Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 1.3.1
Saṅgāravasuttaṃ - The Questions of Saṅgāravo
This short sutta, concludes with the same verses as presented in the previous lesson1 and is found in Aṅguttaranikāyo in the chapter of ‘ten’, the Dasakanipātapāḷi.
Here the Buddha replies to a Brāhmin by the name of Saṅgārava who quite regularly visits the Buddha with some concern or question2. The Buddha’s answer summarises the Eightfold Noble Path3 and offers a good opportunity to practice pronunciation and is fun to recite aloud.
The sutta like many others uses a common term of introduction here:
‘ … Atha kho yena bhagavā tenupasaṅkami; upasaṅkamitvā….’
which is a fixed phrase that describes the incidents of how and where someone approaches and addresses the Bhagavā. It is indicated by the relative and demonstrative pronouns: yene—tene: by what—by that. The commentary explains:
‘Where the—yena—Bhagavā was, there —tene— he approached.’
After the Buddha has been approached, greeted and one has sat down at one side —abhivādetvā ekamantaṃ nisīdi— the following opening phrase is used:
• ‘… sammodanīyaṃ kathaṃ sārāṇīyaṃ vītisāretvā ekamantaṃ nisīdi …’— ‘…sat down after the exchange of friendly greetings and the pleasing exchange of remembrance of past experiences, reminiscent tales…’
Compared to this phrase one will find likewise the following introductory situations:
• ‘… ekamantaṃ nisīdi …’ — ‘just sitting down on one side’
• ‘… tenañjaliṃ paṇāmetvā ekamantaṃ nisīdi …’ — ‘sitting down with folded hands on one side’
• ‘… nāmagottaṃ sāvetvā4 ekamantaṃ nisīdi …’ — ‘sitting down on one side by introducing one’s name’
• ‘…tuṇhībhūtā ekamantaṃ nisīdi…’ — ‘sitting down on one side in silence’
In the current sutta, Brāhmin Saṅgārava, addresses the Buddha with the term: ‘bho’—‘friend, my dear’, which shows that as Brāhmin he felt superior5. The usual respectful address would have been ‘bhante’. In general ‘bho’ is used among equals, friends and address to inferiors. A similar address in between equals among Bhikkhus is ‘āvuso’.
The Brāhmins, who felt themselves the highest caste6 used to imply their own superiority by this address. Buddha always refuted the superiority of one caste over the other. Whoever may belong to a Khattiyā; Brāhmaṇā; Vessā, Suddā or a Caṇḍālā cast, whether one was superior or not was decided only by one’s wholesome or unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind. According to the Buddha whoever was to destroy the defilements and became an Arahant, regardless of which cast they were from, was made superior purely by their practice and the supreme virtue of Dhamma7.
At one time, when dwelling at Sāvatthi the Buddha arose after his meditation for a walk in the open and was then joined by the two Brāhmins, Vāseṭṭho and Bhāradvāja.8 Here a talk ensued where the Buddha explained to these two:
“Imesañhi, vāseṭṭha, catunnaṃ vaṇṇānaṃ yo hoti bhikkhu arahaṃ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho9 parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojano10 sammadaññāvimutto11, so nesaṃ aggamakkhāyati12 dhammeneva, no adhammena.
Dhammo hi, vāseṭṭha, seṭṭho janetasmiṃ,
diṭṭhe cevadhamme abhisamparāyañca.”13
“Anyone, Vāseṭṭha, from any of these four casts becomes a monk, an Arahant, gets freed from all impurities, has lived his life, done what was to be done and laid down the burden, has achieved one’s own welfare, destroyed the fetter of becoming and is liberated by the highest knowledge – such a one deserves the highest praise through his virtue of dhamma and not of non-dhamma!
Because, Vāseṭṭha, it is Dhamma's what is most superior for people
In this life and the next as well.”
There is an interesting incident related in the Dhātuvibhaṅgasutta.14 Here the Buddha visits the former king Pukkusāti of Takkasila who went forth under the Bhagavā without ever having seen him. He had gained inspiration from the inscription on a golden plate that he had received as a present of king Bimbisāra. The engraving highlighted the qualities of the tiratana. The Buddha joined Pukkusāti, in Rājagaha, who was staying overnight in the ‘workshop’ —‘kumbhakārāvesane15’— of a potter named Bhaggava.16 As Pukkusāti didn’t know and recognise the Buddha he also addressed him as friend17 - but when he had realized it was the Buddha based on the profoundness of the exposition the Buddha gave, Pukkusāti bowed down and apologized for not having addressed the Buddha correctly and asked for forgiveness in the following way:
“Tassa me, accayaṃ accayato paṭiggaṇhātu āyatiṃ saṃvarāyā’’ti.
