Is this Sutta true?

Here’s one of the most notorious Suttas from the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN 5.230).

Monks, there are these five dangers of a black snake. What five? It is aggressive, bears grudges, has terrible poison, is fork-tongued, and betrays friends.

Just so, monks, there are five dangers of a woman. What five? She is aggressive, bears grudges, has terrible poison, is fork-tongued, and betrays friends. Herein, monks, a woman’s terrible poison is this – generally, a woman has keen lust. A woman’s forked tongue is this – generally, a woman uses back-biting speech. A woman’s betrayal of friends is this – generally, a woman commits adultery.

And no, I don’t think this was really spoken by the Buddha. Deal with it.

What I’m interested in is to subject this text to the same elementary standard that the Buddha himself insisted on, and that we would apply to any other truth claims: does it stack up against the evidence? I assume it doesn’t, but I’d like to see the proof. Does anyone know of any objective, empirically based psychological studies that statistically examine possible gender differences between men and women in these traits?

Obviously, such psychological traits are heavily conditioned by culture, and it is impossible for us to do empirical research in the context the Sutta was formed. But by examining – and hopefully critiquing – these claims in contemporary cultures, we can at least challenge their universality.

Here’s a few studies to get us started.

In the case of aggression, gender differences are well known, although these refer more to aggressive behavior than aggressive psychological tendencies, which is what the word kodha in the above Sutta means.

In adultery, studies consistently show a greater incidence among men than women.

As far as bearing grudges goes, I haven’t found any studies, but in this discussion thread men and women share their experiences, and it seems pretty much balanced: both men and women sometimes have problems bearing grudges, sometimes not.

As for sexual desire, this study claims that: “All the evidence we have reviewed points toward the conclusion that men desire sex more than women… We did not find a single study, on any of nearly a dozen different measures, that found women had a stronger sex drive than men.”

Regarding backbiting, or negative gossip generally, this article (while the overall tenor is to criticize gender-based conclusions) cites an article with at least some gender-based differences – women tend to gossip more, although there is little difference in the ethical quality of the gossip; while this article suggests that men and women gossip around the same amount.

Over to you. Remember the rules of the game: referenced, empirical studies please, not anecdotes or opinions. (They are welcome in other posts, though!)

130 thoughts on “Is this Sutta true?

  1. Hello,

    I’m curious: can you confirm the sutta’s name and place in the Nikayas? I lookd it up in Access to Insight and AN2.30 points to an entirely different sutta, so I am a bit confused.

    Also, as much as I agree with you personally, I wonder, is it possible that despite our own personal feelings on the subject that he really did say this, or at least that it’s no less authoritative than any other sutta in the Canon.

    I am just concerned if we as 21st century Buddhists start cherry-picking the suttas we agree with, and discard the ones we don’t, without seeing the larger picture somehow. Yes, I find the contents personally objectionable, but just asking the difficult question. 🙂

    • Hi Doug,

      Thanks for the heads up – my mistake, I’ve corrected the reference now.

      The point of the post was precisely not to rely on personal feelings or cherry-picking, but to actually seek out evidence whether the text is in fact true or not. In text studies, people are often skeptical of the findings of research, as we tend to be in any field where we don’t know how its done. But it is, in fact, those who uncritically accept any truth claims who are relying solely on their ‘personal feelings’, whereas text-critical scholars do everything they can to put their feelings aside, test the evidence and see what happens.

      At the end of the day, of course, the spiritual journey is a personal one, and we must know for ourselves what the truth is that we want to follow. Text criticism is simply one way of better informing our choices.

  2. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    I’ve found a very detailed text on Ajahn Maha Chatchai’s Metta Meditation. Do you know if there are other written instructions on his approach to Metta? Many thanks also for your talks on this subject.

    Stefan

    Here is the link from google, “Metta all in one”:

    • Hi Stefan

      Thanks for pointing these out. These notes are lifted from private letters, and have been published without the knowledge or consent of Ajahn Chatchai, the author, or myself. The basic content is accurate enough, but in their current form they are not suitable for publication, which is why I have not published them. Someone has put them on google docs. I would appreciate it if they were removed.

      I’ve had an intention to do something with these notes for many years, but it remains on the to-do list. As of now there’s nothing substantial in writing. I’d appreciate it if these notes were left alone until such time as myself and Ajahn Chatchai agree to their publishing. So I’ve removed the link from your previous post. Sorry about that!

    • Dear Ven Sujato,

      I think I have that document in my possession as well. Would you like me to throw it away or can I keep it? And are there any other recourses you would recommend for learning this method available today (audio files etc.)? Or should we who are curious of these teachings just be patient?

      Best regards,
      Mikael

    • Hi Michael,

      I’ve taught this method many times on retreats, and I’d recommend using those as the best guide. You should be able to find recordings in various places; try starting with dhammanet.net.

      The basic method is the same, but I present it in quite a different way these days. What’s found in the letters is accurate enough as far as the letter of the thing goes, but they give a very different, much more technical and method-based approach than what you’ll hear from Ajahn Chatchai himself. Like all great meditation teachers, he has his method, but he wears it lightly. But because of the process by which the letters were compiled, the natural and relaxed sense of Ajahn’s presence has been lost. This is the main reason I’m not thrilled about them being made public.

    • Thanks for the reply venerable! But do you think it is ok if I keep the document for private use only? (And maybe show to some close friends also?)

      Best regards and gratitude,

      Mikael

  3. There’s no question that the suttas were messed around with for political reasons. Reggie Ray’s “Buddhist Saints in India,” to take just one example, shows the tensions that existed between the meditating and non-meditating (sutta-memorizing) wings of the monastic sangha. I think you’re right to suggest that this sutta is likely not the words of the Buddha. One of the tensions in the monastic sangha (that exists to this day) was between the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, with the bhikkhus evidently seeing the nuns as competition for patronage. It’s not unthinkable that this sutta is part of that tension.

  4. Dear Bhante,

    Being of a more literary than statistical turn of mind, it occurred to me to examine the implications of the metaphor more closely (although in the scientific spirit you have requested). I have consequently done some research into black snakes in the Australian and Pacific region, and considered what this information, fed into the metaphor of the sutta, implies about women here. (Of course I realise that the metaphor was created in the Indian context, but it is important to adapt the teachings to our own context, I’m sure you’d agree.)

    The first thing to note: there are many species of black snakes in this region, with differing characteristics.

    The Papuan black snake is found in south-western Papua New Guinea. Its numbers are thought to be in decline, possibly as a result of the introduction of the cane toad (Bufo marinus) into its habitat… The papuan black snake is said to be of a nervous disposition, avoiding human contact, but will strike aggressively if cornered.

    This would suggest that some women are particularly vulnerable to the introduction of toad-like people into their environment, and their aggression is linked to nervousness (possibly also caused by the aforementioned toads).

    The red-bellied black snake prefers swampy, moist areas around creeks, rivers and lakes. They prey on rats, mice, frogs, lizards and birds, as well as fish and eels, as they are good swimmers… Red-bellied black snakes are mostly active during the day, and are not particularly aggressive. When threatened, they will flatten their bodies and hiss loudly, but will usually attempt to escape if possible.

    Not all women are particularly aggressive, and some will actively seek to avoid confrontation (by swimming quickly and skilfully away).

    The blue-bellied, or spotted, black snake is found in the drier inland areas of south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The body is a dark glossy black, with or without cream spots… The snake is shy and avoids contact with humans but when threatened will flatten its body and emit a loud whistling hiss.

    Some women are shy, tend to avoid people, and are good at whistling (among other things).

    The Mulga snake has the largest recorded venom output of any snake… It is frequently active at night, especially in hot weather… They may become aggressive and strike repeatedly if threatened.

    Some women are very productive and like to go out at night. It’s foolish to threaten them.

    Collett’s snake is found in the wild only in central Queensland where it lives in dry inland areas…. It is beautifully marked with scales of varying colours from orange to dark brown, producing a speckled effect. Eggs are laid usually in twelves.

    Some women are wild, rare, beautiful and extremely fertile.

    And finally, there is the yellow-bellied black snake. In spite of its name, this is not a true black snake, but belongs to another genus, the taipan.

    The inland taipan, or fierce snake, produces the most toxic venom of any snake world-wide. Although its supposed range is limited to a small area of western Queensland… the true current range is unknown. Little is known about this snake in the wild. It feeds on rats, and may live in their burrows. Despite the name, it is not known to be more aggressive than any other snake.

    The mysterious women who are said to be the most toxic and aggressive are not actually women.

    All the above information about snakes is extracted from the website of the Australian venom research unit: http://www.avru.org/general/general_blacks.html

  5. I think this sutta should be compared to AN 7.48 (PTS A iv 57) Sannoga Sutta; there, it seems the jist is the practice. Note how one sees the seven traits of relations with the opposite sex IN ONESELF AS WELL. Other suttas that seem to demean women should not be tilted at until seen in the light of: does it HELP the monk to think that way.

    • Hi Doug, thanks. Fair enough point, but i’m not ’tilting at’ the sutta, I’m asking for evidence whether it is true or not. And so far, not much response in that regard…

    • Sutta is definitely not true, at least in the way that we should mean here, i.e., true in reference to Right Views, etc. I think the ‘men are from mars, women are from venus’ ideas ARE true and science-oriented. Yes, we are different (vive la difference) and to note this is simply to say that sometimes venerables should be separated (gender-wise) and should BE AWARE of genetic, hormone-based differences, and how these (latent tendencies?) can “rear their heads like snakes.” Obviosly I’m trying to look on the bright side, and not get wrapped-up in what I agree is a sad remnant of sexism in (some) of the Cannon. Cheers

    • Hey, Doug.

      It’s one thing to talk about women as being “things” we can, as men, become obsessed with, which is what the Sannoga Sutta does, but this sutta denigrates women en masse. I find it hard to imagine the Buddha encouraging enmity as a “skillful means.” I find it hard to see how it would “help” monks to portray all women as aggressive, back-biting, lustful, etc. It certainly wouldn’t have helped me at any point in my life.

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

    • In the Bharadvaja Sutta King Udena asked Ven. Pindola how young bhikkhus who have not dallied with sensual pleasures lead the celibate life ? Ven. Pindola told him about the teachings (from the Buddha) that helped him. There is no mention seeing women as snakes, but rather as a sister, mother, daughters, along with other techniques:

      The King asked Venerable Pindola: ” Master Bharadvaja, what is the cause and reason why these young bhikkhus, lads with black hair, endowed with the blessings of youth, in the prime of life, who have not dallied with sensual pleasures, lead the complete and pure holy life all their lives and maintain it continuously?”

      Pindola said the Buddha taught them that :
      ” Come, bhikkhus, towards women old enough to be your mother set up the idea that they are your mother ; towards those of an age to be your sisters set up the idea that they are your sisters; towards those young enough to be your daughters set up the idea that they are your daughters………”

      King Udena said, ” The mind is wanton, Master Bharadvaja. Sometimes states of lust arise even towards women old enough to be one’s mother… old enough to be one’s sister….daughter. Is there any other cause and reason …….? ”

      Pindola: “It has been said, sire, by the Blessed One…: ‘Come, monks, contemplate this body, upwards from the soles of the feet, downwards from the top of the head, bounded by the skin, full of manifold impurities. There are in this body: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, bowels, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, tallow, saliva, synovic fluid, urine.”

      king Udena: “That is easy , Master Bharadvaja, for those monks who are trained in the body, morals, mind and wisdom. But for those bhikkhus who are undeveloped it is difficult. Sometimes when a man thinks, ‘I will regard this as repulsive,’ he comes to think of it as attractive. Is there any other cause?”

      Pindola : “It has been said, sire, by the Exalted One…: ‘Come, bhikkhus, guard the doors of your sense-faculties. Seeing an object with the eye, do not seize hold of either its general appearance or its details. Because anyone dwelling with the eye-faculty unguarded could be overwhelmed by unwholesome states of covetousness and displeasure. Therefore practice to guard the eye-faculty, guard it and gain mastery over it. [Similarly with ear, nose, tongue, body (touch), mind.] ”

      king Udena : “Wonderful, Master Bharadvaja! It is marvelous how well spoken are the words of the Blessed One who knows and sees, the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One. So this is the cause and reason why these young bhikkhus, lads with black hair, endowed with the blessings of youth, in the prime of life, who have not dallied with sensual pleasures, lead the complete and pure holy life all their lives and maintain it continuously. I myself, whenever I enter the harem of my palace with body, speech and mind unguarded, with mindfulness unestablished, with sense-faculties uncontrolled, am at such times overcome with lustful thoughts. But when I do so with body, speech and mind guarded, with mindfulness established, with faculties controlled, then lustful thoughts do not assail me in such a way .” -Bharadvaja Sutta

    • Bhante Sujato, I am not sure what stats. do you have in mind. The. Bharadvaja sutta was only a reply to Bodhipaksa’s comment ” I find it hard to imagine the Buddha encouraging enmity as a “skillful means.” ( for overcoming desire towards women)

      The Bharadvaja Sutta showed that the Buddha did indeed taught various skillful techniques to the bhikkhus. Rather than teaching them to fear or develop an aversion towards women, we see that he taught them to see women as close relatives whom they should have a neutral and compassionate attitude towards . There are also various techniques to master the senses.

