I was thinking about the idea of "seven rebirths" mentioned for a Stream- enterer (Sotapanna)


Why seven in particular? ....and I began to wonder about numerology in the Pali Canon in general.

I then discovered this blog entry written by Ajahn Sujato several years ago:

Buddhist Numerology


Excerpt from the article:

When, with our modern bias, we see numbers used in the Buddhist texts, our initial assumption is to see them purely as counting devices, devoid of meaning. It soon becomes obvious, however, that many numbers cannot be taken literally. As is well known, ‘500’ means ‘hundreds’, for example. In other cases numbers are given as if they were literal measurements, when they in fact relate to mythical sea creatures or Mount Meru. So it’s clear that there is at least some non-rational use of numbers in the texts.

How far down does this go? If the inflated size of a sea monster can clearly not be taken as literal, what are we to make of the equally vast numbers given to cosmological periods, the life span in various realms, and so on, details that are not so readily falsifiable? Or if the number ‘seven’ is found in many symbolic contexts, are we to infer that, say, the ‘seven lives’ of a stream enterer is equally symbolic?

(Continues at the link above)

Any thoughts?