List of items according to years of age
1. sattavassa, sattavasika (7)
2. dāraka (childhood)
3. aṭṭhavassa (8)
4. kumāra, kumāraka, kumārikā (boy, girl)
5. pañcadasavassa (15)
6. soḷasavassa (16)
7. viññūtā, viññūbhāva (age of discretion)
8. paṭhamavaya (adolescence)
9. vayappatta (coming of age)
10. māṇava (young Brahman)
11. vuddhippatta (growing up)
12. vīsaṃ (20)
13. paripuṇṇavassa (of an age to accept the full precepts)
14. dahara (young)
15. paṇṇuvīsaṃ (25)
16. ūnatiṃsaṃ (29)
17. phalita (white-haired)
18. saṭṭhivassa (60)
19. mahallaka, mahallikā (aged)
20. vassasata, vassasatika (100)
21. vīsaṃvassasatika (120)
List of items according to category
1. school days
2. studying away from home
3. completion of studies
5. concerning marriage
6. confirmation as crown prince
7. concerning coronation
9. leaving home (renunciation)
10. novice (samana)
11. stream-winner (sotāpanna)
12. non-returner (anāgāmi)
14. like an elder
schooldays, marriage, retirement, Visākhā Migāramāta, life stage, standard age, average, age
The source materials have been compiled along the following lines.The early scriptural sources are the records of Sakyamuni's words and actions that have been givena narrative cast. Since they are chronicles, we find records about the actions of the Buddha and hisdisciples. However, since they are not histories but have been embellished in a narrative way, theypresent various difficulties when used as materials for trying to reconstruct the lives of Sakyamuniand his disciples. Because they are not "history books", dates and ages are not recorded accurately,the narrative form encourages a patterned structure, and modifications have been made according tothe intentions of editors. These problems are not confined just to the level of expression, but to thevery image that the editors of the scriptures wanted to portray.
When we try to read to read them as historical items, we have to attempt to understand what type ofimage the editors had. When talking about years of age, were they for instance thinking about thestages of life of a Brahman male - at about what age he began his schooling, at about what age hefinished it, at about what age he married, and at about what age he retired?
Visākhā Migāramāta, who built the Pubbārāma Migāramātupāsāda (a monastery outside theeastern gate of Savatthi), was the daughter of a rich man called Dhanañjaya, who lived in thetown of Bhaddiya in the country of Aṅga. When she was seven, she met Sakyamuni, who wasvisiting Bhaddiya at the time, and attained the stage of the fruit of stream-entry as a result of histeaching. Later she moved to Sāketa in the country of Kosala and married Puṇṇavaḍḍhana, son ofthe wealthy householder Migāra. She was allowed by Sakyamuni to give robes to the bhikkhus forthe rainy season, food for visiting bhikkhus entering Savatthi, food for those leaving it, food for thesick, food for those caring for the sick, medicine for the sick, a constant supply of rice gruel, andbathing robes for the bhikkhunis. She also interceded on behalf of her grandson with Sakyamuniwhen the bhikkhus of Savatthi refused to ordain him during the rainy season; this resulted in arule that refusing ordination at this time was a dukkha offence (Vin. i.153). It was Visākhā too, "atrustworthy lat follower", who was instrumental in having the aniyata (undetermined) rules laiddown. Visākhā can be considered one of the most influential women in Sakyamui's Samgha. It isunfortunate therefore that there are no records telling us when the Vinaya rules associated withher name were laid down, or how many years after the enlightenment she made the donation ofthe Pubbārāma Migāramātupāsāda. However, since we can infer that the rule about permittingordination during the rainy season retreat was made when Visākhā's grandson wanted to join theOrder, and that Visākhā made the donation of the monastery to the Samgha when she still hadcontrol of her finances, we can surmise that the authors had an image in mind about how old thewife of a rich merchant would be when she had a grandson, and how old she would have beento have power over the family's finances. This may help us to infer what year the PubbārāmaMigāramātupāsāda was founded and the aniyata rules laid down.
Because of the difficulties associated with analyzing the early Buddhist scriptures, due to theirnarrativization and the fact that years and ages were not generally recorded, a certain amount ofskillfully applied imaginative power is needed, though of course such imagination should not beapplied arbitrarily. This is why it is so important that we try to get a hold on the type of imagerythe editors of the early scriptures employed. It would be thus very useful if we could clarify thestandard and average ages for the various life stages (schooling, marriage, retirement, etc.) that theeditors perhaps employed.
It might be argued that these after all are images and that different individual circumstances mayhave applied to the people involved. If however such circumstances had more weight than theimage, and were given priority, then there should be many more records of years and ages thanactually exist. In fact even in the rare cases where ages are mentioned, they tend to form part ofa narrative pattern. For example, the account that Visākhā was seven years old when she met theBuddha and became a stream-enterer is no exception to this. What it tells us in fact is that theepisode is certainly not an historical fact about an individual. As Essay One points out, in ourpresent research we are confronted by the importance of commonly accepted ideas and conventionalwisdom, since our work is a reconstruction of the image held by the editors of the early Buddhistscriptures about Sakyamuni and the formation of the Samgha.
This source material consists therefore of a survey of those records in the early scriptures thatspecify age or, more vaguely, life-stages, like maturity. While our intention is ultimately to reviewall the early Pali sutras and their Chinese translations (Sutra and Vinaya Pitakas), we have confinedour attention here to the commentary, Jātaka-aṭṭhakathā. A second article will look at the othertexts (1-2). The present survey is divided into two parts, a summary of items according to years ofage, and a summary of items according to category. The former presents sources according to theinformation they give about age, and the latter divides them according to the items in the contentlist.