49 – Brahma Nimantanika Sutta

The Invitation of a Brahma

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§ 1. THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Park. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus:  “Bhikkhus.” –
“Venerable sir,” they replied.
The Blessed One said this:

§ 2. “Bhikkhus, on one occasion I was living at Ukkattha in the Subhaga Grove at the root of a royal sala tree.499
[The Mulapariyaya Sutta (MN 1 ) was also delivered by the Buddha while he was living in the Subhaga Grove at Ukkattha, and the similarity in formulation and theme between these two suttas – perhaps the only two recorded as originating at Ukka”tt}la – is striking. It is even possible to see the present sutta as a dramatic representation of the same ideas set forth by the Mulapariyaya in abstract philosophical terms. Thus Baka the Brahma may be taken to represent being or personality in its most eminent form, blindly engaged in the activity of conceiving, sustaining itself with its delusions of permanence, pleasure, and selfhood. Underlying being is craving, symbolised by Mara – seemingly inconspicuous in the assembly, yet the real author of all the outpourings of conceiving, the one who holds the entire universe in his grip. The alliance of Brahma and Mara, God and Satan, an incomprehensible union from the perspective of Western theism, points to the thirst for continued being as the hidden root of all world affirmation, whether theistic or non-theistic. In the sutta the superficial theoretical contest between Baka and the Buddha soon gives way to a gripping deep-level confrontation between Mara and the Buddha – Mara as craving demanding the affirmation of being, the Enlightened One pointing to the cessation of being through the uprooting of delight.]

Now on that occasion a pernicious view had arisen in Baka the Brahma thus:

‘This is permanent, this is everlasting, this is eternal, this is total, this is not subject to pass away; for this neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears, and beyond this there is no escape.‘500
[A similar encounter between the Buddha and Baka is recorded at SN 6:4/i.142-44, though without the dramatic trappings of this meeting and with an extended exchange in verse. According to MA and MT, he held this eternalist view with regard to both his own individual personality and the world over which he presided.His denial of an “escape beyond” is a rejection of the higher jhana planes, the paths and fruits, and Nibbana, none of which he even knows exist.]

§  3.  “I knew with my mind the thought in the mind of Baka the Brahma, so just as quickly as a strong man might extend his flexed arm or flex his extended arm, I vanished from the root of the royal sala tree in the Subhaga Grove at Ukkattha and appeared in that Brahma-world. Baka the Brahma saw me coming in the distance and said:
‘Come, good sir! Welcome, good sir! It is long, good sir, since you found an opportunity to come here. Now, good sir, this is permanent, this is everlasting, this is eternal, this is total, this is not subject to pass away; for this neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears, and beyond this there is no escape.’

§  4. “When this was said, I told Baka the Brahma:
‘The worthy Baka the Brahma has lapsed into ignorance; he has lapsed into ignorance in that he says of the impermanent that it is permanent, of the transient that it is everlasting, of the non-eternal that it is eternal, of the incomplete that it is total, of what is subject to pass away that it is not subject to pass away, of what is born, ages, dies, passes away, and reappears, that it neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears; and when there is an escape beyond this, he says that there is no escape beyond this.’

§ 5 . “Then Mara the Evil One, took possession of a member of the Brahma’s Assembly,501
[MA: When Mara discovered that the Buddha had gone to the Brahma-world, he became anxious that the Brahmas might be won over to the Dhamma and escape from his control; thus he went there to discourage the Buddha from teaching the Dhamma.]
and he told me:
‘Bhikkhu, bhikkhu, do not disbelieve him, do not disbelieve him; for this Brahma is the Great Brahma, [327] the Overlord, the Un-transcended, of Infallible Vision, Wielder of Mastery, Lord Maker and Creator, Most High Providence, Master and Father of those that are and ever can be.

Before your time, bhikkhu, there were recluses and brahmins in the world who condemned earth through disgust with earth,502 [MA: Because they considered it to be impermanent, suffering, and not self.]  who condemned water through disgust with water, who condemned fire through disgust with fire, who condemned air through disgust with air, who condemned beings through disgust with beings, who condemned gods through disgust with gods, who condemned Pajapati through disgust with Pajapati, who condemned Brahma through disgust with Brahma; and on the dissolution of the body, when their life was cut off, they became established in an inferior body.503 [MA: In the four states of deprivation. Here, and at §10 and §29, the word “body” (kaya) is used to mean plane of existence.]

