Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 1.2.5
Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā - So Rare!

The first collection of texts in the Pāli canon, the Dīghanikāyo presents suttas with long and detailed expositions on manifold topics. Because of their length these suttas can hardly be presented in this course, but reference is given in order to inspire individual study of these valuable elucidations.

The Dīghanikāyo starts with a sutta that highlights the ‘net (jālaṃ) of wrong views of the Brahmins’ during the days of the Buddha: Brahmajālasutta.

After a wanderer named Suppiya had disparaged the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha,

… suppiyo paribbājako anekapariyāyena buddhassa avaṇṇaṃ bhāsati,

dhammassa avaṇṇaṃ

saṅghassa avaṇṇaṃ bhāsati …

the Buddha exhorted his monks not to be affected by either praise nor blame but simply to refute what is untrue,

… itipetaṃ atacchaṃ, natthi cetaṃ amhesu, na ca panetaṃ amhesu saṃvijjatī’ti …

and refer to the true essence of the Dhamma.

itipetaṃ bhūtaṃ, itipetaṃ tacchaṃ, atthi cetaṃ amhesu,

saṃvijjati ca panetaṃ amhesū’ti 


The Buddha then compares the moral principles that the Saṅgha and those following the Noble Eightfold Path maintain to those of other sects, thus uncovering the prevailing sixty-two wrong views of those times.1

This short selection from the Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā, the commentary on the Brahmajālasutta (vaṇṇanā: exposition) again emphasizes the rare opportunity one is fortunate to encounter in this present period.2 Among these, Sampatti dullabhā refers to the following rare attainments of manussa-, devaloka-, and nibbanasampatti as well as sīla-, samādhi-, and paññāsampatti.

Also the good fortune of listening to the true Dhamma (dullabhaṃ saddhammassavanaṃ)3 is again highlighted as such a rare occasion.4

As referred to in the Ekapuggalavaggo5 the Buddha at one time tried to stir his monks to gain inspiration, faith and confidence6 from the respective qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha. The qualities of the Dhamma should be remembered such:

atha dhammaṃ anussareyyātha

svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo sandiṭṭhiko akāliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī’ti.

… Clearly expounded is the teaching of the Blessed One, to be seen for oneself, giving results here and now, inviting one to come and see, leading straight to the goal, capable of being realized by any intelligent person.


The Bahujanahitasutta7 likewise presented the qualities of Dhamma:

Sopi dhammaṃ deseti ādikalyāṇaṃ majjhekalyāṇaṃ pariyosānakalyāṇaṃ sātthaṃ sabyañjanaṃ, kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ parisuddhaṃ brahmacariyaṃ pakāseti.


One of the deeper explanations of svākkhāto: su + v + ākkhāto (well + proclaimed, extolled, declared) as highlighted in the Visuddhimaggo8 and in the commentary (Bahujanahitasuttavaṇṇanā) may be given here for the benefit of interested readers. When the teaching is svākkhāto then it has a quality of sātthaṃ sabyañjanaṃ, the interconnection, relationship and kinship between pariyatti and paṭipatti.

The expression sātthaṃ sabyañjanaṃ can be translated literally as ‘with (sa) meaning, with differentiation’. Attha has a wide variety of meanings: ‘goal, benefit, meaning, welfare’… and byañjana is understood as ‘letter, characteristic mark’. The common translation is ‘the spirit and the letter’. The translation ‘with correct wording full of meaning’ tries to convey the sense of the commentarial explanations.

The commentary relates sātthaṃ to paṭipatti and elucidates that the explanation of meaning should be satisfying and inspiring to any wise person through its profoundness and purity of explanation. Sabyañjanaṃ is related to pariyatti; it should eliminate all doubts amongst worldly folks and generate faith through the profoundness of teaching, analytical exegesis and proper placement of words.

Yaṃ pana bhagavā dhammaṃ desento sāsanabrahmacariyaṃ maggabrahmacariyañca pakāseti, nānānayehi dīpeti, taṃ yathānurūpaṃ atthasampattiyā sātthaṃ, byañjanasampattiyā sabyañjanaṃ.

When the Bhagavā, teaching the Dhamma, declares the holy life of the dispensation and the holy life of walking on the path, he throws light on it in manifold ways - if corresponding to the comprehension of the meaning it is sātthaṃ, - if corresponding to the comprehension of the letter it is sabyañjanaṃ.

