[Buddha-l] Ariyapariyesana

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 8 17:28:25 MST 2011


Staying with the Ariyapariyesana, on the question of the relation between 
Asvaghosa's Buddhacarita and Ariyapariyesana, Analayo points out that the 
Majjhima version has the bodhisattva first learn the "theory", and 
subsequently put that into practice what he learns from Alara Kalama. 
Polling the parallel versions of the story in Sanskrit fragments and the 
Madhyamaka Agama preserved in Chinese, he notes:

According to all three accounts, the bodhisattva soon was able to attain the 
sphere of nothingness, for which sake, according to the Madhyama-agama 
account and the Sanskrit fragments, he had diligently practised in solitude 
and seclusion. When the bodhisattva informed Alara Kalama of the realization 
he had attained, Alara Kalama invited the bodhisattva to become the 
co-leader of their group. Since the attainment of the sphere of nothingness 
was not the final goal he was searching for, according to all versions the 
bodhisattva decided to leave Alara Kalama.

The Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, the Lalitavistara, the Mahavastu, and the 
Sanghabhedavastu also do not report that the bodhisattva learned theoretical 
aspects of Alara Kalama’s teaching, thereby agreeing with the 
Madhyama-agama account and the Sanskrit fragments paralleling the 
Mahasaccaka-sutta. An exception to this is the Buddhacarita, which reports 
the theory imparted by him in detail.

Surprise -- Buddhacarita is more in line with the Ariyapariyesana than other 
accounts of the story, including those supposedly parallel to MN.

The template which takes us almost to the Brahmin's door occurs in an 
Anguttara N. sutta. See the second footnote below:

(pp. 170-71)
The Ariyapariyesana-sutta begins by relating that a group of monks had 
approached Ananda and expressed their wish to hear a discourse from the 
Buddha. In reply, Ananda told them to go to Rammaka’s hermitage. The 
Ariyapariyesana-sutta continues by reporting that the Buddha went with 
Ananda to the Hall of Migara’s Mother for the day’s abiding. The 
Madhyama-agama version sets in only at this point of events, once the Buddha 
and Ananda are already in the Hall of Migara’s Mother.(*1)

The Ariyapariyesana-sutta and its Madhyama-agama parallel report that the 
Buddha spent the day’s abiding in the Hall of Migara’s Mother and then 
went with Ananda to take a bath, at the completion of which Ananda invited 
the Buddha to come to Rammaka’s hermitage.(*2)

[his footnotes]
(*1) MA 204 at T I 775c13 does report that Ananda invited the other monks to 
Rammaka’s hermitage, without, however, giving any reason for this 

(*2) These events are also recorded in SHT V 1332a and SHT VI 1493. The same 
introductory narration – covering the Buddha’s stay at Jeta’s Grove, his 
begging alms in Savatthi, his going with Ananda to the Hall of Migara’s 
Mother for the day’s abiding, and his approaching the Eastern Bathing Place 
to take a
bath in the evening – recurs as the introduction to another discourse, AN 
6:43 at AN III 344,18. The remainder of this discourse proceeds differently, 
as it records how the Buddha explained to Udayi what constitutes a real 

Analayo devotes nearly 20 pages to this sutta, which I will not reproduce 
further here.

Moving on to the Mahāgosiṅga sutta (MN 32), in which the term "abhidhamma" 
occurs, let's quickly examine what the "anachronism" suggests:

We find these passages in the sutta:

"Idhāvuso sāriputta dve bhikkhū abhidhammakathaṃ kathenti.Tasmā āraññakena 
bhikkhunā abhidhamme abhivinaye yogo karaṇīyo..."

29. Evaṃ vutte bhante āyasmā mahāmoggallāno maṃ etadavoca: "idhāvuso 
sāriputta dve bhikkhū abhidhammakathaṃ kathenti, te aññamaññaṃ pañhaṃ 
pucchanti, aññamaññassa pañhaṃ puṭṭhā vissajjenti no ca saṃsādenti,1 dhammī 
ca nesaṃ kathā pavattanī hoti. Evarūpena kho āvuso sāriputta bhikkhunā 
gosiṅgasālavanaṃ sobheyyā"t

The sutta recounts several monks -- Sariputta with Mahamoggallana, 
Mahakassapa, Anuruddha, Revata, and Ananda -- having a discussion. Each is 
characterized by what he exemplifies, i.e., what he is exemplary quality. 
Anuruddha's is divine eye, Mahakassapa exemplifies good behavior, etc. 
Mahamoggallana, who is more typically characterized in the Nikayas as 
excelling in the so-called superpowers, is in this sutta characterized as 
excelling in "Abhidhamma talk" (the Pali passage given above). Analayo notes 
(p. 210), ""This discourse has three Chinese parallels,two of which are 
found in the Madhyama-agama and in the Ekottarika-agama, while the third 
parallel is an individual translation." Comparing, he finds that the 
Madhyama Agama, like the Majjhima Nikaya version, characterizes Moggallana 
as exemplary in "Abhidharma talk," whereas the Ekottara Agama and the 
"individual translation" assign him "supernormal powers" instead. How would 
anyone pretend to date any of these earlier or later on that basis? Two 
versions of the story, one giving Moggallana his usual standout quality, the 
other giving him one that is "anachronistic" for Nikaya literature, which is 
presumed to predate abhidharma texts.

Another MN sutta in which the word "abhidhamma" occurs is Gulissāni suttaṃ 
(MN 69):

Āraññakena'hāvuso bhikkhunā abhidhamme abhivinaye yogo karaṇīyo. Santāvuso 
āraññakaṃ bhikkhuṃ abhidhamme abhivinaye pañhaṃ pucchitāro. Sace āvuso 
āraññako bhikkhu abhidhamme abhivinaye pañhaṃ puṭṭho na sampāyati, tassa 
bhavanti vattāro: kimpanimassāyasmato āraññakassa ekassāraññe serivihārena, 
yo ayamāyasmā abhidhamme abhivinaye pañhaṃ puṭṭho na sampāyatī'tissa 
bhavanti vattāro...

Here is how Nanamoli & Bh. Bodhi translate this, p. 575:

"A forest-dwelling bhikkhu should apply himself to the higher Dhamma and the 
Higher Discipline. If he does not apply himself to the higher Dhamma and the 
higher Discipline, there will be those who would say of him: 'What has this 
venerable forest-dweller gained by his dwelling alone in the forest, doing 
as he likes, since he does not apply himself to the higher Dhamma and higher 

In a note to the passage, they cite the commentaries which take this as 
referring to studying the abhidhamma literature, and acknowledge this is 
"anachronistic" [their term]. They then point us to another note [#362] that 
states: "Though the word cannot refer here to the Pitaka of that name - 
obviously the product of phase of Buddhist thought later than the Nikayas - 
it may well indicate a systematic and analytical approach to the 
doctrine..." and then refer the reader to Watanabe's well-known study on 
Philosophy in the Nikayas and Abhidhamma. This historical observation, 
however, reflects modern, not premodern sensibilities, for whom the 
composition of the abhidhamma canon was contemporary with the formation of 
the other two pitakas, and according to some, was taught by the Buddha 


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