Living Cell – How Did the First Cell Come to Existence?

July 24, 2019; revised February 22, 2023

Relevance to Buddha Dhamma

1. A discussion on the origins of a first cell will help understand the fundamentals of Buddha Dhamma, particularly the power of kammic energy.

  • This discussion is about how modern science is beginning to confirm Buddha Dhamma. Modern science (biochemistry) provides additional information from a “material aspect,” i.e., on the basic building block of a physical body (cell). Even though many scientists believe that a living cell can arise from random combinations of inert molecules, there is no evidence to support that hypothesis.
  • Of course, science has not yet realized that there is a “mental body” too, i.e., the vital role of the manōmaya kāya.

2. Human life requires two primary components: a mental body (manōmaya kāya or a kammaja kāya) and a material body (āhāraja kāya), as I pointed out in the previous post; see “Clarification of “Mental Body” and “Physical Body” – Different Types of “Kāya.”

  • The mental body has existed forever (in different forms); it is called a gandhabba for humans and animals. Even though we are all humans now, we have been born devās, brahmās, animals, and of course, “hell beings”; it is just an unbroken “lifestream.”
  • A cell is the basic building block of a physical body, which starts with a single cell (zygote) created by the union of mother and father. That single-cell multiplies over time (the physical body of an adult has trillions of cells); see “Buddhist Explanations of Conception, Abortion, and Contraception.”
  • For any given conscious living being, there is no traceable beginning to a first manōmaya kāya. When an existing manōmaya kāya dies, mental energy or kammic energy creates a “new manōmaya kāya. Furthermore, cells make up human (and animal) bodies, and the  “first cells” on this Earth were created by kammic energy long ago, as discussed below. All cells of current living beings come from those first cells!
How Cells Come to Existence

3. Biochemistry says all cells existing now come from pre-existing cells. How did the first cells on Earth come into existence? Creationists and evolutionists say those “first cells” could only have come from one of two possible places:

  • Spontaneous creation – Random chemical processes create the first living cell.
  • Supernatural creation – God or some other supernatural power created the first living cell.
  • However, both sides have not even realized that there is a third possibility, i.e., “first cells” were created via kammic energy, which is the same as “mental energy.”

4. The Buddha taught that there is “no traceable beginning” to life. Therefore, it is impossible to trace back to a “first manōmaya kāya (mental body).” When a human (or an animal) is born, it has a physical body in addition to the manōmaya kāya. The physical body is made of cells.

  • Of course, the Buddha did not talk about cells. I am just bridging that part of the puzzle, based on modern science and Aggañña Sutta; see” Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27)“.
  • Now scientists can perform the “cloning” of animals. That is not the same as the creation of a new life form. Two existing cells create a zygote, and then an existing gandhabba can “take possession” of that zygote; see, “Cloning and Gandhabba.”
Origins of “First Cells” on Earth

5. It is essential to realize that Darwin’s theory of evolution is NOT about the “evolution of a cell.” It is about the evolution of advanced species of plants and animals, STARTING WITH simpler lifeforms with a single cell.

  • Most scientists who believe in the theory of the evolution of SPECIES do also think that it MAY BE possible that A FIRST CELL also evolved starting with inert matter.
  • Some scientists have concluded that random interactions of inert molecules cannot lead to the formation of a living cell. But they erroneously concluded that life must have been created by a Creator God.

6. Since Robert Hook discovered the existence of cells in 1665, scientists have uncovered much information about cells. The current “cell theory” in biochemistry has two fundamental axioms:

  1. All living things (living beings or living plants) are made of cells,
  2. New cells are made by “cell division,” i.e., by dividing existing cells.
  • Biochemistry books do not discuss how “first cells” came into existence!

7. Therefore, the question remains about how the “first cells” on Earth came to life. Evolutionists say random combinations of inert molecules created them.

  • Despite what you may have heard in science fiction or popular science literature, scientists are NOT EVEN CLOSE to making even the simplest cell in a laboratory.
  • They will NEVER be able to do so. Once we discuss the current status of cell research, you will see why.
  • On the other hand, creationists say a Creator God created all life.
Buddhist Explanation of Life

According to Buddha Dhamma, a conscious living being has a mental body (manōmaya kāya), and some may have a physical body (āhāraja kāya). In Brahma realms, there are no physical bodies like ours (therefore no cells).

8. A NEW living being can never be created starting from scratch. A dying manōmaya kāya gives rise to a new one. Any sentient being creates CAUSES and CONDITIONS that lead to the next existence (bhava)!

  • For example, one may be born many times with a human body while in the “human bhava,” but when the energy for that “human bhava” runs out, that lifestream gets hold of a new bhava (as a Brahma, deva, animal, etc.) because of a strong kamma done in the past, as we discussed in previous posts. Therefore, it is kammic energy that gives rise to a manōmaya kāya!
  • A new manōmaya kāya is ALWAYS associated with a past life. It is just that the form of the gandhabba keeps changing from bhava to bhava, i.e., an “animal gandhabba” or “Brahma manōmaya kāya” is different from a “human gandhabba,” but the same lifestream can take all those various forms.
  • If one can follow that “chain of past lives,” one will go through billions of past lives in a minute but will never be able to find a “beginning” life! The Buddha did that upon attaining the Buddhahood, and stated: bhikkhus, there is no discernible beginning to the rebirth process.”; see, for example, “Gaddulabaddha Sutta (SN 22.99)“:

9. A physical body for a human or an animal is a collection of cells. It starts with a single cell (called a zygote) and grows to a large mass with trillions of cells after a gandhabba (born of a paṭisandhi viññāna) “descends to the womb” and gets possession of that zygote. For Tipiṭaka references, see “Gandhabba State – Evidence from Tipiṭaka.”

