Dvattiṃsākāra; matthaluṅga (the brain) is added to the list when the original list from main discourses has only 31 parts

Atthi imasmiṃ kāye –
Kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco (5)
Maṃsaṃ nhāru aṭṭhi aṭṭhimiñjaṃ vakkaṃ (5)
Hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ (5)
Antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ matthaluṅgaṃ(5)
Pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo (6)
Assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā muttanti(6).
(32 parts in total)
(Suttapiṭaka » Khuddakanikāya » Khuddakapāṭhapāḷi » Dvattiṃsākāro)

Apart from that Paṭisambhidāmagga and milindapañña also note about matthaluṅga as an object of kāyagatāsati.

Kesā abhiññeyyā; lomā abhiññeyyā… matthaluṅgaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ.
Head hair that which should be well understood, body hair that which should be well understood,… brain that which should be well understood.
(Suttapiṭaka » Khuddakanikāya » Paṭisambhidāmaggapāḷi » Mahāvaggo »

However main discourses on the repulsive does not note 32 parts. There are only 31 parts except the brain (matthaluṅga).

atthi imasmiṃ kāye:
kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco(5)
maṃsaṃ nhāru aṭṭhi aṭṭhimiñjaṃ vakkaṃ(5)
hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ(5)
*antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ pittaṃ(5) *
*semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo(5) *
assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā muttan’ti.(6)
(MN 119)

  1. Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta DN 22
  2. Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta MN 10
  3. Kāyagatāsati Sutta MN 119

Any ideas how this part (matthaluṅga) is missing from main discourses and added (later ?) in some parts of the tepitaka?
This may be included under Maṃsaṃ?


I was assuming medo (fat).

“The human brain is nearly 60% fat.


The brain and heart are composed of 73% water (The water in you)

It seems chinese suttas note the brain as a part of the body. I would be grateful if someone who knows chinese parallels could help me out to find Nikaya parallels for these suttas. I do not know Chinese, just used google translator.

腦 Brain

云何比丘 內觀身而自娛樂?於是,比丘觀此身隨其 性行,從頭至足,從足至頭,觀此身中皆悉 不淨,無有可貪。復觀此身有毛、髮、爪、齒、 皮、肉、筋、骨、髓、、脂膏、腸、胃、心、肝、脾、腎之屬,皆 悉觀知。屎、尿、生熟二藏、目淚、唾、涕、血脈、肪、膽, 皆當觀知,無可貪者。如是,諸比丘!當 觀身自娛樂,除去惡念,無有愁憂。
EA 12.1

If the translator is right, this sutta note about the brain ?

腦及腦根 - Brain and brain roots(?)

復次,比丘修習念身,比丘者此身隨住,隨其好惡,從頭至足,觀見種種不淨充滿,謂此身中有髮、毛、爪、齒、麁細薄膚、皮、肉、筋、骨、心、腎、肝、肺、大腸、小腸、脾、胃、摶糞、腦及腦根、淚、汗、涕、唾、膿、血、肪、髓、涎、膽、小便。猶以器盛若干種子,有目之士,悉見分明,謂稻、粟種、大麥、小麥、大小麻豆、菘菁芥子。如是比丘此身隨住,隨其好惡,從頭至足,觀見種種不淨充滿,謂此身中有髮、毛、爪、齒、麁細薄膚、皮、肉、筋、骨、心、腎、肝、肺、大腸、小腸、脾、胃、摶糞、腦及腦根、淚、汗、涕、唾、膿、血肪、髓、涎、膽、小便。如是比丘隨其身行,便知上如真。彼若如是在遠離獨住,心無放逸,修行精勤,斷心諸患而得定心,得定心已,則知上如真。是謂比丘修習念身 ( MA 81).

The question we should be asking is not why is the brain missing, but rather, why the brain was added when the original list of 31 body parts cited in the core EBT passages did not include it.


Changed the OP.

Later addition.

I just wanted to check where the word
matthaluṅga came from. So I did a search. It is not new to the tepitaka. Since there is no account of the missing issue at Ven. Buddhagosha’s time; he just explained dvattiṃsākāra in commentaries (vibhaṅgaṭṭhakata etc) and Visuddhimagga. Aṭṭhākatā says the brain comes in the list after the hair. As both are parts of the head it give an explaination why the priority occurs.

Desanāyapi dvattiṃsākāradesanāya kesā pure nāma, matthaluṅgaṃ pacchā nāma. Tattha yo bhikkhu kesesu abhinivisitvā vaṇṇasaṇṭhānadisokāsavasena kesādayo pariggaṇhanto antarā kilesapariḷāhādīnaṃ uppattiṃ vāretvā yāva matthaluṅgā bhāvanaṃ pāpeti. So puresaṅkhātānaṃ kesānaṃ pacchāsaṅkhātassa matthaluṅgassa ca vasena pacchā pure asaṃkhittaṃ vimuttaṃ appaṇihitanti pajānāti nāma…

Perhaps this was gone missing after the era of Ven. Buddhagosha (?).

