Is this sheath referred to the same or different than a foreskin? Do any sources speak on this? If it’s not a foreskin, is it made out of skin? What else could it be made out of? Very, very curious about this
It’s just describing some ancient ideals for a foreskin that were meant to symbolize a lack of desire. Some of these ideals existed across cultures in the ancient world. In India, that ideal was incorporated into some systems of physiognomy, of which the 32 marks was the main system designated for cakravartin kings and buddhas. The 32 marks in the EBT’s is a Buddhism-specific system. Other non-Buddhist systems of physiognomy existed for ordinary kings, usually around 31-34 marks. And there were many non-Buddhist general-purpose systems as well. More details in this very long thread…
Physiognomy is basically fortune-telling by looking at the features of someone’s body. The practice has its roots in Mesopotamia, and then spread to Greece, India, etc. The underlying presumption is that the internal and external mirror one another, and that by looking at someone’s physical features, we can see their inner qualities, character, and fortune. It is still practiced in some countries including India. But in the West, the closest thing to it that most people are familiar with is palmistry.
Things like coexisting in the writings with the Buddha complaining about back pain are one of the reasons I am not a literalist.
Fyi there is some recent research on this topic that, after a long time, is able to make the expected but strangely elusive connection between the 32 marks and brahmanical texts. I have a few details in the notes to dn.
Thanks for the this. I’m seeing some notes in DN 30, and more detailed notes in DN 14.
Having read the notes, I am not sure what are “Brahmanical prophecies”? Do “prophecies” refer to messages from Brahmins or from a Brahma god?