  • On the other hand, a Brahma has no physical body made of cells. It is just the mental body (gandhabba) with a trace of matter at the suddhāshtaka level.
  • Below, we will discuss how the “first cells” on Earth came into existence. We first need to consider how complex a cell is.
The complexity of a Cell

10. Even the simplest cell is very complex and surprising. Even though nanotechnology has made significant advances, it is nowhere close to being able to make a functioning cell.

  • The critical issue is not making new complex DNA molecules but the following: Those DNA strands in a cell nucleus are “coded with information,” just like a computer is programmed.
  • Just like a computer program can run by itself and manage a factory, information coded in those DNA strands in the nucleus of the cell control cell’s functions.
  • This “information” came not from a Creator and was not created via random jostling of molecules in early Earth. It comes from kammic energy, just like a gandhabba is created by kammic energy.

11. The following video gives a good idea about a cell’s basic layout and complexity.


12. It becomes even more impressive when we examine how small an animal cell is. Here are some rough numbers (in comparison, a mustard seed is 1 to 2 mm in diameter):

  • Cell (per side) 0.050 mm (or 50 micrometers).
  • Cell membrane 0.000007 mm thick.
  • Nucleus (diameter) 0.007 mm.
  • Nucleolus (diameter) 0.0025 mm.
  • Endoplasmic reticulum: each layer 0.0002 mm (0.0001 mm gap between layers)
  • Golgi complex 0.007 mm thick, each layer.
  • Ribosomes 0.00003 mm (30 nanometers) in diameter.

13. But the most amazing thing is not that such a small cell has all that complexity. It is that a cell has a “built-in computer-like program” that manages all cell functions, including what kind of proteins are to produce. Yes. A living cell is a factory that makes proteins in addition to making copies of its DNA.

  • In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells with a nucleus. The DNA from a single human cell has a length of ~1.8 m or about 6 feet (but at a width of ~2.4 nanometers).
  • This genome has the blueprint for a given human (animal) body.

14. The machinery and the activities inside a cell — which we cannot see with the naked eye — are impressive. As mentioned, a living cell is a pre-programmed, very sophisticated factory. Whatever progress that nanotechnology has made cannot even come close to the level of a cell, as can be seen in the following video:

First Cells on Earth Created via Kammic Energy (Same as a Gandhabba)

15. The division of existing cells creates new cells of different properties (scientists do not understand how!). A new human baby starts with a single cell (zygote) formed by merging two cells from the mother and father.

  • In the newly-formed Earth, kammic energy created the first cells. That happened long after the “first humans” without physical bodies. The early humans had very subtle bodies (like brahmās); thus, they did not have physical bodies with cells. Hundreds of million years later, those early (Brahma-like) humans got back their “human gati,” and their bodies became visible with a physical body made of cells.
  • The “first cells” come into existence via kammic energies from the past. Once getting started, the “normal method” of cell division led to more cells (what we see now).
  • In the same way, there are no new gandhabbā in the sense of starting a new lifestream. When an existing gandhabba dies (at cuti-paṭisandhi), a new gandhabba takes its place because of a new paṭisandhi viññāna (via Paṭicca Samuppāda).
  • Therefore, the MIND is the precursor to EVERYTHING. Even plant life has origins in the collective kammic energies of all conscious beings on Earth. Thus the Buddha declared, “Manōpubbangamā Dhammā..” or “mind is at the forefront of everything in this world.”

16. It is essential to realize that the dense physical body, say of a human being, is not directly created by mental energy.

  • Mind energy provides the two seeds: gandhabba and the first cell, the zygote. The fusion of two cells from the mother and father creates a zygote.
  • When a gandhabba merges with a zygote in a womb, that starts a process where no more kammic energy is needed. That first “live cell” multiplies and leads to more and more cells using sustenance from the mother, and that is how an embryo grows. After birth, a baby grows by eating its food.

17. Another critical point is that the cells of ALL LIVING THINGS are similar and depend on each other.

  • The cells of humans and animals are very similar. The differences come from the variations in the genome (DNA that is inside the cell nucleus).
  • Even the cells of plants are not that different. The main difference in a plant cell is the presence of chloroplast, which generates energy using sunlight.
  • Energy to sustain the bodies of humans and animals can be traced back to plants. Even though humans and animals eat other animals, animals like cows first extract energy from plants.
  • Now we can see how interrelated and interdependent ALL LIFE is. And how complicated life is, even at the physical level.
  • The mental body (gandhabba) is even more complicated. Only a Buddha can sort out these complexities of life. We are fortunate to live at a time when modern science helps us clarify some of his teachings.
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