AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

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AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:10 am

AN 4.35 AN ii 35 Vassakāra
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


http://suttacentral.net/an4.35/en

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the squirrel sanctuary. Then the brahmin Vassakāra, the chief minister of Magadha, approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and said to the Blessed One:

“Master Gotama, we describe someone who possesses four qualities as a great man with great wisdom. What four? (1) Here, someone is highly learned in the various fields of learning. (2) He understands the meaning of various statements, so that he can say: ‘This is the meaning of this statement; this is the meaning of that one.’ (3) He has a good memory; he remembers and recollects what was done and said long ago. (4) He is skillful and diligent in attending to the diverse chores of a householder; he possesses sound judgment about them in order to carry out and arrange them properly. We describe someone who possesses these four qualities as a great man with great wisdom. If Master Gotama thinks what I say should be approved, let him approve it. If he thinks what I say should be rejected, let him reject it.”

“I neither approve of your statement, brahmin, nor do I reject it. Rather, I describe one who possesses four other qualities as a great man with great wisdom. What four? (1) Here, he is practicing for the welfare and happiness of many people; he is one who has established many people in the noble method, that is, in the goodness of the Dhamma, in the wholesomeness of the Dhamma. [693] (2) He thinks whatever he wants to think and does not think what he does not want to think; he intends whatever he wants to intend and does not intend what he does not want to intend; thus he has attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought. (3) He gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life. (4) With the destruction of the taints, he has realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, and having entered upon it, he dwells in it.

“I neither approve of your statement, brahmin, nor do I reject it. But I describe someone who possesses these four qualities as a great man with great wisdom.”

“It is astounding and amazing, Master Gotama, how well this has been stated by Master Gotama. And we consider Master Gotama as one who possesses these four qualities. (1) For he is practicing for the welfare and happiness of many people; he is one who has established many people in the noble method, that is, in the goodness of the Dhamma, in the wholesomeness of the Dhamma. (2) He thinks whatever he wants to think and does not think what he does not want to think; he intends whatever he wants to intend and does not intend what he does not want to intend; thus he has attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought. (3) He gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life. (4) With the destruction of the taints, he has realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, and having entered upon it, he dwells in it.”

“Surely, brahmin, your words are prying and intrusive. [694] Nevertheless, I will answer you. (1) Indeed, I am practicing for the welfare and happiness of many people; I have established many people in the noble method, that is, in the goodness of the Dhamma, in the wholesomeness of the Dhamma. (2) I think what I want to think and do not think what I do not want to think; I intend what I want to intend and do not intend what I do not want to intend; thus I have attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought. (3) I gain at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life. (4) With the destruction of the taints, I have realized for myself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, and having entered upon it, I dwell in it.”

    He who found for the sake of all beings
    release from the snare of death;
    who revealed the Dhamma, the method,
    for the benefit of devas and humans;
    he in whom many people gain confidence
    when they see and listen to him;
    the one skilled in the path and what is not the path,
    the taintless one who accomplished his task;
    the Enlightened One bearing his final body
    is called “a great man of great wisdom.”

Notes

[693] Mp says that the noble method (ariyañāya) is the path together with insight, and the “goodness of the Dhamma” (kalyāṇadhammatā) and “the wholesomeness of the Dhamma” (kusaladhammatā) are names for it.

[694] Āsajja upanīya vācā bhāsitā. Āsajja usually means “having attacked,” but this meaning seems too strong here. Mp merely paraphrases without giving much help: “The words you spoke hit upon my virtues and intrude on the domain of my virtues” (mama guṇe ghaṭṭetvā mam’eva guṇānaṃ santikaṃ upanītā vācā bhāsitā). I therefore assume that the words, without being insulting, are considered inappropriate because they are making a personal inquiry.
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:13 am

AN 4.35 PTS: A ii 35
Vassakara Sutta: With Vassakara
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Four distinguishing qualities of a wise person.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha at the Bamboo Grove in the Squirrels' Sanctuary. Then Vassakara the brahman, the chief minister of Magadha, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, "Master Gotama, we declare a person endowed with four qualities to be one of great discernment, a great man. Which four?

"There is the case where he is learned.

"Whatever he hears, he immediately understands the meaning of the statement, 'This is the meaning of that statement. This is the meaning of that statement.'

"He is mindful, able to remember & recollect what was done & said a long time ago.

"He is adept in the affairs of the household life, diligent, endowed with enough ingenuity in their techniques to manage them and get them done.

"Master Gotama, we declare a person endowed with these four qualities to be one of great discernment, a great man. If you think that I am worthy of agreement, Master Gotama, may you agree with me. If you think I am worthy of criticism, criticize me."

"I neither agree with you, brahman, nor do I criticize you. I declare a person endowed with four qualities to be one of great discernment, a great man. Which four?

