Dreams and nimitta at the time of death

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    • #46566

      A thought occurred to me. In a dream or nightmare, we can often act as if we were in real life (dreams sometimes even seem real to us). For example, this same person regularly dreams of helping homeless people. In these dreams, the person does it automatically without even thinking. In real life, this person acts this way quite regularly.

      Could we say that it is the same thing at the moment of death? A particular good or bad action(nimitta) comes to the mind of the dying person and he acts according to his gati ?

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    • #46568

      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.
      • #46577

        OK sir. I didn’t understand this key concept. If I understand correctly the nimitta only appears when he has a new bhava?

    • #46578

      Nimitta, in general, is a “thought object” upon which the mind starts to experience something. It has a similar meaning to arammana. It is to focus the mind on something. 

      • See “Nimitta Sutta (AN 3.102).” The English translation there translates it as “foundation.”
      • The other translation there, “3.102. Themes” translates nimitta as “theme.”
      • Both may be OK to get the idea. 
      • For example, a yogi cultivating the anariya breath meditation focuses the mind on the breath. So, breath is the nimitta there.

      At the cuti-patisandhi moment, kammic energy can bring a nimitta to the mind in two ways: (i) based on the mindset of that person at that time (if a potent/strong vipaka is not there) or (ii) if there is a strong vipaka waiting to bring that specific vipaka, it can bring a very different nimitta matching with that specific vipaka.  


    • #46582

      Okay, thank you for these details. But sir what I wanted to know is can we compare the nimitta experienced during death to a dream?

      During a dream we do not control anything and during the moment of death we are powerless (anatta). We don’t know what thought will come to us when we pass away. Especially when a person is puthujunas.

    • #46584

      Yes. That is correct. 

      • Even though we can take any nimitta (like the breath in “breath meditation”) that we like during life, the nimitta that brings a new existence is NOT under our control.
      • Just like we don’t have control over the dreams we see, that particular nimitta is beyond our control.
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      • #46585

        Thank you Sir🙏🏿

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