This question is built on top of another questions asked in this site (not all by me).

Based of these premises:

1) Kamma is not the only phenomena/process responsible for the current condition of beings. There are other processes apart from those borned from anthropologic interactions or from any kind of will/intention (e.g. weather conditions, geological events, biological diseases, etc.), which can affect our lives and states.

2) I heard from one user that ghost and other 'paranormal' entities (let's assume for a moment that they exist, and let's just consider what the suttas tell us) can control other's minds. And even if is not "the person itself" the one doing an action, the kamma will be ripen for that person eventually (and I insist, even if that person didn't have the intention of doing an unwholesome deed)

And the question: for those who believe in literal rebirth (i.e. the continuation of certain mind states and kammic seeds from one life to another after the break up of the body), what do you think it happens after biological death to those whose brains begin to malfunction as a product of some biological conditions or fortuitous event, such as a tumour, dementia or a lightning striking on someones head? What if those persons begin acting impulsively and heedlessly, even if before those misfortunes they had completely normal -or even wise- behavior? Will they rebirth in hell or something like that?

Thanks in beforehand for your time and patience!

3 Answers 3


I knew someone who was diagnosed as psychotic for most of her adult life. Psychiatric medicines were semi-effective in her case (so the psychiatrist called her "one of the lucky ones"), so apparently the symptoms were brain-related -- even if etiology is too complicated i.e. physical and environmental.

A couple of comments based on that...

It took years before finding how to get medical treatment, because she was never "an imminent danger to self or others" which is the usual legal requirement for imposing medical treatment. I interpret that as evidence that her intentions toward others were invariably or mostly kindly, even when her thinking was very confused (disordered in form and content). To the extent that "kamma is intention", I think that counts for a lot.

She expected to be reborn; but she didn't say where nor for how long.

  • MN 57 says something about being reborn as an animal -- given her great sympathy for ("mind of goodwill towards") animals, perhaps that (rebirth in the animal realm) is a possibility.
  • Conversely her "sins", such as those ever were, were all too human -- perhaps that means a human rebirth.
  • Perhaps she visited other realms (brahma- and otherwise) "in this life", experienced "paranormal entities" -- to that extent perhaps she developed some equanimity about future experiences.
  • There was also this video, in case that's relevent -- Ask A Monk: Karma in a Holocaust -- which explains that because of "kamma" different people have different experiences of the same event.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 1, 2020 at 13:26

A small incorrect assumption you have made is that brain somehow is storing kammic seeds or even memories or even responsible entirely for proclivities of a human. It's not entirely true. If you go through current alt-scientific literature, (just to give you an analogy), brain is more like a remote control, not the controller itself.

...such as a tumour, dementia or a lightning striking on someones head? What if those persons begin acting impulsively and heedlessly, even if before those misfortunes they had completely normal -or even wise- behavior? Will they rebirth in hell or something like that?

What happens after biological death is that those kammaic seeds which have deepest sankaras will determine the next rebirth.

If a mentally ill person for an example say commits a murder, it will not be a bad kamma on his part because as the Buddha repeatedly says kamma largely depends on 'intention'. A mentally challenged wont have a bad intention while killing. It will just be an accident on part of the victim. No hard feelings.

So they wont be rebirth in hell. Whatever kammic seeds at time of death will determine the next birth.

Consider it like a mathematical surface with 'intentions' as 'dimensions' and 'actions' as 'magnitude' of vector and the 'self' as a 'position vector'.

With no intentions, actions will not contribute to magnitude of the vector.

When the body dies, whatever resultant that vector has produced it will go fit in similar mathematical surfaces in the spaces of Consciousness.

  • Thanks for your answer. I disagree on the example of murderer and the mental disease. When affected by such illnesses, all the brain is rewired to adapt to its new chemical and biological situation. It's not like "he" is being controlled by someone else; "he" is doing the act for a reason of "his" own. Dec 30, 2018 at 19:24
  • There was a famous medical case a few years ago where a person had a brain tumour which induced pedophile behavior and thoughts. There was no separation between the tumour and the person; the tumour was part of that person. It was "his" intention. After surgery, his behavior changed drastically, and according to him, he no long had sexual desire for children. independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/… Dec 30, 2018 at 19:27
  • @BrianDíazFlores In national criminal law, for what that's worth, people can be judged not guilty e.g. because they didn't know that what they did was "wrong", or didn't know what they were doing, etc.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 30, 2018 at 22:56
  • @ChrisW Thanks for your answer. Yeah, I understand that too, and deeply agree with its underlying philosophical argument. But those matters are issues of the conventional world, of society. The law seems to be making the distinction between 'the person' and the 'disease', when in fact those bounderies are non-existent. Empirical data shows us that if the brain is affected, the mind will be affected as well, and intentions are part of the mind too. That difference between what biological processes are part of the self, and what are not, in artificial and conventional. Dec 31, 2018 at 2:44
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    @BrianDíazFlores The first part of my answer was for different reason, altough I respect your disagreement I hold that neural circuitary in brain is not controlling anything...even when you consider that tumor case...as I said it is a very fuzzy area ...the second part is the important bit about kamma and rebirth....its about "intentions".
    – user14568
    Dec 31, 2018 at 3:42

Please do understand that every human has a physical brain and a mind. According to Buddhism the physical brain dies every time we end our current life. However, the mind continues its energy (Caring Khamma seeds) base on the good and bad added on to it in each life during your endless lifetimes. One main Khamma seed decide your next life. In the case of sudden death or death during an operation or a person in coma the person does not have consciousness to control the mind. During sudden death – No time to think and you will not know anything -Lightning strike Death during an unconcise situation – your Physical brain and mind is disconnected temporary that’s the only reason you can’t feel or remember anything happen during this time.

This type of death is somewhat dangerous to a person who practice Buddhism or live a good mindful life. On the other hand, a person who practice Buddhism correctly or live a good mindful face this type of situations rarely.

LOGIC When you are unconcise the mind is still active and however you have no control over it or no feelings as it’s disconnected from Physical brain. Therefore, one of the Main Khamma seeds form millions of Khamma seeds stored in your mind automatically gets activated without your consent (You have no control) and decides your next birth.

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