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 the 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 question.2 The Buddha’s answer summarises the Noble Eightfold Path3 and the Pāli offers a good opportunity to practice pronunciation while being 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 yenetene (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 superior.5 The usual respectful address would have been bhante. In general bho is used among equals, friends and an address to inferiors. A similar address between equals among Bhikkhus is āvuso.

The Brāhmins, who felt themselves the highest caste6 used to imply their own superiority using this address. Buddha always refuted the superiority of one caste over the other. Whether one belonged to the Khattiyā, Brāhmaṇā, Vessā, Suddā or Caṇḍālā cast, one’s superiority or lack of was only decided by one’s wholesome or unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind. According to the Buddha whoever destroyed one’s defilements and became an Arahant, regardless of which cast they were from, was made superior purely by one’s practice and the supreme virtue of Dhamma.7

At one time when dwelling at Sāvatthi the Buddha arose after his meditation for a walk in the open and was then joined by two Brāhmins named Vāseṭṭha and Bhāradvāja.8 A talk ensued where the Buddha explained to them thus.

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 received as a present from 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 or recognise the Buddha he also addressed him as friend.17 Though 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 addressing him 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.

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 an essential tool for anyone who realizes that one has done something wrong. It is called vuddhi ariyassa vinaye (Growth in the Noble One’s Discipline).

Yato ca kho tvaṃ, bhikkhu, accayaṃ accayato disvā yathādhammaṃ paṭikarosi, taṃ te mayaṃ paṭiggaṇhāma.18 Vuddhihesā, bhikkhu, ariyassa vinaye yo accayaṃ accayato disvā yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti, āyatiṃ saṃvaraṃ āpajjatī19ti.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 heard, 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 of giving a talk about Dhamma to Pukkusāti. He envisioned
the qualities of Pukkusāti who during this talk became an anāgāmi. As a matter of fact, Pukkusāti heard that the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī and was resolved to visit the Buddha the next day.

17. ‘‘Na .kho me, āvuso, diṭṭhapubbo so bhagavā; disvā cāhaṃ na jāneyya’’nti.

18. paṭiggaṇhāma: paṭiggaṇhati: accept, receive.

19. āpajjatī: undergo, exhibit, make.

20. Other examples as to the proper way of ‘confessing’ after having recognized one’s fault, error or transgression — with the firm resolve not to repeat it — can be found in lesson 1.4.10 Sāmaññaphalasuttaṃ - Pointing Out the Way to One Who Is Lost as well as in 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 where the Buddha advises his own son, Rāhula.


Last modified: Saturday, 11 November 2023, 2:10 PM