"Dogs do it better"

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Sekha
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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Sekha » Fri May 31, 2013 6:46 am

tiltbillings wrote:It is not out of character of other suttas in relation to the Brahmins.
One may well suggest the same thing about them. Actually, some suttas indicate that some mentions to brahmins have been later additions to the text. See for example MN 53.
Modern day sensibilities likely are not necessarily appropriate in determining what the Buddha said or did not say.
This argument may apply to the problem of latent misogyny but in this case I don't think modern sensibility to harshness is any different from what it was in the past.
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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Dhammanando » Fri May 31, 2013 8:30 am

Sekha wrote:To me it sounds like pure ill-will and I cannot imagine the Buddha saying such things
Typically brahmin-bashing Suttas are addressed to a brahmin enquirer (or challenger) whom the Buddha sees as having the potential for awakening, or at least for conversion, but who in the meantime is so bloated with caste conceit as to be unteachable. So the Buddha will begin by taking the man down a peg or two and teach him the Dhamma only when he’s suitably softened.

In the present case, however, the Sutta is addressed to bhikkhus and no context is given. Perhaps the purpose is to provide the listeners with material to be used for the above teaching tactic.

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by tiltbillings » Fri May 31, 2013 8:32 am

Sekha wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:It is not out of character of other suttas in relation to the Brahmins.
One may well suggest the same thing about them. Actually, some suttas indicate that some mentions to brahmins have been later additions to the text. See for example MN 53.
Modern day sensibilities likely are not necessarily appropriate in determining what the Buddha said or did not say.
This argument may apply to the problem of latent misogyny but in this case I don't think modern sensibility to harshness is any different from what it was in the past.
You can try to massage the suttas to fit your sentiments, but the reality is, of course, a bit different from what you wish were true.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Dhammanando » Fri May 31, 2013 9:14 am

Sekha wrote:Actually, some suttas indicate that some mentions to brahmins have been later additions to the text. See for example MN 53.
I take it that you’re referring to the verse:
And by the Brahma Sanankumara this verse was said:

The noble warrior is the best among people
When judging by clan.
But a person consummate in clear-knowing & conduct,
Is the best of beings, human & divine.

This verse was well-sung by the Brahma Sanankumara, not ill-sung; well-said, not ill-said; connected with the goal, not unconnected with the goal. It was endorsed by the Blessed One.
and to your (or is it Ven. Thanissaro’s?) footnote to it:

“This verse, concerned with disputing the dominant position of brahmans in the cast system, is obviously not, as claimed in the following paragraph, "connected with the goal." It rather sounds like polemical nonsense.”

Actually what we have here is a literary device that occurs numerous times in the Dhammapada and the SN’s Sagāthavagga. First there will be a line or verse expressing some mundane commonplace (that may or may not be in accordance with Dhamma). This will then be trumped by a subsequent line or verse expressing the Dhamma. The “connected with the goal” attribute applies of course to the latter, not to the more pedestrian utterance that served as its springboard.

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by BlackBird » Fri May 31, 2013 9:27 am

Holy moley, a post or two from the Venerable Dhammanando.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Sekha » Fri May 31, 2013 9:50 am

tiltbillings wrote:You can try to massage the suttas to fit your sentiments, but the reality is, of course, a bit different from what you wish were true.
And what is that reality you are referring to, if I may ask?

No one can prove that any sutta contains verbatim the words uttered by the Buddha. To the contrary, there are multiple evidences that such a supposition is completely unrealistic. So, when we grant credit to a Pali scripture, we do it out of faith in the Sangha, that overall the texts have been transmitted with as few flaws as possible. Considering that the texts we have now are flawless and that none of them can ever have been a late addition (even when the content in question is highly questionable) amounts to blind faith.
MN 76 wrote:Puna caparaṃ, sandaka, idhekacco satthā anussaviko hoti anussavasacco. So anussavena itihitihaparamparāya piṭakasampadāya dhammaṃ deseti. Anussavikassa kho pana, sandaka, satthuno anussavasaccassa sussutampi hoti dussutampi hoti tathāpi hoti aññathāpi hoti.

