For those Buddhists who believe there is an intermediate state between death and our next rebirth (IIRC this can last anything upto 7 weeks), does the intermediate state remember what has happened to it in its last life or is it just spurred on by its traditional lusts/cravings?

Suppose someone plotted my death, succeeded, and then laid waste to my orchards, could that (I'd probbaly be mad) be the motive for how I am reborn, rather than my habits? I understand that remembering past lives is not the norm, so I am reclutant to consider it a serious issue, if we believe in rebirth and religious soteriology, rather than the importance of our existential non-religious projects (and I would almost consider it a reductio ad absurdum for the latter).

2 Answers 2


7 weeks or 49 days in bardo or the intermediate state seems to be linked to East Asian Buddhism (influenced by the Yogacara tradition). However, the actual duration could be longer or shorter as illustrated later. Interestingly, the existence of bardo amongst Theravadins was disputed as mentioned in this PDF article by Bhante Sujato.

The proponents of rebirth often cited the works of Dr Ian Stevenson. From what little online materials of his works as well as cases by his colleagues and a translation of a Japanese account on a rebirth case, it seems there are 2 recurring aspects that caused the appearance of a bardo state.

  1. Traumatic experiences at the point of death.
  2. A strong attachment to what was lost as a result of death i.e. loved ones, places, possessions and even the deceased body or what’s left of it.

Note that this bardo state is not the same as rebirth in the other six realms (hell, hungry ghost, animal, human, asura, devas). I believe the reasons why the above 2 factors are important is as follows:

Traumatic death experiences, I believed, bewildered and perturbed the mind so much so that the usual process could not occurred. The usual process appeared to involve the appearance of deceased relatives, kind beings or devas (and at times malevolent beings) leading the being to its next rebirth. In the case of the Japanese account, it was a grandfatherly figure (albeit happening after 3 years following its demise as a human child. Interestingly, in Stevenson’s accounts, there are also a gap of many years between death and rebirth in many of his cases). In Buddhist accounts of noble disciples, it was devas.

Strong attachment which I think is the reason why bardo beings tend to linger near places where they lived when alive. The stronger the attachment, the harder it appears for the normal rebirth process to take place.

When the normal rebirth process (i.e. into the six realms) did not occur, the desire for becoming, I think, causes the being to end up with an inferior bardo body (antarābhava, 中阴身). Inferior as there appears to be no abode, let alone any shelter. Note in all the cases above, recollection of past lives happens only in relatively young children (about two and five years of age), there after the memories faded.

does the intermediate state remember what has happened to it in its last life or is it just spurred on by its traditional lusts/cravings?

Reading the accounts especially the last one about the Japanese rebirth, it may not even be capable of remembering or recalling of its last life as a human. No attempts by the bardo being to communicate with its human parents or interact with any other beings was recalled by the case subject. Therefore, I believe it could be more of a deep attachment to familiar places, people, possessions and even its previous body. The bardo being appeared to have regressed or be under-developed in its intelligence and comprehension (and not just because of its early death as even six years old are more articulate and proactive). If a bardo being is capable of fairly complex reasonings and is highly aware, it would have search out to others of its kind as intelligent social beings do to share information, maximise benefits or just for mutual comfort (note the grandfatherly figure approached the bardo being and not the other way round). The fact that all these are not happening potentially indicates that the bardo state is a less than ideal or even worse state than that of its human existence.

could that be the motive for how I am reborn, rather than my habits?

No, rebirth is a result of desire for becoming. Where this desire (for sensual pleasure, existence or non-existence) leads a being to be reborn in depends on its karma and spiritual development as in MN38.


Part 1

There's no intermediate state. It's just another life which is short lived temporarily. Ability to remember the last life may be available or not, according to type of this temporary life.

Like if someone was born as a bee (worker bees life expectancy ~ 6 weeks), he/she wouldn't have this ability.

Like if someone was born as a low level god, ect; he/she may be (not all gods have this ability) able to see the past life.

Part 2

Thought (Mind /conciseness) has three (3) states.

  • popping up / beginning
  • Stay / evolve
  • Dissappear / end

This is the cycle. This cycle has very big frequency.(example : like more cycles than 1000000000per second)

So, at the death, thought (conciseness) completes last cycle in last(dieing body) body. Next popping up happens in new body.(rebirth body).

Then cycles continue in this new body.

Then there's no conciseness in last(old) body. So it just decompose. We / humans / relatives of last life call this death of a person.

Last cycle completed in last (dieing) body is called (cuti; pronounced “chuthi.”) sitha / (last thought). New cycle starts in new body is called Paṭisandhi sitha / (new thought).



More info

(note : I didn't use these references for building the answer, I posted them as references for you.)

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