The mind still works after you're dead, say scientists - The Independent

Materialists argue that the body and brain are the only things that exist.

Of course, they fail to realize the consciousnesses that are the perceivers of the sense organs.


Along the same vein:

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The study included the detection of some brain activity during the period after which people were pronounced “dead”.

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All these rare cases don’t disprove physicalism, they just show that the brain works in ways that we just don’t understand yet.

I am not a physicalist, but this is not proof of non-physicalism.

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I don’t see any proof for physicalism, and that is the most important thing IMO…combine it with the countless testimonials of NDEs and the like that have come down through the ages, and you may arrive at the tentative working conclusion that indeed “the mind still works after you’re dead” - which is one aspect of Samma-Ditthi.


The more pressing issue is how to get our minds working in harmony with the Dhamma - before we are dead - which is another aspect of Samma-Ditthi. :slight_smile:

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Absolutely. I can’t think of any effort more worthwhile.

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Sorry, but NDE testimonials are just that, anecdotal evidence, and hence they are not really proof of anything.

“the mind still works after you’re dead” which is one aspect of Samma-Ditthi.

Not exactly, the skandhas break up at death, so “the mind” doesn’t really “work” after death.

Sammaditthi merely says “there is the next world”, “there is rebirth (jati)”, etc.

You don’t have to be sorry, Javier.

Thanks for adding some clarification to my post. The quotation I used was not intended to be a precise description of what the Suttas have to say about right view/rebirth.


I have been told stories about ghosts from my favourite Ajahn. I think he explains ghosts as a kind of ‘manomaya kaya’. If ghosts exist then it might mean that some kammic-connection is still there with regard to the last life - without the gross-material rupa-kandha in the picture? Near-death experiences that include experiencing the gross-physical-kaya from the outside - an ‘out of body’ experience may involve a ‘manomaya kaya’.

I heard a story about a visiting Arahant - to the BSWA - who astral travelled from Perth to Melbourne where he had been teaching before he arrived in Perth - physically. It was the ‘attendant’ of the visiting Arahant who shared this story with a group of practitioners at the BSWA.

"This manomaya kaya is called “gandhabba“. When a person dies, if he/she has more kammic energy left in the human “bhava“, then the gandhabba just comes out of the dead body.

Until a suitable womb is found matching its kamma seeds (“gathi“), this gandhabba may stay in that form for even years.

  1. The gandhabba also has the ability to see and hear, actually with much more flexibility; the capabilities of the eye and ear pasada rupa are diminished when working with physical eye and physical ear.

Of course the gandhabba does not have touch, taste, and for the most part smell sensations, because its body is so fine.

When the manomaya kaya is separated from the physical body, “seeing” does not need light (one could look at things far away) and “hearing” does not need air as a medium for the sound to propagate (one could hear things far away). Both those are done via “kirana” (or “rays” in English; similar to electromagnetic radiation). Furthermore, the gandhabba can “travel” very fast; it is not physical travel. For example, the suttas talk about the Buddha or Arahants with iddhi powers travelling to deva loka in a time comparable to the time taken to “stretch a bent arm”." -

There is nothing wrong with anecdotal information in and of itself. Anecdotal material is as good as its source.

The point is, this kind of stuff is not going to convince scientists or materialists.

As Buddhists, if we want to make a case for the Buddha’s teachings, we need to understand that this kind of stuff doesn’t sell to Western materialists and skeptical non-Buddhists.

One would just say: “know your Cit”.

Don’t get stupefied (“moha-ted”),) by the mano.

There is Citta & there is Mano.

Rare example of moha in SN

As a Buddhist I am not interested in selling my convictions as if the Dhamma was some kind of thing that can be possessed or owned. The Dhamma is not an ideology to me that we are captured by. The Dhamma is freely offered, inviting one to come and see, to be known by the wise each for themselves. People can cling to views if they wish. May they be well and happy.

Right view in the Buddha Dhamma requires a profound reorientation to life and living. To realise the Dhamma takes complete dedication and application of the teachings. In this way our hearts and minds are transformed as we begin to ‘see’ the Dhamma here and now. Not as a belief system that we slavishly adopt no matter how rational it may ‘appear’ to be.

The slaves of scientism insist that truth can only be verified through the methods of science. They refuse to accept that there may be other valid means for understanding the nature of reality. They say: everything that isn’t empirically demonstrated should be treated with suspicion - beware of anecdotes.

Like I said: an anecdote is as good as it’s source. If I want to understand Buddhism its best if I approach someone who has liberating insight into the Dhamma. I won’t approach a science-nerd to understand the Dhamma. If I want to understand what it’s like to be dead I will be interested to listen to the experiences of those who have died - and returned - and also those medical professionals and others, who were present at the time.

I will not ask a devotee of scientism about their belief system - their misguided and false views about science or anything else. If somebody is a western-materialist or a skeptical non-Buddhist that is their choice. They are welcome to it - I am not envious in any way. To me, they are not unlike religious extremists. They are ‘committed’ to avidya and they are to be treated with kindness and compassion.


Having worked in academia for 25 years I can also add that a fair amount of what passes as “science” is suspect. The advent of digital media has made it easier to ferret out fraudulent methods and data. Several prominent academic journals have had to retract articles in recent years because of flaws, whether deliberate or inadvertent, in research and data analysis. Confirmation bias also is rampant in academic research, with many studies having been designed to favor results that validate hypotheses.

