[Buddha-l] Brahma Sahampati

L.S. Cousins selwyn at ntlworld.com
Fri May 27 11:13:20 MDT 2005


>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).

There are certainly Pali suttas which seem to refer to views 
expressed in brahmanical literature. There is also clearly a humorous 
element in some contexts.

But would anyone at the time have thought of Brahma as a god 
belonging to brahmins ?

>Their is also the question who Brahma Sahampati is?

This is a problem because the name is strange. Late sources speak of 
a Sahaa universe. If that idea were old, then Brahma Sahampati would 
be Brahma lord of the Sahaa universe. But there is no evidence that 
such a notion is old and it seems more likely that the idea of a 
Sahaa universe is extracted from references to Brahma Sahampati. Some 
Sanskrit sources refer to Brahmaa Sabhaapati i.e. Brahma lord of the 
assemblies. This looks like  a learned construction from Middle 
Indian. More usual in Sanskrit is Sahaapati.

The only thing we can say is that the name is unusual. If the usual 
Mahaabrahma was intended in the passages referring to the Request, we 
would have expected to find Mahaabrahma.


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