The Conditions for Conception

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
TRobinson465
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The Conditions for Conception

Post by TRobinson465 » Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:58 am

Hello all,

So like, what's the deal with this sutta? It states
“Moreover, even if there is (a) lust and (b) consciousness from outside presenting itself, and (c) the mother and father come together in one place, an embryo cannot develop if:

there is no union of the father and mother,
the mother does not wish to have sexual intercourse,
the father is keen on having sexual intercourse but the mother is listless,
the mother is burning with lust while the father is listless,
the father is wanting sexual intercourse but the mother is frigid ,
the mother is wanting in sexual desire and the father is icy,
the father very much suffers from dropsy while the mother does not,
the father is looking forward to having offspring while the mother does not,
the mother is looking forward to having offspring while the father does not,
neither the mother nor the father is looking to having offspring.
https://suttacentral.net/ea21.3/en/huye ... b-pasadika

It seems from what im reading that rape children or unwanted pregancies can't actually happen. Am I not interpreting this sutta properly?

I'm sure I may hear the argument that this sutta was a later addition or something, which im sure is possible. But im interested in seeing other possible comments on this. I'm pretty sure people back then knew that rape pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies occur, so im wondering if there is something i'm missing when reading this.

Thanks for your thoughts. :anjali:
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

"Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men. Let no two of you go in the same direction." - First Khandhaka, Chapter 11, Vinaya.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jan 24, 2020 10:56 am

Ye te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū adhammaṃ dhammoti dīpenti te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū bahujana ahitāya paṭipannā bahujana Asukhāya, bahuno janassa anatthāya ahitāya dukkhāya devamanussānaṃ. Bahuñca te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū apuññaṃ pasavanti, te cimaṃftn saddhammaṃ antaradhāpentī”ti. Tettiṃsatimaṃ. (A.i.18)

“Monks, those monks who explain what is not Dhamma as Dhamma, work for the harm, misery, and loss of many, for the harm and misery of gods and men. They make much demerit and cause the decline of the true Dhamma.

Pay no attention to what is not Dhamma. The foolish are many; the wise are few.
BlogPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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Ceisiwr
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by Ceisiwr » Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:02 am

TRobinson465 wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:58 am
Hello all,

So like, what's the deal with this sutta? It states
“Moreover, even if there is (a) lust and (b) consciousness from outside presenting itself, and (c) the mother and father come together in one place, an embryo cannot develop if:

there is no union of the father and mother,
the mother does not wish to have sexual intercourse,
the father is keen on having sexual intercourse but the mother is listless,
the mother is burning with lust while the father is listless,
the father is wanting sexual intercourse but the mother is frigid ,
the mother is wanting in sexual desire and the father is icy,
the father very much suffers from dropsy while the mother does not,
the father is looking forward to having offspring while the mother does not,
the mother is looking forward to having offspring while the father does not,
neither the mother nor the father is looking to having offspring.
https://suttacentral.net/ea21.3/en/huye ... b-pasadika

It seems from what im reading that rape children or unwanted pregancies can't actually happen. Am I not interpreting this sutta properly?

I'm sure I may hear the argument that this sutta was a later addition or something, which im sure is possible. But im interested in seeing other possible comments on this. I'm pretty sure people back then knew that rape pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies occur, so im wondering if there is something i'm missing when reading this.

Thanks for your thoughts. :anjali:


I think it’s assuming the husband isn’t a rapist and that the husband won’t have sex with his wife if he doesn’t want kids, or will “pull out”.
“Jhãyatha, mã pamãdattha, mã pacchã vippaìisãrino ahuvattha!”

“Meditate, don’t be negligent, lest you may later regret it!”

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robertk
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by robertk » Fri Jan 24, 2020 2:31 pm

I moved this from classical as it appears to be a non- theravada resource.

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SDC
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by SDC » Fri Jan 24, 2020 3:08 pm

The parallel is MN 38 (according to StC). These seem to be the only relevant verses:
...

[The Round of Existence: Conception to Maturity]

Bhikkhus, the descent of the embryo takes place through the union of three things. Here, there is the union of the mother and father, but the mother is not in season, and the gandhabba is not present—in this case no descent of an embryo takes place. Here, there is the union of the mother and father, and the mother is in season, but the gandhabba is not present—in this case too no descent of the embryo takes place. But when there is the union of the mother and father, and the mother is in season, and the gandhabba is present, through the union of these three things the descent of the embryo takes place.