Furthermore, Sandaka, now a certain teacher is one who goes by a tradition, who takes a tradition for the truth. He teaches a dhamma in conformity with what he has heard, through what has been transmitted dogmatically, through what has been handed down in a collection of texts. But when a teacher goes by a tradition, taking a tradition for the truth, some is well transmitted, some is ill transmitted, some is factual and some is otherwise.
- MN 76
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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by BlackBird » Fri May 31, 2013 10:34 am

Sekha wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:You can try to massage the suttas to fit your sentiments, but the reality is, of course, a bit different from what you wish were true.
And what is that reality you are referring to, if I may ask?

No one can prove that any sutta contains verbatim the words uttered by the Buddha. To the contrary, there are multiple evidences that such a supposition is completely unrealistic.
Well the Buddha did say did he not that one who see the Dhamma sees the Buddha. Surely when one realises the teachings for themselves and gains personal knowledge of what it was the Buddha was talking about they would be able to verify through their own experience that what is written in the sutta must be the word of the Buddha.

metta
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"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Sekha » Fri May 31, 2013 10:45 am

BlackBird wrote:Surely when one realises the teachings for themselves and gains personal knowledge of what it was the Buddha was talking about they would be able to verify through their own experience that what is written in the sutta must be the word of the Buddha.
Absolutely. And through my own experience, when I insult people and declare that even dogs are better than them, they are quite displeased, they can be expected to get angry and even retaliate. It is for me very obvious that such an attitude is exactly the contrary to what the Buddha teaches.
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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Sekha » Fri May 31, 2013 11:27 am

Dhammanando - referring to cases in which to Buddha humble a brahmin before teaching him wrote:In the present case, however, the Sutta is addressed to bhikkhus and no context is given. Perhaps the purpose is to provide the listeners with material to be used for the above teaching tactic.
It is very improbable that insulting the person to be taught, who is already feeling negative, would do any good.
Dhammanando - referring to the MN 53 quote wrote:MN 53
Actually what we have here is a literary device that occurs numerous times in the Dhammapada and the SN’s Sagāthavagga. First there will be a line or verse expressing some mundane commonplace (that may or may not be in accordance with Dhamma). This will then be trumped by a subsequent line or verse expressing the Dhamma. The “connected with the goal” attribute applies of course to the latter, not to the more pedestrian utterance that served as its springboard.
Well, the fact that the first part of the "device" at stake may not be in accordance with the Dhamma proves that it is not the word of the Buddha and that therefore it must be a late addition. Now if that happens within suttas otherwise considered as genuine, there is no reason not to think that some short suttas may have been completely made up. And it is likely to be the case for this one.

Besides, what we have here is not merely "some mundane commonplace" nor a "pedestrian utterance"; it's a bombshell !
The noble warrior is the best among people
When judging by clan.
The brahmin caste has always been considered has the highest caste. Is it really reasonable to believe that a Brahma would appear in the human world for nothing more than making some cheap statement about a petty human dispute?
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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Dhammanando » Fri May 31, 2013 6:18 pm

