Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby Kusala » Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:55 pm

Hello Dhamma friends. Some of you may or may not find this interesting.

II. Controversial points: Sugata measures.

The Commentary to Sg 6 states that the Buddha's cubit — the distance from his bent elbow to the tips of his fingers — was three times that of a normal man. This puts all the sugata measures — based on the Buddha's cubit, handspan, and breadth of his fingers — at three times normal length and makes the Buddha freakishly tall.

How the Commentary arrived at this figure is hard to say, for the Vinaya-mukha cites several passages from the Canon showing that the Buddha, though tall, was not abnormally so. The most telling passage is the one from DN 2, in which King Ajātasattu visits the Buddha while the latter is sitting in an assembly of bhikkhus, and the king is unable to identify which member of the assembly the Buddha is. This, of course, is meant to indicate the king's spiritual blindness, but if the Buddha had been remarkably tall it would have been part of his general reputation, and the king would not have had to ask.

The Vinaya-mukha then goes on to suggest a variety of ways of calculating the Buddha's measurements, the most useful being to assume the Buddha's cubit to be 50 cm. This, at least roughly, fits a number of passages from the Canon, as follows:

According to DN 30, the spread of the Buddha's arms, outstretched, was equal to his height. Because a person's cubit is one-fourth the spread of his outstretched arms, this would put the Buddha's height at 2 meters, or approximately 6 feet 7 inches. The origin story to Pc 92 states that his half-brother, Nanda, was four fingerbreadths shorter than he, and that when bhikkhus saw him coming from afar, they would mistake him for the Buddha, partly on the basis of his tall height. One fingerbreadth is said to be 1/24 cubit, or a little more than 2 cm. by this reckoning, which would put Nanda at 1.92 meters, or approximately 6 feet 4 inches tall.

These figures would seem to fit the information in the Canon fairly well, in that they allow for both Nanda and the Buddha to be tall but not outlandishly so.

Another pair of passages supporting these measurements is the ruling under Pc 87 that the legs of a bhikkhu's bed not be more than eight sugata fingerbreadths tall, taken together with the recommendation at Cv.VIII.1.5 that one should grope under the bed with one's hand to make sure that nothing is there before placing one's bowl there. Our measurements would put the maximum height for the bed legs at 18 cm. If they were much taller than that, there would be no need to grope, for one could easily see under the bed with a glance. If they were much shorter than that, even a small bowl wouldn't fit.

Although there is no way of determining the sugata measures with 100% accuracy, the above considerations suggest that the following estimates are reasonable:
The sugata cubit = 50 cm.
The sugata span = 25 cm.
The sugata fingerbreadth = 2.08 cm.

Applied to the various rules, this would give us a hut 3 x 1.75 meters — small, but adequate; a rains-bathing cloth 1.5 x .625 meters — enough to cover one from the waist to the knees; and an skin-eruption covering cloth 1 x .5 meters — enough to cover one from the waist to just above the knees. All of these figures seem appropriate and so have been accepted for the purposes of this book.


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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby Michael K » Sun Mar 13, 2011 1:30 pm

Hi Kusala, I wonder if you have looked at the Buddhava.msa which has heights and other data for the past 25 buddhas. I wrote about it in my blog: http://kalyaano.blogspot.com/2010/12/bu ... uddha.html
I am also not sure about length measurements in Paali. There appear to be some inconsistencies among commentaries. I don't understand why there are two different units of measurement for stating the heights of buddhas in the Buddhava.msa. I worked back and forth with the attempt to make a comparison. If the relatively old English translation of the Buddhava.msa is right (I have my doubts) and my calculations are accurate, then the heights of buddhas have varied from 10m down to 1.4m. This is based on the assumption that Gotama Buddha was 2m tall. All this highly speculative and marginal to Dhamma practice. Even so, it is inspiring and can increase confidence for some people.
May you be happy, well and peaceful.
Michael
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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby Fede » Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:05 pm

Michael K wrote:...... All this highly speculative and marginal to Dhamma practice. Even so, it is inspiring and can increase confidence for some people......Michael



How so?

(At 4' 10", I'm naturally curious as to why you think this would be so....?)
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Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:46 pm

Ooooh, a height thread :) I'm two metres tall too.
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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 13, 2011 10:15 pm

Greetings,

Mawkish1983 wrote:Ooooh, a height thread :) I'm two metres tall too.

Let me guess... this would explain the Buddha's back trouble? ;)

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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Mar 13, 2011 10:19 pm

retrofuturist wrote:this would explain the Buddha's back trouble? ;)
Don't know about that... but it certainly explains MY back trouble! :)
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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:45 am

Height does not matter, what matters is mental purification.

Bhaddiya was a dwarf, who attained enlightenment (Udana 7.1 - 7.5)

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Re: Buddha was 6 feet 7?

Postby Fede » Mon Mar 14, 2011 7:10 am

well thanks for that. :roll:

That's comforting..... :D
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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