Buddhism has the concept of Infinite Lives (无限生命). Are we able to accept this?

The concept of Infinite Lives (无限生命) is central to Buddhism.
For me, it leads to believing in reincarnation and Karma.

However, one will be hard pressed to find proof of Infinite Lives.
Venerable Ru De provides 3 reasons the concept of Infinite Lives is tenable (note Video is in Chinese with only Chinese subtitles).

After watching the video, I summarise for myself the 3 reasons as:

  • observing our thoughts will come from the previous ones, and extending backwards, we can theorise that our first thought when we were born would have followed from the last thought in our previous life
  • observing our habits in this life that were seemingly there when we were born (e.g. kids tend to be greedy) and questioning why that is so (e.g. why some kids have a certain character when they had no opportunity to develop it), we can theorise that the habits would have been formed in their previous life
  • there are scientific studies documenting people who remember their previous lives. Such studies can support the concept of Infinite Lives. Stories of Reincarnation

Please pardon my attempt at summarising. Anyone else able to add on to this discussion?

This answer from Master Ri-Chang can help provide some resolution to a common question:

The Chinese version is here:

Most chinese in our country should be able to accept this concept, if we grew up hearing stories of reincarnation and karma. If I were to not accept this concept, it would be most probably because I have never pondered much about it, and even if I did, I did not attempt to do any research about it.

It could be that we are able to recall our previous lives, but just that at the moment we do not have the technology or the capability to “activate” this part of our brain to recall the memories.

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As a kid, I would have come across the idea of reincarnation as used in movies and in stories. I think it was quite prevalent 30 years back to have those Chinese ghost movies where the characters have past lives and the story is based around fate and their destiny (one of my favourite movies then was the Happy Ghost 开心鬼 series).

However, I must say that I didn’t see past the surface and contemplate that with acceptance of reincarnation, one should naturally see that Infinite Lives (无限生命) has to be true too. I took a very narrow view of reincarnation - simplistically thinking one will be reborn in the next life as a human being.

It was only after learning Buddhism through the Lamrim classes that the importance of Infinite Lives (无限生命) was made more apparent to me.

However, I cannot claim that I have accepted/internalised the concept of Infinite Lives (无限生命). If it was so, I think many of my decisions will be very different. On this, I will have depend on my Teachers and work hard on my studies and practice.


One might be intimidated by the thought of Infinite Lives. Is there no end?
However, with Infinite Lives, I can also see it as having Infinite Hope.

Which leads to this Short Film - 無限生命無限希望 (Infinite Lives, Infinite Hope)

(my attempt at translating with help from Google Translate:
In a car accident, Mr. Nan Yirong became a vegetative person, and the family, from having a happy life, was not caught in a state of gloom. When she could not see any future and hope, she joined a Lamrim class and heard the much needed teachings of Master Ri-Chang …)

I was deeply moved when I first watched this film. Dedicated to all facing challenges in their lives right now.

Will you be discouraged in your practice that you have to go through a period of Infinite Lives ahead of you?
Conversely, would you have the thinking that since we have Infinite Lives, it is easier to take our time with our practice and enjoy the moment first?

In Master Ri-Chang’s Lamrim Commentary Track 131a, there is a relevant passage to me that addresses how we should work with the concept of an immeasurable period of time:

【如是虽延无量时劫不应怯弱,唯时长久非厌因故,谓苦极重虽时短促亦生厌离,无苦安乐时虽久远无所厌故。 】

The rough English translation provided in the commentary is:
Likewise, do not become discouraged even by being delayed in cyclic existence for an immeasurable length of time, because a long length of time is not in itself a reason to be disheartened. If suffering is extremely intense, even a brief period of it is disheartening. But if there is no suffering and you are happy, even a long time is not disheartening.

Recently, Venerable Ru Jun also brought up some points on Infinite Lives:

From 1:50 min to 2:50 min mark of this video:

and from the 6:30 min to 8:15 min mark of this video:


This discourse by Venerable Ru Jun triggered some contemplation in me:
Would you do what you do now if you think there is nothing after death?

Venerable illustrated this thinking by describing 2 examples:

  • a businessman that spends lots of money and investment, has a factory that makes lots of products, however, he doesn’t sell any of these products and instead dumps them into the sea. As a fresh graduate, would you want to apply for work under such a boss?

  • when using wood blocks as fuel for a fire to cook food, would it make sense to carve sculptures on these wood blocks and subsequently throw them into the fire?

This made me see that, at some level, I have the concept of Infinite Lives. It would be foolish otherwise since anything I do in this current life will not matter.

This will then lead on to thinking about how best to make use of this life for our benefit with respect to our Infinite Lives.

haha, hope I am making some sense here.