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How can there be no-self if I recognise there is karmic continuity?
November 15th, 2012 (November 21st, 2013)
How can there be no-self if I recognise there is karmic continuity?

On a post about "treat[ing] all living beings with great respect" (, +J. Brian Waddington  commented that it "seem[ed] to [him] that, even if it cannot be found, there must be something that is [him] that keeps moving on to enlightenment." So here is a beginning of answer as to: how can there be no-self if I recognise there is karmic continuity?

Like my "Christianity and Zen" posts (, I have to admit my limitations: answering this will require a few posts. I'm unable to condense this further.
For today, I'll keep it most simple: can one life determine another life, without transfer of some 'self'?

The answer is in the 1'09''-video High Speed EXPosure #2: The Drawing Impact. Note that if you obscure part of the image vertically (leaving most of both left and right sides of the initially-fixed yellow ball visible, but neither the yellow ball itself nor some margins around), you then need the colours of the balls to distinguish the situation from seeing a single white ball traversing the screen…

This is the best 'simple' analogy I have found so far: the movement of the yellow ball almost perfectly 'continues' the movement of the white ball. In this kind of perfectly-aligned shock, the two balls are different though! There is nothing of the 'self' of the white ball that is transferred to the 'self' of the yellow ball; nothing is missing from the white ball after impact… the "white ball" is still the "white ball"… but the totality of the movement of the first ball is transferred (almost perfectly) to the second ball.
In this simple case, this is a great analogy for a 'simple' rebirth. All the tendencies of one individual (i.e. his habits —including habits of thoughts: values, beliefs…) are transferred to the next. There is no need for the transfer of anything else between the two, and the new movement (tendency) is undistinguishable from the previous movement (tendency). One has a different body, but all the information of tendency has passed from one life to the next without transfer of a 'self.' The second life is fully 'determined' by what the first life was, although it will meet new conditions and have, from now on, its own life… and its own rebound on the band.

So one may see 'rebirth', without rebirth implying the transfer of a 'self'. Rebirth only requires transfer of karma, and karma in Buddhism is linked to habits and tendencies ( One can see the continuity of movement, the continuity of life, despite this movement, this life, have passed from one body to the next. One continuity does not imply another!

You might ask: what happens when the point of impact is not so perfectly aligned with the direction of the initial ball… and we'll cover this in another post ;-)
You might ask: how does the transfer of habits / tendencies take place? What / when / where is the contact between the two lives? and we'll also cover this in another post ;-)

For now, let the realisation sink that even a perfect transfer of information and energy does not require any transfer of 'self'… Similarly, transfer of karma does not require migration of a 'self', even if the new life is fully connected to and in continuity with the previous life.

#buddhistcircle   #Buddhism   #analogy