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The following sutta AN 5.191 is a bit unusual, because it seems to highlight the moral decadence of newer generations of brahmins / brahmans, compared to the older generations.

However, to my understanding, the Buddha was not concerned with intercaste marriages firstly. Secondly, I don't think there was sex slave trade in ancient India. Thirdly, brahmins who were not monks, need not collect almsfood, because they can store and cook their own food. Fourthly, it looks like an ad hominem attack.

So, to me, this looks like a polemical sutta that was inserted later, and not originally spoken by the Buddha.

Was there any commentaries or scholarly opinions on this topic?

Or is this sutta indeed coherent with the rest of the Buddha's teachings?

“Monks, these five ancient brahmanical traditions are now observed among dogs but not among brahmans. Which five?

“In the past, brahman males mated only with brahman females and not with non-brahman females. At present, brahman males mate with brahman females and with non-brahman females. At present, male dogs mate only with female dogs and not with female non-dogs. This is the first ancient brahmanical tradition that is now observed among dogs but not among brahmans.

“In the past, brahman males mated with brahman females only in-season and not out-of-season. At present, brahman males mate with brahman females in-season and out-of-season. At present, male dogs mate with female dogs only in-season and not out-of-season. This is the second ancient brahmanical tradition that is now observed among dogs but not among brahmans.

“In the past, brahman males did not buy or sell brahman females, but took up cohabitation for the sake of reproduction simply through mutual attraction. At present, brahman males buy and sell brahman females, and take up cohabitation for the sake of reproduction simply through mutual attraction. At present, male dogs do not buy or sell female dogs, but take up cohabitation for the sake of reproduction simply through mutual attraction. This is the third ancient brahmanical tradition that is now observed among dogs but not among brahmans.

“In the past, brahmans did not make a stash of wealth, grain, silver, or gold. At present, brahmans make stashes of wealth, grain, silver, & gold. At present, dogs do not make a stash of wealth, grain, silver, or gold. This is the fourth ancient brahmanical tradition that is now observed among dogs but not among brahmans.

“In the past, brahmans searched for alms for their morning meal in the morning, and for their evening meal in the evening. At present, brahmans, having eaten as much as they like, swelling their bellies, leave taking the leftovers. At present, dogs search for alms for their morning meal in the morning, and for their evening meal in the evening. This is the fifth ancient brahmanical tradition that is now observed among dogs but not among brahmans.

“These, monks, are the five ancient brahmanical traditions that are now observed among dogs but not among brahmans.”

AN 5.191

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    This question could be opinion-based.
    – ruben2020
    Oct 16 at 8:57
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    Comparing one's opponents to dogs is very unbuddha like. Looks like a later insertion.
    – user21367
    Oct 16 at 9:12
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    "I don't think there was sex slave trade in ancient India" Well ... I think it exists/existed in most large (i.e. not isolated) human societies (so I'd assume ancient India also). Also I think that AN 5.177 includes Sattavanijja in the short list of "wrong livelihood" for laypeople, and that that means "slave trade".
    – ChrisW
    Oct 16 at 9:44
  • But in context I suppose it's referring to dowries. Wikipedia's "Dowry system in India - Historical context" suggests that indeed it's a modern invention (e.g. later than 2nd century BC -- but "dowry" means "the bride's family paying the groom", not "the groom buying the bride", so I don't know. The Pali word is kiṇantipi and vikkiṇantipi, I wonder if "buy" and "sell" is an accurate translation? There's no common English word for the opposite i.e. for being paid to take something.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 16 at 10:04
  • @ChrisW I thought about dowry too. But it doesn't make sense since the bride's parents pay it.
    – ruben2020
    Oct 16 at 11:04
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If you look at the original:

“Pañcime, bhikkhave, porāṇā brāhmaṇadhammā etarahi sunakhesu sandissanti, no brāhmaṇesu. Katame pañca?

Pubbe sudaṁ, bhikkhave, brāhmaṇā brāhmaṇiṁyeva gacchanti, no abrāhmaṇiṁ. Variant: sudaṁ → pubbassudaṁ (mr)Etarahi, bhikkhave, brāhmaṇā brāhmaṇimpi gacchanti, abrāhmaṇimpi gacchanti. Etarahi, bhikkhave, sunakhā sunakhiṁyeva gacchanti, no asunakhiṁ. Ayaṁ, bhikkhave, paṭhamo porāṇo brāhmaṇadhammo etarahi sunakhesu sandissati, no brāhmaṇesu.

Then the root word used to refer to dogs is sunakh-, where the words used to refer to dog, as in the animal species, in Pali are usually koṭṭhu° or Kukkura (hence the modern Hindi कुत्ता. Kuttā). So this is an interesting choice of word, since this root word is found in the Petavatthu meaning or alluding to something completely different:

  • sunakho te khādati: a constituent part of a whole or system or collection (Pv II.1210, 13, 18)
  • in °sunakha, the Dog of Purgatory (Pv 152) of a dark, i.e. miserable, unfortunate birth, or social condition

So it's very plausible this text is wordplay to compare the behavior of the highest cast in the contemporary society (brahmin) to the lowest cast. I probably do not need to remind anyone that even today the lowest cast in India is referred to as "untouchables". As such, it's interesting that the word sandissati forms an idiom with the sunakh- root, so that sunakhesu sandissanti,can also mean "they are of no more value"( J.VI,217 )

We actually have the same wordplay in modern English vernacular: everyone knows what "you dog, you!" is referring to. It's not suggesting the person is an actual dog, but alluding to behavior.

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Samyutta Nikaya 45.8

"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

It is very unbuddha like to compare one's opponents to dogs. AN 5.191, can thus be argued to be a later insertion. However, it is subjective whether the argument will be accepted.

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This answer includes,

But Sujato thinks that the Anguttara is anyway later than Samyutta since it was composed using the small-sized suttas that could not be included in the thematic system of the Samyutta.

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It really depends on cultural norms, who the audience is, the intention and attitude with which one speaks, whether comparing heterodox tradition to dogs is inappropriate.

In MN 152 Buddha compares the teaching of brahmans by pointing out, "then blind men and deaf men would have developed faculties by their standard." https://lucid24.org/mn/mn152/index.html

Is that insulting? Could be. But is it true? Yes.

Ask the same question with AN 5.191

AN 6.29 Buddha asks a disciple "what are the 6 recollections". He gets the answer wrong, Buddha calls him a foolish man (mogha purisa). Is that insulting? It that un Buddha like? You can find plenty more examples like that.

In MN 75 (I think), the Buddha makes a simile of a brahman teacher deluding his students by blindfolding them and lying to them about their health condition. The Buddha asks, if the person removed the blindfold, realized that teacher was lying to him, wouldn't he want to kill him? Shocking isn't it? Is it insulting to that brahman? Is that un Buddha like? Or is he simply stating something likely to be true?

I think people project too much of their own ideas of virtue on to the Buddha and arahants. You all imagine the Buddha has some super power where everything that comes out of his mouth is politically correct and completely inoffensive to all people at all times.

There's also the concept of satire and humor. That existed during the Buddha's time too.

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