Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Dialogues of the Buddha
Characteristics of the True Brahman
Translated from the Pali by T.W. Rhys Davids
Originally published under the patronage of
His Majesty King Chulalankarana,
King of Siam
by The Pali Text Society, Oxford
This Dialogue comes very appropriately immediately after the Ambattha. That dealt with the general question of pride of birth, or social position. This deals with the special question of what is the essential quality which makes a man a Brahman. The conclusion is, no doubt, substantially the same. But there is a difference, and the difference is instructive.
In trying to gain over Ambattha to his (the Buddha's) view of the essential distinction - rather than birth or social position - between man and man, Gotama includes the whole list as set out above in the thirteen divisions of the Samannaphala. In trying to gain over Sonadanda to his (the Buddha's) view of what is the essential quality that makes a man a Brahman, he gives the same details, but puts the Jhanas (the states of Ecstasy) not under Conduct, but under Panna (intelligence).
The reason seems to be simply that the verse, on which the exposition in the Ambattha turns, mentions only Wisdom and Conduct (containing no word for Intelligence), and that it is not thought accurate to put the states of Ecstasy (which are Indian, not specially Buddhist) under Wisdom. It is true that the Buddhist position is that 'goodness is a function of intelligence, as beauty is of health' (to quote the words of Matthew Bassendine). But under Intelligence they always distinguish two phases-the enquiring, and necessarily therefore doubting, activity, of the mind; and the final stage of emancipation and peace when the laws of the universe are clearly seen, and firmly grasped, and cheerfully acquiesced in.
 It is this latter phase which they call Wisdom (Vijja) - the contrary of the Avijja, which is ignorance of the action of Karma, of the Four Noble Truths, and of the doctrine of the asavas or Intoxications. The man who knows these; who, finally and permanently out of the jungle and in the open, quite beyond the stage of 'wasting his wonder on the fabulous soul,' has attained to, and remains in this state of Nirvana in Arahatship, is not only, in Buddhist terminology, called a Brahman, but is, in fact, declared to be the only true Brahman.
It is amazing that Sonadanda, as learned as he is wealthy, does not see that this, the logical outcome of the Buddha's argument, and carefully led upto in the final paragraph of the exposition, is really incompatible with the supremacy of the Brahmans in the ordinary sense of that word. He is baffled by the skill with which he is gradually led on, by the usual Socratic method adopted in so many of the Dialogues, to accept one self-evident truth after another. There is indeed nothing, till we come to that last paragraph, which any intelligent Brahman could not, with safety, and with due regard to his own doctrine, fully accept. In other words, the doctrine of Brahman supremacy was intellectually indefensible. It was really quite inconsistent with the ethical standard of the times, which the Brahmans, in common with the rest of the people, fully accepted.
Our Sutta is by no means the only one in which the same, or a similar, argument leads up to the same, or a similar, conclusion. It will aid us in understanding the real gist of our Sutta to mention one or two of these.
In the Tikanna and Janussoni Suttas of the Anguttara the question put by the Buddha is: 'What sort of person do you Brahmans acknowledge to be a Tevijja Brahman (a Brahman with threefold lore)?'
The answer of each of the Brahmans is, in the words of our Sutta, § 4: 'A Brahman well born on both sides, of pure descent, through the father and through the mother, back through seven generations, with no slur put upon him, and no reproach, in respect of birth - a repeater (of the sacred words) knowing the mystic verses by heart, one who has mastered the Three Vedas, with the indices, the ritual, the phonology, and the exegesis (as a fourth), and with the  legends as a fifth - a man learned in the (etymologies of the) words and in the grammar, versed in Lokayata (Nature-lore) and in the theory of the signs on the body of a great man.'
Whereupon the Buddha rejoins that in the teaching of the Arahats the 'threefold lore' is different; and on being asked what it is, answers in the words of sections 93, 95, and 97 of the Samanna-phala Sutta, which are quoted as the last three paragraphs of his exposition in our Sutta, that is to say,
a. The knowledge of one's own previous births.
b. The knowledge of other people's previous births.
c. The knowledge of the Four Truths, and of the Four Intoxications (asavas), leading on to the emancipation of Arahatship.
The only difference is that at the end of each section, and after the words setting forth the emancipation, the following sentence is added:
'This first (or second, or third) lore hath he required. Ignorance is dispelled within him, and wisdom has been born. The darkness has been dissipated, the light has appeared. (And all this) inasmuch as he has continued in earnestness, in zeal, in mastery of himself.'
And at the end of the whole the following verses are also added:
'Him do they honour whose heart, - unswerving in goodness, and wise,
Given to earnest thought, - rests in his own control,
Pacified, stedfast. And him resolute, able in method,
Threefold in knowledge, dispelling the darkness, the conqueror of Death, who
Lived for the weal of gods and of men delivered from folly,
Him of the threefold lore, mindful and self-possessed,
Him do they honour, the Buddha, our Gotama, wearing now,
Conqueror, too, of Birth, the last of his mortal frames!'
