When human life begins – The 5 Stages of Embryonic Development – The Buddha

“Buddha-Son, as an analogy, when an ovum and a sperm unite for the rebirth of a sentient being, their union is called a kalala [embryo]. Then it stays in the mother’s womb for ten months.

Through the power of good karmas, it gradually develops body parts, faculties, and a clear mind.

A kalala and a body with six faculties are different physical forms. However, through karmic power, a kalala can gradually grow into a sentient being to receive various same and different kinds of karmic requitals.

Source:  The Mahavaipulya Sutra of Buddha Adornment

There were no microscopes in the Buddha’s time, but still, he outlined the 5 stages of embryonic development, corresponding roughly to each week after conception:

  1. Kalala Stage (~1st week):  Zygote to embryo.  Kalala means “slippery coagulation”.  Kalala is the embryo during the 1st week – first 7 days of embryonic development.  “The size of a drop of oil placed on the tip of a thread made from 3 strands of wool”.
  2. Arbuda Stage (~2nd week):  means mass – so the embryo is a cellular mass, the color of meat-washing water.
  3. Pesi Stage (~3rd week):  means soft flesh, like pink molten metal.
  4. Ghana Stage (~4th week):  means solid lump – so the skin and flesh start to solidify.  “From the ghana emerge the limbs” – like 5 pimples appearing on a chicken egg – the rudiments of the limbs.
  5. Prasakha Stage (~5th week):  The fetus develops limbs

So basically, the zygote divides and becomes an embryo (mass of cells) which in turn become soft flesh.  The flesh starts to harden and then the baby’s organs and limbs start forming.

Sources:  The Shurangama Sutra and The Connected Discourses of the Buddha

Stage 1 Kalala

1st 5 days of Human Life

There are some absolutely amazing time-lapse videos of the earliest moments of when human life begins through the lens of an embryoscope.  They are quite educational, so I thought I’d share them with you!

This first video from Dr Raewyn Teirney, who gives an excellent overview of the process of the 1st 5 days of human life:

This second video from Dr Jason Barritt gives a more in depth look as well as a frame by frame explanation at what of exactly what is happening:

So after the blastocyst stage, the embryo hatches out of it’s shell:

Stage 4 Ghana

4 weeks

So as you can see, even at 4 weeks, the heart is beating!  And the brain is rapidly developing.

Stage 5 Prasakha

6 weeks

By 6 weeks, the baby is moving it’s little arms and legs!  The 6 sense bases (Salyatana), the sense organs are starting to activate – brainwaves are occurring and it can sense touch.  So what’s this nonsense about fetuses not being able to feel anything?

8-11 weeks

By 8 weeks, the baby develops hand dominance and can roll around in the amniotic fluid.

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One thought on “When human life begins – The 5 Stages of Embryonic Development – The Buddha

  1. Great series of posts on an important topic, the karma of abortion is a really scary thing to rack up. I strongly recommend Ven Master Chin Kung’s English subtitled Talk/Interview on this matter:

    I also wrote a poem (released into Public Domain) on this matter some time ago:

    Laments of the Forever Unborn

    I am a child of no years,
    Of no form, only tears.
    I was once to be born,
    But from womb I was torn.

    Not a person, or so they say,
    But I have a soul, and hopes too.
    Alas! The wings of my dreams
    Have been clipped by cruel whim.

    And now, silent I linger,
    In a cold, dark corner,
    Pondering upon the life
    That could have been.

    Mother! All I wanted was to be filial,
    To make your years convivial,
    To be your sun when life’s winter sets,
    Did I really….deserve not to be?

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