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Rebirth and Science

Read: Rebirth in Buddhism

The principle of the scope of negation.

This principle states that there is a fundamental difference between that which is “not found” and that which is “found not to exist.” If I look for something and fail to find it, this does not mean that the thing I am seeking does not exist. Not seeing a thing is not the same as seeing its non-existence.

In the same way, just because science has not proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that beings take rebirth doesn’t mean reincarnation isn’t possible. In science, the fact that we have not so far found life on any planet but our own does not prove that life does not exist elsewhere.

What is the evidence for rebirth?


When asked what gets reborn, Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche reportedly said, “Your bad habits.”


Nothing inspires more debate amongst Buddhists than the notion of rebirth. There’s no doubt the Buddha believed in rebirth (not in reincarnation, which implies a soul).

Rebirth is the concept where the subtle consciousness is reborn after the physical body has died. The consciousness can be reborn as a new human being or any other sentient being, depending on karma created by the previous life.

Reincarnation is not the same as rebirth. Reincarnation tends to involve a belief in the soul (atman) reincarnating (typically a Hindu belief), while rebirth considers the aggregates of consciousness, energy, or mind stream (as it’s expressed in Buddhism).

Buddhism believes that there is no permanent entity. Everything is constantly changing our consciousnesses, feelings, bodies, perceptions, and impulses. We experience the illusion of a self. We do not exist in this world, the world exists in our minds.

The best-known evidence is the work of Ian Stevenson, who spent fifteen years collecting data from over 4500 people who recalled past lives.

The scientists have routinely been presented with evidence to at least partially support the notion of rebirth. Reincarnation or rebirth serves as the only conceivable explanation for children as young as three years of age, having detailed knowledge of their past lives, where they stayed, what they did, even how they die. Other evidence of reincarnation includes xenoglossy, or the ability to speak in a language with which a person has never learned, and the existence of matching scars and birthmarks.

What happened after death?

Reading: Death and Buddhism

Scientists believe that death occurs when the heart stops beating and their brain shuts down. Scientists also proved that death is not a moment, but a process. After the brain dies, the cells inside the body begin their death process which can go on for days.

Further reading:

Nine Point Meditation on Death


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