IVF

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

IVF

Postby SarathW » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:56 am

I think destroying an embryo is unethical.

What are your thoughts about the following statement.

Ajahn Brahm:
Conclusion: embryos outside of a mother’s womb are not
reckoned as human life, and thus the ethical considerations
specific to human beings do not apply.

Last paragraph:

http://www.stefan.gr/buddhism/books/aja ... -begin.pdf
:thinking:
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Re: IVF

Postby James the Giant » Mon Mar 31, 2014 3:09 am

An embryo is defined by Ajahn Brahm as younger than 8 weeks since conception.
After that it's a fetus. To be clear, Ajahn Brahm is taking ONLY about embryos in this article, younger than 8 weeks.
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Re: IVF

Postby culaavuso » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:20 am

The arguments in the linked article don't seem sufficient to support the conclusion. Parts 1 and 2 are inconclusive, and parts 3-5 are innovation. This seems to be one of the questions of modern times that does not have a clear answer in the tipitaka.

From the article:

Ajahn Brahm wrote:A further clause in the Buddha’s consistent definition for the beginning of a human life is the location of the manifested consciousness – in the mother’s womb. Thus, there is a strong logical argument that states that even if consciousness did manifest somehow in an embryo in the lab, it still has not appeared in the mother’s womb, and therefore does not fulfil the Buddha’s definition of a human life. Only when that embryo–with-consciousness has been implanted in the mother’s womb, then can one say that consciousness has appeared within the mother’s womb and human life begun.


Would this mean that humans grown in an artificial womb aren't really alive?

Ajahn Brahm wrote:The Buddha consistently stated that human life in this body begins when consciousness first manifests inside the mother’s womb. The Pāli word here rendered as “manifest” is Pātubhūta, which also means to be open, visible, apparent. To be precise, human life in this body begins not when consciousness first exists in the mother’s womb, but when it first shows its existence in the mother’s womb (these two events, I believe, are simultaneous).


Shows or manifests from what perspective? A dreaming person might not show signs of consciousness to others, but they would later report conscious experience during that time after they awake. A hermit might not show signs of consciousness to others, but would still be conscious.

Ajahn Brahm wrote:The ethical quality of karma has much to do with the happiness or suffering that one deliberately inflicts upon another. When the other is incapable of feeling pleasure or pain, such considerations become irrelevant.


This isn't as clear as it seems, given that whether babies feel pain was a subject of serious medical debate until fairly recently. History shows a capability for significant misunderstanding in this area. There are also reasons to believe based on the stories in the Vinaya that the precept against killing is not just a question of causing pain. For example:

Attitudes to Euthanasia in the Vinaya and Commentary by Damien Keown wrote:In one case a monk, perhaps again motivated by compassion, appeals for the swift execution of a criminal:

At that time a certain monk, having gone to the place of execution, said to the executioner, "Sir, do not keep him in misery. By one blow deprive him of life." "Very well, your Reverence," said he, and by one blow deprived him of life. [Vin.iii.85]

The monk's motive, apparently, was to spare the prisoner the mental distress of having to wait for the appointed time of execution. The prisoner was to have been killed anyway, and the monk's intervention simply brought forward the inevitable outcome. In spite of his desire to spare the prisoner suffering, the monk was nevertheless found guilty of a breach of the precept.


Ajahn Brahm wrote:Neurologists can also confirm that prior to a certain stage of development, the fetus’s nervous system is absent and therefore pain and pleasure cannot be felt.


This sounds a lot like materialism assuming that pleasure and pain are nothing other than nerve impulses. It's also interesting to consider in light of the fact that phantom limbs don't have a nervous system, yet they are commonly reported as a location of pain.
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Re: IVF

Postby cooran » Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:46 am

This thread in the Classical sub-forum may be of interest:

Abortion Sources
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=17159&p=245253

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Re: IVF

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:21 pm

Ajahn Brahm wrote:A further clause in the Buddha’s consistent definition for the beginning of a human life is the location of the manifested consciousness – in the mother’s womb. Thus, there is a strong logical argument that states that even if consciousness did manifest somehow in an embryo in the lab, it still has not appeared in the mother’s womb, and therefore does not fulfil the Buddha’s definition of a human life. Only when that embryo–with-consciousness has been implanted in the mother’s womb, then can one say that consciousness has appeared within the mother’s womb and human life begun.


