The Conundrums About Life, Death, “Reincarnation”

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh answers the conundrums about

Life, Death, “reincarnation”

and whatever one misbelieves happens after this life:


In the beginning,
I had certain ideas about mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhism.
After ten years of practice, I had a much better understanding.
Then after forty or fifty years,
my insight and understanding had become even deeper.

We are all on a path,
we are all making progress,
and along the way we need to be ready to abandon our current view
so we can be open to a new, better, and deeper view,
one which brings us closer to the truth;
one which is more helpful for transforming our suffering
and cultivating happiness.


Whatever views we hold,
we should be careful not to get caught up in thinking that
our view is the “best” and that only we have the truth.

The spirit of Buddhism is very tolerant.
We should always keep our hearts open
to the people who have different views or beliefs.

Practicing openness and non-attachment to views
is fundamental in Buddhism.
That is why,
even though there are dozens of different schools of Buddhism,
Buddhists have never waged a holy war against each other.


The spiritual context of ancient India
had a strong influence on the Buddha’s teachings.
Buddhism is made of non- Buddhist elements
in the same way that a flower is made of non-flower elements.
In the West,
Buddhism is often associated with the ideas of
reincarnation, karma, and retribution,
but these are not originally Buddhist concepts.
They were already well established when the Buddha began teaching.
In fact,
they were not at all at the heart of what the Buddha taught.

In ancient India,
reincarnation, karma, and retribution were all taught based on the idea of
the existence of a self.
There was a widely held belief in a permanent self
that reincarnated and received karmic retribution for actions in this lifetime.

But when the Buddha taught reincarnation, karma, and retribution,
he taught them in the light of no self, impermanence, and nirvana—
our true nature of no birth and no death.

He taught that it is not necessary to have a separate, unchanging self
in order for karma— actions of body, speech, and mind—
to be continued.

According to the Buddha’s core teachings on no self, impermanence,
and interbeing, the mind is not a separate entity.
The mind cannot leave the body and reincarnate somewhere else.

If the mind or spirit is taken from the body,
the spirit no longer exists.
Body and mind depend on each other in order to exist.
Whatever happens in the body influences the mind,
and whatever happens in the mind influences the body.

Consciousness relies on the body to manifest.
Our feelings need to have a body in order to be felt.
Without a body,
how could we feel?
But this doesn’t mean that when the body is dead, we disappear.
Our body and mind are a source of energy,
and when that energy is no longer manifesting in the forms of
body and mind,
it manifests in other forms:
in our actions of body, speech, and mind.

We don’t need a permanent, separate self
in order to reap the consequences of our actions.
Are you the same person you were last year, or are you different?

Even in this lifetime,
we cannot say that the one who sowed good seeds last year
is exactly the same person as the one who reaps the benefit this year.

many Buddhists still hold on to the idea of a self to help them understand
the teachings on reincarnation, karma, and retribution.
But this is a very diluted kind of Buddhism,
because it has lost the essence of the Buddha’s teachings on
no self, impermanence, and our true nature of no birth and no death.

Any teaching that does not reflect these insights
is not the deepest Buddhist teaching.


The Three Doors of Liberation—
emptiness, signlessness, and aimlessness—
embody the cream of the Buddha’s teaching.
In Buddhism,
if you touch the reality of interbeing, impermanence, and no self,
you understand reincarnation in quite a different way.
You see that rebirth is possible without a self.
Karma is possible without a self, and
retribution is possible without a self.


We are all dying and being reborn at every moment.
This manifestation of life gives way to another manifestation of life.

We are continued in our children, in our students,
in everyone whose lives we have touched.
is a better description than “reincarnation.”

When a cloud turns to rain,
we cannot say that a cloud is “reincarnated” in the rain.
“Continuation,” “transformation,” and “manifestation”
are all good words,
but perhaps the best word is

The rain is a remanifestation of the cloud.

Our actions of body, speech, and mind
are a kind of energy we are always transmitting,
and that energy manifests itself in different forms again and again.

Once a young child asked me,
“How does it feel to be dead?”
This is a very good, very deep question.
I used the example of a cloud to explain to her about
birth, death, and continuation.
I explained that a cloud can never die.
A cloud can only become something else,
like rain or snow or hail.

When you are a cloud,
you feel like a cloud.
And when you become rain, you feel like the rain.
And when you become snow, you feel like the snow.
Remanifestation is wonderful.

“Zenfully Quool Quotes”…
Currently featuring “The Art of Living”
By Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

My aim is to present
a deeper, higher, wider, non-theological perspective
into common sense Spirituality
that most of us folks raised in the ‘west’ never get introduced to,
to fulfill life’s most intriguing questions…