What is this realm?

“When someone who is attached has laid down this body, Vaccha, and has not been reborn in one of the realms, I say they’re fueled by craving. For craving is their fuel then.”

If you say it’s nibbana then please explain the “is attached” part

If you say it’s one realm of existence then please explain the “has not been reborn” part

Thanks :blush::blush:

I think it can be “the void of between lives” but if I am not mistaken people reborn instantly, but I am still not sure

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The context is important, and the lines must be interpreted in relation to what has gone before.

It can also be helpful to look at how others have translated the same passage. You can do that by using the ‘parallels’ button on SC

Eg Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it as
“And, Master Gotama, when a being has laid down this body but has not yet been reborn in another body, what does Master Gotama declare to be its fuel on that occasion?”

“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. For on that occasion craving is its fuel.


SN 44 is “The Undeclared:”

"This samyutta is organized around questions that the Buddha left unanswered. Most of the discourses here focus on questions in a standard list of ten that were apparently the hot issues for philosophers in the Buddha’s day: Is the cosmos eternal? Is it not eternal? Is it finite? Is it infinite? Is the body the same as the soul? Is the body one thing and the soul another? Does the Tathagata exist after death? Does he not exist after death? Both? Neither?

MN 72 lists the reasons why the Buddha does not take a position on any of these questions. In each case he says that such a position “is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full awakening, Unbinding.”—Thanissaro

Investigating the Consensus

"How does this process of investigation work in daily life practice? Charles Tart, a well-known researcher and writer on con­sciousness, uses the term “consensus trance.” I find this a useful term, because it expresses the world in which we spend a lot of our time. It’s a trance because we’re kind of lost in it without really knowing what we’re doing, what we are, what’s going on. And it’s a consensus because we create it with others through language, through shared culture, through education and the media. We create a whole package of be­liefs, assumptions, expectations, values, theo­ries, dogmas, “isms,” which are generally as­sumed and not much examined.

Yet certain aspects of this cultural con­struction of reality can be examined through investigation. I have friends who are Marx­ists, and they use Marxist analysis to look at the class aspect of the consensus trance, and maybe, at least in terms of class, they start to step out of the trance a little, or feminists will look at it from gender perspectives, and reveal the hidden ways our thinking is molded by consensus. Psychologists will look at the trance in terms of certain psy­chological theories, and so on.

It’s my understanding that dhamma in­vestigation involves starting to look at the assumptions, the beliefs, the theories, the dogmas, the ideologies that we to some de­gree carry within us, perhaps unconsciously.

It is possible to do a lot of meditation, espe­cially in retreat situations, where one has experiences that are vivid, clear and profound when they happen. But before long we can get plugged right back in to the old intellec­tual structures we’ve grown up with; what we learned in school, what we were trained in at a university or in a job. It could be a political ideology, a cultural bias, a personal­ity quirk or anything else that has created the structure of view, beliefs and ideas we live with. I believe it’s important to spend part of our time investigating these cultural assumptions, beliefs and biases, and to let our meditation practice liberate us from these kinds of things—issues of racism, patri­archy, sexism, just to name a few."—Santikaro Bikkhu

Investigation is the first of the active group in the seven factors of awakening, or release from consensus trance.


It’s from 2010, but here’s an article by the Venerable Sujato on rebirth and the in-between state.

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The point of the Sutta though, is the role of Craving in Re-birth.

It is not (as with the other views) the ‘Realms/desrinations’ that are of importance, but of understanding and then stopping the entire process of rebirth, by eradicating craving. This is the significance of the Buddhas teachings, and what sets it apart from all others presented in that sutta. If there is Craving there will be re-birth in Samsara, the plane or realm is not the important thing here, but that Craving is the fuel that keeps Rebirth happening. It is a radical departure to talk about cessation to an audience who is used to thinking that there is only re-birth, and not being aware of the escape from samsara - the ending of rebirth (cutting off craving at the root)… hence the confusion by Vaccha

in the paragraph just above the one you quoted.