      On the other hand, AN 5.230 is unlikely to be from the Buddha, because not only does it contradicts the more intelligible Bharadvaja sutta , it also appears to contradicts a very crucial teaching of the Buddha. As we know, although he taught that desire is a hindrance to samadhi he also taught that aversion is another big hindrance. The sutta that compared women with snakes seems to create fear or aversion towards women. Although aversion is the opposite of desire for women, but it was never encouraged by the Buddha. He often taught against aversion because it is the second of the five hindrances . Accordingly, there is reason to believe that AN 5.230 contradicts the common teachings of the Buddha in various major sutras.

    • Hi iMeditation,

      Very true, and a good point: the black snake imagery is clearly intended to be aversive, and aversion is the partner of lust, not it’s opposite. The snake imagery is evoking violence, fear, and poison, not letting go. To encourage monastics to let go, we elsewhere find quite different imagery: the lotus, which water does not cling to; going into the village is like the moon that sheds its splendor without being caught; or the wild deer that shuns society.

      But to repeat once more, I am looking for objective, empirical studies on psychology and/or behavior of men and women that tests whether the claims made in the sutta – that women are usually adulterous and the like – are actually true. So far, apart from the few studies I quoted in the post, nothing.

    • Dear Ajahn Sujato,

      Ajahn Sujato wrote: ” I am looking for objective, empirical studies on psychology and/or behavior of men and women that tests whether the claims made in the sutta – that women are usually adulterous and the like – are actually true. So far, apart from the few studies I quoted in the post, nothing.”

      Like Peter said the snake simile “is so blatantly out to lunch “,lol, I am not really into spending more time dwelling on it. Sorry, I can’t help you on this. Maybe someone might find something. I prefer to focus on the useful teachings found in the Bharadvaja Sutta where the Buddha gave some really skillful advice :

      ” Come, bhikkhus, towards women old enough to be your mother set up the idea that they are your mother ; towards those of an age to be your sisters set up the idea that they are your sisters; towards those young enough to be your daughters set up the idea that they are your daughters………”

      Personally, I would say that attraction is one extreme, and repulsion is the other extreme. Neither one is skillful when it comes to this path of practice for the bhikkhus. The above advice seems more in harmony with the middle path and the rest of the suttas/ teachings of the Buddha in general. For example, it is in harmony with the teachings on metta, equanimity, etc..

    • In MN 14 the Buddha suggests “rapture and pleasure apart from sensuality” as a replacement for sensual pleasure or desire rather than using aversion as a replacement.

      When “he has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be tempted by sensuality.”-MN 14

      This is definitely a better solution than using aversion. I would say that with rapture and sukkha, unwholesome worldly desires fall away because it pales in comparison.

  6. The text is so blatantly out to lunch (in a raw context) that I really don’t think any further evidence is needed to discredit it.

    This kind of teaching does seem to arise again and again; there is the story which Ajahn Chah relates of the “Famous Master” from “Texila” http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Two_Faces_Reality1.php
    The context in this instance is given as talk given to an assembly of monks in North East Thailand, after the recitation of the monastic rule.

    • Dear Peter,

      Peter wrote: ” The text is so blatantly out to lunch ( in raw context) that I really don’t think any further evidence is needed to discredit it”

      Which text do you have in mind

      The story below was only from Ajahn Chah right ? Because I couldn’t find it in the sutras . Could you post the name of the sutras if it is from the sutras ?

      The story just shows that the desire for women is more difficult to tame than taming other dangerous creatures. Secondly, it shows that the “Famous Master” in the story doesn’t know the techniques to overcome lust or desire for women:

      ” he left with this final instruction from his teacher, ”I have taught you all that I know of spells, incantations and protective verses. Creatures with sharp teeth, antlers or horns, and even big tusks, you have no need to fear. You will be guarded from all of these, I can guarantee that. However, there is only one thing that I cannot ensure protection against, and that is the charms of a woman2. I can not help you here. There’s no spell for protection against this one, you’ll have to look after yourself”.

    • I agree. You’ve already provided some references, but it’s a bit like quoting an anti-Semitic text and then asking if there are objective studies showing that Jews are not in fact greedy, mendacious, and disease-ridden. It’s just not even necessary.

    • Not necessary for you or I, perhaps, but very necessary in a Buddhist culture that reflexively insists that all its texts are true. We’ve even had a couple of comments on this thread from people who are nervous about questioning whether some texts might be true or not. Those of us who are in the business of trying to nut out what the Buddha really said are constantly coming up against this kind of criticism, the ‘cherry-picking’ argument. While there has been some – not nearly enough – work done on textual and historical grounds, I know of little attempt to establish objectively whether the psychological claims in the Suttas are in fact true. In addition, the very fact that I can, with little efforst, find a number of studies on the issues in modern times shows that these issues are pertinent for our times as well.

      And while we’re at it, here’s a few more articles.

      http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3538/is_n4_v46/ai_n28676715/pg_11/?tag=content;col1
      http://www.science20.com/news/do_women_really_talk_more_than_men
      http://www.suite101.com/content/the-differences-between-male-and-female-bullying-a218187
      http://www.vasa.abo.fi/svf/up/articles/sexdiff_a_review.pdf
      http://www.springerlink.com/content/l052833960021636/fulltext.pdf

    • I have heard that the origination of the “Cakkavattisihanada Sutta” is also questioned (forgive me if I am wrong here as I am certainly no expert on these things). This is a sutta which, in my opinion, has a positive message for society.

      Is there an argument for dropping texts that are not helpful and picking up texts which are, without the need to connect to a historical figure?

    • Well, I guess the point is that the human mind tends to work by relying on authority. If people believe that the Buddha said something, it makes a huge difference.

      As to the Cakkavattisihanada Sutta, while it is the case that virtually all the Suttas, especially the longer ones, have some degree of editorial change, i don’t see any reason to doubt the general authenticity of the text.

  7. iMeditation the text I was refering to is the text which starts “Monks, there are these five dangers”.

    I have no idea where the story of the “Famous Master” from “Texila” originates from (perhaps Bhante Sujato may know?).

    • Peter, I would also say that between the two differing teachings about overcoming desire for the opposite sex found in the Bharadvaja sutta and AN 5.230, the Bharadvaja sutta seems more likely to be what the Buddha taught. There are countless suttas where the Buddha strongly discourages Aversion as much as Desire. This sutta where the Buddha encourages aversion ( AN 5.230) as a means for overcoming desire towards the opposite sex (regardless of male or female) seems out of place with other suttas. Aside from being the second biggest hindrance, Aversion is also considered one of the three major underlying unwholesome tendencies by the Buddha. These includes, DESIRE, AVERSION, DELUSION. Below are a few examples out of the countless suttas discouraging the nurturing/development of aversion by the Buddha.

      Attraction & repulsion:

      1. “Monks, there are these three roots of what is unskillful. Which three? DESIRE is a root of what is unskillful, AVERSION is a root of what is unskillful, DELUSION is a root of what is unskillful.”

      “Aversion itself is unskillful. Whatever an aversive person fabricates by means of body, speech, or intellect, that too is unskillful. Whatever suffering an aversive person — his mind overcome with aversion, his mind consumed — wrongly inflicts on another person through beating or imprisonment or confiscation or placing blame or banishment, [with the thought,] ‘I have power. I want power,’ that too is unskillful. Thus it is that many evil, unskillful qualities — born of aversion, caused by aversion, originated through aversion, conditioned by aversion — come into play.- Mula Sutta: Roots

      2. “Monks, these three are causes for the origination of actions. Which three? DESIRE is a cause for the origination of actions. AVERSION is a cause for the origination of actions. DELUSION is a cause for the origination of actions…”

      “Any action performed with AVERSION — born of AVERSION, caused by AVERSION, originating from AVERSION: wherever one’s selfhood turns up, there that action will ripen. Where that action ripens, there one will experience its fruit, either in this very life that has arisen or further along in the sequence…..”

      “So a monk, knowing, sheds DESIRE, AVERSION, & DELUSION; giving rise to clear knowledge,” – Nidana Sutta

      3. “There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with DESIRE, AVERSION, or DELUSION — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. -Vitakkasanthana Sutta

      4. “In the case of pleasant feelings, O monks, the underlying tendency to LUST should be given up; in the case of painful feelings, the underlying tendency to resistance (AVERSION) should be given up; in the case of neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, the underlying tendency to IGNORANCE should be given up.
      “If a monk has given up the tendency to lust in regard to pleasant feeling, the tendency to resistance in regard to painful feelings, and the tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, then he is called one who is free of (unwholesome) tendencies, one who has the right outlook..- Pahana Sutta (Giving up)

      5. ” If one has an underlying tendency ( DESIRE, AVERSION, DELUSION) towards something , then one is reckoned in terms of it. If one does not have an underlying tendency towards something, then one is not reckoned in terms of it. “- A Certain Bhikkhu

      6. “Now, on the occasion when a monk, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana — rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation — then any affection of his that is born of affection does not come about. Any aversion of his that is born of affection… any affection of his that is born of aversion… any aversion of his that is born of aversion does not come about.” – Pema Sutta: Affection

      7. ‘Friends, there are these three qualities. Which three? Passion, aversion, & delusion. These are the three qualities. Now what is the difference, what the distinction, what the distinguishing factor among these three qualities?’ — when thus asked, you should answer those wanderers of other sects in this way, ‘Friends, passion carries little blame and is slow to fade. Aversion carries great blame and is quick to fade. Delusion carries great blame and is slow to fade.

      ‘The theme of irritation,’ it should be said. ‘For one who attends inappropriately to the theme of irritation, unarisen aversion arises and arisen aversion tends to growth & abundance…’

      ‘Good will as an awareness-release,’ it should be said. ‘For one who attends appropriately to good will as an awareness-release, unarisen aversion does not arise and arisen aversion is abandoned…’ -Titthiya Sutta

  8. iMeditation With reference to the “Famous Master” from “Texila” piece the footnote reads: … woman2
    Lit. creatures with soft horns on their chest. This is what made me think of the piece.

    • Hi Peter and iMeditation,

      This story is from the Jatakas, I believe, although i can’t recall exactly. In any case it’s from a Jataka-type text, not the Suttas. “Texila” is of course Taxila (Pali: Takkasilā), the ancient center of Brahmanical studies in Gandhara.

      I remember this story being quoted in the monastery, with a good laugh at the “beast with horns on its chest”. Objectification of women is no new phenomenon, it would seem. We just take it to new heights.

      iMeditation, it’s a good point that the teacher in the story didn’t know the solution to the “problem”. Historically, this is because the Jatakas often stem from a pre-Buddhist context and record highly unenlightened behavior. They then get adopted into Buddhism, and the sometimes dubious “morals” seep back into Buddhist culture.

  9. I suppose one approach, is to put aside the comparison between men and women, and consider the possibility that the ‘Buddha’ might have given a similar teaching to the Bhikkhunis regarding men.

    Viewed in this light, and considering the ‘average’ woman (not your average Bhikkhuni candidate), the suttas probably not actually that bad.

    Here the question is, does the ‘generally’ hold? So in pali this is ‘yebhuyyena’, and would appear to mean, ‘as a rule’, it seems to be a pretty strong term.

    I guess it could mean something like ‘almost dependably’. Any given person will not commit adultery on many days of a year, but even if they commit adultery on say 4 out of 365 days – and not on 361 days – we’d still call them an adulteress.
    In fact, even one incidence of adultery in a lifetime is enough to make one an adulteress. So is this ‘generally’ referring to frequency in terms of an individuals actions, or frequency within a population? I would say it refers to the latter. So even if a woman only betrays a friend once in her lifetime, she’s still one who betrays friends.

    So the question is not to compare men or women (because the ‘Buddha’ isn’t necessarily stating that women are MORE prone to this than men – ‘he’ is merely warning the monks), but merely to look at frequency within the population.

    In brief, can you ‘generally’, rely upon a woman to cheat, back-bite, betray etc?
    I think yes, you can generally rely upon a person (male or female) to cheat or betray IF opportunity knocks – it’s just the nature of the mind to chase pleasure and opportunity. If I married a girl because she was pretty, I’d probably dump her and marry a prettier girl, if opportunity presented itself. Or if I married a girl because she needs me, I’d probably dump her to marry a girl who needs me even more, if opportunity presented itself. That’s because the male mind is wanton and not easily contented – the original logic for hooking up, still holds, and can overrule the original decision.
    But then it’s really all about that opportunity – a person may not cheat on their partner not because of morality but simply because it happens that no opportunity has presented itself strongly enough. That’s what makes this kind of study really difficult. We really want to look at underlying tendency – not incidence.