This is a strange argument, and a logical fallacy... I'm also curious what would be the reason for him to attempt making this kind of argument?
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Re: IVF

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Apr 02, 2014 3:12 pm

In my humble opinion, the whole issue revolves around one basic question: Does an embryo possess vinnana? If it does posses vinnana, then of course, disposing of it is wrong, and if it doesn't, then doing so can't be defined as killing.

I take the position that an embryo cannot possess vinnana prior to the differentiation of tissue at 4 weeks. I am of this opinion because vinnana arises in dependence on the six fold sense base, and prior to the differentiation of tissue, there is no six fold sense base, so how could there be vinnana present in an embryo at that stage?

After 4 weeks you have a crude nervous system beginning to form, so I think you could have a very basic kind of vinnana arising, so destroying the embryo at that point would be killing.

Again, that's just my opinion, and I am looking forward to other arguments either way.
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Re: IVF

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 02, 2014 5:21 pm

Bakmoon wrote:I am of this opinion because vinnana arises in dependence on the six fold sense base

The suttas seem to describe this dependence in the opposite direction, with the six fold sense base having nāmarūpa and thus viññāṇa as a prerequisite. The only prerequisites for viññāṇa are fabrications and thus ignorance.
SN 12.23: Upanisa Sutta wrote:Thus fabrications have ignorance as their prerequisite, consciousness has fabrications as its prerequisite, name-&-form has consciousness as its prerequisite, the six sense media have name-&-form as their prerequisite...

Scientific methods can't answer either way since there is no agreed upon notion of what consciousness is in science. See the wikipedia article on the hard problem of consciousness for an overview.

It's definitely inconvenient not to have an answer either way, but there doesn't seem to be any definite way to determine the exact moment when consciousness first arises.
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Re: IVF

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:38 pm

culaavuso wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:I am of this opinion because vinnana arises in dependence on the six fold sense base

The suttas seem to describe this dependence in the opposite direction, with the six fold sense base having nāmarūpa and thus viññāṇa as a prerequisite. The only prerequisites for viññāṇa are fabrications and thus ignorance.
SN 12.23: Upanisa Sutta wrote:Thus fabrications have ignorance as their prerequisite, consciousness has fabrications as its prerequisite, name-&-form has consciousness as its prerequisite, the six sense media have name-&-form as their prerequisite...


Actually, a more general survey of the Suttas indicates that the relationship between vinnana and the sixfold sense base is a two way relation in which vinnana is dependent on the sixfold sense base and the sixfold sense base is dependent on vinnana. Consider for example how the Samaditthi Sutta describes dependent origination and defines what the link of conciousness means in the list of twelve links of dependent origination:

MN9 Sammaditthi Sutta wrote: "And what is consciousness, what is the origin of consciousness, what is the cessation of consciousness, what is the way leading to the cessation of consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. With the arising of formations there is the arising of consciousness. With the cessation of formations there is the cessation of consciousness. The way leading to the cessation of consciousness is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view... right concentration.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html


So even the consciousness which ultimately is the basis for the sixfold sense base is itself sixfold conciousness.



culaavuso wrote:Scientific methods can't answer either way since there is no agreed upon notion of what consciousness is in science. See the wikipedia article on the hard problem of consciousness for an overview.

It's definitely inconvenient not to have an answer either way, but there doesn't seem to be any definite way to determine the exact moment when consciousness first arises.


Well, science can't definitively tell us about the presence or absence of vinnana but that doesn't mean that it is impossible to make reasonable inferences about the presence of consciousness. In fact, with the exception of one who has attained the ability to read minds, all of our knowledge of the existence of the vinnana of other beings is inferential. Since the Suttas consistently describe vinnana as being dependent on the six fold sense base, it is reasonable to infer that if the six fold sense base is absent, vinnana is also absent.

