SuttaCentral

Were Āḷārakālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta brahmins?

Gauthama Siddhartha was a Kshatriya by birth, was admitted to highest knowledge available by masters like Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputra.
The Six Heretical Teachers are claim to be non-brahmanical origin.
Any evidences to suggest that these two teachers are Brahmins?

Sankhya is a branch of Brahminism, so according to this Alara Kalama was not.

http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/aa/aalara_kaalaama.htm

1 Like

I don’t know of any evidence in the early texts.

In the commentaries there’s negative evidence in the case of Āḷāra Kālāma, for the Manorathapūraṇī identifies the Kālāmas as a khattiya tribe. If true, this would mean that Āḷāra’s going forth would more likely have been of the shramanic rather than the brahminical kind.

3 Likes

Thank you so much for the answers.
Found a related thread in SC.

1 Like

Even if they were originally Brahmins they were behaving more like sramanas, according to the suttas at least. When they initiate Gotama they simply say "The venerable one may stay here” (viharatāyasmā, MN 26, MN 36, MN 85, MN 100). But the Brahmin upanayana initiation into Vedic brahmacarya is quite a specific ritual and would never have been done in such a casual way.

Also AN 4.187 doesn’t allow Ramaputta to be a respected Brahmin. Here the eminent Brahmin teacher Todeyya reprimands his own students for saying:

‘This King Eḷeyya is a fool to be so devoted to Rāmaputta. He even shows him the utmost deference by bowing down to him, rising up for him, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him. Yamaka, Moggalla, Ugga, Nāvindakī, Gandhabba, and Aggivessa—for they show the same kind of deference to Rāmaputta.’

And I doubt that eminent Brahmins talked like that about each other. On the other hand maybe former Brahmins were ridiculed like that. Also keep in mind that important students of the Buddha had traditional Brahmin names too: Kaśyapa and Kātyāyana (Kaccana) are traditional Brahmin gottas, Gotama itself is a traditional Brahmin gotta. The Buddha also calls Moggallana a ‘Brahmin’ in SN 40.1-9 (even though it’s not a common Brahmin name).

Once you entered a homeless spiritual life you didn’t belong to a cast anymore. So like the Buddha was not a khattiya also Āḷārakālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta were no Brahmins anymore in the strict sense of the word.

3 Likes