Sekha: It is very improbable that insulting the person to be taught, who is already feeling negative, would do any good.
Who said anything about ‘feeling negative’? I presented a scenario where the audience is ripe for conversion or awakening, but impeded by conceit of the kind that makes one intractable and contemptuous towards the Teacher. If this conceit is grounded in the notion of the intrinsic spiritual superiority of one’s social class, then the way to remove it is by drawing attention to the inconsistency between the sacred lore (with its ascetic values, etc.) to which the audience declares allegiance and the audience’s carnal and cyrenaic manner of living. One might compare it to Gandhi’s use of New Testament rhetoric and the British self-image of being “the more civilized” sort of imperialist to expose British imperial hypocrisy, thereby shaming the British into bending themselves to his wishes.
Well, the fact that the first part of the "device" at stake may not be in accordance with the Dhamma proves that it is not the word of the Buddha and that therefore it must be a late addition.
What a singular criterion you propose. Do you mean that your hypothesized original Sutta Piṭaka comprised only the words of sages and that all the adhammic utterances attributed to, say, Devadatta, Sunakkhatta, Ariṭṭha the Vulture-Basher, Tissā the Fat, etc., were added later?
Now if that happens within suttas otherwise considered as genuine, there is no reason not to think that some short suttas may have been completely made up.
“Some short suttas”? For practitioners of the Sekha Stratification Method I think consistency would actually entail the excision of most of the Devatā-saṃyutta and many dozens of suttas —short, medium-sized and long— elsewhere in the Canon. Any sutta that takes the form of a deva, yakkha, brahmā etc., saying something silly in verse and the Buddha replying with something sensible, or a deva saying something sensible but concerned with a lower good, and the Buddha replying by pointing to a higher good, will have to be given its marching orders.
Besides, what we have here is not merely "some mundane commonplace" nor a "pedestrian utterance"; it's a bombshell !
The noble warrior is the best among people
When judging by clan.
Then we must be of differing sensibilities, for to me it’s no bombshell at all. As the scion of a Royal Air Force family I’ve never entertained any doubts that we kṣatriyas are the “seṭṭho janetasmiṃ”. :smile:

As to “mundane commonplace” and “pedestrian utterance”, these are fair paraphrases of the Majjhima Ṭīkā’s gloss on “seṭṭho janetasmiṃ”. It states that the kṣatriya class’s superiority is but a mundane convention whose scope of application is limited to the human realm and doesn’t extend to the worlds of devas and brahmās (’khattiyo seṭṭho’ ti lokasamaññāpi manussalokeyeva, na devakāye brahmakāye vāti dassetuṃ).

I note that in the suttas the Brahmā deity Sanaṅkumāra (= Sanatkumāra of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad [1] and perhaps Sir Galahad of Arthurian tradition [2]) is always saying “khattiyo seṭṭho janetasmiṃ”; in fact it seems to have been a bit of an obsession with him. He says it not only in the Sekhasutta, but elsewhere in all four Nikāyas: the Ambaṭṭha and Aggaññasuttas of the Dīgha, the Sanaṅkumārasutta of the Saṃyutta, and the Moranivāpasutta of the Aṅguttara. And the Buddha himself says it in the Mahākappinasutta of the Saṃyutta.
The brahmin caste has always been considered has the highest caste.
By brahmins, certainly. A four-tiered class system with brahmins on the top was how the brahmins thought a society ought to be arranged —their revealed scriptures said so— but it’s not evident that brahmins contemporaneous with the Buddha were enjoying much success in implementing such a scheme. One should be wary of uncritically assuming that the sort of social conditions that obtained in post-Manusmṛti India, when brahmins were very often to be found ruling the roost, necessarily obtained in earlier times. [3]
Is it really reasonable to believe that a Brahma would appear in the human world for nothing more than making some controversial statement about a petty human dispute?
But Sanaṅkumāra doesn’t just do that. He repeatedly descends to earth to let folk know that…

“... a person consummate
in clear-knowing & conduct,
is the best of beings
human & divine.”

and the preceding part of his speech is just spice.

______________________________________

Notes.

[1] Where too we find a pretty glowing endorsement of kṣatriyas:

The king commanded him: “Stay with me for a long time.” Then he said to him: “As to what you have told me, O Gautama, this knowledge did not reach any brahmin before you. Thus it was to the kshatriya alone, among all the people, that the teaching of this knowledge belonged.” Then he began to teach him…

[2] Suggested by Th. Rhys Davids in Dialogues of the Buddha.


