I have been reading Mahayana philosophy. It proposes non-self and that self does not exist in the 5 aggregates.

If the self/atman does not exist, what is that is re-incarnated?

How can nothing reincarnate ?

  • I would argue it's kind of a soul, but that answer is not well accepted in Buddhist philosophy. buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/26/… – jabahar Jun 18 '14 at 17:35
  • Yes coming from a Hindu background, Atman sounds logical to me but since Buddhism proposes Anatman, I want to know how re-incarnation is logically tackled. – Bharat Jun 18 '14 at 17:37
  • I doubt there is any convincing answer regarding this in Buddhism. Due to a certain amount of bias Buddhist followers wont accept the existence of soul, but that leaves the question of identity open as I had raised in that answer. – jabahar Jun 18 '14 at 17:42
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    I disagree with marking as duplicate. The answers to the other question don't explain what is reincarnated, while the answers to this one do. – Lev Jun 28 '14 at 5:47

There is neither not self nor self.

The five aggregates; form, sensation, perception, mind formations and consciousness; disperse at death.

Consciousness is life-force. By itself it is without physical form, all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, prejudices, compulsions, decisions, familiarity and judgement as to whether an object is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

The stream of consciousness passes from one life to another; during this process it is not entirely the same nor entirely different. With the cessation of consciousness samsara ceases.

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    Stream of consciousness? But most people don't remember previous lives... – Lev Jun 28 '14 at 5:46
  • Stream of consciousness and name-and-form support each other. When a consciousness has a different name-and-form it is different (not completely different not completely the same). Stream of consciousness is more like life force than memory. Think of it like the flame of one candle being used to light the flame of another candle. – user70 Jun 29 '14 at 1:15

Forget death! Nothing goes from this moment to the next, even when you are alive. Hold one end of a spoon with your left hand and tap at the other end with your right.Your left hand will feel the vibrations as you tap. Now, do you think you felt it because the atoms at the right side of the spoon travelled to the left? Or is it because the particles at where you tapped vibrated 1st and caused the adjacent particles to vibrate as a result and that caused the next set of particles to vibrate and so on? Likewise, life/death/rebirth are just causes and effects. Nothing goes from preset to the future. .


Instead of relations of beings by constant atman, as in some other religions, in Buddhism the relation is causal. So, new being's birth is causally related with past lives. What is carried on to new life is merit and demerit of past actions.

Additionally, in Mahayana's philosophy of Yogacara there is additional consciousness, called alaya-vijnana, which support transmigration.

  • I like this term "causally related with past lives". Sounds convincing since it is within the framework of dependent origination. – Bharat Jun 18 '14 at 23:23

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