I describe rebirth for someone who grasps fuel, not for someone who doesn’t grasp fuel. It’s like a fire which only burns with fuel, not without fuel. In the same way I describe rebirth for someone who grasps fuel, not for someone who doesn’t grasp fuel.”


It’s the in-between rebirth thing. Only theravada insist on immediate rebirth, based on Abhidhamma. EBT then, from this sutta clearly shows in between rebirth thing exist. This is one very widely known conflict between EBT and Abhidhamma.


Bhante Thanissaro translated it the same

“And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, what do you designate as its sustenance then?”

“Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time.”

Do you support the in between lives or instant rebirth theory ?

Does it matter? It’s like the Christians asking: does the Holy spirit comes from the Father and the son or only from the Father, splitting them into Catholic and Eastern orthodoxy.

We can only say with empirical evidences.

Keep on reading the rebirth evidence cases.

And can also read up Tibetan Book of the dead, then when you die, try to practise in the Bardo, then you might be able to come back as human and confirm it with your past life memory.


There is an issue as far as the “in-between” that can resolve this dichotomy between ETB and Abhidhamma. I based this on quantum theory and neuroscience. We can assume an in-between only if we have time as the reference point. You need two points a and b (at least) to have in-between. Now in rebirth, we have two issues (life A and B), yet we know that it is not consciousness that restarts but a complex form of Kamma energy, craving fuel and grasping as vector.
In other terms, after death and the end of the last previous consciousness and the start of the new one, there is no time but also literally no perceptions since, in all the realm of existence, even those without materiality consciousness is needed.
So I think that the in-between may exist, but as per Abhidhamma tradition, since it is not experienced since after death and before the new one, there cannot be consciousness, it is not relevant as far as the progress towards liberation. It is an a-temporal unconscious drive towards consciousness.
It is how I reconcile the Abhidhamma and the ETB.

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Thiang remembered seeing his .own ‘body lying .on the. ground, and wanting to return to.it .But it was surrounded by people, and he was afraid , to approach. ‘.He saw the blood oozing from the wound. His description of this part of his after-death experience.is reminiscent .of the accounts given by’.people who have had experiences of being ‘out of the body’ while under anaesthetics. or at the critical point of an ilIness.

In his disembodied form he then visited all his relations and friends, but felt grieved that they could not see him. He 'thought of his brother with affection, and wanted to be with him. .At once he found him self in his brother’s house;

There he felt in some way drawn to his brother’s wife, who was having her brea3.st. She was pregnant, Thiang’s own words he felt him self irresistibly impelled to enter her body. During the remaining months of her pregnancy he retained his conscious- ness, being aware sometimes of being outside her body. Later, when he told his mother this; she remembered that before his birth she had had a dream in which her husband’s brother, Phoh, appeared to her saying that he wanted to be reborn as her child.

From Rebirth as Doctrine and Experience by Francis Story.

How would you analyse this case? The Abhidhamma people would say that he got reborn as a ghost, then reborn back as human. The in between group may take this as the in between proper.

There’s clearly consciousness active and time is experienced personally by the person to be reborn. Besides, in Tibetan Book of the dead, Bardo is experienced in time by the person who died.

I once had thought that the behavior of time due to Special relativity (SR) is sufficient to solve this, but due to these cases, I have more doubt.

How I thought SR could solve it. In SR, time is relative, each object, person etc, has their own personal time, called proper time. It’s the longest time, which is the time you see things which are not moving with respect to you. If you see an object move closer and closer to the speed of light, their time would slow down more and more. Until a photon, light itself experiences no time. So a photon travelling from one end of the universe to another, using say 100 billion years, to that photon, it experiences no time at all during the journey.

If you happen to be able to lose all your mass and travel at light speed, you’ll experience no time in the transition between one place and the next, but to outside people, they’ll still see that there’s some time to pass for that light speed to traverse the distance travelled. So I thought that after death, the person travels in light speed to the next rebirth, so there’s an in between period from the outside view, but inside view, cannot see an in between. Bardo alone falsify this hypothesis.

