[I: The First Teachings]

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5: The Story about Brahmā's Request This section should be compared with DN 14, Mahāpadānasuttaṁ, the opening of the 3rd bhāṇavāraṁ, said in relation to the Buddha Vipassī; MN 26 and 85, where the Buddha relates the same incident about himself; and SN Brahmāsaṁyuttaṁ, 1.6.1, which is similar to here.01

Then with the passing of seven days, the Gracious One, after arising from that concentration, approached the Goatherd's Banyan (tree) from the root of the Royal (tree), and there the Gracious One dwelt at the root of the Goatherd's Banyan (tree).

Then when the Gracious One had gone into solitude, into seclusion, this reflection arose in his mind: This Dhamma I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful, excellent, beyond the sphere of logic, profound, understandable (only) to the wise.

But this generation delights in desire, Comm: beings attach to the five strands of sensual pleasures, therefore they have desire is said.02 is devoted to desire, gladdened by desire, and for a generation delighting in desire, devoted to desire, gladdened by desire this thing is hard to see, that is to say: conditionality and conditional origination. Defined in this way, as a dvanda compound, in the commentary.03 This thing also is very hard to see, that is to say:

the tranquilising of all processes,
the letting go of all bases for cleaving,
the end of craving,
dispassion,
cessation,
Emancipation. Two versions of this reflection are found in Girimānandasutta (AN 10:60) where they are known as Perception of Dispassion and Perception of Cessation.04

But if I were to teach the Dhamma and others did not understand me that would be tiring for me, that would be troublesome to me.”

Further these truly wonderful verses, unheard previously in the past, occurred to the Gracious One: As well as the following Lalitavistara 25.1 has another verse on the hesitation: deep, peaceful, unstained, luminous is the unconditioned Deathless state attained by me, I shall not teach to other people, what if I were to live quietly in the forest?05

“Now is it suitable for me to explain what was attained with difficulty?
For those overcome by passion and hatred this Dhamma is not easily understood.
Going against the stream, Comm: going to Emancipation is the meaning.06 it is profound, deep, hard to see, subtle,
Those delighting in passion, Comm: delighting through delighting in sensuality, delighting in continuity in existence, delighting in views.07 obstructed by darkness, will not see (it).” cf. Mahāvastū vol. iii. p. 314, has the verses in reverse order, and has a different last line: those people who grasp at sensual pleasure are said to be going with the stream. Lalitavistara is similar.08

Such was the Gracious One's reflection and his mind inclined to inaction, A much disputed term, it is made up of appa-, little, few, and -ussukka-, endeavour, action, and -tā, which adds abstract meaning, little-endeavour-ness. This hesitation to teach is ascribed to all the Buddhas in Jā Nid.09 not to teaching the Dhamma.

Then to Brahmā Sahampati, Described as the most senior of the great Brahmās, according to DPPN.10 knowing with his mind the reflection in the mind of the Gracious One, this (thought) occurred: “The world is surely going to destruction, the world is surely going to complete destruction, wherever the Realised One, the Worthy One, the Perfect Sambuddha's mind inclines to inaction, not to teaching the Dhamma.”

Then Brahmā Sahampati, just as a strong man might stretch out a bent arm, or bend in an outstretched arm, so did he vanish from the Brahmā world and appear in front of the Gracious One. Comm: having taken (all) the Mahābrahmā-s from the ten-thousand world-systems, he came and appeared in front of the Gracious One. Jā Nid: having taken (all) the Sakkas, Suyāmas, Santusitas, Sunimmitavasavatti-s, and MahāBrahmā-s from the ten thousand world-systems.11 Then Brahmā Sahampati, after arranging his upper robe on one shoulder, placing his right knee on the earth, and raising his hands in respectful salutation, said this to the Gracious One: “Let the Gracious One preach the Dhamma, venerable Sir, let the Fortunate One preach the Dhamma, there are beings with little dust Comm: the dust of passion, hatred, and delusion.12 on the eyes who are perishing through not hearing the Dhamma, there will be those who understand the Dhamma.” Comm: those who understand means those who penetrate. Although this last clause is awkward, the meaning seems straightforward, and I am not quite sure how Mrs. C F Rhys-Davids arrives at They who come to know ... will come to be, will become; or I. Horner, who follows her with: They who learn will grow. BD, IV, p. 8, which both obscures and changes the meaning.13

