Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas
From the Psalms:
Reborn in this Buddha age at Savatthi. in a brahmin family, he was named Vangisa, and was taught the three Vedas. And he won favor as a teacher by tapping on skulls with his finger-nail, and discovering thereby where their former occupants were reborn. The Brahmins saw in this a means of gain, and taking Vangisa toured about in villages, townships and royal residences ... Now he heard of the Master's virtues, and wished to visit him, but the Brahmins objected, saying: 'Gotama the recluse will pervert you by his craftiness.' But Vangisa heeded them not and went, seating himself at one side. The Master seeing him asked: 'Vangisa, do you know any art or craft?' 'Yes, Master Gotama, I know the skull-spell. By that, tapping on a skull with my finger-nail, have I, for three years past ascertained where rebirth as taken place.' The master let him be shown the skulls of individuals reborn in purgatory, as man, as god, and of one who had passed utterly away [attained Nibbana]. Divining concerning all but the last, of that he could make nothing. Then the Master: 'Art not able, Vangisa?' 'Let me make quite sure, said Vangisa, and he turned it round again and again till the sweat stood on his brow - for how will he know the going of the arahant? And he stood there silent and shamed. 'Art tired, Vangisa?' 'Ay, Master Gotama, I cannot find out where this one has been reborn. If you know, tell it.' 'Vangisa, both this I know, and I know more than this:
He who of every creature knoweth well
Whence they decease and where they come to be,
Enlightened, well come, freed from every tie: --
Him call I brahmin.
Whose destiny nor angel, god, nor man
Doth know, the arahant, sane and immune:--
Him call I brahmin.'
Then said Vangisa: 'Well then, Master Gotama, give me this hidden lore.' And doing obeisance, he seated himself as the Masters pupil. But the Master said: 'Let us give you the marks of a recluse.' Then Vangisa thought: 'I must at all costs learn this spell.' And he said to his fellow-Brahmins: 'Do not think it amiss if I take orders. When I have learned this spell, I shall be first in all India, and that will bring you good fortune.' So he asked for ordination and the Exalted One commanded Nigrodhakappa Thera, who stood near, to ordain Vangisa. The Thera did so, and then saying: 'You must first learn the accessories of the spell, gave him the exercise of the thirty-two constituents of the body and one on insight. Rehearsing the former, he established the latter faculty. And when Brahmins came to ask whether he had acquired the art, he replied: 'What art-acquiring? Go ye hence; I have no more to do with you.' The Brahmins said: 'There! he too has got into the power of Gotama the recluse, perverted by craftiness. What have we to do with you as teacher?' And they went away. But Vangisa realized arahantship.
DPPN: He then visited the Buddha again and praised him in various verses, full of similes and metaphors. This brought him reputation as a poet ...
Selections From: PTS, Book of the Kindred Sayings I, Mrs. Rhys Davids, trans, The Vangisa Suttas, pp234ff
Thus have I heard: - The venerable Vangisa was once staying near Alavi ... Then a number of women, gaily adorned, came into the pleasance to see the Vihara. And seeing those women, disaffection in consequence arose in the venerable Vangisa, and lust harassed his heart ...
Alas! That now when I am gone from home
Into the homeless life, these wanton thoughts
Sprung from the Dark should flit about my mind!
Were high-born warriors, mighty archers, trained
In champion bow-craft, such as never flee,
A thousand, shooting arrows round about --
But women! ... well, far more than these may come,
Yet shall they never wreck my peace of mind.
Firmly established in the Norm I stand.
For even in his presence have I heard
The Buddha of the sun's high lineage tell
About the Path that to Nibbana goes,
And there the love of all my heart is given.
Now that I always in such mood abide,
Dost think, vile one, thou canst draw nigh to me;
Then shall I act in such wise, Death, that thou
Wilt ne'er discover which the way I take.
On another occasion, at the same place, the venerable Vangisa was despising amiable brethren because of his skill in improvisation. Then blaming himself for such conduct, he of himself repented and in that hour uttered the verses: --
Renounce conceit, thou Gotama's disciple!
Wholly from path of pride remove thy foot,
Since with that path some time infatuated
Long ere to-day thou truly didst repent.
By self-deceit deceived this generation.
Destroyed by vanity, is doomed to woe.
For many an age in purgatory
Will folk eaten by pride lament their doom.
He weepeth not at any time, that brother,
Path-victor, who the highest hath achieved.
Both fame and happy conscience he enjoyeth.
With truth they call him Seer of the Norm.
Hence in this life, strenuous, unimpeded,
Dispelled all hindrances, and purified,
Renouncing pride and vanity entirely,
Calm and with knowledge, doth he make an end.
On one occasion, when he was at the Jeta Vana, the Exalted One addressed the brethren, saying: 'Bhikkhus!' 'Yea, lord,' they said responsive. And he spake: 'Possessed of four qualities, Bhikkhus, is the speech that is well and not ill spoken, faultless and not blamable by the wise. Of what four qualities? Here, Bhikkhus, if a brother speak well and not badly, speak righteously and not unrighteously, speak affectionately and not unkindly, speak truth and not falsehood, his speech having these four qualities, is well spoken, faultless, and not blamable by the wise.' ...
Then the venerable Vangisa, rising from his seat, and draping his outer robe over one shoulder, stretched forth his hands saluting, to the Exalted One, and said: 'It is revealed to me, Exalted One, it is revealed to me, Blessed One!'
The Exalted One said: 'Be it revealed to thee, Vangisa!'
Then the venerable Vangisa extolled the Exalted One in his presence in suitable verses: --
Whoso can speak a word whereby he works
No torment to himself, nor causeth harm
To fellow-men, that word is spoken well.
Whoso can speak a kindly word, a word
That's grateful to the ear, and lays not hold
Of other's faults, that word is kindly spoke.
Truth is ambrosial speech; of saints of old
This was the ancient Norm; on Truth and good
And Norm, 't is said, the saints do firmly stand.
The Word which the Awakened speaketh, sure
Safe guide to make Nibbana ours, to put
An end to Ill: - that is the Word Supreme.
[On another occasion, after a similar recitation of verses 'revealed to Vangisa' the Potter asked:]
'Say now, Vangisa, were these verses thought out by thee beforehand, or have they been revealed to thee just on the spot?'
'Nay, lord, these verses were not thought out by me beforehand; they were revealed to me just on the spot.'