Different interpretations of jāti and maraṇa

I create this topic with the intention of aggregating all possible alternative interpretations of the terms jāti and maraṇa.

If possible, I would like to kindly suggest we avoid entering the advocacy mode and refrain from judging different people’s or different authors’ choice of how to make sense of these terms.

Also, I would like to suggest we try to inform as much as possible whether the interpretations we have or we quote are overarching in terms of being valid across the theme of dependent origination of suffering or may be specific to certain contexts.

Once we have surfaced key alternative interpretations of the terms here I will seek to create separate topics to discuss specific interpretations.

I thank you in advance for keeping the conversation civilised and respecting my request to avoid discussing within this topic one interpretation against the other.


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Well, for starters, there’s also su-jato and du-jato to be considered :wink:

Sujato - well-born
Dujato – ill-bred

That doesn’t indicate an area of meaning ?

Birth and death in the below are jāti and maraṇaṃ, respectively.

[quote=“DN 22”]Now what, monks, is birth?

For the various beings in the various classes of beings (there is) birth, being born, appearing, turning up; the manifestation of the constituents (of mind and body), the acquisition of the sense spheres: this, monks, is called birth.

Now what, monks, is old age?

For the various beings in the various classes of beings there is old age, agedness, broken teeth, greying hair, and wrinkled skin; the dwindling away of the life span, the decay of the sense faculties: this, monks, is called old age.

Now what, monks, is death?

For the various beings in the various classes of beings there is a fall, a falling away, a breaking up, a disappearance, a dying, a death, a making of time; the break up of the constituents (of mind and body), the throwing off of the body; the cutting off of the life faculty: this, monks, is called death.[/quote]


If I read this translation literally from a physical or materialistic perspective, it seems to say:

  1. A being (satta) exists prior to birth & is later born from a mother’s womb or ‘turns up’; like the ‘being’ (satta) was on a holiday or at home sleeping in but decided to ‘turn up’ to work.


.2. The various classes of beings exist as a specific social class before they are born from their mother’s womb & then they are born as that same social class. For example, a baby is born upper class & is intrinsically upper class; similar to what the Brahmans tried to argue in MN 93.


.3. The constituents (khandha) of body & mind manifest (are created) at birth rather than in the mother’s womb; i.e., in the mother’s womb, there are no visible or discernible aggregates. For example, when a mother feels her unborn baby kicking or moving in her womb, these are not aggregates but something else (because aggregates/constituents only manifest at birth).


.4. At birth, when emerging from the mother’s womb, either the child or the mother acquire sense organs, that is, before birth, there were no sense organs.


.5. Otherwise or also, at birth, when emerging from the mother’s womb, either the child or the mother acquire sense objects, i.e., they acquire or purchase sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches & mental objects, i…e, before birth, in the womb, these sense objects did not exist.


I think it is one thing to cut & paste words from a translation however it is another thing to actually read those words literally to comprehend their meaning.

Anyway, in this post, I shared my (different) interpretation of jati.


Let’s stick to making this a space to list all possible interpretations.

I think it is worth investigating and give others space to do the same, let’s try keeping the mind open.

Hopefully we may after a while be able to identify one or more key alternative interpretations and then explore them further in separate topics.

These same standard definitions of jāti and maraṇa (in the context of dependent origination) can also be found in SN and MN:


These words are probably bracketed because they obviously do not exist in the Pali. Since these words themselves are ‘interpretations’ rather than the actual teaching, it is probably best they are excluded from the translations which serve as the basis of this topic.

Yes. I agree these are the standard definitions that should be considered in this topic (rather than what is in DN 15). However, what is posted here are obviously merely translations. Such translations, in themselves, I would personally regard as not satisfactory because, ideally, each Pali word in these definitions should be understood according to how it is used contextually throughout the suttas. Therefore, I think copying & pasting word definitions from dictionaries is, again, inadequate.

I think my idea here conforms with what the EBTs instruct, such as MN 95, which exhorted & emphasised deep reflection, examination & actual meditation upon the teachings. :seedling:

Bhāradvāja, in regard to their statement the brahmins seem to be like a file of blind men: the first one does not see, the middle one does not see, and the last one does not see. What do you think, Bhāradvāja, that being so, does not the faith of the brahmins turn out to be groundless? The brahmins honour this not only out of faith, Master Gotama. They also honour it as oral tradition. We ask Master Gotama about the discovery of truth.

