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Below is from Ariyapariyesana Sutta

"Monks, there are these two searches: ignoble search & noble search. And what is ignoble search? There is the case where a person, being subject himself to birth, seeks [happiness in] what is likewise subject to birth. Being subject himself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, he seeks [happiness in] what is likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement.

"And what may be said to be subject to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement? Spouses & children... men & women slaves... goats & sheep... fowl & pigs... elephants, cattle, horses, & mares... gold & silver [2] are subject to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement. Subject to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth, seeks what is likewise subject to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement. This is ignoble search.

"And what is the noble search? There is the case where a person, himself being subject to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, seeks the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Himself being subject to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeks the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, undefiled, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. This is the noble search.

When this is closely read, it seems the word Birth which is relevant to Buddha's noble search (and this comes in the first Noble Truth of Dukkha as well) is not about birth from a mother -- because if it is, then how come the gold & silver are there?

Although this footnote 2 says ...

The Burmese, Sri Lankan, and PTS editions of the Canon exclude gold and silver from the list of objects subject to illness, death, and sorrow, apparently on the grounds that they themselves do not grow ill, die, or feel sorrow.

... however it's not excluded in Sri Lankan editions of the Canon, no it is not. And who can do such a change? Only Buddha or Arhat only can understand this totally, isn't it?

And in the last paragraph, it's very clear that noble search is concluded to unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Is it unbinding from birth? Yes (because that's told). But birth of what? it's not the someone's birth is it? It should be birth of Yoke.

And this yoke is generated on the mentioned objects (Spouses & children... men & women slaves... goats & sheep... fowl & pigs... elephants, cattle, horses, & mares... gold & silver) thinking they are worth or nice.

Then what we should think: Birth is dukkha, or Yoke is dukkha? Because birth, ageing or death can be a pleasurable things for some people, while some other people suffer (Dukkha) on that (e.g. death of a terrorist is not a suffer, birth of a baby is not a suffer to his parents, ageing is not a suffer to 17 years old boy...)

What do you think, am I mistaken on this? If so please explain why the gold & silver is there? And why Birth, Age, Death are treated as Dukkha?

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Here, "X is subject to birth, aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement" - means that X has beginning and end, that X changes with time and slowly falls apart, that X depends on external conditions to be just right for its existence, - and that therefore X is not 100% reliable, so you can't use X as foundation for building 100% stable peace and happiness. That X is never really what it looks like, so if you build your happiness on top of X, it will betray and disappoint you. Even if association with X may seem like bringing happiness on the short term, on the long term it will definitely bring eventual suffering. That's what this means.

Gold and silver are there as examples of worldly pursuits and worldly possessions. No matter how much you have, you can't buy happiness, can't buy health, and can't buy eternal life. At their best they can only bring intermittent short-term happiness mixed with troubles and pain, ending in eventual destruction.

So Birth here is coming together of any form (samskara) - and Aging-and-Death is its falling apart. Bhava is the continuity and cohesiveness we imagine in between the two.

Births and Deaths are not dukkha if there is no attachment: craving, grasping, denying - either "for" or "against". Attachment, in turn, comes from getting stuck on a certain mental context. If you stop getting stuck you can learn to be free. This is what they call Unbinding.

Not being stuck means things are just such, regardless of births and deaths. Being wrong against some definition of right is the nature of dukkha. Being just such is the nature of peace.

  • It seems according to your answer, Gold can't fit in X. So it's contradictory. And what you written here is straight forward any elderly man can understand this nature of the world. Buddha is not appearing in the world to Say this, it has more deeper meaning, which you've tried to explain in the latter part. But the problem is you haven't mentioned what's the reason fo binding. When something is giving happiness why we are asked to unbind from it. Eg: eating a chocolate. Now chocolate's Birth and Death that you are worrying about? – follower Jun 11 at 7:24
  • "when something is giving happiness" - this is crazy talk. Chocolate doesn't give happiness. Happiness comes from the mind. To think that happiness comes from chocolate etc. is ignorance and binding. Then you suffer either due to your unsatisfied craving for chocolate, gold, wife, family etc. (=birth) or due to your worry about running out of chocolate, gold, time etc (=death). This is "subject to birth and death". When we focus on mind, we can see that unconditional peace of mind is the purest happiness and it is not "subject to birth and death" -it's limitless, it doesn't depend on anything. – Andrei Volkov Jun 11 at 11:11
  • So simply according to this, making a chocolate (=birth) is a suffer, isn't it? – follower Jun 11 at 13:24
  • If there is attachment to the beans, which are crushed in order to make chocolate - then yes, in that case the birth of chocolate is dukkha :) – Andrei Volkov Jun 11 at 15:00
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    Sorry I didn't mean to abuse. Let's stop here. And thanks for the advise. With Metta. – follower Jun 12 at 10:06
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I think that Ven. Sariputta defines birth, ageing, and death -- as an analysis of the first noble truth -- in MN 141

Now what, friends, is the noble truth of stress? Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; not getting what is wanted is stressful.[2] In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

"And what is birth? Whatever birth, taking birth, descent, coming-to-be, coming-forth, appearance of aggregates, & acquisition of [sense] spheres of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth.

