Dependent Origination, by Ajahn Brahm

This is specifically to counter materialism philosophy, which believe that when the brain dies, the mind dies, nothing after death, no possibility of rebirth or any afterlife.

There’s rebirth mentioned in super a lot of suttas, so by that alone, you can get the thing you asked for.

Hello and welcome to the forum!
The question you are asking is deep and requires a good grasp of Dependent origination as well as an experiential acquaintance with jhana.

The Buddha described his own investigation and understanding of the relationship between Consciousness and the underlying physical processes of Name and Form (mental processing supported by the body) as

SN12.65
This consciousness turns back from name and form, and doesn’t go beyond that. 3.3This is the extent to which one may be reborn, grow old, die, pass away, or reappear. That is: name and form are conditions for consciousness. 3.4Consciousness is a condition for name and form.

and

SN12.64
If there is desire, relishing, and craving for solid food, consciousness becomes established there and grows. 2.2Where consciousness is established and grows, name and form are conceived. 2.3Where name and form are conceived, there is the growth of choices. 2.4Where choices grow, there is rebirth into a new state of existence in the future.

Suppose an artist or painter had some dye, red lac, turmeric, indigo, or rose madder. And on a polished plank or a wall or a canvas they’d create the image of a woman or a man, complete in all its various parts.

4.2In the same way, if there is desire, relishing, and craving for solid food, consciousness becomes established there and grows.

How then does consciousness keep re-arising? It is because name and form keep re-arising in a linked manner. The next consciousness and name/form which rearises after the breakup of the previous one is not exactly the same, nor is it completely different.

T1670b
The king asked, “When a person dies, and he is reborn in a good or in a bad realm, does the body and spirit remain the same as the old one or become another?”

Nāgasena replied, “It is neither the same old body and spirit, nor is it apart from the old one.”

:slightly_smiling_face:

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Another sutta that addresses this would be SN 44.9:

I declare, Vaccha, rebirth for one with fuel, not for one without fuel. Just as a fire burns with fuel, but not without fuel, so, Vaccha, I declare rebirth for one with fuel, not for one without fuel.”

“Master Gotama, when a flame is flung by the wind and goes some distance, what does Master Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”

“When, Vaccha, a flame is flung by the wind and goes some distance, I declare that it is fuelled by the wind. For on that occasion the wind is its fuel.”

“And, Master Gotama, when a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, what does Master Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”

“When, Vaccha, a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, I declare that it is fuelled by craving. For on that occasion craving is its fuel.

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Here a two references that point to consciousness being independent of the body. To get the most out of these excerpts, it’s best to read the entire suttas to establish context.

DN 55
‘Consciousness is a condition for name and form’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. If consciousness were not conceived in the mother’s womb, would name and form coagulate there?”
“No, sir.”
“If consciousness, after being conceived in the mother’s womb, were to be miscarried, would name and form be born into this state of existence?”
“No, sir.”
“If the consciousness of a young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name and form achieve growth, increase, and maturity?”
“No, sir.”
“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of name and form, namely consciousness.
‘Name and form are conditions for consciousness’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. If consciousness were not to become established in name and form, would the coming to be of the origin of suffering—of rebirth, old age, and death in the future—be found?”
“No, sir.”
“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of consciousness, namely name and form. This is the extent to which one may be reborn, grow old, die, pass away, or reappear. This is how far the scope of language, terminology, and description extends; how far the sphere of wisdom extends; how far the cycle of rebirths proceeds so that this state of existence is to be found; namely, name and form together with consciousness.

MN 43
“How many things must this body lose before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log?”
“This body must lose three things before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log: vitality, warmth, and consciousness.”

Also, you might want to get a copy of Bhikkhu Analayo’s book “Rebirth in Early Buddhism & Current Research”. The first chapter eloquently and concisely defines the basic aspects Dependent Origination.

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For the first one, you need go no further than the standard jhāna formula (pericope) where you find the following phrase:

vivicceva kāmehi

This can best be rendered as “fully separated from the five senses”, which of course includes the body.

As for moving through death, the following is instructive:

Purisassa ca viññāṇasotaṃ pajānāti, ubhayato abbocchinnaṃ idha loke patiṭṭhitañca paraloke patiṭṭhitañca. (DN 28)

“You understand a person’s stream of consciousness, established in this world and the next, continuous on both sides.”

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Thanks so much to everyone for your helpful messages. I originally created separate replies to a few individual users, but the site suggested that I combine them, so I’m folding everything together in this message.

