[i]‘Thus have I heard.
At one time the Buddha was staying in Śrāvastī, at Jetṛ’s Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. Then the Exalted One said to the bhikṣus:
There are three conditions (kāraṇa) for consciousness to receive a womb (garbha). Which are the three? Now there are, O bhikṣus, (a) the mother wishing to have sexual intercourse (maithunecchā), (b) the father and mother coming together in one place and spending the night together. However, (c) it is not the occasion for consciousness ‘from outside’ (bāhyāt) to [be instrumental in] bringing about rebirth (gati), and consequently an embryo cannot develop.
Moreover, if there is (a) lust (rāga) and if (b) consciousness [‘from outside’] presents itself, but if (c) there is no union of the father and mother then an embryo cannot develop.
If, furthermore, (a) the mother does not wish [to have sexual intercourse], but if (b) the father and mother come together in one place and if (c) the former is keen on having sexual intercourse whilst the latter is listless, then an embryo cannot develop.
If, again, (a) the father and mother come together…and if (b) the latter is burning with lust whilst (c) the former is listless, then an embryo cannot develop.
If (a) the father and mother come together…, but if (b) the father is wanting in sexual desire and if (c) the mother is frigid, then an embryo cannot develop.
If (a) the father and mother come together… but if (b) the latter is wanting in sexual desire and if (c) the former is icy, then an embryo cannot develop.
If occasionally (a) the father and mother come together… and if (b) the former very much suffers from dropsy while (c) the latter does not, then an embryo cannot develop.
If occasionally (a) the father and mother come together…, but if (b) the former is looking [forward] to having offspring while (c) the latter is not, then an embryo cannot develop.
If occasionally (a) the father and mother (T2,603a) come together…but if (b) the latter is looking [forward] to having offspring while (c) the former is not, then an embryo cannot develop.
If at times neither the father nor mother are not looking [forward] to having offspring then… If at times the consciousness-genius[ii] is coming into the womb, but if the father [then] is not ready to have sex (āgamana) then an embryo cannot develop.
If at times the father and mother, as required, come together in one place, but if the mother [then] draws back from having sex then an embryo cannot develop.
Further, if at times the father and mother, as required, come together at one place, but if the father meets with a serious accident [even though] the consciousness-genius is present, then an embryo cannot develop.
If again at times the father and mother, as required, come together…and [even though] the consciousness-genius is present, but if the mother meets with a serious accident then an embryo cannot develop.
If, moreover, occasionally the father and mother… come together… and the consciousness-genius is present, but if both father and mother are taken ill then an embryo cannot develop.
If, however, bhikṣus, (a) the father and mother come together in one place and (b) both of them are in no [way] afflicted and if (c) in the presence of the consciousness-genius the parents are looking [forward] to having a child then an embryo can develop.
These are the three conditions, bhikṣus, for [consciousness] to receive a womb. On account of that, bhikṣus, [all those who wish to overcome Samsara] ought to search for skills in means (upāyakauśalya) to make the three conditions end (ud-√chid). Thus, bhikṣus, you should train. After listening to the Buddha’s words, the bhikṣus were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.’[iii]
[i] CBETA, T02, no. 125, p. 602, c16-p. 603, a14; Hayashi, p. 192 ff. This translation originally published as Ekottarāgama XXXI, Buddhist Studies Review 20.1, 2003, p 76-80. Translated from the Chinese version by Thích Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.
[ii] ##(cf. the above ### consciousness ‘from outside’) denoting gandharva, seems peculiar to EĀ. Cf BSR 12, 2 (1995), p. 165: gandharvas as the retinue of the world-guardian Dhṛtarāṣṭra (Soothill, p 341 f.); here (T2, 590b24) gandharva is given in Chinese transliteration.