Brahmā Sahampati said this, and after saying this he said something more:

“Formerly there appeared amongst the Magadhans
An impure Dhamma, invented by those still stained, Comm: invented by the six Teachers. It means the six famous teachers in Lord Buddha's time: Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, and Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta.14
Open this door Comm: the Noble Path which is the true door to the Deathless Emancipation.15 to the Deathless
Let them hear the Dhamma understood by the Pure One.

As one who is standing on a rock on the top of a mountain
Can see the people on all sides
In the same way, One of Great Wisdom, having ascended
The Palace made from Dhamma, Visionary One,
Look down on the people overcome by grief, One Free of Grief,
    on those overcome by birth and old-age. cf. Dhp 28: having ascended the Palace of Wisdom, sorrow-free amongst the sorrowing people, standing on a mountain-top the Wise One sees the fools stood on the ground (below). Although the wording is similar the sentiment is quite different, with the text expressing compassion, and the Dhp verse aloofness.16
Rise up, Hero, Victorious in Battle, Comm: having victory over Māra (as) Divinity, death, defilements, and the accumulation (of processes leading to rebirth).17 Caravan-Leader, Debtless One, travel through the world. Let the Gracious One teach the Dhamma, there will be those who understand.”

After this was said, the Gracious One said this to Brahmā Sahampati: “This occurred to me, Brahmā: ‘This Dhamma I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful, excellent, beyond the sphere of logic, profound, understandable (only) to the wise. But this generation delights in desire, is devoted to desire, gladdened by desire, and for a generation delighting in desire, devoted to desire, gladdened by desire this thing is hard to see, that is to say: conditionality and conditional origination. This thing also is very hard to see, that is to say:

the tranquilising of all processes,
the letting go of all bases for cleaving,
the end of craving,
dispassion,
cessation,
Emancipation.

But if I were to teach the Dhamma and others did not understand me that would be tiring for me, that would be troublesome to me.’

Further these truly wonderful verses, unheard previously in the past, Brahmā, occurred to me:

‘Now is it suitable for me to explain what was attained with difficulty?
For those overcome by passion and hatred this Dhamma is not easily understood.
Going against the stream, it is profound, deep, hard to see, subtle,
Those delighting in passion, obstructed by darkness, will not see (it).’

Such was my reflection and my mind inclined to inaction, not to teaching the Dhamma.”

For a second time Brahmā Sahampati said this to the Gracious One: “Let the Gracious One preach the Dhamma, venerable Sir, let the Fortunate One preach the Dhamma, there are beings with little dust on the eyes who are perishing through not hearing the Dhamma, there will be those who understand the Dhamma.” Brahmā Sahampati said this, and after saying this he said something more:

“Formerly there appeared amongst the Magadhans
An impure Dhamma, invented by those still stained,
Open this door to the Deathless
Let them hear the Dhamma understood by the Pure One.

As one who is standing on a rock on the top of a mountain
Can see the people on all sides
In the same way, One of Great Wisdom, having ascended
The Palace made from Dhamma, Visionary One,
Look down on the people overcome by grief, One Free of Grief,
    on those overcome by birth and old-age.
Rise up, Hero, Victorious in Battle, Caravan-Leader, Debtless One, travel through the world.
Let the Gracious One teach the Dhamma, there will be those who understand.”

