View Full Version : Introduction

June 24th, 2008, 02:19 AM



THE Collection of Discourses, Sutta-Nipâta, which I have here translated[1], is very remarkable, as there can be no doubt that it contains some remnants of Primitive Buddhism. I consider the greater part of the Mahâvagga, and nearly the whole of the Atthakavagga as very old. I have arrived at this conclusion from two reasons, first from the language, and secondly from the contents.

1. We not only find here what we meet with in other Pâli poetry, the fuller Vedic forms of nouns and verbs in the plural, as avîtatamhâse, panditâse, dhammâse, sitâse, upatthitâse, pavâdiyâse, &c., and karâmase, asmase, sikkhissâmase; the shorter Vedic plurals and the instrumental singular of nouns, as vinikkhayâ, lakkhanâ for vinikkhayâni, lakkhanâni, mantâ, parińńâ, vinayâ, lâbhakamyâ for mantâya, &c.; Vedic infinitives, as vippahâtave, sampayâtave, unnametave; contracted (or sometimes old) forms, as santyâ, gakkâ, duggakkâ, sammukkâ, titthyâ, thiyo, parihîrati for santiyâ, gâtiyâ, sammutiyâ, titthiyâ, itthiyo, parihariyati, by the side of protracted forms, such as âtumânam; but also some unusual (sometimes old) forms and words, as apukkhasi, sagghasi[2] = sakkhissasi, sussam = sunissâmi (Sansk. sroshyâmi), pâva and pâvâ = vadati, pavekkhe = paveseyya, parikissati = parikilissati, vineyya, vikeyya, nikkheyya, pappuyya, = vinayitvâ, &c., datthu = disvâ (S. drishtvâ), atisitvâ = atikkamitvâ, anuvikka = anuviditvâ, paribbasâna = vasamâna, amhanâ (S. asmanâ) = pâsânena, vâkîbhi, katubbhi, rattamahâbhi, ise (vocative), suvâmi = sâmi, maga = miga,

[1. Sir M. Coomâra Swâmy's translation of part of the book has been a great help to me. I hope shortly to publish the Pâli text.

2. C reads pagghasi.]

p. xii

tumo = so, parovara = parâvara, bhűnahu = bhűtihanaka, upaya, âmagandha, dhona, vyappatha, vyappathi, vevikkhâ, visenibhűta, visenikatvâ, patiseniyanti. Sometimes we meet also with difficult and irregular constructions, and very condensed expressions. All this proves, I think, that these parts of the book are much older than the Suttas in which the language is not only fluent, but of which some verses are even singularly melodious.

2. In the contents of the Suttanipâta we have, I think, an important contribution to the right understanding of Primitive Buddhism, for we see here a picture not of life in monasteries, but of the life of hermits in its first stage. We have before us not the systematizing of the later Buddhist church, but the first germs of a system, the fundamental ideas of which come out with sufficient clearness. From the Atthakavagga especially it is evident where Buddha takes his stand in opposition to Philosophy (ditthi = darsana).

Indian society at the time of Buddha had two large and distinguished religious sects, Samanas and Brâhmanas. This is apparent from several passages where they are mentioned together; for instance, Vinaya, ed. Oldenberg, II, p. 295; Grimblot, Sept Suttas Pâlis, p. ix, 8 &c., 118 &c., 158 &c., 306 &c., 309; Dhammapada, p. 392; Suttanipâta; vv. 99, 129, 189, 440, 529, 859, 1078; Sabhiyasutta, at the beginning; the Inscriptions of Asoka; Mahâbhâshya, II, 4, 9 (fol. 398 a); Lalita Vistara, pp. 309, l. 10, 318, l. 18, 320, l. 20; and lastly, Megasthenes (Schwanbeck, p. 45), {Greek: dúo génh figodófwn, wn toůs mčn Braxmanas kalei, toůs dč Sarmanas}.

Famous teachers arose and gathered around them flocks of disciples. As such are mentioned Pűrana-Kassapa, Makkhali-Gosâla, Agita-Kesakarnbali, Pakudha-Kakkâyana, Sańgaya-Belatthiputta, and Nigantha-Nâtaputta[1]; see Suttanipâta, p. 86; Mahâparinibbânasutta, ed. Childers, p. 58; Vinaya II, p. 111; Grimblot, Sept Suttas Pâlis, p. 114, &c.; Milindapańha, ed. Trenckner, p. 4. Besides these there is Bâvari (Suttanipâta, p. 184), and his disciples Agita, Tissametteyya, Punnaka, Mettagű, Dhotaka, Upasîva, Nanda,

[1. Cf. Indian Antiquary, 1880, p. 158.]

p. xiii

Hemaka, Todeyya, Kappa, Gatukannin, Bhadrâvudha, Udaya, Posâla, Mogharâgan (Pingiya, vv. 1006-1008; Sela, p. 98), and, Kankin, Târukkha, Pokkharasâti, Gânussoni, Vâsettha, and Bhâradvâga, p. 109.

