Ajita Kesakambala - Was he really a materialist?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Ajita Kesakambala - Was he really a materialist?

Post by clw_uk » Fri Mar 27, 2009 8:55 pm


I was reading through some suttas when i come across something odd

"'This Makkhali Gosala... This Nigantha Nataputta... This Sañjaya Velatthaputta... This Pakudha Kaccana... This Ajita Kesakambala — the leader of a community, the leader of a group, the teacher of a group, honored and famous, esteemed as holy by the mass of people — describes a disciple who has died and passed on in terms of places of rebirth: "That one is reborn there; that one is reborn there." Even when the disciple is an ultimate person, a foremost person, attained to the foremost attainment, Ajita Kesakambala describes him, when he has died and passed on, in terms of places of rebirth: "That one is reborn there; that one is reborn there."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

This is a very strange thing for Ajita Kesakambala to have done since his view was
There is no such thing as alms or sacrifice or offering. There is neither fruit nor result of good or evil deeds...A human being is built up of four elements. When he dies the earthly in him returns and relaapses to the earth, the fluid to the water, the heat to the fire, the wind to the air, and his faculties pass into space. The four bearers, on the bier as a fifth, take his dead body away; till they reach the burning, ground men utter forth eulogies, but there his bones are bleached, and his offerings end in ashes. It is a doctrine of fools, this talk of gifts. It is an empty lie, mere idle talk, when men say there is profit herein. Fools and wise alike, on the dissolution of the body, are cut off, annihilated, and after death they are not

Really dont understand how Ajita Kesakambala could say a disciple was reborn after death when he preached such a doctrine, im thinking that perhaps the text is corrupted in some way, or was Ajita Kesakambala teaching more spiritual than it seems?

Any thoughts?

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Re: Ajita Kesakambala - Was he really a materialist?

Post by sukhamanveti » Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:10 pm

Vacchagotta (the one ascribing this view to Ajita) appears to be mistaken. He makes a similar claim in the same passage on behalf of Sanjaya Belatthiputta, who is elsewhere in the Canon shown to be an extreme skeptic who refused to assert or deny anything.

It seems highly likely to me that an excessively "helpful" person inserted their names into the text on the assumption that they were omitted by mistake. In other words, someone might have looked and thought, "Hey! Only 4 of the 6 heterodox teachers are here. Where are Ajita and Sanjaya? This must be corrected." This is just the sort of regularizing that I have read has occurred in other scriptural traditions.

Sīlaṃ balaṃ appaṭimaṃ.
Sīlaṃ āvudhamuttamaṃ.
Sīlamābharaṇaṃ seṭṭhaṃ.
Sīlaṃ kavacamabbhutaṃ.

Virtue is a matchless power.
Virtue is the greatest weapon.
Virtue is the best adornment.
Virtue is a wonderful armor.

Theragatha 614

Sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ,
kusalassa upasampadā,
etaṃ buddhāna sāsanaṃ.

Refraining from all wrong-doing,
Undertaking the good,
Purifying the mind,
This is the teaching of the buddhas.

Dhammapada v. 183/14.5

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