    I would say, the underlying tendency, is that people – male or female – are not dependable, except to a degree. You can depend on them as long as they don’t see a better opportunity – and that’s about as far as it goes. I may be a bit cynical and I am generalizing, there’s something to be said for stubbornness and loyalty, and yet, I think, more often, it’s just the lack of a genuinely appealing opportunity (obviously a woman might get opportunities to cheat – but she might, in all those cases, think the fella is a sleazeball, if she was dealing with a man who was a real darling and made her feel really good, maybe she’d go ahead and cheat on her slob of a husband).

    Anyway, the actual parameters for study are quite difficult to define, but those are just my thoughts.

    • Sort of how Kali tested her mistress, who was quite even tempered as long as everything was going her way?

      The Story of the Mistress Vedehika (from the Kakacupama Sutta)

      “In the past, monks, in this very Savatthi, there was a mistress, Vedehika by name. And, monks, this good reputation had spread about the mistress Vedehika: ‘The mistress Vedehika is gentle, the mistress Vedehika is meek, the mistress Vedehika is calm.’Now, monks, the mistress Vedehika had a maid-servant, Kali by name, who was able, energetic and very methodical in her work. Then, monks, it occurred to Kali, the maid-servant: ‘This good reputation has spread about my lady: “The mistress Vedehika is gentle, the mistress Vedehika is meek, the mistress Vedehika is calm.” Could it be that my lady does have anger within her which she does not show, or could it be that she does not have anger? Or is it because I am methodical in my job that my lady, though she does have anger within, does not show it, and not because she does not have anger? Why don’t I test my lady?’
      “Thus, monks, the maid-servant Kali got up late the next morning. And, monks, the mistress Vedehika said this to the maid-servant Kali: ‘Hey, you Kali!’– ‘What is it, lady?’– ‘Why did you get up so late?’– ‘Oh, that is nothing, lady.’– ‘What! That is nothing, indeed! You bad maid-servant, you got up late!’Angry and displeased, she frowned.
      “Then, monks, it occurred to Kali the maid-servant: ‘Though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it; it is not that she does not have anger. It is because I am methodical in my job that, though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it, and not because she does not have anger. Why don’t I test my lady further?’
      “Now, monks, Kali the maid-servant got up even later than before. Then, monks, the mistress Vedehika told the maid-servant Kali: ‘Hey, you Kali!’– ‘What is it, lady?’– ‘Why did you get up even later than before?’– ‘Oh, that is nothing, lady.’– ‘What! That is nothing, indeed! You bad maid-servant, you got up even later than before!’Angry and displeased, she gave vent to her displeasure.
      “Then, monks, it occurred to the maid-servant Kali: ‘Though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it; it is not that she does not have anger. It is because I am methodical in my job that, though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it, and not because she does not have anger. Why don’t I test my lady further?’
      “And, monks, the maid-servant Kali got up even later than before. Then, monks, the mistress Vedehika told the maid-servant Kali: ‘Hey, you Kali!’– ‘What is it, lady?’– ‘Why did you get up so late?’– ‘Oh, that is nothing, lady.’– ‘What! That is nothing, indeed! You bad maid-servant, you got up so late!’And angry and displeased, she hit her on the head with the door-bar. And this injured her head.
      “Now, monks, the maid-servant Kali, with her head injured and blood oozing, went about among the neighbors, shouting: ‘Look, sirs, at the deed of the gentle one! Look, sirs, at the deed of the meek one! Look, sirs, at the deed of the calm one! How can she, saying to her own maid-servant, “You got up late today,” angry and displeased, having taken a door-bar, give me a blow on the head and injure my head?’
      “And then, monks, this ill-repute spread thereafter about the mistress Vedehika: ‘The mistress Vedehika is violent, the mistress Vedehika is arrogant, the mistress Vedehika is not calm.’
      “In the same way, monks, some monk here is very gentle, very meek, and very calm, so long as disagreeable ways of speech do not assail him; but when disagreeable ways of speech do assail the monk, it is then that the monk is to be judged whether he is ‘gentle,’‘meek,’or ‘calm.’Monks, I do not call that monk ‘dutiful,’who is dutiful on account of the requisites he gets, i.e., the robe, almsfood, lodging and medicaments, whereby he falls into pseudo-dutifulness. And why? For, monks, when that monk fails to get the requisites of the robe, almsfood, lodging and medicaments, he ceases to be dutiful, and is not in keeping with the norms of dutifulness. But, monks, whichever monk out of reverence for the Teaching, out of respect for the Teaching, out of dedication to the Teaching, showing honor to the Teaching, and giving regard to the Teaching, comes to be dutiful and is in keeping with the norms of dutifulness, him do I consider as dutiful. Therefore, monks, you should consider: ‘Only out of reverence for the Teaching, out of respect for the Teaching, out of dedication to the Teaching, showing honor to the Teaching, and giving regard to the Teaching, shall we become dutiful, shall we be in keeping with the norms of dutifulness.’Thus, indeed, monks, you should train yourselves.
      – Majjhima Nikaya 21

    • I don’t recall any other instances of the Buddha teaching that people, as a whole, were untrustworthy. He did on numerous occasions point out to stay away from those who were untrustworthy and to find sounds friends. So I don’t think your suggested interpretation fits with the approach that the Buddha generally took.

      A more reasonably interpretation would seem to be that this is a later interpolation into the canon, made by those who held misogynistic views.

  10. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    I have always been interested in the technique you have called studying text critically. It is both a science and art in itself.

    Am very grateful there are teachers like youself who tries your best to do this non-judgementally, and without personal feelings. Finding out relevant, good and recognized published studies to act as measures that we modern people can use to guage the truth of these texts takes effort and requires much discriminating wisdom.

    What a blessing to live in times like this.

    • Analayo has studied this, and found that there are no parallels in any Buddhist texts to this sutta, nor to several other suttas in the Anguttara that are derogatory towards women (AN 2:6:10, AN 4:80, AN 5:300), as you can see from the tables on Suttacentral.

      However, this is a somewhat weak finding as, as you can also see from these tables, there are many correspondences missing in the Anguttara generally. The problem is that the Chinese Ekottara-agama, which is the parallel to the Pali Anguttara, is in fact a very different style of text, and is not closely related to the Pali collection. There is another collection in Chinese that is much closer to the Pali, but this only has a few suttas.

    • Oh Bhante. I can’t wait for the day, when the rest of the Mahasanghika Canon is found to supplement the Chinese Ekottara Agama.

      For now, I’ll settle for a Sarvastivadin Ekottara.

      I suspect that if these discoveries come to light, you’ll abandon this Blog for the time needed to burrow into that trove!

      So, I retract my wishes.

  11. “I prefer to focus on the useful teachings …”
    Very good point, I-meditation, Sadhu! There are many useful teachings in dealing with sexual attraction that not necessary resulted in hate and prejudices between opposite sexes. We should not get trapped in few & rare negative comments on women and try to justify it’s true teaching of the Buddha or not; it’s just waste of time & energy! Why need we pay attention to it at all/ is there some psychological conflicts in doing that?
    Our feelings, perceptions, impressions and interpretations on the object(s) are conditioned by what we’ve been focused on. When we focus on the good qualities of the object, we have good feeling about it, and there might be liking, even lusting after the object, if it is not properly checked. At this point, the recommended teaching is to contemplate on the unattractive attributions of the very same object. When we pay attention at the undesirable/miserable qualities of the object, it induces unpleasant feelings, then disliking and aversion might arise if unchecked. The medicine for this is developing metta or karuna. The power to channel effectively the negative emotions to positive & healthy one is termed Ariya-Iddhi in Pali. These teachings are scattered here and there in the Nikaya, one example is M. 50, Maratajjaniya sutta.

    • Dear Ayya Dharma: ” There are many useful teachings in dealing with sexual attraction that not necessary resulted in hate and prejudices between opposite sexes. We should not get trapped in few & rare negative comments… it’s just waste of time & energy! Why need we pay attention to it at all”

      The number of suttas in the text is vast. I usually focus on the suttas that are most useful and relevant first. If I have time, then I will get to the other suttas. If there is evidence suggesting that a particular sutta is not the words of the Buddha, I would move on. There is no need fixate on it . There are just too many good suttas waiting to waste time on one which I is clearly not the words of the Buddha. It just slows you down on your path of practice.

      Why should we be surprise that there are a small number of suttas that did not come from the Buddha. It was memorized for 500 years before being put into writing. In fact, I would be surprise if 100 percent of the suttas were exactly as it is. Perhaps around 80 percent of the suttas are authentic. But that is more than good enough. The Bhikkhus have done a great job in memorizing the Pali Canon and preserving it for us.

      ” When we focus on the good qualities of the object, we have good feeling about it, and there might be liking, even lusting after the object, if it is not properly checked. …. When we pay attention at the undesirable/miserable qualities of the object, it induces unpleasant feelings, then disliking and aversion might arise if unchecked.”

      Agree, I usually look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. Focusing on the negative side of things is not my cup of tea.

      With metta,

  12. Visakha Kawasaki :
    Sort of how Kali tested her mistress, who was quite even tempered as long as everything was going her way?
    The Story of the Mistress Vedehika (from the Kakacupama Sutta)

    Yeah, that’s the same theme. And I’ve certainly met monks who are ever so gentle and mild until the moment they get in a challenging situation, at which point, the iron fist comes out – if you say no, the threats come out.

    I suppose though I was mainly just playing devils advocate, if that was a genuine teaching from the Buddha, in what sort of larger context could it actually be dhamma?

    And the only context I can see is the idea that people are, by and large, better left well alone – much like venomous snakes. And this is especially true of the opposite sex, although any object of intense desire is better approached with caution or not at all (love turns into hate and hate is a dark, dark path…)

    Taken as it is, this teaching seems quite unskillful. At the very least it needs a reciprocal sutta. Men can be complete and utter bastards given a chance and I say probably the greatest suffering of a woman is her tendency to fall in love with men, because men do not, as a rule, treat women well. I do only speak from personal experience, but I needed some major taming from the Buddha before I could really treat women decently (IMO). The male mind just goes wild around women – demanding, possessive, violent – terrible. But as far as I can see, it’s all reciprocal.
    (The Jatakas are actually pretty balanced, in showing some truly awful behavior from male characters, far worse than what the girls get up to, but we read less into it)

    In some ways, Kali’s story is kind of “Well, what do you expect?”. That’s about exactly how I’d expect an average woman to act – if you don’t get your way, when you think you should, and you’re in a position of power, assert your dominance, scold, fly into a rage and swing blunt objects. Kali played the fool’s game of trying to test someone.

    Why do we respect dangerous wild animals? Because they aren’t really considering their actions, they’re just following their instincts, so we don’t do what would provoke an attack. Men and women are for the most part, much the same. Give them the same respect.

    So I would actually say, that ‘the Buddha’ is right, but nevertheless, the sutta as received is unskillful because it is unbalanced.

    • May I squeek in a brief post here?
      I think it is fair to assume that the Buddha would not have broken a precept in the process of teaching. These words do not stand up to the test as Right Speech and they are so unlike his teaching style generally. (trusting the Canon Masters to provide support here!)
      As for stats, there are heaps we can draw upon that national governments keep related to the MDGs and violence against women.
      Shall dig them out in a few days but I am hesitant because it does, in turn paint a rather bleak picture of men, who appear to carry a rather heavy Kamma, generally.
      _/\_

    • Wait a sec here, I just have to say that one can’t say a Group has kamma…an individual, going through the flood of time and multiple rebirths as male AND female, (sort-of accrues?) HIS OR HER OWN kamma. ‘Men’, do NOT ‘generally’ carry anything like what you are saying, and you are saying just the mirror image of what this (bad) sutta is saying, if you are indeed saying this; but I don’t think you really mean it that way, anyway.

    • Hi Doug, I might be about to open a can of worms here, but given the doctrine of no-self (anatta), how can kamma be purely individual? What can fix the boundaries around a distinct individual in this respect?

    • Yes, big can of worms. I am still a learner, here, and so take this as a nice view into MY stuff, progress, whatever, but I see it like this: “I am owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, bond to my kamma, rely dependant upon my kamma….” Also, Anatta should be seen as the third in a group of words which relate to each other: anicca, dukkha, anatta….if I cling to the khandas as ‘me’, and they change, I suffer, and this can’t be a ‘true’ me (anatta). That’s where I’m at. In reference to the post, though, I just mean it’s hard to lay blame at ALL the Germans in WWII, right?