Before your time, bhikkhu, there were also recluses and brahmins in the world who lauded earth through delight in earth, 504 [MA: They lauded it by speaking praise of it as permanent, everlasting, eternal, etc., and delighted in it by way of craving and views.] who lauded water through delight in water, who lauded fire through delight in fire, who lauded air through delight in air, who lauded beings through delight in beings, who lauded gods through delight in gods, who lauded Pajapati through delight in Pajapati, who lauded Brahma through delight in Brahma; and on the dissolution of the body, when their life was cut off, they became established in a superior body.505 [MA: In the Brahma-world.]

So, bhikkhu, I tell you this: Be sure, good sir, to do only as the Brahma says; never overstep the word of the Brahma. If you overstep the word of the Brahma, bhikkhu, then, like a man trying to deflect an approaching beam of light with a stick, or like a man losing his hold on the earth with his hands and feet as he slips into a deep chasm, so it will befall you, bhikkhu. Be sure, good sir, to do only as the Brahma says; never overstep the word of the Brahma. Do you not see the Brahma’s Assembly seated here, bhikkhu?’
And Mara the Evil One thus called to witness the Brahma’s Assembly 506 [MA: Mara’s intention is· to show: “If you do as Brahma says without overstepping his word, you too will shine with the same splendour and glory as that with which the Brahma’s Assembly shines.]

§ 6. “When this was said, I told Mara the Evil One:
‘I know you, Evil One. Do not think: “He does not know me.” You are Mara, Evil One, and the Brahma and the Brahma’s Assembly and the members of the Brahma’s Assembly have all fallen into your hands, they have all fallen into your power. You, Evil One, think: “This one too has fallen into my hands, he too has fallen into my power”; but I have not fallen into your hands, Evil One, I have not fallen into your power.’
[506 MA: Mara’s intention is to show: “If you do as Brahma says without overstepping his word, you too will shine with the same splendour and glory as that with which the Brahma’s Assembly shines.]

§  7. “When this was said, Baka the Brahma told me:
Good sir, I say of the permanent that it is permanent, [328] of the everlasting that it is everlasting, of the eternal that it is eternal, of the total that it is total, of what is not subject to pass away that it is not subject to pass away, of what neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears that it neither is born nor ages nor dies nor passes away nor reappears; and when there is no escape beyond this, I say that there is no escape beyond this.

Before your time, bhikkhu, there were recluses and brahmins in the world whose asceticism lasted as long as your whole life. They knew, when there is an escape beyond, that there is an escape beyond, and when there is no escape beyond, that there is no escape beyond. So, bhikkhu, 1 tell you this: You will find no escape beyond, and eventually you will reap only weariness and disappointment. If you will hold to earth, you will be close to me, within my domain, for me to work my will upon and punish.507
[MA says that by the first two terms he tries to cajole the 
Buddha, by the remaining two terms he threatens him. To “hold to earth” is to grasp it by way of craving, conceit, and views. The list of categories here, though condensed, 
is reminiscent of MN 1 .]
 
If you hold to water…to fire…to air…to beings…to gods…to Pajapati…to Brahma, you will be close to me, within my domain, for me to work my will upon and punish.’

§ 8. “‘I know that too, Brahma. If I will hold to earth, I shall be close to you, within your domain, for you to work your will upon and punish. If I will hold to water…to fire…to air…to beings…to gods…to Pajapati…to Brahma, I shall be close to you, within your domain, for you to work your will upon and punish. Further, I understand your reach and your sway to extend thus: Baka the Brahma has this much power, this much might, this much influence.’

‘”Now, good sir, how far do you understand my reach and my sway to extend?’

§ 9. ‘”As far as moon and sun revolve Shining and lighting up the quarters, Over a thousandfold such world Does your sovereignty extend. And there you know the high and low, And those with lust and free from lust, The state that is thus and otherwise, The coming and going of beings. Brahma, I understand your reach and your sway to extend thus:

Baka the Brahma has this much power, this much might, [329] this much  influence.508 [MA: Baka Brahma was a Brahma exercising sovereignty over a thousand world-systems, but above him there are . Brahmas exercising sovereignty over two, three, four, five, ten thousand, and a hundred thousand world-systems]

§ 10. “But, Brahma, there are three other bodies, which you neither know nor see, and which I know and see. There is the body called [the gods of] Streaming Radiance, from which you passed a way and reappeared here. 509
[The body of Streaming Radiance is a realm of rebirth pertaining to the second jhana, while Baka Brahma’s realm pertains only to the first jhana. The body of Refulgent Glory and the body of Great Fruit in the next paragraph pertain to the third and fourth jhanas]

