Subject: Is Rebirth Immediate?
Date: 01 Dec 2002 12:44:20 -0400
From: Piya Tan
Dear Ajahn Brahm,
While many Theravada Buddhists view rebirth as immediate (esp based on the Milinda,panha), there are also many other Buddhists who believe that there is an intervening period before rebirth and which also seems to be confirmed by psychological research. As far as I know, there is almost no clear reference in the Pali Canon itself to say that rebirth is immediate. However, in the Kutuhala,saala Sutta (The Debating Hall) of the Sa.myutta Nikaaya (S 4:400), we have this interesting reply the Buddha gives to Vaccha:
"When, Vaccha, a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, I declare that it is fuelled by craving." (S 4:400)
This seems to confirm your remark (hope I remember this correctly) that from your experiences in Thailand, it is more likely that there is an intervening period before rebirth takes place.
Can I have you comments on this for the benefit of those wishing to know Dharma.
Sadhu & respects.
Ajahn Brahm's reply
I already know of the quote from the Samyutta to Vacchagotta that you sent to me indicating an 'antara' state. Another passage which gives strong support to the 'intermediate' state is found in Anguttara 7's, sutta 52, which lists the seven types of non-returner together with similes. The first three types of anagamis are called 'antara-parinibbayin' and are likened to a spark flying off a hot piece of metal which cools:
1. just after falling off
2. while flying up
3. while falling down
all before establishing themselves on the ground. The implication is of a state between death and re-appearance in the Suddhavasa.
I suppose that the conflict between immediate rebirth and an existence in an antara state, can be resolved by regarding the antara state as a place into which rebirth can occur immediately after death.
Whatever, this is such a minor point of Dhamma that it is not worth having a schism over.