[3] Some helpful general remarks on ‘caste’ from Paul Williams:

Scholars tend to think of Brahmanism at the time of the Buddha not in terms of the Indian actuality of caste (jāti) as it has developed over many, many centuries, but rather in terms of the Brahmanic ideology of class (varṇa). Note this distinction carefully, because confusion between caste and class seems to be almost normal in works on Indian religions. Classical Brahmanic texts dating from Vedic times and beyond refer to society divided into the four classes (varṇas) of brahmins (brāhmaṇas), warriors/rulers (kṣatriyas), generators of wealth (vaiśyas), and the rest (‘servants’, śūdras ). This division is by birth, it is a division of purity, and it is strictly hierarchical. Each preceding class is purer and therefore superior to the following. Thus the preceding class has a higher social status than the following, quite regardless of any wealth one might have.

Within this system there is no correlation between wealth or power and social status. Status is determined by relative purity. It is not given by wealth, power or, as such, behaviour or insight. Members of the first three classes are referred to as ‘twice-born’ (dvija), and they are entitled and expected to enter into the world of Vedic religious duties, for most of their lives as married householders. This involves keeping alight the domestic sacrificial fire and engaging particularly in the duty to sacrifice, each in the appropriate and distinctive way determined by relative position (relative purity) in the social hierarchy. Nearly everyone can be fitted somewhere into one or other of these classes. Which class one is a member of determines (according to the Brahmanic lawbooks) a whole range of social behaviour from who one can eat with to which sort of wood is used in making one’s staff, or which sacrifices have to be carried out, by whom, and at what age.

Over the years Indian social actuality going back many centuries has seen not just four but hundreds of castes (jātis) and subcastes. If we try and relate class to caste, varṇa to jāti, class is classical Brahmanic ideology while caste is historical and modern actuality . They are different. The varṇa system is what the Brahmanic authors wanted to see, and to the extent that brahmins were the dominant group in society the varṇa ideology provided a template for what they sought to realise. The jātis represent the actual system of Indian social division within relatively recent historical time. It is important to preserve the terminological separation of the two, and not to confuse them. At the time of the Buddha there was the ideology of varṇa, that formed part of the ideology of brahmins, the dominant group in much of North Indian society. No doubt there was within that area also some form of social division influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the ideology of varṇa . But the extent to which the varṇa ideology influenced the actual social divisions in the region from which the Buddha came, a fringe area in the Himalayan foothills, is still very unclear.

The Buddha was critical of the intrinsic supremacy of the brahmins, and with it the ideology of varṇa. But it would be misleading from this to infer, as some modern writers do, that the Buddha was ‘anti-caste’. First, a criticism of the varṇa system is not in itself a comment on jāti, caste, although it could be transposed to the ideology that nevertheless underlies caste. For his part the Buddha spoke of the true brahmin as one who had spiritual insight and behaves accordingly (see the famous Dhammapada Ch. 26). In this sense the Buddha affirmed a hierarchy not of birth but of spiritual maturity. It is not obvious that the Buddha would have any comment to make about a brahmin who is also spiritually mature (understood in the Buddha’s sense). The Buddha was not offering social reform. And this is what one would expect. The Buddha was himself a renouncer of society.
(Buddhist Thought, pp. 13-15)

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by binocular » Fri May 31, 2013 6:36 pm

Dhammanando wrote:and to your (or is it Ven. Thanissaro’s?) footnote to it:

“This verse, concerned with disputing the dominant position of brahmans in the cast system, is obviously not, as claimed in the following paragraph, "connected with the goal." It rather sounds like polemical nonsense.”
It's not a note by Venerable Thanissaro. Here's his MN 53.

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by binocular » Fri May 31, 2013 6:51 pm

Sekha wrote:This argument may apply to the problem of latent misogyny but in this case I don't think modern sensibility to harshness is any different from what it was in the past.
Political correctness has its uses, but at some point, it just becomes counterproductive.

Sekha wrote:Absolutely. And through my own experience, when I insult people and declare that even dogs are better than them, they are quite displeased, they can be expected to get angry and even retaliate. It is for me very obvious that such an attitude is exactly the contrary to what the Buddha teaches.
But that's you. Not the Buddha.
The same words can produce quite different results, depending on who says them, not just to whom.

