At that time, Wise Protector, a youth, joined his palms respectfully, bowed down with his head at the Buddha’s feet, and said to him, “World-Honored One, you always take pity on all sentient beings and hold them in your embrace and protection. I wish to ask a few questions. May the World-Honored One grant me permission.”

The Buddha said to Wise Protector, “Your request is granted. You may present your doubts and I will answer them with detailed explanations.”

The Luminous One’s response is never shallow but opens-up in lotus flower fashion with layer after layer of Buddhagnosis, thus enhancing the adept at many different levels.

Wise Protector asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, although sentient beings know that consciousness exists, they cannot understand it thoroughly if it is not explained clearly, just as no one knows that there is a treasure if it is locked up in a box. World-Honored One, what form does the consciousness assume? Why is it called consciousness’ When sentient beings are dying, they frantically jerk their hands and feet, their eyes change color, they are constricted and cannot move freely, their sense-organs function no more, and their [ four] elements disintegrate. After the consciousness leaves the body, where does it go? What is its self-nature? What form does it take on? How does it leave the old body to receive a new body? How can it leave one body here, and , taking all the sense-fields with it, be born again and again in various other bodies to undergo karmic results’ World-Honored One, how can sentient beings produce sense organs again after their bodies decay and disintegrate? How can one be rewarded in future lives for meritorious deeds performed in this life? How can a future body enjoy the rewards of meritorious actions performed by the present body? How can the consciousness be nourished and grow in the body? How can the consciousness change and modify itself in accordance with the body?”

The Buddha answered, “Marvelous, marvelous Wise Protector, your questions are excellent. Listen attentively and think well about this. I will explain it to you.

Wise Protector said to the Buddha, “Yes, World-Honored One, I will accept your teaching with respect.”

taking all the sense fields: refers to the twelve entrances of perception i.e., the six sense organs and the six sense objects or sensations. One must not assume that consciousness in some fashion conveys the biological sense-organs or their accompanying images. Rather, this refers to the consciousness carrying the impressions of all former habit energies from a previous existence thus establishing a new mind-body configuration that transpires between death and the next incarnation.

The Buddha told Wise Protector, “The consciousness moves and turns, transmigrates and expires, and comes and goes like the wind. Wind has no color or shape and is invisible, yet it can [generate and] stir up things and cause them to take on different shapes. It may shake trees so violently that they break or split with a loud crack. It may touch sentient beings’ bodies with cold or heat and make them feel pain or pleasure.

“The wind has no hands, no feet, no face, no eyes, and no shape; it is not black, white, yellow, or red. Wise Protector, the same is true of consciousness. Consciousness is without color, shape, or light, and cannot be manifested. It shows its various functions only when [proper] causes and conditions are met. The same is true of the elements of feeling, awareness, and dharmas.  These elements, too, are devoid of color and shape and depend on [proper] causes and conditions to display their functions.

without color, shape, or light: it needs to be stressed here that “light” in this context does not connote the pure and luminous light of the Tathagatas, but rather the natural light that is conveyed through the senses, such as the sun brightening their effect.

and dharmas: this familiar term is used in an unusual context, i.e., not the strength of the Buddha’s teaching, but rather in the sense of dhamartas, or those residual impressions and habit energies of a phenomenal nature, thus occurring in the realm of karmadathu.

“Wise Protector, when a sentient being dies, the elements of feeling, awareness, and dharmas, together with consciousness, all leave the [old] body. Taking the elements of feeling, awareness, and dharmas with it, the consciousness is born in a new body.

“As an illustration, when the wind passes over exquisite flowers, the flowers remain where they are, while their fragrance spreads far and wide. The substance of the wind does not take in a fragrance of the exquisite flowers. The substances of the fragrance, the wind, and the organ of touch have neither shape nor color, but the fragrance cannot spread far away without the power of the wind. Wise Protector, in the same way, after a sentient being dies. His consciousness will take birth again together with the elements of feeling, awareness, and dharmas. Accompanied by the elements of feeling, awareness, and dharmas, the consciousness is reincarnated through [the union of] its parents, who are the conditions of its rebirth.

Taking the elements of feeling, awareness, and dharmas: consciousness as seed-bearer.

organ of touch: Both the Abhidharrna and Yogacara schools reinforce that within or behind each of the five sense-organs there is a corresponding pure organ that constitutes a sense of formal reality. These are essentially invisible to human recognition and hence only those who are graced with the True Dharma-Eye can differentiate them.

When conception in the ovum occurs, seeds of consciousness from both female and male cells combine to determine what future karmic conditioning will take effect after birth in the new life-cycle. This is known as Karmic-Bifurcation.

