AAR day 3

Now heading into Texas. Still catching up on blogging the first few days. They were pretty crammed, so its taken a while to get the headspace to write. But I’ll just finish off with some remarks on the final day of the AAR. We only went to one panel, as we had to leave and pick up our RV, and get to Alabama in time. Which didn’t quite work out like that, but still.

The panel was mainly on early Buddhism – yay! But alas, I have to admit I felt the presentations were all pretty thin.

Nathan McGovern spoke on the concept of “brahman”. He argued that the well-known strategy of contrasting the decadent brahmans of the Buddha’s day with the idealized “true brahman” is a later development. In the earlier texts “brahman” is used as a straightforward term of spiritual attainment, with no ironic sense. There might be something to this argument, but it largely rests on the “gatha theory” of early Buddhist texts (i.e. That the Atthakavagga, Parayanavagga, and Khaggavisana suttas represent a strand of Buddhism that is doctrinally distinct and prior to the main prose nikayas). I think this theory is wrong, so the argument didn’t have any force for me.

Clair Maes discussed the appearance of the Jaina technical term ekindriyam jivam in the Vinaya, in reference to prohibitions on damaging plant life. I found most interesting in her paper was that term sarambha, found in the sanghadisesa rules for kuti building, is a Vedic term for the “damage” or “harm” done to the sacrificial animal.

Finally, Oliver Freiberger discussed the narrative of the Buddha’s enlightenment and subsequent teaching. He raised the question of the establishment of the Sangha, and noted that, while when the Buddha was enlightened and when the Dhamma was taught, there was a world-shaking uproar, when the Sangha is established with Kondanna’s ordination, there is nothing. The text says he became an arahant, but there is no mention that the Sangha came into being. Freiberger raised this as a point of interest, asking whether others found it as curious as he did.

That’s about it, and considering that it was just about the total content of early Buddhist teachings that were discussed at such a huge conference, I was disappointed. It was better than last year’s AABS conference, which featured precisely nothing on early Buddhism (apart from yours truly). But surely there are more interesting things to say, and more important work that needs to be done, on early Buddhism!

5 thoughts on “AAR day 3

  1. Ajahn Sujato wrote: “Finally, Oliver Freiberger discussed the narrative of the Buddha’s enlightenment and subsequent teaching. He raised the question of the establishment of the Sangha, and noted that, while when the Buddha was enlightened and when the Dhamma was taught, there was a world-shaking uproar, when the Sangha is established with Kondanna’s ordination, there is nothing. The text says he became an arahant, but there is no mention that the Sangha came into being. Freiberger raised this as a point of interest, asking whether others found it as curious as he did.”

    From what I read in the suttas,at the time when the earth shook, two events occurred. One is the preaching of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the other is the arising of the spotless Dhamma Eye in Kondanna ( the birth of the first Stream Enterer ). I would say that Kondanna is the Sangha Jewel, because he is the first Stream Enterer. The Buddha gives further definition and confirmation of the sangha jewel in the Ratana sutta.

    According to the Dhammacakkappavattana sutta:

    Now during this utterance , there arose in the Venerable Kondañña the spotless, immaculate Dhamma Eye: “Whatever is subject to arising is all subject to cessation.”

    When the Wheel of Truth had thus been set rolling by the Blessed One the earth gods raised the cry: “At Benares, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the matchless Wheel of truth has been set rolling by the Blessed One, not to be stopped by monk or divine or god or death-angel or high divinity or anyone in the world.” On hearing the earth-gods’ cry, all the gods in turn in the six paradises of the sensual sphere took up the cry till it reached beyond the Retinue of High Divinity in the sphere of pure form. And so indeed in that hour, at that moment, the cry soared up to the World of High Divinity, and this ten-thousandfold world-element shook and rocked and quaked, and a great measureless radiance surpassing the very nature of the gods was displayed in the world.

    Then the Blessed One uttered the exclamation: “Kondañña knows! Kondañña knows!,” and that is how that venerable one acquired the name, Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows. ( Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta )

    In the Ratana Sutta, the Buddha confirmed/ extolled Sangha Jewel:

    “Whatever beings (non-humans) are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, may they all have peace of mind, and may they listen attentively to these words:

    BUDDHA:
    “Whatever treasure there be either here or in the world beyond, whatever precious jewel there be in the heavenly worlds, there is nought comparable to the Tathagata (the perfect One). This precious jewel is the BUDDHA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

    DHAMMA:
    “That Cessation, that Detachment, that Deathlessness (Nibbana) supreme, the calm and collected Sakyan Sage (the Buddha) had realized. There is nought comparable to this (Nibbana) Dhamma. This precious jewel is the DHAMMA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “The Supreme Buddha extolled a path of purity (the Noble Eightfold Path) calling it the path which unfailingly brings concentration. There is nought comparable to this concentration. This precious jewel is the DHAMMA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

