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I want to understand the nature of rebirth. If one says that the next rebirth would depend on the degree of identification, does that mean that if I am not identified with body I will be reborn without a body or as mind only? Or does it just go to a higher being overall that keeps that degree of overall identification and not restart from scratch? Or the rebirth just restarts all the identifications and the path has to start all over again?

What also caught my attention is if there is complete dis-identification even with the inherit "I" self existing independently, and that now existence itself realized that it is not this limited "I" because it can't be that "I" realized but what is before that which is nothing and everything and no birth will occur, doesn't that mean "I" will never exist again and just dissolve into existence? Or rebirth can happen as a completely dis-identified being by default?

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All of these questions about rebirth lately focus on what happens at the end of life. The questions themselves betray confusion and I would suggest to help clear it up first focus on a narrower investigation.

Here is an important fact that should be kept in mind whenever trying to understand rebirth:

The Buddha taught that sentient beings are reborn moment-to-moment in this very life.

This cannot be emphasized enough it seems! We are reborn continuously in every moment in this very life. Before devoting attention and effort to understanding how we are reborn from life-to-life... first devote attention and effort to this! How is this possible and what does it mean to be reborn from moment-to-moment?

The reason I emphasize this is because people seem to acknowledge this teaching by the Buddha, but think it easy to understand and simple to comprehend. I would suggest that this is not so true... why? Because of another fact that should be kept in mind:

There is no difference in kind, manner, or extent between the rebirth we experience moment-to-moment and the rebirth we experience life-to-life.

If you truly understand one, then you necessarily understand the other. They are the exact same phenomenon. Which leads me to suggest that those who profess to understand how we are reborn moment-to-moment, but are still confused how we are reborn life-to-life... well, this indicates they don’t actually understand what it means to be reborn moment-to-moment!

So I say keep investigating moment-to-moment rebirth... you’ll know you’ve come to a correct understanding when there is harmony and agreement between rebirth moment-to-moment and life-to-life. When there isn’t a scintilla of difference you can see between them.

Hope this helps!


With this in mind, let's see what happens when we transform your questions to consider rebirth from moment-to-moment.

"If one says that the next rebirth would depend on the degree of identification, does that mean that if I am not identified with body I will be reborn without a body or as mind only?"

Have you succeeded in this very life with not identifying with your body? In this very life, are there moments where you are reborn with no body or as mind only? This is an empirical question you can answer yourself! What happens when you are dreaming? What kind of body do you have? Do you experience a formless dream with no dream body? What about deep meditation... have you experienced a formless realm?

Or does it just go to a higher being overall that keeps that degree of overall identification and not restart from scratch? Or the rebirth just restarts all the identifications and the path has to start all over again?

Again, ask yourself what happens in this very life when you are reborn moment-to-moment. In that context, I am not sure how to interpret your question(s) here. If you cannot interpret your question with regard to rebirth from moment-to-moment I would suggest the underlying assumptions of the question(s) are flawed. Can you interpret them?

What also caught my attention is if there is complete dis-identification even with the inherit "I" self existing independently, and that now existence itself realized that it is not this limited "I" because it can't be that "I" realized but what is before that which is nothing and everything and no birth will occur, doesn't that mean "I" will never exist again and just dissolve into non-existence? Or rebirth can happen as a completely dis-identified being by default?

Did the Buddha just disappear when he achieved nirvana beneath the Bodhi tree? Do Arhats just wink out of existence when they achieve nirvana? Do we see spontaneous combustion or beings just up and poof disappearing on their prayer rugs while meditating? I don't see this. Do you?

No, what happens is that conventionally existing things continue to exist conventionally just as they did before and not one whit more. They begin and end conventionally just as they did before and not one whit more. All of this is like a mirage, like a dream, like a flash of lightning... impermanent, phantasmagorical, effervescent, insubstantial, existing only like Theseus' boat without any true existence whatsoever! Nothing truly real ever began or will ever truly end because nothing truly real has ever existed in the first place!

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  • This is an experiential way to look at it ,thanks very much .But now this means that the story of Buddha not reincarnating again and dissolving into existence is false .Conventionally as you said he will just change in form like we all do in real life but maybe as another higher being if I understood correctly . – Omar Boshra Feb 28 at 18:30
  • I don't know what 'dissolving into existence' means. Was the Buddha that emerged from under the Bodhi tree exactly the same as the one that died decades later at the end of his life? Was he composed of the same atoms? Was he reborn continuously throughout his life? If not, then how to explain his body growing old and sick? The Buddha... like all things was not truly real and existed only conventionally... in a dream-like manner, insubstantial, ephemeral. This is the only way that any phenomena whatsoever can exist. – Yeshe Tenley Feb 28 at 18:33
  • Ok let me confirm if I understand you correctly.you are saying life as whole is always changing and is always reborn from moment to moment right ?. – Omar Boshra Feb 28 at 19:31
  • I've tried to elaborate here: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/37283/13375 – Yeshe Tenley Mar 2 at 17:32
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Yeshe Tenley, thanks for your response, but it would make your answer clearer if you elaborate on what it means to be reborn moment to moment, and to explain how it relates to reincarnation.

I understand that everyone changes / is being reborn, very gradually, through our daily experiences, no matter how mundane. But maybe Omar and I have trouble seeing the underlying pattern that connects this to reincarnation of an entire human life.

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  • I will try. I simply don't think you do understand what it means to be reborn moment-to-moment. Every instance of this life is a different being. There is no inherently existing "I" or any inherently existing anything that exists in any way whatsoever from moment-to-moment. There is existence, but it is insubstantial and merely labeled, only conventional. Things exists through convention only! Like Theseus' boat. All things exist in a manner similar to Theseus' boat with not one whit of real or true existence. This is the only way in which being reborn moment-to-moment could work. – Yeshe Tenley Feb 28 at 17:53
  • The problem that befuddles everyone about life-to-life rebirth is there is this underlying *deeply, deeply, deeply held belief that we really exist in a substantial way from moment-to-moment in this very life! That there is some real Yeshe Tenley that persists from moment-to-moment. When we have this underlying belief and we confront the end of life we have two options to pick from: 1) That this real Yeshe Tenley is annihilated and utterly ends with death and the break up of the body. 2) That this real Yeshe Tenley continues in some manner in a new life. – Yeshe Tenley Feb 28 at 17:56
  • But it is the underlying belief that is wrong. There is no real Yeshe Tenley! Only a conventionally existing one that is reborn from moment-to-moment. And that same insubstantial, conventionally existing-only aggregates will be reborn under a new label in that next life. – Yeshe Tenley Feb 28 at 18:00
  • Here is an attempt to elaborate as you request: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/37283/13375 Hope it is helpful. If not, don't worry about it :) – Yeshe Tenley Mar 2 at 17:32

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