32 Marks of a Great Man

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 17855
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:08 am

Greetings,

32 Marks of a Great Man
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... _great_man

To what extent are these to be understood literally or metaphorically?

To what extent did the Mahavihara Classical Theravada tradition understand them to be literal or metaphorical?

Suttas such as the following appear to be quite literal...

MN91: Brahmayu Sutta
http://www.vipassana.info/091-brahmayu-e1.htm

... when they say things like "The Blessed One drew forth his tongue, touched the ear lobes, the nostrils and covered the complete forehead with the nose." (although Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation has the tongue covering the forehead)

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

User avatar
cooran
Posts: 8502
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby cooran » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:14 am

Hello Retro, all,

This small extract may help:

From notes by Maurice Walshe to his translation of the Sutta in the Digha Nikaaya (DN. 30) p. 610 - 611:
"This Sutta may seem the most uninteresting and unedifying of the entire Nikaaya. Yet, properly considered, it has its interest, first, as an example of the forms Buddhist propaganda was perhaps sometimes obliged to assume, and also from the point of view of iconography, as some of the marks came to be depicted in images of the Buddha; the great reclining Buddha-figure in Wat Pho in Bangkok is a well-known example.
RD (Rhys Davids) has a wide-ranging introduction tracing the possible origins of such marks, which clearly must have been important in the minds of influential Brahmins in the time of the Buddha (see, e.g. DN 3). However, later Brahmin tradition has preserved very little about them. Certainly, many of them seem quite arbitrary and even difficult to distinguish clearly. Nevertheless, there are more traces of their influence in later Buddhist writing (and, as observed, iconography) than RD is anxious to admit, and there are even 'eighty minor marks' mentioned in addition to the thirty-two major ones here listed.
Both lists, major and minor, are found in the Dharma-sa.mgraha (de. Kenjiu Kasawara and F. Max Muller, 1885, rep. Delhi 1981), carefully collated with the lists as they occur in the present Sutta and elsewhere.

RD remarks that 'most of the marks are so absurd, considered as marks of any human, that they are probaby mythological in origin, and three or four seem to be solar'. He adds that 'our Suttanta seems gravely ironical in the contrast it makes between the absurdity of the marks and the beauty of the ethical qualities they are supposed, in the Suttanta, to mean.' But it must be added that, however absurdly as regards the details, they are intended to show the relation between action and karmic result, and they could have been used pedagogically to inculcate this lesson. Scholars are agreed on the fairly obvious fact that this is one of the latest texts in the Nikaaya, and this is even hinted at in the commentary itself. The verses, ascribed to Aananda, show an exceptionally wide variety of metres, but all of late types. It is possible that someone tried to give this unpromising material some literary grace by dexterous versification. I considered trying to reproduce the different metrical forms in translation, but decided this was beyong my powers. Perhaps some translator will attempt this one day."

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

User avatar
Fede
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: The Heart of this "Green & Pleasant Land"...
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Fede » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:48 am

"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 17855
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:08 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

User avatar
Fede
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: The Heart of this "Green & Pleasant Land"...
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Fede » Mon Apr 27, 2009 12:51 pm

"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

User avatar
Mexicali
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:12 pm

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Mexicali » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:59 pm

At the risk of stating the obvious or the cliche;

The Pali canon wasn't written down until quite a while after the events they report, and were handed down orally until then. Anyone who has studied oral tradition, or even played a game of "telephone", knows that things can be altered here and there. I'm sure that these records are the closest thing we have to an accurate record of the Buddha; but I'd argue that we cannot say that each and every word has been faithfully transmitted.

Does this mean I think we should 'pick and choose' from the teachings? Not so much, no. But I think if any source makes an ontological claim that seems very questionable, we're justified in being very skeptical of its literal veracity. The idea of the marks, besides being very Hindu in origin, defies general reason. The realization of the true nature of reality makes your tongue huge and causes you to grow a super-foreskin? I don't see the cause and effect basis at work here, nor does it seem that even the greatest teachers of our modern age were developing gold skin and cranial gigantism.
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
-- Herbert Muschamp

User avatar
Ngawang Drolma.
Posts: 805
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:38 pm

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:52 pm

If I remember right, the Buddha may have had these marks they weren't visible to most people. I don't have a sutta to back this up, it's just what I remember reading at some point.

:juggling:


rowyourboat
Posts: 1952
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:44 pm

I must say i dont know what to make of it- but this maybe a sign of subtle neurological/ genetic changes in the man. It is known that low IQ is associated with subtle neurological changes. Maybe someone who has an extremely rare genetic mutation(s)/chromosomal anomolies are likely to have off the scale IQs and able to penetrate the truth through his own efforts, hence becoming a Buddha or a world leader of universal proportions.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4314209.stm

http://www.tripdatabase.com/spider.html?itemid=482085
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
Posts: 10649
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:19 pm

Great thread, the obligatory 32 Marks thread . . .