'Tis he who is a Brahmana indeed
Who knows the births that he has lived before;
And sees (with Heavenly Eye) the states of bliss,
And states of woe, that other men pass through;
Has reached the end of all rebirths, become
A sage, perfect in insight, Arahat,
In these three modes of knowledge threefold wise.
 Him do I call a Brahman, threefold wise,
And not the man who mutters o'er again
The mystic verse so often muttered through before.'
How important a place this doctrine occupied in early Buddhism is made evident by the fact that this latter stanza, with variations at the close, is so constantly repeated. We find it in the 99th Sutta of the Itivuttaka (p. 100) and in the 91st Sutta of the Majjhima (the Brahmaya Sutta). And it is quoted also, not only in this Sutta in the Anguttara, and in another Sutta in the Sanyutta (I, 167), but also in the collection of verses from the Pitakas called the Dhammapada (verse 423); and also in the other collection of such verses (probably belonging to some other school of Buddhists), now preserved in the oldest MS. yet discovered in India, the so-called Kharoshthi MS., portions of which have simultaneously found their way, last year, to both St. Petersburg and Paris.
The whole section of the Dhammapada, which contains this quotation, consists of no less than forty verses, each of which, from one point of view or another, emphasise this point of the identification, by the Buddhists, of the Arahat with the Brahman. Twenty-seven of them are taken from the Vasettha Sutta of the Sutta Nipata in which the question raised is precisely the same as that raised in our Sutta, and in which the reply, though different in details, amounts to much the same as the reply given here.
Two conclusions force themselves upon us. It is, in the first place, a striking proof of the high social esteem in which the Brahmans, as such, and quite irrespective of character, were held by the masses of the people. We have hitherto only had the views which the Brahmans held about themselves. And very absurd they seem to readers whose own vivid sense of superiority rests on a self-complacency quite as inexpugnable as that of the Brahmans. Here we have evidence from an independent source, - evidence all the stronger because it is found in Suttas in which the exclusive claims of the Brahmans by birth are vigorously contested. When the Buddhists, in selecting a title of honour for those they valued so highly, for the best of men, for the Arahats, selected the name of Brahman, it is clear that that word, in the opinion of the early Buddhists, conveyed to the minds of the people an exalted meaning, a connotation of real veneration and respect. And it is not likely that this would have been the case unless the Brahmans had, at least as  a general rule, deserved it - and on other grounds than the mere prerogative of birth.
In the second place, if the contention of the Buddhists had been universally accepted - if the word Brahman had come to mean, not only a man of a certain descent, but exclusively a man of a certain character and insight then the present caste system of India could never have grown up. But it was obviously impossible that the contention should succeed.
The method, adopted by all reformers, of pouring new wine into old bottles, putting new meanings into ancient words, can only succeed under conditions, that, in this case, were non-existent. And it is always open to the danger that, with the old and hallowed word, the old superstition associated with it will also survive. It was a method largely adopted by the Buddhists; and in numerous other cases, to which I have elsewhere called attention, adopted with success. The subsequent language of India is full of phrases and words which bear, not the meaning which they previously bore, but the new and higher meaning put into them by Buddhists. But in this case the two ideas were too widely apart, too contradictory. A physical meaning cannot be replaced by an ethical one. The actual facts of life, which they could not alter, could not, indeed, attempt to alter, were a constant influence, against their view, too strong to be overcome. Brahmans by birth, many of them, perhaps most of them, engaged in various worldly trades and occupations, and therefore Brahmans only by birth, were so constant and so important a factor in the daily and hourly life of the people, that the idea of birth could not be dissociated from the word. The Buddhists failed. And they not only failed, their very choice of the word as a title of honour, must (through the wide influence they exercised for so many centuries throughout and beyond the valley of the Ganges) have actually afforded a fresh strength to the veneration which the word inspired. The very means they adopted to lend weight to their doctrine of emancipation became a weapon to be turned against themselves.
It is unlikely that this really mattered much. The point was only one detail in a broad scheme which was doomed from the outset to failure-that is if failure to attain immediate and lasting acceptance can rightly be called the failure of a theory of life.
A theory which placed the ideal in Self-conquest, regarded final salvation as obtainable in this world, and in this world  only, and only by self-conquest - a view of life that ignored the 'soul' and brought the very gods themselves under the domain of law - a religious movement which aimed its keenest shafts against all those forms of belief in the supernatural and mysterious, appealing most strongly alike to the hopes and to the fears of the people - a philosophy that confined itself to going back, step by step, from effect to cause, and poured scorn on speculations as to the ultimate origin and end of all things - might gain, by the powerful personality of its founder and the enthusiasm and zeal of his early followers, a certain measure of temporary success. But it fought against too many vested interests at once, it raised up too many enemies, it tried in 'pouring new wine into the old bottles' to retain too much of the ancient phraseology, for lasting victory - at least at that time, and in an advancing country then assimilating to itself surrounding peoples at a lower grade of culture. The end was inevitable. And it was actually brought about, not by persecution, but by the gradual weakening of the theory itself, the gradual creeping back, under new forms and new names, of the more popular beliefs.