“By virtue of [sweet] flowers, the nose smells fragrance; by virtue of the sense of smell, the fragrance is experienced; by virtue of a wind, we see and feel the effect of the wind, whose power spreads the fragrance far and wide. Similarly, from the consciousness comes feeling; from feeling comes awareness: from awareness come dharmas; and as a result, one can tell good from evil . . . .

the nose smells fragrance: being perfumed with sensorial impressions.

one can tell good from evil: these are the new impressions being superimposed on the new environment, all stemming from prior-familiarizations that were fashioned from the former environment. Hence, consciousness takes on the role of what would later become known as the storehouse-consciousness—or the receptacle housing seeds of both good and evil. Whichever seed is stronger predominates the new samsaric-field.

“Wise Protector, when a sentient being dies at the exhaustion of his karmic results [for that life], his consciousness is still bound by karmic hindrances. [At the moment of death,] the consciousness leaves the body and its elements to take birth in another body, just as the consciousness of an Arhat who has entered the dhyana of ultimate quiescence disappears from his body. However, by the power of memory, the consciousness knows both the identity of the deceased and all he has done in life, which occur clearly to the dying person and press him mentally and physically.

This passage reinforces that the prior-preparation before death is paramount. As was stated in our series The Lankavatarian Book of the Dead, the third Bardo-realm needs to be mindfully faithfully and attended to:

For a Lankavatarian, of all the Bardo (in-between stages of transition from one stage of awareness to another) Stages we’ve encountered in this series, Bardo Realm Three—the realm of meditation and Deep Samadhis—holds the highest significance. The longest of our investigation, it needs to be turned to again and again and its components need to be studied and practiced with the utmost faith and diligence. Why? Because all these Bardo stages are really a Mind Voyage—Mind coming to the full self-realization of Recollecting and returning to its true, Unborn home. There is no other alternative. Trying to maneuver through these dense samsaric planes in any other way is really just a fool’s attempt of running through the mad maze of sentient being-ness that never, ever escapes the karmic wheel. Bardo Realm Three thus strengthens the awareness principle to be able to make the transcendent leap into Dharmakayic ecstasy (at the end of Bardo stage 4) that marks the final end of the long and weary samsaric journeying through lesser mind-fields.

Be mindful, your last breath may soon be at hand—are you ready to make the transition into that Dharmakayic Ecstasy, or will you return again and again to those lesser mindfields?

“Wise Protector, what is the meaning of consciousness? Consciousness is the seed which can bring forth the sprout of various bodily forms as a result of karma. Perception, awareness, conception, and memory are all comprised in the consciousness, so that it can tell joy from pain, good from evil, and wholesome states from unwholesome ones. For this reason, it is called consciousness.”

A reinforcement of consciousness’ position as the seed-carrier.

“You ask how the consciousness leaves the body and [takes birth] again to undergo other karmic results. Wise Protector, the consciousness moves into a body as a face appears in a mirror, or as the letters of a seal reveal themselves in the mud. When the sun rises, darkness disappears wherever the sunlight reaches. When the sun sets and there is no light, darkness reappears. Darkness has no form or substance, and is neither permanent nor impermanent; it is nowhere to be found. The same is true of consciousness: it is devoid of form and substance; yet it manifests itself by feelings and conceptions. The consciousness in the body is just like the substance of darkness; it cannot be seen or grasped.”

Like the wind, consciousness cannot be grasped, but the imageless seed it carries take on eventual forms that will be manifested. It is unsubstantial yet all-pervading once it takes root.

“A mother cannot know whether the baby she has conceived is a boy or a girl; black-, white-, or yellow-skinned; with complete or incomplete organs; with well-formed or deformed organs; or whether its hands, feet, ears, and eyes resemble hers. When the mother eats or drinks something hot, however, her baby moves in her womb and she feels pain. Similarly, sentient beings come and go, bend and stretch, look and wink, talk and laugh, carry heavy burdens, and do other things. Through these activities the consciousness manifests itself, but no one can tell exactly where it is except that it is in the body, and no one knows what it looks like.

Wise Protector, the consciousness, in its self-nature, pervades everywhere [in the body] but is not tainted by any part. Although it dwells in the six sense-organs, the six sense-objects, and the five aggregates which are defiled, it is not stained by any of them; it only functions through them.”

The skandhas become the vehicle through which consciousness operates. But consciousness in itself is never a psycho-physical construct, but is itself a function of the Mind King. Mind {Citta} Itself supersedes consciousness.

The entirety of earliest doctrinal Buddhism revolves around nothing else but the incorporeal Citta (mind/nous/spirit), not the brain-construct (vinnana), which is indeed “transcending human comprehension (i.e. psycho-physicality).” Such as: “His mind (citta) after death goes to the supernal realm [SN 5.371]”, “Followers, this Brahmin life is lived for the sole preeminent purpose of emancipation of the mind (citta) alone [MN 1.197]”, “He gathers the mind (citta) inside the immortal realm [AN 1.282]”. The citta (mind) is not part of psycho-physicality (namo-rupa, including the brain/consciousness construct) [MN 1.436]. (Ken Wheeler)

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One Response to Transmigration

  1. emaho says:

    Most excellent!
    So beautifully elucidated.
    Sublime indescribable siddhis.
    Most excellent!

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