Sutta Pitaka Before Beginning the essay

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"All those ascetics and brahmins who construct systems about the past or the future, or both, who hold theories about both, and who make various assertions about the past and future, are all caught in this net of sixty-two subjects. There they are, though they plunge and plunge about. There they are caught in the net, though they plunge and plunge about." The apparent elaborateness of the scheme becomes clearer when it is analysed. The views fall into two classes, speculations about the past and about the future:

I. There are those who hold views about the beginnings of things in eighteen ways: (1) Some hold in four ways 2 that the self or soul (?tman) and the universe (loka) are eternal. (2) Some hold in four ways that the self and universe are in some respects eternal and in some not.(3) Some hold that the universe is finite, or infinite, or finite and infinite, or neither finite nor infinite. (4) Some wriggle like eels in four ways, and refuse a clear answer. (5) Some assert in two ways that the self and universe have arisen without a cause.

II. Some hold views about the future in forty-four ways: (1) They hold in sixteen ways that the self exists as conscious after death. (2) in eight ways that it exists as unconscious after death. (3) in eight ways that it is neither conscious nor unconscious after death. (4) They hold in seven ways the annihilation of the individual. (5) They hold that Nirv-n -- a consists in the enjoyment of this life in five ways, either in the pleasures of sense or in one of the four trances.

Thomas 74-75)

From this summary of the content one must then go back to the text to fully understand what the Buddha was trying to say. First he dismissed the concept of the soul as discrete from the body and then discussed the nature of the very same soul, but without the confines of conventional ideology of what the soul is and does. In so doing he discusses the major beliefs regarding eternal life, omniscience, finite life and how to live within this world in the most holy of ways. Each of the issues of morality are dealt with by the Buddha as trifling, despite the fact that his character the Gotama the recluse holds himself aloof from many things of the physical world he does so for not as the character of the lists will tell one, "Carpets with awnings above them" (15) "Walking sticks, reed cases for drugs, rapiers, sunshades..." (16) the Buddha goes on and on listing in detail the many minor issues of morality, including occupations of healers as well as minor topics of conversation all set aside by Gotama and yet embraced by other Brahmans as they go through life teaching and learning. The Buddha expresses that those who are enlightened do not dwell on the trivial but instead deal with:

28. 'There are, brethren, other things profound, difficult to realise, hard to understand, tranquillising, sweet, not to be grasped by mere logic, subtle, comprehensible only by the wise [142] These things the Tathagata, having himself realised them and seen them face-to-face, hath set forth; and it is of them that they, who would rightly praise the Tathagata in accordance with the truth, should speak. 'And what are they? 29. 'There are recluses and Brahmans, brethren, who reconstruct the ultimate beginnings of things, whose speculations are concerned with the ultimate past [143], and who on eighteen grounds put forward various [q 027/] assertions regarding it. (Brahmajala Sutta)

Analysis of Content

The text is espoused in dialogue form, beginning with a clear dialogue of remembrance, of the words of others and the words of Buddha (speech) in his travels as a teacher. It is in the form of prose with the inclusion of comprehensive lists of mundane topics of practice, belief and contemplation which are then dismissed with a history lesson that includes challenges to conventional thinking and philosophy, deep discourse on what is and is not important and real, according to Buddha and associated with divine contemplation.

The order of the text is relatively simple, dismissing mundane issues and resolving to ascertain the complete idea of the soul as an infinite but not separate being. There are contradictions though that can be found to challenge conventional ideas of the existence of the soul without dismissing the concept completely, but these are clearly the product of language, as without language the teachings cannot be recorded but with it the definitions of the soul are intrinsically finite and therefore to some extent embracing of the idea of the soul as existing in some time and place, beyond which Buddha does not accept as reality. The theme is considered complete but is also reflective of the interchange between all the scriptures of the faith, as it is a core representation of belief, offered in a causal speech, quietly espoused by Buddha in a calm atmosphere, despite the fact that it begins with a debate that deters from the teachings.

Evaluation of the Text

As has been stated previously the main point of the text is to help Buddha's followers better understand the nature of the soul, according to Buddha, and to dismiss that which is trite in order to convey what is important and to discourse upon and deal with things that are not of this world but of the infinite world of the soul. The text is useful as a guide to the context of the day, a history lesson of sorts that includes both obvious and subtle aspects of time and place, according to the life of Buddha. The work is expressive of both simple and profound ideals that buiold upon how one individual can and should develop his or her set of principles to live by, and how divorcing one's self from the mundane (i.e. living the ascetic life) may simply be an avenue that places one in a position of caring to much about this world and not enough about the eternal. The danger of such a life is to Buddha, the expression of contemplation of things which are of little importance in the scope of the whole of enlightenment in ones existence. It is made clear that without enlightenment and the questioning of eternal one is missing the point.

Reflection very much enjoyed studying this text as it is a core principle of Buddhism, which can be seen as a complicated set of principles, yet when described and understood through analysis simply boils down to one man attempting to teach many others what is and what is not important in this world and the next. Mutable concepts are made clear and help the reader better understand what is meant by the constant contemplative goal of enlightenment in seeking nirvana.

73. 'The outward form, brethren, of him who has won the truth [186], stands before you, but that which binds it to rebirth is cut in twain. So long as his body shall last, so long do gods and men behold him. On the dissolution of the body, beyond the end of his life, neither gods nor men shall see him. 'Just, brethren, as when the stalk of a bunch of mangoes has been cut, all the mangoes that were hanging on that stalk go with it; just so, brethren, though the outward form of him who has won the truth stands before you, that which binds it to rebirth has been cut in twain. So long as his body shall last, so long do gods and men behold him. On the dissolution of the body, beyond the end of his life, neither gods nor men shall see him.' (Brahmajala Sutta)

The confusion lies in the fact that Buddha attempts to attest that contemplation of eternal and finite existence is almost as mundane as discussing rugs and living within or rejecting finery when it comes down to it everyone is caught in the same net, connected and therefore seeking the same goal, transcendence from the earthly and nirvana in place and out of place.

Works Cited

Miller, F.M. editor Davis, T.W.Rhys Translator Sacred Books of the Buddhists, Sutta Pitaka, Digha Nikaya, Brahmajala Sutta, 1956, [electronic version, ND]

Morgan, Kenneth W., ed. The Path of the Buddha Buddhism Interpreted by Buddhists. New York: Ronald Press, 1956.


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