viśeṣam atha śuśrūṣur udrakasyāśramaṁ yayau |
ātma-grāhāc ca tasyāpi jaghe na sa darśanam || 12.84
So, desiring to learn of deeper distinction,
He went to the ashram of Udraka.
And his doctrine,
which was grounded in the notion of a soul,
He also did not accept.
In his translations of and introductions to Ariyapariyesanasuttaṁ (MN 26) The Discourse about the Noble Search, and Bodhirājakumārasuttaṁ (MN 85) The Discourse to Prince Bodhi, Ānandajoti Bhikkhu has called into question the generally accepted assumption that the Buddha had two teachers, namely, Arāḍa (Pali: Āḷāra) and Udraka (Pali: Uddaka).
For ease of reference, the following is copied and pasted from AB's Introduction to The Discourse about the Noble Search. Here AB challenges
the widely accepted tradition that the Buddha had two teachers, Āḷāra and Uddaka, whom he visited and learned from before beginning his ascetic practices and eventually realising Awakening for himself.
The main source for this tradition is this very discourse and its parallels, and the Buddha’s recollections as contained herein. However, the Buddha makes a very clear distinction between these two, and he only refers to Āḷāra as his teacher, saying: Iti kho bhikkhave, Āḷāro Kālāmo ācariyo me samāno, antevāsiṁ maṁ samānaṁ attano samasamaṁ ṭhapesi, uḷārāya ca maṁ pūjāya pūjesi. Thus my teacher Āḷāra Kālāma, monks, placed me, the pupil, as equal, and on the very same position as himself, and worshipped me with the highest worship.
Here he specifically refers to Āḷāra as his teacher, ācariya, and also states that he was the pupil, antevāsī.
In the parallel passage with Uddaka, however, he says something very different: Iti kho, bhikkhave, Uddako Rāmaputto sabrahmacārī, me samāno, ācariyaṭṭhāne maṁ ṭhapesi, uḷārāya ca maṁ pūjāya pūjesi. Thus my friend in the spiritual life, Uddaka Rāmaputta, monks, placed me in the teacher’s position, and worshipped me with the highest worship.
He doesn’t refer to Uddaka as his teacher, but as a friend in the spiritual life (sabrahmacārī) and Uddaka doesn’t place him on the same footing, but as the teacher above himself.
The reason for this is that Uddaka was not the teacher of the group: that had been someone named Rāma, who is always referred to in the past tense and as absent, presumably because he was no longer living.
Compare the following passages in the Pāḷi. The first concerning Āḷāra, where the Bodhisatta is asking about Āḷāra’s personal attainment: Kittāvatā no, āvuso Kālāma: imaṁ Dhammaṁ sayaṁ abhiññā, sacchikatvā upasampajja pavedesī? ti. In what way, friend Kālāma, do you declare: I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it?
The parallel passage with Uddaka, however, has him asking not about his own, but about Rāma’s attainment:Kittāvatā no, āvuso: Rāmo imaṁ Dhammaṁ sayaṁ abhiññā, sacchikatvā upasampajja pavedesī? ti. In what way, friend, did Rāma declare: I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it?
At a later point Āḷāra says:Iti yāhaṁ Dhammaṁ sayaṁ abhiññā, sacchikatvā upasampajja pavedemi. Thus I declare I have deep knowledge of this Dhamma myself, having directly experienced and attained it. as opposed to:Iti yaṁ Dhammaṁ Rāmo sayaṁ abhiññā, sacchikatvā upasampajja pavedesi. Thus Rāma declared he had deep knowledge of this Dhamma himself, having directly experienced and attained it.
From this we conclude that according to the early tradition at least the Buddha only accepted Āḷāra as his teacher, and Rāma, though he had higher attainments than Āḷāra, had already passed away when the Bodhisatta came into contact with his group, and he never met him or took him, or his son, as his teacher.
This distinction sheds light on subtle distinctions in Aśvaghoṣa's use of words, whose significance we might otherwise have missed.
For example in yesterday's verse Aśvaghoṣa spoke of Arāḍa's dharmam (dharma, teaching), but in today's verse he speaks of Udraka's darśanam (view, doctrine, system [EHJ: system; PO: doctrine]).
It is true that in BC12.13 the bodhisattva, addressing Arāḍa, speaks of tvad-darśanam (your view, your doctrine, your way of seeing [EHJ: your system; PO: your philosophy]).
But then in BC12.15, almost as if to correct the bodhisattva's choice of words, Aśvaghoṣa himself as narrator emphasizes that Arāḍa related to the bodhisattva the purport of svasya śāstrasya, his own teaching. The svasya (his own) takes on particular significance in light of the evident fact that Udraka's doctrine was not his own teaching; it was rather a view or doctrine that he had inherited from the previous incumbent of the ashram named Rāma.
Again, maybe most tellingly, in yesterday's verse Aśvaghoṣa said that having understood Arāḍa's dharma, the bodhisattva went back from there (tata pratijagāma ha), but in BC12.88 he will say how the bodhisattva left, abandoned, quit, or even shunned Udraka (udrakam atyajat).
viśeṣam (acc. sg.): m. distinction , peculiar merit , excellence , superiority
atha: ind. then, and so,
śuśrūṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desiring to listen / learn
śru: to hear , listen or attend to anything (acc.) , give ear to any one (acc. or gen.) , hear or learn anything about (acc.) ; to hear (from a teacher) , study , learn ; to be attentive , be obedient , obey
udrakasya (gen. sg.): m. Udraka ; N. of a ṛṣi.
āśramam (acc. sg. m.): ashram, hermitage
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go, proceed
ātma-grāhāt (abl. sg.): because of the notion of a soul
grāha: m. seizing, laying hold of ; conception , notion of (in comp.)
tasya (gen. sg.): of him, his
api: also (emphatic)
jagṛhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. grah: to grasp, accept, take to
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
darśanam (acc. sg.): n. seeing ; view , doctrine , philosophical system