SuttaCentral

Offerings dedicated to the gods

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#1

In the sutta on the simile of the cloth (MN 7) it says at #SC 7.2:

‘The Saṅgha of the Buddha’s disciples is practicing the way that’s good, straightforward, methodical, and proper. It consists of the four pairs, the eight individuals. This is the Saṅgha of the Buddha’s disciples that is worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a teacher’s offering, worthy of greeting with joined palms, and is the supreme field of merit for the world.’

We all know that very well from chanting:

‘suppaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, ujuppaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, ñāyappaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, sāmīcippaṭipanno bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, yadidaṃ cattāri purisayugāni, aṭṭha purisapuggalā. Esa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho āhuneyyo pāhuneyyo dakkhiṇeyyo añjalikaraṇīyo, anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ lokassā’ti.

But what is meant by the term worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods? And maybe similar: worthy of a teacher’s offering?

Does it refer to some cultural custom in ancient India? Does it mean these people are so worthy that even gifts dedicated to someone else may be given to them (this would seem strange to me)?


#2

I think that any Dhamma talk would qualify as a teacher’s offering.

I also think that if certain kinds of things can be offered to a god, those things can also be offered to the Saṅgha. I do not read that as offering the same exact item to both. I.e., I can offer a banana to a god, but I would offer a different banana to a different god and a different one to each member of the Saṅgha. Similarly, offering trash to the gods or Saṅgha would be a no-no.


#3

Do you generally offer to gods as well as the Sangha. I know in the suttas (I think, or sutras, not sure) it says devas, gods, etc are like humans going through samsara towards enlightenment. The only differences are their natures rather than hierarchical?


#4

Gods don’t have donation pages.


#5

Ha. By choice not obligation.


#6

I have taken both phrases to mean that members of the Sangha deserve very high quality offerings.


#7

It doesn’t seem that the word “gods” is explicit in the Pali there. I think it only says ahuneyyo, which seems to be just “offerings” in most other translations. The PED lists this:

Āhuneyya (adj.) [a grd. form. fr. ā + hu , cp. āhuti] sacrificial, worthy of offerings or of sacrifice, venerable, adorable, worshipful D iii.5, 217 (aggi); A ii.56, 70 (sāhuneyyaka), 145 sq. (id.); iv.13, 41 (aggi); It 88 (+ pāhuneyya); Vv 6433 (cp. VvA 285). See def. at Vism 219 where expld. by “āhavanīya” and “āhavanaŋ arahati” deserving of offerings.

Maybe Ven. @sujato felt that this word is frequently used in the suttas in the context of offerings to deities, and so he translated in a way to reflect that?


#8

Good question!

The terms here, as so often, are derived from the Brahmanical tradition. The meritorious offering to the Sangha is situated as a substitute for the kinds of offering that prevail in the brahmanical tradition. Essentially it is a dialectical passage, saying that the Sangha is as worthy or even more so, of offerings than these traditional forms of offering.

Āhuneyya is from the Vedic term āhuti, which is an oblation, typically of ghee or rice, poured into the fire as an offering for the gods. The notion that the offering to the Sangha is a rational replacement for this is spelled out in SN 6.3:

This sutta also mentions dakkhiṇa. The term dakkhiṇa also has a specific Vedic meaning: the offering or payment due to a teacher, specifically a brahmin, by their student. So the dakkhiṇa is an offering to a respected person, while the āhuti is an offering to the gods.

Over time, the Vedic sense of these words became lost, and were just read in the Buddhist community as generic terms for “offering”, etc. Most translators have translated them in this way. However, at the time of the Buddha, I believe, the Vedic context was very much alive. A generic translation, I felt, obscures the sense of the passage. There is a reason why these specific Vedic terms are used, rather than more generic terms like dāna, etc.


#9

The following is from Egge (2013): Religious giving and the invention of Karma in Theravada Buddhism, p. 140

The first two items likely refer to two types of Brahmanical sacrifice, āhuta (or ahuta) and prahuta. In this case āhuneyyo would indicate worthiness to receive āhuta, oblations (or possibly ahuta, non-oblation, meaning chanting and study) and prahuta, scattered offerings for terrestrial deities or the dead. The inappropriateness of the epithet pāhuneyyo suggests that this formula was created in a context in which the technical meaning of these phrases was unknown or disregarded. In any case, because of its inappropriateness or because its meaning was unknown, later interpreters gave this term the meaning, ‘worthy of hospitality.’

If I may add, the main meaning of Vedic dakṣinā was the fee or gift that was given by donors to officiating Brahmins for their sacrificial services.


#10

Thank you all for sharing your reflections on this topic, and to Bhante @sujato to clarify the backgroud of these terms in the Brahmanical tradition!

:anjal:


#11

Thanks, Gabriel. I wasn’t aware of that meaning for prahuta. Accurate resources on the web for Vedic rituals are hard to find! If anyone has any links they would be most appreciated.


#12

I do have a question, though the convo is going over my head. This sutta mentions Ven. Brahnadeva’s mother offering oblation to Brahma. Im only familar with Brahma being a Hindu deity/god. Do practitioners give oblations to Brahma as hindus do? I know at the Veitnamese Temple I went to we offered prayers , flowers, and foods to The Buddha and bodhisattvas (Mahayana) but Im not familar with offerings and oblations as a whole. I assume The Buddha was Hindu; so, does the terminology between two faiths share the same definition and context or different?


#13

I’m simplifying here but basically:

  • 'Hinduism didn’t exist at that time
  • Brahmanism (its historical predecessor) was at the time of the Buddha only getting established in that region
  • Most people believed in the gods, but…
  • Brahma ‘went out of fashion’, being replaced by cults around Siva and Krsna
  • Strangely, Brahma continues to be worshiped in some forms in Buddhist countries, e.g. Thailand

#14

Interesting. I assume brahma worship is more cultural? I haven’t read in The Buddha suttas about brahma as art of the Practice though I see references of it on there.