For a second time the Gracious One said this to Brahmā Sahampati: “This occurred to me, Brahmā: ‘This Dhamma I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful, excellent, beyond the sphere of logic, profound, understandable (only) to the wise. But this generation delights in desire, is devoted to desire, gladdened by desire, and for a generation delighting in desire, devoted to desire, gladdened by desire this thing is hard to see, that is to say: conditionality and conditional origination. This thing also is very hard to see, that is to say:

the tranquilising of all processes,
the letting go of all bases for cleaving,
the end of craving,
dispassion,
cessation,
Emancipation.

But if I were to teach the Dhamma and others did not understand me that would be tiring for me, that would be troublesome to me.’ Further these truly wonderful verses, unheard previously in the past, Brahmā, occurred to me:

‘Now, is it suitable for me to explain what was attained with difficulty?
For those overcome by passion and hatred this Dhamma is not easily understood.
Going against the stream, it is profound, deep, hard to see, subtle,
Those delighting in passion, obstructed by darkness, will not see (it).’

Such was my reflection and my mind inclined to inaction, not to teaching the Dhamma.”

For a third time Brahmā Sahampati said this to the Gracious One: Let the Gracious One preach the Dhamma, venerable Sir, let the Fortunate One preach the Dhamma, there are beings with little dust on the eyes who are perishing through not hearing the Dhamma, there will be those who understand the Dhamma.” Brahmā Sahampati said this, and after saying this he said something more:

“Formerly there appeared amongst the Magadhans
An impure Dhamma, invented by those still stained,
Open this door to the Deathless
Let them hear the Dhamma understood by the Pure One.

As one who is standing on a rock on the top of a mountain
Can see the people on all sides
In the same way, One of Great Wisdom, having ascended
The Palace made from Dhamma, Visionary One,
Look down on the people overcome by grief, One Free of Grief,
    on those overcome by birth and old-age.
Rise up, Hero, Victorious in Battle, Caravan-Leader, Debtless One, travel through the world.
Let the Gracious One teach the Dhamma, there will be those who understand.”

Then the Gracious One, having understood Brahmā's request, out of kindness looked at beings around the world with his Buddha-eye. Comm: Buddha-eye (here) means with his knowledge of the disposition of others' faculties and with his knowledge of their underlying tendencies.18 While looking around the world with his Buddha-eye the Gracious One saw beings having little dust on the eyes, having great dust on the eyes, having sharp faculties, having undeveloped faculties, having good conditions, having poor conditions, easy to instruct, hard to instruct, and (only) some who dwelt seeing danger in what is blameworthy and in the next world.

Just as with water-lilies or lotuses or white lotuses some of those water-lilies or lotuses or white lotuses, born in the water, flourishing in the water, not rising above water, are nourished from inside the depths, some of those water-lilies or lotuses or white lotuses, born in the water, flourishing in the water, stand level with the water, some of those water-lilies or lotuses or white lotuses, born in the water, flourishing in the water, stand above the water, and are untouched by the water. The simile offered here gives three possibilities: being below, level with and above the water, but the text it illustrates offers only two: being with or without dust on the eyes, etc. which is curious.19

Even so while looking around the world with his Buddha-eye the Gracious One saw beings having little dust on the eyes, having great dust on the eyes, having sharp faculties, having undeveloped faculties, having good conditions, having poor conditions, easy to instruct, hard to instruct, and (only) some who dwelt seeing danger in what is blameworthy and in the next world, and having seen (it) he recited this verse to Brahmā Sahampati:

“Open for you are the doors to the Deathless,
Whoever has ears let them release their faith. Horner: let them renounce their faith; however the Sub-commentary says: let them raise the state of faith in the Dhamma taught by me myself is the meaning. Lalitavistara 25.34 agrees with the latter: let them undertake faith.20
Perceiving trouble, Brahmā, I did not speak amongst humans,
About what was hard-learned, the excellent Dhamma!”

Then Brahmā Sahampati (thought): “I have obtained consent for the Gracious One to teach the Dhamma,” and after worshipping the Gracious One, and circumambulating him, he vanished right there.

The Story about Brahmā's request is Finished