About Reincarnation

Consciousness

The mind is an ever-changing stream of consciousness, one moment of awareness giving rise to the next moment.

Where does mind come from? The mind is an ever-changing stream of consciousness, one moment of awareness giving rise to the next moment. If we ask where one moment of mind comes from, the only answer we can give is the previous moment of mind. Suppose we are thinking of India. Where does this thought come from? It did not arise from nowhere, nor did it arise from our body or the outside world. It arose from a previous moment of mind, and if we try we can probably follow the train of thought back a long way. Even when thoughts seem to pop up out of the blue, in reality they arise out of a deeper and subtler level of consciousness.

What Are The Causes Of Mind?

Every thing is produced from two types of causes: a main, or substantial, cause and various contributory conditions. For example, a clay pot is produced from its substantial cause – the clay it is made of – and a number of contributory conditions, such as the potter, his wheel, and the kiln, which serve to mould the clay into the particular form of the pot. The substantial cause transforms into the effect, whereas the contributory conditions enable this transformation to occur. The substantial cause of a thing must be something of similar type or substance. Thus, the substantial cause of a clay pot must be clay and the substantial cause of a gold coin must be gold. Similarly, the main cause of barley is a barley seed and not a wheat seed, and the main cause of a human body is the sperm and egg of human parents and not the sperm and egg of two dogs.

Since mind is by nature formless and able to cognize objects, its main cause must also be formless and able to cognize objects.

Since mind is by nature formless and able to cognize objects, its main cause must also be formless and able to cognize objects. Physical phenomena like the brain possess form and lack the power to cognize objects, so they cannot be the main cause of mind. Our nervous system and the chemicals that make up our brain and body may be able to shape what kind of thoughts and feelings develop, but there is nothing within the brain or the body that can transform into mind. The only thing that can transform into one moment of mind is a previous moment of mind. If this is the case, then where does the first moment of mind of this life come from? The only possible answer is from a previous moment of mind.

This is the most important reason establishing the existence of reincarnation. When we understand through our own experience that mind is by nature non-material, this reason will be very powerful for us. A non-material phenomenon with the power to cognize objects cannot arise from insentient matter, nor can it arise from no cause; the only thing it can arise from is another non-material phenomenon with the power to cognize objects – i.e. a previous moment of mind.

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Eight Steps to Happiness

Eight Steps to Happiness

As a commentary to one of Buddhism’s best-loved and most enduring teachings, Eight Verses of Training the Mind by the great Tibetan Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa, this book explains how to transform every moment of our life into a step on the path to inner peace, and in particular how to transform all of life’s difficulties into truly liberating experiences.

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All quotations from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books copyright The New Kadampa Tradition - International Buddhist Union, all rights reserved worldwide. For more information on Geshe Kelsang's books visit Tharpa Publications.