rebirth and reincarnation

Anyone out there who could help differentiate rebirth and reincarnation?

ME6101- Continuity and rebirth

This is a very interesting topic and there has been some scientific proof from researchers such as Dr Ian Stevenson from the University of Virginia that people can indeed remember their past lives. However, the term reincarnation is often confused with rebirth. Reincarnation implies the same "soul" is being reborn with remnants of the previous personality. Whereas, in Buddhism, we should talk more about rebirth, because our mind stream or consciousness has ceased. The abhidhamma describes that there is a rebirth linking consciousness but I do have some questions about the actual process and why in other Buddhist traditions, there is belief in the antarabhava. If anyone would care to share your thoughts, I would appreciate it.

Rebirth vs Reincarnation

Rebirths are not pleasant because this is the outcome of beings being not enlightened. Rebirths can be in many forms as they revolve around six realms, governed by law of karma. Sow what you reap, therefore, it is involuntary. In rebirths, consciousness is asleep and it is only in human realm, through walking the path that one can be awakened. The return to existence is heavily influenced by delusions as opposed to reincarnation. which is the result of compassion. Reincarnations involve physical bodies, unlike rebirths that can also be in the form of 'subtle' matter (such as peta realm). Reincarnation comes with a noble purpose, that is, to render service to humanity that can make great impact to many people. It is a voluntary choice of return made by awakened great masters or spiritual leaders - they can decide when, where and which parents they want to return to.

bhantekirti2019's picture

Rebirth and Reincarnation

As far as I understand, rebirth is a process of becoming. Beings are born again and again due to ignorance, craving, passion. According to impermanent nature in Buddhism, it is said, ""Na ca so na ca anno" which simply means when someone is born, it is neither the same nor the different person. When we look back our old album, we see difference in us. We are neither the same in the album nor completely different person. I really like the explanation of Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo, a Canadian monk who says, There isn't in fact any such thing as rebirth, in ultimate reality. Nothing is truly reborn, ever. Every experience that is made up of the five aggregates arises and ceases without remainder. That is true death. Rebirth is a concept used to describe the change between one artificial framework of experiences (e.g. a human life) to another. The ultimate reality is that the mind simply arises and ceases at the last moment of life and then a new mind arises at the first moment of rebirth based on the last one, very similar to as has been occurring throughout one's life, except this time there is no old physical phenomena for it to be based on, so it is based solely on one's final state of mind in the last life.

Due to this impermanent and not self nature, the concept of reincarnation is contradictory according to Theravada Buddhism. In literal meaning, reincarnation is to born again as the same person.



In simple term reincarnation refers to a migrate a soul from a person death to a new body and rebirth refers to the continue of the previous karma from a person to a new life after rebirth.

hope this help

Rebirth and reincarnation

The process and final result of Rebirth and Reincarnation is the same. The only difference is that reincarnation is reserved for 'rich and famous' people like Dalai Lama, etc. Whereas rebirth is for commoners like you and me, as no one cares who you reincarnated from.


Rebirth does not involve the concept of ‘soul’. Rebirth does not mean continuation of one self. Only the consciousness travels into the next living state. There is no guarantee of the next birth place, condition, form and etc. Karma has influence in this case. Upon rebirth, one mostly has no memory of the previous lives.
Reincarnation is concerning one having a ‘soul’. This ‘soul’ is a permanent entity and this ‘soul’ is able to transfer from one vessel to another. The ‘soul’ is free to get out and into the next available body. Buddhism taught us about anicca (impermanence). Since there is no permanent entity, there is no ‘soul’.

Phung Nguyen's picture


Hi Dhamma friemds,

Can you access these links recommended by Prof. G A Somaratena?

Daya Sirisena on the Buddhist concept of Rebirth:
Karma and Rebirth in Theravāda Buddhism by Brian Ruhe:



you die and wake up tomorrow in the body of Marlon Brando: the "brain transplant" hypothesis.
Rebirth: the flame and the candle analogy in Buddhism.
You light a candle with another candle:
is the flame the same?
the wax?
the wick?
yet the second candle kind of arises out of the first, right?