    • Hi Doug, this is a reply to you – the program didn’t give me the option of replying below, which is why it looks like I’m talking to myself🙂

      I also am no expert on how kamma relates to individuals and groups (it would be interesting to have some guidance on this from the more knowledegable). But in response to your point about Germans in WWII, yes, I agree that collective blame or guilt doesn’t seem justifiable. On the other hand, maybe there is collective responsibility in such a case. For instance, as an Australian I feel some responsibility for the stolen generation of Aboriginal children, even though I’m not personally guilty or to blame for what was done. To bring it back to the topic under discussion, maybe men should accept or take up some collective responsibility for male violence, even though not all men are guilty or to blame in relation to it.

      In terms of the distinction I’m drawing here, the doctrinal question becomes whether kamma is about responsibility, which can be both individual and collective or guilt/blame, which is more strictly personal.

    • Hi Doug,

      Your points well taken.

      Rather than speak of men and women, I think I would continue to explore this thread using the terms male birth and female birth.

      In my observations, this world system and perhaps the overriding tendencies of the male human form predispose that birth to be one that offers greater opportunity for killing and for committing sexual misconduct.

      I am not saying this is necessarily fixed,and that all men want to kill or engage in sexual misconduct. (nor would I say that as a female, I have no violent roots or weaknesses that might lead me to sexual misconduct)

      But the facts in the modern world point to the vast majority of violence being committed by the male form (in the case of war, it can be overwhelmingly against their will- and here, again we would have to delve into philosophy and the logic of kamma – not my strengths but eager to flesh this out – we would have to have the conversation around whether or not he wanted to be a soldier, and whether in his heart he truly wanted to kill – so many did and do not, etc etc) But this is an example where, clearly being born male, predisposes you more to killing others than being born female.
      As for sexual misconduct, this world system is constructed intricately and brutally around satisfying male sexual desire. If women were so keen, so much keener than men, then would there be any need for prostitution – so much need that millions of women and girls are bought and sold in the modern market as sexual slaves in order to satisfy the ever escalating demand.
      Is it in the form, or is it in the world system (constructed over millenia and dominated by that form)
      I confess, I would not mind busting the myth of lower and higher rebirths, because it generates hatred and violence. But it is exactly as you say, in so doing, I do not wish to generate more of the same!
      So, shall continue the fact threads, and hope we can lead it into a useful and wholesome direction.
      _/\_

    • Dear Lisa, I sympathise with your hesitation to pull out the depressing statistics on male violence against women. As you say, they paint a bleak (and from a female perspective, threatening) picture. On the other hand, I think it is important to look into this problem, which can seem so bewildering. What are the roots of this violence? How can we (men and women) pull them up and plant something more productive of peace?

      In the Australian context, there was an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission some years ago into women’s access to the law, which drew more submissions than any other inquiry of the many they have initiated – it showed that many women who face situations of violence do not find that the law is effective in providing the protection it appears to offer. See: http://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/equality-law

      (On a more personal note, how’s your foot? Trevor has been asking after you.)

    • On the other hand, I think it is important to look into this problem, which can seem so bewildering. What are the roots of this violence? How can we (men and women) pull them up and plant something more productive of peace?

      In the one case of domestic violence that I have direct personal knowledge of, I generally found the male partner to be a more pleasant and respectful person. It was however, the male person who committed, it is assumed, more physical violence (but it’s hard to say, since if she did commit physical violence against him, no way he would’ve said anything – pride and all).
      But in any case, I saw how she raged at him and stabbed him with verbal daggers where it hurts (so if she did this in my presence, so how much moreso when no witness were around?), and at the end of the day, I could very much understand why and how he’d eventually just lose it and clobber her. In brief, he was not a saint and could only take so much verbal abuse. If that emotional abuse was not there, the physical abuse would not be there.

      So at one point in my practice, when I was very much aware of my feelings but not so much on top of them, I was very bewildered by the emotional abuse women direct towards men (inc me) – why would they incite such anger, knowing full well that a man is bigger and stronger than her? And can give her a beating… Why not just not indulge in emotional abuse? Then there’s no need to deal with an enraged man… If it’s easy to not incite men into rages, why not just do it?
      I know part of it is not understanding – in other words, the female really doesn’t understand the sort of feelings she is invoking in the man, and if she had a clue, she’d probably stop. On the other hand, I’m also quite sure, sometimes the female person does it deliberately for ‘shits and giggles’, because it’s entertaining to her to make someone angry (entertaining, right up until the point when he decides to cow her, at which point it flips to terrifying for her). That in other words, is simply indulging in the pleasure of harming someone else (wrong intention of cruelty). And certainly, many women seem to just plain enjoy the excitement of conflict… but tend to take it too far, or can’t stop what they’ve set in motion.

      I am aware, that male persons can also enjoy the simple pleasure of hurting others (particularly women). But nevertheless, I am very confident that if a female person does not delight in anger or approve of anger, and if she delights in gentleness and approves of gentleness, then she would experience far less in the way of violence – she would at least avoid the rages. THAT, would be for her happiness and benefit – regardless of whether men ‘should’ just suck it up or not when on the receiving end of emotional abuse (naturally they ‘should’, because that would be for their happiness and benefit, but beyond enlightened self-interest, I’m not making a moral judgement).

      ‘Root cause’ of violence is pretty much just anger and being mean to each other. And I believe the way to treat it is to have examples of a better way in the world i.e. monks and nuns, and in this regard, monks and nuns should be exemplars of treating the other sex civilly and with respect, and should also speak in praise of this, much like Ajahn Brahm does.

      And final thing I want to say is that I’m not talking about middle class society. The lower class is a whole ‘nother world and if I hadn’t poked around it, I wouldn’t have believed just how badly people can treat each other.

    • good points. however i think educated middle class people do much the same, we are just less likely to take it as far. i noticed the other night i did this with my husband, riled him up for own perverse enjoyment. of course in my mind i felt justified, he is stubborn and tight with money & this can be frustrating (as Ajahn Brahm said last night, it is not my or his fault, but OUR fault) but noticing the way i deliberately riled him up, that it gave me some sort of pleasure, was very interesting indeed. Being a Buddhist I very rarely do that sort of thing these days, although early on in the relationship it was quite common and when acting in ignorance one really believes oneself to be in the right, to be the innocent party, the victim, even though once a little awareness is shed it turns out to be not the case at all!

    • good points. however i think educated middle class people do much the same, we are just less likely to take it as far

      That’s right. It’s really a matter of magnitude.

      The major difference between lower class and middle class, is that once a person is ‘middle class’, they can basically just throw money at a problem to make it go away – for most kinds of problems.

      But for someone who is lower class, they do not have the financial resources to solve problems. If the clothes drier breaks down in the middle of a winter storm, they are stuck with that, because they just can’t repair it or buy a new one. If they get a parking or speeding fine, they can’t just pay it off… and next thing they’re summoned to the courts.
      These little things quickly turn into a great deal of stress, and, one thing about humans, is that bad behavior is virtually always a function of stress.

      Once people are stressed out of their mind, their whole life pretty much becomes one long continuous rage. I suppose because there is just so much power source for that anger.

      For the most part, society doesn’t really recognize this, and basically brings punitive measures against people for being stressed out, which increases their stress, and thus their bad behavior…

      But in any case, all human beings do experience stress. But for a human being experiencing a comfortable lifestyle, they might really fly off into a rage over something maybe two or three times a year. But for those crushed and overwhelmed by discomfort, for them, it’s nightly.

      I believe that the increased stress levels (mainly monetary stress), mostly explain the increased incidence of domestic violence in lower socioeconomic groups. In brief, if you put people in a relatively comfortable lifestyle, then, for the most part, they’ll stop beating each other up.
      On the other hand, the underlying causes of stress haven’t been solved, so there will continue to be aggression and conflict – just at a lower magnitude.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Blake. You suggest that if men are physically violent toward women, this is because women are verbally violent toward them. In some cases, I’m sure you’re right about this. I too have witnessed a relationship in which the woman was very verbally aggressive and demeaning toward the man, who in this case, managed to remain gentle in his behaviour, but at the cost of emotionally cutting himself off not only from her but from other people as well, retreating into a kind of internal stronghold. There was a bit of a vicious circle involved here, however, since the more he withdrew from interaction, the more aggressive the woman became in an effort to get some response out of him. I wonder if her verbal violence wasn’t a reaction to feeling that he wasn’t listening to her to begin with, and only sharp words could get through to him. I am aware of other cases of male violence, however, in which the woman who suffers the violence has done nothing discernible to warrant it.

      I think your explanation comes under a more general principle that people who commit violence do so because they have themselves suffered violence. Sometimes, though, I think violent men suffer violence at the hands of other men (psychological violence in the workplace for instance) and in turn take this out on the person most vulnerable – their female partner. This would be more common in lower class society in which men are more likely to feel frustrated or humiliated by their working conditions, or status in society generally.

      But coming back to your explanation, the next question to ask is why are (some) women verbally aggressive towards men? From where does their violence stem?

    • So, so true Blake. Reading that reminded me of a day I spent supporting a friend in the childrens’ court, someone I met through volunteering. The state took her child & she was trying to get him back. Her ex also appeared in court via video link from prison. The way she was treated completely blew my mind. Just because she was there, just because she wasn’t very articulate or confident, she was assumed by all to be guilty. She was treated as completely inferior. Sneered at by the magistrate before she even opened her mouth. I thought she was going to win for sure, because I knew the situation, I’d read many of the court documents. But she didn’t have a hope. The whole process was a farce. I’d been taught at school about how in the old days the state used to take children off the poor, as well as off Aborigines, well that hasn’t changed from what I could see. But the way her ex was treated, or more correctly ignored, was even more devastating. As though being in prison meant that he was just scum, nothing. Here was a man who’d been taken by that same system of child protection at the age of 3, drugged up to the eyeballs as child to keep him quiet, abused in foster care, moved from family to family, and then when surprise surprise he couldn’t control his anger he got locked up & the lawyers & the magistrate and the child protection workers in that court room all dismissed him as worthless. And yet they ostensibly all cared about & knew the solution for his 4 yr old son – take him away from his loving, responsible (albeit struggling) mother & make him a ward of the state! Oh yes that will work swimmingly!

    • Dear Juzzeau,
      What a sumptuous piece you wrote above on black snakes! It warms the heart on a cold December evening.
      (In answer to your kind query, the foot has been a wonderful koan or Dharma teacher so far. I have been in Tree Pose for two months running, so it has also been excellent for my yoga practice.
      I am still marvelling at waking up on the morning of that fateful day chanting Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha, (the meaning of which I did not know at the time), the foot of my cousin in Perth bruised tar-black for no apparent reason within minutes of my foot getting crushed in Esperance, and several of her friends and family (including Merlin the Schnauzer) and my friend in Esperance’s family have injured their feet in the weeks since this injury. (The raconteuse in me finds it intriguing.)
      Perhaps Tara was devising a strategy to keep me from returning home to Canada. I should share the photo of the most terrifying and glorious double rainbow that rose like a deity against a blackened sea and sky over the Southern Ocean, at the time of the injury. It is an image rather branded in mind and body memory.
      As I ponder the inefficacy of crutches on snow and ice, mind drifts occasionally to the heavenly sunshine and warmth of my experience in Australia, including the Sydney Sangha refuge established by Mr. Trevor. Please give him my warmest greetings. It was a precious way to be sent forth back to Canada.)
      (I share this response widely to encourage others to visit! Australia is wonderful! And of course if anyone has insights into Rainbow Devas, Tara Mantras and richocheting foot injuries.)
      _/\_

    • I should share the photo of the most terrifying and glorious double rainbow that rose like a deity against a blackened sea and sky over the Southern Ocean, at the time of the injury.

      Absolutely you should!

    • Are you seriously claiming to be both a feminist and a bloke, Bhante? They’re usually considered to be mutually exclusive categories, you know. But maybe this is just what Australia needs: the Buddhist guide to feminism for blokes…

    • Oh, absolutely. In my busking days, my friend John and I used to sing Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman!” loud and off-key. It was a whole thing.

    • not in the feminist circles I move in, men can most certainly be feminists. some of the best feminists I know are men!

    • Have enjoyed the wonderful posts and discussions in this thread.

      I am hesitant to respond with a barrage of facts. First and foremost because I believe the Sutta to be an aberration – Mindfulness and insight meditation are the best tools to undo the chain of co-arising in mind and body that become the freight train we call lust. They work and they are the best antidotes. It also seems anathema to the Buddha’s teaching to advise a student to generate negativity of any kind for any reason. I consider this Sutta to be one that encourages negativity in thought, speech and action.

      Another reason I hesitate to present “facts” is based on my experience in working to reduce discrimination: facts do not change people’s minds. For example, people in government, business, academia, society demand proof and data to back up claims that there is inequality. When the UN and all of our national governments go to painstaiking efforts (oten reluctantly) to collect data, people then try to discredit the data, and even when the data are scientific, thorough and compelling, naysayers only dig their heels in deeper.

      Here is an interesting article that refers generally to how presenting facts is not always an effective method to loosen a fixed view.