The only other option I can see would be to posit the existence of a type of vinnana which is distinct from the sixfold consciousness normally described in the Suttas.I would be very surprised if the Suttas do describe such a kind of vinnana, and if they don't, I think it would be doctrinally presumptious to assume the existence of a new type of vinnana when the normal listing of the sixfold consciousness is intended to be an exhaustive list.
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The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
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Re: IVF

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:55 pm

A quick point of clarification: When I say that consciousness is dependent on the sixfold sense base I am not specifically referring to the twelve links of dependent origination, but more generally saying that consciousness is causally dependent on the sixfold sense base. I don't think this particular point is controversial as the sixfold consciousness is consistently depicted in the Suttas as occurring as part of contact, which is definitely dependent on the sixfold sense base.
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Re: IVF

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:46 pm

Bakmoon wrote:... definitely dependent on the sixfold sense base.


One issue may be over your assumption that the mind-dhamma-vinnana sense sphere requires a physical substrate, e.g. a neurological system. It's true that vinnana <--> namarupa, but it's not true that 'rupa' means 'physical'.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: IVF

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:57 pm

daverupa wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:... definitely dependent on the sixfold sense base.


One issue may be over your assumption that the mind-dhamma-vinnana sense sphere requires a physical substrate, e.g. a neurological system. It's true that vinnana <--> namarupa, but it's not true that 'rupa' means 'physical'.


I don't assert that vinnana requires a physical substrate. Rather, I assert that vinnana is intimately tied up with sense activity. These aren't necessarily the same thing, as other kinds of life such as ghosts and certain devas are non-physical and would somehow have some other kind of sense base. In the case of human beings however, our sense bases are physical.
The non-doing of any evil,
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Re: IVF

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:29 pm

Bakmoon wrote:Well, science can't definitively tell us about the presence or absence of vinnana but that doesn't mean that it is impossible to make reasonable inferences about the presence of consciousness. In fact, with the exception of one who has attained the ability to read minds, all of our knowledge of the existence of the vinnana of other beings is inferential.

This distinction is a useful one to keep in mind. Remembering that an answer is merely provisional and based on likelihood can allow for better decision making and risk management. This is one reason why a safe bet choice as described in MN 60 is so useful.

Bakmoon wrote:The only other option I can see would be to posit the existence of a type of vinnana which is distinct from the sixfold consciousness normally described in the Suttas.I would be very surprised if the Suttas do describe such a kind of vinnana, and if they don't, I think it would be doctrinally presumptious to assume the existence of a new type of vinnana when the normal listing of the sixfold consciousness is intended to be an exhaustive list.

MN 49 explicitly mentions a form of viññāṇa that is not experienced through the "allness of the all", which covers the six sense bases.

SN 35.23: Sabba Sutta wrote:What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All.


MN 49: Brahma-nimantanika Sutta wrote:'Consciousness without surface,
endless, radiant all around,
has not been experienced through the earthness of earth ... the liquidity of liquid ... the fieriness of fire ... the windiness of wind ... the allness of the all.'


Bakmoon wrote:In the case of human beings however, our sense bases are physical.

The perception "physical" arises associated with what is perceived through the sense bases. This doesn't make it clear that the body as the base of the tactile sense or the intellect as the base of the intellect sense require any particular physical configuration to arise. There doesn't seem to be any definite proof of the idea that consciousness requires the previous differentiation of tissue any more than the idea that the differentiation of tissue requires the previous presence of consciousness. Making a reasonable inference seems to require making an assumption about the dependence of consciousness on differentiated tissue, which does not find conclusive support either from the suttas or scientific research.
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Re: IVF

Postby Bakmoon » Thu Apr 03, 2014 12:08 am

culaavuso wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:Well, science can't definitively tell us about the presence or absence of vinnana but that doesn't mean that it is impossible to make reasonable inferences about the presence of consciousness. In fact, with the exception of one who has attained the ability to read minds, all of our knowledge of the existence of the vinnana of other beings is inferential.

This distinction is a useful one to keep in mind. Remembering that an answer is merely provisional and based on likelihood can allow for better decision making and risk management. This is one reason why a safe bet choice as described in MN 60 is so useful.

Bakmoon wrote:The only other option I can see would be to posit the existence of a type of vinnana which is distinct from the sixfold consciousness normally described in the Suttas.I would be very surprised if the Suttas do describe such a kind of vinnana, and if they don't, I think it would be doctrinally presumptious to assume the existence of a new type of vinnana when the normal listing of the sixfold consciousness is intended to be an exhaustive list.