The very event, which seemed, in the eyes of the world, to be the most striking proof of the success of the new movement, the conversion and strenuous support of Asoka, the most powerful ruler India had had - indeed the first real overlord over practically the whole of India - only hastened the decline. The adhesion of large numbers of nominal converts, more especially from the newly incorporated and less advanced provinces, produced weakness, rather than strength, in the movement for reform. The day of compromise had come. Every relaxation of the old thoroughgoing position was widely supported by converts only half converted. And the margin of difference between the Buddhists and their opponents gradually faded almost entirely away. The soul theory, step by step, gained again the upper hand. The caste system was gradually built up into a completely organised system. The social supremacy of the Brahmans by birth became accepted as an incontrovertible fact. And the inflood of popular superstition which overwhelmed the Buddhist movement, overwhelmed also the whole pantheon of the Vedic gods. Buddhism and Brahmanism alike passed practically away, and modern Hinduism arose on the ruins of both.
The struggle is now being renewed under conditions perhaps, on the whole, more favourable. The tone of worldliness and love of material comfort, the eager restless-  ness of modern social, and economic competition, the degradation of learning to a mere means of getting on and making money, are no doubt all unfavourable to any movement for the social and religious elevation of a people. But history shows, notably in the case of the Reformation in Europe, how powerfully the contact of two diverse views of life tends to widen the thoughts of men. Both India and Europe in the twentieth century may be fairly expected to afford fresh examples of the same influence. And in India the powerful aid of the new methods of science and of historical criticism will lend their invaluable aid to the party endeavouring, now once again, to place the ideal, not in birth, but in character and wisdom.
IV. Sonadanda Sutta
Characteristics of the True Brahman
 THUS HAVE I HEARD.
The Blessed One once, when going on a tour through the Anga country with a great multitude of the brethren, with about five hundred brethren, arrived at Campa.
And there at Campa he lodged on the bank of the Gaggara Lake.
Now at that time the Brahman Sonadanda was dwelling at Campa, a place teeming with life, with much grassland and woodland and water and corn, on a royal domain granted him by Seniya Bimbisara, the king of Magadha, as a royal fief, with power over it as if he were the king.
 Now the Brahmans and householders of Campa heard the news:
'They say that the Samana Gotama of the Sakya clan, who went out from a Sakya family to adopt the religious life, has now arrived, with a great  company of the brethren at Campa, and is staying there on the shore of the Gaggara Lake.
Now regarding that venerable Gotama, such is the high reputation that has been noised abroad:
- That Blessed One is an Arahat, a fully awakened one, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with 'Knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, a Blessed One, a Buddha.
He, by himself, thoroughly knows and sees, as it were, face-to-face this universe - including the worlds above of the gods, the Brahmas, and the Maras, and the world below with its recluses and Brahmans, its princes and peoples, and having known it, he makes his knowledge known to others.
The truth, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation, doth he proclaim, both in the spirit and in the letter, the higher life doth he make known, in all its fullness, and in all its purity.
'And good is it to pay visits to Arahats like that.'
 Now at that time Sonadanda the Brahman had gone apart to the upper terrace of his house for his siesta, and seeing the people thus go by, he said to his doorkeeper:
'Why are the people of Campa, going forth like this towards the Gaggara Lake?'
Then the doorkeeper told him the news.
And he said:
'Then, good doorkeeper, go to the Brahmans and householders of Campa, and say to them:
"Sonadanda the Brahman desires them to wait.
He will himself come to see the Samana Gotama."'
'Very well, Sir,' said the doorkeeper, and he did so.
  Now at that time there were about five hundred Brahmans from different kingdoms lodging at Campa for some business or other.
And when they heard that Sonadanda was intending to visit  the Samana Gotama, they went to Sonadanda, and asked whether that was so.
'That is my intention, Sirs.
I propose to call on the Samana Gotama.'
'Let not the venerable Sonadanda do that.
It is not fitting for him to do so.
If it were the venerable Sonadanda who went to call upon him, then the venerable Sonadanda's reputation would decrease and the Samana Gotama's would increase.
This is the first reason why you, Sir, should not call upon, him, but he upon you.'