He hears the Dhamma; having heard the Dhamma, he memorises it and examines the meaning of the teachings he has memorised; when he examines their meaning, he gains a reflective acceptance of those teachings; when he has gained a reflective acceptance of those teachings, zeal springs up; when zeal has sprung up, he applies his will; having applied his will, he scrutinises; having scrutinised, he strives; resolutely striving, he realises with the body the supreme truth and sees it (passati) by penetrating it with wisdom (paññāya).

The final arrival at truth, Bhāradvāja, lies in the repetition, development and cultivation of those same things. In this way, Bhāradvāja, there is the final arrival at truth; in this way one finally arrives at truth; in this way we describe the final arrival at truth.

But what, Master Gotama, is most helpful for a reflective acceptance of the teachings? We ask Master Gotama about the thing most helpful for a reflective acceptance of the teachings.

Examination of the meaning is most helpful for a reflective acceptance of the teachings, Bhāradvāja. If one does not examine their meaning, one will not gain a reflective acceptance of the teachings; but because one examines their meaning, one gains a reflective acceptance of the teachings. That is why examination of the meaning is most helpful for a reflective acceptance of the teachings.

MN 95


marana is used as such in Tamil (maranam) and simply means death. There is no ambiguity in the usage with any kind of metaphysical meaning. Death of a living being is all that it means and the word is very commonly used. jāti is not used in Tamil for birth, though.

Thought I’ll mention this here, since there are some Pali words that are used in Tamil. Like puñña, muni etc.

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It seems in Hindu India, ‘jati’ has always meant ‘caste’ or ‘social identity’ . This usage seems also found in MN 86 and in the Visuddhimagga.

‘Sister, since I was born in the noble birth, I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.’ MN 86

Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति, Bengali: জাতি, Telugu:జాతి, Kannada:ಜಾತಿ, Malayalam: ജാതി, Tamil:ஜாதி, literally “birth”) is a group of clans, tribes, communities and sub-communities, and religions in India. Each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe. Religious beliefs (e.g. Sri Vaishnavism or Veera Shaivism) or linguistic groupings may define some jatis.[citation needed] Among the Muslims, the equivalent category is Qom or Biradri. A person’s surname typically reflects a community (jati) association: thus Gandhi = perfume seller, Dhobi = washerman, Srivastava = military scribe, etc. In any given location in India 500 or more jatis may co-exist, although the exact composition will differ from district to district. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[quote=“Sujith, post:13, topic:5547”]
marana is used as such in Tamil (maranam) and simply means death… Death of a living being[/quote]

In Tamil it may simply mean ‘death’ but in Pali it seems not so simple because ‘death’ is never used for the termination of life of an arahant (e.g., in SN 22.85) but other words may possibly used for the termination of life of an arahant apart from Parinibbana, such as ‘kālaṅkato’ (‘done time’) or ‘kālakiriyā’ (‘completed time’).

If, friend Yamaka, they were to [wrongly] ask you: ‘Friend Yamaka, when a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body, after death (paraṃ maraṇā)?’— being asked thus, what would you answer?”

If they were to ask me this, friend, I would answer thus: ‘Friends, form is impermanent; what is impermanent is unsatisfactory; what is unsatisfactory has ceased and passed away. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness is impermanent; what is impermanent is unsatisfactory; what is unsatisfactory has ceased and passed away.’ Being asked thus, friend, I would answer in such a way.”

“Good, good, friend Yamaka!

SN 22.85

For example, in AN 6.16, Nakulamata, who was at least a stream-enterer, said to her husband:

Mā kho tvaṃ, gahapati, sāpekkho kālamakāsi. Dukkhā, gahapati, sāpekkhassa kālakiriyā; garahitā ca bhagavatā sāpekkhassa kālakiriyā

Don’t be worried as you die, householder. Death is painful for one who is worried. The Blessed One has criticized being worried at the time of death.

