In this following context, how should I take the concepts of 'identical being' and 'identity in process'?

Can the concept 'identical being' have 'unchanging entity'?

Would you give any idea about this bold and italic sentence?

I'm confused about these usages.


Every fresh consciousness consists of the potentialities of its predecessors together with something more. There is, therefore, a continuous flow of consciousness like a stream without any interruption. The subsequent thought-moment is neither absolutely the same as its predecessor since that which goes to make it up is not identical—nor entirely another—being the same continuity of Kamma energy. Here there is no identical being but there is an identity in process.

Source: P. 61 Buddhism in a Nutshell by Narada Thera

2 Answers 2


By "identical being" he means someone who is exactly the same today and tomorrow. Obviously, that's impossible and yet most people think their identity stays the same over time, and that's what he calls "identity in process" - if you steal something last year and they catch you next year, you are still responsible even though you have changed.

In jurisprudence this is called "a legal successor". Even though you may not be the same entity, you inherit the karma of your last year self.


I believe what Narada Thera is saying is the karmic seeds we planted and the karmic effects experienced will result in the identity we possess. It is this karmic process that give rise to our identity. There is no intrinsic or independent identity within this process. The example he gave is how our identity arises from our thought process. A person who habitually inclined to impatience and irritability and respond with anger to unfavourable events (a process) is a “hot-tempered” person (an identity). Likewise, anyone can possess a “hot-tempered” identity by participating in a similar process.

This means that there can never be two identical beings as it is impossible for two persons to have the exact same karma. However, two beings can generate very similar identities by participating in very similar karmic causes. So, I can look, behave, speak and even think like you (e.g. twins). Likewise the me now maybe very similar to the me a day, week or month ago. But we are not identical because the karmic seeds planted and effect experienced then and now will never be exactly the same i.e. the specific us that existed in a specific time in our life is unique and will never be encountered again. This also means that we should treasure each moment of ourselves. With Metta.

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