Did the Buddha compare Buddhism to other religions

Dear Dhamma friends,
Several years ago I came across a text in Tipitaka, probably Samyutta, Majjhima, or Anguttara, where the Buddha compared the Buddha’s Teachings to the teachings of other, non-buddhist, religions & philosophies. I remember that the benefit of following the Buddha’s Teachings was like mountain Meru (Sineru) whereas following the other teachings would bring as much benefit as of seven mustard seeds.

Now, when I am trying to find that text I simply can’t find it anymore. Whenever the Buddha spoke of the mountain Meru or a big mountain and compared it to seeds of peas or mustard, it seems it was only with reference to the decrease of a Stream-Enterer’s suffering from huge to negligible.

So… what was the text I read… a false memory? But… even if it was a false memory, is there at least any text at all in the whole Tipitaka (and potentially Commentaries) where the Buddha (or others) metaphorically compare the benefits of following the Buddha’s Teachings to the benefits of following non-Buddhist teachings?

Thank you all for your kindness. :sun_with_face:

There are a number of texts beginning like this:

So the monks went to the park of the wanderers of other sects. On arrival, they exchanged courteous greetings with the wanderers of other sects. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, they sat to one side.

As they were sitting there, the wanderers of other sects said to them, "Friends, Gotama the contemplative teaches the Dhamma to his disciples in this way: ‘Come, monks — abandoning the five hindrances, the corruptions of awareness that weaken discernment — develop the seven factors for awakening as they have come to be.’

"Now, friends, we too teach our disciples in this way: ‘Come, you friends, — abandoning the five hindrances, the corruptions of awareness that weaken discernment — develop the seven factors for awakening as they have come to be.’

“So, friends, what difference, what distinction, what distinguishing factor is there here between Gotama the contemplative and us, when comparing Dhamma teaching with Dhamma teaching, instruction with instruction?”

Samyutta Nikaya 46.53

The Buddha then subsequently describes factors unique to his path, in this case the opposed dynamics of the two groups in the factors of awakening.

Ah, perhaps you glossed that in your head as a benefit of Buddhism as “only here are there found [Stream-Enterers]”?


… the ‘royal soma drinking’, and the ‘unbarred’.
These are not worth a sixteenth part
of the mind developed with love,
as starlight cannot rival the moon.
~ Iti 27

… what kind of arrowhead it was that wounded me—whether spiked or razor-tipped or curved or barbed or calf-toothed or lancet-shaped.’ “All this would still not be known to that man and meanwhile he would die.
~ MN 63

five ancient traditions of the brahmins are exhibited these days among dogs, but not among brahmins…
~ AN 5.191

… if his dog-duty succeeds, it will lead him to the company of dogs; if it fails, it will lead him to hell.
~ MN 53

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I don’t recall a story like that in any of the main nikayas. Although it doesn’t match perfectly with the memory you described, there are these verses from the Therāpadāna, relating a story from a past life of Sāriputta (at that time called Suruci), in which he met the Buddha of that time, Anomadassi:

They say the king of mountains rose
to that height after being sunk
in the great ocean for as long
as eighty-four thousand aeons.

And Meru, having thus arisen,
being so long and so spread out,
bit by bit gets broken into
two million lakhs of small pebbles.

If one should investigate it,
counting the numbers of lakhs there,
still he could not ever measure
your knowledge, O Omniscient One.

Whichever water is encircled
by water holes however small
the beings who live in water
would all find themselves submerged there.

In just that way, O Great Hero,
these ordinary heretics
who jump into dogmas’ grasp
get deluded by what they touch.

These heretics pulled underwater
by your knowledge which is pure and
which is seen without obstruction
never move beyond your knowledge.

-Tha Ap 3

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Not sure that I can help you with the exact Sutta, but the very first Sutta in the Digha Nikaya has a tractate on 62 different metaphysical and religious views that the Buddha all asks everybody to transcend:

No possible religious or metaphysical position can change the fact that in the immediate perception of human reality, existence is suffering. As long as one’s goal is to do something about the suffering, any religion or teaching seems to be okay with the Buddha (or so at least it seems).

There is another Sutta in which he kind of says that if somebody did something against the suffering, he can wait to know if there is a God or beyond until after death, since any deity could only approve of good deeds to lessen the suffering (unfortunately I don’t remeber the Sutta). I think it is also fascinating that in MN 026, Brahma (the highest God) appears to him after his enlightment, begging him to teach.

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This is very interesting story indeed. But why the Brahma has to ask the Buddha to teach his Dhamma?

You may find some relevant material in this class of Bhante Sujato’s:

It would imply that he does not have full power over humans and “creation” …

I don’t think I’ve heard that, but I’ve heard quite similar things. They didn’t have the same religions around of course, so it might not be a perfect comparison as doing it today, but the Buddha talked frequently about other people’s beliefs and how it had an effect on them. Sometimes they did belong to identifiable sects, notably Jain, or the laying out of Eternalists and Annihilationists in DN1.

When he did this, it was just to praise the good things they taught/disapprove of the bad things that they taught. It had nothing to do with discrimination, but finding the right and true knowledge. This is why he also talked about corruption of his own Dhamma and how it could be avoided.

I think it is likely that the Brahma (i.e. Brahmā Sahāṃpati) had never invited the Buddha to teach his Dharma at all.

The invitation story is just an early Buddhist adaptation of Vedic mythical deities presented in EBTs. One of them is Brahma, also given an individual name, Brahmā Sahāṃpati, which is not found in Vedic texts.

Cf. Choong Mun-keat, “A Comparison of the Pāli and Chinese Versions of the Brahma Saṃyutta , a Collection of Early Buddhist Discourses on Brahmās, the Exalted Gods”, Buddhist Studies Review, vol. 31.2, pp. 179-194 (2014)