      “December 19, 2010, A recent cognitive study, as reported by the Boston Globe, concluded that:

      Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

      In light of these findings, researchers concluded that a defense mechanism, which they labeled “backfire”, was preventing individuals from producing pure rational thought. The result is a self-delusion that appears so regularly in normal thinking that we fail to detect it in ourselves, and often in others: When faced with facts that do not fit seamlessly into our individual belief systems, our minds automatically reject (or backfire) the presented facts. The result of backfire is that we become even more entrenched in our beliefs, even if those beliefs are totally or partially false.

      Here is the link:
      http://www.alternet.org/story/149262/are_we_too_dumb_for_democracy_the_logic_behind_self-delusion

      Not a very good philosopher, I present nevertheless a “fact thread” that I began, in hopes that with the help of the great and wee philosophers out there we might arrive at a logic that makes use of the “evidence” available in the world, to debunk harmful traditions and teachings and lead us to a deeper understanding of the truth.

      In one of my “fact” threads I was investigating the social and economic determinants of prostitution. Why? Women providing transactional sexual services is cited over the ages as an “indicator” of women’s “keen lust”.

      If we looked at prostitution, its prevalence and the predominant role of women in providing services, and dared draw conclusions “about women” without examining the “facts” behind the supply and demand, we might indeed come to distorted conclusions.

      Picking up one of the threads within this, I discovered that millions of “women” in prostitution started off as children, thrust into it against their will, with no access to legal protection, no power to prevent it, no source of economic sustenance beyond the family and the society that forced them into these horrific situations, nowhere to receive protection if they try to escape.

      “In Asia and the Pacific alone, more than 30 million children have been traded over the last three decades. A combination of poverty, globalisation, organised crime and discrimination against women encouraged the trade.”
      From: “Asia’s sex trade is slavery”
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/2783655.stm

      These children soon age into “women”.

      “An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking
      • 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are women and girls (International Labour Organization, Forced Labour Statistics Factsheet (2007)
      http://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/labour/Forced_labour/HUMAN_TRAFFICKING_-_THE_FACTS_-_final.pdf

      This is a brutal form of violence generated by male sexual misconduct, controlled mostly by male resources (the sale of the human being, most of the profits from the services, the payment for services) and male violence (the rapes to “break them in”, the beatings and other forms of violent coercion to keep children from running away).

      “According to the International Labour Organization, the problem is especially alarming in Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and India. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution

      I am sure the powerful myth of female birth being a lower birth is one of the strongest cultural factors in these mostly Buddhist countries where the problem has become especially alarming. The lower rebirth syndrome contributes to the lower status of the girl child in these societies and to the impunity under which the trafficking networks can complete their transactions with the help of the girls’ families and neighbours in spite of formal laws against it.

      “Often they are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are sold by their own families.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution

      This is one of the reasons I feel Ven Sumedho, the TF tradition and monastics around the world have the moral responsibility to undo the distortions, to unsow the seeds within the institutions (girls being sold so that their brothers can ordain; boys having a place to go, girls do not) and within the heart of the teachings (the girl child is seen to be worthless due to the hierarchy of male over female rebirth; the rationalization that it “happens” to girls because they are of a lower birth). I harbour this slim hope that if they really understood the harm being done, the interdependant causes, more monastics might, just might become a subtle force for change.

      Here are just a sample of sources I found on modern demand, and ask, are the modern supply and demand patterns a reflection of the keen lust of the male or the female form?

      “Research published in 2005 found that the numbers of men who pay for sex had doubled in a decade. The authors attributed this rise to “a greater acceptability of commercial sexual contact”,

      According to the United Nations, 39 percent of men in Spain has reported to using the services of a prostitute at least once.
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jan/15/why-men-use-prostitutes

      In 2010, there were about 200 brothels operating legally within a 20 kilometer radius of Sydney, Australia.
      Source: Danny Rose, “Legal or not, sex industry powers on,” Sydney Morning Herald, October 6, 2010.

      For people who believe that prostitutes in Western brothels are all there because of their keen lust and the other benefits of the trade, please see these examples from the UK, Canada:

      UK: The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) reported that 2,600 women who were working in UK brothers are confirmed human trafficking victims. Another 9,200 women were considered to be vulnerable and may have been trafficked, but were unable to fully confirm their status.
      Of the estimated 30,000 women working in brothels in the United Kingdom, 17,000 were found to have been migrants from foreign countries.
      Of the 2,600 confirmed trafficking victims, 2,200 were from Asia with a majority coming from China.
      Source: Michael Holden, “UK says 2,600 women trafficked to brothels,” Reuters, August 18, 2010.

      Canada:
      The impact of migrant trafficking on Canada is estimated at between $120 million to $400 million per year and accounts for approximately 8,000 to 16,000 people arriving in Canada per year illegally. (“Organized Crime Impact Study,” Solicitor General of Canada)
      Vietnamese and Chinese mafia are increasing operations in brothels in Toronto, Canada. They traffic in women from Southeast Asia. Agents pay recruiters up to $8,000 for a woman, who then sell the women to pimps for about $15,000. Agents take 10% of the earnings beyond the original contract. The women are forced to service buyers’ 12 hours a day, 400 buyers or $400,000 to pay off their debt. Women are abused and terrorized, being beaten and reportedly burned with hot irons. (Rob Lamberti, “Sex Slaves: Fodder for Flesh Factories the Women Earn Nothing But Tips Until They Pay Off Their $40,000 Contracts,” Toronto Sun, 10 May 1998)
      About twelve 16-30-year-old Asian girls and women were trafficked into Canada each week on visitor’s permits and sold into prostitution. The girls and women were bought in North America for up to $15,000 by a network that made about U.S. $1. 4 – $2.2 million annually. The women are sold to brothel owners in Markham and Scarborough Toronto and Los Angeles and forced into $40,000 debt bondage. (Police, “Police Bust Sex-slave Ring” 11 September 1997 & “Toronto police uncover sex slave ring,” United Press International, 11 September 1997)
      http://www.catwinternational.org/factbook/Canada.php

      Food for investigation into the determinants of supply and demand for transactional satisfaction of “keen lust” and for pausing before using prostitution as an indicator of female “lust”…
      _/\_

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thanks so much for these facts. I agree that facts won’t always change people’s minds, but they do sometimes. I think that’s a real sign of maturity when you are willing to let the facts influence you and change and adapt to suit the facts rather than the other way around. Of course, many people are not there yet, and if you keep going on about facts you’re going to be frustrated…

      And regarding prostitution, the facts are as always deeply disturbing. It’s so hard to imagine how people can be running this horrific trade in human beings. I’m a little surprised that you say that it is commonly believed that prostitutes do it because of their keen lust – are people really that ignorant?

      In any case, it remains an indictment of Buddhism that the main countries involved in this trade are Buddhist. We cannot pretend that Buddhism has no role to play, unless we’re prepared to argue that a nation can have a majority of Buddhists for a thousand years without any effect on people’s morals or behavior – which is an even more discomforting thought. As long as women are denigrated within official or popular Buddhist thought, and are denied equality in the monasteries, these abuses will continue to gain moral sustenance from Buddhist ideologies.

    • On days like this, when confronted by the difficulty of convincing people with contrary facts, I yearn for the plausibility of doing an Inception-like planting of a meme in the intractable souls. Where is Leonardo DiCaprio when you need him?

    • Is it that you have a general belief that all the suttas in the canon are the word of the Buddha, or do you have specific grounds for believing that this is a genuine teaching, Herb?

    • There is no reason to doubt this sutta is authentic. This sutta actually makes perfect sense even if it does not fit into your personal world view at the first glance. Mind not forget that every sutta was taught in a unique context.

  13. Here is some information from Ven. Bhikkhu Analayo in a letter to Ayya Tathaaloka :

    “[…] Another example would be a pair of discourses in the Aṅguttara-nikāya that compare women to black snakes, as both are dirty, smelly and betray friends etc.(7)

    Would it be reasonable and coherent for an awakened teacher to make such derogatory remarks about women, a teacher who according to other discourses had numbers of nun disciples that had reached full awakening and thus total freedom from any defilement,(8) who according to the same Aṅguttara-nikāya proclaimed various nuns and lay women as outstanding in qualities like deep concentration and profound wisdom,(9) and who apparently placed such trust in women that in a twin regulation found in all Vinayas he sanctioned acting on a trustworthy laywoman’s report about a monk’s breach of the rules? (10)

    The comparison of women to snakes recurs in two parallel versions: one in the Tibetan Vinaya, where a similar remark is headed by the qualification “some”, i.e. “some women are …”,(11) and another in a late text in Uighur, where this remark is not made by the Buddha, but rather by some Sakyan youths.(12)

    Notes :

    7 AN 5.229 at AN III 260,24: asuci, duggandho … mittadubbhī; see also the following discourse AN 5.230.

    8 According to MN 73 at MN I 490,24, the Buddha could count on over five-hundred arahant nuns among his disciples.

    9 AN 1.14 at AN I 24-26.
    10 These are the two aniyata rules, for a study of the Pāli version see Thanissaro 1994/2007: The Buddhist Monastic Code I, California, pp. 185ff.

    11 Derge edition of the ’dul ba, da 134b3, reading bud me kha cig la, “some women”; a passage discussed by Damchö 2009: 302 in her phd on gender in the (Mūla-)sarvāstivāda Vinaya, see http://nunscommunity.net/thesis.html.

    12 The Maitrisimit attributes such a statement to a group of Sakyan youths that were still under the influence of defilements, see Geng, Shimin 1988: Das Zusammentreffen mit Maitreya, Die ersten fünf Kapitel der Ha¬mi-Version der Maitrisimit, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, p. 178,.

    Source http://groups.google.com/group/dhammadharini/web/gender-discrimination-in-the-pali-canon

  14. i have a feeling i may have shared this already on this site, apologies if i’m repeating myself.

    the sexism in religion is something that used to really upset me. I remember having a tearful arguement with my catholic father at the age of six about why women couldn’t be priests. The way the bible depicts women, similar to this sutta, but also as though her body is disgusting, you know all that stuff about menstrual blood being unclean, all that denigrating of the feminine, upset me so much. I read this book called hynobirthing which talked about how the bible brainwashed women to feel that birth is painful and actually it turned out to be true which i talk about here http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/parenting/community/deprogramming-birth-20080624-2vwl.html?page=1

    That was until January this year when I was meditating and I had an insight that there is actually good reasons why religion seeks to demonise women and constrain their sexuality & reproductive power, via witch burnings, or brainwashing, or suttas such as this one.

    Think about it. The whole virgin/whore dichotomy actually may serve a useful social purpose. The thing is a woman who is conscious of her sexual power and sees through & rejects the virgin/whore dichotomy can actually be very dangerous if her ego is strong.

    I know this because of myself. I am tempted to tempt men away from their religion & wives so that I can enslave and destroy them. This has a lot do with lust but also to do with power. Of course I don’t do this, I am simply aware of this desire and know that I could do immense evil with it if I chose to.

    After I had this insight I was nolonger upset, I was at peace and could forgive the centuries of misogyny and oppression of women, all the unfair shame it caused me as I was growing up, the pain of childbirth, the feeling of inferiority & wishing I was a man. I’m still a feminist, I don’t like or agree with the demonisation of women by religion (I would rather know the extent of my sexual & reproductive power, see my ego’s desires but not act on them, than have my sexuality repressed by ignorance or fear), but I feel like I understand it, & because of that understanding I can nolonger be angry.

    I could NEVER have come to this realisation via rational thought, I can’t tell you how surprised I was to have such an insight, it totally blew my mind, the most unexpected belief reversal of my life.

    • I know this because of myself. I am tempted to tempt men away from their religion & wives so that I can enslave and destroy them. This has a lot do with lust but also to do with power. Of course I don’t do this, I am simply aware of this desire and know that I could do immense evil with it if I chose to.

      Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu! For recognizing your own power, but abstaining from it.

      As a guy, the “do what the pretty girl says” impulse is a pain, a real frustration – primarily because it’s strong, even overwhelming (in fact so overwhelming you’re hardly aware of it – you become it). The girl actually doesn’t even need to be that pretty. I’m not even really sure where that impulse comes from, possibly it’s something to do with pleasing a potential mate. But it seems stupider than that.

      This frustration of men over losing their own free-will (to a woman’s words) – might also be a strong causative force in trying to create structures that put women down. Essentially, man wants to be in a position where woman can’t tell him what to do.

      I know some women love to exploit the fact that men will do things for them (or more to the point: be their slaves) – I think most are not really conscious of this, they just find it works, it’s a cool trick, like “Hey look, my boyfriend will do whatever I tell him”.
      The dark side of this, is that it’s not respectful, and makes it more or less impossible to have a good relationship. The man will eventually rebel and break free and will quite possibly hate her guts – because he feels used and manipulated.

      Women who exploit this phenomena but who aren’t mean about it, don’t really get hated – rather they just get belittled and laughed at for being ‘unable’ to do anything for themselves.

