The world is lost

This weekend I enjoyed reading Ven. Analayo's Brahmā's Invitation: the Ariyapariyesanā-sutta in the Light of its Madhyama-āgama Parallel. The abstract:

The present article begins by surveying the role of the ancient Indian god Brahmā in the early Buddhist discourses as exemplifying a tendency referred to in academic research as "inclusivism".

A prominent instance of this tendency can be found in the Ariyapariyesanā-sutta of the Pāli canon, which reports that Brahmā intervened to persuade the recently awakened Buddha to teach. This episode is absent from a Madhyama-āgama parallel to the Ariyapariyesanā-sutta, of which I provide a partial translation. The translation is followed by a brief evaluation of this difference between the two parallel records of the events surrounding the Buddha's awakening.

"Brahma's invitation" is really more of a plea, and is probably one of the more famous events in the Pali canon. The Buddha, having achieved enlightenment, realizes that the dhamma that he has attained is "profound, obscure, hard to understand, still, pure, inaccessible to reason, subtle, and for the wise [only]" (gambhīro duddaso duranubodho santo paṇīto atakkāvacaro nipuṇo paṇḍitavedanīyo), while the people around him are into attachment. And a poem comes to him about the situation:

Kicchena me adhigataṃ halan-dāni pakāsituṃ;
rāgadosaparetehi nāyaṃ dhammo susambudho.
Paṭisotagāmiṃ nipuṇaṃ gambhīraṃ duddasaṃ aṇuṃ
rāgarattā na dakkhinti tamokkhandhena āvaṭā

No point in preaching what with difficulty I obtained;
This dhamma is not easily realized by those overcome by greed and anger
It goes against the stream, it is subtle, profound, obscure, minute;
Those steeped in lust, those covered in darkness will not be able to see it.

Yep -- the Buddha almost gives up on us! Seeing this, Brahmā Sahampati becomes alarmed: "The world, alas, is lost! the world, alas, is utterly lost! -- insofar as the mind of the Tathagata, of the arahant, of the perfectly enlightened one, is inclined to inaction and not to dhamma-teaching!" (nassati vata bho loko, vinassati vata bho loko, yatra hi nāma Tathāgatassa arahato sammāsambuddhassa appossukkatāya cittaṃ namati, no dhammadesanāya). So he beams down right in front of the Buddha and begs him, also partly in verse, to teach the dhamma, because there will be some who recognize its value (aññātāro bhavissantī).

Reconsidering the situation, the Buddha realizes that there will indeed be some worthy of his teaching (using the "lotuses grow out of the mud" metaphor, among others), and so he agrees to teach it to them. Brahmā Sahampati beams back up, and the Buddha starts thinking about who to explain things to first.

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Jeffrey Kotyk:

You might enjoy his work The Genesis of the Bodhisattva Ideal:



I have this on my to-read list, but the length has kept it from rising to the top. I'll give it an extra push if it comes recommended, though!

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