Measuring

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Measuring (māṇa or tulanā) is the act of determining the size, length or amount of something. The Tipitaka mentions numerous units of measurement. The smallest of these for both weight and length was a ratharenu, that being equivalent to the tiniest grain of dust thrown up by a chariot. The most common units of length were:

  • 36 ratharenu = 1 likkha (louse egg)
  • 7 likkha = 1 yava (barley corn)
  • 7 yava = 1 aṅguli (finger breadth)
  • 24 aṅguli = 1 ratana (cubit, i.e. from elbow to finger tip)
  • 4 ratana = 1 dhanu (bow)
  • 500 dhanu = 1 krosa
  • 8 krosa = 1 yojana (the distance one bullock can pull a cart in a day, i.e. approximately 14 kilometers)


Another system for measuring length was:

  • 1 ratana = 7 yaṭṭhi
  • 20 yaṭṭhi = 1 usabha
  • 80 usabha = 1 gāvuta
  • 4 gāvuta 1 yojana

A common unit for measuring volume was the nālī, the amount that could be held in a segment of bamboo (Ja.IV,67; Vin.I,249). Another common unit was the doṇa. Originally a doṇa was a wooden receptacle of standard size used for measuring out raw rice. Later it also became a unit of volume. There were 4 aḷhaka or 200 pala in a doṇa (A.II,55). A full meal of rice and curry was equivalent to about one doṇa (S.I,81). After the Buddha's cremation, his ashes were held in and then divided out from a doṇa. The bones of the average adult male after cremation weigh between 1 and 1.8 kilograms, which, in the case of the Buddha's remains, could have easily fitted into a doṇa. Other unit of measurements were the acchara, catubhāga, ammaṇa, kukku, paṭṭha and the vidatthi (Ja.III,318; VI,339; V,297; 385).

The Buddha said that we should not just show love (metta) towards others, but a particular type of love; a love that is immeasurable (appamāṇa). Some love is besmirched by jealousy, lust or the desire to control. Some holds itself back unless it is reciprocated or it gets its own way. Some love gives itself willingly and joyfully to some but withholds itself from others. All these types of love can be measured because they are to some extent limited.

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