What's that permanent storage that stores infinite permanent past lives data?

Continuing the discussion from Consciousness and Nibbana:

is it inside or outside of the 5 aggregates ?

Can’t be the 5 aggregates, they don’t survive the breakup of the body at death. Is it bhava, the desire for continued existence based upon the specific tanha and kamma of previous lives? The Buddha said he recalled that he lived in such and such a place in such and such klan and ate such and such food. So what detail and how much did he recall? The Buddha said that what he knew was a forest full of leaves but he only taught a handful of leaves because the rest didn’t lead to liberation. What can we glean from what he said that is beneficial?


Maybe it’s in the Blockchain? :rofl: (Too soon?)


bhava is tanha too, aren’t tanha and kamma impermanent ? if they are where in 5 aggregates could we locate tanha and kamma ?


There’s no storage, there’s a process of conditioning.

If I pour poison in a stream, it flows downstream. Where is the poison stored? Well, it’s just part of the stream, there’s no special “storage space”. But if I am downstream, I will still be poisoned.

The Buddha spoke of the ongoing stream of consciousness. Wherever there is consciousness there is also name and form, the whole thing flows on, ever changing. Death is just a more abrupt change.

The poison we pour into our minds—the hate, the greed, the stupidity—it just keeps on going in our consciousness. It mixes in, permeating and conditioning the whole, shaping the choices we make, coloring the stream subtly or grossly. It’s not a single thing that lives in a single place, it’s a complex matrix of conditions. It affects everything all the time—moods, thoughts, perceptions, memories, choices, behavior. It shapes us all in different ways.

Every polluted river is polluted in its own way.

Who we are now is conditioned by what we have been in the past. But this is not fixed: who we will become is conditioned by how we respond to what we are now.


To posit anything as the storage, which can potentially last for a long time for someone to be able to recall so many past lives, is to go dangerously into positing something which is permanent, and thus maybe cling onto as self.

Given infinite past lives, there’s no practical way for anyone to drag out all the infinite past, for practical purposes, they are basically gone, just the legacy the infinite past left us with is the greed, hatred and delusion from so long ago. So many kammas had been done, ripen and gone. Using the river analogy by Bhante @sujato, our rivers had been sky rivers, hell rivers, rivers which flows in Africa, America, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, China, even Artantica, etc, we had been all sorts of rivers, over many changes over many lives.

If we continue to ponder outside of the suttas too, eventually we might just recreate the 8th consciousness of the Yogacara school, as the storage for kamma (and maybe memories?), and still, that’s not-self. Might as well just study that school directly.


This line of logic is the yogacara/ vijnanavada use.
If we can remember past lives, and if karma is inherited to another life, where is it stored?
They propose the alayavijnana (storehouse consciousness), as its name, it is the one where we store karma. Maybe also memories.

This is the consciousness that transmigrate upon death. But then is it permanent soul/self?

No, yogacara would deny that. That would contradict anatta doctrine. They would say, consciousness is like a stream, always changing.

But inside the stream is a house for storing something. Confused? Nah, I only know superficial theory, so anyone interested should directly learn from the authentic source.

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This explanation only addresses mental continuity in terms of dispositions and does nothing to explain how the Buddha could recall specific details from 100,000 lives ago or many aeons ago.


Forgive me if I’m wrong because I am VERY far from an expert but I feel like this is one of those questions the Buddha wouldn’t be interested in answering and that one could only understand after becoming an arahant anyway. The mechanism for something like that that is so far outside of our normal experience seems like something that we wouldn’t even have the terminology to describe even if we had the capacity to understand it.
Again sorry if this is an inappropriate response but I’ve had a lot of questions about Buddhist cosmology myself that I came to realize aren’t necessary for progress and this strikes me as something similar.


because we can’t answer this question Buddhism got annihilated in india, do we need to raise white flag and declare that Hindu advaita philosophy can answer everything thus is superior to any religion or any philosophy on earth ?

while I think defilement is data in our mind I don’t think your simile fits bhante because
1.defilements are changeable, it’s different from past lives perception data which is unchangeable untemperedable
2.by defilements we are talking about current data, while past lives perception is old data not current data
3. defilements are finite while past lives perception data is infinite

furthermore not only i can retrieve my past lives data but others too could retrieve my past lives data, right ? so how could this happens without a shared centralized database or memory ?

thanks bhante

He turned around and looked back down the river.


Since I am seeing a lot of computer related terminology on here, here’s a timely reminder that Your brain is not a computer. Nothing “stores” your information.



Remember MN 2 Sabbasava Sutta, dont dwell in past, future, even present. Otherwise one will get trap into the thicket views and never get free from 3 low fetters, hence can’t enter the stream.

Also, not everyone has the capability to recall past even when one reach arahant level. Only certain arahant with certain faculties can remember it.

But trust me, no one will like the past or even a future. Who want to see how you born and die again and again. And it is like having a nightmare experience about the suffering over and over.

It is better to have a happy state at the present moment. :grinning:


That’'s what I meant in saying that there isn’t a storage agent, but rather the tanha and kamma of previous lives conditions bhava resulting in jati. As you said in a previous topic about bhava:

Many details about past lives might be superfluous, not leading to liberation, but the tanha, kamma and bhava of previous lives would be critical to recall to bring avijja to its end. So rather than storing past life data per se, do you think that the tanha, kamma and bhava is what is reborn and recalled?


Your question is actually NOT valid.

Let me ask you this question first before we can even start to discuss:
Is there such a thing (as you call it as “storage”) that is permanent while being also non-permanent (because it keeps adding new data)?

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I think this problem was the root of the controversies among early Buddhists about whether things (dharmas) exist in the past and future or only the present exists. If causes and conditions in the past cause the present and future events, and someone could know them, then it stood to reason they must actually exist in some fashion. This obviates the need for something to carried along with each present moment to provide the karmic causation.

It’s a bit like modern day speculations about whether people could travel through time with a time machine of some sort. The past and future would have to exist to do that.


since this storage contains infinite lives data since beginningless time therefore it’s permanent, if it’s impermanent it’s impossible for it to contain infinite data since beginingless time

now adding new data doesn’t change its state, ∞ + 1 = ∞ , both are undefined

Sure it does. What was done then affects how we are now. We can trace back conditions from present events to infer in the past. That’s what Sherlock Holmes did, and that’s what the Buddha did, only better.

One of the fundamental principles of the Buddha’s psychology is that things that we don’t yet know can be understood by looking more deeply into what we already do know. It’s all here. We don’t have to posit any special new substance or process to explain things.

An apple falls on your head. You go, “Ow!” Newton says, “Hey, I can explain the orbits of the stars and constellations by understanding how an apple falls!” (Yes, I know it’s apocryphal, don’t @ me!)

There’s no special substance, no storehouse, no extra things we need to posit. All we have been and all we might come to be is lying curled up right here, waiting for our insight to unfurl it.


I don’t think we need, it’s possible that an existing concept covers this case too, my current conclusion is nibbana is the shared memory of infinite past lives of infinite beings because I still couldn’t explain how someone can access someone’s else past lives without this permanent shared memory between us

i can access my past lives through past life regression therapy conducted by licensed therapist bhante I think we all could do it too

thanks bhante