What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

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thomaslaw
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What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

According to BBC, Brahma in his hands is often depicted holding five objects:

a rosary - symbolising time
a water pot - showing the potential for creation
a sceptre in the form of a spoon - representing the pouring of holy oil during prayer, showing that Brahma is the lord of sacrifices
sacred texts (the Vedas) - showing that Brahma makes all knowledge possible
a lotus flower - to represent the lotus that Brahma evolved from
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z ... sacrifices

However, in the Thai Buddhist tradition, it seems Brahma in his hands is holding more than five objects:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phra_Phrom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erawan_Shrine

Is anyone able to identify what does Brahma carry in his hands in the Buddhist tradition?

Thanks.
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Ontheway
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Ontheway »

thomaslaw wrote: Fri Apr 22, 2022 9:48 am According to BBC, Brahma in his hands is often depicted holding five objects:

a rosary - symbolising time
a water pot - showing the potential for creation
a sceptre in the form of a spoon - representing the pouring of holy oil during prayer, showing that Brahma is the lord of sacrifices
sacred texts (the Vedas) - showing that Brahma makes all knowledge possible
a lotus flower - to represent the lotus that Brahma evolved from
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z ... sacrifices

However, in the Thai Buddhist tradition, it seems Brahma in his hands is holding more than five objects:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phra_Phrom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erawan_Shrine

Is anyone able to identify what does Brahma carry in his hands in the Buddhist tradition?

Thanks.
Phra Phrom statues in Thailand are not really from Buddhist perspective but rather from Hinduism religion.

There is a term in Thailand called "พรหมลิขิต" which means something like destiny fixed by Brahma. So, the Thais usually worship Phra Phrom statues with Hinduism mindset, that it will control one's destiny. Sometimes it is a mixed bag of Thai folk Buddhism (not Theravada tradition), local shamanistic beliefs, and Hindu belief. For example, a common event in Thai temples - amulet consecration, say Phra Phrom amulet, often involves Thai monks, ceremonial prayers and Phrams (Thai Brahmins)

1) Influence from Thai folk Buddhism
DA7941F7-4BD9-406E-8AEF-340B8FA09D71.jpeg

2) Ceremonial prayers
6.jpg

3) Thai Brahmins (Phrams)
2947268416681575599345668217929323961647104o.jpg
Then, Thais often mixed Buddhism and Hinduism. As you can see video below, it says before praying to Phra Phrom, one recites Namo Tassa X3 first, then recite Hindu mantra "Om Aham Brahma Asmi"


Another "cringy" version


Almost a local cult, teaching that how to worship to gain favours from the deity


So, most of the Phra Phrom statues you see in Thailand is definitely has nothing to do with real Buddha's teachings and more like a local cult practice, Hindu belief, or Thai cultural thing. Those statues in Buddhist temples often used as decoration, but if not, then it will be used for Hindu styled worship.

The design of Brahmas in Buddhism can be anything ranging from ancient Chinese look, Japanese look, holding different kinds of item, depends on the sculptor's wish.

For Thai Brahma statue's items, can refer to this website:
http://www.brahmashrine.org.hk/deity/#: ... y%20Hindus).

But if one reads Pali canon about Brahmas, they are often described as without coarse appearance, majestic, almost supernatural to even the Gods. And didn't mention Brahmas holding anything.

As we can see in Janavasabha sutta:
Then, lord, a splendid light came forth out of the North, and a radiance shone around surpassing the divine glory of the gods. And, lord, then did Sakka, king of the gods, say to the retinue of the Thirty-Three—“According, friends, to the signs now seen—the light that ariseth, the radiance that appeareth—Brahma will be manifested. For this is the herald sign of the manifestation of Brahma to wit, when the light ariseth and the glory shineth”—

The portents now are seen, so Brahma draweth nigh. For this is Brahma’s sign, this glorious splendour vast.

Then, lord, the gods of the Thirty-Three sat down in their own places, saying—“We will ascertain what shall be the result of this radiance, when we have realized it, we will go to meet him. The Four Great Kings also sat down in their own places, saying the same. And when they had heard this, the gods of the Three-and-Thirty were all together agreed—“We will ascertain what shall be the result of this radiance; when we have realized it, we will go to meet him.”
"The self tries so hard. Like the wooden boy Pinocchio, this fictional entity passionately wants to become a living soul. With its many self-hoods, this long-nosed puppet is desperate to become the real you."

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thomaslaw
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

Many thanks indeed for the information.

So, the Thai styled Brahma image has "eight arms/hands"; but only seven arms/hands hold objects:

"Prayer beads are looped over the lower left arm at the front of his body, and six objects are held in his hands:
a water pot, a staff, a discus, a mirror, a book, and a shankha (a conch shell considered sacred by Hindus)." (Thai Brahma statue's items: http://www.brahmashrine.org.hk/deity/#: ... y%20Hindus).
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Ontheway
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Ontheway »

01fae0004bbc70503becc3ea0c44c679.jpg
Brahma in Thai Buddhist art...
"The self tries so hard. Like the wooden boy Pinocchio, this fictional entity passionately wants to become a living soul. With its many self-hoods, this long-nosed puppet is desperate to become the real you."