Because you have dwelt here long, your memory of that has lapsed, and hence you do not know or see it, but I know and see it. Thus, Brahma, in regard to direct knowledge I do not stand merely at the same level as you, how then could I know less? Rather, I know more than you.510
[In the Brahmajala Sutta (DN l .2.2-6/ii.17-19) the Buddha shows how Maha Brahma gives rise to the delusion that he is the supreme creator God. When the world begins to form again after a period of dissolution, a being of great merit  is the first to be reborn in the newly formed Brahma world. Subsequently, other beings take rebirth in the Brahma-world and this causes Maha Brahma to imagine that he is their creator and master. See Bhikku Bodhi, The Discourse on the All  Embracing Net of Views, pp. 69-70, 159-166.]

‘”There is the body called [the gods of] Refulgent Glory…
There is the body called [the gods of] Great Fruit.
You do not know or see that, but I know and see it.
Thus, Brahma, in regard to direct knowledge I do not stand merely at the same level as you, how then could I know less? Rather, I know more than you.

§  11. ‘”Brahma, having directly known earth as earth, and having directly known that which is not commensurate with the earthiness of earth, I did not claim to be earth, 1 did not claim to be in earth, I did not claim to be apart from earth, I did not claim earth to be “mine,” I did not affirm earth.511
[This passage, parallel in structure to the corresponding passage of MN 1, is a difficult one. The difficulty centres around the verb used in the first four statements regarding earth, about which there is not even certainty as to the correct reading. Nm prefers the BBS ed. reading apahosim, which he takes to be an aorist of pabhavati, meaning “to produce, to give being to.” MA glosses: “I did not grasp earth through the obsessions of craving, conceit, and views.” Nm had rendered ananubhatam as “not co-essential with.” This has been replaced by “not commensurate with,” following MA’s gloss, “not reached by earth” and MT: “Its nature is not shared in common with earth.” MA says that what is “not commensurate with the earthness of earth” is Nibbana, which
is detached from all that is conditioned.]

Thus, Brahma, in regard to direct knowledge I do not stand merely at the same level as you, how then could I know less? Rather, I know more than you.

§ 12-§ 23. ‘”Brahma, having directly known water as water…
fire as fire…
air as air…
beings as beings…
gods as gods…
Pajapati as Pajapati…
Brahma as Brahma…
the gods of Streaming Radiance as the gods of Streaming Radiance…
the gods of Refulgent Glory as the gods of Refulgent Glory…
the gods of Great Fruit as the gods of Great Fruit…
the Overlord as the Overlord…
all as all, and having directly known that which is not commensurate with the allness of all, I did not claim to be all, I did not claim to be in all, I did not claim to be apart from all, I did not claim all to be “mine,” I did not affirm all. Thus, Brahma, in regard to direct knowledge, I do not stand merely at the same level as you how then could I know less? Rather, I know more than you.’

§  24. ‘”Good sir, [if you claim to directly know] that which is not commensurate with the allness of all, may your claim not turn out to be vain and empty!’512
[The PTS ed. is surely mistaken in omitting here the ti ending a direct quotation, and this misleads Homer into ascribing the following passage to Baka rather than to the Buddha (MLS 1:392). The BBS and SBJ eds. supply the ti]

§  25. “‘The consciousness that makes no showing, Nor has to do with finiteness, Not claiming being with respect to all:513
[These lines (which also appear as part of a full verse at DN 1 1 .85/i.223) have been a perennial challenge to Buddhist scholarship, and even Acariya Buddhaghosa seems to founder over them. MA takes the subject of  the sentence to be Nibbana, called “consciousness” in the sense that “it can be cognized.” This is obviously a contrived derivation, since nowhere in the Canon is Nibbana ever described as consciousness.
MA offers three explanations of the phrase sabbato pabham:
(1) completely possessed of 
splendour (pabha);
(2) possessing being (pabhatam) everywhere; 
and
(3) a ford (pabham) accessible from all sides,

i.e., through any of the thirty-eight meditation objects.
Only the first of these seems to have any linguistic legitimacy.
Nm, in Ms, explains that he takes pabham to be a negative present participle of pabhavati – apabham – the negative-prefix a dropping off in conjunction with sabbato: “The sense can be paraphrased freely by ‘not predicating being in relation to “all,”‘ or ‘not assuming of “all” that it is or is not in an absolute sense.”‘
As an alternative translation more in keeping with MA, Maurice Walshe renders: ” . . .consciousness [that] is signless,
boundless, all-luminous” (Thus Have I Heard, p. 179).]
that is not commensurate with the earthness of earth, that is not commensurate with the waterness of water…[330]…that is not commensurate with the allness of all.’

