SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

Moderator: mikenz66

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10782
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: New Zealand

SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:23 am

SN 51.15 PTS: S v 271 CDB ii 1732
Brahmana Sutta: To Unnabha the Brahman
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Ven. Ananda explains to Unnabha that the path of Dhamma is one with a definite goal — the abandoning of desire — which can only be attained by developing a strong desire to end desire.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Ananda was staying in Kosambi, at Ghosita's Park. Then the Brahman Unnabha went to where Ven. Ananda was staying and on arrival greeted him courteously. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Ananda: "Master Ananda, what is the aim of this holy life lived under Gotama the contemplative?"

"Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire."

"Is there a path, is there a practice, for the abandoning of that desire?"

"Yes, there is a path, there is a practice, for the abandoning of that desire."

"What is the path, the practice, for the abandoning of that desire?"

"Brahman, there is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion. He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence... concentration founded on intent... concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion. This, Brahman, is the path, this is the practice for the abandoning of that desire."

"If that's so, Master Ananda, then it's an endless path, and not one with an end, for it's impossible that one could abandon desire by means of desire."

"In that case, brahman, let me question you on this matter. Answer as you see fit. What do you think: Didn't you first have desire, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular desire allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have persistence, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular persistence allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have the intent, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular intent allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have [an act of] discrimination, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular act of discrimination allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"So it is with an arahant whose mental effluents are ended, who has reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who is released through right gnosis. Whatever desire he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular desire is allayed. Whatever persistence he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular persistence is allayed. Whatever intent he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular intent is allayed. Whatever discrimination he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular discrimination is allayed. So what do you think, brahman? Is this an endless path, or one with an end?"

"You're right, Master Ananda. This is a path with an end, and not an endless one. Magnificent, Master Ananda! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has Master Ananda — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to Master Gotama for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Sangha of monks. May Master Ananda remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge, from this day forward, for life."

Note

See "The Four Bases of Power" in The Wings to Awakening.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part2-d

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 1118
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:01 pm

This sutta is often quoted as a sort of defence against non-practitioners with philosophical tendencies who think that a desire for desirelessness is some sort of logical or psychological impossibility. Unnabha seems to be the prototype for this sort of person. I assume that the wholesome desire which forms part of the iddhipada is chanda; but can any Pali specialists tell us the term for the desire which is to be abandoned in this sutta? Is it also chanda? If it were tanha or some other term than chanda, the distinction in the Pali would make the point without need of further explanation. A bit like saying in English that we need zeal to get rid of lust. This might be a psychological impossibility, but it is clearly not a logical impossibility.

It is interesting how the chanda is nested within the iddhipada. Thanissaro talks here of a base of power which is endowed with concentration; which is founded upon (in one case only) desire; and the fabrications of exertion. Bhikkhu Bodhi's rendering seems to have the same meaning with slightly different words:
the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to desire (in the one case) and volitional formations of striving.


This leaves it open as to whether one, or all, of the four iddhipada are required for the goal of desirelessness. If so, then chanda and viriya are relatively easy to understand; but vimamsa is a bit more difficult for me because I can't remember seeing it elsewhere. (I think I have heard a talk by Ajahn Thanissaro where he portrays this as the ability to mindfully monitor one's practice and assess how well one is doing - a bit like listening to oneself when making progress with a musical instrument, or an artist stepping back from the canvas to judge the effect). Does anyone have any thoughts as to how it might differ from wisdom? And citta is always hard, because it doesn't fit squarely with western concepts of mind.. Thanissaro has "intent", which puts it somewhere near persistence and desire. BB has "mind" which is much more open as to what he means. Again, can anyone throw light on this?

BB asserts in his notes to this samyutta that there are four distinct iddhipada, differentiated by the factors responsible for generating the concentration. This may well be the case, but on the other hand the sutta supports the view that there is only really one type of power being talked about here: concentration. It is always the result of a fabrication of exertion (i.e. dependent upon making an effort) but the concentration needs the four different mental activities to support it. The factors themselves seem to be the iddhipada, rather than being one aspect of an iddhipada.

