[Buddha-l] angels

L.S. Cousins selwyn at ntlworld.com
Thu May 26 03:42:47 MDT 2005


Interesting. We interpret somewhat differently.

I suppose we agree that the intended implication is that Sahaka was 
practising with nibbaana as his goal ? i.e. deathless (amata) here 
refers to nibbaana. In later texts, at least, I incline to agree with 
Dhammanando that the expression kaamesu kaamacchanda.m viraajetvaa is 
more likely to refer to the achievement of the stage of anaagaami, 
but it is perhaps not conclusive.

>Ah, that's what I like, a source.  Thanks, Lance.  So, according to this
>sutta, in a previous life, before he became Brahma Sahampati, he was the
>bhikkhu Sahaka leading the brahmacariya under the buddha Kassapa.  And he
>cultivated the five faculties and created enough merit to be later reborn as
>Brahma Sahampati. So this suggests that he was still a puthujjana, not on
>the ariyan path. Although, as the sutta mentions, these five faculties have
>the 'Deathless' as their goal, it seems that Sahaka did not fully cultivate
>them - he only 'eliminated desire for sensual pleasures' and so was 'born in
>a good destination, the brahma world'.

I would see this discourse as in line with a series of other texts in 
S V, referring to the deathless in this way. So I consider it likely 
that it is part of an extended treatment of the seven sets known 
later as the bodhipakkhiya dhammas.

It will still come down to chronology. The Buddhist discourses 
contain a multi-levelled model of the Brahma world. That culminates 
in a highest level which can only be reached by developing the stage 
of never-return. (The lowest level requires at least jhaana; merit 
alone is insufficient.) Once that cosmic model was accepted, it is 
not surprising that in Buddhist sources (Theravaadin at least) the 
deity who requested the Buddha to preach was understood to be the 
chief deity of the Eldest Gods (Akani.t.tha) i.e. the highest and 
greatest of all beings who have a physical form. To some extent, he 
could be viewed as far closer to the Brahma of later Hinduism than 
the relatively minor ruler of the lowest Brahma heaven.

To disprove that interpretation one would have to show that:

1. This idea develops after the time of the Buddha and was not either 
inherited by him or introduced by him;
2. The story of Brahma Sahampati's Request belongs to an earlier 
stratum of Buddhist texts than the concept of the Pure Abodes.

This is not impossible and has been argued by various scholars. 
However, nothing  seems more than speculation.

Conversely, in order to prove that this traditional understanding is 
correct, we would need either to establish the antiquity of this 
cosmic model or to show the lateness of the Request story. And there 
does not seem to be sufficient independent evidence  as yet to do 
either of these.


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