lives.

The stream of consciousness just keeps flowing on, every moment and act contributing further to it and changing it endlessly. Of course wholesome events change it positively!

You recall an event years and years ago despite you having made attempts to forget about it because of this reason. We are the result of all our past actions, good and bad, we are the heirs of our kamma! You may understand now why it is said that kamma no matter how 'latent' will come to fruition when the conditions are right. When the condition for your thought to appear is there, your thought appeared! Dreams included!


Whether one believes in rebirth or not is irrelevant as some of his followers attained arahantship without any knowledge of past lives. Physical interpretation is a matter of faith, as physical realms cannot be known. However, psychological interpretation is not a matter of faith and can be known.
Last edited by pegembara on Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby acinteyyo » Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:04 pm

Chris wrote:I have found this article by Bhikkhu Bodhi on Rebirth to be worth the read:
[...]
The Buddha explains that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates.

The Buddha never explained that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates! Neither are we a functionally unified combination of five aggregates nor we're not a functionally unified combination of five aggregates nor both nor not both.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:
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Re: what happens after death?

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:25 pm

pegembara wrote:Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives[1] is a 2005 book written by psychiatrist Jim Tucker, which presents an overview of more than 40 years of research at the University of Virginia Division of Personality Studies into children's reports of past life memories. The book also discusses "birthmarks and birth defects that match those of a deceased person who is identified by the child".[2] The foreword to the book is written by Ian Stevenson.[3]
This book challenges the notion that consciousness is only the result of a functioning brain. It suggests that consciousness can be considered separately from the brain, which provides a basis for claims of reincarnation.[2] The book also discusses objections to reincarnation: the paucity of persons who actually claim to remember a past life, the fragility of memories, the population explosion, the mind-body problem, fraud, and others.[3]
Tucker recognizes that none of the cases examined are perfect, and "faulty memory by informants" is seen to be the "best normal explanation for many of the cases" reviewed in the book.[4] Tucker discusses this, referring to several relevant studies which have been done, and argues that there is no support for the conclusion that informants must be remembering statements or events incorrectly.[4]
Tucker basically agrees with Ian Stevenson who said "reincarnation is the best -- even though not the only -- explanation for the stronger cases we have investigated".[5] Tucker recognizes that this may seem to be an "astounding statement" to some readers -- that "memories, emotions and physical injuries can sometimes carry over from one life to the next".[5] However, he argues that this is no more astounding than many currently accepted ideas in physics seemed to be when they were originally proposed.[5]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Before_Life

I'm aware of this sort of research and it's pseudoscience. Most scientists don't take it seriously.

pegembara wrote:The Buddha did teach kamma as encompassing more than 1 life

Yet he also refuted eternalism and speculative soul-theories.

acinteyyo wrote:
Chris wrote:I have found this article by Bhikkhu Bodhi on Rebirth to be worth the read:
[...]
The Buddha explains that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates.

The Buddha never explained that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates! Neither are we a functionally unified combination of five aggregates nor we're not a functionally unified combination of five aggregates nor both nor not both.

best wishes, acinteyyo

Ack, I missed that! Thanks for catching it, Acinteyyo.

Bhikkhu Bodhi may have simply been speaking concisely. Stating Buddhist ideas in their full form often sounds too verbose.

If Bodhi were to elaborate, I think he might say, "What we conventionally regard as a self is actually a functionally unified combination of five aggregates."

It is often very easy, though, for people to conflate rebirth with the notion of a reincarnating self. I don't know what happens after death, while I have vague feelings, I have never seen a sufficient account or proof.
The best things in life aren't things.

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