MN 49 explicitly mentions a form of viññāṇa that is not experienced through the "allness of the all", which covers the six sense bases.

SN 35.23: Sabba Sutta wrote:What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All.


MN 49: Brahma-nimantanika Sutta wrote:'Consciousness without surface,
endless, radiant all around,
has not been experienced through the earthness of earth ... the liquidity of liquid ... the fieriness of fire ... the windiness of wind ... the allness of the all.'

This consciousness is the much debated viññanam anidassanam. Regardless of the more subtle aspects of this term, I think it is safe to say that there is a broad consensus that the viññanam anidassanam is somehow related to Nibbana itself, with some saying it is itself Nibbana, and others saying it is the Lokuttara Citta which takes Nibbana as an object. Either way, the viññanam anidassanam is the domain of highly realized beings, so I think it is safe to say that an embryo does not posses it.

culaavuso wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:In the case of human beings however, our sense bases are physical.

The perception "physical" arises associated with what is perceived through the sense bases. This doesn't make it clear that the body as the base of the tactile sense or the intellect as the base of the intellect sense require any particular physical configuration to arise. There doesn't seem to be any definite proof of the idea that consciousness requires the previous differentiation of tissue any more than the idea that the differentiation of tissue requires the previous presence of consciousness. Making a reasonable inference seems to require making an assumption about the dependence of consciousness on differentiated tissue, which does not find conclusive support either from the suttas or scientific research.


On the contrary, the Suttas do often say that sense consciousness is tied to the physical body (contextually specifically to humans I suppose). For example in the Chachakka Sutta's description of Phassa it says:

"...Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the ear & sounds there arises consciousness at the ear. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the nose & aromas there arises consciousness at the nose. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the tongue & flavors there arises consciousness at the tongue. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the body & tactile sensations there arises consciousness at the body. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact.


One might say that the embryo possesses intellect consciousness, and while I grant that I can't give any iron clad proof that it certainly doesn't, I still think reasonable inferences can be made from empirical observation. I submit that consciousness, even intellect consciousness, is highly correlated with the presence of brain activity. When I am awake and have brain activity, I am able to have intellect consciousness, and if I am put under general anesthetic, my intellect consciousness ceases (I actually have been under general anesthetic for an appendectomy and that's what happened for me phenomenologically speaking). So it seems that under normal circumstances for human beings, intellect consciousness has neural activity as a causal condition.

Note that I am not saying what the materialists say (i.e. that matter is all that is real and mind is a mere epiphenomena.) I am merely pointing out that from what we can gather and reasonably infer, in the case of humans vinnana has something material as one of its causal conditions, just as matter can be conditioned by vinnana. Both are real, and both can have the other as its causal conditions.

On the other hand, I can't see anything that would indicate that an embryo does have vinnana. I would gladly concede were I to see it, though.

Given all that, I say not with certainty, but with a degree of reasonableness, that vinnana isn't present from the very beginning, but somewhat afterwards. I think it is worth noting here that the cannonical text and commentaries don't actually say that it is an ofence to kill an embryo, but only to kill an embryo after vinnana has manifested. I think this is also significant, as if it were to forbid it from the moment of conception, this bit would be completely redundant, so it at least hints at some sort of line of demarcation.
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The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: IVF

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 03, 2014 12:20 am

Bakmoon wrote:On the contrary, the Suttas do often say that sense consciousness is tied to the physical body (contextually specifically to humans I suppose). For example in the Chachakka Sutta's description of Phassa it says:

"...Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the ear & sounds there arises consciousness at the ear. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the nose & aromas there arises consciousness at the nose. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the tongue & flavors there arises consciousness at the tongue. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the body & tactile sensations there arises consciousness at the body. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact.


Oh. Well. Have a look at this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=13799#p204070

the appropriate contemporary meanings:

cakkhu, 1. the eye; the organ of sight; the faculty of seeing, sight;...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: IVF

Postby Bakmoon » Thu Apr 03, 2014 1:21 am

daverupa wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:On the contrary, the Suttas do often say that sense consciousness is tied to the physical body (contextually specifically to humans I suppose). For example in the Chachakka Sutta's description of Phassa it says:

"...Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the ear & sounds there arises consciousness at the ear. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the nose & aromas there arises consciousness at the nose. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the tongue & flavors there arises consciousness at the tongue. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the body & tactile sensations there arises consciousness at the body. The meeting of the three is contact. Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact.


