Is there a time difference between death and re-birth?

Is there a time difference between death and re-birth?

I read a study on this subject several years ago and it was in fact well written. Unfortunately I have not the slightest memory of its author or title. It was a comparative analysis of the Vajrayana and Theravada differences regarding this matter. The answer is, according to Vajrayana, yes there is a time gap, and it is an important period in which the consciousness may make decisions about where to go next, or fall in the desperate error of deciding to go into nibbana (from a Vajrayana view). That’s why an important part of the training of a Vajrayana monk, is to learn how to prevent himself from developing this desire to disappear from existence or go into nibbana.

In Theravada, probably construed from Abhidhamma (though I’m not sure really), the answer was that rebirth happens instantly after death, no gap in between and no decisions to make. Interestingly though the famous research of Dr. Ian Stevenson suggests that this may be incorrect, since in most cases of rebirth that he managed to verify (through checking past-life memories/persons of children living present new lives), he found a 15 years “median” time gap between death and rebirth dates. This means that the time gap, according to his findings, does not have a consistent duration, sometimes more or less than 15 years. Some children in his case studies also remembered “going some where” between death and rebirth, being instructed to wait by a benevolent being along with many others, and then told it’s time to go. Some reported remembering lingering as a pure consciousness or awareness in the sphere of the past life, including revisiting their homes or checking their belongings (in real time), before finally leaving to next life. Some remember recognising devas battling for their sake, to deliver them from going to the realms of hell, and so many other stories.


@SarathW1 @anon61506839

There’s an old article by @sujato which goes a bit into this. Scroll down to the section entitiled ‘The Inbetween State’ for passages in some suttas that seem to suggest that rebirth does not necessarily happen immediately upon death (though that is the official Theravāda position, as you point out Ven). Also, I’m not sure if it’s mentioned in the article but there’s also a line in the Mettā sutta (snp1.8) which could be taken in this way:
Bhūtā va sambhavesī va (born or seeking to be born)

I think Ven Anālayo has also written on this though I can’t recall where.


Hi @Linda :).
Unfortunately the link did not work out for me, possibly because I’m using quite an old device, but thanks a lot for the input.

Exactly, I pondered the meaning of this line in mettasutta closely as I was translating it very recently, and it does seem to refer to this issue under question here. “sambhavesī”, though literally meaning “seeking rebirth”, seems rather to be a reference to those who are in some kind of process of becoming and rebirth but not yet reborn. “Those already born and those who are due to be reborn” - something like that :).

But another interpretation of it may possibly be as follows: “those born and leaving and those reborn endlessly”, or also “those intent on ending rebirth and those seeking further rebirth”.

‘sigh’ … Pali verse can be so difficult to translate comfortably! :face_with_monocle:

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Bhante, I’ve tried that link that Linda provided and it does work for me on my Chrome browser, so I’ll post it again, and perhaps this will work for you:

Here’s the general link which itself is a treasure trove of books and essays:

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Thanks so much, @AnagarikaMichael, for your kindness to provide the links. I never managed to access this site on any web browser I have and I’m on a very limited and slow Internet access to experiment by downloading other browsers. In all cases I think it is a device problem. Mine has quickly become palaeolithic! So in accessing certain top-of-the-line sites, it is as if attempting to cut through steel with an oldowan! :).

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I completely understand, Bhante. I have an older mobile phone that can barely function; it gets calls, texts and can access Sutta Central, but that’s about it. My kids keep telling me to get a new phone, to “get with it” and that I am way behind the times. But, my blacksmith tells me they’re full of hooey.:grinning:


Looking at Ajhan Sujato’s essay, it seems there is.

with metta

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I am also getting to a weird empty of text page when accessing santipada link.

I guess someone his by mistake the older strata of santi FM’s website when they came up with a newer layout…

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Dear Bhante @anon61506839,
Thanks for the comments on ways to interpret this line. Actually, I had wondered what you thought when you were translating it.

For you & anyone who couldn’t open the link, here is a pdf of the article
RebirthandInbetweenState.pdf (147.3 KB)

As for computers, I know what you mean about older devices. I only recently replaced my 13-14 year old desktop because it finally totally died. But I didn’t think it was even that old :slight_smile: And I have an ancient ipod (I think the original version with a scroll wheel) which I like very much because I can listen to recordings of Pali chanting & suttas (well, now that I have faster internet & can actually download things!). I use things until they die and only very reluctantly get new ones!

with much metta,


@AnagarikaMichael & @Linda It’s so unfair though! If you have any physical ancient tool in your possession, you are for ever rich by selling it! But these ancient electronic devices that we have just become increasingly worthless! I mean they’re both technologies aren’t they?! (:sushing_face: okay let’s quit it before the moderators take note of our indulgent off-topicness! :zipper_mouth_face: :roll_eyes:).

Many thanks @Linda for providing the file link. I finally got it.


Wonderful and interesting topic, many thanks to all who contributed especially the paper that Bhante Sujato wrote. :anjal:


Could it be the “in between” periods one maybe reborn as other beings (devas or animals etc) due to their karma before catching up with the other “half” of their “human life”?

Example an individual passed away, due to his or her karma was born as some kind of animals that lived for 15 years thus after passing, goes on to his or her continuous karma of human being.

I remember there was a story during Buddha’s time whereby a rich King was so infatuated with his treasures that after he die, he reborn as a Naga guarding his treasury for awhile before passing away into higher planes.

Hi @GWKS. Honestly it’s a bit unthinkable to me that one would recollect a ‘select’ past life, that is, for example, the life before the last one, without remembering the last one too. This is so simply because memory just doesn’t work that way (it’s like time, linear)! But who knows, maybe it’s possible! :slight_smile:

Note that in few cases children did have vague and colourful memories about the gaps.

Ahh! I agree with you it’s probably not possible that they didn’t remember it unless it is some other factors at work which is why we are exactly here now, discussing on what we are not sure of.

Thank you and Metta to everyone! I’m so happy to find this forum it is like a light among the darkness in my real life environment as I can’t find anyone who would discuss Dharma with and answer lots of questions in my mind.



Hmm… would the Tibetan Bado explain any of these? Sorry I have not read the Bado but just understand it to be surrounding this topic…

However come to think about it… the gap would be YEARS long? That’s something unimaginable even, for me. In Chinese folklore it probably only has a maximun of 49 days for the “soul” to travel.

Maybe the amount of years is “loitering” around certain past desires or such hence the intermediate stage between death and next destination and this stage is whereby some would refer to as ghosts? Some believe that this are remnants of soul stuck in their past memories doing the same thing over and over again until their karma exhaust to pass through to the next destination.

But well it still doesn’t make sense as why would they stick in past existence when they are clearly headed to their loved ones again (or at least reborn nearby) in the upcoming life?

Just my clutter of thoughts!

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Welcome to the forum, & hope you are getting along with @suttabot! :slight_smile:

Hi! To find out what I can do, say @suttabot display help.

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