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Saŋyutta Nikāya
I. Sagātha Vagga
7. Brāhmana Saŋyutta

The Book of the Kindred Sayings
I. Kindred Sayings with Verses
7. The Brāhmana Suttas

Translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids
Assisted by Sūriyagoḍa Sumangala Thera
Public Domain


I: Arahants


Sutta 9

The Sundarikdyan




The Exalted One was once staying in Kosala on the banks of the river Sundarika.

Now on that occasion the Bhāradvāja brahmin [known as] the Sundarikāyan,[1] was engaged in sacrificing to fire, in performing Fire-rites.[2]

Then when he had sacrificed and performed the rites,
he rose from his seat and looked around to the four quarters,

'Who now ought to partake of the remainder of this offering?'[3]

Then the Sundarikāyan beheld the Exalted One seated at the root of a certain tree with his head covered,[4] and seeing him there, he took the remainder of his oblation in his left hand and his water-pitcher[5] in his right, and drew near to the Exalted One.

Then the Exalted One, at the sound of the brahmin's footsteps, uncovered his head.

Then the Sundarikayan thought:

'This gentleman is shaved,
this gentleman is a shaveling!'

and felt inclined to turn back again.

But he thought:

'Nay, but some brahmins also are shaven. I might go and ask him now as to his birth.'[6]

So he drew near to the Exalted One and said:

'What art thou by birth, sir?'

[The Exalted One: —]

Ask[7] not of birth, ask of the course of conduct.
From any sticks verily fire doth take birth.[8]
The steadfast[9] seer, though his descent be lowly,
To intellect's aristocrats[10] is lifted,
By noble shame all that is evil curbing,
Tamed by the truth, graduate in that taming,
Of saving lore master,[11] the good life living.
Th' oblation's brought! Do thou invoke[12] him duly.
Timely the rite; worthy is he thus worshipped.

[The Sundarikayan :—]

0 well indeed offered is my oblation,
Now that I've seen master like thee of wisdom!
Yea, in that I heretofore saw none like thee,
Other the folk eating my altar's leavings.

'May it please the worshipful Master Gotama to eat! His worship is a brahmin !'

[The Exalted One :—]

Not mine to enjoy [presents] for chanting verses.
Not normal this, brahmin, for minds discerning.
Buddhas reject wages for chanting verses.
True to the Norm, this is their mode of conduct.
On other grounds minister thou, 0 brahmin,
With food and drink to a great Seer made perfect,
To one from whom purged are the mental Poisons,
In whom is calm, peace from all fret and worry.
Yea, here's the field, if for reward thou lookest.

[The Sundarikayan: —]

'Then to whom, Master Gotama, do I give this residual oblation?'

'I see no one, brahmin, in the whole world of devas, Brahmās, or Māras, nor in this whole race of devas and men, recluses or brahmins who, if he ate this food, could thoroughly digest it, save only a Tathāgata or one of his chosen disciples.[13]

Wherefore, brahmin, do thou either pour it out where no grass is,[14] or launch [thy dish] in water wherein are no creatures.'[15]

So the Sundarikāyan launched[16] this offering in water wherein were no creatures.

Then that residual oblation, thus placed in water, seethed and hissed[17] and sent forth steam and smoke.

Just as a red-hot ploughshare, if placed in water, will seethe and hiss and send forth steam and smoke, so was it with that oblation.

Then the Sundarikāyan, alarmed and with stiffening hair, came up to the Exalted One and stood at one side.

And to him, so standing, the Exalted One addressed verses:

Nay, brahmin, deem not that by mere wood-laying
Comes purity. Verily that is external.
To him who thus purification seeketh,
By things without none is made pure, the wise say.[18]

I lay no wood, brahmin, for fires on altars.
Only within[19] burneth the fire I kindle.
Ever my fire burns; ever tense and ardent,[20]
I, Arahant, work out the life that's holy.

As yoke of grain[21] surely is pride, 0 brahmin.
Thine altar's smoke, anger; thy false words ashes.
The tongue's the priest's spoon, and the heart the altar,
The fire thereon: this is man's self well tamed.

The Norm's a lake, with virtue's strand for bathing,
Clear, undefiled,[22] praised by the good to good men,
Wherein in sooth masters of lore come bathing,
So, clean of limb, to the Beyond cross over.

The Norm is truth; discipline, life in orders,[23]
Best vantage-ground, brahmin, the Path that's Midway.[24]
Due honour pay thou to the upright-minded.[25]
Whoso doth this, him do I call 'Flux-rider.'[26]

When he had thus spoken, the Sundarikāyan of the Bharadvaja brahmins said:

'Most excellent, lord, most excellent!

Just as if a man were to set up that which had been thrown down,
or were to reveal that which was hidden away,
or were to point out the right road to him who had gone astray,
or were to bring a lamp into the darkness so that those who had eyes could see external objects
— even so, lord, has the lord Gotama shown me his doctrine in various ways.

I even I, lord, betake myself to the Exalted One as my refuge,
to the Norm
and to the Order.

I would leave the world under [the Rule of] Gotama;
I would take orders.'

So the Bhāradvāja brahmin left the world under the Exalted One, and was ordained.

And not long after his ordination the venerable Bhāradvāja,
remaining alone and separate,
ardent and strenuous,
attained [ere long] to that supreme goal of the higher life,
for the sake of which the clansmen rightly go forth from home into the homeless;
yea, that supreme goal did he by himself,
even in this present life,
come to understand and realize.

He came to understand that rebirth was destroyed,
that the holy life was being lived,
that his task was done,
that for life as we conceive it there was no hereafter.

And the venerable Bhāradvāja became one of the Arahants.