@faujidoc1:
Thank you so much for the kind welcome. I had not encountered the passage from the Nāgasena Bhikṣu Sūtra, and I found it quite interesting. If you’re willing to offer a few more thoughts, I do have one follow up question:

The passage you cited from SN12.65 indicates that name and form are dependent of consciousness, but also that consciousness is dependent on name and form. This makes clear that consciousness is different from name and form, but it also seems to cut against the notion that it is independent of name and form. If it is true that “When name and form don’t exist, there is no consciousness. When name and form cease, consciousness ceases,” that seems almost by definition to mean that consciousness is not independent of name and form. Connecting this line of thought to my original question above: If name and form have something to do with the body (which may be an incorrect assumption?), then this suggests that consciousness depends on the body, rather than being independent of it. Do you have thoughts on this reading, or additional suttas to suggest that might clarify the point?

@Adutiya
I replied just above to @faujidoc1 with a question that I think also applies to the quote you offered from MN15 (am I correct that you meant 15, not 55?). If you have any thoughts on that point, I’d of course be grateful.

Regarding the quote you offered from MN43 (and thank you for suggesting that sutta), to my eyes the statement that “This body must lose three things before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log: vitality, warmth, and consciousness" could just as easily be read to suggest that consciousness is a quality of the body, and therefore not independent of it. Are you able to say more about why you are reading this passage as justifying the independence of consciousness from the body, rather than their interrelation?

In any case, I had wondered in the past about trying to get a copy of Bhikkhu Analayo’s book on rebirth, and you have convinced me that I should do that now!

@Brahmali
Thank you so much for your reply, Ajahn. That reference to DN28 is extremely helpful. If you are willing to say a little more, I have one question about your explanation of the “fully separated from the five senses” quotation from the jhāna formula. In the past, I have always interpreted that statement as referring to the “object” of consciousness, i.e. that no sight-consciousness, sound-consciousness, etc. arise. I haven’t seen it as saying anything about the “conditions” of consciousness, such as whether or not consciousness depends on the body. But it sounds like you are reading it that way, i.e. to mean that consciousness in jhāna is not only not directed towards the body, but also that consciousness is in no way dependent on the body? If I’m understanding you correctly, are you able to say a bit about why that more expansive reading seems right to you, and/or where else in the suttas it’s elaborated?

Thank you so much again to everyone!

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IMO, one must think of Consciousness and Name/Form not as entities but rather as mutually interdependent processes occurring within the inter linked non trivially recurrent cyclic process of Dependent Origination - they are fuelled by craving. Processes can cease, but they can also restart so long as there is fuel and the appropriate conditions reappear. Though the process of Consciousness runs on the nominal shell of what superficially appears to be a unique entity viz the body, it is not restricted to it… the body and its sense bases represent appropriate conditions true, but the body itself is not the fuel. Hence, even when this particular body is no longer operative, the processes of Consciousness and Name/Form do not go out of existence- the fuel of craving is not yet over. Instead, they re-establish on the basis of another suitable body (See the analogy of the spark going from one bonfire to another in SN44.9 posted by Christopher above).

Another way to understand the independence of the mind from the body, using modern analogies is by means of a thought experiment I described here.

:slightly_smiling_face:

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The quote is from Digha Nikaya 55.

Regarding the quote from MN 43, here is the key:

“The life forces are not the same things as the phenomena that are felt. For if the life forces and the phenomena that are felt were the same things, a mendicant who had attained the cessation of perception and feeling would not emerge from it. But because the life forces and the phenomena that are felt are different things, a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling can emerge from it.”

“How many things must this body lose before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log?”

“This body must lose three things before it lies forsaken, tossed aside like an insentient log: vitality, warmth, and consciousness.”

“What’s the difference between someone who has passed away and a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling?”

“When someone dies, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled; their vitality is spent; their warmth is dissipated; and their faculties have disintegrated. When a mendicant has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled. But their vitality is not spent; their warmth is not dissipated; and their faculties are very clear. That’s the difference between someone who has passed away and a mendicant who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.”

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Well yes, this is a bit tricky. First of all, it’s not just that consciousness is not directed towards the body. In jhāna you can no longer access the body, and so you have to give up the body in much more fundamental sense. In fact, this is one of the reasons accessing jhāna can feel scary, because it seems as if you are leaving your body behind. By giving up access to something, you are giving up ownership of that thing. Giving up ownership is equivalent to seeing the nonself nature of the body.

Is it possible to draw a definitive conclusion on this basis that consciousness can exist independent of the body? Perhaps not. But the intuition is that it is so. It certainly is a powerful pointer in that direction.

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Thanks so much for your responses, @faujidoc1, @Adutiya, and Ajahn @Brahmali - I really appreciate it.

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