Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
2.1.11 Paṭhamabrahmaññasuttaṃ & Dutiyabrahmaññasuttaṃ - About Being a Brahmañña and the Fruits Thereof & The Purpose of Being a Brahmañña
Evaṃ dhammakkhandhato caturāsīti dhammakkhandhasahassāni.
Dvāsīti buddhato gaṇhiṃ, dve sahassāni bhikkhuto;
Caturāsīti sahassāni, ye me dhammā pavattino’ti
These repetitive texts of the Paṭhamabrahmaññasutta and the Dutiyabrahmaññasutta are introduced once more to highlight that the path is the same for one and all. They further draw attention to the mode of the oral tradition and offer a chance to repeat from memory by substituting the necessary words in the repetitive sentence patterns. The reader will be placed into the situation of the tradition of oral repetition. One should keep in mind that throughout the eighty-four thousand units the Buddha provided to explain the Dhamma, such oral tradition was maintained for about two hundred years or more up to the first century BC, i.e., up to the Forth Saṅgīti when the texts were written down on palm leaves in Laṅka.3
By the time the Muslim emperors invaded India and gave a final violent blow to the last remnants of the Buddha’s teaching — first in the northern parts of India under the Huns and later in the whole of India under Muhammad Bakhtyar — they faced a situation of decay and deterioration of religious practices. The Chinese travellers, Fa-Hein, Hiuen Tsang and T-Tsing,4 already gave a vivid picture of the remains of the teaching. Their reports prove that the Bhikkhus had spread nearly to all parts of India and established and retained different monasteries and residences, even in caves. But their descriptions of the practices of the Bhikkhus also present a wide range of groups, sects, and traditions, as well as different customs and rituals that had developed by this time. The echo of the advice of those inspiring last words of the Tathāgata — to realize the impermanent nature of all matter by one’s own practice of meditation — seems to have virtually died out.
handa dāni, bhikkhave, āmantayāmi5 vo, vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā’ti.
Now, Bhikkhus, I declare to you: it is the nature of all compounded things to pass away, apply this advice without negligence.
After the first great schism,6 those Bhikkhus who followed the teaching of the Buddha as understood by the Theras, as well as those that pursued the doctrine of the Mahāsaṇghikas, finally dispersed to various parts of Majjhimadesa-janapada. Partly due to the regional separation but mostly due to their respective interpretation of the teaching that further splits and estrangement were the consequence. Some of the names of these various groups communicated their individual teaching or philosophy: Sarvāstivāda, Lokuttaravāda, Puggalavāda, Bahuśrutīya, Mahāsuññavādin. Others conveyed their regional origin: Haimavata, Rajagirīya, Jetavanīya, Uttarapāthaka, Dakkhinapāthaka. Some called themselves after their individual preceptors — Dharmaguptaka, Kaśyāpīya — while others upheld the importance of worship and the importance of offering incense and adulation of cetiyas — caitikas.
In many cases debates of logic, competitions of scholastic argumentation and contests of philosophies seems to have substituted the application of meditation even though the Buddha always gave so much emphasis to practice.7
Attadīpā, bhikkhave, viharatha attasaraṇā anaññasaraṇā, dhammadīpā dhammasaraṇā anaññasaraṇā.
Bhikkhus, be an island within yourselves, take refuge within yourselves without any other refuge. Let Dhamma be your island, make Dhamma your refuge without any other refuge.
The introduction of yāna soon gave a vent to a vast variety of other supportive ‘vehicles’ or modes for spiritual enhancement. While the differentiation between Hinayāna and Mahāyāna developed, even deprecating one of the two main existing traditions (hina: inferior, base; mahā: great, important), this opening for outer support for one’s own spiritual quest by means of yāna — instead of objective observation of one’s own reality through the practice of insight — soon invited a vast field of further approaches: Vajrayāna, Sahajayāna, Mantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Kālacakrayāna, Mantrayāna, Sahajatayāna.
These different approaches naturally led to different aspirations. The necessary perfection and complete eradication of all the impurities for an arahant was put into question and the means of attainment towards liberation remodelled. Furthermore, the substance of an ‘all-existing individuality’, a ‘soul’ re-established, or the continuity of ‘everything’ existing was endorsed. The perspective of working out one’s own salvation and liberation, the ‘lower’ (hina) perspective of becoming an arahant slowly turned in the ‘higher’ (mahā) ambition of becoming a Bodhisatta and thus the whole system of endeavouring to tackle the three trainings — tīsu sikkhāsu: sīla, samādhi, paññā — seems to have subsided.
