with Ven. S. Dhammika
There are three possible answers to this question. Those who believe in a god or gods usually claim that before an individual is created, he/she does not exist, then he/she comes into being through the will of a god. He/she lives their life and then, according to what they believe or do in their life, they either go to eternal heaven or hell. There are others, humanists and scientists, who claim that the individual comes into being at conception due to natural causes, lives and then at death, ceases to exist. Buddhism does not accept either of these explanations. The first gives rise to many ethical problems If a good god really creates each of us, it is difficult to explain why so many people are born with the most dreadful deformities, or why so many children are miscarried just before birth or are still-born. Another problem with the theistic explanation is that it seems very unjust that a person should suffer eternal pain in hell for 60 or 70 years of non-belief or immoral living. Likewise, 60 or 70 years of good living seems a very small outlay for eternal bliss in heaven. for what he/she did in those years on Earth The second explanation is better than the first and has more scientific evidence to support it but still leaves several important questions unanswered. How can a phenomenon so amazingly complex as consciousness develop from the simple meeting of two cells, the sperm and the egg? And now that parapsychology is a recognised branch of science, phenomena like telepathy are increasingly difficult to fit into the materialistic model of the mind.
Buddhism offers the most satisfactory explanation of where beings come from and where they are going. When we die, the mind, with all the tendencies, preferences, abilities and characteristics that have been developed and conditioned in this life, re-establishes itself in a fertilised egg. Thus the individual grows, is re-born and develops a personality conditioned both by the mental characteristics that have been carried over. And by the new environment, the personality will change and be modified by conscious effort ;and conditioning factors like education, parental influence and society and once again at death, re-establishing itself in a new fertilised egg. This process of dying and being reborn will continue until the conditions that cause it, craving and ignorance, cease. When they do, instead of being reborn, the mind attains a state called Nirvana and this is the ultimate goal of Buddhism and the purpose of life.