For example, when one's parents or grandparents chide one, this has a quite different effect than if the same words are said by one's peers. Provided, of course, that one has the appropriate respect for one's parents and grandparents.

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by Sekha » Fri May 31, 2013 7:37 pm

:anjali: Bhante
Dhammanando wrote:
Sekha: It is very improbable that insulting the person to be taught, who is already feeling negative, would do any good.
Who said anything about ‘feeling negative’?
Well, I used this expression because I took it for granted that in the discussed situation the person is by principle opposed to the Buddha. I take for example MN 95, where the Brahmin rebukes the Buddha:
Master Gotama, don't scold the brahman student Kapadika. He is a clansman, learned, wise, with good delivery. He is capable of taking part in this discussion with Master Gotama.
I have used the expression "feeling negative", because I imagined someone expressing disagreement with the Buddha like in this example. Therefore I see no reason to criticize my choice of this expression.

Dhammanando wrote: I presented a scenario where the audience is ripe for conversion or awakening, but impeded by conceit of the kind that makes one intractable and contemptuous towards the Teacher. If this conceit is grounded in the notion of the intrinsic spiritual superiority of one’s social class, then the way to remove it is by drawing attention to the inconsistency between the sacred lore (with its ascetic values, etc.) to which the audience declares allegiance and the audience’s carnal and cyrenaic manner of living.
Sorry, I still don't see how a series of insults can ever help in such a case. What you are describing would be workable if it were done with some tact as we find it in various other suttas, but not in this one.

Dhammanando wrote:
Well, the fact that the first part of the "device" at stake may not be in accordance with the Dhamma proves that it is not the word of the Buddha and that therefore it must be a late addition.
What a singular criterion you propose. Do you mean that your hypothesized original Sutta Piṭaka comprised only the words of sages and that all the adhammic utterances attributed to, say, Devadatta, Sunakkhatta, Ariṭṭha the Vulture-Basher, Tissā the Fat, etc., were added later?
Of course not. This is an misinterpretation of my quote by considering it out of context. In the case of MN 53, the utterance is made by someone considered by buddhists as endowed with spiritual authority (a Brahma whose utterance is approved by the Buddha), whereas in the cases you mention those individuals are considered as misguided people whose declarations will therefore not be regarded as authoritative.

Dhammanando wrote:
Now if that happens within suttas otherwise considered as genuine, there is no reason not to think that some short suttas may have been completely made up.
“Some short suttas”? For practitioners of the Sekha Stratification Method I think consistency would actually entail the excision of most of the Devatā-saṃyutta and many dozens of suttas —short, medium-sized and long— elsewhere in the Canon. Any sutta that takes the form of a deva, yakkha, brahmā etc., saying something silly in verse and the Buddha replying with something sensible, or a deva saying something sensible but concerned with a lower good, and the Buddha replying by pointing to a higher good, will have to be given its marching orders.
I will not comment on this part, as it draws on the above mentioned misinterpretation. But if I may ask, it raises a question: do you consider unreasonable to think that some suttas may have been made up and then added to the corpus? If so, on which grounds exactly?

Dhammanando wrote:
Besides, what we have here is not merely "some mundane commonplace" nor a "pedestrian utterance"; it's a bombshell !
The noble warrior is the best among people
When judging by clan.
Then we must be of differing sensibilities, for to me it’s no bombshell at all. As the scion of a Royal Air Force family I’ve never entertained any doubts that we kṣatriyas are the “seṭṭho janetasmiṃ”.
Well, I concede it is a matter of point of view. It is a bombshell from the pow of brahmins, as it will certainly hurt their feelings and conceptions of social hierarchy. Nevertheless, I can argue on this topic that if the Buddha endorsed such a statement, he would have been contradicting himself (unless one wants to argue that the natural law that is said to be applicable to outcasts and brahmins would not be applicable to ksatriyas):
Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brahman. By deed one becomes an outcast, by deed one becomes a brahman.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html
Dhammanando wrote:
The brahmin caste has always been considered has the highest caste.
By brahmins, certainly.
Therefore it will sound shocking to them. Hence my use of "bombshell".

