stock phrase about men?

L.S. Cousins selwyn at NTLWORLD.COM
Thu Mar 11 19:10:15 UTC 2004

Martin Delhey writes:

>I suspect that the sutta according to which men, too,
>bind women in eight ways is a later addition by the
>Pali recension of the old canon.

What would be the motive for such a later addition ? Are you
postulating a growing tendency towards gender equality in the
developing Theravaada ?

>There is no
>corresponding sUtra in the Chinese ekottarAgama (T
>125) p. 765c, where another recension of the sUtra on
>women binding men is found.

I have the impression that the source for the Chinese translation of
the Ekottaraagama is rather late, but others may be better informed
on that.

>Moreover, the second
>yogAcArabhUmi passage mentioned by me in an earlier
>message (zi 101a4ff. in the Peking [or "Qianlong"]
>edition seems only to presuppose that women bind men
>in eight ways and not vice versa.

If there were originally two suttas, I do not find it surprising that
sometimes only the one referring to the effect of women on men is
cited in later sources. If there was originally only one, the
decision to add a second discourse presenting the effect of men on
women would certainly be most interesting and would need to be
accounted for.

It should be noted that groups of small suttas each presenting a
slightly different angle on matters are quite common in the

>  > The Pali expression vanabha'nga does not seem
>>  problematic in
>>  isolation. It is explained consistently both by
>>  Buddhaghosa in the
>>  A'nguttara commentary and in more detail in a series
>>  of Vinaya
>>  commentaries beginning with Sp III 527 & 529.
>>  Vanabha'nga is simply
>>  any growing thing gathered in the countryside (lit.
>>  forest) i.e.
>>  flowers, foliage and the like and (in this case)
>>  used in
>  > inter-personal relations or sexual play.
>I see no cogent reason why we have to adopt an
>interpretation of a canonical term simply because it
>is put forward in the commentaries of the Theravaada

I don't think anybody has suggested that. But to ignore the
commentaries is not very sensible, especially in a case like this. It
is clear that we are not dealing with a single isolated comment but
rather with a established tradition of exegesis in the Vinaya
commentaries. Most probably what we have here is the reason given by
the Theravaada tradition or its sources for the interpretation of
Middle Indian *va.nabha'nga as equivalent to Sanskrit vana-.

But the fact that this is clearly the traditional interpretation in
the Pali sources does not prove that it is the original meaning of
the 'canonical' passage (which may well have had variations both in
form and in interpretation from an early date).

Lance Cousins

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