Note: Asking missing is not a problem since, this word matthaluṅga is found in Snp 1.11. Vijaya Sutta and in some other parts.
Obviously, the brain is something noticeable, in fact it is human nature to point the head when they talk about qualities such as knowladge, rationality, etc.
At the time of the Buddha people had a better knowledge about the brain even to carry out a surgery. So we can assume the knowledge was sound at least to the people who practiced medicine. Jīvaka’s story from vinaya pitaka shows the knowledge.

Then Jīvaka Komārabhacca, having made the householder, the merchant lie down on a couch, having strapped him to the couch, having cut open the skin of his head, having opened a suture in the skull, having drawn out two living creatures, showed them to the people, saying: “Do you see, masters, these two living creatures, the one small, the other large?

I’ve always wondered whether this list was ever intended to be comprehensive, as practiced in early Buddhism. Perhaps the Buddha was just giving an example of various parts so that practitioners got the right idea of how to practice the contemplation, and variations in the specifics didn’t matter so much (provided one was sure to include the less-appealing parts).

Some of the parts listed would probably have been unfamiliar to many practitioners, and there are parts missing that it would seem should be included in a comprehensive list (e.g., eyeballs, tongue, esophagus, windpipe, reproductive organs and associated fluids, etc.)


May be to avoid the disturbance from craving.
Obviously, contemplating reproductive organs would create a wandering mind than a concentrated one.
People are very much connected to main sensory organs such as eyes, tongue, ears, nose. So they tend not to take them as unpleasant organs. This is just my idea about the issue. There may be other reasons.


I would think hair, nails, teeth, skin would stir craving more than a windpipe. :slight_smile:



The lists in the Agamas are very similar but not exactly like the Pali. Looking at the Madhyama, Samyukta and Ekottarika Agama lists, I would say that the number of items is a little arbitrary. It’s around 30 items, and they seem to based on an original list with slight variations.

Here’s the lists I could find in the Agamas (all include the term for brain):

  • DA 18 at 77b11
  • MA 30 at 465a24
  • MA 81 at 556a11
  • MA 98 at 583b04
  • MA 162 at 690c09 (the list is split between two passages)
  • SA 1165 has an alternate translation of the MA list at 311a24
  • EA 3.9 at 556b28
  • EA 12.1 at 568a16
  • EA 28.4 at 652a15 breaks the list up by elements (earth, water, etc).

The Dirgha Agama (Dharmaguptaka) list goes:

Head hair, hair, finger and toenails, the five viscera of liver, lungs, intestines and stomach, spleen, and kidneys, and the bad smelling and impure places of sweat, grease, marrow, brain, feces, urine, snot, and tears.

Notice, brain is include with marrow and grease, not with the organs.

The Madhyama and Samyukta Agama (Sarvastivada) list:

Head hair, hair, nails, teeth, crude and fine outer coverings of skin, flesh, sinew, bone, heart, kidney, liver, lung, large intestine, small intestine, spleen, stomach, feces, brain and brain stem(?), tears, sweat, snot, saliva, pus, blood, fat, marrow, saliva(?), bile, and urine.

I’m only guessing that “brain-root” means “brain stem”. It just seems like a possibility. Also, there’s a synonym for saliva towards the end that I would guess is some other bodily fluid that eludes my dictionaries.

The Ekottarika Agama (Mahasamgika?) list goes

Hair, head hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinew, bone, marrow, brain, fat, tallow, intestines, stomach, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, feces, urine … tears, saliva, snot, blood, grease, and bile.

The mystery with this list is an item after urine that says 生熟二藏. I’m not sure what it would mean in terms of the human body. Literally, it says “two organs mature and immature” or something like that. Maybe a euphemism for sexual organs?


Many thanks for your elaborate answer. :slightly_smiling_face:
You have done one fine research. These are valuable information to me :heart:


Patisambhidhamagga lists it at the end of all, which is suspicious; a later addition(?).

Kesā abhiññeyyā; lomā abhiññeyyā; nakhā abhiññeyyā; dantā abhiññeyyā; taco abhiññeyyo, maṃsaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; nhārū abhiññeyyā; aṭṭhī abhiññeyyā; aṭṭhimiñjā abhiññeyyā ; vakkaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; hadayaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; yakanaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; kilomakaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; pihakaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; papphāsaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; antaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ antaguṇaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; udariyaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; karīsaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; pittaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; semhaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; pubbo abhiññeyyo; lohitaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; sedo abhiññeyyo; medo abhiññeyyo; assu abhiññeyyaṃ; vasā abhiññeyyā; kheḷo abhiññeyyo; siṅghāṇikā abhiññeyyā; lasikā abhiññeyyā; muttaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ; matthaluṅgaṃ abhiññeyyaṃ (Sutamayañāṇaniddeso).

abhiññeyyaṃ- which should be well understood


All of the Chinese Agamas are 4th c. AD in dating, so it may well be that it was a later addition that everyone adopted. The Ekottarika, ironically, seems like the earliest in form compared to the other Agamas, even though it has Mahayana material interlacing it.