"There is the case, brahman, where he practices for the welfare & happiness of many people and has established many people in the noble method, i.e., the rightness of what is admirable, the rightness of what is skillful.

"He thinks any thought he wants to think, and doesn't think any thought he doesn't want to think. He wills any resolve he wants to will, and doesn't will any resolve he doesn't want to will. He has attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.[1]

"He attains — whenever he wants, without strain, without difficulty — the four jhanas that are heightened mental states, pleasant abidings in the here-&-now.

"With the ending of mental fermentations — he remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here-&-now.

"I neither agree with you, brahman, nor do I criticize you. I declare a person endowed with these four qualities to be one of great discernment, a great man."

"It's amazing, Master Gotama, and astounding, how well that has been said by Master Gotama. And I hold Master Gotama to be endowed with these same four qualities.

"Master Gotama practices for the welfare & happiness of many people and has established many people in the noble method, i.e., the rightness of what is admirable, the rightness of what is skillful.

"Master Gotama thinks whatever thought he wants to think, and doesn't think any thought he doesn't want to think. He wills any resolve he wants to will, and doesn't will any resolve he doesn't want to will. He has attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.

"Master Gotama attains — whenever he wants, without strain, without difficulty — the four jhanas that are heightened mental states, pleasant abidings in the here-&-now.

"Master Gotama, with the ending of mental fermentations remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here-&-now."

"Well, brahman, you have taken certainly liberties and spoken presumptuous words, but still I will respond to you.

"Yes, brahman, I practice for the welfare & happiness of many people and have established many people in the noble method, i.e., the rightness of what is admirable, the rightness of what is skillful.

"And, yes, I think whatever thought I want to think, and don't think any thought I don't want to think. I will any resolve I want to will, and don't will any resolve I don't want to will. I have attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.

"And, yes, I attain — whenever I want, without strain, without difficulty — the four jhanas that are heightened mental states, pleasant abidings in the here-&-now.

"And, yes, with the ending of mental fermentations I remain in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for myself right in the here-&-now."

    He who, knowing, declared
    release for all beings
    from the snare of death,
    welfare
    for beings human & divine,
    the methodical Dhamma —
    seeing & hearing which,
    many people grow clear & calm;
    who is skilled in what is & is not the path,
    his task done, fermentation-free:
    is called
    one of great discernment,
    bearing his last body,

    awake.

Note

1. See MN 20, MN 20.
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby pulga » Wed Feb 05, 2014 4:32 pm

So yaṃ vitakkaṃ ākaṅkhati vitakketuṃ taṃ vitakkaṃ vitakketi, yaṃ vitakkaṃ nākaṅkhati vitakketuṃ na taṃ vitakkaṃ vitakketi; yaṃ saṅkappaṃ ākaṅkhati saṅkappetuṃ taṃ saṅkappaṃ saṅkappeti, yaṃ saṅkappaṃ nākaṅkhati saṅkappetuṃ na taṃ saṅkappaṃ saṅkappeti. Iti cetovasippatto hoti vitakkapathe.


He thinks whatever he wants to think and does not think what he does not want to think; he intends whatever he wants to intend and does not intend what he does not want to intend; thus he has attained to mental mastery over the ways of thought.


This reminds me of Ven. Ñanavira's analogy of the contrast between "passionate chess" and "dispassionate chess":

Imagine that, in order to add an (unwanted) interest to the game of dispassionate chess, some foolish person were to conceive the pieces as being subject to various passions having the effect of modifying their moves. The bishops, for example, being enamoured of the queen, would be diverted from their normal strict diagonal course when passing close to her, and would perhaps take corresponding steps to avoid the presence of the king out of fear of his jealousy. The knights would make their ordinary moves except that, being vain fellows, they would tend to move into a crowd of admiring pawns. The castles, owing to a mutual dislike, would always stay as far distant from each other as possible. Passionate chess would thus differ from dispassionate chess in that the moves of the pieces, though still normally governed by the rules of dispassionate chess, would be seriously complicated under the influence of passion; but both passionate and dispassionate chess would be played on the same chessboard of 64 squares.

We can take passionate chess as representing the behaviour of the puthujjana, which is complicated by craving, and dispassionate chess as the behaviour of the arahat, which is entirely free from irregularities due to craving. The chessboard, on which both kinds of chess alike are played, is Fundamental Structure.

http://www.nanavira.org/index.php/lette ... april-1963
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby daverupa » Wed Feb 05, 2014 4:39 pm

"Well, brahman, you have taken certainly liberties and spoken presumptuous words, but still I will respond to you.


Is this because the brahmin spoke about the Buddha having those qualities but didn't actually know that they were present, thus speaking beyond range, or is this because the line was spoken with a tone of sarcasm, or something else? It's a little puzzling.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby pulga » Wed Feb 05, 2014 5:16 pm

daverupa wrote:
"Well, brahman, you have taken certainly liberties and spoken presumptuous words, but still I will respond to you.


