Does the ego survive death?

— By Lama Shenpen Hookham
Source Buddhism Connect

Ego After Death

A student asks:

I am confused about what you have said about communication with people after death. Doesn’t this imply that the ego is not only real but survives the death of the body?

Lama Shenpen:

I guess if by ego you mean a person, then yes.


“This would seem to contradict the teachings about the illusion of the self.”

Lama Shenpen:

The question is, what do we mean by the self of a person? It cannot be found in the body or in the mind even in life, let alone death. Yet, according to Buddhism, we reap what we sow from life to life. So yes – we have to take care we have understood correctly what the Buddha is saying here.

We cannot find a self either in our own body or mind or in the body and mind of another – yet still the Buddha stayed to teach us out of compassion even after he realised Enlightenment. Did that compassion come from him as a person? Did it come from his ego? Did it come from his self?

Or was it just his nature expressing itself spontaneously based on nothing one could grasp as a self – nothing in time or space – and yet appearing for us here in this world responding appropriately to whatever situation arose. Was this what he truly was? If so, was that him as a person? He had a body and mind and lived in this world. He was a person – that person and no other person. Isn’t that wonderful and mysterious?

We are like that too.


I had been thinking that the heart essence was indestructible and that the illusory self would dissolve with the death of the body.

Lama Shenpen:

Well, that would make the path to Awakening unnecessary. Everyone would awaken at death naturally! How wonderful! Let’s solve the world’s problems by blowing it all up!!!!!


“I have been looking forward to a period of pure awareness before being reborn somewhere, somehow, perhaps a little bit further on the path to complete realization.”

Lama Shenpen:

Well – that is what a yogin is practising to be able to do – what we are practising to be able to do eventually. Not just a period of pure awareness but pure awareness forever, taking birth from choice out of compassion for others. It is a good aspiration to have.

— By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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