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Transmigration - What, from what to what, via what?

anatamananataman Who needs a title?Where am I? Veteran

I have noted that there is a lot of the use of the term 'transmigration' in buddhist and other religious conversations (particularly where christianity is involved), which seems to imply that something 'comes from' X and 'goes to' Y.

In my meditations and as an experiential note, I find that this term really has no meaning whatsoever in buddhism as I understand it. During meditation, my awareness or self-consciousnessness does not go any where. In fact I notice this especially after focussed meditation: the body I observe to be my own and does all the things I associate with my particular habits, appears to stay put and everything else around it transforms or changes to accommodate its wants and needs. This awareness or self-consciousness has no place it can call home, and goes nowhere, but remains with me.

If this 'thing' that is me is capable of transmigration, where would it go? Surely I would not notice it going any where if it was the real me, as it would be the real me?

Oh well, it seems that for me meditation takes me to interesting regions of my mind, but the reality is I'm grounded in who I am.

Or if I start to think about it conceptually, as I migrate to a USB metaphor - I'm on a mac platform now, but tomorrow, my programmer might move me to a Windows hell via a USB coffin... :anguished:

No need to discuss, as the conversation will go nowhere. But your mind may be transformed...




  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited February 2015

    I think you would find the Buddhas discussion with Sati revealing in MN38:

    Sati thinks it's this same consciousness which "wanders on", he is reminded that consciousness is always dependently arisen. This is a rejection of the atman doctrine, the idea of an essence or soul that transmigrates.

  • Well, OP, it doesn't "transmigrate" until you're dead, so you wouldn't notice, being dead and all, see? There's a certain logic.....

    And it's only in Mahayana that it's believed that consciousness seeks rebirth, and even then, the term "transmigration" is controversial. Because it's associated with Hindu beliefs of the soul transmigrating.

    And "consciousness" technically isn't the same thing as a soul. So we're told. Take that as you will. In Tibetan Buddhism, the way rebirths play out, it sure smacks of a soul, but ... shhhhh.... Technically "consiousness" isn't a permanent phenomenon, whereas a soul is.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    The quote below is from Bhikku Bodhi, who obviously is a Theravadan monk:
    "... following the death consciousness, there arises the first citta of the next life which springs up with the newly formed physical organism as its basis. The first citta of the new life continues the stream of consciousness which has passed out of the deceased body. The stream of consciousness is not a single entity, but a process, and the process continues. When the stream of cittas passes on to the next life it carries the storage of impressions along with it."

    My teacher describes it very much the same way, and he's Tibetan. The way he has talked about it has never once lead me to wonder, "Hm, that seems an awful lot like a soul." A lot of the problem with any of the words we use to attempt to describe what exactly is reborn probably comes down to, as usual, difficulty in translating words from languages that have words with no equal translation into English. Many of them fail miserably. Also, just like when we say "mind" it means something entirely different to us than someone of another culture (we actually spent a fair amount of time the other day trying to explain to our teacher what western people mean when they say "mind" versus what he means when he says is)...anyhow, "consciousness" also has different meanings for most westerners than it does those of other cultures.

  • what is here now? if there can be something here now then there can be transmigration.

    the question is what is here now?

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran
    Alan watts uses a great way to explain this. It's like a wave. As in energy.

    Everything in this universe is waves. No defined area in space or time.

    Our lives are like this, we are the crest. Death is the trough. It's never ending.

    Death can't overtake life or visa versa. They are connected. Exactly what the wave is is up to us to find out.

    Or as alan watts says, we can keep pretending we are a poor little me. :)
  • @Jeffrey said:> what is here now? if there can be something here now then there can be transmigration.>

    I think it's just dependent arising, conditionality. Each moment arising in dependence on the previous one.

  • @SpinyNorman what is the implication of saying that a being is a string of moments and conditions have on the idea of rebirth?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @Jeffrey said:> SpinyNorman what is the implication of saying that a being is a string of moments and conditions have on the idea of rebirth?

    The question of how the "you" of the next moment arises in dependence on the previous one looks very similar to the rebirth question. In both cases we're looking at the dependent arising of consciousness.

    What's clear is the centrality of the principle of conditionality, and of course it's the basis for both the Four Noble Truths and DO.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited February 2015

    Yes but what does conditionality say about transmigration? Does it show that there is transmigration? Does it show that there isn't transmigration?

    From my standpoint if we have anything here even if it is dependently originated then we can have rebirth. But first we have to have something here. If we never have anything here then what is there to be transmigrated?

  • There isn't "something" which is reborn. It's a succession of states based on dependent arising, one after the other, a process.

    How do you think the "you" of tomorrow arises in dependence on the "you" of today? That's a type of rebirth too, isn't it, waking up in the morning. How would you explain that?

  • Oh I think we are hung up on words. 'Something' could be a succession of states.

    If you say there is not something there then you would have to say that you cannot distinguish dependently originated phenomenon from a void. We notice something. You can see that right here looking at your computer screen. It is something. You can tell if the screen is dark or bright. So yes we have to acknowledge there is something there. Do you think so too?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited February 2015

    How about relating this to sunyata, emptiness? It's not emptiness of existence, it's emptiness of independent or permanent existence, because of conditionality.

    So there is something but it's not a fixed thing, it's perpetual change, a process.

  • yes i agree.

    a flower is a seed is a decay

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