Monday, May 19, 2008
HOW A THOUGHT-PROCESS AT DEATH WORKS
Effect of death on body
Man is a psychophysical unit, a mind-body combination, (náma-rúpa). The body and the mind co-exist in a close association with each other, like the flower and its scent. The body is like the flower and the mind is like the scent, and death is merely the separation of these two co-existing items. When a man is on the point of dying, his body and mind (náma-rúpa) are weak. It may be that right up to the point of death he was strong in every way, but at the very point of death he is weak. This is because from the seventeenth thought-moment reckoned backwards from the point of death, no renewed physical functioning occurs. This is just like a motorist releasing the accelerator before stopping, so that no more pulling power is given to the engine. Similarly no more material qualities born of kamma (kammaja rúpa) arise, while those which have already come into being before the stage of that thought moment, will persist till the time of death-consciousness (cuti citta), and then they will cease. As there is no more renewal of material qualities the whole process becomes weaker and weaker. It is like the fading light of an oil lamp when no more oil is found.
When the mind-body combination ceases to exist as a combination, neither body nor mind is destroyed or annihilated. These combining parts continue separately without a break, their respective processes of changing from one condition or state to another, from moment to moment, although the two processes have now parted company. The bodily part (like old clothes once worn but now discarded by the owner) will start a separate process of change, a process of gradual decay (rúpaí jirati—the body decays), but there is no annihilation. Matter is energy and cannot be lost or destroyed. The constitutes of the body, as mentioned in an earlier chapter, will change into the elements that composed it, some into “air” as gases, some into “water” as fluids and others into “earth” as minerals. The elements too cannot be destroyed or lost but only their form will change. In this manner the process of change will persist so far as the bodily counterpart of man is concerned.
Effect of death on mind
Now what of the mental counterpart (náma)? The mental counterpart also, like the physical counterpart, continues without interruption its process of changing from one condition or state to another, though no more in association with its physical counterpart. Thought, like matter, is energy and cannot be destroyed or annihilated. We have learnt that the mind is not
anything permanent or fixed, that it is not a unity but is a series (santati) of thoughts one following the other with such a rapidity that it gives the illusion of permanency and fixity. Death is no interruption to the progress of this series and no bar to the continuity of this process. This principle of thought following thought does not end with death, because in the last thought-process before death, the terminal thought-moment, known as maraóásaññá javana citta (death-proximate mind), though weak by itself and unable to originate a thought, derives a great potency by reason of the appearance of one of three powerful thought-objects that enter the threshold of the dying mind.
These thought-objects the dying man is powerless to resist. These powerful thought-objects are certain death signs and will be explained later. Thus the dying mind, although it lacks the power to originate a thought, gets a powerful push or drive by reason of the appearance of one of these three powerful thought-objects or death signs, and is thereby able to cause another thought to arise. This succeeding thought is paþisandhi viññáóa (rebirth consciousness or re-linking consciousness). Where it arises and how will be considered later.
For full article, goto: Rebirth by V.F. Gunaratna
Picture from: Human Anatomy Posters