- Kate Gustin
thomaslaw
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

This Brahma picture shows 4 hands (not 8) without holding any objects. "Om Aham Brahma Asmi"

:anjali:
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Ontheway
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Ontheway »

thomaslaw wrote: Tue Apr 26, 2022 5:07 am This Brahma picture shows 4 hands (not 8) without holding any objects. "Om Aham Brahma Asmi"

:anjali:
It is just a piece of art drawing, depends on the artists' impressions.

None of those Putthujjanas see Brahmas.
"The self tries so hard. Like the wooden boy Pinocchio, this fictional entity passionately wants to become a living soul. With its many self-hoods, this long-nosed puppet is desperate to become the real you."

- Kate Gustin
thomaslaw
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

Choong Mun-keat has published the following article on Brahma Samyutta in Pali and Chinese versions:

"A Comparison of the Pāli and Chinese Versions of the Brahma Saṃyutta, a Collection of Early Buddhist Discourses on Brahmās, the Exalted Gods", Buddhist Studies Review vol. 31.2, pp. 179-194 (2014)
https://www.academia.edu/44481163/A_Com ... alted_Gods :reading: :buddha1:
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Ontheway
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Ontheway »

ท้าวสหัมบดีพรหม.jpg
Brahma Sahampati visiting Gotama Buddha.
"The self tries so hard. Like the wooden boy Pinocchio, this fictional entity passionately wants to become a living soul. With its many self-hoods, this long-nosed puppet is desperate to become the real you."

- Kate Gustin
thomaslaw
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

I really like the story of Brahma Sahampati's invitation to the Buddha for teaching 'anatta dhamma' to the world. The invitation myth is very meaningful in history, and even today.
thomaslaw
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

It seems for a Buddhist it does not make any sense to chant the mantra "Om aham Brahmasmi" (Om I am Brahman/divine), when worshiping or praying to the god Brahma.

I think, it is better to just repeat the words: "Namo Tassa ... samma sambuddhassa."

:buddha1: :candle:
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Johann
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Johann »

thomaslaw wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 11:34 am It seems for a Buddhist it does not make any sense to chant the mantra "Om aham Brahmasmi" (Om I am Brahman/divine), when worshiping or praying to the god Brahma.

I think, it is better to just repeat the words: "Namo Tassa ... samma sambuddhassa."

:buddha1: :candle:
In regard of paying respect, good householder. May knowledgeable correct, but aren't there exclusively Non-returner and Arahats dwelling in the realm where Brahma Sahampati dwells/dwelled?

It's certain good to possible soon overcome modern/western Deva/Brahma phobia and good to be reminded that disrespect in regard of Dhamma also incl. the teachings of Devas, not to speak of teachings of Noble Ones.
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Johann
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Johann »

Khmer mostly known as "Ta Bruhm" "Grandfather Brahma", an historical highly regarded God, as most might know the Temples of Bayon.

As much influence of Shiva-veneration as well as Jainism in early South-asian period, later maybe replaced by "modern" Hindu ideas about 1000 years ago, there is often much confusion between Shiva (Maha-Dev(a)) and Ta Bruhm. As there are so many different traditions from early and later, it's hard to get any red-line aside of the Noble Truth, even for higher and worthy of veneration beings.

If searching for most antique roots outside of India, of course one would be required to seek under the Khema (Khmer) in the land of wonders.
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Johann
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Johann »

...
...During the time of Kassapa Buddha, Sahampati was a monk, named Sahaka, who, having practised the five indriyas (saddha, etc.), was reborn in the Brahma world. Thereafter he was called Sahampati (S.v.233). The Commentaries say (SNA.ii.476; SA.i.155) that he was an Anagami Brahma born in the Suddhavasa, there to pass a whole kappa, because he had developed the first Jhana as a monk. The Buddhavamsa, Commentary (BuA.p.11; see also p.29) says that, strictly speaking, his name should be Sahakapati. When the Buddha attained Enlightenment, Sahampati held over the Buddhas head a white parasol three yojanas in diameter. BuA.239; this incident was sculptured in the Relic Chamber of the Maha Thupa (Mhv.xxx.74); cp. J.iv.266....

https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/sahampati
(btw. a consciously given source by it's maintainer, toward the Sangha and faithful follower for proper purpose, useable as given to. To share the outstanding merits of Householder Gabe Hiemstra.)
thomaslaw
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by thomaslaw »

Johann wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 1:48 pm Khmer mostly known as "Ta Bruhm" "Grandfather Brahma", an historical highly regarded God, as most might know the Temples of Bayon.
I visited this temple many years ago, but did not know it is relevant to the Brahma worship "Ta Bruhm".

I think the temple possibly not entirely Mahayana, but also Theravada tradition.

It will be good to see the Brahma images presented in the temple.
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Re: What does Brahma carry in his hands in Buddhist tradition?

Post by Johann »

The tradition of pulling Sublime into households, ways of identification, is common. Sure, the original teaching arrived about 100 years before, but got occupied. Here another famous temple of actually Ariya-gods: Bayon.
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