Death as Process

By Anuruddha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bodhi, Nārada, Revatadhamma, U Sīlānanda
Published by Buddhist Publication Society, 1999
First BPS Pariyatti Edition, 2000

ISBN : 1928706029
EAN : 9781928706021
Cover : Paperback
Pages : 432
Size : 214 x 214mm

The advent of death is fourfold, namely: (i) through the expiration of the life-span; (ii) through the expiration of the (productive) kammic force; (iii) through the (simultaneous) expiration of both; and (iv) through (the intervention of) a destructive kamma.

Now in the case of those who are about to die, at the time of death one of the following presents itself, according to circumstances, through any of six (sense) doors by way of the power of kamma:
(i) a kamma that is to produce rebirth-linking in the next existence; or
(ii) a sign of kamma, that is, a form, etc., that had been apprehended previously at the time of performing the kamma or something that was instrumental in performing the kamma; or
(iii) a sign of destiny, that is, (a symbol of the state) to be obtained and experienced in the immediately following existence.

Thereafter, attending to that object thus presented, the stream of consciousness–in accordance with the kamma that is to be matured, whether pure or corrupted, and in conformity with the state into which one is to be reborn–continually flows, inclining mostly towards that state. Or that rebirth-producing kamma presents itself to a sense door in the way of renewing.

To one who is on the verge of death, either at the end of a cognitive process or at the dissolution of the life-continuum, the death consciousness, the consummation of the present life, arises and ceases in the way of death.

Immediately after that (death consciousness) has ceased, a rebirth-linking consciousness arises and is established in the subsequent existence, apprehending the object thus obtained, either supported by the heart-base or baseless, as is appropriate; it is generated by a volitional formation that is enveloped by latent ignorance and rooted in latent craving. That rebirth-linking consciousness, so called because it links together the two consecutive existences, is conjoined with its mental adjuncts, and acts as the forerunner to the nascent states as their locus (or foundation).


So, for those who have thus taken rebirth, from the moment immediately following the cessation of the rebirth-liking (consciousness), that same type of consciousness apprehending that same object flows on uninterruptedly like the stream of a river, and it does so until the arising of the death consciousness, so long as there is no occurrence of a cognitive process. Being an essential factor of existence (or life), this consciousness is called the life-continuum. At the end of life, having become the death consciousness on the occasion of passing away, it then ceases. Thereafter, the rebirth-linking consciousness and the others continue to occur, revolving in due sequence like the wheel of a cart.

Just as here, so again in the next existence, there arise rebirth-linking consciousness, life-continuum, cognitive processes, and death consciousness. Again, with rebirth and life-continuum, this stream of consciousness turns around.

The wise, disciplining themselves long, understand the impermanence (of life), realize the deathless state, and completely cutting off the fetters of attachment, attain peace.

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