The Book of the Gradual Sayings
The Book of the Nines, Tens, Elevens
Appendix on Soḷasī
The phrase kalaɱ n'agghati soḷasiɱ, 'is not worth one sixteenth part of,' at p. 171, occurs fairly often in the Pāli Tipiṭakas - e.g., at S. iii, 156; v, 44, 343; Dhp., 70; It. 19; A. iv, 252 and elsewhere. Why was this particular fraction used to express a minute value? It is common in Skt. works (shoḍacī), early and late [the late Jātakamāla, xli, has 'the 16 parts (phases) of the moon], and it became a conventional number, perhaps owing to the Sānkhyan system of subdividing. I have found a number of passages which I give here, (a) to show a similar use, and (6) the ideas from which this use probably arose.
(a) Mahābh. Moksh. Dh., § 276, 6. 'Happiness here and in heaven equals not even one sixteenth of the happiness of the utter vanishing of desire.'
Ib., Sabha P. 41. 'Worship, gifts, study, all equal not in merit one sixteenth part of that won by having a son.'
Ib., Vana P. 91. 'In battle Karna equals not even one sixteenth of Pritha's son.'
Ib., V.P. 189. 'Then the life of men will be reckoned as of sixteen years.'
(b) The Vedanta reckoning of the psychic organs is sixteenfold. Cf., Shatap. Br. x, 4.11,17.
B.r. Aran. Up. Brāh. i, 14. 'That Prajāpati in his likeness to the year is of sixteen parts (kaḷā). His nights fifteen parts; his fixed part is the sixteenth. Entering with this sixteenth part all that is endowed with life, he is next day born in the morning.'
Ib., ch. iii, Brāh. ii. 'There are eight fetters and eight auxiliaries. (The sense-organs and their functions.)
Svet. Up. i, 4. 'Him we consider as a wheel (see below), with one circumference of sixteen parts.' (The eleven organs and the five gross elements.)
Ib., v, 14. 'He who is the cause of the origin of the sixteen parts.'
Chhandog. Up. vi, vii. 'Man, my child, is sixteen-fold ... of thy sixteen parts only one now remains ... when the last remnant of thy sixteen parts is invigorated by food, thou canst understand the Vedas.'
Pra.sna Up. 6. 'Let man know the spirit who ought to be known, in whom the (sixteen) parts abide, as the spokes in the nave (of the wheel).'
Mahābh. Mokshadh. P., § 184, 35. 'These (attributes) are the sixteen different kinds of form which constitute the property of light or vision.' Ib., § 199. 'The sixteen attributes' (the five breaths, the ten senses and mind).
Ib., 232, 12. 'The same total (of those limbs), invested with form and having sixteen constituent parts, becomes what is called body.'
Ib., 241, 17. 'He takes rebirth with a body of eleven elements ... with subtle form making a total of sixteen.'
Ib., 305, 8. 'That body of sixteen parts called the unmanifest.'
Ib., 311.15. 'Those knowing adhyātma regard mind as the sixteenth.'
Ib., 321, 108. 'The sixteenth principle is avidyā.'
Ib., A.svamedha P. (Anugītā 36, 34). 'By action a creature is born with a body and made up of the sixteen.'
Cf. also Manu ix, 124. 'Fifteen cows and a bull.'
It seems then that of these sixteen parts one is chief, the others negligible.