"Tiṇṇaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, sannipātā gabbhassāvakkanti hoti. Idhamātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca na utunīhoti, gandhabbo ca na paccupaṭṭhito hoti, nevatāva gabbhassāvakkanti hoti"
Union of three things is required to the descent of the embryo takes place,
- Union of the mother and father
- The mother is in season
- Presence of gandhabba
According to modern science, observing and reasoning of first two things is possible. But it never discusses about non material part (nāma) of a being. I have done a review about embryo development of humans to figure it out the exact point for the presence of gandhabba. This is what I am going to discuss.
However, there is no solid evidence to suggest that union of these three happens at once, with fertilization. There are few facts to consider deciding the exact point: the arrival of gandhabba.
First thing to consider is what governs embryo development: is it completely materialistic or is it governed by non materialistic factors.
When we take an account of the teaching from Mahānidānasuttaṃ,
Viññāṇañca hi, ānanda, mātukucchismiṃ na okkamissatha, api nu khonāmarūpaṃ mātukucchismiṃ samuccissathā”ti? “No hetaṃ, bhante”. “Viññāṇañca hi, ānanda, mātukucchismiṃ okkamitvā vokkamissatha, apinu kho nāmarūpaṃ itthattāyaabhinibbattissathā”ti? “No hetaṃ, bhante”.
How that is so, Ānanda, should be understood in this way: If consciousness were not to descend into the mother’s womb, would mentality-materiality take shape in the womb?”
“Certainly not, venerable sir.”
“If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would mentality-materiality be generated into this present state of being?”
“Certainly not, venerable sir.”
With this evidence we can think the Viññāṇa (consciousness) should be there to develope nāmarūpa (mentality-materiality) and consciousness is a vital to development of embryo.
As we can see in kammasuttaṃ,
“And what, bhikkhus, is old kamma? The eye is old kamma, to be seen as generated and fashioned by volition, as something to be felt. The ear is old kamma so on”
According to above sutta, all the senses (wholebody) arises from previous kamma. Then it is confirmed there should be a consciousness for the development of nāmarūpa which can be identified as the embryo in this case.
Second thing is, whether the arival takes place before the implant of the fetus in utrerus wall or is it possible even after.
As Indaka sutta explains,
There are few stages of embryo development,
- kalala: Apparently = “mud”, also used for an oily residuum, and the yolk of an egg. Probably a predifferentiated state. (blastocyst?)
- abbuda: Apparently = “tumour”.
- pesi: a lump of flesh, a piece of meat.
- ghana: A mass; interpreted by the dictionary here as a “swelling”.
In this case we are more concerned about the first stage. Ever since blessed one mentioned kalala stage, by the time of the zygote becomes kalala it has already gained gandhabba. This can be concluded using few references from attakata. Kalala remains for 7 days
(Sattāhaṃ kalalaṃ hoti).
As the explaination about kalala this is as smaller as a drop of oil on the tip of a hair dipped in oil and shook off 7 times. ( from specific animal who has softer hair) .
We cannot get down to a solid conclusion with above details however, in my opinion, this explaination equals with “morula” and “blastosyst” from modern embryology and kalala stage may be the blastosyst or morula.
There is a technique called embryo transfer refers to a step in the process of assisted reproduction in which embryos are placed into the uterus of a female with the intent to establish a pregnancy.
Some of the studies showed that blastocyst stage transfer is more effective than early (day 2 or 3) stage transfer in embryo transfer. The success rate increased from 31% to 32-41% with blastosyst stage embryo transfer . With this evidance we can assume the arrival of gandhabba is more prone to blastosyst stage than ealy stages. However, since there are successful cases the gandhabba can arrive at early stages.
Note: In vitro arrival of gandhabba is possible
Third fact is twining and multiple pregnancies.
Twinning may originate from two zygotes (dizygotic, nonidentical, or fraternal) or from one zygote (monozygotic, identical).
In this case identical twinning should be take into account since this kind of twins are formed from single zygote.
Then this is a insidance where two consciousnesses placed in one embryo.
Is it possible?
Since, there are conjoined people alive in the world. Yes, this is possible. Living conjoined life by BBC
When twinning occurs most of them develope into two separate children and in some cases rarely conjoined twins are formed.
CONJOINED TWINS: result of incomplete division of embryonic disk and are named by regions of attachment .
Since twinning forms two separate beings, there should be two different Viññāṇas. As already been explained, consciousness should be there to the development of embryo and it forms according to previous kamma. Then we can assume the differentiation and specification of an embryo could be controlled by previous kamma of each individual separately. Then we can an idea with differentiation of the embryo whether there are two different individuals developing. Splitting of the embryo indicates the presence of two consciousnesses. In the twinning we can clearly observe development of two individuals are simultaneous which lead us to think that they both come together.
Please note that differentiation should be spesific to each individual because it occurs with previous kamma.
However, splitting can be occur at several stages of embryo development.
- Morula (1-3d)
- Blastosyst (4-8d)
- Implanted blastosyst (8-13d)
- Formed embryonic disc (13-15d) .
With above imformation we can assume the arrival of gandhabba can be occur from zygote to embryonic disc which has a duration of about two weeks. It is kind of odd to think that the arrival of gandhabba and union of three facts from Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta would possibly be occur in a quiet a long duration (14-15d).
Presence of two consciousnesses in one body is possible.
There is no solid evidence to conclude kalala stage from indaka sutta is zygote or blastosyst.
Arrival of gandhabba can be occur at any stage of embryo development either before implant or after implant. (Can be the zygote or a later stage)
I would like to know your ideas about the conclusions and the topic
- Bhante Sujato’s question in Q & A also on a related topic
Anyone have some medical advice on embryonic development?
Chattha Sangayana Tipitaka
Chapter 30. Multiple Pregnancies - Review of Medical Embryology Book - LifeMap Discovery
- Glujovsky D, Blake D, Farquhar C, Bardach A. Cleavage stage versus blastocyst stage embryo transfer in assisted reproductive technology" Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 7.