Tipiṭaka reference for the size of a suddhāṭṭhaka

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    • #43824

      Theruwan Saranai!

      We know that suddhāṭṭhaka are small beyond imagination.

      Buddha often made very distinct statements containing comparisons or analogies to describe, for example, the infinity of sansara or the length of a maha kappa.

      Has he described the size of a suddhāṭṭhaka in a similar way as well?

      On the site it is said or indicated that a suddhāṭṭhaka is a billion times smaller than an atom in modern science. Is there anything in the Tipiṭaka that points to that?

    • #43825

      Yes. It is good to understand how unimaginably small a suddhāṭṭhaka is. I have not seen a direct reference to the “size” of a suddhāṭṭhaka in the Tipiṭaka. But we can get a good idea the following way.

      1. Any “rupa” (experienced with the five physical senses) is above the suddhāṭṭhaka stage. A suddhāṭṭhaka is the smallest “rupa.”

      • Thus, a “rupa” can be light, sound, food particles, particles that carry odors (scents), or physical touch experienced by the body.

      2. The easiest way is to look at particles of light or photons.

      • A photon in the visible range is about 2 eV in energy units.
      • In comparison, the “mass” of a proton (roughly the mass of the smallest atom) is about 938 MeV or roughly a billion eV.
      • Thus, a photon in the visible range is about a billion times smaller than an atom.
      • My quoted number of ” a billion times smaller” is an understatement because there are even smaller rupa!

      3. Such unimaginably small energies can be created by javana citta in our minds, especially when “energized” by lobha, dosa, or moha.

      • As we have discussed, a hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) or a pasada rupa (like cakkhu, sota,..kaya responsible for the detection of the five types of external rupa) is a single suddhāṭṭhaka each.
      • For example, a cakkhu pasada rupa that detects light is a single suddhāṭṭhaka. hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) is a single suddhāṭṭhaka.

      4. Our physical bodies (that are hugely bigger) are just inert shells “powered by” such an unimaginably tiny set of hadaya vatthu and pasada rupa.

      • One analogy is to consider a huge oak tree and a seed that gives rise to it. That tiny seed gets all the “material” from the earth and grows into a huge tree.
      • In the same way, a tiny gandhabba (with a set of hadaya vatthu and pasada rupa) grows into a physical body by taking in food, first from the mother and then by eating.

      P.S. Of course, the Buddha could not give such an analogy those days since people knew nothing about atoms and photons. We are fortunate to be able to make such comparisons these days.

    • #43828

      Thank you, Lal. The example of the photon puts things into more perspective.

    • #43830

      You are welcome, Jorg.

      1. Also, I had the following under #2 in my comment above: “(that transmits audio signals from radio stations)”. I just now took it out. I was going to give a different example and revised it. Forgot to remove that part. I hope it did not confuse some.

      • Visible range photons are NOT involved in radio transmission.

      2. It is really a good idea to contemplate how unimaginably tiny a gandhabba is. 

      • All our capabilities (thinking, seeing, hearing,..) all in that “mental body”!
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