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
I am sure many fellow participants to this forum already know it, and it has already been partially discussed in several threads:http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p245967http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 9e#p327605http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 60#p289515http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 80#p289519
The reason I am doing this is that I have seen people online spreading Ajahn Brahm's outlandish view (in terms of orthodoxy) which might become mainstream just because people like it. (in a similar fashion as how we could imagine some Mahayana teachings that directly contradict the Buddha's words may have taken root). So rather than relying on personal liking or reasoning based on appearances (both of which the Buddha rejected as wrong ways of finding out the truth, and yes you can call me a regressive dogmatist fort that, but you can't do it without recognizing you would have to accuse the Buddha of the exact same thing), I am then going to follow the famous advice that we find in DN 16:
"In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief. Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'
"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it. But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."
I think the core conclusion of A. Brahm's reasoning on appearances is this:
only when the embryo-fetus first shows sensitivity to pleasure and pain (vedana) and first shows will (such as by a purposeful shrinking away from a painful stimulus) has consciousness and nāma-rūpa first manifested and the new human life started.
Now since a baby generally starts moving around weeks 7 or 8, some people conclude based A. Brahm's views that abortion before week 4 or 5 should be ok. It even goes all the way down to this:
cooran Sat May 10, 2014 8:41 am wrote:I was at a talk by Ajahn Brahm in Brisbane a year or so ago. He told the same jokes I'd heard from him before, the same stories I'd read in his books - and then he said abortion was o.k. up to about 16 or more weeks. At that point quite a number of the audience walked out.
Now, let's turn to what the suttas say:
“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.
"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  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.
Here is A. Thanissaro's note about "gandhabba":
8. "Gandhabba" usually means a low level of celestial deva. Devas on this level are frequently represented in the Canon as obsessed with sexual desire. However, the Commentary here notes that "gandhabba" here does not mean a being standing near, watching the couple have sexual intercourse. Rather, it means the being, driven by kamma, who will take birth on that occasion. This interpretation is seconded by a passage in MN 93, which builds on the brahman assumption that a person maintains the same caste from one life to the next:
“‘jānanti pana bhonto — yathā gabbhassa avakkanti hotī’ti?
‘jānāma mayaṃ, bho — yathā gabbhassa avakkanti hoti. idha mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca paccupaṭṭhito hoti; evaṃ tiṇṇaṃ sannipātā gabbhassa avakkanti hotī’ti.
‘jānanti pana bhonto — taggha, so gandhabbo khattiyo vā brāhmaṇo vā vesso vā suddo vā’ti?
‘na mayaṃ, bho, jānāma — taggha so gandhabbo khattiyo vā brāhmaṇo vā vesso vā suddo vā’ti.
‘evaṃ sante, bho, jānātha — ke tumhe hothā’ti?
‘evaṃ sante, bho, na mayaṃ jānāma — ke mayaṃ homā’ti.
"[Devala the Dark (an ancient brahman seer):] 'Do you know how there is the descent of an embryo?'
"[Seven brahman seers:] 'Yes, master, we know how there is the descent of an embryo. There is the case where the mother & father have come together, the mother is fertile, and a gandhabba is standing present. The coming together of these three is the descent of the embryo.'
"'But do you know for sure whether the gandhabba is a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker?'
"'That being the case, do you know who you are?'
"'That being the case, master, we don't know who we are.'"
Then there also is this Vinaya story:
gabbhavīsūpasampadānujānanā - Permission for ordination twenty years from conception
tena kho pana samayena āyasmā kumārakassapo gabbhavīso upasampanno ahosi. atha kho āyasmato kumārakassapassa etadahosi — “bhagavatā paññattaṃ ‘na ūnavīsativasso puggalo upasampādetabbo’ti. ahañcamhi gabbhavīso upasampanno. upasampanno nu khomhi, nanu kho upasampanno”ti? bhagavato etamatthaṃ ārocesuṃ. yaṃ, bhikkhave, mātukucchismiṃ paṭhamaṃ cittaṃ uppannaṃ, paṭhamaṃ viññāṇaṃ pātubhūtaṃ, tadupādāya sāvassa jāti. anujānāmi, bhikkhave, gabbhavīsaṃ upasampādetunti.
Now at that time the venerable Kassapa the Boy1 became ordained twenty years after his conception. Then it occurred to the venerable Kassapa the Boy: “It is laid down by the Lord that an individual who is under twenty years of age should not be ordained,2 and I am twenty years from my conception. Now am I ordained3 or am I not ordained?” They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “When in his mother’s womb the first thought has arisen, the first consciousness appeared,4 his birth is (to be reckoned as) from that time. I allow you, monks, to ordain one who is twenty years of age from his conception.”
Notice here that the word "gabbha" is the same that the one used at MN 38 in the compound "gabbhassāvakkanti", after which it is stated that life in the mother's womb lasts for nine or ten months. So according to early scriptures, there is really no room for a several weeks period during which a new life would not have already started and I think there is a pretty strong case to reject A. Brahm's views.