Site mapAbout usConsultative CommitteeAsk LibrarianContributionCopyrightCitation GuidelineDonationHome        

CatalogAuthor AuthorityGoogle
Search engineFulltextScripturesLanguage LessonsLinks

Extra service
Brahma's Entreaty to the Buddha to Teach
Author Shimoda, Masahiro
Source The Middle Way: Journal of the Buddhist Society
Volumev.78 n.4
Pages213 - 220
PublisherThe Buddhist Society
Publisher Url
LocationLondon, England, UK [倫敦, 英格蘭, 英國]
Content type期刊論文=Journal Article
AbstractI would like to examine the close relationship between the story of how the god Brahma persuaded the Buddha to teach, which appears in many of the biographies of the Buddha dating back to early Buddhist texts, and the teaching of upayakausalya (skilful means), which is a dominant theme of the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra, one of the representative Mahayana sutras.

Although virtually no scholar has paid attention to this connection, there can be no doubt that the later teaching was carefully formulated on the basis of the earlier story. This provides an important example of how words play a significant role in Buddhism and it also reveals an important characteristic of Buddhist truth.

Many biographies of the Buddha corroborate the story that the Buddha Gautama, immediately after attaining Nirvana, showed great reluctance to teach the Dharma and maintained a peaceful silence. At this point the god Brahma appeared and urged the Buddha to overcome his hesitation. Eventually he persuaded the Buddha to change his mind and deliver his first sermon.

This tale may sound rather odd to modern-day Buddhists, more used to regarding the Buddha as a saviour. Previous studies have generally given the story a conventional interpretation, aimed at ensuring for Buddhism authenticity in the Indian religious world, with the supreme god paying homage to the Buddha and pleading with him to present his insight into the Dharma.

Such an understanding may not be entirely wrong in explaining secondary effects brought about by the event but it is far from satisfactory when we take into account the following two points. Firstly, the advantages of enhancing the relative position of Buddhism to Brahmanism are outweighed by the disadvantages of degrading the Buddha's image as a saviour. I refer here to the crucial scene in which the Truth, once discovered by the Buddha, ought by right to be transmitted to and shared among the people suffering in pain and misery. However, the Buddha's attitude of wishing to retreat into an inner life of personal contentment and showing no compassion for the poor irretrievably damages his image. Secondly, this story, in view of its syntactical structure, apparently functions not so much to enhance the Buddha's image over that of the god Brahma as to emphasize his hesitation to speak on the Dharma.

The main elements of the story can be summarized as follows:
1 The Buddha rises up from meditation;
2 An inspired thought occurs to the Buddha: The Truth (Dharma) I have obtained is so profound that no one can understand its meaning;
3 The god Brahma appears and thrice entreats him to teach;
4 The Buddha, encouraged by the god, observes the world with compassionate eyes;
5 He becomes aware of the wide range of sentient beings;
6 This observation is translated into the metaphor of various appearances of lotus flowers;
7 At last he decides to begin his first teaching.

The statement 'The Truth (Dharma) I have obtained is so profound that no one can understand its meaning' expresses the difficulty of communicating to people in words the content of the Buddha's Enlightenment.(FN1) The first chapter of the Mahavagga begins with a scene in which the Buddha, having reached Nirvana, sits in meditation contemplating the truth of Dependent Origination (pratityasamutpada) with profound satisfaction. In the light of this, the above statement can be elaborately paraphrased as 'the truth of Dependent Origination, itself the verbal expression of the Buddha's experience of Nirvana, is beyond the range of understanding using worldly language'. Certainly, for the Buddha himself the truth of Dependent Origination is the result of his effort to verbalize his experience of Nirvana. But he remains sceptical, and with reason, as to whether the concept can be made equally comprehensible to people who have no experience of the felicity he is now enjoying. As a result, he hesitates to rely on w
ISSN00263214 (P)
Created date2009.09.30
Modified date2020.11.04

Best viewed with Chrome, Firefox, Safari(Mac) but not supported IE


You are leaving our website for The full text resources provided by the above database or electronic journals may not be displayed due to the domain restrictions or fee-charging download problems.

Record correction

Please delete and correct directly in the form below, and click "Apply" at the bottom.
(When receiving your information, we will check and correct the mistake as soon as possible.)

Serial No.

Search History (Only show 10 bibliography limited)
Search Criteria Field Codes
Search CriteriaBrowse