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Contents of Pali Canon - Parabhava Sutta

by Sangharakshita

A seminar on the Parabhava Sutta

conducted by Sangharakshita
April 1982 in London
As I finished transcribing this short seminar on the Parabhava Sutta it is about five years since
it was held. I can't recall the exact dates but it was some time in April 1982 that the six of us
working in Windhorse Trading at the time Kulananda, Dharmananda, Sumitra and
Prajnananda, and Mitras Mike Howes and Chris Harper (now Satyapala and Amoghacitta
respectively) - met for four evenings in Bhante's flat above the London Buddhist Centre in
Bethnal Green. Whether Bhante judged this particular sutta somehow suitable for us I don't
know; it is a popular text in the East and known as a complement or antithesis to the Mangala
The text occurs as the sixth sutta of the first chapter 'The Chapter of the Snake' - of the
Sutta-Nipata and comprises verses 91 to 116 of that chapter. I have appended the complete
Pali text and not only the three translations used in the seminar but three others, from the
oldest Fausboll 1881 - to the most recent - K R Norman 1985.
This transcript on word-processor is based on original longhand transcriptions by several
persons unknown. My thanks go to them, and of course to Bhante for the seminar itself.
A few interpolations in square brackets clarify meaning where necessary. Simple affirmative
remarks are sometimes bracketed within the main body of dialogue where appropriate. I have
tried to follow the seminar in transcribing 'Dhamma' or 'Dharma'; sometimes one, sometimes
the other is used. They are in any case interchangeable. Gross infelicities of style and gross
repetitions have generally been eliminated but otherwise the seminar is unedited.
April 1987Contents
Session One:
Title and background 1 Translations 2/6Introduction:
what are devas? do they exist? 6/7Verse One; translations 8Verse Two:
translations 8- loving the Dharma 9- hating the Dharma 11 - cynicism & enthusiasm 13- use what inspires you to develop enthusiasm 14- is work inspiring? if so, how? 15- turning enthusiasm into inspiration 17Verse Four: translations 19- Kalayanamitrata developed on basis of loving the Dharma 20- men/women relationships: a Sufi analysis 21- discovering the Dharma through contact with those who practise it 23- 'delighting in pseudo-liberalism': some examples 24- the micchaditthi of not taking responsibility 25- seeing through pretensions need not cause cynicism 26- more micchaditthis 27- Jargon as a cover for rationalization 30- how to actually generate kalyana mitrata 30- criticism is only skilful on a basis of positivity 32- need for greater patience & concern for others within FWBO 33Session Two: Verse Six: translations 35- addiction to sleep; its nature and cause 36- need for regular lifestyle & a 'positive routine' 38- addiction to company; causes 42- differences between the group and the spiritual community 42- healthy group activities 44- the group and the individual 44- 'being unaroused in energy' 45- aroused energy distinguished from, but a necessary basis for, virya 46- need to direct aroused energy towards a positive object 48- squandering energy after meditation or puja 49- laziness 52- & metta 53- & apathy 53- & cynicism 54- 'of angry intelligence' 54- general tendency to criticize rather than appreciate 55- value of appreciation 56- value of politeness & formality as social skills 56Verse Eight: translations 59- a bhikkhu can support his mother 60- importance of relationship with mother & father 62- modern situation of women: spiritual development of women &
attitude towards motherhood 64- feminist (& general) preoccupation with sex 66- is a male-dominated society necessarily unjust? 67- men more likely to develop spiritually for reasons of biological conditioning 69 - women & Christianity 70- abortion & Buddhism 71- celibacy as the norm; implications for human species 73- parenthood: Bodhisattvas as ideal parents 74- parenthood too casual in modern West 74- urge to motherhood versus spiritual growth? 76- modern Western resentment of children 78Session Three Verse Ten:
- brahmanas & sramanas 79- development of Hinduism 80- Buddha's attempt to upgrade brahmanas 81- falsehood is serious in proportion to status of victim 82- lying to spiritual superiors indicates lack of openness 82- the French nun & the lama 83- need for awareness of who one is communicating with 86Verse Twelve: translations 87- covert greed especially bad in Indian cultural context 87- hospitality & open-handedness in general 88- treatment of guests 90- sharing of gifts 90- giving as a deliberate practice 91Verse Fourteen: translations 91- on despising one's roots 92- snobbery within the Sangha 93- nature of the laity in the FWBO & in traditional Buddhism 95- bringing up children as an aspect of spiritual practice 97- more on marriage & parenthood in India & the West 98Verse Sixteen: translations 100- self-abandonment, nihilism & self-destructiveness 100- the distinction between sensual excess and real exuberance 102- dangerous sports (e.g. motor racing, mountain-climbing) as the result of alienation 107 -
definition of heroism 109Session Four: Verse Eighteen: translations 111- adultery: a cause & symptom of lack of contentment 111- ethical & psychological aspects 113- when does a sexual relationship constitute 'marriage'? 'open-ended'
relationships usually not so 114- sexual relationships within the Order & Movement as potentially disruptive 116- sex impossible without emotional involvement 117- but can be a healthy or neurotic involvement 118 - courtesans, mistresses & concubines 119- emotional insecurity of Western women 120- arranged marriages 121- preferability of Indian situation 123- is prostitution unskilful per se? 124- nature of promiscuity 127- three sexual lifestyles: skilful & unskilful modes of each 128- shamelessness 130Verse Twenty: translations 131- reasons for age-gaps in marriage partners: youner's desire for wealth & security,
older's desire for youth 131- nature of Jealousy 134- why do sexual relationships become exclusive? 136Verse Twenty-two: translations 137- nature of group downfall 137- need for responsibility in those in authority 138- need for responsibility in assigning authority 139- need for clarity in assuming responsibility 140Verse Twenty-four: translations 141- ambition can blind to own limitations 142- need for one's expectations to be realistic 143Verse Twenty-five: translations 145- avoidance of sources of downfall leads to happiness 146General: why should devatas be concerned with Parabhava? 146- how was the sutta composed? 147Appendix One: Text in Pali 149Appendix Two: Translation by E M Hare - 'Of Suffering' 150Appendix Three: Translation by Robert, Lord Chalmere 'Failures' 152Appendix Four: Translation by H Saddhatissa - 'Downfall' 153Appendix Five: Translation by Narada Thera - 'Downfall' 154Appendix Six: Translation by V Fausbo11 - 156Appendix Seven: Translation by K R Norman - 'Failure' 157APPENDIX
This series of appendices contains six translations of the Parabhava Sutta. Sangharakshita's
version is incomplete, only the first four verses being presented as final in the course of the
seminar; readers could devise their own version from the various remarks made. A good
bibliography can be found at the back of Saddhatissa's Sutta Nipata. The devata's repetitive
questioning stanzas (alternate from 93 to 113 inclusive) are usually omitted or abbreviated by
One: Parabhavasutta in Pali (Omitted)
Two: Translation by E M Hare - "Of Suffering"
Thus have I heard: Once, when the Master was dwelling near Savatthi in Anathapindika's
Park at Jeta Grove, a deva of surpassing beauty, lighting up the whole of Jeta Grove,
approached him as night waned; and drawing near, she saluted him and stood at one side,
Thus standing, she spoke this verse to the Master:
Devi About man's suffering
We question Gotama:
We ask the Master now
The source of suffering [1/91]
The Master Plain is the weal in life,
Plain is the suffering:
Prospers who Dharma loves,
Suffers who Dharma hates [2/92]
Devi 'Tis truly so we know
Firstly of suffering:
Sir, tell us secondly
The source of suffering [3/93] (151)
The Master Who hath bad men as friends,
Nor maketh friends with good,
Who chooses bad men's ways:
A source of suffering that.
Devi 'Tis truly 80 we know .. .
Tell us the third .. .
The Master When man loves company
And sleep, when he is lax
And slack, and known for wrath:
A source of suffering that.
Devi 'Tis truly so we know .
Tell us the fourth .
The Master Who being rich, supports
Not parents in their age,
When gone is all their youth:
A source of suffering that.
Devi ...

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