We learn that there were four kinds of Samanas, viz. Maggaginas, Maggadesakas (or Maggadesins, Maggagghâyins), Maggagîvins, and Maggadűsins, vv. 83-88. Among these Samanas disputes arose, vv. 828, 883-884; a number of philosophical systems were formed, and at the time of Buddha there were as many as sixty-three of them, v. 538. These systems are generally designated by ditthi, vv. 54, 151, 786, 837, 851, &c.; or by ditthigata, vv. 834, 836, 913; or by ditthasuta, v. 778; or by dittha, suta, and muta, vv. 793, 813, 914; or by dittha, suta, sîlavata[1], and muta, vv. 790, 797-798, 836, 887, 1080. The doctrines themselves are called ditthinivesa, v. 785; or nivesana, vv. 209, 470, 801, 846; or vinikkhaya, vv. 838, 866, 887, 894; and he who entertains any of them, is called nivissavâdin, vv. 910, 913.

What is said of the Samanas seems mostly to hold good about the Brâhmanas also. They too are called disputatious, vâdasîla, v. 381, &c., p. 109; and three kinds of them are mentioned, viz. Titthiyas, Âgîvikas, and Niganthas, vv. 380, 891-892. ln contradistinction to the Samanas the Brâhmanas are designated as Teviggas, vv. 594, 1019; they are Padakas, Veyyâkaranas, and perfect in Gappa, Nighandu, Ketubha, Itihâsa, &c., v. 595, p. 98. They are called friends of the hymns, v. 139; well versed in the hymns, v. 976; and their principal hymn is Sâvitti[2], vv. 568, 456. They worship and make offerings to the fire, pp. 74, 20. In Brâhmanadhammikasutta the ancient and just Brâhmanas are described in opposition to the later

[1. I am not sure whether sîlavata is to be understood as one notion or two. It is generally written in one word, but at p. 109 Vâsettha says, when one is virtuous and endowed with works, he is a Brâhmana, yato kho bho sîlavâ ka hoti vatasampanno ka ettâvatâ kho brâhmano hoti. Sîlavata, I presume, refers chiefly to the Brâhmanas.

2. From v. 456 we see that Buddha has rightly read vareniyam as the metre requires; but I must not omit to mention that the Commentator understands by Sâvitti the Buddhistic formula: Buddham saranam gakkhâmi, Dhammam saranam gakkhâmi, Samgham saranam gakkhâmi, which, like Sâvitti, contains twenty-four syllables.]

p. xiv

Brâhmanas, who slay innocent cows and have acquired wealth through the favour of the kings. vv. 307, 308, 311, 302[1].

All these disputants hold fast to their own prejudiced views, v. 910. They say that purity comes from philosophical views, from tradition, and from virtuous works, and in many other ways, v. 1078, and that there is no bliss excepting by following their opinions, vv. 889, 891, 892.

Buddha himself has, it is true, sprung from the Samanas: he is called Samana Gotama, p. 96; he shines like a sun in the midst of the Samanas, v. 550; and intercourse with Samanas is said to be the highest blessing, v. 265. But Buddha has overcome all their systems, v. 538; there is nothing which has not been seen, heard, or thought by him, and nothing which has not been understood by him, v. 1121. All the disputatious Brâhmanas do not overcome him in understanding, v. 380; and he asserts that no one is purified and saved by philosophy or by virtuous works, vv. 1079, 839. Sanctification, in fact, does not come from another, vv. 773, 790, 813; it can be attained only by going into the yoke with Buddha, v. 834; by believing in him and in the Dhamma of the Saints, vv. 183, 185, 370, 1142; on the whole, by being what Buddha is.

What then is Buddha?

First he is a Visionary, in the good sense of the word; his knowledge is intuitive. 'Seeing misery,' he says, 'in the philosophical views, without adopting any of them, searching for truth, I saw inward peace,' vv. 837, 207. And again, 'He, a conqueror unconquered, saw the Dhamma visibly, without any traditional instruction,' vv. 934, 1052, 1065. He teaches an instantaneous, an immediate religious life, vv. 567, 1136. He is called kakkhumat, endowed with an eye, clearly-seeing, vv. 160, 405, 540, 562, 596, 956, 992, 1028, 1115, 1127; samantakakkhu, the all-seeing, vv. 1062, 1068; and as such he has become an eye to the world, v. 599. He sees the subtle meaning of things, vv. 376, 175; he is, in one word, Sambuddha, the perfectly-enlightened, vv. 177, 555, 596, 992; and by knowledge he is delivered, vv. 1106,

[1. Besides the religious Brâhmanas some secular Brâhmanas are mentioned, p. 11.]

p. xv

727, 733. Existence is aviggâ, ignorance, v. 729; viggâ, knowledge, is the extinction of the world, v. 730.

