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Is Death a Reset Button?

A reader writes:

Message: Hey Brian, really enjoy all the podcasts and this site. I have been studying Buddhism now for almost two years and my life gets better on a daily basis.

My question is : it seems that our purpose is to fully awaken and be free of attachment. Well it seems that no matter how conscious or aware we become living in a form world we will most likely be attached to something at our time of death. That being so and we get sent back for another round at life here. Do we lose the level of awareness that we left before? I know when we are born we are not conditioned and we are totally conscious. Is our destiny dependent on the whole society being more evolved towards awakening?? Because if not we could have a thousand more lifetimes here.  Am I making any sense? If so what’s your take on it.

My Response:

Do we lose the level of awareness that we left before? Is our existence “Reset” every time around? Consciously? Yes. Karmically? No. You don’t know how enlightened or ignorant you were in your previous lives. Your karma, however, stays with you. If you were near-enlightened before, you should have come back in a (karmic at least) condition that will let you continue that growth. It’s up to you whether you continue forward or take steps backwards.

Are we dependent on our society awakening? Partially. It’ not an individual requirement, but as society evolves, and the overall enlightenment of people rises, I would think it should become easier in general. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  That being said, awakening or Enlightenment is in internal, individual thing, and even if everyone else on Earth were Enlightened, you would still have to make some effort to join them.

One of the most popular posts on this site was Rebirth and Karma, and it explains death and rebirth using an analogy of “waves.” It’s pretty good if I do say so myself. Link

Readers, what say you?

3 comments to Is Death a Reset Button?

  • robert

    well, I do not claim to be Buddhist, but then again, I do not claim to NOT be Buddhist either, so maybe it is okay that I respond. I just like to speculate about other-than-material-stuff. So I figure that no one really knows the answer to these sorts of questions, but we can hazard a guess. Karma does actually seem to make “sense”…at least….it is the best explanation that I have found for some experiences in my life. My “guess” is based on the belief that we are “that” or “god” or whatever you call it, and “that/god” looks like “love” on this plane. We have a mission, and that mission is to realize and willfully live in this plane awareness as if we are god/love/that, and when we do, we will not HAVE to come back, because we figured it out. It would seem to fit that if there were some area/attachment/stumbling block/sin/whatever where you got royally sucked in, that this would be given to you again as a lesson to learn the next go-round. It is another interesting question as to whether we have “choice” on the other side….ie., could we come back to “help” someone, or to do a special favor for someone, or the society, or the earth? dunno. I suppose I will find out (maybe not) when I drop this body. Either way, choosing to believe in karma is a much better option than believing in the permanence of materialism, in which case the one that dies with the most toys wins, and I have screwed up really badly. love.

  • 21st century Buddha

    “we will most likely be attached to something at our time of death.”
    There is nothing to be attached to. Nothing. Not people, not things, not God, and not Buddha. Nothing.
    Even if you are attached to something what can you do about it? Accept what is at the moment. If at the moment you are attached and a minute later you die. So what?

    Karma is something man made up or at least should not even be considered.
    One would have to die and come back to be able to answer that. And even then could you trust what one man says?
    If you have suffered in all forms of human nature and survived…who’s says you can’t do it again, and again and again.
    If suffering can be conquered once it can be conquered over and over…so who cares how many times you may or may not come back?

    The thing to do now is overcome all forms of your own suffering so you can make it through THIS life. You can worry about the next life, if there is one, then.
    Not only will you be able to handle your own life in the present but will be of service to others who suffer.
    That is all Buddha would hope you would do.
    It’s really that simple.

  • ShaolinMonkeymind

    Anatman claims there is no self, but if there is no self then there can be no Karma to follow you… because there is no you. The You that you think you are is merely a wave in the ocean of connectedness that is reality. But a very different philosopher said “I think therefore I am”. Which is correct? Self or No-Self? Something is certainly making decisions, paying the bills, and experiencing feelings, etc. Whatever it is that’s reading these words on the screen right now? Most people would call that “me”.

    If there was a different you in a past life and you don’t remember any of it, was that really “you”? And if only the Karma carries forward, wasn’t that “you” in the past life just someone else who had an earlier version of your current Karma? And if “you” don’t actually exist, what exactly is that Karma attached to?

    Many people have had more or less the same idea that we are all interconnected mentally: From Vernadsky and de Chardin’s Noosphere to Alan Moore’s Idea Space to Jung’s Collective Unconsciousness. Recent discoveries in quantum physics seem to point out that reality at least partially shapes itself based on our choices which, if true, connects us all sub-atomically.

    But again, if Anatman says there is no us, you, I, me, or them, what exactly is making all these choices, feeling these feelings, and being shackled with the Karma of the dead? “I” don’t know. Do “you”?