What did the Buddha mean in AN 5.38. when he said:

“Mendicants, a faithful gentleman gets five benefits. What five? The good persons in the world show compassion first to the faithful, not so much to the unfaithful. They first approach the faithful, not so much the unfaithful. They first receive alms from the faithful, not so much the unfaithful. They first teach Dhamma to the faithful, not so much the unfaithful. When their body breaks up, after death, the faithful are reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm. A faithful gentleman gets these five benefits.

Emphasis mine.

I am trying to discern what this means with reference to the answers for the word upapajjati in this question which discussed the meaning of the word which is being translated here. Also, what did the Buddha mean when referring to the "break up of the body, after death" and has that been correctly translated?

  • I note that your question is tagged "theravada" and Gabe's answer is appropriate to that point of view. But as you no doubt know, the Theravadan view isn't the only way of looking at what the Buddha taught. More specifically, since Sanskrit scholar Joanna Jurewicz has been working to decode early teachings in Vedism, a fresh look at the way the Buddha taught, as derived from the early Vedic style, makes for a slightly different understanding of what he taught. If your interest is only in the Theravadan take on his teachings, this may not be of any interest to you. – Linda Blanchard May 2 at 17:28
  • Hello Linda, I am happy to have informed answers even if they do not come from an active Theravada practitioner, but I am mostly interested in answers from practicing Buddhists of some tradition. That said, if there is an interesting academic answer here that would inform Buddhist practice that would be welcome. – Yeshe Tenley May 2 at 21:32
  • Traditions start somewhere. Do you consider Secular Buddhism to have enough gravitas to provide an answer? I've been a practicing Buddhist for over 30 years, and the answer I'd offer has had aspects published in the Journal of Oxford Buddhist Studies under the editorship of Professor Gombrich. – Linda Blanchard May 3 at 21:41
  • By all means go ahead :) – Yeshe Tenley May 4 at 0:26

You can find the Pali words on Sutta Central:

... saddho kāyassa bhedā paraṁ maraṇā sugatiṁ saggaṁ lokaṁ upapajjati ...

To answer your question, I think the text has been correctly translated. The translated word “breaks” corresponds to "bhedā". For this context see notes from the PTS:

"Abl. bhedā after the destruction or dissolution in phrase kāyassa bhedā param maraṇā, i.e. after the breaking up of the body & after death: see kāya I. e. & cp. D. III, 52, 146 sq. , 258; Dh. 140; Pug. 51"

The other words roughly correspond to paraṁ=after, maraṇā=death, sugatiṃ=good (destination), saggaṃ and lokaṃ can be taken indepently but together they roughly translation to "heavenly region", upapajjati=reborn.

Again see notes for uppajjati in relation to saggaṁ and lokaṁ:

Upapajjati, (doubtful whether a legitimate form as upa + pad or a diaeretic form of uppajjati = ud + pad. In this case all passages ought to go under the latter. Trenckner however (Notes 77) defends upa° & considers in many cases upp° a substitution for upa. The diaeresis may be due to metre, as nearly all forms are found in poetry. The v. l. upp° is apparently frequent; but it is almost impossible to distinguish between upap° and upp° in the Sinhalese writing, and either the scribe or the reader may mistake one for the other) to get to, be reborn in (Acc.); to originate, rise Vin. III, 20 (nirayaṃ); A. III, 415; V, 292 sq.; Sn. 584; It. 13 (nirayaṃ), 14 (sugatiṃ; v. l. upp°), 67 (saggaṃ lokaṃ; v. l. upp°); ... PTS

A similar verse occurs in the Dhammapada:

atha vassa agarani aggi dahati pavako kayassa bheda duppabbo nirayaj so 'papajjati
(DhP 140)
bheda: bheda-, N.m.: breaking, disunion. Abl.Sg. = bheda. The phrase kayassa bheda- ("disunion of the body") means "death" in the Pali texts.

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