A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

A forum for members who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the Pali Canon and associated Commentaries, which for discussion purposes are both treated as authoritative.

Moderator: Mahavihara moderator

User avatar
Buddha Vacana
Posts: 394
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:16 am
Location: Avignon, France
Contact:

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Buddha Vacana » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:14 am

Mkoll wrote:For example, consider a specific aspect of nāma, painful bodily feeling. This requires specialized receptors for pain (nociceptors) that sense a certain form of stimulus (e.g. heat, mechanical pressure) and relay that information through peripheral nerves, up the spinal cord, and to the brain where only then it can be felt. That's why when you stub your toe, it takes a moment for the physical pain to actually arise in consciousness because nervous signals can only travel so fast. If you block that nervous transmission, say via local anesthetic, no bodily pain will be felt, no bodily pain will arise in consciousness. This illustrates the dependence of nāmarūpa and consciousness.

In the case of an embryo or fetus, if those nerves and brain do not exist or have not matured to the point where they can transmit and receive signals, how could there possibly be human nāma and consciousness?

What I am saying is that this hinges on the assumption that whatever happens in our daily life is the same for a fetus. We have no idea what a fetus can feel, how he can feel, whether he is able to feel something without a material nervous system, whether he can feel something with a type of sensory perception we haven't discovered yet that would exist only in the fetus... That's too many unknowns to be able to make any kind of trustworthy reasoning. You would be likely to end up like Descartes 'I think therefore I am'. I believe this is what the Buddha referred to in the famous Kalama sutta as
"mā takka·hetu, mā naya·hetu, mā ākāra·parivitakkena, mā diṭṭhi·nijjhāna·kkhantiyā, mā bhabba·rūpatāya, mā ‘samaṇo no garū’ti."
(not on the basis of logical reasoning, nor on the basis of inference, nor by reflection on appearances, nor by agreement after pondering views, nor by what seems probable, nor by [the thought:] 'The samaṇa is our revered teacher'.)

And I think the above AN 4.77 quote is also relevant.

My point overall is that it is better to discuss on the basis of what the texts say (with proper lucidity as regards to the extent of the knowledge their provide us), because we don't have direct knowledge of what the reality exactly is. We only see it through the lens of present-day scientific knowledge, and assuming there is nothing beyond its scope that could overturn the conclusions we try to make on the basis of its partial understanding of the way reality works.

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6172
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: California

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Mkoll » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:40 am

Buddha Vacana wrote:
Mkoll wrote:For example, consider a specific aspect of nāma, painful bodily feeling. This requires specialized receptors for pain (nociceptors) that sense a certain form of stimulus (e.g. heat, mechanical pressure) and relay that information through peripheral nerves, up the spinal cord, and to the brain where only then it can be felt. That's why when you stub your toe, it takes a moment for the physical pain to actually arise in consciousness because nervous signals can only travel so fast. If you block that nervous transmission, say via local anesthetic, no bodily pain will be felt, no bodily pain will arise in consciousness. This illustrates the dependence of nāmarūpa and consciousness.

In the case of an embryo or fetus, if those nerves and brain do not exist or have not matured to the point where they can transmit and receive signals, how could there possibly be human nāma and consciousness?

What I am saying is that this hinges on the assumption that whatever happens in our daily life is the same for a fetus. We have no idea what a fetus can feel, how he can feel, whether he is able to feel something without a material nervous system, whether he can feel something with a type of sensory perception we haven't discovered yet that would exist only in the fetus... That's too many unknowns to be able to make any kind of trustworthy reasoning. You would be likely to end up like Descartes 'I think therefore I am'. I believe this is what the Buddha referred to in the famous Kalama sutta as
"mā takka·hetu, mā naya·hetu, mā ākāra·parivitakkena, mā diṭṭhi·nijjhāna·kkhantiyā, mā bhabba·rūpatāya, mā ‘samaṇo no garū’ti."
(not on the basis of logical reasoning, nor on the basis of inference, nor by reflection on appearances, nor by agreement after pondering views, nor by what seems probable, nor by [the thought:] 'The samaṇa is our revered teacher'.)

And I think the above AN 4.77 quote is also relevant.

My point overall is that it is better to discuss on the basis of what the texts say (with proper lucidity as regards to the extent of the knowledge their provide us), because we don't have direct knowledge of what the reality exactly is. We only see it through the lens of present-day scientific knowledge, and assuming there is nothing beyond its scope that could overturn the conclusions we try to make on the basis of its partial understanding of the way reality works.

You are right in that my argument assumes the fetus is a developing human being and thus exists via the same biological rules that apply to all human beings. This argument has mountains of evidence behind it. It seems like you're positing a potentially unknown way in which a human being could exist, for which there is no evidence nor explanation for. You could very well be right, but there is no evidence to support it.