Oh. Well. Have a look at this thread:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 99#p204070

the appropriate contemporary meanings:

cakkhu, 1. the eye; the organ of sight; the faculty of seeing, sight;...


Although the sixfold sense base might not be definable exclusively in terms of physical organs, that does not mean that they are totally disconnected from the sense organs either. In fact, according to the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's first lecture on the Chachakka Sutta (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWIyak3Ctc4 it's about 13 minutes in) the Abhidhamma teaches that the sense faculties are composed of a kind of subtle matter which responds to their respective objects and is housed within the physical organ proper. To me this sounds suspiciously similar to nervous tissue.

Again, I'm not saying the sense faculties are 100% physical, but I don't think you can say that they can be divorced from physical matter entirely in the case of human beings who haven't attained super-sensory abilities.

I know that what I am proposing isn't bulletproof, but I think that there is significant indicative evidence for it and I have yet to see any positive evidence to the contrary.
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The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
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Re: IVF

Postby suwapan » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:06 am

SarathW wrote:I think destroying an embryo is unethical.

What are your thoughts about the following statement.

Ajahn Brahm:
Conclusion: embryos outside of a mother’s womb are not
reckoned as human life, and thus the ethical considerations
specific to human beings do not apply.

Last paragraph:

http://www.stefan.gr/buddhism/books/aja ... -begin.pdf
:thinking:


Dear SarathW,

At conception when the sperm enters the wall of the egg, specific Nama and Rupa have already existed, thus the splitting of the cells begins. The sex, characters and features of the baby have already been determined. Therefore, by definition from the Abhidhamma Sangaha, the embryo is alive. Terminating it would be defying the first of the five Precepts.

Here are extracts from "A Manual of Abhidamma" translated by Narada Maha Thera


(Chapter 5,pg 257)
According to commentary, Janaka Kamma (Reproductive Kamma) is that which produces mental aggregates and material aggregates at the moment of conception.

(Chapter 2,pg 88)
Both Nama-Jivitindriya and Rupa-Jivitindriya arise at the moment of conception.They simultaneously perish at the moment of conception. Hence death is regarded as the destruction of this Jivitindriya. Immediately after, due to the power of Kamma, another Nama-Jivitindriya arises in the subsequent birth at the moment of conception. Simultaneous with the arising of the one Nama-Jivitindriya there arise three Rupa-Jivitindriyas in the case of a human being.


(Note: Jivitindriya is one of the seven Universal Cetasikas that concomitantly exists and ceases with any consciousness (Citta). It sustains and control its co-associates as Cetasikas work in groups.)

Following this teaching, an outside-the-womb embryo is considered alive. It continues its life after it is implanted into a womb. If left outside, it will die. After all, if outside embryo is not alive, how can it grow into a baby after a successful implant into a woman? Or, is it revived from the dead?
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Re: IVF

Postby SarathW » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:48 pm

Hi Suwapan
What about identical twins?
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Re: IVF

Postby Ananda26 » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:45 pm

Abstaining from killing, the first precepts applies to human beings, fetuses, and embryos.
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Re: IVF

Postby suwapan » Sat May 24, 2014 1:28 am

SarathW wrote:Hi Suwapan
What about identical twins?


Hi SarathW'
I'm sorry for not replying. As for the twin individuals, they might have done the following:
1) Made vows to be together "forever," out of intense love and affection.
2) Or, they could be enemies, and one of them had vowed to follow the other "till the end of time."
Nonetheless, they must have committed very similar karmas, in order for them to appear alike and be born in the same environment.

To think about it, being twins may be seen to be at a disadvantage to being a single child. They have to share everything, starting from the food eaten by their mother while they were in the womb. The resources from the parents must be halved for both of them to share. If the parents were rich, sharing resources would be much of a concern but not so for a lesser family. What about when they grow up, they may have to fight for the parents love?
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