Steve Hagen | Buddhism | On Reincarnation

hagen_97x120The Wisdom of Seeing

Author Steve Hagen invites us to experience the truth that lies before us, but eludes the thinking mind.

Interview by Lisa Schneider

Excerpt: On Reincarnation:

“Reincarnation implies the persistence of a self. And this goes to the very heart of the Buddhist insight. There isn’t any persistence of any kind whatsoever. Everything is fresh, new in each moment. Already you’re not the person who called me a few moments ago. Already your mind is different, new thoughts have entered into it. Your feelings and emotions have changed.

Within a few months virtually all the material of our bodies will be exchanged with other material that’s now disbursed in the environment. This is a continuous ongoing flow. Even the electrons, the electrical exchanges between the materials in our bodies and the cabinet, the floor, or anything else that’s around you is in continuous flow and flux and change. Nothing is holding still.

So within this kind of world of total impermanence, where do we find permanence? We don’t find it anywhere. But that’s what would be required for the standard understanding of reincarnation: that there’s something called me, an “I” that will persist.

Well we can believe this and of course this would be one of those form things: something that we think, something that we believe. But as I understand the Buddhist teachings, the awakened wouldn’t buy this. They would go with what is actually experienced directly. What is experienced directly? Total flux and change, impermanence. So impermanent that we actually don’t find a thing there to be impermanent, such as a self.”

To read the complete interview please follow the link below:


2 Responses

  1. Hi Hugh!
    Thanks for your comment. Please note that this post refers mainly to the concept of reincarnation; it is an excerpt from an interview to Steve Hagen.
    But being “awake” basically means that you are “present”. Your mind is here. Practicing presence (mindfulness) will get you to full awakening. But then again full awakening could be right “now”. We just have to drop the “I” and its “explanations”. The goal and the path are both here, now.

    This quote goes to the point:

    “The more I doubted, the more I meditated, the more I practiced. Whenever doubt arose I practiced right at that point. Wisdom arose. Things began to change. It’s hard to describe the change that took place. The mind changed until there was no more doubt. I don’t know how it changed. If I were to try telling someone, they probably wouldn’t understand.”

    Ajahn Chah, Food for the Heart


  2. It might be helpful for you to make a distinction between relative and absolute wisdom in your discussion re: Buddhism & reincarnation. To be “awakened” is to speak from the Absolute level of understanding but that is an intellectual understanding only. The “self” is made up of the “Skandhas” which include: form, feeling, perception, volition & consciousness. If people believe they have really transcended the self because they can articulate it then they are at a very unawakened level of understanding. If one believes they have “gone beyond” greed, desire, acquisitiveness as well as anger & hatred then there is a good deal of delusive thought involved. Rebirth is taking place every moment of every day in our thoughts & feelings & emotions. This is impermanence in an impermanent body & an impermanent world. But awakening to impermanence means we experience the flow and flux and dynamic quality of life in a state of pellucid clarity (Sunyata). Few people live at this level. Fewer still that I know of after having spent decades in Buddhist communities.


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