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Where there is Experience, there is Contact, Conciousness and a Sense sphere. As a result, there is Feeling, Craving, Clinging…there is Birth and Death ergo…there is Existence.

Where there is no Sense Sphere there is no Contact and hence no Experience. But does that mean that Conciousness has ended? Or is it merely dormant? If it is dormant, what sustains it?

That dormant Conciousness at that point is sustained by Craving. It is like a spark, blown by the wind, dormant yet capable of reigniting.

Being sustained by Craving, that dormant Conciousness grasps at Form, it acquires Sense Bases, Contact is re established and Experience ergo Existence restarts.

In this in between phase, when the dormant Conciousness is sustained by Craving, the questions of realm or time are wrong questions, because there is no Experience… no Sense base, no Contact, no Feeling, no perception, no overt Existence per se, but these things are not ended at that time, merely dormant.

In Nibbana, Craving is ended. As a result, Conciousness is ended. So with the laying down of this Existence, nothing remains to grasp at a new existence. It is like a fire going out, with no fuel remaining.

Sentient Beings are defined by the aggregates, as the concept of ‘Car’ is defined by its constituent parts. Where the aggregates themselves no longer exist, there is no frame of reference to be able to define the existence/ non existence of the Being they represented. So the question of realm etc for the Arahant after parinibbana simply doesn’t arise. They will not come into existence again.

This is how I understand the EBT. All IMO, of course!

If this is too technical, I can put it in a modern yet imperfect way as follows…

If you switch off your phone permanently with a view to changing handsets, what sustains your personalized Virtual assistant (eg Siri)? Which handset does Siri exist on till you switch on a new phone? How much time passes for Siri, while Siri lies dormant?

Siri knows the time just before being switched off, Siri knows the time as soon as being switched on again, Siri can deduce that time has passed, once it is in existence again. But Siri cannot know anything while Siri lies dormant, because it is not on any handset and so has no input at that time.

If all user data is deleted, the handset is reverted to factory settings and switched off permanently… what happened to Siri?

Did Siri even really exist all the time we were chatting with it?

Or was there only Dhamma?



There is one potential issue with this: it would suggest a continuation of the consciousness which defiantly the Buddha seems to have rejected because otherwise, we would have something similar to a soul, a kind of identity since consciousness cannot be detached from the process of identity formation or sense of self. What passes from life form A to life form B cannot be, according to EBT, the same consciousness that has ceased with all other senses. Indeed the revolutionary thing in EBT is that consciousness is considered and categorised as a khandhas which at death stop to be then reformed when craving and clinging regenerate them in a new form. The khandhas cannot just stay dormant and awake in a new shape because, in this case, we must assume a continuation of self, hence a soul.

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Good point!

Conciousness is not a single continuous entity. It can be compared to a motion picture reel. Every moment, a single instance of conciousness arises and passes away in the mind (based on contact and sense organ), just as a single frame is projected onto a screen. The next moment, another separate instance of conciousness arises, just as another single frame is projected. Both moments are linked, yet they are in themselves separate and unique. The continuity of conciousness is an illusion, based upon craving.

In the moment that one frame has vanished and the other unique frame has not appeared, does a frame exist? This is what I meant by ‘dormant’. Yet the illusion of continuity exists, based upon craving.

So even though the conciousness that arose an hour ago was entirely separate from the conciousness that arises in this moment, craving stitches it all together to produce the illusion of a a single continuous Conciousness.

It is the same from life to life. I think of it as a change of reels… The next reel is based on the one that came before…they are unique, yet have an illusionary continuity. If a past life memory arises, craving links it with the current conciousness to give the illusion “formerly I was that, now I have been reborn here.” That is not to say that the past life was entirely unconnected to this life, rather they are linked…so we can speak of a stream of consciousness, without implying that it is exactly the same conciousness that rearises. This life, while being separate and unique in and of itself, arose as a consequence of that life and what was done therein…that is why there is kamma.

