Q&A: Conceit, Sensual Desire: Which sutta(s)

There are a few Questions that I had asked Ajahn Brahmali and they had been Answered very well and consistently over the years (I asked Q1 on at least 2 occasions, only realising them when I looked back at my notes) and hence I would like to put them here for the benefit of others:

Q1. Which sutta to read to understand more about Sensual Desires/Pleasures (kāmā):
MN13, MN14, MN75, MN54, SN1.20

Beware of asking for things. One might get more than one… :slight_smile:

Q2. Which suttas to read for the 3 conceits?

The 3 conceits, usually called the three vidhā in the suttas. Vidhā means something like “kinds” or “distinction” are:

a. māna (Conceit): I am the same.
This is called asmimāna (asmi + māna), “the conceit ‘I am’”. It is the root conceit, which then expresses itself in terms of inferiority, equality, and superiority.

b. omāna (Inferiority complex): I am worse
Also avamāna.

c. atimāna (Arrogance): I am better
MN 54, however, is specifically about atimāna, arrogance or superiority conceit.

I think the idea of three conceits as a group with the name “The Three Conceits” only exists in post-canonical works, not in the EBTs. But the three conceits, in the sense of being mentioned together, thus constituting a group (but without an explicit name, apart from vidhā mentioned above), do exist in the EBTs. This situation is not unusual. For instance, while the 37 bodhipakkiyadhammas only exist as a group under this name in the commentaries, they are found together as a group in the suttas but without a specific name. There are a number of places where the three conceits are mentioned, such as the following.

AN 4.186 mentions four “brahmin truths” (presumably referring to arahants). Each of these includes the realisation that one is not inferior, equal, or superior to anyone else. They are not called the three conceits, but this is clearly referring to the same thing.

AN 6.49 is similar. It states that the arahant does not think wrongly that anyone is better, equal, or worse than him/her. Again, although the word “conceit” does not occur, this clearly refers to the same teaching.

Other suttas that mention the three conceits include DN 33, SN 1.20, SN 22.49, SN 35.108, SN 45.162, and AN 6.76.

The suttas often speak of “the conceit ‘I am’”, e.g. at AN 4.38, AN 4.200, SN 22.102, and SN 35.248. This is obviously closely related to the three conceits. If you do not think in terms of “I am”, then it is also impossible to think in terms of being better, equal, or inferior.

Q3. Where is the best place to start reading the suttas?

Ajahn Brahmali always recommended Bhikkhu Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words.
I tried this but didn’t go beyond Chapter 1 (instead of using the book, I had used the individual suttas). There are readings by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhante Sujato.

Ajahn Brahm’s reading on Ven. Nyanatiloka’s Word of the Buddha (a much shorter text) [during the Rains Retreat 2010, 2013, and outside Rains retranslation 2016/7 (still in progress)] is also excellent. Likewise the first 10 MN.

Sutta retreats are an awesome way to begin, in my humble opinion. There are many by Ajahn Brahmali, 3-days, 8-days, take a pick.

I had begun with BSWA sutta readings, randomly picking suttas and reinforcing them with Bhante Sujato’s readings (where there is lots of pāli and summary of Ven. Ᾱnalayo’s research on comparative studies), Bhikkhu Bodhi’s readings (practice in patience — reminds me of a description of Ajahn Chah’s oral teaching - it is long but there are gold nuggets here and there) and others (Ajahn Dhammasiha is a recent favourite).
Bhikkhu Bodhi has a course in MN which might be interesting for those inclined.

King Ashoka suggested this:
These Dhamma texts – Extracts from the Discipline, the Noble Way of Life, the Fears to Come, the Poem on the Silent Sage, the Discourse on the Pure Life, Upatisa’s Questions, and the Advice to Rahula which was spoken by the Buddha concerning false speech – these Dhamma texts, reverend sirs, I desire that all the monks and nuns may constantly listen to and remember. Likewise the laymen and laywomen.
Minor Rock Edict Nb3 (S. Dhammika)
There is disagreement amongst scholars concerning which Pali suttas correspond to some of the text. Vinaya samukose: probably the Atthavasa Vagga, Anguttara Nikaya, 1:98-100. Aliya vasani: either the Ariyavasa Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya, V:29, or the Ariyavamsa Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya, II: 27-28. Anagata bhayani: probably the Anagata Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya, III:100. Muni gatha: Muni Sutta, Sutta Nipata 207-221. Upatisa pasine: Sariputta Sutta, Sutta Nipata 955-975. Laghulavade: Rahulavada Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya, I:421.

Ajahn Brahmali mentioned this around 5 minutes into MN61 (Advice to Rahula at Amba­laṭṭhi­ka MN i 414).


Calcutta-Bairat Rock Inscription list of recommended works (Justin Fifield) From https://networks.h-net.org/node/6060/discussions/54961/query-calcutta-bairat-rock-inscription-list-recommended-works

For a recent bibliography (still partial, however, not only omitting all Japanese sources, but also some relevant Western materials), see Harry Falk, Aśokan Sites and Artefacts-A Source-book with Bibliography. Monographien zur indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie 18 (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2006): 106-108.

For a convenient edition and translation, see U. Schneider, “The Calcutta-Bairāṭ Edict of Aśoka,” in L. A. Hercus et al., eds., Indological and Buddhist Studies: Volume in Honour of Professor J. W. de Jong on his Sixtieth Birthday (Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, 1982): 491-498.

And see Hirakawa Akira 平川彰, “Ashōka-ō no nanashu no kyōmei yori mita genshi kyōten no seiritushi” アショーカ王の七種の經名より見た原始經典の成立史 [Historical Development of Early Sūtras Seen through Seven Sūtras Mentioned in the Aśoka Edicts], Indogaku Bukkyōgaku Kenkyū 印度學佛教學研究 7/2 (1959): 279-289 (674-684);

Tsuka- moto Keishō 塚本啓祥, “Ashōka-ō no nanashu no hōmon ni kanren shite” アショーカ王の七種の法門に関連して [On the seven texts of King Aśoka], Bukkyō Kenkyū 佛教研究 1 (1970): 29-47;

Lambert Schmithausen, “An Attempt to Estimate the Distance in Time between Aśoka and the Buddha in Terms of Doctrinal History,” in Heinz Bechert, ed., The Dating of the Historical Buddha / Die Datierung des historischen Buddha. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Phil-hist. Klasse 194 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992): 110-147.

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