|A golden Buddha rises from the forest in Thailand (Thai-on/flickr.com)|
|The Story of Dona the Brahmin as a hymn by MOD (TBCM.org.my, Malaysia)|
|Gandharan scroll (justalittledust.com)|
The Brahmin Dona saw in the Blessed One's footprints thousand-spoked wheels, together with rims and hubs, complete in all of their features. On seeing them, the thought occurred to Dona, "Amazing and astounding, these are not the footprints of an ordinary human being!"
Then the Blessed One, leaving the road, went to sit at the root of a tree -- legs crossed, body erect, establishing [the four foundations of] mindfulness before him.
|The statue is massive (Thai-on/flickr.com)|
- [Naga is a term used to describe similar great beings, like tusker elephants or magical and/or extraterrestrial dragons. It was adopted by early Buddhists as yet another epithet for the Buddha and enlightened Buddhist disciples.]
"Would you be a divine messenger (angel/os, spirit, gandhabba)?"
"Would you be a mythical creature (yakkha)?"
"Would you be an ordinary human being?"
|Chiang Mai, northern Thailand (YR Journey/Arsenal1886london/flickr.com)|
"When asked if you are a deva, gandhabba, yakkha, or an ordinary human being, you answer: 'No, Brahmin, I am not.' What sort of being are you then?"
"Brahmin, the defilements [asavas/taints and samyojanas/fetters] by which -- had they not been abandoned -- I would be a deva, gandhabba, yakkha, or an ordinary human being -- those are abandoned, their roots eradicated, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future rearising.
"Just like a red, blue, or white lotus -- born in water, grown up in water, rising above the water -- stands unsmeared by water so, too, I -- born in the world, grown up in the world, having risen above the world -- live unsmeared by the world. Remember me, Brahmin, as 'awakened.'
"Like a blue lotus rising up -- unsmeared by water -- unsmeared am I by the world, and so, Brahmin, I am awake."
- Human beings in Buddhism
- Revisiting Dona (Gandharan scroll)
- In the Buddha's Words (preview of anthology)
|Golden Buddha, mouth of Dambulla Cave, Sri Lanka (Richard Silver/rjsnyc/flickr.com)|
Note: Now or in the future?
Noted by Ven. Thanissaro (Geoffrey DeGraff, Abbot, Wat Metta) edited by Amber Larson (Wisdom Quarterly)
|Tan Geoff's best translation|
It is also possible that the Buddha's answers to Dona's questions -- which, like the questions, are phrased in the future tense -- are a form of word-play, in which the Buddha is using the future tense in both its meanings, to refer both to his present and to his future state.
The Buddha not identifying himself as a human being relates to a point made throughout the Canon, which is that an awakened person can no longer really be defined in any way at all. On this point, see MN 72, SN 22.85, SN 22.86, and/or the article "A Verb for Nirvana." Because a mind/heart with clinging is "located" by its clinging, an awakened person is trapped, fettered, or located in no place at all in this or any other world: This is why one is unsmeared by the world (loka), like the lotus which is unsmeared by water it springs from.
The defilements left behind
Bhikkhu Bodhi (In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon/Wikipedia.org asava), edited by Dhr. Seven (Wisdom Quarterly)
The āsavas or taints are a classification of defilements considered in their role of sustaining the forward movement of the process of [re]birth and death.
The commentaries derive the word from a root su meaning "to flow." Scholars differ as to whether the flow implied by the prefix ā is inward or outward; hence some have rendered it as "influxes" or "influences," others as "outflows" or "effluents."
A stock passage in the suttas [Pali "discourses," sutras] indicates the term's real significance independently of etymology when it describes the āsavas as states "that defile, bring renewal of existence, give trouble, ripen in suffering, and lead to future birth, aging and death" (MN 36.47; I 250).
Thus other translators, bypassing the literal meaning, have rendered it "cankers," "corruptions," or "taints." The three taints mentioned in the Nikāyas [discourse collections, volumes] are respectively synonyms for craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, and ignorance. [The fourth āsava, attachment to views, appears in the commentaries.]
When the disciple's mind is liberated from the taints by the completion of the path of [enlightenment] arhantship, one reviews this newly won freedom and roars a lion's roar:
"Birth is destroyed, the spiritual life has been lived, what [was] to be done has been done; there is no more coming back to any state of being" (In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon, edited and introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2005, p. 229).
Earlier British Buddhist scholars Rhys Davids and William Stede (1921-25) state in part that "Freedom from the 'āsavas' constitutes full enlightenment" [entry on āsava (pp. 115-16)].