Points of Controversy

8.2. Of an Intermediate State

Controverted Point: That there is an intermediate state of existence.

Theravādin: If there be such a state, you must identify it with either the kāma-life, or Rūpa-life, or Arūpa-life, which you refuse to do… .

You deny that there is an intermediate state between the first and second, or the second and third, of these.

You affirm, indeed, that is no such thing; how then can you maintain your proposition?

Is it a fifth matrix, a sixth destiny, an eighth station for reborn consciousness, a tenth realm of beings? Is it a mode of living, a destiny, a realm of beings, a renewal of life, a matrix, a station of consciousness, an acquiring of individuality? Is there karma leading to it? Are there beings who approach thither? Do beings get born in it, grow old, die in it, decease from it, and get reborn from it? Do the five aggregates exist in it? Is it a five-mode existence? All this you deny. How then can you maintain your proposition?

You admit that every one of these categories or notions applies to each of the three planes of life named above, the only difference being that the first two—kāma life and Rūpa-life—are five-mode existences; the last— Arūpa-life—is a four-mode existence (that is, without material qualities). If then there is an intermediate stage of life, you must be able to predicate some or all of these notions or categories of it. But you say you cannot… .

But you deny also that there is an intermediate life for all beings. Hence your proposition is not universally valid.

For whom then do you deny the intermediate state? For the person whose retribution is immediate? If you assent, to that extent your proposition is for you not true. Or is it for the person whose retribution is not immediate that you affirm this state? Yes, you say. Then you must deny it for his opposite.

You deny it also for one who is to be reborn in purgatory, in the sphere of unconscious beings, in the immaterial heavens. Therefore to that extent your proposition is not universally valid. Nevertheless, you maintain that there is an intermediate stage of life for one whose retribution is not immediate, for one who is not to be reborn in purgatory, nor among the “unconscious beings,” nor in the immaterial heavens. Concerning these you have yet to state in what respect, as a plane of life, it resembles, or differs from, the three named by the Exalted One.

Pubbaseliyas and Sammitīyas: But are there not beings who “complete existence within the first half of the term?” If so, are we not right?

Theravādin: Granted that there are such beings, is there a separate interval-state between any two recognized existences? Yes, you say. But granted that there are beings who “complete existence within the second half of the term,” is there a separate state of life corresponding thereto? If you deny, you must also deny your proposition since you rest it on this basis.

The same argument applies to such cognate terms as “beings who complete existence without,” and again, “with difficulty and striving” (see Kv8.2.9).