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What Is It That Is Reborn?
 
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What Is It That Is Reborn?

No Soul (Anattá) - Pancakkhandha

According to Buddhism, apart from mind and matter, which constitute this so-called being, there is no immortal soul or an eternal ego which man is either gifted with or has obtained in a mysterious way from a mysterious Being or force.

The Buddhist doctrine of rebirth should be distinguished from the theory of re-incarnation or transmigration, for Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging or eternal soul. In the ultimate sense a Buddhist cannot think of an unchanging soul, any being in the form of a Deva, a man, or an animal. These forms are merely the temporary manifestations of the Kammic force.

"Being" is only a concept used for conventional purposes. If nothing in the form of a spirit or soul passes from this life to the other, what is it that is reborn? In asking this question one takes for granted that there is something to be reborn.

In the past it was argued - "Cogito, ergo sum - I think, therefore I am." True indeed, but it has to be proved first that there is an 'I' to think. I say that there is no I to think. In one breath I contradict myself. Yes, it has to be admitted that we cannot avoid using conventional terms we say that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west despite what scientists prove to us.

We cannot strike a place twice although to all appearance we have done so. Everything has changed so soon. Even space has changed at the second moment.

According to Buddhism the so-called being is composed of mind and matter - Nama and Rupa.

Rupa or matter is merely the manifestation of forces and qualities. In the ancient days the Indian sages too believed in an indivisible atom - Paramanu. The Buddha analyzed this so-called indivisible Paramanu and declared that it is only a manifestation of inter-related forces, which he termed Paramatthas or fundamental units of matter.

These Paramatthas are Pathavi, Apo, Tejo, and Vayo. Pathavi means the element of extension, the substratum of matter. Apo is the element of cohesion. Tejo is the element of heat. Vayo is the element of motion.

The four essentials of matter are invariably combined with four derivatives, color - Vanna, odor - Gandha, taste - Rasa and nutritive essence Oja. The four elements and the derivatives are inseparable and inter-related, but one element may preponderate over the other, for instance, the element of extension predominates in earth; cohesion in water, heat in fire, and motion in air.

Mind, which is the most important part in the machinery of man, is also a compound of fleeting mental states. There are fifty-two such mental states. Vedana or sensation is one, Sañña or perception is another. The remaining fifty mental states are collectively called Sankhárás or volitional activities. These immaterial states arise in a consciousness - Vinnana.

Thus the so-called being is a complex compound of five Aggregate - Pancakkhandha - namely, Rupa or matter, Vedana or sensations, Sañña or perceptions, Sankhárá or mental states, and Vinnana or consciousness, which are in state of constant flux.

One’s individuality is the combination of these five Aggregates. There is no permanent soul that resides in this so-called being.

How Is Rebirth Possible Without A Soul To Be Reborn?

Birth is simply the arising of the Khandhas, the aggregates Rebirth is the arising of the aggregates again and again. Just as the arising of a physical state is conditioned by a preceding state as its cause, even so the coming-into-being of this psychophysical life is conditioned by causes anterior to its birth. As one life-process is possible without a permanent thing passing from one thought-moment to another, a series of life-processes is possible without anything to transmigrate from one life to another.

This body - to use conventional terms - dies transmitting its Kammic force to another without anything transmigrating from this life to the other. The future being there will be conditioned by the present Kamma here. The new being is neither absolutely the same as its predecessor - since the composition is not identical - nor entirely another being the same stream of Kammic energy. There is, therefore, a continuity of a particular life-flux; just that and nothing more.


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