 And they laid before Sonadanda the Brahman in like manner also other considerations, to wit:
That he was well born on both sides, of pure descent through the mother and through the father back through seven generations, with no slur put upon him, and no reproach, in respect of birth -
That he was prosperous, well to do, and rich -
 That he was a repeater (of the sacred words), knowing the mystic verses by heart, one who had mastered the Three Vedas, with the indices, the ritual, the phonology, and the exegesis (as a fourth), and the legends as a fifth, learned in the words and in the grammar, versed in Lokayata (Nature-lore), and in the theory of the signs on the body of a great man -
That he was virtuous, increased in virtue, gifted with virtue that had waxed great -
That he had a pleasant voice and pleasing delivery, and was gifted with polite address, distinct, not husky, suitable for making clear the matter in hand -
That he was the teacher of the teachers of many,  instructing three hundred Brahmans in the repetition of the mystic verses, and that many young Brahmans, from various directions and various counties, all craving for the verses, came to learn them by heart under him -
That he was aged, old, and well stricken in years, long-lived and full of days -
That he was honoured, held of weight, esteemed worthy, venerated and revered by Seniya Bimbisara, the king of Magadha -
That lie was honoured, held of weight, esteemed worthy, venerated and revered by Pokkharasadi, the Brahman -
That he dwelt at Campa, a place teeming with life, with much grassland and woodland and corn, on a royal fief granted him by Seniya Bimbisara, the king of Magadha, as a royal gift, with power over it as if he were the king -
For each of these reasons it was not fitting that he, Sonadanda the Brahman, should call upon the Samana Gotama, but rather that the Samana Gotama should call upon him.
 And when they had thus spoken, Sonadanda said to them:
 'Then, Sirs, listen, and hear why it is fitting that I should call upon the venerable Gotama, and not he should call upon me -
'Truly, Sirs, the venerable Gotama is well born on both sides, of pure descent through the mother and the father back through seven generations, with no slur put upon him, and no reproach in respect of birth -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama has gone forth (into the religious life), giving up the great clan of his relations -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama has gone forth (into the religious life), giving up much money and gold, treasure both buried and above the ground -
 'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama, while he was still a young man, without a grey hair on his head, in the beauty of his early manhood, has gone forth from the household life into the homeless state -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama, though his father and mother were unwilling, and wept, their cheeks being wet with tears, nevertheless cut off his hair and beard, and donned the yellow robes, and went out from the household life into the homeless state -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama is handsome, pleasant to look upon, inspiring trust, gifted with great beauty of complexion, fair in colour, fine in presence, stately to behold -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama is virtuous with the virtue of the Arahats, good and virtuous, gifted with goodness and virtue -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama hath a pleasant voice, and a pleasing delivery, he is gifted with polite address, distinct, not husky, suitable for making clear the matter in hand -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama is the teacher of the teachers of many -
'Truly, Sirs the Samana Gotama has no passion of lust left in him, and has put away all fickleness of mind -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama believes in Karma, and in action, he is one who puts righteousness in the forefront (of his exhortations) to the Brahman race -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama went forth from a distinguished family primeval among the Kshatriya clans -
 'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama went forth from a family prosperous, well to do, and rich -
 'Truly, Sirs, people come right across the country from distant lands to ask questions of the Samana Gotama -
'Truly, Sirs, multitudes of heavenly beings put their trust in the Samana Gotama -
'Truly, Sirs, such is the high reputation noised abroad concerning the Samana Gotama, that he is said to be an Arahat, exalted, fully awakened, abounding in wisdom and righteousness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, a Blessed One, a Buddha -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama has all the thirty two bodily marks of a Great Being -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama bids all men welcome, is congenial, conciliatory, not supercilious, accessible to all, not backward in conversation -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama is honoured, held of weight, esteemed and venerated and revered by the four classes (of his followers-the brethren and sisters of the Order, laymen and lay women) -
'Truly, Sirs, many gods and men believe in the Samana Gotama -
'Truly, Sirs, in whatsoever village or town the Samana Gotama stays, there the non-humans do the humans no harm -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama as the head of an Order, of a school, as the teacher of a school, is the acknowledged chief of all the founders of sects.
His reputation comes from perfection in conduct and righteousness -
Truly, Sirs, the king of Magadha, Seniya Bimbisara, with his children and his wives, with his people, and his courtiers, has put his trust in the Samana Gotama -
'Truly, Sirs, King Pasenadi of Kosala, with his children and his wives, with his people and his courtiers, has put his trust in the Samana Gotama -
'Truly, Sirs, Pokkharasadi the Brahman, with his children and his wives, with his people and his intimates, has put his trust in the Samana Gotama -
'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama is honoured, held of weight, esteemed, and venerated and revered alike by Seniya Bimbisara, the king of Magadha, by Pasenadi the king of Kosala, and by Pokkharasadi the Brahman -
 'Truly, Sirs, the Samana Gotama has now arrived at Campa, and is staying on the shores of the Gaggara. Lake.
