Majjhima Nikaya

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Majjhima Nikāya
II. Majjhima-Paṇṇāsa
5. Brāhmaṇa Vagga

Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Volume VI
Dialogues of the Buddha
Part V

Further Dialogues of the Buddha
Volume II

Translated from the Pali
by Lord Chalmers, G.C.B.
Sometime Governor of Ceylon

Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
Public Domain

Sutta 92

Sela Suttaɱ

The Real Superman


[146] [78]

[1][pts][upal] [102][1] THUS have I heard:

Once when the Lord was on an alms-pilgrimage in the Anga country [79] across the river,
with a great train of Almsmen
numbering twelve [103] hundred and fifty,
he sojourned in the Anga township of Āpaṇa.

It came to the ears of Keṇiya the fire-worshipper
that the recluse Gotama,
a Sakyan who had gone forth from home to homelessness as a Pilgrim,
was reported to have arrived at Āpaṇa
with this train in the course of his alms-pilgrimage.

Such, according to report,
was the high repute noised abroad concerning the reverend Gotama
that he was said to be -
The Lord,
Arahat all-enlightened,
walking by knowledge,
understanding all worlds,
the matchless tamer of the human heart,
teacher of gods and men,
the Lord of Enlightenment.

This universe -
with its gods,
recluses and brahmins,
embracing all gods and mankind -,
all this he has discerned
and realized for himself
and makes known to others.

He preaches a Doctrine,
which is so fair in its outset,
its middle,
and its close,
with both text and import;
he propounds a higher life
that is wholly complete and pure.

It is good to go and visit Arahats like him.

So Keṇiya came to the Lord and,
seating himself after greetings,
was by the Lord instructed,
and cheered onwards
with a doctrinal discourse, -
at the close of which
he invited the Lord and his Almsmen
to take their meal with him on the morrow.

Said the Lord: -

There are [104] no less than twelve hundred and fifty Almsmen with me;
and you are an adherent of the brahmins.

A second time did Keṇiya tender his invitation,
saying this made no difference;
and a second time did he receive the same answer.

But when the invitation was tendered for the third time,
the Lord by his silence accepted it.

Then Keṇiya got up and went off to his own hut,
where he told his friends and kinsfolk
Gotama was coming
and asked them to help.

Readily enough they set to work digging earth-ovens,
chopping wood,
scouring pans,
setting out water-jars,
and placing seats ready, -
while Keṇiya himself marked off a reserved circle.

Now, at that time there was living at Āpaṇa
the brahmin Sela [105],
who was versed in all three Vedas,
was accomplished in ritual with the glosses thereon,
in phonology,
and in etymology,
with chronicles as a fifth branch;
he knew exegesis,
and was learned in casuistry
and in the signs that mark a Superman;
he had three hundred young brahmins
to whom he taught the runes.

At this time, moreover,
Keṇiya the fire-worshipper
was an adherent of this brahmin Sela.

Accompanied by his three hundred pupils,
the brah- [80] min came in the course of his walks abroad
to Keṇiya's hut
and saw all the fire-worshippers there
busy with their several tasks,
with Keṇiya himself
marking off the reserved circle.

At the sight, the brahmin said to Keṇiya:

What is all this?

Is it a wedding-feast?

Or is there a great sacrifice afoot?

Or have you invited to a repast to-morrow Seniya Bimbisāra, king of Magadha,
with all his host?

It is no wedding-feast, Sela,
nor is the king coming with all his host.

But I have got a great sacrifice afoot.

For, the recluse Gotama,
the Sakyan who has gone forth as a Pilgrim from a Sakyan home,
has arrived at Āpaṇa,
in the course of an alms-pilgrimage,
with twelve hundred and fifty Almsmen in his train.

Now, [106] such, according to report,
is the high repute noised abroad concerning this Gotama
that he was said to be -
The Lord,
Arahat all-enlightened,
walking by knowledge,
understanding all worlds,
the matchless tamer of the human heart,
teacher of gods and men,
the Lord of Enlightenment.

It is he whom I have invited to to-morrow's meal here,
together with his Confraternity.

Did you attribute to him Enlightenment,

Yes, I did, Sela.

Did you?

Yes, I did.

Thought the Brahmin to himself: -

This is rubbish.

Rarely indeed do the Enlightened
appear in the world.

In our runes there have been handed down
the two and thirty marks of the Superman,
for whom, if he bears these marks,
there awaits one of two careers and no third.

Should he live a home life,
he becomes Emperor over the four quarters of the earth,
righteous in himself and ruling righteously,
triumphant abroad,
enforcing law and order at home,
and possessing the Seven Jewels, -
treasurer and counsellor.

More than a thousand sons has he,
heroes of might,
who sweep the enemy's hosts before them.

Over all the earth,
to the shores of ocean,
he extends his sway,
by sheer righteousness alone,
and not by cudgel or sword.

If, instead,
he goes forth from home to homelessness as a Pilgrim,
he becomes the arahat all-enlightened
who lifts the veil from the world.

Where is Gotama now staying,
this arahat all-enlightened?

In answer, Keṇiya stretched out his right arm and said: -

[107] Yonder, Sela,
in that stretch of dark trees.

Then the brahmin Sela proceeded to the Lord,
attended by his three hundred young brahmins,
to whom he gave the following instructions: -

Move forward in silence,
in one another's footsteps
for, these Lords are hard of access,
like solitary lions.

