The Four Types of Brahmins in DN 13 — Upaniṣadic References?

In the Tevijja Sutta (DN 13), we see four groups of brahmins listed:

In the same way, even though brahmins describe different paths—the Addhariya brahmins, the Tittiriya brahmins, the Chandoka brahmins, and the Bavhadija brahmins—all of them lead someone who practices them to the company of Brahmā.

Two of these are obvious: Chandoka corresponds to Chāndogya and Tittiriya corresponds to Taittirīya; the first—Addhariya—seems to me like it corresponds to Aitareya.

The final one—Bavhadija—is harder to identify. I don’t know of any śākhā, Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka, or Upaniṣads with a name similar to this. The only one that seems plausible is Bṛhádāraṇyaka. ‘Bavhad’ seems to easily correspond to ‘Bṛhad’, and ‘ija’ could correspond to “ṇyaka,” with the middle section of the word just being lost. Assuming this was recorded in Prakrit and heard orally (then preserved) perhaps by many people who were not brahmins, it seems plausible that this is just their best rendering of the word ‘Bṛhadāraṇyaka.’

If these names were in reference to the Upaniṣads, it would make sense: the Chāndogya, Aitareya, Taittirīya, and Bṛhádāraṇyaka are coincidentally (or not) the main Upaniṣads considered to be pre-Buddhist and which seem to find some relation to Buddhism. These could also be referring to the larger Brāhmaṇas or to the Āraṇyakas embedded within them—and often continued or combined with the Upaniṣads—to which the Vedic śākhā names are connected (and thus it would make sense to refer to groups of brahmins by these names).

There is an Aitareya Brāhmaṇa and Āraṇyaka (which contains the AU), a Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa and Āraṇyaka (containing the TU), a Bṛhad Āraṇyaka (which contains the BAU, and is in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa), and a Chāndogya Brāhmaṇa (which contains the ChU).

The other thing to note is the nature of the Āraṇyakas in relationship to the Brāhmaṇas/Upaniṣads:

J. Dowson states that ‘Aranyaka’ means ‘belonging to the forest’ as this type of text is intended to ‘expound the mystical sense of the [sacrificial] ceremonies, discuss the nature of God [etc.]. They are attached to the Brahmanas, and [are] intended for study in the forest by brahmanas who have retired from the distractions of the world’. [Wikipedia]

In DN 13, these contemplative brahmins claim that these schools all teach “the way to Brahmā.” This is precisely what these mystical portions of the texts are about. There is also mention of the word ‘śramaṇa’ in many of these texts. Considering all of this, it seems quite probable to me that these are precisely the texts/groups being referred to in DN 13: Aitareya, Taittirīya, Chāndogya, and Bṛhadāraṇyaka.

Does anybody know if there has been scholarship or an investigation of this to confirm/deny it? Have their been any attempts to identify the names of Brahmanical sects and schools found throughout the canon? What reasons might there be to doubt this?

EDIT: I know that scholars such as T.W. Rhys Davids and RIchard Gombrich have found similarities and parallels to the Upaniṣads, and specifically the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad in this text. I have just stumbled on a paper by Brett Shults that says these seem to be references to the three main Vedas, perhaps splitting the Yajurveda into the White and Black recensions. My hypothesis here would propose something more specific and perhaps less founded. Shults does note that the Buddha goes on to refer to these brahmins as tevijjā brāhmaṇā which could contradict the notion that these are brahmins of particular Vedas only. His article here also discusses Brāhmaṇical-esque terminology and ideas expressed by the brahmins rather than necessarily Upaniṣadic ones; this would not be problematic necessarily, as I have discussed that the names mentioned which correspond to Upaniṣads also correspond to Brāhmaṇas/Āraṇyakas, and there are plenty of related ideas between all of these texts.

If we interpret the terms similar to Shults, we would get Bavhadija : Ṛgvedic; Chandoka : Sāmavedic; Tittiriya : Kṛṣna Yajurvedic; Addhariya : Śukla Yajurvedc (?). Ironically, although the terms no longer align, this could still refer to the same branches of Brāhmaṇa-Upaniṣads above. The Aitareya is part of the Ṛgveda; the Chāndogya of the Sāmaveda; the Taittirīya of the Kṛṣna Yajurveda; and the Bṛhadāraṇyaka is part of the Śukla Veda (in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa). The term ‘addhariya’ is one of the most uncertain for Shults’ paradigm, and so perhaps it corresponding to ‘Aitareya’ is a solution considering my correspondences do not heavily conflict with his division into the major Vedic divisons. This could very well be baseless though, still.