Never mind the social sciences, in which I work. There is a sizable body of scholarship that is tautological and non-falsifiable almost by design.

I am not saying that scholarly research is inherently corrupt, but based on my own experience I approach every single piece of scholarship I read with a built-in skepticism.


In 2013 researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the electrical signals inside the brains of nine anaesthetised rats having an induced heart attack.

I’m curious how others feel about this. Most countries have committees that must approve experiments that could harm an animal. I don’t think this research should have been performed at the cost of 9 lives.

A lot of entities refuse to use data collected unethically (for example, the Nazi’s research during WWII). In a similar vein, should we entertain a discussion on this, or simply condemn the research?

I don’t think the scientists involved meant any harm, though.

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My point was not that Buddhism can be owned, or that its a thing to be sold, or an ideology to be captured by, you’re misinterpreting my intent laurence.

My point was that if we are going to skillfully communicate buddhism to people, especially difficult teachings like rebirth, anecdotal evidence is just not going to be very convincing. And that’s not because “slaves to scientism” are hardheaded, but because of the nature of anecdotal evidence itself which is basically one of the things the Buddha argued against in the Kalama sutta (itikirāya, Sujato: testament).

The Buddha also warned us to be aware of anecdotes and claims by others which were not verified by your experience.


Dear Javier, I know you are coming from a good place with the best of intentions. I just have a different perspective that makes me approach the issue in a different way.

We know about the ‘Kalama Sutta’ - and elsewhere - where the Buddha provides sound guidelines to help us to discern wisely and carefully.

What you have said makes good sense. We should not ‘unequivocally’ accept things on the basis of heresay.

We should question everything - including the Buddha.

This does not mean we have to take the position of a radical ‘so-called’ skeptic who is really a deeply opinionated and dogmatic person in disguise.

There is an ideology in circulation that claims to practice scepticism when in fact it is a cover for blind belief in scientism.

I know this to be the case because I have met these dogmatic and opinionated people and they have told me - unequivocally - that all religious teachings of a spiritual nature (including rebirth and kamma) are false and delusional.

They had zero-openness to the possibility of a meaningful understanding of reality that did not involve empirical inquiry.

The Buddha’s eightfold path is not identical to empiricism - it has a family resemblance. The Buddha’s path of inquiry leads to profound and liberating insights into the nature of reality.

The belief that reality can only be understood through the scientific method is false. It’s an article of faith within a delusional belief-system. It’s not a scientific theory or finding. This belief is not a product of scientific inquiry and it’s ‘falsified’ through Dhamma inquiry - in theory and practice.

The Buddha encouraged a healthy scepticism. The Buddha encouraged us to look at things carefully - without pre-existing biases and conclusions. The teachings on the jhanic-absorptions exist to help us to overcome confirmation-bias* - ideological perversions of every kind - and to ‘see’ deeply into the way things are.

The Buddha did not discourage us from coming to tentative or provisional conclusions when it comes to the Buddha - to teachers in general - and the Dhamma. He encouraged us to do our own Dhamma-research.

This involves undertaking the training, gathering the results and analysing the findings. We may then understand the findings of other Buddhists who have practiced well.

I am not suggesting for a moment that one should accept anything blindly but it would be foolhardy to accept the dogmatic opinions of those who rule-out from the outset, the ‘possibility’ that ‘out of body’ experiences etc. may actually take place.

It appears to me that western-materialists and non-Buddhist skeptics have an ideological commitment to denying the reality of postulates that do not fit their preset conclusions. There preset conclusions make them perfectly suited to scientism.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. We can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics and tendencies.

Its not surprising that those who have scientistic beliefs - while calling themselves Buddhist - cherry-pick the teachings to suit themselves.

It is the unfortunate commitment to certainty where there is none that needs to be questioned. This includes so-called religious certainties and the false certainties of secular ideologues.

As our practice unfolds in the Dhamma we find new and surprising insights into the nature of reality at every turn. This keeps us curious and fosters an open heart and mind - we need both to wake-up.

If any of the above is difficult to understand or problematic in any way then please let me know?

*confirmation bias:
The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.


As Buddhists we would not have killed the rats. Harming or killing any sentient being in the pursuit of science is something we need to change. Science needs to be humane and environmentally-friendly in its methods and products.


Sure, I can agree with this.

However, one has to be careful here, and be aware that just because someone disagrees with our point of view and makes skeptical arguments doesn’t necessarily mean that they are biased or dogmatic.

Other than that I don’t have a problem with pragmatically accepting the teaching of kamma and rebirth provisionally as a working hypothesis for my life and as a base from which to practice dhamma.

However, I understand that this is a difficult perspective for many, and it is not necessarily one which many otherwise rational, inquisitive and well meaning people would endorse, and I grant them that.

While we are on the Kalama sutta, I think that ultimately the four assurances of the Kalamas is one of the best pragmatic arguments for accepting rebirth provisionally or at least not outright denying it. Certainly if it is a “live option” as William James would say, or at least a possibility, it makes one think twice about one’s actions.


Yes, we all deserve to be treated fairly. It’s not difficult to figure out whether a person has an open and critical mind or whether they have been captured by an ‘ideology’ - religious or secular. They display their :dog2:-ma as a badge of honour.