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

Yes, memory is involved in the process of recognition and perception (sanna). Though if we are talking about memories of past events, then I would assume these to be part of the sankharas aggregate.

As for contact (phassa), I’ve never really understood the distinction between phassa and vinnana. Phassa is described as “the meeting of the three”, though consciousness has already arisen dependent on sense-base and sense-object.
So for example, eye-consciousness is said to arise in dependence upon eye and visible form. But I don’t see the practical difference here between eye-consciousness and eye-contact. Unless it’s about where one’s attention is directed at any one time?

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Yes, that makes sense - a memory of a past event could be seen as a Sankhara constructed by the mind on the basis of Sanna arising from contact with a mind/ sense object, powered by Vinnana. eg. when the Buddha sees a certain spot in Kosala, the past life memory of being Jotipala arises in him, causing him to smile (MN81).

I think of eye consciousness as that which results from the interaction between the eye (bodily form) and external form when contact occurs, powered by namma. Yes, it is dependent on attention (which is one of the factors in namma). If there’s no attention one could be looking at something without actually seeing it… (happens to me all the time, especially when I look for my keys! :rofl:)


I see attention as pivotal in the suttas, both in terms of the way we experience things, and in the way we practice.
We only notice sense-objects when we pay attention to them, which I assume is what contact (phassa) refers to.
Meanwhile, practices like anapanasati and satipatthana are based on paying attention to specific aspects of experience.


It may be helpful to consider whether an ongoing debate about “storage” vs “no-storage” is conducive to the deepening of compassion and other wholesome qualities, including the liberating insights that lead to the cessation of dukkha, the very purpose of Dhamma practice.

Suppose there is some kind of storage. Ok, where do we go from here?
Suppose there isn’t any storage. Ok, where do we go from here?

While we are free to debate about whatever we wish, we may want to ask ourselves whether the question of storage or no-storage is a deeply important and liberating one for our practice.
After all, how much time did the Buddha dedicate to this compared to the 4NTs, DO, and the three characteristics? Perhaps he was pointing to what’s essential to contemplate, see into, see through, and to let go.

All best wishes :pray: :slightly_smiling_face:

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One thing that I note, and it’s just a general observation, not Buddhist at all. Is that we are always sensing the past. We never sense the present or the future. What I mean is that some ‘event’ happens and then at some time later contact is made between one of our senses and the ‘event’. So a dog barks the other side of the park and then we hear it a second later. Someone else will hear the bark even later if they are further away from the dog. A supernova explodes somewhere in the universe and thousands of years later we see that it has exploded. There is no real present moment apart from that contact at the senses. The mind works no differently than the other senses in this regard. There is a further lag as the mind processes the sound, or the sight or even the thought.


I think it is handy to differentiate between the physical domain and mental domain (rupa and nama).

A barking dog produces soundwaves. These are in the physical domain, rupa. These soundwaves spread and move through the air. No sounds do move trough the air. A soundwave is, i believe, no sound, because sound is mental of nature and soundwave is not.

For sounds to exist vinnana is a necessary condition. Without vinnana there is no sound. Soundwaves do not need vinnana to exist.

Then those soundwaves produced by the barking dog hit our eardrum, and making a long story short, we become aware of the sound of a barking dog. That takes time indeed.

That sound we hear is produced, a vinnana moment. While we sense odours, sounds etc that is always in the present moment, here and now. Everything we see, hear, sense is here and now arising.
It has no past


Yes. That’s a nice way to look at it. There is no past (or future), so there doesn’t need to be any storage. The ‘sound’ is long gone by the time we sense it (as are past life memories). As soon as we know ‘it’, it’s gone, so we can let it go. Nice.


“Mendicants, the eye of the past and future is impermanent, let alone the present.

Seeing this, a learned noble disciple doesn’t worry about the eye of the past, they don’t look forward to enjoying the eye in the future, and they practice for disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding the eye in the present.

The ear … nose … tongue … body … mind of the past and future is impermanent, let alone the present.

Seeing this, a learned noble disciple doesn’t worry about the mind of the past, they don’t look forward to enjoying the mind in the future, and they practice for disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding the mind in the present.”


There are so many theories. I have seen the theory that all we sense is stored. In this theory all our vinnana moment, for example, are stored, but not local and not in the brain.

There also seem to be people with perfect autobiographic memory. If you ask them what happened on a particular day, what they were wearing, what the weather was, how they felt etc. they know it.

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I’d guess that human memory is an evolutionary development. For example, remembering which berries are poisonous, or which animals attrack, or how to make a fire.
And of course memory is necessary for perception/recognition.

I’d suggest that suffering comes from dwelling on memories, and not from the basic function of memory.

As for the transmission of memories from life to life, you’d need something like bhavanga or alayavijnana, IMO.

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I don’t see how that avoids the need for some kind of “storage”. I’d agree that memories arise in dependence upon conditions, but the memories have to be accessible for that to occur - they have to exist somewhere.

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I think if a storage is not needed then the data itself is permanent

I’ve thought about this before.

What needs to be actually stored from the past though? For example an AI can build an image of anything by looking up the image associatied with the label.

So say you type “woman walking on beach”, you can google every concept separately, retrieve the image, and then put it all together to form a scene.

The brain can do the same thing. Say the only thing that is stored from the past is “I was at the golden gate bridge”, the mind can then look up present day examples of a bridge stored in the brain and piece a scene together.

So what is really stored from the past then? just story based conceptual “text”

E.g. “500 lives ago I ate white rice under a gaya tree”

The mind can reconstruct that entire scene without having all that sensual data stored anywhere from “past lives”. All that needs to be stored from past lives is the story, everything else like the images, can be reconstructed from present life memory.

So what is really stored is just associations, the pointers, not the raw sensual data itself, thus it doesn’t require much storage at all. Also I remember reading a sutta where the Buddha says being reborn in the formless plane wipes past lives memories due to the long period of being alive there, so I take it to mean even these associations are impermanent and can be lost.

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