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 [Dhamma Talk]


AN 4.021

Shortly after his enlightenment Gotama sees no person to whom he should pay reverance and serve. Seeing danger in this situation he decides to place the Dhamma in this position.

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Index to available translations: AN 4.21

This sutta is a mixed bag. On the one hand there will be those here today [U.S.A., Saturday, October 26, 2013 6:54 AM] raised on the values of Mark Twain, who will be repelled at the statement:

"For the perfection of the sum total of virtues (serenety, wisdom, freedom) still imperfect I would dwell so doing honour, obeying, reverencing and serving a recluse or brahmin: but not in this world with devas, Maras, Brahmas, not in the host of recluses and brahmins, not in the world of devas and mankind do I behold any other recluse or brahmin more perfect in virtue (serenety, wisdom, freedom) than myself, whom honouring I could dwell reverencing, obeying and serving him."

They will hold that this is an immodest boast which was either not made by Gotama or if made by him shows that he is not what he claims to be.

I suggest an alternative understanding:

Where this statement reflects the truth, it is not a boast but simply a statement of fact.

As such, it forces the hearer into a delimma from which extraction is only possible by a change in values.

This change can only come about convincingly through a comprehension of the value of the Four Truths in solving the problem of Pain and Rebirth.

So the sutta serves the function of providing a check as to one's real state of understanding:

If this statement cannot be accepted, one has not understood the system.

Then comes a confirmation of Gotama's decision from Brahmā Sahampati. This, in and of itself, is not the problem. There will be those who cannot accept such a thing. That doesn't matter. There is a way to know, and that is to attain vision. Without vision there is no proving the story so it should be just put to the side if there is doubt.

Brahmā's visit (his second, and we have another in AN 10.89 above) poses another problem (but not one which is impossible to solve!):

The Evolution, stasis, and devolution of the universe takes place between the opening and closing of Brahmā's eye.

A blink.

Putting aside the period of stasis and the period of devolution which our science has not yet come to grips with, that's a third of a blink for the Evolution of the Universe.

Let's say that it's a slow blink and comes to 3 seconds, or one second for the Evolution.

Let us give our science the benefit of the doubt and accept their estimate of 26 billion years for the Evolution and figure we're right at the end couple of Brahmā-microtrilliseconds.

So we have the equation:

1 Brahmā second = 26 billion human years.

Let's allow that Brahmā is paying attention to what is going on at the time of the Buddha's awakening. After all it is likely the most interesting thing that is happening, and he does have speaking parts.

This part (entry, kneeling, uttering his pronouncement (restricted to the basic statement and tossing out the gāthā) and departing) will take him something like one minute and five seconds human time (that is, if he does not make use of Gotama's ability to 'fast talk' which would speed up things by about 18 times), plus minus, let's say 1 minute.

Now there are 60 sixty minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, or 1,440 minutes in a day.

1440 minutes times 365 days times 26,000,000,000 years is 37,440,000,000,000 minutes. (Forget that the Deva year is usually given as only 300 days, we can call that an approximation in a culture where even the educated man was usually unable to count above three.)

So what is confronted with in this situation is the need to focus down on what is subjectively, relative to a human, 1/37,440,000,000,000th of a second.

On two separate occasions (asking Gotama to teach, and this occasion, if I have not missed others (I have)) in one second.

I don't say this is impossible.

I say this is possible — I don't know, but suppose Brahmā were able to be a sort of limited omnipresent (able, as with omniscience, to be wherever he wished to be, whenever he wished to be there; there is, in this system, a living outside of time that would permit this. This is a synonym for arahantship, but it may be accessible to non-arahants in a temporary way) that allowed him to do his bit's here unhindered by time.

I just say that this is not going to be something that is done off hand by Brahmā. Not something where he is going to waste words, hang around and chit-chat, show his skill at poetizing or preach to the masses.

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