SamKR
Posts: 781
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:33 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Virginia

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby SamKR » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:08 am

I am not a Pali scholar but I can quote this particular sutta in Pali. There is no use of the term tanha in this sutta but only chanda. I have bolded this word in the quote below:

5. Uṇṇābhabrāhmaṇasuttaṃ

827. Evaṃ me sutaṃ – ekaṃ samayaṃ āyasmā ānando kosambiyaṃ viharati ghositārāme. Atha kho uṇṇābho brāhmaṇo yenāyasmā ānando tenupasaṅkami; upasaṅkamitvā āyasmatā ānandena saddhiṃ sammodi. Sammodanīyaṃ kathaṃ sāraṇīyaṃ vītisāretvā ekamantaṃ nisīdi. Ekamantaṃ nisinno kho uṇṇābho brāhmaṇo āyasmantaṃ ānandaṃ etadavoca – ‘‘kimatthiyaṃ nu kho, bho ānanda, samaṇe gotame brahmacariyaṃ vussatī’’ti? ‘‘Chandappahānatthaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, bhagavati brahmacariyaṃ vussatī’’ti.

‘‘Atthi pana, bho ānanda, maggo atthi paṭipadā etassa chandassa pahānāyā’’ti? ‘‘Atthi kho, brāhmaṇa, maggo atthi paṭipadā etassa chandassa pahānāyā’’ti.

‘‘Katamo pana, bho ānanda, maggo katamā paṭipadā etassa chandassa pahānāyā’’ti? ‘‘Idha, brāhmaṇa, bhikkhu chandasamādhippadhānasaṅkhārasamannāgataṃ iddhipādaṃ bhāveti, vīriyasamādhi…pe… cittasamādhi…pe… vīmaṃsāsamādhippadhānasaṅkhārasamannāgataṃ iddhipādaṃ bhāveti – ayaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, maggo ayaṃ paṭipadā etassa chandassa pahānāyā’’ti.

‘‘Evaṃ sante, bho ānanda, santakaṃ hoti no asantakaṃ. Chandeneva chandaṃ pajahissatīti – netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati’’. ‘‘Tena hi, brāhmaṇa, taññevettha paṭipucchissāmi. Yathā te khameyya tathā taṃ byākareyyāsi. Taṃ kiṃ maññasi, brāhmaṇa, ahosi te pubbe chando ‘ārāmaṃ gamissāmī’ti? Tassa te ārāmagatassa yo tajjo chando so paṭippassaddho’’ti? ‘‘Evaṃ , bho’’. ‘‘Ahosi te pubbe vīriyaṃ ‘ārāmaṃ gamissāmī’ti? Tassa te ārāmagatassa yaṃ tajjaṃ vīriyaṃ taṃ paṭippassaddha’’nti? ‘‘Evaṃ, bho’’. ‘‘Ahosi te pubbe cittaṃ ‘ārāmaṃ gamissāmī’ti? Tassa te ārāmagatassa yaṃ tajjaṃ cittaṃ taṃ paṭippassaddha’’nti? ‘‘Evaṃ, bho’’. ‘‘Ahosi te pubbe vīmaṃsā ‘ārāmaṃ gamissāmī’ti? Tassa te ārāmagatassa yā tajjā vīmaṃsā sā paṭippassaddhā’’ti? ‘‘Evaṃ, bho’’.

‘‘Evameva kho, brāhmaṇa, yo so bhikkhu arahaṃ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojano sammadaññā vimutto, tassa yo pubbe chando ahosi arahattappattiyā, arahattappatte [arahatte patte (sī. syā. kaṃ.)] yo tajjo chando so paṭippassaddho; yaṃ pubbe vīriyaṃ ahosi arahattappattiyā, arahattappatte yaṃ tajjaṃ vīriyaṃ taṃ paṭippassaddhaṃ; yaṃ pubbe cittaṃ ahosi arahattappattiyā, arahattappatte yaṃ tajjaṃ cittaṃ taṃ paṭippassaddhaṃ; yā pubbe vīmaṃsā ahosi arahattappattiyā, arahattappatte yā tajjā vīmaṃsā sā paṭippassaddhā. Taṃ kiṃ maññasi, brāhmaṇa, iti evaṃ sante, santakaṃ vā hoti no asantakaṃ vā’’ti?