Dhammanando wrote:
Is it really reasonable to believe that a Brahma would appear in the human world for nothing more than making some controversial statement about a petty human dispute?
But Sanaṅkumāra doesn’t just do that.
Okay, let me rephrase then:
"Is it really reasonable to believe that a Brahma would appear in the human world and find nothing more appropriate to say at the end of a sutta dealing with a series of instructions about hardcore practice than some cheap statement about a petty social dispute?"
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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by BlackBird » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:43 am

Sekha wrote: The brahmin caste has always been considered has the highest caste. Is it really reasonable to believe that a Brahma would appear in the human world for nothing more than making some cheap statement about a petty human dispute?
IIRC They were actually regarded as the second highest caste in one kingdom during the Buddha's time, with Khattiya's at the fore. The same was true of the Rajput clan in Northern India who ruled for a time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajput
"The Rajpoots were the highest secular Hindu caste. The Chohans, descendents of warrior princes, claimed the highest position among the Rajpoot clans. [The author of 'The People of India',] Forbes Watson described them as 'six feet and upwards in height, and stout in proportion, with strikingly handsome features, fair complexions and grey eyes'. The men are photographed in the shade to reduce the glare of the strong light reflected from the dazzling white buildings."
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Charl ... tson01.jpg

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: "Dogs do it better"

Post by jayarava » Sat Jun 01, 2013 4:30 pm

Dhammanando wrote:If this conceit is grounded in the notion of the intrinsic spiritual superiority of one’s social class, then the way to remove it is by drawing attention to the inconsistency between the sacred lore (with its ascetic values, etc.) to which the audience declares allegiance and the audience’s carnal and cyrenaic manner of living.
Hi Dhammanando,

This explanation might fit better if the portrayal of Brahmanism was how Brahmins really did behave in the past. Here it is not. The ideal here, which dogs conform to and Brahmins do not, is portrayed as the ancient Brahmanical custom but there is no supporting evidence from outside of Buddhist texts that this was ever the case. The idea is one that only exists in Buddhist texts. Thus reading it historically as you do is not justified.

My suspicion is that the audience were actually Brahmin converts already. The attempt is to inculcate a new conception of "brāhmaṇa" which is specific to Buddhism and one which never caught on - either in Buddhist or non-Buddhist India. The Buddha is trying to convince someone to live an ascetic life.

I agree with your critique of attempts to exclude uncomfortable material from the Canon. There really is no reliable method. We're stuck with it as it is.

However that does not make it an historically reliable document, and we should not take any of the information too seriously. There is no evidence that the Buddha was called Siddhattha in Pāli. Gautama is a Brahmin clan name. No other male member of the family is called Gautama, and thus the name probably came from the sisters Prajāpatī and Māyā whose names both have strong Brahmanical overtones. Mostly likely the Sakkas were not even part of the Vedic speaking milieu and would not have thought of themselves as khattiyas. But the whole biography has the feel of a story made up centuries after the fact to bolster claims to legitimacy (as was done by later Buddhists in many times and places).

The redefinition of 'brāhmaṇa' and the criticism of traditional Brahmins (here portrayed as precisely the opposite, i.e. as abandoning their ancient traditions) are all the more interesting in this light. Also in the light of conflicts identified between Brahmins of the Kosala/Videha region and those of the Kuru-Pañcala heartland. The former were almost certainly influenced by new ideas emerging amongst the marginal tribes such as the Sakka. The idea that Brahmins have abandoned their ancient traditions, but that the Buddha upholds them is a common one that crops up all over the place. But why is the Buddha upholding ancient Brahmin traditions? What could it mean? And to whom would this be an important point?

Best Wishes
Jayarava

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