“May Bhante, the Bhagavā, forgive my transgression seen as such for the sake of restraint in the future.”
Here the Buddha accepts this apology and requests it to be used as groundwork rather than a mere confession. Insight into one’s wrongdoing along with strong determination to avoid any repetition in future is a rare opportunity and essential tool for anyone who realizes that he has done something wrong, called ‘vuddhi ariyassa vinaye’ — ‘Growth in the Noble One’s Discipline’:
“Yato ca kho tvaṃ, bhikkhu, accayaṃ accayato disvā yathādhammaṃ paṭikarosi, taṃ te mayaṃ paṭiggaṇhāma18. Vuddhihesā, bhikkhu, ariyassa vinaye yo accayaṃ accayato disvā yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti, āyatiṃ saṃvaraṃ āpajjatī19’’ti. 20
“But since you realize your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with the Dhamma, we forgive you. For it is growth in the Noble One’s Discipline when one realizes one’s transgression as such, makes amends in accordance with the Dhamma, and undertakes restraint in the future.”
1. see 1.3.0: Appakā te manussesu - So Few out of Many Humans
2. A similar sutta with the same title is found in the Dasakanipātapāḷi, Jāṇussoṇivaggo. Here the Buddha declares the breakage of the five precepts as the ‘hither shore’ and refers to someone who upholds these as the ‘further shore’. “Kiṃ nu kho, bho gotama, orimaṃ tīraṃ, kiṃ pārimaṃ tīran”ti? “Pāṇātipāto kho, brāhmaṇa, orimaṃ tīraṃ, pāṇātipātā veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Adinnādānaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, orimaṃ tīraṃ, adinnādānā veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Kāmesumicchācāro orimaṃ tīraṃ, kāmesumicchācārā veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Musāvādo orimaṃ tīraṃ, musāvādā veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Pisuṇā vācā orimaṃ tīraṃ, pisuṇāya vācāya veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Pharusā vācā orimaṃ tīraṃ, pharusāya vācāya veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Samphappalāpo orimaṃ tīraṃ, samphappalāpā veramaṇī pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Abhijjhā orimaṃ tīraṃ, anabhijjhā pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Byāpādo orimaṃ tīraṃ, abyāpādo pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Micchādiṭṭhi orimaṃ tīraṃ, sammādiṭṭhi pārimaṃ tīraṃ. Idaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa,orimaṃ tīraṃ, idaṃ pārimaṃ tīranti.
3. with the addition of ñāṇa and vimutti
4. sāvetvā: sāveti (ger.) making hear, declaring
5. Later Saṅgārava becomes a disciple of the Buddha by accepting him as his teacher.
6. Brāhmaṇā, bhante, evamāhaṃsu – ‘brāhmaṇova seṭṭho vaṇṇo, hīnā aññe vaṇṇā. Brāhmaṇova sukko vaṇṇo, kaṇhā aññe vaṇṇā.
7. see Catuvaṇṇasuddhi, Aggaññasutta, Pāthikavaggapāḷi, Dīghanikāyo where the Buddha gives an historical account of the development of these casts
8. Aggaññasuttaṃ as above
9. anuppattasadattho: anu + p + patta + sadattho: having attained + one’s own welfare, good
10. parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojano: pari + k + khīṇa + bhava + saṃyojano: exhausted, wasted + becoming, rebirth + fetter
11. sammadaññāvimutto: samma + d + aññā + vimutto: right, perfect + knowledge + liberation, freedom
12. aggamakkhāyati: aggam + akkhāyati: highest + to be known, appear like
13. abhisamparāyañca: abhi + samparāyaṃ + ca: next existence, state after death
14. see under sammāsamādhi at 3.9.
15. kumbhakārāvesane: kumbhakāra + āvesane: potter + workshop, lobby
16. The Buddha went to Rājagaha from Sāvatthī with the objective to give a talk on Dhamma to Pukkusāti. He envisioned the qualities of Pukkusāti who during this talk became an anāgāmi. As a matter of fact Pukkusāti had heard that the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī and was resolved to visit the Buddha the next day.
18. paṭiggaṇhāma: paṭiggaṇhati: accept, receive
19. āpajjatī: undergo, exhibit, make
20. Another example as to the proper way of ‘confessing’ after having recognized one’s fault, error or transgression with the firm resolve not to repeat is given under 3.3.6 Ambalaṭṭhikarāhulovādasuttaṃ part one - How to Train Oneself and to Confess Shortcomings to One`s Elders – part one and 3.3.7 Ambalaṭṭhikarāhulovādasuttaṃ part two. Here the Buddha advises his own son, Rāhula.