In the same way, one cannot say that the one who did the deed in the past life was completely different from the one who reaps the fruit in this life. Yet, they are not the same person either.


I’m aware of the different views/theories on this, but have not formed a fixed view of my own. Why not? Because 1) it has no bearing on what needs to be done to realise Nibbana and 2) it is not something that I can verify so it is only speculation/papancha, and this can so easily become a hindrance to practice… and as such needs to be guarded against and restrained.

Part of Right View, is understanding what is wholesome and skillful, and then to direct attention to those things that lead to beneficial and wholesome outcomes, and to Not pay attention to those things (desires generated by the defilements including the ‘monkey mind’) that will lead to the unbeneficial and unwholesome.

Curiosity is often a vakued human trait, but it has it’s pitfalls if it is left unrestrained… It needs to be tempered by wisdom, to know what it is worth being curious about, and which lines of investigation are likely to lead to good states and which are likely to lead to bad states. Just like in the simile of the person being shot by an arrow - it is more beneficial to direct focus upon how to extract the arrow and heal the wound, than to understand how the arrow is made or the colour of the shirt of the person who shot it etc etc… If all the focus and energy are on the wrong thing, the outcome will not be beneficial.

So, as both @Gabi73 and @NgXinZhao have said, knowing the precise mechanisms of rebirth (and all the states and realms in samsara) is not necessary to progress towards Awakening, and therefore I don’t waste time upon it. Rather, in cases such as these, one can ‘flip the mirror around’ and instead of following attention to the external, re-direct it to observe what the mind is doing… see the craving - for fixed and definitive answers and intellectual stimulation, recognise the discomfort of ‘not knowing’ and relativity/uncertainty etc and to work on these things as a means to reduce the defilements. IMO this is an important part of practice - knowing where to focus - Yoniso Manasikara, and then being able to turn this focus where one chooses, with accuracy (based on Right View) rather than being a slave and simply reacting to contact.

As so often, other things come up that are relevant. Just now a sutta was posted on another thread that serves as a good example here.

I include the preceding couple of lines to make it clear how it is not the views about realms that are important, but the transcending of delusion, (as in the lines quoted by the Synergist)

“This world, the other world, the Brahma world with its Gods:
one does not know what view of this the reputable Gotama has.

“So, to the One With Excellent Sight, I have come in need with a question:
Looking on the world in what way does the king of Death not see one?”


So in state of nibbana, consciousness doesn’t exist and stop arising

While in between lives state the consciousness doesn’t exist but it can still arise if there’s craving so I don’t think the word “dormant” is proper here

This is further evidence supporting in between lives theory

With the ending of the five lower fetters they’re extinguished between one life and the next.



UK /ˈdɔː.mənt/ US /ˈdɔːr.mənt/

Something that is dormant is not active or growing but has the ability to be active at a later time:

Conciousness is not a ‘thing’, it is a Process. Its inherent nature is to arise, change and cease, it is impermanent, it has no fixed independent existence - it has no essence, it is not a ‘Soul’.

For purposes of practicality we need to give it a name to be able to talk about it. Giving it a ‘name’ automatically confers solidity to what is actually an impermanent process and one begins to think of it as actually existing/ not existing. This is a fallacy. A better term to use for such processes is active/dormant.


Dormant doesn’t mean doesn’t exist but inactive but buddha said consciousness arises and passes away each single day it would be better to call it doesn’t exist instead of inactive for the later implying that consciousness always exists

Exactly. If we think about cloning and clones, I think it becomes easy to understand. It is how I explained it to my students. Clones are copies of the previous creature but not the same. They carry the biological consequences and effects of the prigione entity, but they are an entity of their own.
In the same way, Kamma and the desire for continuation carry the continuation, but such continuation, although sharing the same Kamma it is its entity. Conscious as all the Khandas is a process, not an ontology. The khandas start and stop the Kamma as a genetic imprint of a clone reconditions and the new formation to face dukka accumulated.