In MN 140, when Pukkusati was killed by a cow:

yo so, bhante, pukkusāti nāma kulaputto bhagavatā saṃkhittena ovādena ovadito so kālaṅkato

Venerable sir, the clansman Pukkusāti, who was given brief instruction by the Blessed One, has died.

Or in MN 43:

Yvāyaṃ, āvuso, mato kālaṅkato, yo cāyaṃ bhikkhu saññā­ve­dayi­ta­nirodhaṃ samāpanno—imesaṃ kiṃ nānākaraṇan”ti?

What is the difference between one who is dead, who has completed his time, and a monk who has attained the cessation of perception & feeling?

In the case of the one who is dead, who has completed his time, his bodily fabrications have ceased & subsided, his verbal fabrications … his mental fabrications have ceased & subsided, his vitality is exhausted, his heat subsided & his (five sense) faculties are scattered.


The commentators understood the term jāti in the Canon as having eight distinct senses: Becoming, group, concept, characteristic of the formed, rebirth-linking, parturition, clan, and virtue (bhava, nikāya, paññatti, saṅkhatalakkhaṇa, paṭisandhi, pasūti, kula, sīla).

The Sammohavinodanī gives the following sutta passages as examples:

Birth - this word jāti has many meanings.

Tathā hesa ekampi jātiṃ, dvepi jātiyo ti ettha bhave āgato.
Thus in the passage: “[He recollects …] one birth, two births…”, it has come down as becoming.

Atthi visākhe, nigaṇṭhā nāma samaṇajātikā ti ettha nikāye.
In the passage: “Visākha, there is a kind of ascetics called Nigaṇṭhas…” it is group.

Tiriyā nāma tiṇajāti nābhiyā uggantvā nabhaṃ āhacca ṭhitā ahosī ti ettha paññattiyaṃ.
In the passage: “A kind of grass called tiriyā rose up from his navel and stood touching the sky…” it is a concept.

Jāti dvīhi khandhehi saṅgahitā ti ettha saṅkhatalakkhaṇe.
In the passage: “Birth is included in two aggregates…” it is a characteristic of the formed.

Yaṃ, bhikkhave, mātukucchimhi paṭhamaṃ cittaṃ uppannaṃ, paṭhamaṃ viññāṇaṃ pātubhūtaṃ, tadupādāya sāvassa jātī ti ettha paṭisandhiyaṃ.
In the passage: “His birth is due to the first consciousness arisen, the first consciousness manifested, in the mother’s womb…” it is rebirth-linking.

Sampatijāto, ānanda, bodhisatto ti ettha pasūtiyaṃ.
In the passage: “[Seven days], Ānanda, after the birth of the Bodhisatta…” it is parturition.

Anupakkuṭṭho jātivādenā ti ettha kule.
In the passage: “One who is not rejected and despised on account of his birth…” it is clan.

Yatohaṃ, bhagini, ariyāya jātiyā jāto ti ettha ariyasīle.
In the passage: “Sister, since I was born with the noble birth…” it is the noble virtue.

See the attached file from Ñāṇamoli’s translation for the full discussion.

Jati-Birth.pdf (1.9 MB)


Much appreciated bhante. :anjal:

The raw view of birth in that excerpt is quite unsettling, Bhante !

Indeed. It has some pretty memorable imagery – particularly the comparison of birth to an :elephant: trying to get through a keyhole. :cold_sweat:

The grasp of physiology shown in para. 458 might benefit from a little revision. I doubt, for example, that a fœtus would feel as if he were in a freezing hell every time his mother drank a glass of cold water.


“cooked like a pudding in a bag”

Comic but tragic! :cold_sweat:

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[quote=“gnlaera, post:1, topic:5547”]alternative interpretations of the terms jāti and maraṇa.

In my reading, what results in alternative interpretations is the definitions of these words ‘jati’ & ‘marana’ in SN 12.2, MN 9, DN 22, etc, include the word ‘beings’ or ‘sattanam’, as follows:

And what, bhikkhus, is birth? The birth of the various beings (sattānaṃ) into the various orders of beings (sattanikāye), their being born, descent into the womb, production, the manifestation of the aggregates, the obtaining of the sense bases. This is called birth.