[1] So called because of his sacrificing by that river. Comy. The Recensionists are this time not mentioned. The river is named in the corresponding Sutta of the Sn. (Ill, 4), and in the Vatthūpamā-Sutta, M. i, 39, where a quite different account is given of the conversion of a Bharadvaja brahmin called Sundarika. He proposes to bathe, for religious purification, in the Bāhukā river; to whom the Buddha, in eloquent verses contrasting such external rites with real purity, names several rivers.

[2] So obsolete apparently was Agni-worship become in Buddhaghosa's day, or even in that of his authorities, that he sees only the 'Great Brahmā' as the object of these rites, and those of Ī 8.

[3] 'I have laid my rice-concoction on the fire, partaken of by Great Brahmā: if I give what is over to some brahmin, born of Brahmā's mouth, my father and I would be pleased, and the way to Brahmā-world made clear.' Comy.

[4] The Commentaries on both this work and the Sn. assure us that we are to understand the Master sat with his body and head all wrapped up; and this less as a protection against the cold than as a stratagem to rouse the brahmin's curiosity, and to prevent his being repelled from afar by the sight of the shorn hair and beard.

[5] Karmaṇḍalu the pitcher of a brahmin religieux, made with a lengthened spout to pour water into the mouth without contact between lips and spout.

[6] On this diversity in practice cf. Satapatha-Brāhmaṇa II, 6, 3, 14-17, quoted in Hopkins's Religions of India, 190; also the title of one Upanishad: Muṇḍaka, 'The Shaveling.'

[7] The Saŋyutta account now omits part of the dialogue given in the Sn. vers. 455-61 (trans. 454-60); and coincides with vers. 462, 463, when it diverges, coinciding again at ver. 480 for two stanzas only.

[8] The two Commentaries are here again at one: many woods serve for kindling, even as any class of society may yield a saint; the essential matter is to evoke the combustion-virtues of the fire.

[9] Dhitimā, here paraphrased by viriyavā, 'energetic.'

[10] Ajānīyo, applied to a well-trained horse, elephant or ox, easily suggested by the favourite notion of danta, tamed, but hard to render in English. Cf. I, 2, Ī 4, n. 5.

[11] Vedantagu: 'One who has gone to the end of the Vedas:' a brahmanic term that is not found prior to Buddhism. The two Commentaries call the Four Paths 'Vedas.'

[12] Or entreat him, cf. Dialogues, ii, 289. The sacrificer was wont to say: 'We invoke the Supreme Brahmā, or Indra, or Soma, or Varuna, or Isāna, or Yama.' Comy. N.B. Agni is not included. Cf. Dialogues, i, 310.

[13] To understand this curious reply, the reader should be acquainted with the facts relating to Indian sacrificial ritual: with the mystical, magic glamour belonging to the dish of oblation and to the 'remnant' (ucchisṭa) therein. See e.g. Atharva Veda XI, 3, 7; Satapatha-Brah., II, esp. Adh. 3; Macdonell, Vedic Mythology, 155. B.'s interpretation is that the gods infused subtle essences from flowers, fruits and edible concoctions into the oblation creating ojā, or nectar, digestible by their ethereal organs, but not to be assimilated by men's grosser organs. On the other hand, the beef broth (go-yūsa) and sesamum-seed infused by men made the oblation unpalatable to gods. Such a mixture the Arahant 'of dry vision ' (not practising Jhāna) could not assimilate, but the Arahant of Eight Attainments (Jhāna) might have power to do so, as could a Buddha by the karma-born heat, or vim, of his nature.

[14]'Lest the grass rot.' Comy.

[15] 'Lest the creatures die.' Comy.

[16] *Opilāpesi. 'He immersed it with its golden dish.' Comy.

[17] The Pali words are onomatopoeic. Comy.: 'it made a noise like that': cicciṭāyati, ciṭiciṭāyati (c's pronounced ch).

[18] Kusalā, 'experts.'

[19] Comy.: 'Subjectively in my own vital continuum I burn the sacred fire of insight.'

[20] 'I have my mind ever rightly fixed.' Comy.

[21] Kharibhāro: 'as a yoke though borne aloft on the shoulders presses on the earth at every step the bearer takes, so do you with your pride of birth and class cause envy in others and weigh them down to woes after death.' Comy.

[22] 'You,' comments B., 'your rites over, go to cleanse your smoke- cinder-, and sweat-soiled body in your little river, where when four or five bathe together the sands are churned up; but in my Eightfold Path-Norm-lake or sea, rahado, many hundred thousand creatures may bathe in clear calm waters, and go to the shores of Nibbana.'

[23] 'Truth,' he goes on, 'is truth of speech'; then, as he is wont, he divides the Eightfold Path between 'truth' and 'discipline.'

Reverse the order to: 'Annihilationism' and 'Eternalism' and this is just different names for self-indulgence and asceticism. That is, the former is the view, the later is the resulting practice.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[24] According to B. the Middle Path is here not the ethical position set forth in the first sermon, between self-indulgence and asceticism, but that between 'Eternalism' and 'Annihilationism' (Dialogues, i, 27, 46).

[25] B. lays down that in the compound sat-ujjubhūtesu, the t is euphonic, and the meaning is sa tvaṃ ('thou' emphatic) to the upright, etc.

[26] Dhammasārī, cf. diṭṭhisārī, Sn. 911. We have not met the term elsewhere. B. takes dhamma to mean, not the Norm, but dhammā: things or ideas. And he gives an optional explanation: either protected from the flux or course of things, or making evil things to go by good things (sāretvā). Hence a 'thing-flux-er' is one who is not swept along helplessly. There is no attempt to connect the word with the dhammānusāri of PP. I, Ī 35. Cf. dhammasārādhigamo, S. v, 402, Dhammasotaṃ, on the other hand, in S. ii, 43, is explained as the Path.

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