Friday, August 22, 2014

Shakya Sutra: Money and Happiness

Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly based on initial translation by Ven. Thanissaro (Geoffrey DeGraff), Sakka Sutra: "To the Shakyans" (AN 10.46); Wiki; Sirimunasiha
Golden face of Afghan Buddha excavated from 2,600-year-old Mes Aynak ("Copper Well") temple complex, one of the first and possibly the largest monastic complexes in the world.
Bamiyan, Afghanistan (ancient Sakka, Scythia), at the Himalayan foothills of the Hindu Kush, was a wealthy East-West crossroads on the Silk Route beyond India into Central Asia (wiki).
 
Cultivated land in Bamiyan
On one occasion the Blessed One [the Buddha] was staying near Kapilavatthu [Sanskrit "Kapilavastu," likely somewhere between modern Bamiyan and Kabul (Kapil), Afghanistan, beyond the ancient northwest frontier of India, among his extended family the Shakyans] at the Banyan Park.
 
First anthropomorphic images of the Buddha
Then many Shakyan lay followers, on the lunar observance day (uposatha), went to see the Blessed One, bowed, and sat respectfully to one side. As they were sitting there, the Blessed One said to them, "Shakyans, do you observe the eightfold lunar observance?"
 
"Sometimes we do, venerable sir, and sometimes we do not." 
  • [The weekly lunar observance days (full moon, new moon, first and last quarter moons), call uposatha days, are a time of intensive effort and rededication to the Buddha's Dharma. Its eight factors or limbs (anga) are the Eight Precepts observed for that day and night.]
"It is no gain for you, Shakyans. It is ill-gotten, that in this life so threatened by grief, in this life so threatened by death, you only sometimes observe the eight-factored lunar observance and sometimes do not.
 
"What do you think, Shakyans. Suppose a person, by some profession or other, without encountering an unprofitable (akusalam, unskillful, wasted) day, were to earn half a gold coin.
  • [See Wisdom Quarterly discussion of the gold, silver, and copper kahapana below.]
The first Buddhas were Indo-Greco (Boonlieng/flickr)
"Would that person deserve to be called a capable person, full of initiative?"
 
"Yes, venerable sir."
"Suppose a person, by some profession or other, without encountering an unprofitable day, were to earn a whole coin... two coins... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... ten... 20...30 ... 40... 50... 100 coins. Would that person deserve to be called a capable person, full of initiative?"
 
"Yes, venerable sir."
 
"Now what do you think: Earning 100 or 1,000 coins a day, and saving up one's gains, and living for 100 years, would a person arrive at a great mass of wealth?"
 
"Yes, venerable sir."
  
Massive Bamiyan Buddha, Kapilavastu (grand-bazaar)
"Now what do you think: Would that person, because of that wealth, on account of that wealth, with that wealth as the cause, live enjoying unalloyed bliss for a day, a night, half a day, or half a night?"
 
"No, venerable sir. And why is that? Sensual pleasures are inconstant (unstable, undependable, fickle, impermanent), hollow, false, deceptive by nature."

"Now, Shakyans, there is the case where a disciple of mine, spending ten years practicing as I have instructed, would live enjoying unalloyed bliss for 100 years, 100 centuries, 100 millennia.
  • [One reason for this is jhana (meditative absorption) and its astounding karmic aftereffects. It is on account of attaining to one of the eight jhanas, re-entering it frequently, or mastering it completely that one, going no further to cultivate liberating insight in this life, is reborn in superior planes of existence, heavens (worlds in space or other dimensions), with lifespans that last aeons. See Large Chart in 31 Planes of Existence.]
"And that person would be a once-returner, a non-returner, or at the very least a stream-winner.
  
Kapilavastu? Sakastan (SCMP.com)
"Let alone ten years, there is the case where a disciple of mine, spending nine years... eight years... seven... six... five... four... three... two years... one year practicing as I have instructed, would live enjoying unalloyed bliss for 100 years, 100 centuries, 100 millennia. And that person would be a once-returner, a non-returner, or at the very least a stream-winner.
  • [In a more famous sutra (MN 10), the Buddha uses this cascading description of time to emphasize that while it might take as many as seven years to reach enlightenment, it might actually only take as few as seven days of mindful application (on a foundation of powerful concentration). See the Greater Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse.]
Gandhara-style Buddha, Bactria (Boonlieng/flickr)
"Let alone one year, there is the case where a disciple of mine, spending ten months... nine months... eight months... seven... six... five... four... three... two months... one month... half a month practicing as I have instructed, would live enjoying unalloyed bliss for 100 years, 100 centuries, 100 millennia. And that person would be a once-returner, a non-returner, or at the very least a stream-winner.
 
"Let alone half a month, there is the case where a disciple of mine, spending ten days and nights... nine days and nights... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two days and nights... one day and night [this expression "one day and night" suggests one uposatha day] practicing as I have instructed, would live enjoying unalloyed bliss for 100 years, 100 centuries, 100 millennia. And that person would be a once-returner, a non-returner, or at the very least a stream-winner.
 
Did the Shakyans listen and benefit?
"It is no gain for you, Shakyans. It is ill-gotten, that in this life so threatened by grief, in this life so threatened by death, you only sometimes observe the eightfold lunar observance and sometimes do not."
 
"Then from this day forward, venerable sir, we will observe the eightfold lunar observance!"
 
Gold kahapanas, ancient coins used in Central Asia (Afghanistan), India, Sri Lanka (Siri)
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Later kahapana with the Buddha
  • NOTES: India did not have anthropomorphic (human-like) representations of the Buddha or the "gods" (devas, brahmas) until Buddhists outside of India -- in Hellenized Afghanistan, Gandhara, and Central Asia (Bactria, Scythia, Sodgdia, etc.) -- made the first images.
  • Isn't it interesting that maps of the area in ancient times show a Sakastan right in the vicinity of modern Afghanistan? And isn't it more interesting that the main "god" (deva) of earthly relevance in Buddhism and of the Buddha's time -- the "King of the Gods/Devas" -- is called Sakka?
  • Greco-Buddhist art (Bimaran casket)
  • This discourse, "Sutra to the Shakyans" (Sakka Sutta) is not called the Sakya or Shakya Sutra but the Sakka Sutta, suggesting that they were called the Sakkas -- Scythians, one of any far wandering "tribes" (family clans) relying on horses (like Siddhartha's famed white pony Kanthaka), rich with gold from controlling commerce and land along the Silk Route of traveling merchants taking riches between East and West? See discussion in Pali Encyclopedia.
  • See also AN 3.70; AN 8.43; Ud 2.10; MN 10
Ancient Money (the kahapana)
Wisdom Quarterly English translation from German-Wiki
Modern minor excavation at Mes Aynak, Afghanistan shows gold and jewellery treasure. This hoard was dated from 500 AD to 700 AD (Kadir Salamviking)
Kahapana was the name of an ancient Indian coin. It was either copper, silver, or gold. Its shape was round or rectangular. In Sanskrit it was called purana, in British English a "crown." Kahapanas are mentioned in early Buddhist literature, where their role was as a means of payment on the Indian subcontinent of antiquity. It is also in evidence in excavations. More

Set of kalandas of corresponding weight -Type I -Chank over Vase or Pot (Sirimunasiha).

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