§  26. ‘”Good sir, I shall vanish from you.’ ‘
“Vanish from me if you can, Brahma.’
“Then Baka the Brahma, saying: ‘I shall vanish from the recluse Gotama, I shall vanish from the recluse Gotama,’ was unable to vanish. Thereupon I said: ‘Brahma, I shall vanish from you.’ ‘”Vanish from me if you can, good sir.’

“Then I performed such a feat of supernormal power that the Brahma and the Brahma’s Assembly and the members of the Brahma’s Assembly could hear my voice but could not see me.

After I had vanished, I uttered this stanza:

§  27. ‘”Having seen fear in every mode of being
And in being seeking for non-being,
I did not affirm any mode of being,
Nor did I cling to any delight [in being].
‘514
[The Buddha’s disappearance seems to be a “visible” 
demonstration of his verse. Having extirpated delight in being, he is able to vanish from the sight of Baka, the supreme representative of being and world affirmation. But Baka, bound to being by clinging, cannot transcend 
the range of the Buddha’s knowledge, which encompasses both being and non-being at the same time that it transcends them.]

§  28. “At that the Brahma and the Brahma’s Assembly and the members of the Brahma’s Assembly were struck with wonder and amazement, saying:
‘It is wonderful, sirs, it is marvellous, the great power and great might of the recluse Gotama! We have never before seen or heard of any other recluse or Brahmin who had such great power and such great might as has this recluse Gotama, who went forth from a Sakyan clan. Sirs, though living in a generation that delights in being, that takes delight in being, that rejoices in being, he has extirpated being together with its root.’

§  29. “Then Mara the Evil One took possession of a member of the Brahma’s Assembly, and he said to me:
‘Good sir, if that is what you know, if that is what you have discovered, do not guide your [lay] disciples or those gone forth, do not teach the Dhamma to your [lay] disciples or to those gone forth, create no yearning in your [lay] disciples or in those gone forth.

Before your time, bhikkhu, there were recluses and brahmins in the world claiming to be accomplished and fully enlightened, and they guided their [lay] disciples and those gone forth; they taught the Dhamma to their [lay] disciples and to those gone forth; they created yearning in their [lay] disciples and in those gone forth; and on the dissolution of the body, when their life was cut off, they became established in an inferior body. Before your time, bhikkhu, there were also recluses and brahmins in the world claiming to be accomplished and fully enlightened, [331] and they did not guide their [lay] disciples or those gone forth; they did not teach the Dhamma to their [lay] disciples or to those gone forth; they created no yearning in their [lay] disciples or in those gone forth; and on the dissolution of the body, when their life was cut off, they became established in a superior body. So, bhikkhu, I tell you this: Be sure, good sir, to abide inactive, devoted to a pleasant abiding here and now; this is better left undeclared, and so, good sir, inform no one else.’515
[This is the same inclination that arose in the Buddha’s mind in the period immediately after his enlightenment – see MN 26.19. Compare also DN 1 6.3.34/ii.1 12 where Mara attempts to persuade the newly enlightened Buddha to pass away peacefully at once.]

§  30. “When this was said, I told Mara the Evil One: ‘I know you, Evil One. Do not think: “He does not know me.” You are Mara, Evil One. It is not out of compassion for their welfare that you speak thus, it is without compassion for their welfare that you speak thus. You think thus, Evil One: “Those to whom the recluse Gotama teaches the Dhamma will escape from my phere.” Those recluses and brahmins of yours, Evil One, who claimed to be accomplished and fully enlightened, were not accomplished and fully enlightened. But I, who claim to be accomplished and fully enlightened, am accomplished and fully enlightened. If the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma to disciples he is such, Evil One, and if the Tathagata does not teach the Dhamma to disciples he is such.516
[
Tadiso: that is, whether he teaches or not he remains the Tathagata.]

 If the Tathagata guides disciples he is such, Evil One, and if the Tathagata does not guide disciples he is such. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has abandoned the taints that defile, bring renewal of being, give trouble, ripen in suffering, and lead to future birth, ageing, and death; he has cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, done away with them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. Just as a palm tree whose crown is cut off is incapable of further growth, so too, the Tathagata has abandoned the taints that defile.. .cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, done away with them so that they are no longer subject to future arising.'”

§  31.Thus, because Mara was unable to reply, and because [it began] with the Brahma’s invitation, this discourse is entitled “On the Invitation of a Brahma.”

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