    SANGHA :
    “The eight persons extolled by virtuous men constitute four pairs. They are the disciples of the Buddha and are worthy of offerings. Gifts given to them yield rich results. This precious jewel is the SANGHA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “The eight persons extolled by virtuous men constitute four pairs. They are the disciples of the Buddha and are worthy of offerings. Gifts given to them yield rich results. This precious jewel is the SANGHA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “With a steadfast mind, and applying themselves well in the dispensation of the Buddha Gotama, free from (defilements), they have attained to that which should be attained (arahantship) encountering the Deathless. They enjoy the Peace of Nibbana freely obtained. This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “As a post deep-planted in the earth stands unshaken by the winds from the four quarters, so, too, I declare is the righteous man who comprehends with wisdom the Noble Truths. This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “Those who realized the Noble Truths well taught by him who is profound in wisdom (the Buddha), even though they may be exceedingly heedless, they WILL NOT TAKE AN EIGHTH EXISTENCE (in the realm of sense spheres).This precious jewel is the SANGHA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “With his gaining of insight he abandons three states of mind, namely self-illusion, doubt, and indulgence in meaningless rites and rituals, should there be any. He is also fully freed from the four states of woe, and therefore, incapable of committing the six major wrongdoings. This precious jewel is the SANGHA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.
    “Any evil action he may still do by deed, word or thought, he is incapable of concealing it; since it has been proclaimed that such concealing is impossible for one who has seen the Path (of Nibbana). This precious jewel is the SANGHA. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

    BUDDHA, DHAMMA, SANGHA:
    “Whatever beings (non-human) are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute the BUDDHA, the Tathagata (the perfect One), honored by gods and men. May there be happiness.
    “Whatever beings are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute the perfect DHAMMA, honored by gods and men. May there be happiness.
    “Whatever beings are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute the perfect SANGHA, honored by gods and men. May there be happiness.”

  2. Hi iMeditation,

    Thanks for the input and the quotes.

    Just to clarify, the argument was not that the Suttas in general do not acknowledge the Sangha, but merely that the establishment of the Sangha is not explicitly mentioned or celebrated in the narrative following the Buddha’s enlightenment. Of course it is very prominent by implication, but the question is, why didn’t the devas cry out to the heavens, “Now the Sangha, the incomparable field of merit for the world, is established in the world!” Or something similar.

    Anyway, I don’t want to make much of this, as it is a very slight argument, I was just saying what was presented at the AAR.

    • Dear Bhante Sujato,
      I am aware that this was just something casually mentioned at the AAR instead of you. I was only discussing it casually , since you brought it up. It’s not a big deal.

      I was just sharing that I wouldn’t look to the trembling of the earth as any seal of approval for the establishment of something. I would say that we should look to the Buddha for that rather than the earth’s trembling. The earth trembled at insignificant events as well. In a way, it is a little bit random. For example, when Bhadda and Kassapa decided to travel separately the earth trembled. If we depend on the trembling of the earth to decide if something was important or not important, then does this means that the event relating to Bhadda and Kassapa is more important than the establishment of the sangha ? The Bhadda – Kassapa event was rather insignificant, why did the earth tremble. I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on the trembling of the earth.

      The first five disciples were the ones that abandoned the Buddha when he stopped the wrong and dangerous practices that was popular during that period. When he came they didn’t even want to receive him originally. The sutta for Turning the Wheel of Dhamma haven’t been taught. Faith in the Buddha was not even present in the 5 disciples, the Dhamma eye haven’t opened in them. It doesn’t seems like anything significant has happened. I wouldn’t be too quick to celebrate if I was the earth. I would just watch to see what happen.

      In the Pasadika Sutta, the Buddha told his disciples to come together and recite the dhamma he made known to them:
       
      “Therefore, Cunda, all you to whom I have made known the truths that I have realized by super-knowledge , should come together and recite those doctrines and quarrel not over them, but compare meaning with meaning, and phrase with phrase, in order that this holy life may last long and be perpetuated for the profit and happiness of the many out of compassion for the world and for the benefit, profit and happiness of devas and human!”

      In the Sangiti Sutta, following the Buddha’s advice , Sariputta proclaimed the way of chanting together for the monks after the lay disciples left. He outlined the principles of the Teachings in ten numerical groups as a way of memorizing the teachings. The Buddha gave his approval at the end.

      The lay people were not instructed to recite the teaching for the sake of preserving the dhamma, it was instructed to the bhikkhus after the lay people have left. If the monastic sangha was not established, who would recite the teachings on a daily basis, committing them to memory, put the teaching to practice as taught by the Buddha. Would we even have a Pali Canon that we can refer to and find Awakening today. I believe the Buddha entrusted the monastic sangha that he established to preserve the dhamma for later generation. Many monastic sangha members have done a great job at translating the texts for the general population and teaching the dhamma. Without their work , it wouldn’t have been possible. Besides, the monastic lifestyle can be extremely conducive to the practice if properly made use of. The monastic sangha has an important role to play in the Buddha’s Dhamma.

      This is just a side topic , I wouldn’t want to spend too much time on it either . Best wishes on your journey.🙂

  3. Hi again i meditation,

    You said you wouldn’t be too quick to celebrate if you were the earth, but would watch and wait. Well, I think you’d make a good and wise earth, one I’d be proud to walk on!

  4. Dear Bhante and iMeditation

    Methinks Freiberger was looking for the wrong Sangha to warrant the Dolby and special EFX. The Ariyan Sangha was definitely around, and despite what the Commentaries would say about the possibilities of the various Fruits post a Buddha’s parinibbana, the suttas do not seem to preclude a complete “8 types” Ariyan Sangha during an inter-Buddha period.

    Eg Gathikara was supposed to be fully enlightened and we have those other Anagamins who are enlightened “in the interval” or “on landing” to puff up the ranks of the Arahants even in those purportedly long periods empty of Buddhas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s