To base an argument on a certain interpretation of the texts is precarious because as we've seen, others such as Ajahn Brahm have a different interpretation of the very same texts. Though I disagree with his conclusion, his interpretation like mine rests on texts like the one I linked to. Who is to say which is correct? The Buddha isn't here to tell us so we're left with competing ideas with no chance of an ultimate resolution---we'd have to wait for Metteyya for that. :P
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

User avatar
Buddha Vacana
Posts: 394
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:16 am
Location: Avignon, France
Contact:

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Buddha Vacana » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:45 am

Mkoll wrote:You are right in that my argument assumes the fetus is a developing human being and thus exists via the same biological rules that apply to all human beings. This argument has mountains of evidence behind it. It seems like you're positing a potentially unknown way in which a human being could exist, for which there is no evidence nor explanation for. You could very well be right, but there is no evidence to support it.

Whether it sounds credible or not, my main point is, as you seem to have noticed, that it cannot be disproved. Therefore, given the seriousness of the issue, we should tread lightly. I know you understand this, since you underlined that you are not jumping to any conclusion, but I just wanted to double down on that last part.

Mkoll wrote:To base an argument on a certain interpretation of the texts is precarious because as we've seen, others such as Ajahn Brahm have a different interpretation of the very same texts. Though I disagree with his conclusion, his interpretation like mine rests on texts like the one I linked to. Who is to say which is correct? The Buddha isn't here to tell us so we're left with competing ideas with no chance of an ultimate resolution---we'd have to wait for Metteyya for that. :P

Therefore, I advocate the principle of precaution. Not performing any abortion cannot be the wrong choice.

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6172
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: California

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Mkoll » Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:03 am

Buddha Vacana wrote:
Mkoll wrote:You are right in that my argument assumes the fetus is a developing human being and thus exists via the same biological rules that apply to all human beings. This argument has mountains of evidence behind it. It seems like you're positing a potentially unknown way in which a human being could exist, for which there is no evidence nor explanation for. You could very well be right, but there is no evidence to support it.

Whether it sounds credible or not, my main point is, as you seem to have noticed, that it cannot be disproved. Therefore, given the seriousness of the issue, we should tread lightly. I know you understand this, since you underlined that you are not jumping to any conclusion, but I just wanted to double down on that last part.

It can't indeed. And neither can it be proved. "You can't prove me wrong; therefore, I must be right" is a fallacy, not an argument. I don't have to tell you that you're not saying that, but it's worth mentioning because it's quite common.

Buddha Vacana wrote:
Mkoll wrote:To base an argument on a certain interpretation of the texts is precarious because as we've seen, others such as Ajahn Brahm have a different interpretation of the very same texts. Though I disagree with his conclusion, his interpretation like mine rests on texts like the one I linked to. Who is to say which is correct? The Buddha isn't here to tell us so we're left with competing ideas with no chance of an ultimate resolution---we'd have to wait for Metteyya for that. :P

Therefore, I advocate the principle of precaution. Not performing any abortion cannot be the wrong choice.

On a practical level, I basically agree with you. I personally wouldn't advocate for abortion if I was thrust into a situation where I was compelled to give advice. But I probably wouldn't actively advocate against it either, especially in an ambiguous case such as rape, serious danger to the mother, etc.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

atipattoh
Posts: 88
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby atipattoh » Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:08 pm

:thinking:

Flesh Eaters: Carnivorous Plants Lure Insects Into Their Deadly


User avatar
Buddha Vacana
Posts: 394
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:16 am
Location: Avignon, France
Contact:

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Buddha Vacana » Thu Dec 15, 2016 3:16 pm

atipattoh wrote::thinking:

Flesh Eaters: Carnivorous Plants Lure Insects Into Their Deadly


Could you explain how in your opinion this relates to the topic?

atipattoh
Posts: 88
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 am

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby atipattoh » Thu Dec 15, 2016 3:48 pm

Oops sorry not for you!

Mkoll wrote:Ven. Brahm says it arises when the embryo-fetus first shows its existence. I disagree with this because there may be a point when name has arisen but the being is unable to give an outward sign that it has due to the sequence of the nervous system's development, e.g. an immature neuromuscular system that's incapable of generating muscle movement to "show" that consciousness is there.

Well i presume plant don't have mind :thinking:
that is to say even if there is responses does not necessary means they have one. Else it's going to be scary!
We can not consider this plant as animal even it is 'capable of setting trap' for its prey.

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6172
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: California

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Mkoll » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:00 pm

atipattoh wrote:Well i presume plant don't have mind :thinking:
that is to say even if there is responses does not necessary means they have one.

That is a good point.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

ieee23
Posts: 161
Joined: Wed May 13, 2015 12:40 am

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby ieee23 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:18 pm

santa100 wrote:
ieee23 wrote:
santa100 wrote:Not sure if Ven. Brahm's seen some staggering figures here.


You might want to make your point with a link that everyone can read.

Not sure why you still don't see the obvious point.


Maybe because it isn't an obvious point but a religious view you have and one that Buddhism may not share. Then there is the link you quoted for argument that other people can't read. Embryos aren't little human beings, in your paragraph below you even used the term "potential human beings". Queue the Monty Python song "ever sperm is sacred.