"And what is aging? Whatever aging, decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, weakening of the faculties of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called aging.

"And what is death? Whatever deceasing, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, dying, death, completion of time, break up of the aggregates, casting off of the body, interruption in the life faculty of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called death.

"And what is sorrow? Whatever sorrow, sorrowing, sadness, inward sorrow, inward sadness of anyone suffering from misfortune, touched by a painful thing, that is called sorrow.

There are other translations.

  • Piya Tan's

    1. (1) And what, avuso, is birth? Being born, becoming, descending [into a womb], [arising,]25 generating, manifesting of the aggregates, obtaining the sense-bases of various beings, in various groups of beings, here and there. —This, avuso, is called birth.26
    2. (2) And what, avuso, is decay? 27 Ageing, decaying, broken teeth, grey hair, wrinkled skin, the dwindling away of one’s years, the weakness of the sense-faculties, in various beings, in various groups of beings, here and there.28 —This, avuso, is called decay.
    3. (3) And what, avuso, is death? Falling away, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, death, dying, one’s time being up29 [completion of one’s time], breaking up of the aggregates, discarding of the body, [uprooting of the life-faculty,]30 in various beings, in various groups of beings, here and there.31 —This, avuso, is called death.
    4. (4a) And what, avuso, is sorrow? One’s being touched [affected] by one thing or other of a painful nature, by any kind of misfortune, sorrow, grief, distress, inner grief, inner woe, here and there. 32 [D 2:306] —This, avuso, is called sorrow.
  • Ven. Sujato's

    And what is the noble truth of suffering? Rebirth is suffering; old age is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are suffering; association with the disliked is suffering; separation from the liked is suffering; not getting what you wish for is suffering. In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering.

    And what is rebirth? The rebirth, inception, conception, reincarnation, manifestation of the aggregates, and acquisition of the sense fields of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called rebirth.

    And what is old age? The old age, decrepitude, broken teeth, grey hair, wrinkly skin, diminished vitality, and failing faculties of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called old age.

    And what is death? The passing away, perishing, disintegration, demise, mortality, death, decease, breaking up of the aggregates, laying to rest of the corpse, and cutting off of the life faculty of the various sentient beings in the various orders of sentient beings. This is called death.

    And what is sorrow? The sorrow, sorrowing, state of sorrow, inner sorrow, inner deep sorrow in someone who has undergone misfortune, who has experienced suffering. This is called sorrow.

As for "gold" being subject to birth, I assume that means that the existence of "gold" in an aggregate (e.g. as a sense-object etc.) depends on birth.

The bit you quotes says (with my emphasis added):

And what may be said to be subject to birth? Spouses & children are subject to birth. Men & women slaves... goats & sheep... fowl & pigs... elephants, cattle, horses, & mares... gold & silver are subject to birth. Subject to birth are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth, seeks what is likewise subject to birth.

I take that as saying that gold is an "acquisition" (and/or is the object of an ignoble search) -- and that "acquisitions" are subject to birth and death.

That interpretation more-or-less fits with the footnote 2 which you quoted, which says,

The Thai edition of the Canon includes gold and silver in the list of objects subject to illness, death, and sorrow in the sense that any happiness based on them is subject to change because of one's own illness, death, and sorrow.

There's another sutta, SN 12.67, in which Ven. Sariputta clarifies that "birth" etc. isn't a characteristic that's inherent in a thing -- that birth is a result of clinging and becoming.


I think that people also say that (notwithstanding Ven. Sariputta's seemingly-physical definition) "birth" is used to describe the arising of self-views -- for example, "I am the owner of this gold" is a self-view, the arising of that view might be considered a "birth" (and is subject to illness and death and so on).

It might be helpful to remember that the world according to Buddhism is maybe more subjective than today's view -- it's the world of experience -- in which gold may not have an independent existence of its own, but exists as an (impermanent) experience.


Incidentally, in this version of the sutta, gold and money are listed as being subject to corruption -- but not as being subject to "birth... aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement".

My guess is that's because of the way in which suttas are memorised and recited -- perhaps they ...

  • List a lot of things subject to birth
  • List again the same lot of things subject to aging
  • List again the same lot of things subject to illness
  • Etc.