“The mother then carries the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months with much anxiety, as a heavy burden. Then, at the end of nine or ten months, the mother gives birth with much anxiety, as a heavy burden. Then, when the child is born, she nourishes it with her own blood; for the mother’s breast-milk is called blood in the Noble One’s Discipline.

“When he grows up and his faculties mature, the child plays at such games as toy ploughs, tipcat, somersaults, toy windmills, toy measures, toy carts, and a toy bow and arrow.

“When he grows up and his faculties mature still further, the youth enjoys himself provided and endowed with the five cords of sensual pleasure, with forms cognizable by the eye… sounds cognizable by the ear…odours cognizable by the nose… flavours cognizable by the tongue…tangibles cognizable by the body that are wished for, desired, agreeable and likeable, connected with sensual desire, and provocative of lust.
...

TRobinson465
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Location: United States

Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by TRobinson465 » Fri Jan 24, 2020 4:09 pm

Ceisiwr wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:02 am
TRobinson465 wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:58 am
Hello all,

So like, what's the deal with this sutta? It states
“Moreover, even if there is (a) lust and (b) consciousness from outside presenting itself, and (c) the mother and father come together in one place, an embryo cannot develop if:

there is no union of the father and mother,
the mother does not wish to have sexual intercourse,
the father is keen on having sexual intercourse but the mother is listless,
the mother is burning with lust while the father is listless,
the father is wanting sexual intercourse but the mother is frigid ,
the mother is wanting in sexual desire and the father is icy,
the father very much suffers from dropsy while the mother does not,
the father is looking forward to having offspring while the mother does not,
the mother is looking forward to having offspring while the father does not,
neither the mother nor the father is looking to having offspring.
https://suttacentral.net/ea21.3/en/huye ... b-pasadika

It seems from what im reading that rape children or unwanted pregancies can't actually happen. Am I not interpreting this sutta properly?

I'm sure I may hear the argument that this sutta was a later addition or something, which im sure is possible. But im interested in seeing other possible comments on this. I'm pretty sure people back then knew that rape pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies occur, so im wondering if there is something i'm missing when reading this.

Thanks for your thoughts. :anjali:


I think it’s assuming the husband isn’t a rapist and that the husband won’t have sex with his wife if he doesn’t want kids, or will “pull out”.
That's a good way to look at it.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

"Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men. Let no two of you go in the same direction." - First Khandhaka, Chapter 11, Vinaya.

TRobinson465
Posts: 575
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Location: United States

Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by TRobinson465 » Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:44 pm

Ceisiwr wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:02 am
TRobinson465 wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:58 am
Hello all,

So like, what's the deal with this sutta? It states
“Moreover, even if there is (a) lust and (b) consciousness from outside presenting itself, and (c) the mother and father come together in one place, an embryo cannot develop if:

there is no union of the father and mother,
the mother does not wish to have sexual intercourse,
the father is keen on having sexual intercourse but the mother is listless,
the mother is burning with lust while the father is listless,
the father is wanting sexual intercourse but the mother is frigid ,
the mother is wanting in sexual desire and the father is icy,
the father very much suffers from dropsy while the mother does not,
the father is looking forward to having offspring while the mother does not,
the mother is looking forward to having offspring while the father does not,
neither the mother nor the father is looking to having offspring.
https://suttacentral.net/ea21.3/en/huye ... b-pasadika

It seems from what im reading that rape children or unwanted pregancies can't actually happen. Am I not interpreting this sutta properly?

I'm sure I may hear the argument that this sutta was a later addition or something, which im sure is possible. But im interested in seeing other possible comments on this. I'm pretty sure people back then knew that rape pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies occur, so im wondering if there is something i'm missing when reading this.

Thanks for your thoughts. :anjali:


I think it’s assuming the husband isn’t a rapist and that the husband won’t have sex with his wife if he doesn’t want kids, or will “pull out”.

On second thought this is actually a very plausable explanation. Especially since even if the sutta was a later addition, ppl back then probably knew rape and unwanted pregnancy is possible.