Regardless of all the armchair philosophical debate about what/when human life begins, the ongoing brutal fact is that every year, there're ~800,000 potential human lives being terminated, far more than the number of firearms-related deaths, deaths from the ongoing Syrian civil war, and on par with the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Frankly speaking, it's sheer hypocrisy for any venerable, especially world renowned senior ones, to approve or endorse abortion, particularly up to 16-week abortion, while at the same time preaching about compassion and respect for the life of all sentient beings from tadpoles to elephants!

santa100
Posts: 2336
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby santa100 » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:25 am

ieee23 wrote:Maybe because it isn't an obvious point but a religious view you have and one that Buddhism may not share. Then there is the link you quoted for argument that other people can't read. Embryos aren't little human beings, in your paragraph below you even used the term "potential human beings". Queue the Monty Python song "ever sperm is sacred

Your "sperm" analogy is irrelevant for sperms by themselves won't grow into humans beings. Embryos do. Don't expect that your kamma will be squeakly clean if you consciously and intentionally terminate "potential human beings" from becoming "human beings".
MN 38 wrote:Monks, the descent of the embryo occurs with the union of three things. There is the case where there is no union of the mother & father, the mother is not in her season, and a gandhabba [8] is not present, nor is there a descent of an embryo. There is the case where there is a union of the mother & father, and the mother is in her season, but a gandhabba is not present, nor is there a descent of an embryo. But when there is a union of the mother & father, the mother is in her season, and a gandhabba is present, then with this union of three things the descent of the embryo occurs.

"Then for nine or ten months the mother shelters the embryo in her womb with great anxiety, as a heavy burden. Then, at the end of nine or ten months, she gives birth with great anxiety, as a heavy burden. Then, when the child is born, she feeds it with her own blood — for mother's milk is called blood in the discipline of the noble ones.

ieee23
Posts: 161
Joined: Wed May 13, 2015 12:40 am

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby ieee23 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 6:51 pm

santa100 wrote:Your "sperm" analogy is irrelevant for sperms by themselves won't grow into humans beings


Of course they will, if you outlaw birth control, as religious would do if they could get away from it.

santa100
Posts: 2336
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby santa100 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:47 pm

ieee23 wrote:
santa100 wrote:Your "sperm" analogy is irrelevant for sperms by themselves won't grow into humans beings


Of course they will, if you outlaw birth control, as religious would do if they could get away from it.

No they will not for there aren't enough required conditions for the creation of a human being as provided in MN 38 above.

User avatar
Javi
Posts: 358
Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:40 pm
Location: Miami, Florida

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby Javi » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:10 am

There is no way to truly know when to draw the line when deciding whether a fetus is a person or not, is it when the fetus shows brain development, brain waves, pain reception, etc? Initial low level brain waves begin within 7 weeks or so, but there is no way to prove that some form of proto-consciousness or karmic continuum has not already begun to take hold in the tiny rupa process before hand.

Because of the ethically precarious position this puts one in, if we want to be 100% sure that one will not break the precept, one will not perform an abortion or enjoin someone to do so. I think AB is wrong on this therefore. This is because our only option that ensures one will not break the precept is the no abortion option.

If one performs an abortion while being 100% percent sure that it is not killing, then one is being ignorant, because the issue is very ethically complex, and there is no agreement, even among secular and atheistic moral philosophers.

If one performs an abortion while one is not sure whether it is killing or not, then one is being irresponsible.

And course if you know it is killing then all the worse.

Ultimately, even if Brahm turns out to be right, he is still being careless, because he cannot be totally sure about this, and with such an ethically serious and weighty decision, one must always err on the side of caution.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Tārakā timiraṃ dīpo māyāvaśyāya budbudaḥ supinaṃ vidyud abhraṃ ca evaṃ draṣṭavya saṃskṛtam — A shooting star, a clouding of the sight, a lamp, An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble, A dream, a lightning’s flash, a thunder cloud — This is the way one should see the conditioned — Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

User avatar
DHP_273
Posts: 70
Joined: Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:08 pm

Re: A. Brahm's When Does Human Life Begin..?

Postby DHP_273 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:51 pm

Buddha Vacana wrote:So this is going to be yet another thread about abortion, but this time focusing specifically on A. Brahm's document:

When Does Human Life Begin in This Body?
http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books7/Ajahn ... _Begin.pdf



What does what A. Brahm's writing on this topic have to do with your suffering and the cessation of your suffering? So maybe I can bring it back to that...

To me, the concern is not wether having an abortion is right or wrong according to a conceptual timeline, but rather, what is behind the intention (Right View) for choosing to have an abortion. Our intentions can lead to very different results because they depend on conditions.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html
"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do."


What we all can agree on, that unless a woman or man was raped, there are many unskillful actions by both the male and female that can lead to an unwanted pregnancy. But even a lay buddhist should be following the Third Precept, which should prevent the question of abortion from even arising.

If you ask me when life begins, I could just point at the people in this Cafe and show you it is always here; never beginning, never ending.


Return to “Classical Theravāda”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine