In Buddhism, we believe in rebirth and karma. But was there a time when it was our first time in any of the 31 Planes of Existence?

If that is the case, how would we be reborn anywhere since we did not have any karma to pay off?

If that is not the case, how were we just infinitely here?

  • Related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acinteyya
    – DLV
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 3:28
  • These are the so-called "imponderables". I.e. stuff that isn't to be speculated about, haha.
    – DLV
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 3:28
  • Oh I see. Yeah I understand why they are imponderables because no matter what you answer, the answers cause you to have more questions than answers. @David This is irrelevant, but how do you change your username?
    – user5380
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 3:35
  • On the black tab on the top > click on the numbers > search for "edit profile"
    – DLV
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 3:36
  • I'm not sure why they would be called imponderables, (seems silly to me, to be honest) but I just wanted to point this information out.
    – DLV
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 3:38

4 Answers 4


If i may kindly correct the beginning sentence of your question, i.e. "In Buddhism, we believe in rebirth and karma."

We actually try to verify these things for ourselves by studying reality through insight meditation, thereby gaining insights into how reality functions. We practice to gain experiental knowledge instead of believing things to be in a certain way.

Through insight meditation one will come to see that phenomena arise dependent on causes and conditions. One sees that phenomena can spawn new phenomena.

Looking for a first cause is problematic. Why is that?

A first cause breaks causality. One can then ask "What caused the first cause? Or What caused the cause that caused the first cause? And so on ad infinitum".

This question of origin also belongs to The Four Imponderables, namely the 4th one "Speculation about [the origin, etc., of] the cosmos is an imponderable that is not to be speculated about".

The Buddha explained that is it not conducive to ones practice to think about these things. That is because one cannot understand it unless one is a Buddha. If one is not a Buddha thinking about them will only leave the mind agitated and distressed which will not be beneficial for ones practice.

"Therefore, o monks, do not brood over [any of these views] Such brooding, O monks, is senseless, has nothing to do with genuine pure conduct (s. ādibrahmacariyaka-sīla), does not lead to aversion, detachment, extinction, nor to peace, to full comprehension, enlightenment and Nibbāna."

-- SN 56: Saccasamyutta.


From the Buddha's famous "Tears" sutta:

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?"

"As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans."


If that is not the case, how were we just infinitely here?

We're still here simply because our "fuel" (greed/anger/delusion) is still here. If the fuel's still here, the machine will keep on running. No more fuel means no more wandering in samsara.

  • Also very relevant is the doctrine of Dependent Origination. Spontaneously arising together and ceasing together. One without the other does not manifest -- what are these ones and others? Welcome to Buddhism. =)
    – sova
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 4:24

A similar question occurred in Lord Mind's too. Lord Buddha in search of the beginning looked back into the past of Lord's own samsara. This should go with the saying that among all the beings who can recall previous lives, lord Buddha is the most skilled in that task. With that ability no one matches lord Buddha in speed and the amount of lives visible.

Lord Buddha addressed monks and said, It is a waste of time to look back to seek a beginning, even with the ability of a Buddha. I have looked back for eons and what I've seen is not even a fraction. Samsara is too long to look back and find a beginning.

Buddhism does not teach of a beginning of a samsara and refuse to answer it because of the search for that question is not with a foreseeable end. That itself is the reason that Buddhism teach beings to not to be late, not to postpone the path. Because it is very long and the end of all suffering is not possible without Nirvana.

Namo Buddhaya!


Your questions sounds like: how can one be born a first time before having sinned ? Life is not a punishment, Through life you will get ups and lows and try to match theses variation with a constant rule, that is why we have this notion of good and bad which is different according to cultures and individuals. How do you believe what living people can tell about death ? No one will ever know.

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