Secondly, he is an Ascetic, a Muni[1], one that forsakes othe world and wanders from the house to the houseless state, vv. 273, 375, 1003; because from house-life arises defilement, v. 206. An ascetic has no prejudiced ideas, v. 802; he has shaken off every philosophical view, v. 787; he does not enter into disputes, v. 887; he is not pleased nor displeased with anything, v. 813; he is indifferent to learning, v. 911; he does not cling to good and evil, vv. 520, 547, 790; he has cut off all passion and all desire, vv. 2, 795, 1130, 916; he is free from marks, v. 847; and possessionless, akińkana, vv. 175, 454, 490, 620, 1058, 1062, 976, 1069, 1114. He is equable, v. 855; under all circumstances the same, v. 952; still as the deep water, v. 920; calm, vv. 459, 861. He has reached peace, vv. 837, 845, 919; he knows that bliss consists in peace, v. 933; he has gone to immortal peace, the unchangeable state of Nibbâna, v. 203. And how is this state brought about? By the destruction of consciousness, vv. 734-735. And how does consciousness cease? By the cessation of sensation, vv. 1109-1110; by being without breathing, vv. 1089-1090[2].

1. What then is sin according to Buddha?

Subjectively sin is desire, in all its various forms, vv. 923, 1103; viz. desire tor existence generally, vv. 776, 1059, 1067, and especially for name and form, i.e. individual existence, vv. 354, 1099. As long as man is led by desire he will be whirled about in existence, v. 740; for as long as there is birth, there will be death, v. 742. Existence is called the stream of death, v. 354; the realm of Mâra, vv. 164, 1145. Those who continually go to samsâra with birth and death, are the ignorant, v. 729.

[1. Buddha is sometimes styled the great Isi, vv. 1060, 1082; sometimes a Muni, vv. 164, 700; sometimes a Brâhmana, v. 1064; sometimes a Bhikkhu, vv. 411, 415; and all these appellations are used synonymously, vv. 283, 284, 1064, 1056, 843, 844, 911, 912, 946, 220. Ascetic life is praised throughout the book, especially in the Uraga-, Muni-, Râhula-, Sammâparibbâganiya-, Dhammika-, Nâlaka-, Purâbheda-, Tuvataka-, Attadanda-, and Sâriputta-suttas.

2. This system ends, it will be seen from this, like other ascetic systems, in mysticism.]

p. xvi

But desire originates in the body, vv. 270, 1099; sin lies objectively in embodiment or matter, and consequently the human body is looked upon as a contemptible thing. See Vigayasutta, p. 32.

2. And what is bliss?

Subjectively, it is emancipation from desire by means of the peace that Buddha preaches, vv. 1065-1066, 1069, 1084, 1108, 838-839.

Objectively, it is emancipation from body and matter. One must destroy the elements of existence, upadhî, vv. 373, 546, 1050, 1056; and leave the body behind, that one may not come to exist again, vv. 1120, 1122, 761. The ignorant only create upadhî, v. 1050, and go again and again to samsâra, v. 729. The wise do not enter time, kappa, vv. 521, 535, 860; they look upon the world as void, v. 1118; hold that there is nothing really existing, v. 1069; and those whose minds are disgusted with a future existence, the wise who have destroyed their seeds (of existence), go out like a lamp, vv. 234, 353-354. As a flame, blown about by the violence of the wind, goes out, and cannot be reckoned (as existing), even so a Muni, delivered from name and body, disappears, and cannot be reckoned (as existing), v. 1073. For him who has disappeared, there is no form; that by which they say he is, exists for him no longer, v. 1075.

'Exert thyself, then, O Dhotaka,'--so said Bhagavat,--'being wise and thoughtful in this world, let one, having listened to my utterance, learn his own extinction,' v. 1061.

Tena h' âtappam karohi,--Dhotakâ 'ti Bhagavâ,--
idh' eva nipako sato
ito sutvâna nigghosam
sikkhe nibbânam attano.

With this short sketch of the contents of the Suttanipâta for a guide, I trust it will be easy to understand even the more obscure parts of the book.


Sept. 13, 1880.