As per my understanding when a person dies his aggregates dissolve(his self dissolves) and if the dead person has any cravings,clinging left for the existence then he is reborn(aggregates reassemble).

Craving or clinging is personal. A person craves or clings. But death causes the dissolution of self. So I am unable to understand who clings or craves after death? If we the take the simile of lamp then my question would be: who passes the flame from one lamp to another ?

My questions are :how does the clinging or craving remain when there is no person,immediately after death, to crave or cling? What remains after the dissolution of five aggregates ?

  • @beginner says some self remains after death. Can someone confirm or deny this ? If you let some self to remain after death then are not you claiming presence of absolute self? Sep 2, 2017 at 0:55

4 Answers 4


I guess I have found an answer in Manual of Buddhism by Hardy Spence(page 394). It mainly states that Upadana and Karma lives on after death, due to which another being is reproduced.However the exact mechanism is not known.

The cleaving to existing objects is upadana. There are two properties inherent in all sentient beings, except the rahats :—first, upadana, and secondly, karma, literally action, the aggregate result of all previous acts, in unbroken succession, from the commencement of existence, in the births innumerable that have been received in past ages. At death, the five khandas are dissolved. As they no longer exist in combination, they can maintain no reciprocity of influence ; their mutuality of operation has ceased for ever. But the ^upadana still exists, and the karma lives on. The cleaving to existing objects, or the breaking up of the khandas, by some unexplained instrumentality, produces another being. The upadana cannot but exert its power ; another being must necessarily be produced. It is as impossible, under ordinary circumstances, to separate reproduction from upadana, as it would be to separate heat from fire or solidity from the rock ; the one follows as naturally as the other, and all are equally mysterious in the manner of their operation. As it is the grand tenet of Budhism, that all existence is an evil, it thus becomes consistent with right reason to seek the destruction of upadana, which alone can secure the reception of nirwana, or the cessation of being.


Let me attempt to tackle this one with one train of thought ...

Let's say for a moment that multiple universe theory is correct ([Multiple Universe theory])1. Every potential choice or alternative that could possibly happen exists if we initiate it to exist. That is to say the little world we create by our interactions and relationships and conduct determines which of the universes we will encounter. It's karma.

This is actually how "karma" works. It is the resultant chain of events we set in place. It actually affects things on a quantum probability level. We have proven with the double slit experiment that our perceptions actually determine the makeup of matter. ([Double slit experiment])2 This seems just a curious point with physicists, but for those of us trying to find the link between consciousness and the real world it is a lifeline of understanding. That is precisely how we navigate ourselves thru the multiple universes of potential around us. But it has repercussions.

Once we have perceived something and "selected a path" there is resultant karma. Continuing effects. We have actually determined something and caused something. So what happens to all of those things you caused, all those probabilities that we determined, if you pass away? Now we come to rebirth.

Ideally our consciousness would simply pass back to the ether it came from. The all of the universe. Pure awareness. But that's assuming it meets the "neutrality" of the rest of all so it can merge. Those choices and resultant probabilities color the consciousness. It's not neutral. Maybe it's vibration. Maybe it's a flavor. I dont know. But it's different from the rest and cannot just merge. It needs another vessel to dissipate. At this point I believe whatever the quality is (vibration, temperature, flavor whatever) flees to a like-quality in another vessel. But thats beyond the scope here. There is current research showing that these qualities are actually stored in the micro-tubules of brain cells. ([Micro-tubule research])3

Of course if karma is inevitable by any thought or action then there is always rebirth under this thought - until we bring in meditation. I believe meditation is what can clear these things. Through meditation and simplifying ones' life and being happy and walking the median path we keep our karmic disturbance or just karmic activity closer to neutral and hopefully we can be clear enough to stop rebirth.

Now I will stand by and let everyone tear me apart.

  • I guess multi-universe theory says that all choices are realized independent of us or consciousness. There is no karma involved because karma requires mind. Universe according to science can exist without mind. Sep 1, 2017 at 2:08
  • thats not what I am saying. multiple universe theory says all possible alternatives exist around us and it is up to our perceptions to decide which ones. that involves the mind. it can be there without our perceptions ... just as nirbana is there without anyone on the path.
    – Kauvasara
    Sep 1, 2017 at 2:12

it is like camp fire becomes a grass fire. Grass fire becomes a bush fire. Bush fire becomes a house fire. Fire continues due to fuel.

