Monday, July 6, 2009

The Buddha Meets The Dark Lord

The Padhana Sutta in the Sutta Nipata is the earliest version of the ‘Buddha verses Mara’ story and, incidentally, the only one found in the Pali Tipitaka. This sutta is interesting for a variety of reasons. For example, Mara tells the Buddha that he has pursued him ‘for seven years’ (satta vassani), whereas tradition tells us that the Buddha’s quest for truth lasted six years. Mara’s army is made up, not of monsters and ghouls, but various negative psychological traits and states of physical deprivation, underlining the story’s allegorical and didactic intent. In verse 444 the Buddha tells Mara that after he has attained enlightenment he will ‘go from country to country training many disciples’. In other words, he had already decided to teach the Dhamma even before his encounter with Brahma Sahampati after his enlightenment (Vin.I,6-7).
However, in this post I would like to examine verse 449 from the Padhana Sutta. The verse describes Mara’s 'defeat' and reads, ‘The lute fell from the armpit of that one overcome with disappointment. Then that discouraged one disappeared there and then’. Now throughout the sutta the Buddha’s adversary is called by three names – Mara, Namuci or Kanha. Now this last name can be translated as ‘Dark One’ or ‘Darky’ and of course its Sanskrit equivalent is Krishna. Now we meet with Krishna under his alternative name of Vasudeva in the Ghata Jataka (No.454), a story very similar to the one about Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana. But what is the Hindu god Krishna doing trying to hinder the Buddha attaining enlightenment in the Sutta Nipata? Well, Krishna is probably the most amorphous of all Hindu deities. He can be the insatiable lover, (some Indians even associate the blue color of Viagra pills with Krishna), the adorable child, the trickster, the brave warrior, the noble friend, the thoughtful philosopher, the incarnation of God, etc. He is most commonly depicted today playing a flute, and in earlier times, a lute (vina), as in the Sutta Nipata. The best ‘biography’ of Krishna I know of is in Trevor Ling’s outstanding ‘A History of Religion East and West’ (1968).
But whatever Krishna became later, he started off as an aboriginal fertility god, similar to Pan (you know, dalliancing in the wood with the shepherdesses and playing his pan pipes). His aboriginal origins also explain his color, although the Aryan distaste of blackness caused him to become blue as he was gradually incorporated into Hinduism. But at the time of the Buddha, Krishna was a popular but minor a god of sensual love and in that role he tried to distract the Buddha from his noble quest.

17 comments:

Ben said...

That is really interesting. Thanks! Do you think Krishna could also have tried to distract Buddha not only as the manifestation of sensual love, but also as incarnation of God?

Sheridan said...

Bhante,

Your understanding of the history of India and Indian religious thought is fascinating! Those are the posts that I enjoy most. Thank you for sharing this information, though whatever length the article it wouldn't be long enough to sate my mind's fascination with the subject.

Sincerely,

Sheridan

kamalavira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nirseek said...

Hindus consider Buddha to be the 9th incarnation of Vishnu while Krishna being the 8th. Every age the truth needed to be told in different ways for enlightening the people. Also Krishna was born into the native Indian tribes who were present before the Aryan migration. So he was black. Krishna is depicted as a lover because it is the way some of his most important devotees looked upon him. They were so involved in the Krishna form. Your association of Mara with Krishna is quite disappointing. Mara is the desire, anger, miserliness, delusion, pride and jealousy within oneself. I am disappointed because of this post coming from a Buddhist. It would have been natural for the follower of a monotheistic religion to demonize others.

Tiago said...

You have no idea of Sanskrit or Krishna. What you say makes no sense.

Mahadev Semwal said...

Really dissapointing to see your comparison of the supreme personality of the Godhead of the universes with a sinful person. I dont think you will ever achieve enlightenment.

znsy1 said...