Saṅkāsana, pakāsana, vivaraṇa, vibhajana, uttānīkaraṇa paññatti atthapadasamāyogato9 sātthaṃ, akkharapadabyañjanākāraniruttiniddesasampattiyā10 sabyañjanaṃ,

Giving explanation, making known, uncovering, going into detail, clarification, description with the motto of conjunction this is sātthaṃ; for the comprehension of letters and words, the explanation and analytical exegesis of letters and forms it is sabyañjanaṃ.

atthagambhīratāpaṭivedhagambhīratāhi vā sātthaṃ, dhammagambhīratādesanāgambhīratāhi sabyañjanaṃ.

Because of depth of meaning, profoundness of comprehension it is sātthaṃ; because of depth of Dhamma and profoundness of teaching it is sabyañjanaṃ.

Atthapaṭibhānapaṭisambhidāvisayato vā sātthaṃ, dhammaniruttipaṭisambhidāvisayato11 sabyañjanaṃ.

Because of illumination of meaning, analytical knowledge in the sphere of meaning in extension it is sātthaṃ; because of grammatical analyses in the field of casual relation, explanation of the origin of words, it is sabyañjanaṃ.

Paṇḍitavedanīyato parikkhakajanappasādakanti sātthaṃ, saddheyyato lokiyajanappasādakanti sabyañjanaṃ.

Leading to comprehension amongst the wise ones and making it bright to investigating beings it is sātthaṃ; inspiring faith and making it bright to the worldly people it is sabyañjanaṃ.

Gambhīrādhippāyato sātthaṃ, uttānapadato sabyañjanaṃ.

Profound in inference it is sātthaṃ; clear in words it is sabyañjanaṃ.

Upanetabbassa abhāvato sakalaparipuṇṇabhāvena kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ, apanetabbassa abhāvato niddosabhāvena parisuddhaṃ, apica paṭipattiyā adhigamabyattito sātthaṃ, pariyattiyā āgamabyattito sabyañjana

It should bring to conclusion, not be in want of anything, it should be entire, complete and developed, fulfilled in its entity, it should remove (faults), be faultless, pure and developed, utterly pure and further more through paṭipatti leading to the manifestation of knowledge: it is sātthaṃ, through pariyatti it should be for the accomplishment of scriptures it is sabyañjanaṃ

Tasmā “sātthaṃ sabyañjanaṃ …pe… pakāsetī”ti vuccati.

Therefor it is said: “He teaches …… pe …… with correct wording full of meaning.”

May all be inspired to put forth all efforts to gain the maximum benefit from the given opportunities and rare occasion to commit oneself seriously to paṭipatti by the available inspiration and support of pariyatti!

1. For more details on the numerous wrong views (micchadiṭṭhi) that prevailed during the period of the Buddha see Introduction to 3.2.10 Kathavatthu - Refuting Wrong Doctrines.

2. These words are quoted towards the end of serious long courses by S. N. Goenka.

3. The explanation of this term was provided in 1.2.0 Dullabho - So Rare!

4. The good fortune to be able to listen to Dhamma is described in 1.3.5 Maṇḍūkadevaputtavimānavatthu - The Frog Transforms into a Deva.

5. 1.2.1 Ekapuggalavaggo - The One Person.

6. 1.3.5 Dhajaggasuttaṃ - Verses for Protection.

7. 1.1.1 Bahujanahitasuttaṃ - For the Benefit of Many.

8. See Dhammānussatikathā.

9. Visuddhimagga uses one compound: Saṅkāsanapakāsanavivaraṇavibhajanauttānīkaraṇapaññattiatthapadasamāyogato.

10. akkharapadabyañjanākāraniruttiniddesasampattiyā: akkhara + pada + byañjanā + kāra + nirutti + niddesa + sampattiyā  — letter + word + consonant + vowel + grammatical and logical explanation of the words + designation, specification, description + attainment.

11. dhammaniruttipaṭisambhidāvisayato: dhamma + nirutti + paṭisambhidā + visaya + to — Dhamma + explanation, grammatical exegesis + analyses + characteristic.

Last modified: Friday, 24 November 2023, 6:56 PM