  • Lets say grass fire dies... but grass fire has little bit of fuel left in it and it causes bush fire. My question is when the grass fire dies... how come always some fuel is left in it? Doesn't death means total extinction of fire? If death doesn't mean total extinction of fire then how is Nirvana possible? Clearly there is a 'will' involved which can stop the fire from spreading. When a person dies where does that will go ? Because after death all the skhandas are dissolved. Sep 1, 2017 at 1:45
  • By the time grass fire dies it already started the bush fire. We are not living in this world in isolation. We all change together.
    – SarathW
    Sep 1, 2017 at 1:57
  • :-) That is interesting. It means that a person takes rebirth moment before his death. Sep 1, 2017 at 2:25
  • It is like you move from first Jhana to second Jhana. It happens gradually.This is a difficult subject. Do not believe everything I say.-) Abhidhamma deals with this subject.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/mendis/wheel322.html
    – SarathW
    Sep 1, 2017 at 2:34

At the time of death the body dissolves.

After the dissolution of body, self without body remains.

Why this self remains?

Because of volitional activities.

Whenever a volitional activity is made, self appears.

It is at that time that this self, by volitional activities, sustains and destines himself to a future rebirth.

"If we the take the simile of lamp then my question would be: who passes the flame from one lamp to another ?"

To a liberated mind, the answer is nobody.

To a liberated mind, there is nothing to pass.

There is no flame, no lamp.

They are mere fabrications ... not truths ... leading to fabricated things ... lies, that seem like truths. Destined to cessation. Leading to impermanence. Leading to craving and clinging on these impermanent lies that seem like truths, thus seeding seeds for future suffering when they cease.

Knowing this truth, a liberated mind does not fabricate fabricated things ... his volitional activities cease ... his kamma exhaust ... self does not appear, thus no rebirth happens.

To a not yet liberated mind, the answer is "self".

To a not yet liberated mind, there is something to pass.

There is a flame and a lamp. There must be! There cannot be no flame and no lamp! There must be something! This is how he ponders to himself.

Why is this so?

It's because for him the truth is yet to be known.

Then, a not yet liberated mind, reading what I already wrote, thinks to himself that the answer is nobody, thus comes to the conclusion that the answer is nobody and thus that there is nothing to pass ... no flame, no lamp.

There is no flame and no lamp he thinks to himself. There is nothing! There is no flame and no lamp! This is how he ponders to himself.

Then, at the time of his death, not knowing the cause of suffering, by volitional activities, he fabricates a flame of nothingness and a lamp of nothingness and destines himself to a future rebirth.

Why is this so?

It's because for him the truth is yet to be known.


In your comments you said that self dissolves after death in such a way that after death self does not remain. This cannot be, because the self in order to dissolve completely, needs to know the true nature of things. Without knowing the true nature of things, self cannot completely dissolve, thus it remains. This is key in understanding that after death some self remains and it does not completely dissolve.

The true nature of things is that there is no self. Thus, every self that exists (with or without body), is constantly and naturally returning to this true nature which is "no self", but instead of entering this natural state of "no self", the self arises again and again and again because of ignorance (not knowing the true nature of things). Or I can say it this way: every self, with the death of his physical body, is naturally returning to the true nature of things, which is Nibanna, but because of ignorance, the self raises into Samsara in a new body. In not liberated beings still existing in Samsara this ignorance exists due to kamma, on the other hand, in liberated beings still existing in Samsara, ignorance does not exist due to kamma but due to compassion. In reality, the ignorance in liberated beings still existing in Samsara does not exist any more, but they choose to be a part of this ignorance (Samsara) out of compassion for other beings.

Here is what happens after death ... or in the process of dying.

Self STARTS to gradually dissolve towards Nibanna ... it does not dissolve in an instant ... it just starts gradually dissolving ... firstly, it gets stripped from his body/form ... then it gets stripped from other things like memories, concepts, ideas, etc. ... it gets stripped from skandhas ... So after death, the self (the skhandhas) is gradually dissolving/stripping, but IT CAN NEVER COMPLETELY DISSOLVE (and thus enter Nibanna) IF IT DOES NOT KNOW THE TRUE NATURE OF THINGS (lets call this The Truth). The self can completely dissolve after death (enter Nibanna) only if The Truth is known to that self.

By not knowing The Truth, when after death the self is dissolving, volitional activities are made by the self (samkhara) which are influenced by kamma, and these same volitional activities stop the gradual dissolving process of the self towards Nibanna and start rebuilding the self, thus sprinkling the self in a new existence into Samsara either by birth, egg or apparition .... with or without body/form/senses, etc. ... it gets rebuilt into skandhas depending on his samkhara which depends on his kamma. The new existence of the rebuilt self is determined by the volitional activities of the self which are conditioned by kamma which is conditioned by the degree of not knowing The Truth.

This is the answer to your question about how does the craving survive after death.

