Help clarifying a passage?

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Help clarifying a passage?

Postby Individual » Sun Aug 02, 2009 1:18 am

A certain sutta I just found:

(1) Indako Ý The Non-Human Indaka

1. At one time the Blessed One was living in Rajagaha on the Indakuta rock, the home of the non-human Indaka.

2. Then the non-human Indaka approached the Blessed One and said this stanza:

The Enlightened Ones say, there is no life in matter.
When there is no strength, how is the body to know?
How is a skeleton formed for him?
And without strength what clings in the womb?

3. First there is the suitable soil. In it there is a swelling
In the swelling rises a lump of flesh.
The lump of flesh becomes a hard mass.
Then major and minor limbs arise in the hard mass.
And hair of the head and body and nails arise.
He is nourished with the eatables and drinks eaten by the mother.
Thus the man gone to the mother's womb is nourished

This seems interesting, but I don't understand what Indaka's question is, perhaps because of the poor translation.

What Pali words are being used here for "life in matter" and "strength"?

EDIT:

I found an alternate translation.

"As the Buddhas say that form is not the soul,
How then does one obtain this body?
From where do one's bones and liver come?
How is one begotten in the womb?

[The Blessed One]:
"First there is the kalala;
From the kalala comes the abbudha;
From the abbuda the pesi is produced;
From the pesi the ghana arises'
From the ghana emerge the limbs,
The head-hair, body-hair, and nails...

...

The alternate translation clarifies a bit by showing what Pali is used, but then, I don't understand the Buddha's response.

Wouldn't kalala, abbudha, pesi, and ghana all be "rupa"?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Help clarifying a passage?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:27 am

I don't know. He seems to be asking how can a fetus develop without a soul and the Buddha breaks it down for him. But it doesn't seem to me the question is really answered. I just don't know.

Why "a certain sutta"? Is it too much trouble to give the reference so that we might check our own translations?
- Peter

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Re: Help clarifying a passage?

Postby Individual » Sun Aug 02, 2009 4:02 am

Peter wrote:I don't know. He seems to be asking how can a fetus develop without a soul and the Buddha breaks it down for him. But it doesn't seem to me the question is really answered. I just don't know.

Exactly. At first, I didn't understand the question. Knowing the Pali, now I understand the question and it's interesting because it's the same kind of question people ask about rebirth here and elsewhere, all the time: If there is no self (the question specifically in this is, "If rupa is not atta"), how is it that beings are born at all? The Buddha's response seems materialistic: Beings are born because of... (a bunch of material processes)

But then, that still leaves us confused, doesn't it? Because then how does consciousness cease and the re-emerge from such a material thing? How?

The thing is, I can't even imagine a response that might be accurate, because even if the Buddha said, "such and such is the mechanism by which name & form is reborn," I'd ask how that fits in with anicca and anatta.

Peter wrote:Why "a certain sutta"? Is it too much trouble to give the reference so that we might check our own translations?

Nice question. Sorry, I probably should've mentioned it.

It's the Indaka sutta. SN X.1
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Help clarifying a passage?

Postby cooran » Sun Aug 02, 2009 10:04 am

Hello Individual, Peter, all,

From Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes on this sutta:

"The yakkha was a personalist (puggalavaadi) who held the view that a being is produced in the womb at a single stroke (ekappahaaren' eva satto maatukucchismim nibbattati). The Buddha's answer is intended to refute the yakkha's belief by showing that a being develops gradually (annupubbena pana vaddhati).

The Pali terms refer to the differenct stages in the formation of the embryo. Spk: The kalala is the size of a drop of oil placed on the tip of a thread made from three strands of wool. After a week from the kalala comes the abbuda, which is the colour of meat-washing water. After another week, from the abbuda the pesi is produced, which is similar to molten tin [Spk-pt: in shape, but in colour it is pink]. After another week, from the pesi the ghana arises, which has the shape of a chicken egg. In the fifth week, from the ghana emerge the limbs: five pimples appear, the rudiments of arms, legs, and head....etc."

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