Scriptural

Kevatta Sutta – Part 21

Conversations with the Gods

Continuing from before,

“When this was said, the Four Great Kings said to the monk, ‘We also don’t know where the four great elements… cease without remainder. But there are the gods of the Thirty-three who are higher and more sublime than we. They should know…’

“So the monk approached the gods of the Thirty-three and, on arrival, asked them, ‘Friends, where do these four great elements… cease without remainder?’

“When this was said, the gods of the Thirty-three said to the monk, ‘We also don’t know where the four great elements… cease without remainder. But there is Sakka, the ruler of the gods, who is higher and more sublime than we. He should know..

The four great kings revealed that they do not know the answer and referred the quizzing monk to the Gods in 33 heaven. They in turn refer him to Sakka. In this manner, the quizzing monk was referred from one divine being to the next higher being. In that manner, he ascended higher into the heavens, searching for an answer until the Brahma realms.

“Then the monk attained to such a state of concentration that the way leading to the gods of the retinue of Brahma appeared in his centered mind. So he approached the gods of the retinue of Brahma and, on arrival, asked them, ‘Friends, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?’

“When this was said, the gods of the retinue of Brahma said to the monk, ‘We also don’t know where the four great elements… cease without remainder.

But there is Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. He is higher and more sublime than we. He should know where the four great elements… cease without remainder.’

In Buddhist scriptures, this is one of the sutta that mentioned the Creator God.

“‘But where, friends, is the Great Brahma now?’ enquired the monk.

“‘Monk, we also don’t know where Brahma is or in what way Brahma is. But when signs appear, light shines forth, and a radiance appears, Brahma will appear. For these are the portents of Brahma’s appearance: light shines forth and a radiance appears.’

Interesting huh? So the great Brahma or (Creator God) is associated with light, radiance, brightness. That monk waited a while and it wasn’t long before Brahma appeared.

“So the monk approached the Great Brahma and, on arrival, said, ‘Friend, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?’

“When this was said, the Great Brahma said to the monk, ‘I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.’

A second time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, ‘Friend, I didn’t ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.’

“A second time, the Great Brahma said to the monk, ‘I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.’

“A third time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, ‘Friend, I didn’t ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder.’

“Then the Great Brahma, taking the monk by the arm and leading him off to one side, said to him, ‘These gods of the retinue of Brahma believe, “There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not know. There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not see. There is nothing of which the Great Brahma is unaware. There is nothing that the Great Brahma has not realized.”

That is why I did not say in their presence that I, too, don’t know where the four great elements… cease without remainder.

So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.’

In this scripture, we learn to see Brahma as an unenlightened being in Samsara. He is not as Great as what his followers believe him to be. In another sutta, Buddha had explained the cause and effect of how the Great Brahma came about. Apparently, the Great Brahma perceived himself to be the creator of all things in the universe due to a mistaken belief. That mistaken belief cascaded down the ranks to his retinue. And when members of his retinue where reborn as man, that belief arose in his perception and was propagated amongst men. We’ll not go into detail here. But we can learn from this passage that belief is an important part of the Great Brahma and his followers. (that sutta is also rarely taught in the Buddhist community)

Having heard the advice from the Great Brahma, that monk returned to Buddha and asked Buddha that question. We can also surmise that the Great Brahma is aware of Buddha and had acknowledged Buddha’s wisdom. Furthermore there wasn’t any animosity from the Great Brahma towards the Buddhist monk.

I think Gods and Goddesses are generally good wholesome beings. It is those zealots on Earth who are doing all the bad stuffs in their name.

Separately, I guess that quizzing monk wasn’t enlightened yet and was caught up by curiosity. Perhaps he knew Buddha would admonish him to focus on gaining enlightenment first instead of pursuing an irrelevant question. That is why he approached the various Gods instead of going directly to Buddha.

‘Lord, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?’ asked the quizzing monk

“‘Your question should not be phrased in this way: Where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?

Instead, it should be phrased like this:

Where do water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing? Where are long & short, coarse & fine, fair & foul, name & form brought to an end?

‘And the answer to that is:

Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around: Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing. Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul name & form are all brought to an end. With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness each is here brought to an end.'”

The above answer had many unenlightened scholars dumbstruck. Again it is like Buddha trying to explain a fruit ‘s taste to people who have not tasted it before.

However, many enlightened masters from various traditions had stated something similar to the above.

More importantly, the quizzing monk demonstrated the underlying problems that we (unenlightened beings) have. And that is; We do not even know the right question to begin with. It is like people of ancient days being puzzled by a light bulb and asking you for the magical spell to make the bulb bright…..

This is the conclusion of Kevatta sutta.

Although Buddha declined Kevatta’s proposal to utilize supranormal abilities for gaining Buddhist converts, He went into detail explanation of how one can achieve supernatural prowess; since He had obtained them too. Of those supernatural activities, Buddha only acknowledged those that are a result from our mind training. He also recounted how His unenlightened monk can already gain direct communications with the Gods. It is noteworthy to see how that monk is not a messenger of Gods, even though he conversed with them?

That brings us to another point. No Buddhist practitioners will claim themselves to be messengers. If any divinities are really that great, why would they need your help to bring their messages? Therefore, if we see any “masters” claiming to be spokesman or spokeswoman for Avalokiteshvara (GuanYin) or Buddha, we distance ourselves from them. The mental alarm in our head should go off, screaming “Beware of the Fake”

Everything had been clearly explained in the Buddhist scriptures and they had been around for thousands of years.

May all be well and happy.

Categories: Scriptural

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