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SN 7.18 PTS: S i 180 CDB i 275
Katthaharaka Sutta: Firewood-gathering
translated from the Pali by
Alternate translation: Olendzki (excerpt)
Translator's note: The poetic exchange in this discourse emphasizes the difference between appearances and actual vision. The brahman addressing the Buddha speaks in terms of conjecture and uses three compounds containing the word “rupa,” or “appearance” — gambhira-rupa, sucaru-rupa, and acchera-rupa (deep-looking, very-lovely-looking, and amazing-looking). The Buddha, however, emphasizes not his appearance but what he sees. What's important about him is not how he looks to others, but how he looks at things.
Another contrast is that, whereas the brahman conjectures about the goal the Buddha is striving for in the wilderness — attaining the heavens of the Brahmas — the Buddha points out that he has already arrived at a goal that is hidden even to Brahmas.
On one occasion the Blessed One was staying among the Kosalans in a certain forest grove. Then a large number of firewood-gathering youths — students of a certain brahman of the Bharadvaja clan — went to the forest grove. On arrival, they saw the Blessed One sitting in the grove — his legs folded crosswise, his body set straight, mindfulness established to the fore. On seeing him, they went to the brahman of the Bharadvaja clan and, on arrival, said to him, “Sir, you should know that Gotama the contemplative is in that grove over there, sitting with his legs folded crosswise, his body set straight, mindfulness established to the fore.”
So the brahman of the Bharadvaja clan, together with the youths, went to the forest grove. On arrival, he saw the Blessed One sitting in the grove — his legs folded crosswise, his body set straight, mindfulness established to the fore. On seeing him, he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, addressed him in verse:
In the deep-looking forest, teeming with terrors, having plunged into the wilderness — desolate, empty — unflinchingly, steadfastly, compellingly, you practice jhana, monk: How very lovely you look! Where no song is sung, where no music is played, alone in the wilderness: the forest-dwelling sage. This looks amazing to me — that you live alone in the forest with rapturous mind. I suppose it's in longing for the three heavens unexcelled, in the company of the ruling lord of the worlds, that, staying here in the wilderness, desolate, you practice austerities for attaining Brahma. [The Buddha:]
Whatever the longings or delights attached — always — to various levels of being, or yearnings born from the root of unknowing: I've destroyed them all, down to the root.
I — without longing, unattached, uninvolved, with purified vision with regard to all things, having reached self-awakening, sublime, unexcelled — practice jhana hidden from Brahma, matured.(1)
In the PTS edition of the Pali canon, this last line reads, jhaayaam'aham braahma.na raho vissaarado — “I practice jhana, brahman, in seclusion, matured.” This, however, does not fit in with the rhythm of the verse, and so for that reason I have followed the Thai edition here — jhaayaam'aham brahma-raho visaarado — which does fit in with the rhythm. This reading also has the advantage of providing a neat contrast to the reference to Brahma in the brahman's last line
The compound brahma-raho, “Brahma-private,” can be read in either of two ways: either private like a Brahma or private to — i.e., hidden from — Brahma. The first reading would simply convey the fact that the practice of jhana puts one in a mental state equivalent to a Brahma. The second reading points to the fact that the Buddha, in having gained Awakening, meditates in a way that even Brahmas cannot perceive or understand. I have chosen this latter reading because it parallels the message in AN 11.10.