The Pali suttas, particularly in teachings about kamma, has the phrase: "at the break-up of the body after death".

Are there contexts other than kamma where this phrase is used?

What does "break-up of the body after death" actually mean in the suttas?

Are these words in the language of materialism?

Do they have a non-materialistic meaning?


3 Answers 3


"break-up of the body" refers to conventional death. It doesn't refer to instant death of experiences.

  • Evidence? Thanks Aug 9, 2017 at 9:42
  • 4
    The excerpt from your own question here has a reference which is clearly describing about conventional death :) Aug 9, 2017 at 10:24
  • Sankha kulanthantille so the break up of the body is when the body is cremated rather than when you die?
    – user14213
    Dec 10, 2018 at 17:29
  • @TheDBSGuy it refers to death. Dec 10, 2018 at 17:38
  • I don’t know if this is truth but when people die do their mind made body come out of their body and wander around till their body is cremated or destroyed?
    – user14213
    Dec 10, 2018 at 17:41

There are 3 things that defines your lifespan. Body heat, Life span (Ayusha) and Consiousness. All 3 things needs to come to an end to have your body break apart as mentioned in your question. The heat of the body should fade away, the life span should come to an end and the consiousness leaves the body.

That is why when Arahants are in Nirodha Samapatti which means they are not breathing, literally, they don't die. Because those 3 factors are still there.

That's what you mean by "at the break of the body".


My answer:

The word 'kaya' means 'group' or 'collection'.

The word 'death' or 'marana' means the death of 'a being' ('satta'), which is a 'self-view', as stated in SN 23.2, SN 5.10 and SN 12.2.

For example, if a person gets drunk on alcohol, the body (rupa) & mind (nama) are made up of a certain & specific collection of aggregates & elements, such as alcohol in the blood & happy feelings & uninhibited thoughts. The drunk person or aggregates identifies with being drunk & dances & sings: "I am so happy. I love alcohol".

But when the alcohol wears off; this is the ending of the 'kaya' ('body'). This is 'death' of that state of 'being' or 'identity'.

The next day, the person or aggregates have a very bad headache from drinking alcohol and regret they drank alcohol. Here, a new 'being' ('satta' - illusion of self) takes birth in hell (suffering) because of the kamma of drinking alcohol.

Therefore, "break-up of the body after death" means the break-up of one collection of aggregates & the arising of another collection of aggregates, which also results in the death of a self-identity and birth of a new self-identity.

The is why the suttas say: "In laying down one body & taking up another body is blameworthy".

This is a knowable visible here & now and non-materialistic discernment.

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