What is the Theravada position to following question? Is there a time difference between death and re-birth?

Some further reading: Are my future parents already here? https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=21961&hilit

4 Answers 4


In abhidhamma, when death consciousness vanished, then rebirth consciousness arise, immediately.


Some Theravada teachers say there can be an interim period but the commonly accepted belief is that there's no interim. Because the death marks the last arising of the five aggregates in this life but experiencing does not end there if you are not an Arahant. Another five aggregates should arise somewhere else immediately after that. Unless the next birth is in the immaterial realm, the next experience should have physical materiality as a part of it. In other words Rupa +(Vedana+Sanna+Sankhara+Vinnana). Thus it is Mentality+Materiality or Namarupa. Which means it's either a new life or the mind process is still holding on to a subtle form of the old body. Either way, the mind cannot exist without a body except in the immaterial realm.

In all the reported cases of beings floating around, they could see, hear things. Which means there's materiality associated with the mind process.


Here's an answer from the Theravada tradition by Ven. Narada Mahathera (which appears to come from his book "The Buddha and His Teachings"):

The continuity of the flux, at death, is unbroken in point of time, and there is no breach in the stream of consciousness.

Rebirth takes place immediately, irrespective of the place of birth, just as an electromagnetic wave, projected into space, is immediately reproduced in a receiving radio set. Rebirth of the mental flux is also instantaneous and leaves no room whatever for any intermediate state (antarabhava). Pure Buddhism does not support the belief that a spirit of the deceased person takes lodgement in some temporary state until it finds a suitable place for its "reincarnation."

In some other Buddhist schools, there is an intermediate state called bardo or antarabhāva.

  • There is a misunderstanding of what is called rebirth here. The other Buddhist schools other than what your Ven N. M. said "Pure Buddhism" never said the intermediate state is a state called that a spirit of the deceased person, it's still the mental flux, or consciousness continuum. Consciousness continuum never stop, whether your body died or not, but just it's no longer with a physical/material expression that can be seen with the naked-eyes. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 6:41
  • I'm sorry if you found the term "Pure Buddhism" offensive. I will drop that from the quote.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 6:50
  • 1
    I'm not offended at all, you should keep what the Ven N. M. said in his original words, especially you are directly quoting from his book. In modern society we should avoid abridging other's words to fit in, that's honesty treasured in journalism - public media. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 7:37

I would answer 'yes', even though 'death' ('marana') for the puthujjana is generally very quickly followed by another 'rebirth' ('jati').

For example, your unexpectedly wife divorces you. You die from the self-identity (sakkaya ditthi) of a 'husband' and are soon after reborn, in hell (suffering), with self-identity as a 'divorcee' or 'alone'.

This new birth (jati) takes some time, even if it is only the time of one or two thoughts.

You learn: "My wife has left me", which takes about 3 seconds to think. Then you think: "I am now alone", which takes two seconds to think. Therefore, rebirth takes around 2 to 5 seconds, or more, depending on the complexity.

For example, some people remain in denial for a long time when there is loss so rebirth may take a longer time for them, as explained in the Piyajatika Sutta:

Now at that time a certain householder's dear & beloved little son, his only child, had died. Because of his death, the father had no desire to work or to eat. He kept going to the cemetery and crying out, "Where have you gone, my only little child? Where have you gone, my only little child?"

The Blessed One said to him, "Householder, your faculties are not those of one who is steady in his own mind. There is an aberration in your faculties."

That's the way it is, householder. That's the way it is — for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear.

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