Jāti (Buddhism)

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Translations of
English birth
Pali Jāti
Sanskrit Jāti
Burmese ဇာတိ
(IPA: [zàtḭ])
Japanese shō
Khmer ជាតិ
Shan ၸႃႇတီႉ
([tsaa2 ti5])
Sinhalese ජාති
Tibetan skyed.ba
Vietnamese sinh
Glossary of Buddhism

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

Jāti is identified with the Buddhist teachings in the following contexts:

Within the Four Noble Truths[edit]

Within the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, jāti is identified as an aspect of dukkha (suffering). For example, The Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth states:[a]

Now this, monks, is the noble truth of dukkha: birth (jati) is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.

Ajahn Sucitto explains the difficulty or suffering (dukkha) involved in birth from the Buddhist point of view:[1]

How is birth difficult, or how does it involve suffering? Well, giving birth is physically painful; and also birth is appearance into an uncertain realm. Notice how babies suffer: coming into the world must be a desperate and frightening experience. For the majority of beings, including people in the world today, it means the end of guaranteed nourishment and the beginning of the struggle to survive. Even for the small percentage of privileged humans who live in affluent societies, with birth begins a life in which some physical discomfort is guaranteed, along with the need to sustain or defend the comfort, the property, and the health that they do have. In every case, the obvious long- or short-term consequence of birth is death—the ultimate trajectory is an unavoidable decline. So whatever the joy that comes as a result of birth, birth includes an element of suffering or stress that will arise sooner or later. Birth can also be viewed as "the unfulfilled," which seeks fulfillment. That is, birth is the beginning of need, a shadow-mood that accompanies anything that arises.

Within the twelve links of dependent origination[edit]

  The 12 Nidānas:  
Name & Form
Six Sense Bases
Old Age & Death

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.

Forms of birth[edit]

In traditional Buddhist thought, there are four forms of birth:[2][3]

  • birth from an egg (Sanskrit: Andaja; Pali: Aṇḍaja; Chinese: 卵生; Standard Tibetan: Sgongskyes)—like a bird, fish, or reptile;
  • birth from a womb (Sanskrit: Jarayuja; Pali: Jalābuja; Chinese: 胎生; Standard Tibetan: Mnal-skyes)—like most mammals and some worldly devas;
  • birth from moisture (Sanskrit: Samsvedaja; Pali: Saṃsedaja; Chinese: 濕生; Standard 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; Standard Tibetan: Rzus-skyes)—miraculous materialization, as with most devas.

Within the Buddhist discourses[edit]

Jāti is identified within the Buddha's first discourse, The Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth, as an aspect of dukkha (suffering):

The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha), monks, is this: birth (jati) 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.[4]

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.[5]

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?[6]


  1. ^ In this translation by John T. Bullit, Bullit leaves the term "dukkha" untranslated. The main article that presents this translation is The Four Noble Truths.[web 1] Links to each line in the translation are as follows: line 1: First Noble Truth; line 2: Second Noble Truth; line 3: Third Noble Truth; line 4: Fourth Noble Truth.


  1. ^ Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 37.
  2. ^ 佛學問答第三輯
  3. ^ Bot Thubten Tenzin Karma and Rebirth
  4. ^ 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.)
  5. ^ See, for instance, SN 12.2 (Thanissaro, 1997) and DN 22 (Thanissaro, 2000).
  6. ^ Devadūta Sutta ("The Divine Messengers," MN 130) (Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, p. 1030).

Web references[edit]


  • Ajahn Sumedho (2002), The Four Noble Truths, Amaravati Publications 
  • Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala 
  • Bhikkhu, Thanissaro (1997), Tittha Sutta: Sectarians, AN 3.61, retrieved 12 November 2007 
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-331-1 
  • Das, Surya (1997), Awakening the Buddha Within, Broadway Books, Kindle Edition 
  • Epstein, Mark (2004), Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective, Basic Books, Kindle Edition 
  • Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press 
  • Goldstein, Joseph (2002), One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism, HarperCollins 
  • Harvey, Peter (1990), Introduction to Buddhism, Cambridge University Press 
  • Kalupahana, David J. (1992), A history of Buddhist philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Keown, Damien (2003), Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-860560-9 
  • Moffitt, Phillip (2008), Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Rodale, Kindle Edition 
  • Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (1995), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-072-X 
  • Nhat Hanh, Thich (1999), The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Three River Press 
  • Rahula, Walpola (2007), What the Buddha Taught, Grove Press, Kindle Edition 
  • Trungpa, Chogyam (2009), The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation (edited by Judy Leif), Shambhala 
  • Tulku, Ringu (2005), Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion 
Preceded by
Twelve Nidānas
Succeeded by