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‘Preconditions’: The Upanisā Sutta in ContextThe Upanisā Sutta (Saṃyutta Nikāya 12: 23) has been interpreted as presenting an overarching account of conditionality, joining the twelve nidānas of paṭicca-samuppāda with a further series of positive factors (upanisās) leading to awakening. The discourse has a parallel preserved in Chinese translation. A close reading of these versions shows how the series of upanisās belongs to a ‘family’ of upanisā discourses. The connection of the series to the twelve nidānas appears rhetorical rather than doctrinal. The concept of upanisā in Pāli literature is related to the concept of upaniṣad in Vedic literature, and upanisā was also a topic of debate in the ascetic milieu of ancient India. The Buddhist concept of upanisā emerges as that of a supportive inner state that is a necessary condition for achieving the aim of liberation. I propose to translate upanisā as ‘precondition’.
‘That bhikkhu lets go both the near and far shores’: meaning and metaphor in the refrain from the uraga versesThe uraga (‘serpent’) verses are some early Buddhist stanzas, preserved in different versions, each with the refrain (in Pāli at Sn vv.1–17) so bhikkhu jahāti orapāraṃ, urago jiṇṇam iva tacaṃ purāṇaṃ, ‘That bhikkhu lets go both the near and far shores, like a serpent its worn-out old skin’. The meaning of orapāra, ‘near and far shores’, has posed a problem for ancient and modern commentators, because according to the usual metaphor of ‘crossing the flood’ the bhikkhu lets go the ‘near shore’, which is saṃsāra, to reach the safety of the ‘far shore’, which is nirvāṇa. I discuss some commentarial and recent discussions of the refrain, before presenting two possible solutions to this problem: first in terms of the old binary cosmology, whereby the bhikkhu lets go the ‘near shore’ of this world and the ‘far shore’ of the other, and second in terms of the ‘stream of the Dharma’ metaphor, in which the bhikkhu lets go the ‘near shore’ of the subjective sense spheres and the ‘far shore’ of the objective sense spheres. I conclude with a consideration of metaphor in the uraga verses refrain, and how the refrain may be an example of early Buddhist non-dualism.
Upaniṣadic Echoes in the Alaggadūpama SuttaScholars have already identified verbal echoes of the Upaniṣads in the Alagaddūpama Sutta (‘Discourse on the Simile of the Water-snake’, M 22 pts i.130–42). In this article I argue that the Alagaddūpama Sutta also contains muffled verbal echoes of the famous story of Indra’s search for the self in Chāndogya Upaniṣad 8.7–12. By making this echo audible, I add to the evidence that the Alagaddūpama Sutta as a whole can be understood in terms of the Buddha’s rejection of an Upaniṣadic soteriology.