But all Samanas and Brahmans who come into our village borders are our guests.
And guests we ought to esteem and honour, to venerate and revere.
And as he is now so come, he ought to be so treated, as a guest -
'For each and all of these considerations it is not fitting that the Samana Gotama should call upon us, but rather does it behove us to call upon him.
And so far only do I know the excellencies of the Samana Gotama, but these are not all of them, for his excellence is beyond measure.'
 And when he had thus spoken, those Brahmans said to him: 'The venerable Sonadanda declares the praises of the Samana Gotama on such wise, that were he to be dwelling even a hundred leagues from here, it would be enough to make a believing man go thither to call upon him, even had he to carry a bag (for the provisions for the journey) on his back.
Let us then all go to call on the Samana Gotama together!'
 So Sonadanda the Brahman went out to the Gaggara Lake with a great company of Brahmans.
 Now the following hesitation arose in Sonadanda's mind as he passed through the wood: 'Were I to ask the Samana 'Gotama a question, if he were to say: "The question ought not to be asked so, thus ought the question to be framed; "the company might thereupon speak of me with disrespect, saying: "Foolish is this Sonadanda the Brahman, and inexpert.
 He is not even able to ask a question rightly." But if they did so my reputation would decrease; and with my reputation my incomings would grow less, for what we have to enjoy, that depends on our reputation.
But if the Samana Gotama were to put a question to me, I might not be able to gain his approval by my explanation of the problem.
And if they were then to say to me: "The question ought not to be answered so; thus ought the problem to be explained; "the company might thereupon speak of me with disrespect, saying : "Foolish is this Sonadanda the Brahman, and inexpert.
He is not even able to satisfy the Samana Gotama by his explanation of the problem put."But if they did so, my reputation would decrease; and with my reputation my incomings would grow less, for what we have to enjoy, that depends upon our reputation.
But on the other hand if, having come so far, I should turn back without calling upon the Samana Gotama, then might the company speak disrespectfully of me, saying: "Foolish is this Sonadanda the Brahman, and inexpert, though obstinate with pride, he is so afraid that he dare not call on the Samana Gotama.
How can he turn back after having come so far?" But if they did so, my reputation would decrease; and with my reputation my incomings would grow less.
For what we have to enjoy, that depends upon our reputation.'
 So Sonadanda the Brahman went upto where  the Blessed One was.
And hen he had come there he exchanged with the Blessed One the greetings and compliments of politeness and courtesy, and took his seat on one side.
And as to the Brahmans and householders of Campa, some of them bowed to the Blessed One and took their seats on one side; some of them exchanged with him the greetings and compliments of politeness and courtesy, and then took their seats on one side; some of them called out their name and family, and then took their seats on one side; and some of them took their seats on one side in silence.
  Now as Sonadanda was seated there he was still filled with hesitation, thinking as before set out; and he added to himself: 'Oh! would that the Samana Gotama would but ask me some question on my own subject, on the threefold Vedic lore.
Verily, I should then be able to gain his approval by my exposition of the problem put!'
 Now the Blessed One became aware in his own mind of the hesitation in the mind of Sonadanda, and he thought: 'This Sonadanda is afflicted in his heart.
I had better question him on his own doctrine.' And he said to him: 'What are the things, Brahman, which the Brahmans say a man ought to have in order to be a Brahman, so that if he says: "I am a Brahman," he speaks accurately and does not become guilty of falsehood?'
 Then Sonadanda thought:  'What I wished and desired and had in my mind and hoped for - that the Samana Gotama should put to me some question on my own subject, on the threefold Vedic lore - that he now does.
Oh! that I may be able to satisfy his heart with my exposition thereof!'
 And drawing his body up erect, and looking round on the assembly, he said to the Blessed One: 'The Brahmans, Gotama, declare him to be a Brahman who can accurately say "I am a Brahman" without being guilty of falsehood, who has five things.
And what are the five? In the first place, Sir, a Brahman is well born on both sides, on the mother's side and on  the father's side, of pure descent back through seven generations, with no slur put upon him, and no reproach, in respect of birth -
'Then he is a repeater (of the sacred words), knowing the mystic verses by heart, one who has mastered the Three Vedas, with the indices, the ritual, the phonology, and the exegesis (as a fourth), and the legends as a fifth, learned in the phrases and in the grammar, versed in Lokayata sophistry, and in the theory of the signs on the body of a great man -
'Then he is handsome, pleasant to look upon, inspiring trust, gifted with great beauty of complexion, fair in colour, fine in presence, stately to behold -
'Then he is virtuous, increased in virtue, gifted with virtue that has grown great -
'Then he is learned and wise, the first, or it may be the second, among those who hold out the ladle.'
 'But of these five things, oh Brahman, is it possible to leave one out, and to declare the man who has the other four to be a Brahman, to be one who can accurately, and without falling into falsehood, claim to be a Brahman?'