Sometimes suttas translated directly mean something different than the face value words. I remember reading in the vinaya about bhikkhus not being allowed to teach more than 6 consecutive words to a woman or something. Which initially sounded like they basically couldn't teach women at all :shock: But once I dug into the story it actually meant bhikkhus can't teach 6 consecutive words to a woman without a man present. It just wasn't included in the wording of the rule.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

"Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men. Let no two of you go in the same direction." - First Khandhaka, Chapter 11, Vinaya.

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Ceisiwr
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by Ceisiwr » Sat Jan 25, 2020 2:35 pm

TRobinson465 wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:44 pm
Ceisiwr wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:02 am
TRobinson465 wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:58 am
Hello all,

So like, what's the deal with this sutta? It states


https://suttacentral.net/ea21.3/en/huye ... b-pasadika

It seems from what im reading that rape children or unwanted pregancies can't actually happen. Am I not interpreting this sutta properly?

I'm sure I may hear the argument that this sutta was a later addition or something, which im sure is possible. But im interested in seeing other possible comments on this. I'm pretty sure people back then knew that rape pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies occur, so im wondering if there is something i'm missing when reading this.

Thanks for your thoughts. :anjali:


I think it’s assuming the husband isn’t a rapist and that the husband won’t have sex with his wife if he doesn’t want kids, or will “pull out”.

On second thought this is actually a very plausable explanation. Especially since even if the sutta was a later addition, ppl back then probably knew rape and unwanted pregnancy is possible.

Sometimes suttas translated directly mean something different than the face value words. I remember reading in the vinaya about bhikkhus not being allowed to teach more than 6 consecutive words to a woman or something. Which initially sounded like they basically couldn't teach women at all :shock: But once I dug into the story it actually meant bhikkhus can't teach 6 consecutive words to a woman without a man present. It just wasn't included in the wording of the rule.

:thumbsup:
“Jhãyatha, mã pamãdattha, mã pacchã vippaìisãrino ahuvattha!”

“Meditate, don’t be negligent, lest you may later regret it!”

chownah
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by chownah » Sun Jan 26, 2020 3:10 am

The conditions for conception are the uniting of a sperm and an egg.....its really just that simple.
chownah

MettaDevPrac
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by MettaDevPrac » Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:38 am

Chownah, you say "The conditions for conception are the uniting of a sperm and an egg.....its really just that simple."
Do you have sutta support for this opinion? Otherwise, it seems a materialistic and worldly opinion, rather than a Thervada Buddhist understanding.

It seems the Buddha explained conception as having three conditions in MN38 as preserved in the
Mahāsaṅgīti Tipiṭaka Buddhavasse 2500
PĀli (two english translations follow the Pāli):

Tiṇṇaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, sannipātā gabbhassāvakkanti hoti.
Idha mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca na utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca na paccupaṭṭhito hoti, neva tāva gabbhassāvakkanti hoti.
Idha mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca na paccupaṭṭhito hoti, neva tāva gabbhassāvakkanti hoti.
Yato ca kho, bhikkhave, mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca paccupaṭṭhito hoti—evaṃ tiṇṇaṃ sannipātā gabbhassāvakkanti hoti.

Tamenaṃ, bhikkhave, mātā nava vā dasa vā māse gabbhaṃ kucchinā pariharati mahatā saṃsayena garubhāraṃ.
Tamenaṃ, bhikkhave, mātā navannaṃ vā dasannaṃ vā māsānaṃ accayena vijāyati mahatā saṃsayena garubhāraṃ.
Tamenaṃ jātaṃ samānaṃ sakena lohitena poseti.
Lohitañhetaṃ, bhikkhave, ariyassa vinaye yadidaṃ mātuthaññaṃ.

This passage has been translated as:
"Mendicants, when three things come together an embryo is conceived. In a case where the mother and father come together, but the mother is not in the fertile part of her menstrual cycle, and the spirit being reborn is not present, the embryo is not conceived. In a case where the mother and father come together, the mother is in the fertile part of her menstrual cycle, but the spirit being reborn is not present, the embryo is not conceived. But when these three things come together—the mother and father come together, the mother is in the fertile part of her menstrual cycle, and the spirit being reborn is present—an embryo is conceived.