Now, in the suttas, it appears to primary definition of the word ‘a being’ or ‘satta’ is found in SN 23.2, which does not appear to define ‘a being’ (‘satta’) as a ‘living & breathing organism’ (similar to the Mahayana term ‘sentient being’) but, instead only appears to define ‘a being’ as a psychological state of bound to craving & attachment, as follows:

Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for consciousness, Radha: when one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be ‘a being.’ SN 23.2

SN 23.2 then gives a clear metaphor describing ‘a being’ as something built up in the mind:

Just as when boys or girls are playing with little sand castles: as long as they are not free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for those little sand castles, that’s how long they have fun with those sand castles, enjoy them, treasure them, feel possessive of them. But when they become free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for those little sand castles, then they smash them, scatter them, demolish them with their hands or feet and make them unfit for play.

"In the same way, Radha, you too should smash, scatter, & demolish form, and make it unfit for play. Practice for the ending of craving for form

This psychological interpretation appears to also be supported by SN 5.10, for example, which appears to state ‘a being’ is merely a ‘wrong view’:

Why now do you assume ‘a being’?
Mara, is that your speculative view?
This is a heap of sheer formations:
Here no being is found.

“Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word ‘chariot’ is used,
So, when the aggregates exist,
There is the convention ‘a being.

Then SN 22.81, for example, also uses the term ‘jati’ to refer to the birth of a psychological ‘self-view’:

… regards form as self. That regarding, bhikkhus, is a formation. That formation—what is its source, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced? When the uninstructed worldling is contacted by a feeling born of ignorance-contact, craving arises: thence that formation is born

Then MN 86, for example, refers to Angulimala’s new social identity & virtuousness as a monk as a ‘jati’:

Angulimala, go to that woman and on arrival say to her, ‘Sister, since I was born I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.’"

“But, lord, wouldn’t that be a lie for me? For I have intentionally killed many living beings.”

“Then in that case, Angulimala, go to that woman and on arrival say to her, ‘Sister, since I was born in the noble birth, I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.’”

Responding, “As you say, lord,” to the Blessed One, Angulimala went to that woman and on arrival said to her, “Sister, since I was born in the noble birth, I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.” And there was wellbeing for the woman, wellbeing for her fetus.

Then MN 38 gives the impression ‘birth’ & ‘death’ end while the mind is conscious:

On seeing a form with the eye, he does not lust after it if it is pleasing; he does not dislike it if it is unpleasing. He abides with mindfulness of the body established, with an immeasurable mind, and he understands as it actually is the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. Having thus abandoned favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, he does not delight in that feeling, welcome it, or remain holding to it. As he does not do so, delight in feelings ceases in him. With the cessation of his delight comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of being; with the cessation of being, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

Then suttas such as MN 140 & Dhp21 state an arahant is not born or does not die:

Bhikkhu, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be possessed of form’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be formless’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be non-percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumour, conceiving is a dart. By overcoming all conceivings, bhikkhu, one is called a sage at peace. And the sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not shaken and does not yearn. For there is nothing present in him by which he might be born. Not being born, how could he age? Not ageing, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be shaken? Not being shaken, why should he yearn? MN 140

Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already. Dhp21

In my experience, it is sutta interpretation such as above that result in alternative interpretations of the terms jāti and maraṇa.



So “birth” just means, not surprisingly, birth.


Please kindly consider exploring the concept of being here:

Isn’t this inference knowledge?

An awakened individual infers that given that the root cause of the mundane dependent origination is now eradicated it is doomed to stop turning.

Hence the knowledge of end of taints comes to one’s mind as soon as the task is finished but not necessarily the wheel of dependent origination has finally ceased with no future birth to be caused?

This is consistent with the not unusual rendering of awakening as the deathless.

Continuous origination of births and necessarily deaths through time is ultimately fueled by the practical ignorance with regards to the four noble truths.

Once the four ennobling tasks have been fullfiled such practical ignorance is dispelled.

The knowledge and vision that replaces it instead allows for the awakened individual to infer “the task is done, no future birth will be originated, hence deathless awaits instead!

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