‘‘Addhā, bho ānanda, evaṃ sante, santakaṃ hoti no asantakaṃ. Abhikkantaṃ, bho ānanda, abhikkantaṃ, bho ānanda! Seyyathāpi, bho ānanda, nikkujjitaṃ vā ukkujjeyya, paṭicchannaṃ vā vivareyya, mūḷhassa vā maggaṃ ācikkheyya, andhakāre vā telapajjotaṃ dhāreyya – cakkhumanto rūpāni dakkhantīti; evamevaṃ bhotā ānandena anekapariyāyena dhammo pakāsito. Esāhaṃ, bho ānanda, taṃ bhavantaṃ gotamaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi dhammañca bhikkhusaṅghañca. Upāsakaṃ maṃ bhavaṃ ānando dhāretu ajjatagge pāṇupetaṃ saraṇaṃ gata’’nti. Pañcamaṃ.
http://tipitaka.org/romn/cscd/s0305m.mul6.xml


When Ananda says, "Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire", he is using the term chanda.
Chandappahānatthaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, bhagavati brahmacariyaṃ vussatī’’ti.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 1118
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:36 am

When Ananda says, "Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire", he is using the term chanda.


Many thanks, SamKR, this is really helpful. It means (as I hoped!) that the issue is a substantive point about the way things are, rather than the way we label them.

Sylvester
Posts: 1642
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Sylvester » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:10 am

SamKR wrote:When Ananda says, "Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire", he is using the term chanda.
Chandappahānatthaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, bhagavati brahmacariyaṃ vussatī’’ti.




Hmm, and yet in AN 4.159, taṇhā is described as a legit mechanism to overcome taṇhā -

Taṇhāsambhuto ayaṃ bhagini kāyo, taṇhaṃ nissāya taṇhā pahātabbā

This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned


Where do we see such a craving recommended? In SN 22.55, a subtle form of craving is recommended as the way to Non-Return -

...a monk set on this — 'It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me' — would break the [five] lower fetters."


Pls see BB's notes to the aspiration "It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me". It's a modified and Buddhist version of the annihilationist's craving for non-being.

For a clue as to why this craving leads only to Non-Return, perhaps MN 64 could explain. There, an explanation is given for why a person breaks through to full awakening, versus the one who attains Non-Return. The latter is owing to the presence of dhammarāga dhammanandī. It's unclear if the dhamma here refers to the Dhamma or to states. :shrug:

Buckwheat
Posts: 937
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California USA

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:22 am

Sam Vara wrote:
When Ananda says, "Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire", he is using the term chanda.


Many thanks, SamKR, this is really helpful. It means (as I hoped!) that the issue is a substantive point about the way things are, rather than the way we label them.


Interesting, I always thought there was a kind of wholesome desire (chanda) and unwholesome desire (tanha), but I was, yet again, wrong.

Thanks, Sams. (SamKR and SamVara)
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 1118
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:36 am

Interesting, I always thought there was a kind of wholesome desire (chanda) and unwholesome desire (tanha), but I was, yet again, wrong.


I think there is a very clear distinction between tanha and chanda, so please don't draw that conclusion from the above.

I think the sutta is saying that although the goal itself (nibbana) is without chanda, we need to use chanda in order to get there. A desire for a state in which there is no desire is wholesome, not unwholesome.

Buckwheat
Posts: 937
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California USA

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:21 pm

Sam Vara wrote:I think there is a very clear distinction between tanha and chanda,

I did not mean to say otherwise. Simply that the similarities and differences between the two are not necessarily what I thought they were. The real point of my post was simply to thank you two for showing me something that needs further investigation. :anjali:
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 1118
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: SN 51.15: Brahmana Sutta — To Unnabha the Brahman

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Apr 23, 2013 6:51 pm

Got you. I just didn't want my clumsy expression to mislead you.


Return to “Study Group”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 4 guests