'Yes, Gotama, that can be, done.
We could leave out colour.
For what does colour matter?  If he have the other four-good birth, technical training, virtue, and wisdom, as just set forth - Brahmans would still declare him to be a Brahman; and he could rightly, without danger of falsehood, claim to be one.'
 'But of these four things, oh Brahman, is it possible to leave one out, and to declare the man who has the other three to be a Brahman, to be one who can rightly, and without falling into falsehood, claim to be a Brahman?'
'Yes, Gotama, that could be done.
We could leave out the verses.
For what do the verses matter? If  he have the other three - good birth, virtue, and wisdom - Brahmans would still declare him to be a Brahman; and he could rightly, without danger of falsehood, claim to be one.'
 'But of these three things, Brahman, is it possible to leave one out, and to declare the man who has the other two to be a Brahman, to be one who can accurately, and without falling into falsehood, claim to be a Brahman?'
'Yes, Gotama, that could be done.
We could leave out birth.
For what does birth matter? If he have the other two - virtue and wisdom - Brahmans would still declare him to be a Brahman; and he could rightly, without danger of falsehood, claim to be one.'
  And when he had thus spoken the other Brahmans said to Sonadanda:
'Say not so venerable Sonadanda, say not so! He depreciates not only our colour, but he depreciates our verses and our birth.
Verily the venerable Sonadanda is going over to the doctrine of the Samana Gotama.'
 Then the Blessed One said to those Brahmans: 'If you, oh Brahmans, think that Sonadanda is unlearned, that he speaks unfittingly, that he is unwise, that he is unable to hold his own with me in this matter, let him keep silence, and do you discuss with me.
But if you think him learned, able in speech, wise, able to hold his own, then do you keep silence, and let him discuss with me.'
 And when he had thus spoken, Sonadanda the Brahman said to those Brahmans:
'Let not the venerable ones say so.
Say not so, Sirs.
 I do not depreciate either our colour, nor our verses, nor our birth.'
 Now at that time a young Brahman named Angaka, sister's son to Sonadanda the Brahman, was seated in that company.
And Sonadanda said to those  Brahmans: 'Do the venerable ones see this Angaka, our nephew?'
'Yes, Sir, we see him.'
'Well! Angaka, Sirs, is handsome, pleasant to look upon, inspiring trust, gifted with great beauty of complexion, fair in, colour, fine in presence, stately to behold - none in this assembly is like unto him in colour, save only the Samana Gotama.
'And Angaka, Sirs, is a repeater (of the sacred words), knowing the mystic verses by heart, one who has mastered the Three Vedas, with the indices, the ritual, the phonology, and the exegesis (as a fourth), and the legends as a fifth, learned in the phrases and the grammar, versed in Lokayata (Nature-lore), and in the theory of the signs on the body of a great man - I myself have taught him the verses.
'And Angaka, Sirs, is well born on both sides, on the mother's side and on the father's side, of pure descent back through seven generations, with no slur put upon him, and no reproach in respect of birth - I myself know his forebears, on the mother's side and on the father's.
'If Angaka, Sirs, should kill living things, and take what has not been given, and go the way of the adulterer, and speak lies, and drink strong drink, what then, Sirs, would his colour avail him? what the verses? what his birth?
'It is in so far, Sirs, as a Brahman is virtuous, increased in virtue, gifted with virtue that has grown great; in so far as he is learned and wise, the first, or it may be the second, among those who hold out the ladle, that Brahmans would declare him, as endowed with these two qualities, to be a Brahman, to be one who could rightly say "I am a Brahman" without falling into falsehood.'
 'But of these two things, oh Brahman, is it possible to leave one out, and to declare the man who has the other to be a Brahman, to be one who can rightly, and without falling into falsehood, claim to be a, Brahman?'
Where there is uprightness, wisdom is there, and where there is wisdom, uprightness is there.
To the upright there is wisdom, to the wise there is uprightness, and wisdom and goodness are declared to be the best thing in the world.
Just, oh Gotama, as one might wash hand with hand, or foot with foot, just even so, oh Gotama, is wisdom purified by uprightness, and uprightness is purified by wisdom.
Where there is uprightness, wisdom is there, and where there is wisdom, uprightness is there.
To the upright, there is wisdom, to the wise there is uprightness, and wisdom and goodness are declared to be the best thing in the world.'
 'That is just so, oh Brahman.
And I, too, say the same.
But what, then, is that uprightness and what that wisdom?'
'We only know, oh Gotama, the general statement in this matter.
May the venerable Gotama be pleased to explain the meaning of the phrase.'
'Well then, oh Brahman give ear, and pay earnest attention, and I will speak.'
 'Very well, Sir,' said Sonadanda in assent to the Blessed One.
