How does rebirth happen?
- We each have our own mindstream (mental continuum).
- We each have a body (physical entity) & a mind (formless entity); body & mind each have their own continuums.
- Body is material & physical.
- It functions within the system of cause & effect, i.e., the body we have today is a continuation of yesterday's body, the day before that, the week/month/year before that, all the way back to the sperm & egg of our parents.
- Mind is "mere clarity and awareness."
- Clear: It reflects or illuminates objects.
- Aware: It perceives or is involved with these objects.
- Our mind also functions within the system of cause & effect, i.e., our present mind depends on the mind of the day before, the week before, etc. We know we had minds even as babies (even though we don't remember), because we've observed other babies.
- Since each moment of mind is a result of the previous moment of mind, and since mind & body have different continuums, the only logical cause of the mind at the moment of conception is a previous moment in that same continuum.
- Thus our mind existed before it entered into this body. We have had previous lives, when our mind inhabited other bodies.
Thus each person has a separate mindstream that can be traced back infinitely in time.
- The very subtle consciousness that goes from one body to the next is NOT a soul (a fixed, real & independent entity that is the person)
- Rather, the consciousness is dependent and always changing, and thus is referred to as the mindstream.
- What happens to our mind in one particular life depends on the actions it created & motivated in previous lives.
- Even though the mind is constantly changing, it is regarded as one continuous thing (like a river).
- From a Buddhist viewpoint, there is no initial moment of mind—no beginning and no end to our mental continuum.
- It's fruitless to try to find a first moment of mind or the origin of our ignorance. It's more advantageous to deal with our present situation and work to improve it.
Most of us can't remember our previous lives because our minds are obscured by ignorance and the imprints of negative actions we created in the past.