To summarize: Craving survives after death because the self does not become completely extinct after death due to the fact that the self does not know The Truth. Self cannot become completely extinct/dissolved after death if he does not know The Truth. If self does not know The Truth, he will "fight" against his extinction/dissolution with craving, thus he will not reach extinction/dissolution (Nibanna) but will remain after death (stripped off from his skandhas) and be reborn again (Samsara) with newly fabricated skandhas arising because of craving.

In fact, death is not really death .... Just the self is stripped of some of his fabricated fabrications (skandhas) and this stripping of fabrications we call »death«. Then, because of his ignorance (not knowing The Truth), the self fabricates new fabrications (new skandhas) and this we call »birth«. In reality, the self never dies nor is born. »Death« and »birth« are just concepts (not truths) ... are labels that we give to a self when the self fabricates his body (skandhas) or his fabricated body gets destroyed (destroying of skandhas). Self is constantly in the cycle of death and rebirth, but we can't see it directly because of our kamma.

The claim that after death self dissolves/extincts is not correct, because for the complete extinction of the self, The Truth must be known to that self. The self cannot extinguish/dissolve if The Truth is not known to him ... or in other words: the self cannot extinguish/dissolve if ignorance is not removed by that self. This is what the Buddha taught.

Thus, the self remains after death and is reborn again. Only in a being who knows The Truth (who removed his ignorance) the self becomes completely extinct/dissolved after death, thus enters Nibanna and rebirth stops.

Upadana means fuel. This fuel is the self after death, stripped from his body/form, memories, ideas, etc. ... thus stripped from its skandhas. Kamma is the remaining fabricated fabrications of this stripped self. Not knowing The Truth, this self fabricates new fabrications based on his remaining kamma and in this way adds new kamma to his already remaining kamma. Fabricated fabrications can be body/form, memories, ideas, concepts, etc. ... thus adding of new kamma and rebuilding of skandhas.

In non liberated beings, after death and/or during life, because of avijja (ignorance), upadana is present. Upadana gives fuel to samkhara. Samkhara then rebuilds the self based on kamma and thus adds new kamma to his kamma. This self is not free from kamma. His kamma produces fruits, which due to the real nature of things (The Truth) always end in suffering, and he cannot stop this process due to ignorance.

In liberated beings who after reaching Nirvana decide to stay in their physical bodies, upadana is present because of compassion, not because of ignorance. Upadana gives fuel to samkhara. Samkhara then rebuilds the self based on kamma, but in reality this self is free from kamma. His kamma produces fruits only because he chooses to do so, out of compassion for other beings. He is free from suffering produced by fruits of his kamma because he knows the real nature of things (The Truth). In liberated beings, after death, there is no avijja (ignorance), thus upadana can exhausts completely. Without upadana there is no fuel for samkhara. Without samkhara, no self can be rebuilt, thus all the remaining kamma extinguishes and Nibanna is entered.

I think you need to study the second link in the Pratītyasamutpāda: samkhara. Also study tanha, upadana and bhava which are the main modus operandi of samkhara. Meditate and see with your own experience samkhara, tanha, upadana and bhava in action. Then everything will be clear.

You are very close. Do not get discouraged by my words. Do not believe my words. Meditate and verify it yourself with your own experience. Let these words be your guide in seeing The Truth in its entire beauty.

Metta to you and everybody

  • There are many questions and suggestions for improvement of this answer:1.Please provide links wherever possible. 2. You say after death self without body remains...I say after death self takes rebirth with or without body.3.you say rebirth occurs because Truth is not known... I say rebirth occurs because of craving or lust ... Sep 1, 2017 at 10:11
  • Maybe I'll find some links/quotes and provide them. I'm sure the same can be found in the suttas. What do you think why do craving and/or lust occur?
    – beginner
    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:46
  • Craving or lust occurs because true nature of things are not known. You said "Then, at the time of his death, not knowing the cause of suffering, by volitional activities, he fabricates a flame of nothingness and a lamp of nothingness and destines himself to a future rebirth." Sep 1, 2017 at 10:55
  • Yes. And what is the true nature of things?
    – beginner
    Sep 1, 2017 at 11:08
  • True nature is that there is no self to cling to... neither in the past nor in future is there any self which can be called as "I am" or as my identity. I arise by the cooperation of khandas or five aggregates. I will dissolve. But if there is craving I will reassemble or reborn. Now my question was how does the craving survive after death? You say "After the dissolution of body, self without body remains." which is wrong. After dissolution of self, Upadana and karma continue to exist and cause the rebirth by reassembly of aggregates. (I may be wrong... but I am a beginner too.) Sep 1, 2017 at 11:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .