What happens after death?



Before dying, one’s life is expressed by the working of Body and Mind.  The Mind of the individual has various levels of depth.  The Buddhist view of the various levels of mind (Nine Consciousnesses) can be simplified here to the following model of three fields of mind:


  1. -   Awareness about the world (the 5 senses and thinking),

  2. -   Consciousness about the self, (the Mano level of mind), and 

  3. -   Subconsciousness (the Alaya, or storehouse of tendencies).


The contents of our Awareness and Consciousness - depend on the working of the body, and when the body dies, those two fields of mind disintegrate and vanish. 


The Subconsciousness level, however, is not conditioned by the body.  It is a mental energy of the essence of one’s actions between birth and death - the energy of one’s Karma.  Karma is the  mental power which keeps driving one’s behaviour, until the moment of death, when it becomes inactive, frozen in the field of death.  This means that at death the energy of karma turns into a latent (or potential) energy:


        “The Alaya [subconsciousness] is sometimes called “non-vanishing”

        because the karmic seeds stored within it do not disappear at death. 

        Our individual lives are accompanied into latency by all the effects of our karma”.

                                                                                                (Ikeda, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death p.160)


Because the field of death is beyond time and space, it is not possible then to measure the time of how long the inactive karma remains frozen as a potential (until it gets reactivated again).  It becomes reactivated by attraction to a sexual encounter of parents-to-be, who are the most suitable for the essence of this karma , and most convenient for its latent energy to connect with. 


When the frozen (in the field of death) mental energy gets attracted by a union of male and female - who have similar or matching Karma, then the moment of conception takes place - as the beginning of a new Rebirth. 


At conception, there are three factors at work: father, mother and child.   Part of what determines our life-situation at rebirth is related to father and mother’s DNA, and the other part is related to the Karma of past life stored in the child’s subconsciousness ( the Alaya):


         “ ... the elements that will determine our life-condition after death

            remain within the Alaya Consciousness” (Ikeda, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, p.160).


This dramatic scenario of Rebirth explains that, when a child is not a replica (or reincarnation) of the past, but a completely new and unique life.  The “specific personality” of a previous life has fulfilled its role has vanished at death.


For a newborn child, the only common link between past life and next life is the tendencies and attractions stored in the child subconsciousness (which were kept frozen during death).  Through growth and development, the individual’s karmic tendencies can be changed (through one’s actions). The record of karma, which drives one to actions, is a continual “work in progress”.


Rebirth allows for the possibility to change one’s karma.  On the other hand, the concept of  Reincarnation (based on believing in a “soul”) - does not allow for any change towards freedom from the past, because a soul is considered as being fixed; it cannot be changed or replaced by another soul.  Reincarnation of the soul then implies imprisonment of the life of the individual in the same fixed soul of the past.  According to Buddhism, the origin of the myth of Reincarnation is the ego-self  of the individual, the ego which does not accept that the currently living person is not eternal, hence invents the concept of a fixed soul (which repeats itself forever).


In summary:

                    Rebirth implies lack of limitations to past social status, gender, ethnic or racial

                    background.  A white person may be born black, a male may be born a female,

                    and a highly positioned politician or priest may be brom an ordinary person. 

                    Only the inner subconscious tendencies - or mental attractions    

                    and motivations - of a newborn are similar to what was created in the past. 

                    But because tendencies can be transformed and changed, then Rebirth enables

                    the possibility of complete freedom from the past both in physical and mental

                    aspects of the individual.


Source: (*) Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, D. Ikeda, second edition 2003, ISBN 978-0-9723267-0-4


The newly acquired karma at Rebirth

Most schools in Mahayana Buddhism teach that one’s birth is dictated by one’s past lives and their accumulated karma.  This heavy focus on the past, however, is taught in the Hindu-Tibetan concept of Reincarnation, while the teaching of Rebirth allows for a more  realistic and flexible perspective on what affects the newly born life of a child.

Nichiren Buddhism’s perspective is that one’s karma at birth is a combination of three factors, and not solely the effect of a past life.  The components that create one’s karma at birth are:

1/ one’s past lives karmic tendencies,

2/ parent’s karma (visible in one’s acquired DNA) and,

3/ the karma of the place of birth (or society).

As P. Ikeda explains:

          Western science generally considers the spermatozoon and ovum the sole essentials for conception, maintaining that only fertilisation of the female gamete is an necessary prerequisite. 

By contrast, the Buddhist view is that not only the spermatozoon and ovum but also life itself with karma that matches the conditions of conception, heredity, family, and social conditions into which the life will be born - are each necessary for human life to come into being and develop.

              Conception [and birth] results from the union of all three”.

Daisaku Ikeda, page 23, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, ISBN: 978-0-9723267-0-4

This explanation clarifies the view that we share the karma of our family and society (ethnicity, race) in addition to our own individual tendencies created in past life.

______________________________________________


Author: Safwan Darshams


                                         Nichiren Teachings on Karma


                                               Transforming Karma

        

                                                   Ikeda on Karma

                

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