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The following phrase comes from DN 13:

“ayameva ujumaggo, ayamañjasāyano niyyāniko niyyāti takkarassa
brahmasahabyatāya, yvāyaṃ akkhāto brāhmaṇena pokkharasātinā”ti.

T.W. Rhys Davids translated here as:

‘This is the straight path, this the direct way which makes for salvation, and leads him, who acts according to it, into a state of union with Brahmā. I mean that which has been announced by the Brahman Pokkharasādi.’

Bhikkhu Sujato translated here as:

“This is the only straight path, the direct route that leads someone who practices it to the company of Brahmā; namely, that explained by the brahmin Pokkharasāti.”

What does "brahmasahabyatāya" mean? What does "sahabyatāya" mean?

This translation could be meaningful. "Union with Brahman" sounds like the modern Hindu concept of Moksha which is a union with God or Ultimate Reality. On the other hand, "company of Brahma" sounds like rebirth into the Brahma realm. What's the correct interpretation?

7 Answers 7

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This topic is thoroughly analyzed in a 2013 paper “Brahmanical Terminology and the Straight Way in the Tevijja Sutta" by Brett Shults.

There, Shults explains that "sahaya" means "friend", "companion" - therefore "sahavyata" means "companionship" or "fellowship".

Shults explains (as ChrisW said too) that the term refers to the Brahman's idea of The Goal, which Buddha then takes and clarifies according to the Buddhist proper interpretation.

Shults also argues that the meaning of the word is most probably "joining", "in a sense as we might speak of joining a club".

I personally think "sahaya" means something more like "sidekick" or "henchman" - i.e. someone who is always together with, but is "lesser" than, the main figure. The idea IMO is that one is in a state of joining with Brahma without actually being Brahma.

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In DN 13 the term is originally used by Brahmins talking with each other, and so between them it meant whatever (non-Buddhist doctrine) they each understood it to mean.

At the end of the sutta the Buddha teaches them the four brahmaviharas and defines or explains that these are the path to "companionship with Brahma" -- i.e. I think he thus redefines brahmasahabyatāya (whatever it used to mean) in Buddhist terms, in a way that can be understood and agreed by the Brahmins.

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I feel this is "in the audience/assembly of the brahma". So "company of the brahma" seems more right. This seems more like a literal translation.

Looking at the context union with the brahma might be right if the brahmins were teaching this. In the case the brahmins in question were teaching being born among the brahmas or brahma plane then company of the brahma is more correct.

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DN 13 is not for Buddhists. It is an example of the Buddha's universal love; in that he taught something suitable for Brahmins; which probably also became the doctrine of Christianity. The Lord Buddha is the Lord of the whole world. MN 115 says there is only one Buddha is a world-system.

"Union with Brahman" merely means "Universal Love". Refer to MN 43, which refers to Boundless Liberation Via Loving-Kindness (which is said to not be the foremost liberation).

Previously, the Brahmans, like the Jews, believed they were a chosen or special people, born of Brahma's Mouth or Breath (refer to MN 93). But Buddha, which was later taught by Jesus, said Brahma is Universal Love (rather than exclusive tribal or caste self-love).

This is unrelated to "rebirth" or Hindu Moksha.

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Householder Ruben, interested,

Would you say, perceive, that you are now in Union with Brahma-SE or in the company of Brahma-SE? Or even deny the relation, dependency, company or union with his host?

Would you say that you are here with Brahma-SE or of Brahma-SE?

In the same way there are being perceiving the body as the own, or the own in the body, ...

And likes as gained a human awareness, there are those who perceive own in this or that way and those free from the fetter of sakkaya-view, and those in all ways liberated.

So what is real? Worthy to seek for, worthy to go after?

(Note: this is not given for exchange, stacks, trade or entertainment but as a means for liberation from this wheel.)

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My view would be that 'union' is the more rigorous word. 'Companionship' suggests a separation from Brahman but where there are 'not-two' separation is impossible.

Yoga is the art of union with reality, not the art of of becoming a distinct phenomenon.

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The Buddha says: This is a path to companionship with Brahmā.

Regardless of whether companionship means union or company, the Buddha says that this is a path that is related to Brahmā (and not to Emptiness / Void)

Company with Brahmā is lower than Union with Brahmā.

What sort of 'company' can it possibly be that will justify to be called The path of Lord Buddha ?

It is - becoming One with Brahmā.

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