I would like to begin by wishing everyone a good Vesak 2021!
I would also like to apologise for this rather negative topic but unfortunately I have not found an answer satisfactory to me, so posting this question.
Reading the Pali suttas, I am left with great respect for many of the incisive teachings of the Buddha but also with this basic quandary:
- Assuming we do not end Tanha and achieve Nibbana by the end of this life, I find no real comfort for the after life under buddhism. I am Mr.X now and perhaps I will be Mr.Y in the next life (so to speak). Now, Mr.Y will not remember anything about being Mr.X. There is no sense of identity (leaving aside anecdotal exceptions) with Mr.X . So you cannot really say Mr.X continues on. For all practical purposes, Mr.X dies here and that’s it.
- Assuming we do end tanha and achieve nibbana, it does not involve any i-ness/mine-ness. No sense of identity with the personality factors/skandhas of Mr.X. It is even doubtful if nibbana is a form of awareness/consciousness. So it is at best a sort of stasis without any thought and sense of identity with X, at worst it is just glorified suicide.
So why bother with the path?
I fully appreciate the sanditthika/‘here and now’ aspect of the moral teachings. But my question is about afterlife.
To counter point 1 above, we can say two things:
(a) if you are good, you could be born as a ‘deva’ who will recollect past lives. But unfortunately, I have trouble accepting devas as anything other than beings evolved naturally like us, but perhaps at a higher state of evolution. The description of the devas in the Tipitaka do not seem very believable to me, and they match the descriptions in the jain/hindu literature. They seem to describe magical apparitional beings rather than evolved aliens.
(b) You could take an example of a person who knows he is going to have amnesia and forget who he/she is. Even though they will lose their sense of identity with their earlier self/life, they would still want their future life to be good. I could similarly wish a better life for Mr.Y, though he would have no sense of identity with me/to Mr.X.
Frankly, neither (a) nor (b) is entirely convincing to me.
Any other thoughts/better suggestions?