[Buddha-l] angels

r.g.morrison sgrmti at hotmail.com
Thu May 26 05:27:00 MDT 2005


: Robert,
: 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.

I would agree.

: >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 
: >Brahma Sahampati. So this suggests that he was still a puthujjana, not on
: >the ariyan path. Although, as the sutta mentions, these five faculties 
: >the 'Deathless' as their goal, it seems that Sahaka did not fully 
: >them - he only 'eliminated desire for sensual pleasures' and so was 'born 
: >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.

Most probable.

: 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.

I would also agree with this. So one question is what view of the Brahma 
world existed at the time of this Brahma Sahampati sutta as we now have it? 
I'm not a Pali scholar, but I've read enough to know that this is probably 
an impossible task.

: 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;
: and
: 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.

True, but some speculations 'appeal' more than others. My 'appeal' is that 
there are quite a few instances of the Buddhists satirizing brahmas.  As 
Gombrich has mentioned, the commentators seem to miss this, presumably 
because they have no knowledge the creation myths of the upanisads, etc. So 
I am tempted to read this episode as another piece of satire. After all, if 
one wanted to satirize the brahmins, who else would one get to plead with 
the Buddha to teach and bring the light of wisdom into the world other than 
the (presumably) top brahminical god at that time (or at least one of them). 
Their is also the question who Brahma Sahampati is?

: 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.

Yes, proof is out of the question, at least for the time being.


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