At one time Wikipedia had a big section about the 32 Marks and even listed all of them, at the beginning of the article on the Buddha. To me, it may have been an honest mistake or at worst, a deliberate attempt to make Buddhism appear mythological. It is not an essential teaching in Buddhism and in my opinion should be taken metaphorically. After some convincing, Wikipedia did remove the 32 Marks to a small section and different article.

Not all suttas are to be taken literally (fortunately):

Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. And he who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred. These are two who slander the Tathagata.”

Anguttara Nikaya 2.25
Image




User avatar
pink_trike
Posts: 1130
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:29 am
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby pink_trike » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:14 pm

Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

User avatar
Jason
Posts: 474
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:09 am
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:24 am

Retro,

I don't know the classical position concerning the , but I generally don't take them literally. For example, I've always found interesting in that the wanderer Pukkusati didn't immediately recognize the Buddha when he saw him, but only realized who he was after hearing him teach a profound discourse on the four determinations and the six properties of experience. That's hard to imagine if the Buddha literally possessed all 32 marks. To me, it's obvious that these marks were metaphorical (i.e., representative of various characters and qualities), the result of psychic powers (i.e., visions that were given certain brahmins and wanderers) or clever marketing used by the Sangha to entice certain brahmins and wanderers who accepted the ancient Indian tradition regarding the "32 marks of a great man" to learn the Dhamma.

Jason
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" ().

(Buddhist-related blog)
(non-Buddhist related blog)

floating_abu
Posts: 94
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:50 pm

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby floating_abu » Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:33 am

Fortunately, the Eightfold Path does not require a belief in the literal 32 marks of a Great Man. The Buddha was a wise man indeed. :namaste:

Individual
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Individual » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:35 am

The best things in life aren't things.


User avatar
pink_trike
Posts: 1130
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:29 am
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby pink_trike » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:54 am

As is being increasingly confirmed by the field of ethnoastronomy...premodern writing was rarely limited to one meaning...there was usually a simple surface layer, and a hidden layer that was only understood by those very few who were initiated into the "mysteries" - as the sciences were referred to. Numbers in premodern text nearly always encode scientific knowledge that was considered unnecessary for the common people to understand - in fact, it was believed that common people shouldn't understand the sciences. It's highly unlikely that the number 32 is an arbitrary number, especially given the number of other common encoding signifiers found in the 32 lines. The presence of such an unusual number would likely rule out any frivolous "superstition" being included...and the peculiarities found in the 32 marks are most certainly encoding tools.

An example of this encoding are the numbers found in the Old Norse Edda prose:

Five hundred doors
and forty more
So I deem stand in Valhall;
Eight hundred champions go out at each door
When they fare to fight with the Wolf."

540 x 800 = 432,000. This figure agrees with both the Hindu and Babylonian accounts concerning the length of the current age or cycle. Further, the figure 432 is basic in the calculation of all such ages. This precise accord can hardly be a coincidence; rather it confirms the Edda's identity as ancient scientific wisdom.

[It's worth noting that 432 divided by 4 = 108, a number found in nearly all advanced premodern texts, that has wide scientific relevance]

Here's an article that discusses this in more depth:

http://www.roanoke.edu/forlang/ogier/Ed ... ations.htm
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

User avatar
appicchato
Posts: 1603
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby appicchato » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:38 am


User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:21 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
pink_trike
Posts: 1130
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:29 am
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby pink_trike » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:52 am

Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

User avatar
Fede
Posts: 1182
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: The Heart of this "Green & Pleasant Land"...
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Fede » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:53 am

:oops:

Ben, I feel suitably chastised....

But in light of further comments, my theory of the Buddha's previous existence as a Giraffe or Tapir may not be as far fetched as one might think.

I'm sure I have possibly manifested attributes akin to those of a mockworthy creature.
In fact, I'm sure I still do.
I trust you are all too polite to point out the obvious..... :rolleye:

This is actually a most educating thread.
Thanks all!

EDIT NOTE:

On the subject of this Pandora's Box... where did I read that Hope (left behind and trapped in the box) was not a positive sign, but rather a negative one, and that Hope, whilst appearing to be a positive attribute, actually raises far too many desires, only to see them dashed and destroyed....? Hope was, after all, in the Box, denoted as containing "All the Evil of Mankind".....
I wish I could find the post.
It made sense......
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 3521
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Huai Bong, Lamphun

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby Dhammanando » Sat May 02, 2009 2:36 pm


User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
Posts: 10649
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Contact:

Re: 32 Marks of a Great Man

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat May 02, 2009 3:07 pm

Robert Bluck writes (above):

"Each of the Buddha’s marks is seen imaginatively as relating to spiritual progress, from the ‘well-planted feet’ which resemble ‘the first steps one takes towards the Dhamma’ to the ‘turban crown’ which symbolizes ‘insight into the real nature of things: anicca, dukkha, anatta’ (Thirty-Two Marks, 1995: 106–7)."

The use of 'imaginatively' and 'symbolizes' seems to imply a metaphorical, symbolic account of the 32 marks.
Image





Return to “General Theravāda discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 22 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine