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Lecturer Name:- Ven.

Parasangasvewa Sumanatissa
Bhikkhu B. Dhammarama
7th Semester
Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy



Some major concepts contemporary the Buddha and the Buddhist

explanation of following concepts

Creation of Mah Brahman (issara nimmavda)

Origin of a being

Concept of Brhmana

Four Cast system

Women concept

Worshiping six directions

Animal and human Sacrificing

The path of liberation




The name Buddhism comes from the word 'bodhi' which means 'to wake up' and

thus Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. This philosophy has its origins with the

experience of Siddhata Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the

age of 35. Buddhism is now 2,500 years old and has about 300 million followers world-


However, Buddhism is not just a religion or a philosophy which were originated

abruptly in India. It is the ultimate fruit of a long-term struggle of finding the true nature

of life. As well as the teaching of the Buddha is not the perfectly separate doctrine from

other teachings which were existed at the time of the Buddha, but the ultimate and the

incomparable teaching which was blossomed on the lake of philosophy. Thus it is

obvious that what Buddha did is giving new interpretations to existed philosophical

concepts. In Nagara sutta the Buddha evidently defined that he did not find anything

new but found the ruin city and the way of that city.1 So the Buddha himself explained

that his teaching is not newly originated one and he purified the way of liberation from

blind beliefs and practices.

In this study it will be looked at some concepts which were practiced and

believed contemporary the Buddha and how Buddha reinterpreted them from Buddhist

point of view. To complete this study the Pali canon particularly, Suttanta Pitaka was

mainly referred as the primary source.

1 Puriso arae pavane caramno passeyya puram maggam so tamanugaccheyya tamanugacchanto

passeyya puram nagaram, puram rjadhnim... Nagara Sutta SN:


Creation of Mah Brahman (issara nimmavda)

Buddhism does not accept the theory of creation or issaranimmnavda whish

was maintained by the Brahmans. In their religious philosophy, the concept of creation

of the world was prominent. Specifically the purpose of the preserving this concept was

to keep their social, political, economic and religious authority to govern the society

being as the highest and the noble class.

But, elucidating the Buddhist standpoint on this matter in Aggaa Sutta the

Buddha declared that, there is no reference to the Creator. There is nothing to be

created. The entire world does not disappear while some planets of it can appear and

disappear. The world exists as it is. The evolution and dissolution of the world take place

again and again between the periods of the two fixed times called Vivaha kappa or

expansion and Samvaha kappa or contraction. The Buddha states in the sutta, the

society opens up in the particular time and it closes down after millions of periods of

that particular time. The lots of evolution and dissolution take place between these two

times. As well as he further illustrated this in a verse as,

There is no God or Brahma - Who is the Creator of this world

Empty Phenomena roll on all - Subject to causality"2

Thus the Buddha reinterpreted the creation of the world of Mahbrahma into a

natural process of evolution of the world.

2 Na Hethu deva Brahma va - Samsara Atathikarako

Suddhamma pavanthanthi - Hethu sambhara appaccayati


Origin of a being

The Buddhist standpoint of the origin of human being is very much different from

the view of the Brahmans. The Buddha explains the origin of beings revolving in Samsara

being cloaked by Avijj or ignorance is undiscoverable. At the same time it is laid down

as a natural consequence of the law of Dependant Origination. It is obviously understood

the truth there could never have been a beginning an origin out of nothingness of the

universe or the life process.

According to Brahmanism in India, the idea had spread that the man is a creation

of Mahbrahma. Again the Aggaa Sutta shows us how was the Brahmans view on the origin

of a being which is criticized by the Buddha.

The wives of brahmins, are known to be fertile, are seen to be with

child, bringing forth and nursing children. And yet it is these very womb-born

brahmins who say that brahmins are genuine children of Brahm, born from

his mouth; his offspring, his creation3

Explaining the conceived embryo in a womb and the gradual development of

that womb in Indaka Sutta as;

First there is the suitable soil. In it there is a swelling

In the swelling rises a lump of flesh.

The lump of flesh becomes a hard mass.

Then major and minor limbs arise in the hard mass.

And hair of the head and body and nails arise.

Dissanti kho pana, vseha, brhmana brhmaiyo utuniyopi gabbhiniyopi vijyamnpi pyamnpi.

Aggaa Sutta in DN

He is nourished with the eatables and drinks eaten by the mother.

Thus the man gone to the mother's womb is nourished 4

The Buddha gave a new interpretation considering the parents as the Mah

Brahma who was considered as the supreme figure who creates the being. And further

he declared that parents have the same qualities which can be seen in the Mah Brahma.

Vizmett, karu, mudit, and upekkh. And also the Brahmanic belief and confidence

were seriously undermined by this new interpretation on the origin of a being.

Concept of Brhmana

According to the early teaching of the Buddha, those who avoid the immoral behavior

they are known as Brahmana.

Vseha, to some of those beings, as follows: Evil deeds, sirs, have

become manifest among us, inasmuch as stealing, censure, lying, punishment

can be noticed, and banishment. Let us now put away from us evil and immoral

customs. And they put away from them such customs. They put away (bhenti)

evil, immoral customs, Vseha, is what is meant by Brahmins. 5

4 Pahama kalala hoti - kalal hoti abbuda

Abbud jyate pesi - pesi nibbattat ghano

Ghan paskh jyanti - kes lom nakhpi ca - Indaka Sutta, SN

Yacassa bhujat mt - anna pnaca bhojana

Tena so tattha ypeti - mtukucchigato naro. Indaka Sutta in Yakka Samyutta - SN

5 ppak vata, bho, dhamm... ppake akusale dhamme vhesu. Ppake akusale dhamme vhentti kho,

vseha, brhma. - Aggaa Sutta in DN


At the time of the Buddha the term Brahmana was used by a certain group of

people who had the authoritarian power in the society and they believed that people

should obey to their power. They were the people who only could perform religious acts

for others and they were the noblest people although they had serious sin and

unwholesome behavior. As well as they were the only people who known as Brahmans.

In such circumstance the Buddha attempted to reinterpret the meaning of term

Brahmana by explaining the Vasala Sutta. It states as;

Ones not an outcaste caused by birth - not by birth a brahmin is

caused by karma ones outcaste - a brahmin is by karma caused.6

These attested instances elucidate the term Brahmana is used to indicate the

person who has noble qualities. Most importantly, in Dhammapada Arahanta vagga

shows in several occasions the Buddha used this term Brahmana to arahat monks. Thus

the Buddha could reinterpret the term Brahmana from one narrow angle to broader and

noble direction.

Four Cast system

According to Brahmanism in India, the idea had spread that the man is a creation

of Mahbrahma and the Brahmans are the superior cast in the society.

Only a brahmin is of the best social grade; other grades are low. Only a

brahmin is of a clear complexion; other complexions are swarthy. Only brahmins

6 Na jacc vasalo hoti - Na jacc hoti brhmao

Kammun vasalo hoti - Kammun hoti brhmao. - Vasal sutta in Sutta nipta

are of pure breed; not they that are not of the brahmins. Only brahmins are

genuine children of Brahm, born of his mouth, offspring of Brahm, created

by Brahm, heirs of Brahm.7

They used this caturvara or four cast system to control society and to keep the

power. But instead of these cruel and wicket four groups the Buddha introduced four

kind of groups which are based on the virtue and wisdom.

Women concept

Women in later Vedic period

In later Vedic period, the women had to face many problems in their lives.

Because in that period Brahmins wanted to spread and entrench their power in Indian

society. And also the position of women did not appear to have been a very happy one.

Generally women seem to have been looked upon as being inferior to men. And, at times

they were considered as being on the same level as the Sudras, the lowest of the four

castes. Their freedom was extremely limited. In the Manu Smriti it is shown the cruel

infliction of domestic subservience on woman.

In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her

husband, when her lord is dead to her sons, a woman must never be


7 Brhmaova seho vao, hn ae va. Brhmaova sukko vao, kah ae va. Brhmava

sujjhanti, no abrhma. Brhmava brahmuno putt oras mukhato jt brahmaj brahmanimmit

brahmadyd. Aggaa Sutta in DN


By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be

done independently, even in her own house. In childhood a female must be subject

to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman

must never be independent9

No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart (from

their husbands): if a wife obeys her husband, she will (for that reason alone) be

exalted in heaven.10

Because of such concepts society automatically changed in to a patriarchal

society. The Brahmin tradition always looked at women with misogynist eyes.

Buddhism reinterpreted the position of women

Under Buddhism the Buddha gave an honorable place to women. With Buddhism

women got the freedom to engage in religious activities, to live freely under Buddhist

guidance, to enter the Buddhist Sagha communityetc. The Buddha regarded everyone

as equal. Buddhist society consisted of the following:

1. Bhikkhu

2. Bhikkhun

3. Upsaka

4. Upsik

8 Law of Manu. V. 153. Nsti strna pthag yajo na vrata npyuposatha pati suryate yena tena

svarge mahyate

9 Laws of Manu, V, 147-8.

10 The Laws of Manu. Vol. XIV. P. 196. Ch. V. v. 155.


According to Ven K Sri Dhammananda Theras explanation on the position of

women in Buddhism as;

Women's position in Buddhism is unique. The Buddha gave women full

freedom to participate in a religious life. The Buddha was the first religious

Teacher who gave this religious freedom to women. During the Buddha's time,

women's position in society was very low. His move to allow women to enter the

Holy Order was extremely radical for the times. Yet the Buddha allowed women

to prove themselves and to show that they too had the capacity like men to

attain the highest position in the religious way of life by attaining Arahantahood.

Every woman in the world must be grateful to the Buddha for showing them the

real religious way of living and for giving such freedom to them for the first time

in world history.11

An incident reported in the Pali Canon illustrates this well. It records an exchange

between Mara, the Buddhist embodiment of evil, and a nun Soma Theri. Mara taunts

Soma that no woman could reach the high ground of the wise because she has only the

two-finger knowledge (dvagulapa), an allusion to cooking where the consistency

of the cooked rice is tested by pressing it between the fingers. But as a best answer, once

the Buddha uttered to the King Pasenadi Kosala as:

Women also should be looked after. They also could be wise and they also

could treat relatives well and give birth to brave children who can rule the


11 Dhammananda K Sri. (2002). What Buddhists Believe. (4th ed). P: 309.

12 itth pi hi ekacciy seyy posa jandipa - medhvin slavat sassudev patibbat

Tass yo jyat poso sro hoti disampati - eva subhagiy putto rajja pi anussat SN. I. 86.

The most interesting story is that Ambapali was a celebrated prostitute of Vesali.

She gave up her profession and embraced the life of Bhikkhuni. Ultimatety she became

an Arhant when she had heard the sermon preached by her son Thera Wimalaa. In her

old age she wrote about her religions experience in beautiful verses which are known as

Gathas of Ambhapli in Pali literature as:

Lo, thou art wanting to walk where no path is;

thou sickest to capture

moon from the skies for they play.

Thou would jump over the ridges of Meru,

Thou who presumes to lie in wait for

A child of the Buddha.13

It is obvious that Buddhism did not neglect the intelligence of women as

inferior. The Buddha allowed women to ordain in his dispensation and showed the

way of liberation without any discrimination while giving a new interpretation to

the statues of women.

Worshiping six directions

Worshiping directions also was a famous religious practice which was performed

by the people at the time of the Buddha. T. W. Rhys David, in the Introduction to his

translation of the Singlovda Sutta, notes that the Atharva Veda identifies each region

with a god as Agni, Indra, Varuna, Soma, Vishnu, and Buhaspati. In the Satapatha

Brhmana, five as well as seven directions are mentioned in rites. In the Grahya Sutras,

the four quarters are to be worshipped in connection with certain rites. And so much

13 Verses of the Sisters, 152


self-anointing or contact with water is enjoined that the lay celebrant may well have had

both hair and garments wet as Singla had.

The six directions are mentioned in the Singla sutta dealing with the cultivation

of loving kindness (mett, bhvan) and the divine abodes (brahma,vihra). The Buddha

reinterpreted this meaningless concept which was practiced by the Singla into

meaningful action while assigning certain groups and their rights and obligations to each

direction. The six directions are;

1. Puratthima east - parents and children

2. Dakkhia south - teachers and students

3. Pacchima west - husband, wife and children

4. Uttara north - friends and colleagues

5. Hehima nadir - servants, workers

6. Purima zenith - recluses and brahmins

Animal and human Sacrificing

` Animal and human sacrifice is the ritual killing and offering of an animal or a

human usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favor with a deity.