[iii] According to T2, 602, n. 26, Hayashi, Akanuma and Lancaster, this EĀ sutra parallels M I (Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta), p.265 f.:Tiṇṇaṁ kho pana, bhikkhave, sannipātā gabbhassāvakkanti hoti. idha mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca na utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca na paccupaṭṭhito hoti, neva tāva gabbhassāvakkanti hoti. idha mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca na paccupaṭṭhito hoti, neva tāva gabbhassāvakkanti hoti. yato ca kho, bhikkhave, mātāpitaro ca sannipatitā honti, mātā ca utunī hoti, gandhabbo ca paccupaṭṭhito hoti– evaṁ tiṇṇaṁ sannipātā gabbhassāvakkanti hoti. The last sentence also occurs at M II (Assalāyanasutta), p.157. I. B. Horner, The Middle Length Sayings I, PTS, 1954, p.321f., translates: ‘Monks it is on the conjunction of three things… But if… there is here coitus of the parents and if it is the mother’s season and the gandhabba is present, it is on the conjunction of these three things that there is conception.’ Apart from the place in the Assalāyanasutta, Horner refers to the Milindapañha and Divy in which ‘the conjunction of three things’ is quoted. She (ibid., n. 6) also draws on the M commentary which ‘explains gandhabba as the being who is coming into the womb… about to come into that situation, being driven on by the mechanism of kamma.’ Cf. also Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoḷi, Bh. Bodhi,The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, PTS, Oxford, rev. ed. 2001, pp. 358 and 1233f., n. 411 on gandhabba.
In Vasubandhu (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, ed. P. Pradhan, Patna 1975, p. 121, 22-23) is found a Sanskrit parallel to the M Passages: trayāṇāṁ saṁmukhībhāvāt matuḥ kukṣau garbhasyāvakrāntir bhavati… gandharvaś ca pratyupasthito bhavatīti. At Bh. Pāsādika, Kanonische Zitate im Abhidharmakośabhāṣya des Vasubandhu, Gottingen 1989, p. 52 , further references are given relating to the above sanskrit parallel: in particular see the passage at Siglinde Dietz, Fragmente des Dharmaskandha: Ein Abhidharma-Text in sanskrit aus Gilgit, Gottingen 1984, p.34, 3-8 [Here is the relevant pasage: ttrayāṇaṁ [bhi](kṣavaḥ) sannipātān mātuḥ kukṣau garbhasyāvakkrāṁtir bhavati (ﺍ) katameṣāṁ ttrayāṇāṁ (ﺍ) iha bhikṣavo mā[tāpi]tarau raktau bhavataḥ sannipatitau mātā ca kalyā bhavati ṛtumatī gandharvvaś ca pratyu(2)pasthito bhavati (ﺍ) imeṣāṁ bhikṣavas ttrayāṇāṁ sannipātānān mātuḥ kukśau garbhasyāvakkrāntir bhavati(ﺍ) - Sujato], and two passages in MĀ. T1, 666a10-2 (MĀ version corresponding to Assalāyanasutta) and T1, 769b23-5 (MA version corresponding to the Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta) parallel T2, 603a10-1 (last sentence of 2nd. Para of above translation.) Whereas the two MĀ passages are nearly uniform, the EĀ appreciably differs. In The Chinese Madhyama Āgama and the Pali Majjhima Nikāya, Saigon 1964, p. 318, in his Specimens of Comparative Study of Chinese and Pali Corresponding Sūtras, Thich Minh Chau refers to T1, 666a10-2: ‘… that when 3 things come together, there would be conception, the mating (sic) of mother and father, (the mother’s womb) not full and conceivable, and the arrival of scented aggregate (P: gandhabba). T1, 769b23-5 reads: ##########
‘But then [through] the union of three things an embryo develops in the mother[‘s womb]: (a) the father and mother come together in one place, (b) the mother is ‘full of essence’ (= ṛtumatī) and ‘able to bear’ (healthy, ready = kalyā) and (c) the scented aggregate (gandhaskandha) has arrived. [Through] the union of these three things an embryo develops in the mother[’s womb].’
The text discussed by Minh Chau significantly differs from theis latter MĀ passage only in one place: ## ‘(The mother’s womb) not full’. In all likelihood this is just a corruption of the above-cited ##.