Is this because the brahmin spoke about the Buddha having those qualities but didn't actually know that they were present, thus speaking beyond range, or is this because the line was spoken with a tone of sarcasm, or something else? It's a little puzzling.


Ven. Bodhi comments on the passage in a footnote:

694] Āsajja upanīya vācā bhāsitā. Āsajja usually means “having attacked,” but this meaning seems too strong here. Mp merely paraphrases without giving much help: “The words you spoke hit upon my virtues and intrude on the domain of my virtues” (mama guṇe ghaṭṭetvā mam’eva guṇānaṃ santikaṃ upanītā vācā bhāsitā). I therefore assume that the words, without being insulting, are considered inappropriate because they are making a personal inquiry.


Though oddly the Pali passage he quotes doesn't appear in the CSCD online version of the Manorathapurani.
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby Sam Vara » Wed Feb 05, 2014 6:12 pm

I share daverupa's puzzlement over the Buddha's response here, and extend this to another aspect of his response as well.

It is interesting that, although Vassakara's account of the Buddha's qualities is factually accurate, he doesn't get any credit for the faith that leads him to this belief. Presumably, if he already believed that the Buddha was a "great man", and the Buddha then tells him what being great really consists of, then Vassakara is almost committed by his faith to say that the Buddha has these qualities. Perhaps he left himself enough "wriggle room" in his first assertion that "I hold..." or "We consider...", but he then tips over into presumption with what looks like statements of knowledge rather than faith or opinion.

There is also the point that the Buddha is apparently not too interested in the qualities of the "great man" initially listed by the Brahmin. Gombrich points out (somewhere in "What the Buddha Thought" - sorry, I've not got it to hand at the moment) that the Buddha often uses skilful means in debate to agree with the assertions of his interlocutors, and then to move beyond them by giving their terms a new meaning or a new context. This is apparently lacking here, as the Buddha is quite pointed about distancing himself from them.
I neither agree with you, brahman, nor do I criticize you

It is, however, possible to see faint links between some of the qualities listed by Vassakara and those of the Buddha, as if he were building on them.
1) Whereas the good Brahmin is learned, the truly great being practices for the welfare of many. Not a strong link, but clearly saying that knowledge without heart is not enough.
2) Whereas the good Brahmin is in control of some aspects of his thought (i.e. he knows what words mean), the Buddha is in control of all aspects
3) Whereas the good Brahmin has sati in the restricted (original?) sense of "recalling", for the Buddha this is developed into the 4 foundations and thus to Jhana
4) Wisdom in sorting out mundane issues of a worldly dwelling is contrasted with the wisdom which enables him to "dwell in" taintless liberation.
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby Mkoll » Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:29 pm

daverupa wrote:
"Well, brahman, you have taken certainly liberties and spoken presumptuous words, but still I will respond to you.


Is this because the brahmin spoke about the Buddha having those qualities but didn't actually know that they were present, thus speaking beyond range, or is this because the line was spoken with a tone of sarcasm, or something else? It's a little puzzling.


It is puzzling. Perhaps it was a bit of both?

My interpretation is that the Buddha knew the state of mind of the brahmin. Thus, when he says "certain liberties" and "presumptuous words", it means that the Buddha knew that the brahmin did not know that the Buddha held those qualities. It's convoluted to say it like that but I hope you get my meaning.

Basically, the brahmin was blowing hot air in making those assertions about the Buddha, the Buddha knew this, and the Buddha rebuked him to teach him that he should not assert something if he isn't sure. The rebuke would fall under one of the two kinds of speech that the Buddha would ever use; I would guess #3 below.

[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
-MN 58

:anjali:
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Re: AN 4.35: Vassakara Sutta

Postby yikeren » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:57 am

In the Maha-parinibbana Sutta, this same Vassakara was sent by Ajatasattu to inquire from the Buddha whether the Vajjis could be conquered. The Buddha responded obliquely by asking Ananda about the seven qualities of the Vajjis and as long as they held true to those qualities, the Vajjis presented too strong a force for Ajatasattu. In acknowledgement, Vassakara said:

"If the Vajjis, Venerable Gotama, were endowed with only one or another of these conditions leading to welfare, their growth would have to be expected, not their decline. What then of all the seven? No harm, indeed, can be done to the Vajjis in battle by Magadha's king, Ajatasattu, except through treachery or discord (my emphasis). Well, then, Venerable Gotama, we will take our leave, for we have much to perform, much work to do."

This passage gives an impression of the character of this Vassakara and helps to explain the response that the Buddha gave.

I'm still attempting to comprehend the use of "I" instead of the more generic "Tathagatha" and the lack of any parallel raises some question marks about the Sutta.
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