Reply To: Dreams and nimitta at the time of death


I think there are two related issues/concepts.

1. The Buddha clearly stated that what one does in a dream cannot create kammic power, i.e., potent javana citta cannot arise while dreaming. The types of cittas that occur while asleep are called “parittārammana (weak) or atiparittārammna (very weak) citta.” 

  • Once, a bhikkhu dreamt that he engaged in sex with a woman. Having sex with a woman breaks a Vinaya rule, and that bhikkhu has to give up robes and become a lay person. So, he was distraught, told the Buddha about it, and was ready to leave. But the Budha said to him that nothing done in a dream could not have kammic consequences. That is because one has to be conscious while engaging in generating kamma
  • See “State of Mind in the Absence of Citta Vithi – Bhavaṅga.”

2. The second issue is about Gad’s question, “A particular good or bad action (nimitta) comes to the mind of the dying person and he acts according to his gati?”

  • First of all, not all deaths result in grasping a new bhava (existence.) A human bhava may last thousands of years. If that kammic energy is not exhausted, the human gandhabba will come out of the dead body and will be pulled into another womb at a later time.  One may have many births with physical human bodies while in human bhava.
  • If that kammic energy is exhausted at the time of death, then a new existence (bhava) will be grasped. That is called a cuti-patisandhi moment; that does not happen at every death. See “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein.”
  • Now, at such a cuti-patisandhi moment, what type of nimitta comes to mind is a complex issue. In some cases, the “state of mind” close to death could have an effect in the sense that it can induce a corresponding type of kamma vipaka to come to the mind. For example, if the dying person is in a good state of mind, that may attract a good kamma vipaka to bring in the next bhava. That is why it is a tradition to recite Dhamma discourses or suttas to a dying person.
  • However, if there is a strong kamma vipaka waiting to bring its fruit, such external conditions do not matter. An extreme case here is an anantarika (anantariya) kamma; that will take over regardless of the other conditions.
  • So, in general, cultivating good gati is a good idea. It can help in many cases.