      I admit, that one of my ‘rules to live by’, is “Never do anything for a woman”. This is not out of meanness, it’s simply to overcome the impulse (in fact I adopted that rule upon recognizing the danger in the impulse – the destructiveness to a relationship).
      The precise context where this rule is most applicable, is when a woman I find attractive, mentions that she would like something. THAT is where the impulse kicks in, and THAT is where it’s important to restrain it.
      Since I’m the kind of guy who would trip over both his feet in his eagerness to do something for a girl, that is why the wording is quite strong.
      Also, the truly dangerous territory is to remain holding to a sense of entitlement on account of having done something “for” another person. So if a woman asks me to do something, then I’ll readily do it if I see that is a beneficial thing to do. But then I’m actually doing it as an opportunity to perform good kamma, not “for” her (even if she does appreciate it).
      With this attitude, feelings of being “used and manipulated” cannot possibly arise.

  15. sorry i just realised you asked for proper studies not anecdotes or opinions. this topic is of great interest to me.

    you know i really thought i was so innocent before i had that insight in January. how dare men blame us for rape! how dare Eve get all the blame for eating the apple! but it’s actually not that simple, it’s not that black & white. it is precisely because men tend to have a stronger sex drive than women that women have the capacity to lure a man away from morality. Of course most women don’t do this. But isn’t it possible that more women would do it if we weren’t constrained by misogyny? By feeling that their worth is determined by men, that they have to be virtuous or dolled/tarted up to be valuable to men, or that their bodily fluids are somehow repulsive. Shame contrains women. A woman who is not constrained by ignorance or shame knows how addictive the pleasure of intense lust can be, how addictive the pleasure of power, of consuming men’s minds can be. Of course the karmic consequences of such an addiction are terrifying, but look at how miserable people are, how addicted so many women are to gossip or shopping or facebook, if they knew the havoc they could cause I think it is possible the many more of us would choose to act viperish.

    ultimately women are different to men. we can’t physically hurt men the way they can us. men exert their power over women physically, and because of patriachy in so many other ways as well. but the female ego has other ways to exert itself. i guess what i’m arguing is that you are right, women aren’t generally more dangerous than men in the traits described in the sutta but is it possible that without that social conditioning, without the weight of centuries of misogyny that we might be? it would be really interesting to know if women were more likely to commit adultury etc in pagan or matriachal societies.

    you know what is actually really useful for me as a woman about this sutta? I mean I know it’s directed at men & at helping men but if I ignore that & look at how it describes a woman’s dangerous traits I see all the ways my ego tries to manifest itself.

  16. @Vincent: Of course it is reasonable and coherent! His way of teaching depends on the audience and the situation. The Buddha might have been talking to a group of men who were full of illusions concerning women.

    Here one interesting passage concerning black vipers:

    Worthless man, it would be better that your penis be stuck into the mouth of a poisonous snake than into a woman’s vagina. It would be better that your penis be stuck into the mouth of a black viper than into a woman’s vagina. It would be better that your penis be stuck into a pit of burning embers, blazing and glowing, than into a woman’s vagina. Why is that? For that reason you would undergo death or death-like suffering, but you would not on that account, at the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the bad destination, the abyss, hell. But for this reason you would, at the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the bad destination, the abyss, hell…

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.intro.html#intro1

  17. @Herb: Of course it is reasonable and coherent!

    It’s “reasonable” to teach that all women are aggressive, dishonest, lustful, etc?

    It’s “coherent” to teach this?

    I find myself wondering what you would consider to be unreasonable and incoherent.

    • Only if I were to obsess over the matter would I consider it to be a fetter. Wondering what and how someone else thinks is a natural and even spiritually helpful activity, I find.

      But I see you’re shifting the focus from your own thought processes to mine. I’m genuinely curious why do you think it’s “reasonable” and “coherent” to teach that all women are aggressive, dishonest, lustful, etc. Do you think it’s true, helpful, kind, and conducive to harmony?

    • The Buddha’s way of teaching depends on the audience and the situation. The Buddha might have been talking to an individual man or a group of men who were full of illusions concerning women in this case. One cannot censor the Buddha by saying that he could not have said this or that, just because it does not accord to one’s personal liking. This sutta might have been very helpful to somebody and it was appreciated by others concludingly. Therefore we can read it in the books today. The sutta has to be understood with the whole of the Buddha’s teaching in the background and not artifically extrapolated as done here. In this way you wrong the Buddha.

      Yes, all women are aggressive, dishonest and lustful to varying degrees – unless they try to free themselves from such tendencies through diligently practicing the Dhamma. Just as their male counterparts.

      Is this sutta conducive to harmony? This sutta was taught to men who are obsessed and infatuated with women. It is word of advice to them – a drastic visualization (asubha!). It is not suitable for everyone. If have got some experience with meditation objects, you probably know about this anyway.

      Just as you would like to abolish this sutta, others would misuse it to put pressure on women. Neither approach is helpful, nor do they lead to harmony. Both lead to harm-on(l)y!

  18. I highly doubt the Buddha taught this sutta, and I find it rather repulsive. But as far as evidence goes here is a rather depressing study that appeared on Discovery.

    Does this mean all or even most women are adulterous? No. If this sutta is real then there would certainly need to be a parallel for men talking about how men are prone to killing engaging in warfare and raping.

    • Lars :
      I highly doubt the Buddha taught this sutta, and I find it rather repulsive. But as far as evidence goes here is a rather depressing study that appeared on Discovery.

      That’s interesting. I would say that what’s going on, is that women with a partner have better self-esteem especially regarding their body, and so are more inclined to show it off.
      Also this may be too obvious to mention – but women with a partner are probably, on average, more lustful and more provocative of lust than women who don’t have a partner. But isn’t that blindingly obvious?

      For that study to be truly unbiased, it would be necessary to track individual women over time, through relationships, and so on, to see if their courtship behaviors change.

  19. Anguttara Nikaya I,1
    EKAKA VAGGA (Cittapariyàdànavaggo)
    Matter and others

    I heard thus. At one time the Blessed One was living in the monastery offered by Anàthapindika in Jeta’s grove in Sàvatthi. The Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus and said:

    1. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a form that captivates the mind of man as that of woman. The form of a woman indeed captivates the mind of a man. This is the first.

    2. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a sound that captivates the mind of man as that of woman. The sound of a woman indeed captivates the mind of a man. This is the second.

    3. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a smell that captivates the mind of man as that of woman. The smell of a woman indeed captivates the mind of a man This is the third.

    4. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a taste that captivates the mind of man as that of woman. The taste of a woman indeed captivates the mind of a man. This is the fourth.

    5. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a touch that captivates the mind of man as that of woman. The touch of a woman indeed captivates the mind of a man. This is the fifth.

    6. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a form that captivates the mind of woman as that of man. The form of a man indeed captivates the mind of a woman. This is the sixth..

    7. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a sound that captivates the mind of woman as that of man. The sound of a man indeed captivates the mind of a woman. This is the seventh

    8. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a smell that captivates the mind of woman as that of man. The smell of a man indeed captivates the mind of a woman This is the eighth..

    9. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a taste that captivates the mind of woman as that of man. The taste of a man indeed captivates the mind of a woman. This is the nineth.

    10. Bhikkhus, I do not know of a touch that captivates the mind of woman as that of man. The touch of a man indeed captivates the mind of a woman. This is the tenth.

  20. Sadhu, Dear Ayya,
    This is a good illustration of how the Awakened One taught one Dhamma – not one Dhamma for men and one Dhamma for women. The same Dukkha has the same causes and the same causes lead to the cessation of Dukkha. The Eightfold path is the same for women as it is for men.
    Dear Ayya, I have learned much from your postings and feel it is very important for us to have a voice for Bhikkhunis here!
    May you always have the love and support of the Fourfold Sangha. I look forward to your continued teachings.
    With Metta,
    _/\_

  21. Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for many of your informative posts. i also learn many things from them.
    The four noble truths are neutral; klesas are universal, hence they are dhamma,which can see here and now, timeless, recognized, leading up ward, comprehended by the wise; however,the four Brahmavihara, by letters (mettaa, karunaa, muditaa, upekkhaa), are mostly feminine. Practicing Buddha’s Dhamma require to develop many feminine qualities, but at times, it also need a lot of heroic effort to go ‘against the stream’.
    The Sutta i posted might not be true for the third gender /\

  22. To only allow “referenced, empirical studies” in a reply is unfair, biased, and putting one’s faith in science over Buddha. There are only two comments in my mind regarding this sutta:
    1) There is the question of what % of women is implied by the word “generally.” Another sutta implies that this can change as the human race as a whole increases or decreases in virtue.
    2) Also the sutta could easily apply to men also.
    Simply because it states women in this particular sutta in no way implies that men are any more virtuous by default. Historically women have been controlled more (as is implied in the sutta on the kinds of dukkha peculiar only women), and “studies” have found that the one in less power in a relationship is the one more likely to be deceitful.
    (ref: truthaboutdeception.com) However, unfortunately, makers of studies report what they are paid to report.

    Having said that, then DUH! of course it’s true!!
    I have no problem believing that the Buddha taught this sutta.

    • Hi Gambhira,

      Thanks for the response. Allow me to take up your points one at a time.

      To only allow “referenced, empirical studies” in a reply is unfair, biased, and putting one’s faith in science over Buddha.

      Well, perhaps you and I have different ideas about the relationship between “science” and the Buddha. I follow the many suttas where the Buddha is depicted as saying that one should subject his teachings to scrutiny and testing, and should not accept anything without such testing. Examples of such suttas include the Vimamsaka Sutta, the Culahatthipadopama Sutta, the Canki Sutta, and so on. I am following the good advice of such teachings, and you accuse me being “unfair” and “biassed”. I merely asked if there is any empirical support for these claims, and so far no one has come up with any. Such teachings, therefore, fail the test proposed by the Buddha himself.

      There are only two comments in my mind regarding this sutta:
      1) There is the question of what % of women is implied by the word “generally.” Another sutta implies that this can change as the human race as a whole increases or decreases in virtue.

      This is not a doubtful matter. The word is yebhuyyena, which means “for the most part”, or “in the majority”.

      2) Also the sutta could easily apply to men also. Simply because it states women in this particular sutta in no way implies that men are any more virtuous by default.

      Obviously. The point is, it doesn’t. That is what discrimination means. If I say, “Black people mostly lie, steal, and commit adultery”, am I correct? Quite likely: most people in their lives probably do these things at least once. But it is in phrasing the statement as if it was specially a quality of black people that is discriminatory.

      Historically women have been controlled more (as is implied in the sutta on the kinds of dukkha peculiar only women), and “studies” have found that the one in less power in a relationship is the one more likely to be deceitful.
      (ref: truthaboutdeception.com)

      Thanks for supplying a reference. However, you have merely directed us to a large website, with no indication as to what exactly you mean. I took the trouble to check the site, and it appears to be little more than a collection of “pop psychology” opinions. It occasionally mentions studies, but does not (in the cases I’ve seen) give citations of proper discussions of those studies. In other words, as a reference it is useless.

      However, unfortunately, makers of studies report what they are paid to report.

      Those who make studies are human beings, who operate from the same kinds of complex emotions that all human beings operate from. Yes, in some cases money or fame can distort the results of a study, and this is a serious problem in psychology. But to dismiss all studies in this way is absurd. People like to know and to understand, and the wish to understand is at the root of the scientific impulse. I have dealt on a regular basis with academics, researchers, scientists, students for many years, and I have rarely met anyone whose work I felt was primarily driven by money; on the contrary, it is driven almost always by a thirst for knowledge. People who do these studies are, by and large, very intelligent people, who work long hours for little pay or recognition. If they wanted money, they’d be working for a corporation, not a University research team.

    • Venerable bhikkhu Sujato,

      If i can ask you one last question ( will be my last post on this blog). I’m looking for a sutta where the Buddha proclaims that even a small amount of existence stinks, like a tiny piece of excrement under a fingernail. I think it is from the anguttara nikaya but i can’t find it. Perhaps you can tell me where i can find it online?

