brahmana ca sahampatina1      "and Brahma, Lord of the Saha World."

by Bhikshuni Heng Hsien

(continued from issue #69)
      The name of the god Brahma is the final one in the list of those in the Dharma Assembly when Sakyamuni Buddha spoke the Sutra of the Arrangement of the Happy Land (Sukhavativyuhasutra). Sahampati, "Lord of the Saha World," is his title. Note that the stem form of the name of this divine king, whose dwelling is in the dhyana heavens2 of the Form Realm (rupadhatu}, is brahman.
The form brahma is nominative singular, masculine, while brahmana, as in our text, is instrumental singular, called for by the previous preposition sardham "together with."

The derivation of brahman is obscure. The Chinese interpreted3 brahma- (the stem form in compounds) as meaning "pure," as suggested by such compounds as brahmacarya "Brahma (i.e. 'pure') conduct."

      The conjunction ca, "and", as usual, is translated in English as if it came before the word it follows in Sanskrit.

Sahampati (stem form; sahampatina in our text is instrumental singular, agreeing with brahmana) means "Lord" (pati) of the "Saha", i.e. the Saha World (sahalokadhatu). Saha is based upon the root sah "able to endure,"4 for, as the Chinese commentaries explain,5 the living beings of our Saha World are able to put up with constant bitter suffering, without even being aware that they are suffering, mistaking suffering for bliss.

1The Chinese text as translated by Dharma Master Kumarajiva has no equivalent of this phrase, and no mention of the god Brahma.

2For full discussion, cf. Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua, Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Buddhist Text Translation Society, published by The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions, New York, 1976, pp. 55-58.

3The Chinese generally transliterate Brahma as fan4 mo2, often abbreviated to fan4, and explain as meaning ching4 "pure".

4 k'an1 jen3.

5 e.g. Tripitaka Master Hua, op. cit. p. 53, and A General Explanation of the Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra. Buddhist Text Translation Society, San Francisco, 1974, p. 7, 42,149.