R Walpola: What The Buddha Taught, p.33

In Rahula Walpola’s famous book, ch. III, page 33, there is an interesting footnote to the following quote:

“When the Aggregates arise, decay and die, O Bhikkhu, every moment you are born, decay and die.” 1

  1. Prmj.I(PTS), p.78. ‘Khandhesu jayamanesu jiyamanesu miyamanesu ca khane khane tvam bhikkhu jayase ca jiyase ca miyase ca.’ This is quoted in the Paramatthajotika Commentary as the Buddha’s own words. So far I have not been able to trace this passage back to its original text.

Has the original text been found meanwhile? Maybe in the Agamas?

I bet Bhikkhu Analayo would be the one to ask, but I couldn’t find any email adress. Anyhow, the question is of general interest, and perhaps already answered.

:slight_smile: Martin

It’s definitely not in the EBTs, as it uses the notion of “moment” (khaṇa), which is not in the EBTs in this kind of sense. It took some time—maybe 300 years—for the doctrine of momentariness to evolve (it is not in canonical Abhidhamma) so it is impossible for it to be in the early texts. Very likely it’s just a misattribution in the commentaries.

Thanks a lot! This is utterly fascinating.

Now I looked around a bit more. It is amazing what amount of study one little Pali word can entail :slight_smile:

  1. What about the Khanasutta SN 35.135? (If I read the SC search correctly, this is the only occurence of the word khana in the EBTs.) – Even if this shouldn’t count:
  2. Maybe Buddhaghosa paraphrased to make the Buddha sound more Abhidhamma style?
  3. Did the Buddha really have no (general, non-Abhidhamma) notion of “moment” at hand? – Anyhow:
  4. I can fancy to have “moment” replaced with “opportunity” in said quote, like in the translation of SN 35.135:

Lābhā vo, bhikkhave, suladdhaṃ vo, bhikkhave, khaṇo vo paṭiladdho brahma­cari­ya­vāsāya. (…)

Bhikkhus, it is a gain for you, it is well gained by you, that you have obtained the opportunity for living the holy life. (…)


Perhaps I should tell why I find Walpola’s page 33 remarkable:

After Buddhaghosa’s Buddha quote Walpola asks rethorically, why, then, not also accept rebirth beyond one life?

This is

  1. quite a bad argument
  2. particularly suspicious because it’s also used by Krishna in the Bhagavadgita 2.13 – But wasn’t the Buddha contra Brahminism?

(It’s in the famous monologue by Krishna to Arjuna, who is in despair at the prospect of killing relatives, friends and teachers in battle. A paradigmatic example of the questionable moral implications of supernatural belief:

As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.
The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata.
(…)[The soul] is not slain when the body is slain.

(Source: Bhaktivedanta http://vedabase.net/bg/2/13/en )

“Lābhā vo, bhikkhave, suladdhaṃ vo, bhikkhave, khaṇo vo paṭiladdho brahma­cari­ya­vāsāya.

“It is again for you monks, a great gain for you monks, that you have received the opportunity to live the holy life.”

Which proves my point exactly. The word khaṇa is used in a totally different sense than found in the (centuries later) Abhidhamma traditions. As you said, Opportunity works as well as moment here; cf. English “seize the moment”.

No, he was using a completely different set of ideas that have no parallels in the EBTs.

No doubt he could have expressed the idea if he wanted, it was simply irrelevant for the Dhamma.

I disagree: it is in fact the argument. The whole point of the Buddha’s teaching on rebirth is that it involves essentially the same processes that we can observe here and now: that is, it is an empirical teaching, that does not invoke any special metaphysical entities such as an ātman. This idea, which lies at the core of hundreds of suttas, seems to be curiously mistaken by so many people, either dismissed or misinterpreted. By it is no less than the Copernican revolution of eschatology. Before the modern concept of gravity was developed by Galileo and Newton, people wondered at how the stars did not fall from the sky and came to the perfectly rational conclusion that they followed a different set of rules than apply down here. The real revolution was not to say that the earth revolves around the sun, but to say that the earth is merely one of the celestial bodies and gravity works the same up there as it does down here. This is exactly the Buddha’s point in eschatology: rebirth happens in just the same way as ordinary mind happens, because it is just ordinary mind.

The Gita is adapting Buddhist ideas, not the other way around. Buddhists and Hindus agreed about some things and disagreed about others—so what?


[quote=“sujato, post:5, topic:1032, full:true”][quote=“Florifulgurator, post:4, topic:1032”]

  1. quite a bad argument

I disagree: it is in fact the argument. […]
Thanks a lot for this clarification. (This is one reason why I’m seeking contact with “traditional” sangha. Presently I’m mostly a “nonmetaphysical armchair Buddhist” with a lot of books, but still insufficient study…)

Now there we are: Yet another rebirth debate…
If you like to.
So I keep myself short:

Yes, I also regard the Buddha a Copernicus. A Copernicus of mind.

But not for the rebirth doctrine. For me it is “empirical” only in the sense that Buddha has seen it (but only in his mind) while gaining the 3 knowledges under the Bodhi tree. Else, it is microcosmos-macrocosmos parallelism. And this I generally regard a serious and dangerous fallacy, even childish. It is also at the core of Brahminism and the atman thinking.

Scholars seem to be divided if the Buddha rejected or employed microcosmos-macrocosmos parallelism. (Me, I’m not yet sure about the “fathom high corpse” pericope, but I tend to take it as epistemological advice and not as endorsing m-m parallelism.)

So, here’s the difference to the Copernican revolution: It was the insight that the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the outside physical world. It is not saying that some law we figure in our minds needs to have any bearing in the outside world.

[quote=“sujato, post:5, topic:1032, full:true”]The Gita is adapting Buddhist ideas, not the other way around. Buddhists and Hindus agreed about some things and disagreed about others—so what?
[/quote]Thanks for your opinion. Yeah, right: So what?
I’m not knowledgable enough to have a final word here. But some say the Gita came into being around the time of the Buddha and contains some of the oldest Brahminical philosophy.

(I’m not an indologist and not a language genius. I’m a bit too stupid for all this. That’s why I studied maths instead… But the delusions of contemporary mankind are serious enough (6th planetary crisis of Life) to warrant deep study: “Why is the earth silent at this destruction?” --Heidegger. Latest example: §50 in Francis’ encyclica: Refusing to see the other elephant in the room (population pressure), shifting blame to those who see it.)

Respectful greetings
from Germany,

1 Like

Which i agree with, just take out the word “only”…

The Gita is a synthetic text, it articulates a reconciliation of multiple philosophical standpoints. Those standpoints came into being at various times, some of them very old, some (like Upanishadic non-dualism) pre-dating the Buddha, others (like Sankhya or Bhakti) long after. So while there are probably some verses or ideas there that are very old, the work as a whole stems from some hundreds of years after the Buddha, probably around the beginning of the common era or thereabouts.