    • Dear Bhante Sujato,
      I cannot figure out right now those neat little boxes like you make! Thank you for replying to my message.
      First of all I’d also like to add it is exciting to find someone discussing the lesser known suttas that make one wonder! I read suttas many years ago and then after associating with Buddhist groups I came to learn that most people did not even know that suttas existed, let alone all the suttas that are never quoted in popular books on Buddhism.
      Perhaps I also need a clearer definition of the pali word commonly translated as “direct knowledge.” Even for the scientist doing the study, it is questionable if the results are “direct knowledge,” let alone all the people who read the study afterwards, and then the people who read what the people who read the study say. Even providing that many if their conclusions are true, if the views of scientific studies determine how people act, then the people are at the mercy of the scientist as to whether that is a well founded action or not. They will fall heir to the views that they are spreading. That is why I say “science is the new religion,” and I am extremely weary of it now. I am happy to hear your perspective of so many honest researchers. I am now curious as to why is this more of a problem in psychology? I have found it is also a serious problem in medicine. Most scientific studies I have no way of ever reproducing the results myself, not to mention science will never know *for sure* if I feel pain or not, they can only take my word for it. Also, in my opinion, it is ridiculous to throw away all pop-psychology due to lack of citations. I have found several articles on that website to be spot on in the truth. And finally, nothing one reads could ever give an empirical answer to the validity of this sutta. Short of having reliable mind reading abilities, empirical proof would be direct interactions with women who either desire or do not desire or do or do not do these things.
      As for why it refers only to women…is it possible the sutta have been taught to an assembly of all celibate male monks who dwelt in an area full of black snakes? Would it then make sense that it refers only to women at that moment of time when it was said? Perhaps it was only meant for the audience listening at that moment, and not for us?

    • Hi Gambhira,

      Just to take you up on what kind of evidence would be applicable, I was looking for some research based findings. Just to take the first point in the sutta, whether women are aggressive. Gender based differences in aggression have been studied widely, and the overwhelming consensus is that men tend to be more physically aggressive, and some studies suggest that women are more verbally aggressive, although this is less clear. Like virtually all gender-based differences, however, the role of nature versus nurture, and the real import of such differences are not clear.

      You can read a few studies online here:

      http://www.apa.org/research/action/difference.aspx
      http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/documents/ArcherANGxp1.pdf
      http://www.academia.edu/168701/Gender_the_Perception_of_Aggression_and_the_Overestimation_of_Gender_Bias
      http://wings.buffalo.edu/psychology/labs/SocialDevLab/Ostrov%20%26%20Keating%202004%20Social%20Development.pdf

      If you read some of the literature, you get a sense for the issues. You’ll find that the whole problem of objectivity is well understood and is repeatedly addressed in designing the experiments. You’ll also find that in the vast majority of cases the experiments are not designed to sell some drug or push some dark agenda, but to understand humanity better. And in most cases, they end up with a more subtle, nuanced understanding of what is going on. You won’t necessarily find “the answer”, but what you will do is get less easily satisfied with cheap generalizations and easy prejudices.

    • Hi Sujato,
      I do not accept the rules you created for this discussion and I’m done playing the game now. This is just another drum peg. (SN 20.7). You apparently worship the authority of scholars. I have yet to find a monk who actually is living what the suttas say. That is the real reason for all the skepticism about the suttas is because no one has the strength to actually do it. Have you reached to safety? I hope you really have and can help me and others. But I’m already not inspired. If you do not know Nibbana then you should be terrified of this luxurious computer you are using and read section 17 of the Samyutta Nikaya again. Or do you need scholars to tell you that that is valid first? I will be impressed if this post even lasts on this blog which is implied to be free of “cheap generalizations and easy prejudices.” Kind wishes!!!!!!!

    • For anyone that cares, I took the trouble to count the sholarly references sited at the website I linked:

      http://www.truthaboutdeception.com/site-info-and-resources/sources-and-references.html

      I counted 373 of them dealing with love, relationships, communication, and deception. Not to mention that each textbook citation counts for perhaps 50-100 research studies.

      Do you really think this is “pop psychology opinions” ???
      Do you really think that “as a reference it is useless” ???
      Do you really think it is not applicable???

      I know little about “you” vernerable, however your response to the website I linked is what I would call “unfair.” You asked for referenced emperical studies. Well there is a list of ~373 of them. Surely there would be some hints contained therein about any actual gender differences.

  23. Bhante

    G’day

    Good to see you are back.

    Re your response to Gambhira (Oct7)

    “I follow the many suttas where the Buddha is depicted as saying that one should subject his teachings to scrutiny and testing, and should not accept anything without such testing.”

    But I take it you still accept the Buddha reached nibbana and was able to recollect past lives dating back billions of years? You also accept there are various “realms of existence” where humans go after death awaiting rebirth and that rebirth is affected by kamma? Yet you dismiss Christian claims that Jesus ascended into heaven after death.

    Have you tested for this?

    Cheers

    Geoff

  24. Venerable Sujato, isn’t it difficult to project our mind, more than two thousand years back, and conjecture who expressed these ideas? How can we reliably know how people thought at these times, and what was, and what was not, acceptable discourse?

    Bear in mind, that even as recently as fifty years ago, perfectly intelligent scholarly people thought you could decide people’s intelligence by their skull size. And, as recently as fifty years ago, people genuinely thought that there were clear ‘racial’ differences between Anglo Saxons, Scandinavians, Normans and Celts, not to mention the clearly assumed ‘racial’ differences between white and black people. As recently as one hundred years ago, it was frequently( disturbingly) argued, again, by reasonable,intelligent and good, decent, sympathetic men and women, that some hunter gatherer tribes in Africa and Australia were closer to animals and beasts than human. Also, many ( presumably decent, good) Europeans still can’t handle the clear and obvious fact that many of the Biblical wise and prophetic figures were — literally — black Africans from Egypt and Ethiopia, so they have to re-imagine them as ‘ being and looking more like Mediterranean Italian types.’ ( Dr. John Henrik Clarke is excellent — and very amusing — on Europeans refusal to accept that many Biblical figures were actually black Africans. Well, where do Bible readers think Egypt and Ethiopia and Yemen are? In Europe?)

    Nowadays, after the scholarship of Benedict Anderson, Ernest Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm and Shlomo Sand, it is completely clear that much of what we took for granted as ‘racial’ differences between peoples, is just bad science, or — literally — just made up and invented to serve geo political, or religious power groups in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the ‘nation state’, in which whole large tracts of land had to be carved up, often on totally un natural lines, so that they could serve power better. Often the ‘racial’ , ethnic differentiations made were random, or — plain and simple — made up, as archaeologists would interpret found objects depending on their own prejudices, or, they would make up facts on the ground, simply to serve crude nationalist aims.

    My point here is, how can we cast our mind back , and know what was acceptable gender discourse at The Buddha’s time, and how, or why he might ( or might not have) expressed himself in a manner that is very shocking, unreasonable and offensive to us now? Perhaps The Buddha was only using imagery, axiomatic ideas, notions and motifs that were commonly accepted at the time as being true? How many people at the time were even literate and could even read? Bear in mind that Eric Hobsbawm’s research shows that, even as recently as one hundred years ago in most of Europe and the Far East, the rate of literacy was very very low. As low as five percent in many highly sophisticated countries in Europe and Asia — many people spoke a very limited vocabulary, with perhaps only a command of a few hundred words, and dialects would differ radically from valley to valley, so people literally could not understand each other, a few hundreds miles away from each other — and these are in areas we all consider the ‘civilised West’ and the highly sophisticated Far East ( ref. ‘The Age of Revolution” and also, Shlomo Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People.”) How was literacy at the time of The Buddha ( which, inevitably, would tie in to wider discourse and debate about gender difference and so on)?

  25. PS If anyone wants to pick at my post, yes, I do know Yemen is not in Africa proper, but it was within the sphere of African influence in Biblical times and it still is now.

  26. Venerable Sujato, I am in total agreement they are troubling words — I have also always been troubled by the verses in Patimokkha, admonishing Ven. Sudinna for breaking his vow of celibacy. Harsh language, and hard to reconcile with what we see of the Buddha elsewhere.

    Again, as an example of radically different values and vastly different norms, aren’t there some ( to the modern mind) very strange verses in early Suttas about The 32 Signs of a Great Man (mahā purisa lakkhaṇa) , some of which refer to The Buddha’s private parts? These attributes are very difficult indeed, for the modern mind to understand ( Ref : The Lakkhaṇa Sutta).

    Perhaps it is the same with the Sutta you are quoting? Perhaps the veil of time has, similarly, obscured these ideas from us?

    • Hi Joe,

      Of course things change. But the reason why we follow Buddhism and take the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for our life is because, by and large, they haven’t changed. If you look through countless suttas, you find nothing but reasonable, wise, compassionate teachings. That is why the occasional exceptions are so outstanding.

      Now, obviously it is the case that sometimes our values change and we can’t understand why. However, this is why we study these texts carefully, examine every possible angle, stay with them for decades, keep returning to them, listen to many opinions, gather what we can from archeology, from comparative religions, from anthropology and from anywhere else we can. In very many cases we can understand what is going on, and formerly incomprehensible things become clear. But sometimes they don’t.

      Equally obviously, sometimes things get attributed to the Buddha (or any other person, ancient or modern) that he didn’t actually say. Even in the last US presidential debates, which were televised live to millions and relentlessly watched and analyzed, it took only days for false statements to be attributed to Obama. It is simply impossible that the same thing has not happened to the Buddha.

      The Buddha’s teachings are relevant precisely because we can see how they apply to us, as humans here and now. As followers of the Buddha, I believe, we have the obligation to test the teachings that have been passed down in his name, to see whether they are really true. The more anyone argues that such a test is irrelevant or invalid, the more it simply confirms the obvious: it is not, in fact, true.

  27. Bhante,

    Re your response to Joe 8/10:

    “Equally obviously, sometimes things get attributed to the Buddha (or any other person, ancient or modern) that he didn’t actually say.”

    Even allowing for our ‘text critical’ and Pali skills how can we know what the Buddha actually said when there was a 400 year period between the Buddha’s death and the first suttas? How can we be sure nothing significant was inserted by the monks during this period that might alter what the Buddha actually said? Even if we were there how can we be sure we didn’t misinterpret him?

    “As followers of the Buddha, I believe, we have the obligation to test the teachings that have been passed down in his name, to see whether they are really true.”

    Again, how do we test, for example, whether the Buddha reached nibbana and was able to recollect dating back billions of years? If we can’t test for it shouldn’t we leave open the possibility that it isn’t true? If so where would that leave Buddhism?

    Cheers

    Geoff

  28. Perhaps, if we are to gain insight into long vanished states of mind, or far distant, once axiomatic norms and givens that we nowadays find troubling, we would do well to heed the words of historian-philosopher, Walter Benjamin who stated it is our “task to brush history against the grain.”

    http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/CONCEPT2.html

  29. Venerable, thanks for your reply, which is very reasonable.

    I wonder if a comparison will throw light onto scriptural perception and prisms —

    Though I am not at all well versed in Islamic teachings and hermeneutics, I believe that Muslims divide their theological teachings — broadly — into Surah and Hadith.

    Surah are considered perfect, immaculate, beyond question, since they are considered to be the word of God, directly received and not open to any negotiation or debate of their validity or invalidity.

    Then there are Hadith, which are the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, and commentaries about his life and prism on God’s teachings. Now, these are not considered to be without flaw, or forgery, and over the centuries scholars have drawn up extensive lists of Hadith which are not considered to be genuine.

    I wonder if I may ask — have Buddhist Scholars done the same with the Suttas and commentaries? Is there anywhere an authoritative list of Suttas, sayings, verses, lines and commentaries that have been debated, investigated, tested, and then suspected of being fake?

    • It’s a good question, but I think the answer is more or less “no”. Each tradition has its own ideas about what is “canonical” and what is not. In theory the traditions distinguish between text, commentary, and so on, but such distinctions are often ignored for practical purposes. What we do know, though, is that such issues were debated from the earliest times; we find discussions in the Suttas themselves, and through all the later literature. The best is from the introduction to the Atthasalini, the Abhidhamma commentary. A hypothetical student opines that the Abhidhamma is a later development, only to be crushed by the teacher, “Well, then, you must have been nodding and dozing at the back of the class…” It seems that “dark sarcasm in the classroom” is not a modern invention…

  30. PS I want to reiterate, I have no pretence to great knowledge of Islamic Scripture, I only point to that division of Surah and Hadith, and the fact that there exist lengthy lists of Hadith verses considered to be suspect or not genuine.

  31. The Suttas give us freedom, freedom from the hierachy of Buddhists, freedom from the slavery of family life… and children which even monestries do not do – but anyway monestries probably make good “family” centres…babysitting centres.. whatever…tell you not to have children so you can be forced into the slavery of babysitting other while they gather their domination and fame over others.

    No doubt following the teachings of the Buddha annoys alot of people because they cannot be the Buddhas and controllers of others, which is all Buddhism has become… yet if the Suttas mean freedom from Buddhist too… then I say bring them it on!

  32. Thanks Venerable — which leads me to another question — I remember, when I first read the Suttas I was very drawn to Jhana meditation and the use of Kasina discs, all of which were apparently condoned and valued by The Buddha and early Monks and commentators. Yet, when I began to visit monasteries, I very quickly learned that these were not taken seriously by most monks, and frequently rejected outright as having little or no value.