The qualities of the Buddha, and the pains and ways experienced to develop those qualities, were no longer depicted and described to rouse confidence in the Buddha and his teaching — i.e., to follow his example and strive for liberation — as in the earlier literature of the Jatakas. The Bodhisattvayāna, as Mahāyāna was also more accurately called, prescribed the means to attain the superior aim of a Bodhisattva by postponing one’s own liberation. In the wake of this different approach towards liberation, lay followers slowly moved away from applying the Eightfold Noble Path to more devotional faith and reliance.
Although these different schools with their wide field of practices, traditions and varied groups mainly resided harmoniously with mutual acceptance,8 it may have been difficult for lay people to develop proper faith and devotion, eventually resulting in their fading support. Brahmanic lore gained more and more attraction, especially as parts of it were included in some of the teachings, and thus saddhamma — except for some secluded individuals who had retired to remote places or caves — eventually became lost in India.
It was then the neighbouring countries of India, where the Dhamma messengers were sent by King Asoka, who preserved the tradition in Pāli. After the Fourth Council was completed in Laṅka, the two countries of Laṅka and Myanmar especially developed a close relationship to ensure the correct interpretation and practice of saddhamma. Both countries maintained the tradition in the original language as taught by the Buddha and repeatedly exchanged and compared their copies of the Tipiṭaka. The next council, the Fifth Council, was arranged in Māndalay, Myanmar in 1871 CE. Under the reign of King Mindon, the Elders Mahāthera Jāgarābhivaṃsa, Mahāthera Narindābhidhaja and Mahāthera Sumaṅgalasāmi along with 2,400 monks, reviewed and compared the entire Tipiṭaka for a period of five months. After this Fifth Council an enormous task was undertaken to create the ‘largest book in the world’, where even today we can read the entire Tipiṭaka engraved in beautiful white marble ‘miniature-piṭaka-pagodas’ at a special site on the grounds of King Mindon’s Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Māndalay Hill.
Only eighty-three years later in 1954, the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana or Sixth Council (the last council to date) was held at Kaba Aye in Yangon, Mynamar. Prime Minister U Nu authorized the construction of the Mahā Pāsāna Gūhā (the great cave), which was an artificial cave very much like India's Sattapaññi Cave where the First Dhamma Saṅgiti had been held. Upon its completion the Council began on the 17th of May 1954, where 2,500 learned Theravāda monks from the eight countries of Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam collaborated to affirm and preserve the Dhamma and Vinaya under the presidency of the Venerable Mahāsi Sayadaw. By this time all the participating countries had written down the Pāli Tipiṭaka into their own native scripts, and during the next two years the Tipiṭaka and its allied literature were examined and compared in all the scripts with the necessary adaptions being made.
Finally, after the Council officially approved them, all the volumes of the Tipiṭaka and their Commentaries were printed and published in the Myanmar script with the dedicated efforts of the 2,500 monks and numerous lay people. Their work came to an end in May of 1956, two and a half millennia after the Buddha’s Parinibbāna. This council's work was the unique achievement of representatives from the entire Buddhist world and has been recognized as being true to the pristine teaching of Gotama the Buddha and stands as the most authoritative representation. The volumes printed after the Sixth Saṅgāyana were printed in Myanmar script.
In order to make the volumes available to the people of India, the Vipassana Research Institute undertook the task of printing the Tipiṭaka, with its Aṭṭhakathās and Ṭikas, in Devanagari script in 1990 and then later also digitized them in various scripts. All the suttas presented in this collection are quoted from the resulting collection of this Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana and can be offered due to the inspiring dedication of so many people. They are accessible at www.tipitaka.org.
May the ardent efforts of all the people who maintained the munificent teaching of the Buddha for the times to come be rewarded. May more and more beings make use of this rare opportunity and realize the teaching of the Buddha by walking on the path themselves. May all beings be happy.
1. This refers to the Venerable Sāriputta.
2. These are the words uttered by the Venerable Ānanda: Ānandattheragāthā, Theragāthāpāḷi, Khuddakanikāye and referred to at Nidānakathā, Aṭṭhasālinī, Dhammasaṅgaṇī-aṭṭhakathā, Abhidhammapiṭake. As described in 2.1.5 - Sevitabbasuttaṃ - ‘What one Should Associate with’, it was due to the sharp memory and thorough recitation by the Venerable Ānanda that the complete Sutta Piṭaka was sustained.
4. Who visited India and travelled around between the 4th to the 7th century BCE.
5. āmantayati, āmanteti: to address, invite, inform.
7. See 3.8.16 Mahāparinibbānasuttaṃ, Veḷuvagāmavassūpagamanaṃ: Be an Island within Yourselves - attadīpā viharatha attasaraṇā.
8. The great centre of learning at Nālandā accommodated various schools and preserved all kinds of historical documents and scriptures meticulously.