"The mother nurtures the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months at great risk to her heavy burden. When nine or ten months have passed, the mother gives birth at great risk to her heavy burden. When the infant is born she nourishes it with her own blood. For mother’s milk is regarded as blood in the training of the noble one."

This passage has been also been translated as follows:

“Bhikkhus, the descent of the embryo takes place through the union of three things. Here, there is the union of the mother and father, but the mother is not in season, and the gandhabba is not present—in this case no descent of an embryo takes place. Here, there is the union of the mother and father, and the mother is in season, but the gandhabba is not present—in this case too no descent of the embryo takes place. But when there is the union of the mother and father, and the mother is in season, and the gandhabba is present, through the union of these three things the descent of the embryo takes place.

“The mother then carries the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months with much anxiety, as a heavy burden. Then, at the end of nine or ten months, the mother gives birth with much anxiety, as a heavy burden. Then, when the child is born, she nourishes it with her own blood; for the mother’s breast-milk is called blood in the Noble One’s Discipline. "

It is perhaps worth noting that in explaining conception the Buddha did not reference sperm or ovum, just three requites for production of what is translated as an embryo to be nurtured in the mother's womb. One requisite seems to be coming together, anothet fertility, and the third the gandhabba "spirit to be born". involuntary

A materialist focus on mother and father or on ovum and sperm leads to questions about fertility in both parents; parents when either sperm or ovum providers are dead or involuntary; relevant moment of time; perhaps other issues. It seems the Buddha did not speak in these terms.

It's also perhaps worth noting that those passages come in context of The Longer Discourse on the Ending of Craving which is a discourse which begins with the Buddha demolishes a harmful misconception: “As I understand the Buddha’s teachings, it is this very same consciousness that roams and transmigrates, not another.”

MettaDevPrac
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by MettaDevPrac » Mon Jan 27, 2020 6:03 am

As I forgot to post a link for study by those interested, and can't yet edit my previous comment, here one is, specific to a bonus 3rd english translation (below):

https://suttacentral.net/mn38/en/horner

Monks, it is on the conjunction of three things that there is conception. If there is here a coitus of the parents, but it is not the mother's season and the gandhabba is not present—for so long there is not conception. If there is here a coitus of the parents and it is the mother's season, but the gandhabba is not present—for so long there is not conception. But if, monks, there is here a coitus of the parents and it is the mother's season and the gandhabba is present, it is on the conjunction of these three things that there is conception.

Then, monks, the mother for nine or ten months carries the foetus in her womb with great anxiety for her heavy burden. Then, monks, at the end of nine or ten months the mother gives birth with great anxiety for her heavy burden. When it is born, she feeds it with her own life-blood. For this, monks, is ‘life-blood’ in the discipline for an ariyan, that is to say mother's milk.

I think a benefit of multiple translations is that it supports a shift in thinking of conditions for conception away from purely material terms; which seems to agree with how the Buddha explained it.

To the OP: I think the sutta you quote is a mixture of original plus commentary or additions. Sanskrit to Chinese to english, through many written copies. I think it might illustrate a weakness of transcription (a necessarily solitary activity) compared to tecitation (a neccessarily peer review social activity). But that's just an opinion and speculation.

chownah
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by chownah » Mon Jan 27, 2020 6:38 am

MettaDevPrac wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:38 am
Chownah, you say "The conditions for conception are the uniting of a sperm and an egg.....its really just that simple."
Do you have sutta support for this opinion? Otherwise, it seems a materialistic and worldly opinion, rather than a Thervada Buddhist understanding.
Perhaps you are not aware that this topic is in the connections to other paths forum and so it is not limited to theravada buddhist understanding....and yes I am presenting a worldly opinion...isn't it in the world that conception is an issue?

Sperms and eggs are fairly routinely united in laboratory glassware in fertility clinics showing that the condition or attitudes of the donors has no bearing on the process of uniting sperm and egg. Some definitions of "conceive" also include the united sperm/egg becoming attached to a uterus and in fertility clinics this is often done in a woman being of no relationship whatever with the donors of the sperm and egg.