But the Buddha was against in sacrificing animals or humans in order to gain the divine

bless. During the time of the Buddha, many kinds of sacrifices were practiced by

Brahmins who were the priests of the Vedic religion professed by the upper castes of

contemporary Indian society. The Buddha did not see any value in these sacrifices.

The Buddha tells Kadanta of a worthy sacrifice held in ancient times under the

guidance of a certain enlightened Brahmin counselor. In this sacrifice no living thing is

injured; all the labor is voluntary and the sacrifice is offered not only on behalf of the

king, but of all the good. As well as the Buddha admired the radiating mett towards the

all beings as the way of gaining peace and happiness. Particularly in Mettnisaamsa

Sutta, it is clear that developing mett towards beings one can gain eleven kinds of

results which are beneficial to live a peaceful life. Thus the Buddha gave a new

interpretation to sacrificing as well.

The path of liberation

Finding the path of liberation is the meaning of a religion. There were some

teachings regarding the way of liberation of a being at the time of the Buddha. But those

paths are totally different from the path of liberation in Buddhism.

Buddhist path of liberation is unique, more philosophical and practical. In the

first sermon of the Buddha, he expounds to us the four Noble Truths: the Noble Truth

of dukkha; that is to say that all things are subject to dissatisfaction. The Noble Truth of

the cause of dukkha; that is to say mental impurities: desire, anger, jealousy, greediness,

fear, pride, etc. The Noble Truth of the cessation of dukkha; that is to say nibbna, the

cessation of all kinds of mental defilements. The Noble Truth of the path that leads to the

cessation of dukkha; that is sla, samdhi and pa which is the buddhist path of


The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to clarify and show the path for beings in order

to purify their minds from defilements. For that there were some ways which had been

introduced as the paths of liberation by many other religious leaders at the time of the

Buddha. The Buddha realized that those teachings did not help to overcome the suffering

and what the Buddha did was he reinterpreted those teachings and explained the path of

liberation based on sla, samdhi and pa.



Buddhism is not a religion or a philosophy which were originated accidentally in

India. It took place as the ultimate fruit of a long-term struggle of finding the true nature

of life. Therefore the teaching of the Buddha is not the totally separated doctrine from

other teachings which were existed at the time of the Buddha, but it is the ultimate and

the incomparable teaching which was blossomed on the lake of philosophical thoughts.

Thus it is clear that Buddha wanted to make the practices meaningful and blissful.

Therefore he gave new interpretations to existed philosophical concepts. In Nagara sutta

the Buddha evidently defined that he did not find anything new but found the ruin city

and the way of that city. So the Buddha himself explained that his teaching is not newly

originated one and he purified the way of liberation from blind beliefs and practices. As

well as, he knew that nothing could be established to a culture or a tradition without

being linked with that certain society.

So the most of the teachings of the Buddha are reinterpreted or new interpreted

teachings to what were maintained by other religious and philosophical schools at the

time of the Buddha.



Primary Sources

Aggaa Sutta in Degha Nikya

Vasala Sutta in Sutta Nipta

Indaka Sutta in Samyutta Nikya

Trenckner, V. (1964), The Dgha Nikaya, Vol. II, pp. 30-35.; The Majjhima- Nikdya, Vols. I, III, (3rd

ed), Pali Text Society, London.

Buhler G. (1866). Laws of Manu, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXV. Oxford University Press.

Secondary Sources

Lamotte E. (1958). History of Indian Buddhism. Peeters Press, Louvain, Paris.

Nanaloka K. (1967). The earliest Indian logic (ed: and trans: into Sinhalese). Vol IV. Colombo, Sri


Narada. (1998). The Buddha and His Teachings. (reprinted) Buddha Educational Foundation.

Taipei, Taiwan.

Lalita Dhar Parihar (2011), Woman and Law, From Impoverishment to Empowerment A Critique,

Eastern Book Publication, Lucknow.

Bhagawat, N. K. (1937). Therigatha. (ed). Delhi New Publisher. New Delhi.

Agrawa. A. (2003). Female Foeticide Myth and Reality, 374 Cases Histories of Woman Who Have

Undergone Female Foeticide, Sterling Publication Private Limited New Delhi.

Arvamundan. G. (2011), Disappearing Daughter's, The Tragedy of Female Foeticide, Penguin Book

India Publication.

Bergmann, P. G. (1993). Relativity. In The new encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 26). Chicago.

Online References

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015