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Old Age & Death

In Buddhism, Jāti (the Sanskrit and Pāli word for "birth") refers to the arising of a new living entity in saṃsāra.


  • 生 Cn: shēng; Jp: shō; Vi: sinh
  • Tibetan:

Truth of suffering

As with "Old Age & Death" (see), the Buddha includes "Birth" in the canonical description of "suffering" in the First Noble Truth:

"The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha), monks, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering..., death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering—in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering."[1]

Elsewhere in the canon the Buddha further elaborates:

"And what is birth? Whatever birth, taking birth, descent, coming-to-be, coming-forth, appearance of aggregates, & acquisition of [sense] spheres of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth."[2]

The canon additionally attributes to King Yama a mundane encapsulation of birth's suffering:

"Good man, have you never seen in the world a young tender infant lying prone, fouled in his own excrement and urine?"[3]

Forms of birth

In traditional Buddhist thought, there are four forms of birth:[4][5]

  • birth from an egg (Sanskrit: Andaja; Pali: Aṇḍaja; Chinese: 卵生; Tibetan: Sgongskyes)—like a bird, fish, or reptile;
  • birth from a womb (Sanskrit: Jarayuja; Pali: Jalābuja; Chinese: 胎生; Tibetan: Mnal-skyes)—like most mammals and some worldly devas;
  • birth from moisture (Sanskrit: Samsvedaja; Pali: Saṃsedaja; Chinese: 濕生; Tibetan: Drod-skyes)—probably referring to the appearance of animals whose eggs are microscopic, like maggots appearing in rotting flesh;
  • birth by transformation (Sanskrit: Upapaduka; Pali: Opapatika; Chinese: 化生; Tibetan: Rzus-skyes)—miraculous materialization, as with most devas.

Conditioned cycle of suffering

Jāti is the eleventh of the Twelve Nidānas, is conditioned by becoming (bhava), and is the condition for the arising of old age and death jarāmaraṇa in a living being. That is, once a being is born, it will necessarily grow old and eventually die.


  1. Boldface added. This formula can be found, for instance, in the Buddha's first discourse, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Piyadassi, 1999), as well as in his famed Mahasatipatthana Sutta (Thanissaro, 2000). (Note that the former sutta also includes the phrase "... sickness is suffering ..." which has been elided from the quote used in this article to reflect the common text between the two identified discourses.)
  2. See, for instance, SN 12.2 (Thanissaro, 1997) and DN 22 (Thanissaro, 2000).
  3. Devadūta Sutta ("The Divine Messengers," MN 130) (Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, p. 1030).
  4. 佛學問答第三輯
  5. Bot Thubten Tenzin Karma and Rebirth


  • Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bhikkhu Bodhi (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 086171072X.

Preceded by
Twelve Nidānas
Succeeded by