I asked a question about rebirth without new awareness, only karmic conditioning. According to the doctrine of the Nidanas, I answered my question saying that:

Kamma-bhava [bhava being the 10th nidana] is what recreates the next rebirth. Sankhara [2nd nidana] is kamma-bhava considered without the "associated mental states".

Could it be said then that, given the fact of emptiness, kamma-bhava is empty but sankhara can only be said to be selfless OR empty?

Then it seems to me that we would have "rebirth without new awareness, only karmic conditioning", because what generates the next birth is selfless AND empty - and so is less substantial than volition...

Is that right? Is it possible according to the Buddha?

Putting my philosophy hat on, it seems weird to say that karma is real but not our experiences. But perhaps the intuition reads that: phenomena cannot be pinned down into belonging to this or that - only that "I" experience them.

Does this make any sense, I'm not sure it does?

  • 1
    What do you mean when you say "Suppose that our volitional processes are real, that the alayavijnana is the ultimate, whereas our "mental states" are fictions."? I don't quite understand the question here.
    – Bakmoon
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 17:14
  • ok sorry, i'll TRY to make more sense shortly :/
    – user2512
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


Being empty is to be lacking inherent existence, which is to be lacking in fixed self, which is to be lacking in self. So a thing cannot be empty, and have a self, because being empty is to ultimately have no self, and all objects and phenomena are empty. It is not an either/or scenario, it can never be an either or scenario.

It is like asking if a canvass can be either paintless or blank. It is really a meaningless question, because it is just two ways of pointing at the same truth. It is meaningless to assert that paintless is either less or more substantial than blank. Is the son of a barren woman less substantial than the horns of a rabbit?

The karma is only as real and impactual as the blind attachment, and therefore assumptive delusion of self and true existence or true existential status. These volitional formations can be transcended in practice by developing equanimity, awareness, and insight


The Dhamma teaches that kamma reaches fruition; in this life; in the next life; or in some future life. I would add that kamma has also reached fruition in previous lives as well. The dissolution of kamma pertains to when one has reached nibbana and has tathagata (as a verb). Kamma is therefore not inevitable. Rebirth is not a reward or a punishment but a process of our maturation in the knowledge of becoming. Kamma is neither good or bad. Kamma is either right-minded, neutral or convoluted. The cause of kamma (action) is our dispositions and our grasping. With right-mindedness, we can appease our dispositions and end our grasping. All things are empty and therefore already lack inherent existence. Just like your son of a barren woman, where is your canvas and paint? What is reborn is a consciousness disposed to grasping for something. We often hear of the the dying exclaiming things like, "Why is this happening to me or, "This cannot be happening to me!?" Or, "I'm not done yet with what I want to do, I want to live!" These are the thoughts of convoluted logic.
The positive side of samsara has not emphasized. It is the opportunity to realize nibbana (freedom) by the dissolution of our dispositions and our kammic grasping. If there was only one life in which one could attain nibbana, very, very few would succeed. This is the teaching of the Enlightened One, the science of the dhamma-vinaya. I hope this helps you.

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