Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

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Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby MyJourney » Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:38 pm

Greetings to all of you.

After reading some of the good "introduction" books into buddhism like Mindfulness in plain english and a few from Thich Nhat Hanh and a few others, I started to read the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha.

At the moment I would like to get some help and interpretations on two suttas:

Brahmayu Sutta - MN 91

... Then it occured to the Blessed One: "This brahmin Brahmayu sees, more or less, the thirty-two marks of a Great Man on me, except two; he is doubtful and uncertain about two of the marks, and he cannot decide and make up his mind about them: about the male organ being enclosed in a sheath and about the largeness of the tongue."
Then the Blessed One worked such a feat of supernormal power that the brahmin Brahmayu saw that the Blessed One's male organ was enclosed in a sheath. Next the Blessed One extruded his tongue, and he repeatedly touched both ear holes and both nostrils, and he covered the whole of his forehead with his tongue. ...

A similar passage could be found in the Sela Sutta MN 92 as well.

I started reading the book over the last few month - one sutta per day - and it is something which helped me a lot in my journey. My confusion is twofold
- it is one of the very rare occasions that the buddha uses "supernormal power" at least in what I have covered so far.
- why did the buddha have to prove it in such a way

I would like to hear your opinions or references where this has been discussed.

Have a wonderful day all of you
:anjali:
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Re: Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:09 am

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel!

The 32 marks are a pre-Buddhist concept.

When the seer Asita came to visit the new born Buddha-to-be, Siddhattha Gotama, he mentions that he sees the signs or marks of a great man and lists some of them. This confirms that this concept is a pre-Buddhist idea.

It is very clear from the Tipitaka that the Buddha's physical appearance was normal in every way. When King Ajātasattu went to meet him he was unable to distinguish him from the disciples surrounding him (D.I,50). If the Buddha had any of the 32 Signs the king would have recognized him immediately. Pukkasāti sat talking to the Buddha for hours before realizing who he was (M.III,238). If the Buddha had any of the Signs the young man would have soon noticed it and known that he was someone unusual. When Upaka encountered the Buddha walking along the road to Gaya the thing he noticed most about him was 'clear faculities and radiant complexion' (M.I,170). He did not mention seeing any of the 32 Signs.

In the Buddha's teachings, the external and the physical are always subordinate to the internal and the psychological (S.I,169). The Buddha was aware of the Brahmanical concept that a ‘great man' could be known by his physical characteristics and he rejected this notion. Someone once asked him: ‘They talk about a ‘great man,' a ‘great man.' But what is it that makes a great man?' The Buddha replied: ‘It is by freeing the mind that someone becomes a great man. Without freeing the mind one cannot be a great man' (S.V,157).


http://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=3 ... _great_man

Psychic, supernormal powers are possible, but not demonstrated for profit or side-shows:

http://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Psychic_power
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Re: Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:56 am

Hi MyJourney,

If you are reading the MN I highly recommend Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the Suttas:
http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about- ... ikaya.html

:anjali:
Mike
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Re: Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby MyJourney » Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:29 pm

Thank you David for the information and links. This helps me to understand the first part of my question.

Thank you Mike, I will listen to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the Suttas.

What I am still struggeling with is WHY the buddha performed the supernatural power? Just to convince someone that he is a "Great Man"? Given that the Buddha was very cautious in regard to the psychic powers.

Have a good day
:anjali:
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Re: Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby nameless » Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:31 am

Most (all?) suttas have been prefaced with "I heard thus" or "Thus i have heard", including this one.

Meaning of course that there is no guarantee that this is a 100% unadulterated description of historical fact.
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Re: Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby cooran » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:17 am

nameless wrote:Most (all?) suttas have been prefaced with "I heard thus" or "Thus i have heard", including this one.

Meaning of course that there is no guarantee that this is a 100% unadulterated description of historical fact.

Hello nameless,

No - that is not what "Thus have I heard" means. It is the statement which prefaces suttas recited by the Ven. Ananda, who was the personal assistant of the Buddha and who memorised the Teachings of the Buddha and repeated them at the First Council. The Arahants at the First Council (and Ananda was one of them) gave the suttas their approval as the genuine teachings of the Buddha.

with metta
Chris
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Re: Brahmayu Sutta MN 91 and Sela Sutta MN 92

Postby nameless » Fri Sep 17, 2010 3:36 pm

Fair enough.

But it still remains that we have no way of knowing what actually happened.

Edit: never mind.
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