And the Blessed One said:
[Here follow the paragraphs 40-63 in the Samanna-phala Sutta above, pp. 62-70 of the text; that is, the paragraph on the appearance of a Buddha, his preaching, the conversion of the hearer, his renunciation of the world, all the Silas, and the paragraph on Confidence, 63.]
'This also, oh Brahman, is that uprightness' (Sila).
[Here follow the paragraphs on the Ghanas, begin-  ning at So vivicc'eva kamehi in § 75 Of the Samannaphala down to the end of § 82, then the paragraphs on Insight arising from Knowledge, on the Mental Image, on the Wondrous Gifts, on the Heavenly Ear, on Knowledge of the hearts of others, on Memory of one's own previous births, on the Divine Eye, and on the Destruction of the Deadly Floods, all as in the Samanna-phala, 83-98 inclusive.]
'This, oh Brahman, is that wisdom.'
 When he had thus spoken, Sonadanda the Brahman, said to the Blessed One:
 'Most excellent, oh Gotama (are the words of thy mouth), most excellent! Just as if a man were to set up that which has been thrown down, or were to reveal that which has been hidden away, or were to point out the right road to him who has gone astray, or were to bring a light into the darkness so that those who had eyes could see external forms - just even so has the truth been made known to me, in many a figure, by the venerable Gotama.
I, even I, betake myself to the venerable Gotama as my guide, to the truth, and to the Order.
And may the venerable Gotama accept me as a disciple, as one who, from this day forth, as long as life endures, has taken him as his guide.
And may the venerable Gotama grant me the favour of taking his tomorrow's meal with me, and also the members of the Order with him.'
Then the Blessed One signified, by silence, his consent.
And Sonadanda, on seeing that he had done so, arose from his seat and bowed down before the Blessed  One, and walking round him with his right hand towards him, departed thence.
And at early dawn he made ready at his house sweet food, both hard and soft, and had the time announced to the Blessed One: 'It is time, oh Gotama, and the meal is ready.'
 Then the Blessed One, who had dressed in the early morning, put on his outer robe, and taking his bowl with him, went with the brethren to Sonadanda's house, and sat down on the seat prepared for him.
And Sonadanda the Brahman satisfied the Blessed One, and the brethren, with his own hand, with sweet food, both hard and soft, until they refused any more.
And when the Blessed One had finished his meal, and cleansed the bowl and his hands, Sonadanda took a low seat, and sat down beside him, and said:
 'If, oh Gotama, after I have entered the assembly, I should rise from my seat to bow down before the venerable Gotama, then the assembly would find fault with me.
Now he with whom the assembly should find fault, his reputation would grow less; and he who should lose his reputation, his income would grow less.
For that which we have to enjoy, that depends upon our reputation.
If then, when I am seated in the assembly, I stretch forth my joined palms in salutation, let the venerable Gotama accept that from me as a rising up from my seat.
 And if when I am seated in the assembly I take off my turban, let the venerable Gotama accept that from me as a salutation with my head.
So if, when I am in my chariot, I were to get down from the chariot to salute the venerable Gotama, the surrounders would find fault with me.
If, then, when mounted on my chariot, I bend down low the staff of my goad, let the venerable Gotama accept that from me as if I had got down.
 Then the Blessed One instructed and roused and incited and gladdened Sonadanda the Brahman with religious discourse, and then rose from his seat and departed thence.
HERE ENDS THE SONADANDA SUTTA
 See the summary above, pp. 57-59, in the Introduction to the Samanna-phala.
 The English equivalents do not exactly cover the corresponding Pali terms, which are not, in the texts, used always with scrupulous distinctiveness.
 § 23 of the text, and of the translation below.
 Vol. i, pp. 163-168.
 See below in the Introduction to the next Sutta.
 Campa, the capital of Anga, was on the East bank of the river of the same name (Jat. IV, 454), which formed the Eastern boundary of Magadha. It was close to the modern Bagulpur, about Lat. 24' 10' by Long. 87'. Like other names of famous places in India, it was used over again by colonists in the Far East, and there means what we now call Cochin China and Annam (I-Tsing, p. 58).
 So called after Queen Gaggara, who had had it excavated, says Buddhaghosa (Sum. I, 279). He adds that on its banks was a grove of champaka trees, so well known for the fragrance of their beautiful white flowers. It was under those trees that the wandering mendicants put up.
 Sattussada. The meaning is really quite settled, though Fausböll wrongly translates ussada 'desire,' and Oldenberg and myself 'uneven,' at SN 783 = Vin. I, 3. See No. 15 in the list of the thirty-two marks. Also Jat. IV, i88 = Dhp. A. 339 ; Jat. IV, 6o = Dhp. A. 95; Jat. IV, 4; P.G.D. 22-44; Asl. 307.
 In the Buddha's time Anga was subject to Magadha.