    I completely understand on one level why they rejected the Jhana Kasina practises, theoretically, ( EG rejection of attachment to blissful states etc, with much more emphasis placed on Insight meditation instead), but I have never fully understood how so many ultra Orthodox Monks, who follow every single step of the Vinaya, to the point of obsession,and who will willingly also take on board uncritically cultural additions to the Monks life from Sri Lankan or Thai culture, yet can simply reject out of hand, significant amounts of orthodox, once valued Scripture, with very little explanation or reasoning as to why ONE set of teachings should be rejected and dismissed outright, as of little or no value — whilst others are venerated and followed obsessively, to the letter.

    Thanks for your response.And if I may can I ask your views on the Jhana/Kasina related teachings? Surely The Buddha took them seriously as did Buddhaghosa. There are so many references to them in the texts.

    As for myself, I am no kind of expert, and neither do I have any kind of vested interest in the topic, so I do not really have any kind of fixed view on these things, but I am very interested to hear your views.

    Thanks again. It is a very interesting debate.

    • Hi Joe,

      It’s an interesting question, one that I don’t have a considered answer for. But here’s a few thoughts.

      In the suttas, kasinas are mentioned only a few times, and other meditations like anapanasati, body contemplation and so on are found much more often. Moreover, there are no clear instructions for kasina meditation. In fact, the meaning of the word kasina is totally different in the Suttas. There, it has nothing to do with a colored disk, but it means ‘totality’. The “kasina” is the state of universal infinite consciousness that results from meditation. The suttas do talk about attaining such states through the contemplation of colors and the like, but without specifics.

      In the early Abhidhamma, especially the Dhammasangani, the kasinas have been placed at the start of the list of meditation objects. Why that is so, I don’t know. The practical effect of this sequence, which is preserved in the Visuddhimagga, is that the basic paradigm of meditation is taught using kasina—specifically the earth kasina—and all other meditation objects only described the aspects that are different for each one. So the practice that was once a fairly minor, though respected, part of the meditation canon was given pride of place, and the emphasis had shifted from the state of concentration reached to the method of meditation used to gain those states.

      Whether this shift ever corresponded to an actual change in practice is unknown. It could have been just a textual pattern, or it could have reflected the popularity of kasina meditation at the time.

      The Visuddhimagga not only gives detailed instruction on how to create and use a kasina (= physical disk) for meditation, it gives detailed correlations between the different kasinas and the psychic powers that they give rise to. There is no suggestion that the kasinas are the only means of gaining psychic powers, but they are certainly prominent in the discussion. This association between kasina and psychic powers is not found in the Suttas. The Suttas always associate psychic powers with the jhanas in general or with the iddhipadas.

      In subsequent Buddhist cultures the connection between kasina/visualization meditations and psychic powers became even stronger. Often, meditation, such as it was, became little more than a shamanistic trance used for gaining magical abilities. This magic-meditation culture is still strong in the heterodox, oral folk culture in Theravada countries such as Thailand.

      Such magical use (or misuse) of pseudo-Buddhist techniques is of course profoundly antithetic to modernist Buddhism, which in all its forms exalts rationalism. The links between meditation and magic were so close that this sometimes manifested as a rejection of all meditation, parallel with the Protestant rejection of Catholic mysticism in the West. In other contexts, notably the Burmese vipassana movement, the Thai forest tradition, and various Zen/Chan movements, the modernists proposed a “back to the roots” form of meditation, which dispensed with the magical and superstitious elements and reconstructed meditation as a rational system of reflection for spiritual development.

      So much for history, and now for speculation. I suspect that the kasina practices have been rejected or downplayed because of their close links with magical thinking, in contemporary Buddhist cultures if not in the Suttas. The teachers we hear from in traditional Buddhist cultures are anxious to distinguish their rational and authentic Buddhism from the magical/animistic/superstitious Buddhist culture that is literally right outside the door. So kasinas have become very much a poor cousin as far as the meditation subjects are concerned.

      Which, ironically enough, is perhaps a return to the original situation since, as I explained earlier, the notion of a kasina as a physical object is absent from the Suttas, and the term is a very minor one.

      All of which avoids the most important issue, which is: does kasina meditation work? I have no doubt that it does, as, despite its marginal status, there are still several modern meditators who practice and teach it. Still, it would be interesting to see how it suited different kinds of meditators.

    • Venerable, thanks very much — you have explained a lot that makes the present day Monastic stance on Jhana much clearer from a sociological point of view.

      Your ideas and perspectives would make a very interesting article for a Buddhist studies journal.

      The subject of the Jhanas and Kasinas being sidelined, or lessened in importance used to interest me a lot, but now I think of it, I don’t think I have met more than a handful of Buddhists, lay and ordained, who ever even gave it much thought — it just wasn’t worth discussing.

      Good subject for research I’d say. Of course, I immediately understand that for most present day Buddhists, insight meditation is far more valuable a goal to pursue — I can understand that fully, both in regards to sociohistorical perspectives, theory and praxis — but even so, it doesn’t entirely explain the almost total lack of interest within the present day Sangha.

      Still, your explanations go a long way towards explaining core ideas and realities I didn’t really know and hadn’t considered until now.

      Thanks.

    • _/\_
      imho… The objective for undertaking the Kasina meditation techniques shld be for understanding the basic elements tht construct the physical body which is similar to some of the other meditation techniques. And i think it would only be transmitted by the wise Elders for those who are ready and inclined for such training. i hv noted tht even when its taught at the same time for a group of ppl, it wld not be grasped by those who are not ready or open for such knowledge. or unless it is drilled into an individual?

      The guardian for learning to prevent undesirable results are the purification of mind and body and of course good spiritual friends and teachers. Psychic powers should be the result instead of the objective. otherwise

      with metta

      AN

  33. Venerable, I must dust off my Pali Text Society editions of The Suttas — If I remember correctly,in the Introductions, the Rhys Davids were very forthright in their opinions about which parts of the texts were later additions and not to be taken on board without a degree of skepticism.

    Again, it is some years since I read him, but I think Gombrich too, was pretty certain in his views of what was ‘real’ and what was ‘fake’ in The Suttas.

  34. PS But then there is the topic of who is a reliable critic to judge what is, and what is not fake and real? I had previously mentioned the Rhys Davids, both of whom most Buddhists( including myself) hold in very high regard for their textual knowledge — but even they are not without problematic associations — TW Rhys David a scholar I greatly admire, turns out to have held some very bizarre and ( to the modern mind) strange ideas about race and racism and imperialism,

  35. “But then there is the topic of who is a reliable critic to judge what is, and what is not fake and real?”

    Good question Joe

    Its interesting that Bhante draws comparisons of Obama recently filmed making straightforward political remarks with the Buddha, as though we have an equally reliable recording of the Buddha discussing equally straightforward issues to see whether he has been misquoted.

  36. Bhante,

    I heard recently that in Buddhist cultures the primary form of ostracism is not overt but is usually conducted by shunning the individual who is seen as not in keeping with the accepted norms of the group. None of this clearly defined or explained.

    Is this true? Would you consider this compassionate behaviour?

    Could you please clarify

    Thanks

    Geoff

  37. HI Bhante,
    Could some words have been forgotten from the original:
    monks, there are five dangers of desire for a woman. What five? It causes aggression, bears grudges, has terrible poison, is fork-tongued, and betrays friends. Herein, monks, desire for a woman’s terrible poison is this – generally, keen lust. A desire for a woman’s forked tongue is this – generally, back-biting speech. A desire for woman’s betrayal of friends is this – generally, a it causes adultery.
    If the forgotten words are added, the sutta makes sense.

    • Interesting suggestion. It is very true that often a slight change in wording can shift the meaning of a text quite radically. Sometimes we can use text-critical methods to assess whether a text has been changed in a relevant way. If there was another version of this text we could compare. The lack of variants, however, tends to suggest that the text is simply a later invention; although the evidence in this case is thin.

  38. Bhante,

    Re your response to Joe Oct 10:

    “Such magical use (or misuse) of pseudo-Buddhist techniques is of course profoundly antithetic to modernist Buddhism, which in all its forms exalts rationalism.”

    “In other contexts, notably the Burmese vipassana movement, the Thai forest tradition, and various Zen/Chan movements, the modernists proposed a “back to the roots” form of meditation, which dispensed with the magical and superstitious elements and reconstructed meditation as a rational system of reflection for spiritual development.”

    Could you please explain why is it not rational for me to think that a Buddhist might, for example, see devas in meditation and a Christian “the face of Jesus” because their preconceived beliefs influence what they see?

    I take it you would agree this would apply to the Christian. But why shouldn’t this also apply to the Buddhist?

    I’ve appreciated your feedback. It’s been quite illuminating.

    Thanks again

    Geoff

    • Dear Geoff

      In the initial stages of practise, a buddhist meditator might see devas or even ‘the face of Jesus’ because of their preconceived beliefs influence. The surrounding elements, energy, conditions or even other consciousness could also be a factor to what is ‘seen’. Hence, the meditator would note, ‘knowing, knowing, knowing’ and return to the object of meditation. Progressively, a meditator would be able to ‘see’ the resultant object of meditation.

      The understanding and grasp of four noble truths; dukkha to acknowledge, samudaya to put down, nirodha to understand and magga to practise comes into place for practical application.

      a student of Bhante with metta.
      AN

    • Dear Geoff

      Would like to further clarify the source for the above;
      ‘The understanding and grasp of four noble truths; dukkha to acknowledge, samudaya to put down, nirodha to understand and magga to practise comes into place for practical application.’ is a daily dhamma teaching with paticcasamupada by Ven Bhikkhu Javanna Panno Thera.

      This approach with some different words is written in ‘The Path of Purification (Visuddhi Magga’ by Bhadantaacariya Buddhaghosa, transl. fr the Pali by Bhikkhu Naanamoli. Ch. Introduction, pg. xxxii, para 3;
      “In Cha. XXII the attainment of the four successive Supramundane Paths (or successive stages in realization) is described, with the first of which nibbana (extinction of the craving which originates suffering) is ‘seen’ for the first time, having till then been only intellectually conceived. At that moment suffering as a Noble Truth is fully understood, Craving, its origin, is abandoned, suffering’s Cessation is realized, and the Way to its cessation is developed….

      A story abt one of the Buddha’s chief disciple, Ven. Sariputta when told abt his robe not properly in place by a little monk went off and corrected himself…

      As buddhist, i try to practise what is right not who is right. Therefore, the application of ‘anatta’ comes into practise, yes? What may be right for me, may not be right for you, isn’t it? Language and words are for communication. Wise compassion and discernment is always good tho.

      Proverbs 31.30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
      wht abt if “a woman who fears the Dhamma,?, she shall be praised?;-)

      Description of good gender and role traits is given in Sigalovada Sutta.

      Comments made here are meant for sharing, discussion and reflection, my apologies if it offends anyone.

      _/\_ With metta

      AN

  39. Dear Bhante,
    Thanks for pointing out this. I too don’t believe those are the words of the Budha. I am also doubtful about these two suttas, I forgot the name. The one immediately after awakening, the Budha (according to the sutta) does not want to teach the Dhamma and another sutta the Budha was searching for a teacher to venerate and both sutta quoted Brahma Sahampati to tell Budha…. Come on, the Budha’s objective was to help the humans to find a solution of death, aging,etc. why would he not want to reveal or teach the Dhamma? The Budha’s wisdom is beyond comprehension of anyone unless the other person is his equal. So why Brahma ? I believe this Brahma story is an ‘additive’ by someone. What do you think ?

    • Dear Suwanna,

      The whole episode of the Buddha being reluctant to teach and Brahma intervening is actually missing from the Sarvastivadin version of this sutta (found in Chinese translation). Considering the “propaganda” value of this passage, it seems quite possible that the whole episode is a late addition to the Pali version (MN26). This is just one example among many that shows the great value of comparative study of the suttas.

      With metta.

    • Even if this was propaganda it still has a point. I always rather liked it. The dhamma is so profound and subtle but the minds of the masses are not. Look at what historically happened to the dhamma, it got horribly distorted. Most people did not get the message! I always regarded the passage to be symbolic. Brahma being a symbol of Buddha’s compassionate nature. The will to teach for the welfare of the world (even if most won’t get it!).

    • Bhante,

      According to Ven. Analayo, the Chinese is the only version that has this reading.

      With metta.

  40. Dear Bhante Brahmali, Ven. Analayo,and Bhante Sujato,
    Thanks for the information. I was thinking on that line – the Bodhisatta can renounce with 4 sights and strived till he is left with bone and skin. The Budha who is perfectly awaken is surely operating 100%. The perfection of the Budha can be seen in a lot of suttas e.g. The Budha gone to the extend to take Nanda to heaven to see the nymphs, etc. It is just not likely that the Budha will give up at one instant. Though the addition seem ‘ harmless’ , it is never appropriate. A little addition here and a top up somewhere else is like smearing the sutta, it is disrespectful, to me.

    • Well Dhamma designing has it’s scarifies and honestly who would ever care of what the Buddha has to say.😉 You would need to listen carefully, investigate and look even for your self. That is pretty much work, so better make it proper to our moods and Brahmas ideas.

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