The Concept of Existence (Bhava) in Early Buddhism


The transition in Dependent Origination (paṭiccasamuppāda) between clinging (upādāna) and birth (jāti) is often misunderstood. This article explores the early Buddhist philosophical perspective of the relationship between death and re-birth in the process of following bhava (uppattibhava) and existing bhava (kammabhava). It additionally analyzes the process of re-birth (punabbhava) through the karmic processes on the psycho-cosmological level of becoming, specifically how kamma-bhava leads to re-becoming in a new birth. The philosophical perspective is established on the basis of the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta, the Mahāvedalla Sutta, the Bhava Sutta (1) and (2), the Cūḷakammavibhaṅga Sutta, the Kutuhalasala Sutta as well as commentary from the Visuddhimagga. Further, G.A. Somaratne’s article Punabbhava and Jātisaṃsāra in Early Buddhism, Bhava and Vibhava in Early Buddhism and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Does Rebirth Make Sense? provide scholarly perspective for understanding the process of re-birth. This analysis will help to clarify common misconceptions of Tilmann Vetter and Lambert Schmithausen about the role of consciousness and kamma during the process of death and rebirth. Specifically, the paper addresses the role of the re-birth consciousness (paṭisandhi viññāṇa), death consciousness (cūti viññāṇa), life continuum consciousness (bhavaṅga viññāṇa) and present consciousness (pavatti viññāṇa) in the context of the three natures of existence and the results of action (kamma vipāka) in future existences.

Author Information
Pranab Barua, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Thailand

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2021
Stream: Philosophy - Philosophy and Religion

This paper is part of the ACERP2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Barua P. (2021) The Concept of Existence (Bhava) in Early Buddhism ISSN: 2187-476X – The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2021 Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon