Home Discussion Forum What are the Buddha's true teachings on the afterlife?

What are the Buddha's true teachings on the afterlife?

What did the Buddha really say about the after life? I have heard that Buddha said the soul is not permenant. That the soul dies with death, and reincarnation is just your conciousness moving on. I have even heard that He originally never spoke of Nirvana, but one just becomes enlightened to end the cycle. Than why in the Dhammapda does He speak of immortality, surpassing the gods, conquering death, heaven, and hell?


  1. The immortality and conquering of death, of surmmounting heaven and hell, of surpassing even the gods, comes from discarding the illusion of separation. For those theistic Buddhists who believe in Gods, Buddha surpasses them, because they are still trapped in the illusory world of samsara, while after enlightment, one can rejoin the oneness of everything and no-thing (mu) and be freed from the cycle of rebirth, from the suffering caused by attachment to our illusions of separateness.
    Moksha, Nirvana, these are not places, but states of being.

  2. He didn’t speak of the afterlife because it does not concern happiness in this life. It seems like everyone is striving for the afterward and forgetting what we have here. Buddha believed that suffering in life stems from love for material possessions. “If you’ve got nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose.” He believed that liberation from the materialistic world would allow one to transcend the sufferings and miseries that one normally ensues in his or her life.

  3. Buddha accepted the basic Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and karma, as well as the notion that the ultimate goal of the religious life is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddha asserted that what keeps us bound to the death/rebirth process is desire, desire in the sense of wanting or craving anything in the world. Hence, the goal of getting off the Ferris wheel of reincarnation necessarily involves freeing oneself from desire. Nirvana is the Buddhist term for liberation. Nirvana literally means extinction, and it refers to the extinction of all craving, an extinction that allows one to become liberated. Following death, according to Tibetan Buddhism, the spirit of the departed goes through a process lasting forty-nine days that is divided into three stages called “bardos.” At the conclusion of the bardo, the person either enters nirvana or returns to Earth for rebirth.

  4. Birth is suffering, He said (in the First Noble Truth). This is implicit of repeated birth: reincarnation.
    Release from Birth is Nirvaana. That is the Immortal (the place / state that has no birth, has no death). It is supramundane (loka-uttara). It is rest from the round of rebirth. It is Ultimate Release. Perfect Freedom. Liberation, once & for all, from suffering.
    It is not oblivion.
    § 235.
    Consciousness without feature,
    without end,
    luminous all around:
    Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing.
    Here long & short
    coarse & fine
    fair & foul
    name & form
    are, without remnant,
    brought to an end.
    From the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness,
    each is here brought to an end.
    – DN 11
    § 236.
    Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing:
    There the stars do not shine,
    the sun is not visible,
    the moon does not appear,
    darkness is not found.
    And when a sage, an honorable one,
    through sagacity
    has known [this] for himself,
    then from form & formless,
    from pleasure & pain,
    he is freed.
    – Ud 1.10
    (Some of the Buddha’s own words on Nirvaana, quoted in Ven. Thanissaro’s work below):
    Best Wishes,


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