I think I remember reading that the an unborn child or fetus exemplifies the nidanas in a different way to children and adults.

Am I right that for Buddhists life begins at conception, but this "life" isn't fully conscious, because nama-rupa has not yet developed and so the concomitant links likewise?

Or is the difference between a fetus and a baby more like the difference between a child and an adult?

  • RE abortion [given that i'm not a vegetarian :/ ] maybe what's important is the potential for intelligence, and with that - bhava. a very prematurely born baby isn't fully human because we can keep them alive, but because it is already cognitively advanced enough to begin to learn, with the potential for human knowledge
    – user2512
    Apr 17, 2015 at 21:38

2 Answers 2


DO starts with Depending on Ignorance, mental volition arise, depending on volitions consciousness arise, depending on consciousness, name & form, depending on name & form 6 sense base, depending on 6 sense base contact..etc..

It is commonly accepted (?) that the re-birth linking consciousness(patisandhi) descends into the foetus around 6 months.

At that stage of DO the resultant(vipaka) consciousness from previous existence give rise to name & form, which give rise to 6 sense base. These stages are when our form and senses are conditioned according to our resultant consciousness. The quality and characteristics of our senses etc...

Until the 6 sense base become functional and there is a sense object then only is there contact, feeling and the rest of DO.

So things like people playing music for the yet to be born baby to listen to, do make sense when the ear base is developed.

That's my take on it.


The form may not be fully developed but the Dependent Origination (DO) continues to work.

E.g. in the formless realms DO continues to work though there is no form at all.

There is no difference what ever stage of life you are in. DO continues to work until you are either in Niroda Samapathi or pass away as a Arahath.

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