Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Buddha and RACISM in old India (sutra in brief)

Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly G.P. Malalasekera, Assalayana Sutra (MN 93)
The Buddha, a magnificent statue in Theravada Thailand (Baddoguy/
What did the Buddha look like?
The Assalāyana Sutra records a conversation between the Buddha and the Brahmn Assalāyana when the latter went to dispute with the Enlightened One (M.ii.147ff).

In the sutra, No. 93 of the Middle Length Discourses, Assalāyana is a 16-year-old Brahmin student from Sāvatthi. He is very learned in the Vedas and allied subjects. A large number (500) of Brahmins staying in the city ask him to hold a discussion with the Buddha to refute his teachings.

He agrees only after repeated requests because, as he explains, Gotama (Sanskrit, Gautama) renowned wandering ascetic teacher with views of his own and, therefore, difficult to defeat in debate.
He reluctantly visits the Buddha with a large company of Brahmins and asks what he has to say concerning the elitist claim that Brahmins are the only superior race (caste) by birth, the only legitimate sons of  God (Brahma).
  • The Buddha points out to young Assalāyana that such pretensions are baseless, for it is virtuous karma (intentional actions) that alone leads to purity, and such karma can be cultivated by anyone of any race, caste, or class, particularly the four major divisions recognized at that time in the Kingdom of Magadha in modern India.
The Buddha on Brahmin racial supremacy
Assalāyana sits silently upset when the Buddha refutes the Brahmins' claim of racial supremacy. But then the Buddha tells him an uplifting Brahmin story of the past: the Brahmin seer Asita Devala once corrected seven Brahmins who conceived of and cherished the same wrong view.

By the end of the discourse, Assalāyana feels relieved and expresses his admiration for the Buddha's exposition. He is so moved he declares himself a follower of the Buddha (M.ii.147ff).

The great Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosa (MA.ii.785) tells us further that Assalāyana became a devoted follower of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha -- the teacher, the teaching, and the successfully taught -- that he built a shrine (cetiya) in his own residence for veneration, and that all his descendants, down to Buddhaghosa's day, built similar shrines in their homes.
"India" and societies in Central Asia (wiki).
Assalāyana is probably to be identified as the father of Mahākotthita, his wife being Candavati. There is, however, one difficulty connected with this theory: Mahākotthita says he was won over to the Buddha-Dharma after hearing the same sutra of the Buddha as the one that converted his father (yadā me pitaram Buddho vinayī sabbasuddhiyā) (ThagA.i.31; Ap.ii.480).

It is unlikely, if the identification is correct, that this could refer to the Assalāyana Sutra, because at the time of the discourse, Assalāyana was only 16 years old. But there exists no record of any other sutra preached to Assalāyana dealing with "sabbasuddhi." So it may be that he heard this same discourse at a later time.

Assalayāna is named in a list of eminent Brahmins found in the Commentary to the Sutta-Nipāta (i.372).

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