 Perhaps in 'companies and separately'; but I follow Buddhaghosa. Comp. M. I, 231; A. 11, 55.
 Brahma-vaccasi. With a body like that of Maha Brahma,' says Buddhaghosa (p. 282). The Burmese and Siamese MSS. read vacchasi
 Akkhuddavakaso, for which Buddhaghosa (pp. 282, 284) gives three contradictory explanations.
 Ane'agalaya. 'Not slobbering,' says Buddhaghosa.
 'Eighty thousand families on the mother's, and eighty thousand on the father's side,' says Buddhaghosa - making a total for the Sakya clan of 800,000, reckoning five to a family.
 Kamma-vadi kiriya-vadi. Compare 'Vinaya Texts,' II, 109,112.
 adina-khattiya-kula. The reading is doubtful, and the Burmese MSS., after their constant habit, have replaced it by an easy reading, abhinna-khattiya-kula, 'unbroken Kshatriya family.' But all the Sinhalese MSS. agree in reading either adina or adina; and if the reading had once been abhinna, it is difficult to see how the alteration to the more difficult reading should have occurred. Buddhaghosa skips the clause, which (if it was in the text before him) is suggestive. He would scarcely have done so unless the matter were really very simple. 'Autonomous' would make a good sense in the context; but I have taken the word, in the sense of 'primordial, aboriginal,' as being a derivative from adi, in the same way as adhina is from adhi. This is simple enough; the only difficulty being, that the word occurs nowhere else.
 Literally 'anyhow'; 'such as by wearing no clothes' explains Buddhaghosa (p. 288).
 Putamsenapi. Compare A. II, 183, where a precisely similar phrase occurs.
 Cittam na aradheyyam, 'win over his mind.' Comp. M. I, 85, 34, 1; 11, 10; Mil. 25.
 That is, 'officiate at a sacrifice by pouring out of a spoon a libation of butter, or of spirituous Soma, to the fire god.'
 Vanna, much the same as 'caste,' though that rendering is not strictly accurate. (See the Introduction to the Ambattha.)
 The full text is repeated, both here and in the following sections.
 This name looks suspiciously like a kind of personification of the five Angas (the five characteristics) of the true Brahman as just above, 13, set out.
 Oldenberg renders this ('Buddha,' P. 283) as follows: 'The wisdom of the upright and the uprightness of the wise have, of all uprightness and wisdom in the world, the highest value.' I cannot see how this can be grammatically justified; though the sentiment is admirable enough, and would have somewhat relieved the monotony of the paragraph. On pannana as nominative, not genitive, see, for instance, S. I, 41, 42; Sum. 1, 171, 290; A. IV, 342.
 The repetition here is nearly the same as that in the Ambattha Sutta, summarised above at the translation of p. 100 of the text. The only difference is that the paragraphs 64-74 of the Samanna-phala there included as coming under Carana (Conduct) are here included under Sila (Uprightness). The Jhanas, there put, not under Vijja, (Wisdom), but under Carana, are here put, not under Sila, but under Panna (Intelligence). In other words Panna includes all that was there included under Vijja, and the Four Jhanas besides. But Sila includes all that is put in the Ambattha under Sila - all indeed of the eight divisions of Sila as summarised above, pp. 57-59. See Buddhaghosa's notes at pp. 219, 268, 292.
 On the ground, says Buddhaghosa (p. 292), that he would be saluting a much younger man, one young enough to be his grandson. If this tradition be correct, it would follow that this Sutta must be describing events very early in the public ministry of the Buddha.
 It will be seen from this section that Sonadanda is represented as being a convert only to a limited extent. He still keeps on his school of Vedic studies, and is keenly anxious to retain the good opinion of his students, and of other Brahmans. And if that part of the Buddha's doctrine put before him in this Sutta be examined, it will be found to be, with perhaps one or two exceptions, quite compatible with the best Brahman views. No doubt if every detail were carried to its strict logical conclusion there would be no further need for Vedic studies, except from the historical standpoint. But those details are, on the face of them ethical. They belong to a plane not touched on in the then Vedic studies. They could be accepted by an adherent of the soul theory of life. And the essential doctrines of Buddhism - the Path, the Truths, and Arahatship - are barely even referred to.
[Contents ] [Preface ] [#1. Brahma-gala Suttanta: ] [#2. Samanna-phala Suttanta: ] [#3. The Ambattha Suttanta: ] [#4. The Sonadanda Suttanta: ] [#5. The Kutadanta Suttanta: ] [#6. The Mahali Suttanta: ] [#7. Galiva Suttanta: ] [#8. Kassapa-Sihanada Suttanta: ] [#9. The Potthapada Suttanta: ] [#10. Subha Suttanta: ] [#11. Kevaddha Suttanta: ] [#12. Lohikka Suttanta: ] [#13. Tevigga Suttanta: ]