Two comments under this question include:

  • This might be a rhetorical question and unanswerable in its current form. It might be better to ask "why is this understood to mean 'seven lifetimes'?" or to ask "Since when has it been understood this way?" or "Are there other ways to interpret this phrase?" or something like that.

  • Why might it be unanswerable? Peoples comfort level and actual Dhamma truth are two different things.

Why might it be unanswerable??

  • "I refute it thus!"
    – user2341
    Jun 15, 2017 at 1:45
  • I guess the purpose of that comment is to quote an example of "rhetoric"? Or of how to answer apparently-unanswerable theory. A good equivalent Zen story is here: Nothing Exists
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jun 15, 2017 at 10:47
  • "A riddle, or a cricket's cry, is to doubt, a fit reply." -Blake - Basically, I feel sad as I see users I respect here arguing subtle and probably pointless points about meaningless meanings. It reminds me of the story of when the Buddha died, and half the monks wanted the body buried and half wanted it burned. Someone peeked under the shroud at one point and there was no body, but a heap of flowers! So they buried half the heap and burned the other half. They had had the Flower Sermon, and now the flower Eulogy, and they still didn't get it! But, what do I know?
    – user2341
    Jun 15, 2017 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


I thought it unanswerable, because I thought that the OP intended it as a rhetorical question:

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked to make a point rather than to elicit an answer.

It's actually a statement (e.g. "This sutta does not contain the word 'life' or 'lifetimes'.") which is masquerading as a question (i.e. "Where is the word 'lives' or 'lifetimes' found here?").

I suggested various ways to alter the question.

I remember (from an earlier post some months ago) that the OP already has their own opinion/theory about what this sutta means ... given the current version of the question, I guess that the OP doesn't expect to learn anything new, from any answer to this question ... and that's more-or-less what I mean by "unanswerable".

  • "Leadership is best when the people say, 'We did it ourselves!' "
    – user2341
    Jun 15, 2017 at 1:53

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