... without noticing that automatic repetition may not entirely make sense, is perhaps less readily understood, for one of the things in the list.

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The answer to the question is self-evident in the sutta quoted, as follows:

these acquisitions (upadhi) and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them, being subject to birth

The word "upadhi" ("acquisitions") is substituted for the words "attachment", "becoming" & "birth ("jati") in SN 12.66. Therefore, "birth" occurs when there is the "acquisition" or imputation of "ownership" over something, such as believing "This is my gold & silver; the gold & silver is mine".

Here, bhikkhus, when engaged in inward exploration, a bhikkhu explores thus: ‘The many diverse kinds of suffering that arise in the world headed by aging-and-death: what is the source of this suffering, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced? When what exists does aging-and-death come to be? When what does not exist does aging-and-death not come to be?’

As he explores he understands thus: ‘The many diverse kinds of suffering that arise in the world headed by aging-and-death: this suffering has acquisition (upadhi) as its source, acquisition as its origin; it is born and produced from acquisition. When there is acquisition, aging-and-death comes to be; when there is no acquisition, aging-and-death does not come to be.’

SN 12.66

The words "jati" ("birth"), "aging" and "death" ("marana") are defined in SN 12.2. If reading SN 12.2 with diligence & respect (rather than with heedlessness, stupidity & lust for reincarnation), it will be found SN 12.2 refers to the birth, aging & death of "a being" ("satta") or "beings" ("sattānaṃ") in the various "group classifications of beings" ("sattanikāye").

SN 23.2 and SN 5.10 define "a being" ("satta") as merely "strong clinging" or "a view", "word" or "convention". ' In other words, "birth", "aging" and "death" do not refer to something physical but to the production of (abhinibbatti) & attachment to "self-views" about the physical.

In summary, the 1st noble truth summaries (saṃkhittena) all suffering as "attachment", as follows:

saṃkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā

in brief, the five aggregates subject to attachment/taken as one's own are suffering

Since gold & silver are both an aggregate & something attached to & taken as one's own, gold & silver are subject to "birth", "aging" & "death".

Therefore, Birth, Age and Death in the first noble truth mean the idea of "my birth", "my aging" & "my death". "Birth", "aging" & "death" are types of "attachment" ("upadana"). They do not refer to "physical birth, aging & death" but to views or ideas of "persons", "selves" or "beings" being born, aging & dying.

For example, if you see a corpse of a stranger, you do not suffer. But if you see the corpse of your mother or another loved one, you suffer. You suffer because you impute a selfhood born of love, craving & attachment upon that corpse. When your mother dies, instead of thinking: "Five aggregates have died", you think: "My mother has died". What is born, ages & dies is the idea or thought construction of "my mother".

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Householder, being a spoiled prince, relaying on old merits, one has to leave ones castle, home, stand to get known the 1. Noble Truth.

The Lost Wallet

It's as if you leave home and lose your wallet. It fell out of your pocket onto the road away back there, but as long as you don't realize what happened you're at ease — at ease because you don't yet know what this ease is for. It's for the sake of dis-ease at a later time. When you eventually see that you've really lost your money: That's when you feel dis-ease — when it's right in your face.

The same holds true with our bad and good actions. The Buddha taught us to acquaint ourselves with these things. If we aren't acquainted with these things, we'll have no sense of right or wrong, good or bad.


Meeting the Divine Messengers, by Bhikkhu Bodhi (1998; 3pp./10KB) It was the sight of the four "divine messengers" — an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a wandering ascetic — that propelled the young Bodhisatta from his complacent and luxurious princely life into the homeless life of a serious seeker of spiritual freedom. Then as now, these messengers appear all around us, not merely to incite us to discover how to cope with life's difficulties and dangers, but to inspire us to transcend them once and for all.


The King of Death

"We" live like a chicken who doesn't know what's going on. In the morning it takes its baby chicks out to scratch for food. In the evening, it goes back to sleep in the coop. The next morning it goes out to look for food again. Its owner scatters rice for it to eat every day, but it doesn't know why its owner is feeding it. The chicken and its owner are thinking in very different ways.

The owner is thinking, "How much does the chicken weigh?" The chicken, though, is engrossed in the food. When the owner picks it up to heft its weight, it thinks the owner is showing affection.

We too don't know what's going on: where we come from, how many more years we'll live, where we'll go, who will take us there. We don't know this at all.

The King of Death is like the owner of the chicken. We don't know when he'll catch up with us, for we're engrossed — engrossed in sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas. We have no sense that we're growing older. We have no sense of enough.

The rest are considered as merely donkeys, not much hope for them: The Goad-stick

(Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainments but as a means out of this wheel)

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