Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter solstice: Ascetic Rituals (sutra)

Ashley Wells, Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly, "Ascetics Discourse" (Jaṭila Sutta, from the collection of "Inspired Utterances" based on Ven. Thanissaro translation (Udana 1.9)
Himalayas (Raimond Klavins/
Non-Buddhist ascetics have many rituals
Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was staying near Gayā at Gayā Head. 

At that time many wandering ascetics -- on the cold winter nights when the Brahmins honor the dearly departed [Note 1] when the snow was falling in Gayā -- jumped into and out of the frigid water [a kind of Vedic "baptism"].

They poured [clean water over themselves] and performed the fire sacrifice ritual [to burn away bad karma with the thought,] "This will result in our purification" [2].
Himalayan yogi (jmmnewaov2)
The Blessed One saw these many ascetics -- on the cold winter nights... -- jumping in and out of the frigid water... [with the thought,] "This will result in our purification."

Then realizing the significance, the Blessed One exclaimed: "Not by ritual water is one cleansed, even though many are bathing here. Whoever has gained truth and virtue, that person is cleansed, that person is a (true) Brahmin [3]."
(VP) Hayden Panettiere and the Ukrainian Revolution Dec. 6, 2013
FOOTNOTES: 1. The interval "Between-the-Eights" refers to India's cold season -- the "Eights" being the waning half-moon days, each falling on the eighth day of the waning cycle. This happens after three of the full moons in the cold season, which are the dates for Brahminical ceremonies to transfer merit to the (grateful) dead. The period between the first and last of these dates, or the "Between-the-Eights" interval, in northern India is regarded as the coldest part of the year. (See AN 3.34).
2. The Buddha taught that "clinging to mere rites and rituals" (silabata paramasa) with the expectation that they themselves could lead one to enlightenment or purification of view or purification of virtue is a wrong view overcome at the first stage of enlightenment, stream entry. If, for example, bathing in holy rivers such as the Ganges resulted in purity, the Buddha explains, all of the beings living there, such as fish and turtles, would be stainless, blameless, and karmically perfect.
3. The latter half of this verse is identical with the latter half of Dhp 393.

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