I think that using the sutta concepts of conception (pun intended) as the basis for guiding couples in effective techniques to avoid conception would be a disaster!
chownah

MettaDevPrac
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by MettaDevPrac » Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:23 am

You're right, I did not see the forum; however dhammawheel.com is a Theravada Buddhist forum, so purely worldly definitions are I think fair to criticize. And the OP makes the topic in terms of a particular sutta; so it seems this discussion can have that focus

Regarding artificial insemination techniques: we actually don't know if it does no damage, as there are as far as I know no long term studies and no standards to apply; I hope persons born from such origins are healthy and fully functional throughout long lives, and that's possible but science and we who respect science (as I think we both do) cannot know at this time.

But more significantly - imo fertilization and gestation are irrelevant; the question is not these but causes or conditions for conception of sentient beings. And conception is not a scientific term, but essentially a religious one.
I think that using the sutta concepts of conception (pun intended) as the basis for guiding couples in effective techniques to avoid conception would be a disaster!
Nice pun.
As far as I know, there is no sutta to advise couples in family planning; I think vinaya monastic codes prohibit monastics from speaking on it (and also prohibit matchmaking). Laity might make behavioral or medical choices informed by some of these concepts (3 condition: an act; fertility as variable; and a third condition not under their control nor within perception: presence of a gandhabba) but there are no birthcontrol/contraception precepts, and thus imo they individually or as couples are free to do as they think best.

My statements are based on the definition of contraception as prevention of conception; thus imo the first precept is not in play (as it would be in abortions after conception which I (to repeat my earlier point) is not identical with fertilization (unification of ovum and sperm).

I don't know when conception occurs, and I don't think it's knowable by science. Or by politics or fiat. I am very leary of using essentially religious terms in medicine, science or politics.
Last edited by MettaDevPrac on Mon Jan 27, 2020 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
- MettaDevPrac

chownah
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by chownah » Mon Jan 27, 2020 12:38 pm

MettaDevPrac wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2020 7:23 am
And conception is not a scientific term, but essentially a religious one.
There are a lot of religious people who would want it to be so. If one goes out on the internet and googles "conception biology" you will find tons of scientific explanations of what all conception involves....I would say that there is actually very little association for "conception" with religion unless one specifically goes looking for that. It really does seem that "conception" is a commonly used in biology to describe what it is.....and is especially commonly used with respect to human biology and the human reproductive cycle. Atheists do not hesitate to use the term "conception" although many/most of them would balk at the term "immaculate conception". haha

Of course a lot of religious people would like to "own" the term "conception" because if they owned it then they would have the right to define what it means and to disallow other definitions. In this way those religious people would be much more able to pursuade young people that they must go to a religious related source of information to learn about conception and to believe in what it says only and to disregard other opinions....in other words those religious people would be able to control the conversation.

I really can't see that your assertion that "conception" is essentially a religious term is supported when one looks at how the term is actually used by the population of english speakers.
chownah
p.s. By the way....there is a pali text which describes a woman becoming pregnant by a man rubbing her navel....I think it is in a jataka tale but haven't been able to find it today.....
chownah

MettaDevPrac
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Re: The Conditions for Conception

Post by MettaDevPrac » Mon Jan 27, 2020 2:32 pm

It really does seem that "conception" is a commonly used in biology to describe what it is.....and is especially commonly used with respect to human biology and the human reproductive cycle.
I think you made the case; I concede the point. :) However I do think it confusing; I think what most people are concerned about and what the Buddha taught about, was, what makes a human being. What makes a human life? And that's less a biological question than a moral or ethical one imo.

:) I take jataka stories much less seriously than the words/suttas of the Buddha, but even among those I think there's spontaneous rebirth mentioned...

“And what is the person who is inwardly firm? Here, with the utter destruction of the five lower fetters, some person is of spontaneous birth, due to attain final nibbāna there without ever returning from that world. This is called the person who is inwardly firm."
AN4.5

“Lord, that lay-disciple named Dīghāvu, who was admonished in brief by the Exalted One, has made an end.
What is his lot?
What is his destiny in the life to come?”

“A sage, monks, was Dīghāvu the lay-disciple.
He lived according to the Norm.
He did not harm me by disputings about the Norm.

Dīghāvu, the lay-disciple, monks, by wearing out the five fetters of the lower sort, is reborn by spontaneous birth.
His destiny is not to return from that world.”
SN55.3

I look forward to your fish tale. :)

However - are we highjacking this thread?
- MettaDevPrac

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