Rebirth in a single moment

Reading Vimalakirti Sutra at VIMALAKIRTI NIRDESA SUTRA, i come upon a curious statement

"'Maitreya, the Buddha has prophesied that only one more birth stands between you and unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. What kind of birth does this prophecy concern, Maitreya? Is it past? Is it future? Or is it present? If it is a past birth, it is already finished. If it is a future birth, it will never arrive. If it is a present birth, it does not abide. For the Buddha has declared, "Bhikshus, in a single moment, you are born, you age, you die, you transmigrate, and you are reborn."

I wonder if there is correspondence in EBT on rebirth in a single moment?


I haven’t heard of any examples- maybe not a single but a few, as a microorganism :microbe:? :smile:

Or maybe as being in dimension of neither perception nor non perception? There is not even a moment in there :smiley:

Rebirth in single moment seems similar though to momentariness in abhidhamma.

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In the EBTs birth, aging and death are generally described in physical, biological terms, rather than as purely mental events. See the nidana “definitions” in SN12.2 for example.

The Abhidhammic “mind-moments” idea seems to be more about challenging an assumed continuity of experience, and I don’t understand how this is relevant to rebirth. Could you elaborate?


“Rebirth in single moment” refer to Vimalakirti quotation rather than EBT, in which (curiously) asserted boldly as Buddha saying, as if it was commonly accepted.

I am no expert on Abhidhamma (or beginner in fact!), however arising, enduring, cessation, and continuity of momentary things seems similar to birth, aging, death, and transmigration. I also just notice that in Theravada Abhidhamma momentariness applied only to mental, however Sarvastivada seems to also include material (Abhidharma (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)).

considering mental is part of being (4 of 5 aggregate is mental), so if mental is momentary, then rebirth occurs in every moment is only a bit of a strech :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Yes, it sounds like another one of those fake Buddha quotes.:yum:

From what I’ve seen, the idea of “moment-to-moment” rebirth has become popular with secularists, but actually has very little credible support in the EBTs - it sounds new-agey to me. And of course with this interpretation, the question “what exactly is reborn?” is equally problematic.

[quote=“calvin_sad, post:5, topic:12225”]considering mental is part of being (4 of 5 aggregate is mental), so if mental is momentary, then rebirth occurs in every moment is only a bit of a strech :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Clearly all the aggregates are marked by anicca, but the body changes more slowly than the mind. There’s an EBT which refers to this, I’ll try to dig it out.

No worries, i also recall there is something like that, also various verse of dhammapada citta vagga say mind is very quick to change

But usually they make Buddha say it directly, rather than asserting Buddha says it. this kind of assertion for me usually related to debate in which we use commonly accepted knowledge to support our argument, hence the curiousness

For me, birth, age, and death of body is most noticable symbol of anicca. so, it is possible (speculation), in trying to show anicca of mental, they apply rebirth symbolism to mental, hence rebirth in single moment. In this symbolism, it is the body that is reborn (reboot?) (contrast soul/jiva/mental that is usually reborn in standard rebirth)

True- what requires experiential insight cannot be adequately expressed in formulaic aging texts!

This is viparinama dukkha which is on a medium length time scale. Sankhara dukkha must be seen to be believed! That it is on a microscopic time-scale.

Well exactly! Rebirth moment-to-moment is only a symbolic expression of anicca. Actual rebirth, on the other hand takes a lifetime!

Even without this interpretation, the question “what exactly is reborn?” remains problematic, at least to me. I have a hard time answering it without taking this turn, because I understand that it’s not a consciousness, or anything else in the phenomenal world for that matter.

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Nothing is literally reborn. Things are born when conditions bring some of the aggregates together in a certain way; everything that is compounded in that way is bound to decompose; sometimes conditions bring some other portion of the aggregates together in some way that is very similar to the way in which some aggregates were compounded in the past.


The suttas describe the latter, and not the former. Anicca operates at many levels, but observing that there is moment-to-moment change doesn’t appear related to mental “rebirth”. I suppose you could say that certain feelings or mind-states are continually “reborn”, but IMO this fudges the issue, and it’s really more accurate to talk about re-occurrence.

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Hmm, correct me if i am wrong, but isn’t abhidhammic momentariness says that mental phenomenon (arise, endure, and cease all) in a moment?

just now occur to me, that chinesse buddhism also has similar saying, it seems traced back to Zhiyi, founder of Tiantai

three thousand realms in a single moment of life

I think that’s correct, but I don’t see what it has to do with “rebirth”, particularly since each mental phenomena is considered as unique.


This is different from mind-moments in a single life. The Abhidhamma probably over-emphasised momentariness.

Imo " Single moment " is a kind of differentiation arises from self view , not inline with dependent origination .

Rebirth , reborn implying something or someone from A point shift to B point ,
but , in actual there is only a kind of Continuation where it manifest after a “gap” (death / disintegration) occurs .

Therefore , reborn or rebirth is a inappropriate description of the situation . Nothing is being reborn . Only a chain of succession or continuation .

To be continued …to be continued …
to be continued …
(Sort of like the tv series) .

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me think this description is a bit too close to view that being is born without cause, and prefer dependent origination.

Craving is the condition for the continuous succession of life . If there is a “thing” that being reborn then could you point it out ?

That’s the impression I get. :yum:

I agree. It’s more like one event or state arising in dependence upon previous events and states.
“This being, that becomes…” as the general formula for DO describes it.

Possibly you could say that it is craving ( tanha ) itself which is continually being “reborn”, though actually I think craving is continually present in the background anyway - particularly when considering craving for becoming/continued existence.

It is not that i assert there is unchanging “thing” that is being reborn again and again.

However, i feel the phrase “Nothing is being reborn” do not do justice to the teaching. I feel it deny cause of reborn, and that is why i prefer “existence is condition of rebirth” as explanation. As a rough analogy, SuttaCentral SN 12.26.

A side note, SuttaCentral SN 44.9 seems okay saying “someone is reborn here” while still attributing craving as fuel during transmigration.