The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Eighteen Abhabbatthanas contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Chapter 8 - Eighteen Abhabbaṭṭhānas

Eighteen existences in which Bodhisattas, who have received the definite prophecy, are not reborn. Those Bodhisattas who, like Sumedha the Hermit, are endowed with eight qualities[1] required for receiving the definite prophecy and who have actually received it, are not reborn in eighteen different existences throughout saṃsāra; this statement and the enumeration of the eighteen existences are given in the exposition on the Khaggavisana Sutta in the Sutta Nipāta Commentary.

The eighteen existences are:

(1) the existence of a blind since birth,
(2) that of a deaf since birth,
(3) that of a lunatic,
(4) that of a dumb,
(5) that of a cripple,
(6) that of a barbarian,
(7) in the womb of a female slave,
(8) that of one with perpetual wrong belief,
(9) that of one whose sex changes (from male to female)
(10) that of one who commits the five severest crimes[2],
(11) that of a leper,
(12) that of an animal smaller than a quail (or a warbler),
(13) that of a Khuppipāsika peta, Nijjhāmataṇhika peta and Kāla-kañcika asura. (Khuppipāsika peta is an ever-hungry ghost, for he hardly has a chance to eat; Nijjhāmataṇhika peta is another one who is always feeling hot, for he is always on fire. These are the petas who in their previous lives were monks, the kind that the Venerable Moggallāna encountered on Mount Gijjha-kūṭa. Kālakañcika was the name of an asura whose body was three gāvutas[3] in size; but as he is of scanty flesh and blood, his complexion is like the colour of a withered leaf. His eyes, lying on his head, protrude like those of a lobster. Since the mouth is the size of the eye of a needle, also lying on the head, he has to bend forward to pick up the food, if he finds it at all.);
(14) that in Avīci and Lokāntarika, (the latter being the space at the meeting of three world-systems; it is the space where evil doers suffer for their misdeeds; and such a place of intense suffering is called Lokāntarika Hell);
(15) that of Māra in a celestial abode of sensual pleasures;
(16) in Asaññasatta Brahmā and Suddhāvāsa Brahmā abodes; (17) in Arūpa Brahmā abodes, and
(18) in another world-system.

[Here the author gives a detailed explanation of ‘a quail (or a warbler)’ mentioned in the twelfth item of the above list. The author’s elucidations, quoting various authorities including two Jātaka stories, are mainly meant for the benefit of Myanmar scholars and are left out from the translations.]

In listing the abhabbaṭṭhānas, the Aṭṭhasālini Commentary and Buddhavaṃsa Commentary on one hand and the Sutta Nipāta Commentary on the other, agree on some points and disagree on others. Of the eighteen existences given in the Sutta Nipāta Commentary, the following eight are missing in the Aṭṭhasalini Commentary:

(1) the existence of a lunatic,
(2) that of a cripple,
(3) that of a barbarian,
(4) that of one whose sex changes (from male to female),
(5) in the womb of a female slave,
(6) that of a leper,
(7) that of Māra, and
(8) in another world-system.

The Aṭṭhasalini Commentary does not give the exact number of these existences, and those listed in it but omitted in the Sutta Nipāta Commentary are:

(1) that of a woman,
(2) that of a hermaphrodite, and
(3) that of a eunuch.

(The list in the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary is the same as that in the Aṭṭhasalini Commentary.) Of these three existences, that of a woman is easily understood.

The original Pāli word meaning a ‘hermaphrodite’ is ubhatovyañjanaka. (“Ubhato” means “because of the two past kammas, one causing female sex and the other, male; “vyañjanaka” means “one who has two different kinds of genital organs.”) A hermaphrodite is of two kinds: a female hermaphrodite, and a male one.

In a female hermaphrodite, the female sex characteristics appear dominant while the male ones, subordinate at normal times; in a male hermaphrodite, the male sex characteristics appear conspicuously while the female ones, subordinate at normal times.

When a woman with both sexes desires to have intercourse taking the role of a man with another woman, her female organ disappears and male organ appears. When a man with both sexes desires to have copulation with another man, his male organ disappears and female organ manifests itself.

The female hermaphrodite can conceive a child; she can also make another woman conceive. The male hermaphrodite cannot conceive, but he can impregnate a woman. This is the difference between the two. (Vinaya Mahāvagga Commentary.)

The Pāli term for a eunuch is paṇḍaka (meaning a person with ineffective genitals). Despite his being a male, he is different from other men in the sense that he lacks effectiveness in coital acts. There are five kinds of eunuch:

(1) āsitta-paṇḍaka: one whose sexual urge is gratified by sucking another man’s penis or taking that man’s semen with his mouth;

(2) ussuyya-paṇḍaka: one whose sexual urge is gratified by stealthily watching the act of others' lovemaking and by feeling envious of them;

(3) opakkamika-paṇḍaka: one who is castrated (like a eunuch in-charge of women in a harem);

(4) pakkha-paṇḍaka: one who has sexual urge during the dark fortnight of the lunar month and who is sexually calm during the bright fortnight; and

(5) napumsaka-paṇḍaka: one who has been born without sexual characteristics. (Such a one is without the sex decad[4] in his make up since birth and remains without sex characteristics of male or female. One is therefore neither a man nor a woman.)

——Vinaya Mahāvagga Commentary——

Footnotes and references:


Read Chapter II: “Rare appearenee of Buddha”.


Five severest crimes (panca anantariya kamma): matricide, patricide, killing of an arahat, shedding the blood of a Buddha, and causing schism of the Sangha.


Gāvuta: a little less than two miles according to P.E.D.


Sex decad: The four elements of earth, water, temperature and wind plus colour, smell, taste, nutrition, life principle and male or female formation constituting a cell (kalāpa) at the time of conception.

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