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I cannot comment on the general question, but the identity of the four listed in Tevijja Sutra is quite settled in scholarship. I don’t recollect where I read it though I remember the results:
Chandoga and Tittiriya are of course easy standing for Sama veda and Yajur veda.
Bavharijā refers to ‘Bahvrica’ sakha of Rig veda. It is referred to in epigraphy. Etymologically also, it stands for Rig veda : Bahu+Ric(Many+Ric).
Addhariyā, the first in the list, does not refer to any one of the three Vedas but to ‘Adhvaryu’ who was the officiating priest in vedic sacrifices.

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Hi. If you know this, could you kindly post exactly what T.W. Rhys Davids and RIchard Gombrich had to say about this? Thanks

I recall RIchard Gombrich proposed DN 13 was about Nibbana, which seemed strange.

I think what is probably baseless is suggesting:

  • DN 13 is an early text spoken by the Buddha rather than a late Ashoka period propaganda text.
  • The various Upanishads were fully composed (within the Vedas) when the Buddha lived.

For example, if we compare the conception of namarupa in the Chāndogya vs the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, it seems the Buddha’s primary redefinition of namarupa (in SN 12.2) was based on the Chāndogya and not on the Bṛhadāraṇyaka (which aligns with namarupa found in probable later texts, such as DN 11, DN 15 & MN 49).

When these matters are discussed, and also matters such as I posted on topic about the Paṭisambhidāmagga, it seems the same old culprit suttas are popping up as being indicative of being late suttas, namely, the DN, the AN and, lesser, parts of the MN.

For example, those doctrines in the Chāndogya & the Bṛhadāraṇyaka about by ending craving & attachment resulting in the Atman merging with Brahman seem obviously a copy of Buddhism; are not discussed in the Suttas; and thus probable later Upanishad developments used to (successfully) undermine Buddhism in a propaganda war between the two religions.

Its interesting to me how I read this propaganda war continuing on Buddhist chatsites, with the continuing attempts to baselessly raise the status of the Upanishads, which results in the common baseless view that Buddhism emerged from Hinduism (rather than the probable alternate view that Hinduism emerged from Buddhism). The very fact the ‘Upanishad’ are related to ‘Vedanta’, which literally means ‘The End of the Vedas’, should indicate Upanishands are later doctrines. :slightly_smiling_face:

The above said, thank you for your post! Although based in merely one sutta, this may debunk the idea the Upanishads are never mentioned in the suttas! :+1:t2: :pray:t2:

Hi Ravi!

Thanks! Yes, I think this is mostly correct. In Shults’ article here though he talks about how more recent scholarship has shown that addhariya does not seem to refer to ‘adhvaryu’ but rather to ādhvarika pertaining to adhvara. This seems to be a rather technical term that rarely appears–once in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. I think it may be referring to the White Yajurveda or something in opposition to the Taittirīya of the Black Yajurveda.

This would still all be referring to the ideas of these schools in the Brāhmaṇa-Āranyaka / earlier Upanisad era, but DN 13 seems to be more concerned precisely with the Brāhmaṇas and attaining heaven / union with divine power.

Thanks! Mettā.

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I don’t think any Vedic scholar is saying this. It’s well understood and known that the early Upanisads as we have them are mostly compilations from various sources, and they have been edited into the Brāhmaṇas in various different ways / at different times with stages of redacting going on.

I’m on mobile now so don’t have the exact references, but I agree that Gombrich’s idea that this sutta refers to Nibbāna is mistaken. I think Shults (in the article I linked) shows that it is much more likely a Brāhmaṇa-based idea (though perhaps influenced by contemplative ideas, we cannot know).


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This was discussed (and i believe settled) by Jayatilleke. Sorry I don’t have the reference to hand.


The subcommentary states:

Bahavo iriyo thomanā etthāti bavhāri, iruvedo, taṃ adhīyantīti bavhārijjhā.

They are called bavhārijjhā due to the many hymns (bahavo iriyo) in the Rg Veda, aka the bavhāri or skt bahvrca.

The Chinese is a bit obscure, btw, referring to three brahmin “paths”.


It has, (1) self-desiring, possibly from Chandogya [reading chanda as “desire”],
(2)“self-made”, suggests something like Ātmanīya possibly from Addhariya(?),
and (3) Brahmacariya. I think it is corrupt.

P.S. this is the Jayatillake reference
Jayatilleke Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, p.479f.


On a side not, company with Brahma isnt that till 4th jhana and equals to 4 Brahmaviharas?

I noticed that metta is almost as the 4 jhanas. And in samyutta nikaya. For the formless states the 4 Noble truth needs to be understood for them.

Thank you to @Suvira for the reference. It looks like my theory below agrees with Jayatilleke. In the book, they say that they believe Addhariya to refer to the White Yajurveda with the Satapatha Brāhmana as well. There’s no conclusive proof but I agree with them that it is the most likely, and the term is a rare technical term which is found in the SB, so I think there is good reason to think so beyond it being the more obvious answer.

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