The Buddhists always had this ideology to belittle other traditions . The had done the same with Jainism. Krishna never existed at the time of Buddha . He is way older and a reading of the Gita will prove his greatness. Krishna was not a tribal God like you claim . He was worshiped by the royalty and the commoners alike . The Aryan invasion theory is a nonsense propagated by White supremacists . Since ancient times the Vaishnavas (Followers of Krishna/Vishnu) , were considered a threat by the Buddhists . These texts were written to disgrace the religion .

znsy1 said...

Buddhism copied many aspects of its religion from the Tibetan "Bon" religion . In india it was formed as pure atheism . But after coming in contact with the Tibetan Bon, it started absorbing all the Gods and Goddesses of it . It also Borrowed the Paintings , colored prayer flags and the wheels from it . The concept of Dhamma is a direct copy of the "Dharma" in Hinduism and so , is the concept of reincarnation .

znsy1 said...

Buddhism rose as a world religion in the 3rd century ,under the rule of the Buddhist king Ashoka . During his rule a Jain monk (follower of Mahavira), had a painting done ,showing Buddha bowing down before Mahavira . After this incident , Ashoka declared that anyone who brings a severed head of a Jain , will be rewarded with a gold coin . Most of the Jains in the predominantly Jain country (India ), were butchered . This led to the decline of Jainism and the rise of Buddhism .Jainism is still a minority religion in India.

znsy1 said...

Strange are the ways of Karma . With the advent of Islam , Buddhism faced almost extinction in north western India ( including Sindh ,kashmir , Afghanistan). Also the rise of Shaivaism(Worship of Shiva as the supreme God ) , made it unpopular in southern India .

znsy1 said...

On the contrary, only Hindus have the tradition of open forum religious discourse, to win over by intellectual discussions the other religious by tradtions by debate and not by violence.
1.It is repored that in the court of Budhist King Sudhanva a debate was ordered between Budhist priests and Adi Shankaracharya. On defeat of Budhists in that debate, King Sudhanva, gave up Budhism and accepted Vedic -Hindu- religion. That drove Budhism out of India.
2. It is also reported that Budhist Kings had prohibited performance of all Yajnas, Agnihotras andVedic recitals.Vedas were proscribed, and e almost extinct from India. Adi Shankaracharya is said to have wandered around in search of Vedas,and Mandan Mishra/ Kumaril Bhat/ Bharati came to his rescue to resurrect Vedas to the extent possible of what was left of Vedas and that is what we have today.

znsy1 said...

Ashokavadana mentions the following:
“At that time, an incident occurred which greatly enraged the king. A follower of the Nirgrantha (Mahavira) painted a picture, showing Buddha prostrating himself at the feet of the Nirgrantha. Ashoka ordered all the Ajivikas of Pundravardhana (North Bengal) to be killed. In one day, eighteen thousand Ajivikas lost their lives. A similar kind of incident took place in the town of Pataliputra. A man who painted such a picture was burnt alive with his family. It was announced that whoever would bring the king the head of a Nirgrantha would be rewarded with a dinara (a gold coin). As a result of this, thousands of Nirgranthas lost their lives.”

OnLombok.com said...

How can you call your self as a spiritual advisor while Buddha was teaching anspiritual (anatta) and refusing the spiritual (atman)?
The miss-understanding of the word 'spiritual' by modern Buddhist monks just like the miss-understanding of the word 'dharma' by Buddhist monks since the era of Buddha. Krishna teach us the dharma by doing our real duty while Buddha teach the dharma by leaving our duty to letting the adharma in pointing we are not involved in thus adharma. That's could be understood when Buddha leaving duty (dharma) as king and refusing the system of Four Varnas.

OnLombok.com said...

Just like the miss-understanding of Krishna while Buddha ever state himself as incarnation of Maha Govinda in Maha Govinda Sutta. How if Buddha was the incarnation of Govinda, The Dark Lord?

Justin Provan said...

The ways are different the start and end is the same place that is within this and this is within that

Justin Provan said...

Only awakened or questioning beings may answer

NeverForget said...

I've seen krishna with Radha, and Buddha. High on Dmt. Never the less, all my chakras ativated and I jumped right out of my body. It Was amazing!