Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rebirth: reunion, relinking consciousness

Patisandhi (literally, "reunion, relinking") is a Pali Buddhist term for "rebirth," one of the 14 functions of consciousness (viññāna-kicca).

It is a karmic-result consciousness that arises at the moment of conception, that is, with the forming of new life in a mother's womb.

Immediately afterwards it sinks into the subconscious-stream of existence (bhavanga sota). Conditioned thereby, corresponding states of subconsciousness keep arising. So it is really rebirth-consciousness that determines the latent character of a person.
"Neither has this [rebirth-] consciousness transmigrated [traveled] from a previous existence to this present existence, nor did it arise without supports/conditions (such as karma, karmic-formations, propensity, object, etc.)

That this consciousness [a future life at the moment of rebirth] has not come from the previous existence to this present existence, yet that it has come into existence by means of conditions included in the previous existence, such as karma and so on, this fact may be illustrated by various things:
What is neither the same nor altogether different from its origin? An echo, the light of a lamp, the impression of a seal [that go over to leave its impression without itself being that impression], or the image produced in a mirror [or a camera].

The image of the thing is not the thing itself, but the image could not exist without there being that thing preceding it. So things do not come from nothing, nor are they the same things coming over. 
  • [EDITOR'S NOTE: There is a process, a verb, becoming, rather than a "being" moving through time and space. What we call a "being" is not at all what it seems, for while it seems enduring and eternal, it is actually a radically impermanent impersonal process incapable of finding the satisfaction it searches for in sensual pursuits. In other words, all things being marked by the Three Universal Marks or Characteristics of Existence, are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal. How could what is impermanent be "self"? How could what is impersonal be "self"? If it is unsatisfactory and ultimately disappointing, why are we clinging to it? It is because of ignorance, that is, failing to see these three universal marks. When the mind/heart sees how radically impermanent all things are, how they are hurtling toward destruction, it lets go and is momentarily freed from the craving, grasping, and clinging that usually obsesses it. Then it is possible to see things as they really are, and this Truth of how they are sets us free. This is the process of enlightenment achieved by practicing meditation on Dependent Origination.]
For just as the resounding of the echo is conditioned by a sound and so on and nowhere has a transmigration [traveling] of sound taken place, it is just so with this consciousness.

Further it is said: "In this continuous process [of impersonal rebirth], no sameness AND no otherness can be found." For if there were full identity (between the different stages) then also milk could never turn into curd. And if there were a complete otherness then curd could never come from milk...

If in a continuity of existence any karmic-result takes place then this karmic-result neither belongs to any other being, nor does it come from any other (karma), because absolute sameness and otherness are excluded here" (The Path of Purification, Vis, XVII 164ff).

Buddhist monks in Ancient Greece/Bactria/Scythia ("Shakya Land"), Central Asia
King Menander I Soter = King Milinda.
In the "Questions of the Greek King Milinda" (Milinda Panha) this exchange takes place between a Westerner (King Menander I) and a very wise Buddhist monk (Venerable Nāgasena):
  • "Now, Ven. Nāgasena, the one who is reborn, is he the same as the one who has died, or is he another?"
  • "Neither the same nor another." (Na ca so na ca añño).
  • "Give me an example."
  • "What do you think, O king: are you now, as a grown up, the same you had been as a little, young, tender babe?"
  • "No, venerable sir. Another person was the little, young, tender babe, but quite a different person am I now as a grown-up person."...
  • "Is perhaps in the first part of the night one lamp burning, another one in the middle part, and again another one in the last part of the night?"
  • "No, venerable sir. The light during the whole night depends on one-and-the-same lamp.''
  • "Just so, O king, is the chain of phenomena linked together. One phenomenon arises, another vanishes, yet all are linked together, one after the other, without interruption. In this way one reaches the final state of consciousness neither as the same person nor as another person.''
According to the nature of their rebirth consciousness, beings divide into the following three groups:
  • 1. ahetu-patisandhika: a "being reborn without root-conditions," is a being whose consciousness at the moment of rebirth was not accompanied by any of the three noble root-conditions (greedlessness, hatelessness, undeludedness, see mūla), that is, selflessness, kindness, intelligence. Such beings are found in the four lower [subhuman] worlds (apāya), in which case the function of rebirth is exercised by the class of consciousness listed in Tab. I as No. 56. But if such beings are reborn in the Sensual Sphere as humans, they will be crippled, blind, deaf, mentally deficient, and so on. (Rebirth-consciousness = Tab. I, No. 41).
  • 2. dvihetu (or duhetu)-patisandhika: a "being reborn with only two (noble) root-conditions, that is, greedlessness and hatelessness. (Rebirth-consciousness = Tab. I, Nos. 44, 45, 48 or 49).
  • 3. tihetu-patisandhika: a "being reborn with three (noble) root-conditions." Such a being can be found only among humans. (Rebirth-consciousness = Tab. I, Nos. 42, 43, 46, or 47) and higher celestial [deva] beings.
On these three types of rebirth, see Atthasālini Tr. 11, 354 - 379. (Appendix: patisandhika). In the sutras, the terms for "rebirth" are chiefly:
  • punabbhava, "renewed existence," and
  • abhinibbatti, "arising," or
  • both combined as punabbhavābhinibbatti. (Appendix: patisandhi).
Suggested reading
  • The Path of Purification (Vis.M. XVII, 133f, 164f, 189f, 289f; Vis.M. XIX, 22f.)
  • Karma and Rebirth by Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera (Wheel No. 9,
  • The Case for Rebirth by Francis Story (Wheel No. 12/13)
  • Survival and Karma in Buddhist Perspective by K. N. Jayatilleke (Wheel 141/143)
  • Rebirth Explained by V. F. Gunaratna (Wheel 167/169)

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