[81] And while I am conferring with the recluse Gotama,
do not interrupt
but wait till my talk with him is over.

Arrived in the Lord's presence, the brahmin,
seating himself after greetings,
scanned the Lord's body for the two and thirty marks of a Superman,
and in time observed them all save two,
namely the privities hidden in a sheath
and the big tongue, -
concerning which two
Uttara was in doubt ana perplexity,
not feeling certain or sure.

Realizing exactly brahmin Sela's uncertainty of mind,
the Lord made such a manifestation of psychic power
that the brahmin Sela could see the Lord's privities within their sheath;
and then, putting forth his tongue,
he passed it up and down the orifices of both ears
and of both nostrils,
and covered with it
[108] the whole expanse of his forehead.

Quite sure now about the presence of the two and thirty marks,
Sela still did not know whether or not he had Enlightenment.

But he remembered hearing from old and aged brahmins,
teachers of teachers,
that those who became arahats all-enlightened,
reveal themselves when their praises are sung,
and so he made up his mind to extol the Lord to his face
in the following lines of eulogy: -

Perfect of body, goodly, Lord, art thou.
Well-grown, well-liking, golden-hued, with teeth
which gleam with lustre; vigour fills thy frame;
thy body's full perfection manifests
each single sign that marks a Superman.
Clear-eyed and handsome, tall, upright art thou,
effulgent as a sun among thy train,
- so debonair, so golden-hued! Why waste
thy beauty's prime as homeless anchorite?
As world-wide monarch thou shouldst ride in state;
and Ind from sea to sea should own thy sway.
[109] Proud princes shall thy village headmen be;
rule thou mankiiid, as sovran king of kings.

The Lord made answer:

King indeed am I,
the peerless king of utter righteousness;
in righteousness my sovran Wheel of Truth
I roll, that backwards nevermore shall go.

If All-enlighlend thou dost claim to be,
the peerless king of utter righteousness;
rolling in righteousness your sovran Wheel,
- who ranks as Captain next to yon to keep
your Wheel still rolling onward on its course?

The Lord made answer:

[82] Next to me,
to keep my sovran Wheel of Truth still rolling on,
stands Sāriputta, in my image shaped.
I know what mind should know; I am what man
should be; I'm quit of all man should renounce;
- thus, brahmin, all enlightenment is mine.
All doubts of me dispel; have faith in me;
to view the Enlightend is a boon most rare.
[110] and that rare boon thou may'st behold in me
who All-Enlighten'd am, of Healers chief,
perfect and peerless, routing Māra's hosts,
o'er foes triumphant; - fear clouds not my bliss.

Sirs, mark him, mark how, lion-like, he speaks,
this Seer, this Healer, this great Conqueror.
Lives there a man so low as not to trust,
at sight, fell Māra's peerless vanquisher?
Let who will follow; let the rest depart;
- be mine the Pilgrimage with Wisdonis lord!

If you, sir, th' All-enlighten'd take as guide,
ours loo be Pilgrimage with Wisdom's Lord!

As thus his pupils spoke,
the brahmin cried: -

Three hundred brahmins, Lord, with hands outstretch'd,
here pray to lead the higher life with thee.

That higher life

- the Lord made answer then -

stands here reveal'd, with fruits ripe here and now
the earnest Pilgrim's diligence to bless.

So the brahmin Sela
and all his following
were admitted to the Lord's Confraternity
and confirmed therein.

Now, when night had passed,
an excellent meal was got ready by Keṇiya the fire-worshipper,
[111] who sent to tell the Lord when everything was ready,
and with his own hands
served the Lord and the Almsmen without stint
till all had had their fill,
after which he seated himself on a lower seat to one side
and was thanked by the Lord in these lines

[83] Of fire-oblations sacrifice ranks first;
of Vedic metres Sāvitrī is first;
a king ranks first 'mong men, 'mong streams the sea;
the moon among the lamps of night ranks first;
and first of luminaries ranks the sun.
For those who Merit seek by sacrifice,
gifts to the Almsmen profit most of all.

Having thanked Keṇiya the fire-worshipper in these lines,
the Lord arose and departed.

Dwelling alone and aloof,
ardent and purged of self,
the reverend Sela with his following
was not long before [112] he won the prize
in quest of which young men go forth from home to homelessness,
that prize of prizes
which crowns the highest life; -
even this did he think out for himself,
and attain,
here and now;
and to him came the conviction that -

'Rebirth is no more,
I have lived the highest life,
my task is done,
and now for me there is no more
of what I have been.'

And so the reverend Sela too was numbered,
with his following,
among the arahats.

To the Lord came the reverend Sela,
with his following,
with right shoulder respectfully bared,
addressed the Lord in the following lines: -

We who a week ago found Refuge, seer,
in thee, remoulded by thy Doctrine come.
Enlighten'd Master, over Māra's host
triumphant! Thou who, wrong propensities
Excising, for thyself salvation found
and others taught to find salvation too!
Thou hast surmounted all that breeds rebirth
and extirpated Canker-growths within.
With naught to bind thee thrall to life, thou'rt free,
as forest lion, from all fear or dread.
Three hundred Almsmen, Lord, with outstretched hands,
pray thee, great Victor, one sole grace to grant,
- that they, thy saints, may bow down at thy feet!


[1] For text see P.T.S. edition of the Sutta Nipāta (1913). Cf. Theragāthā, pp. 78-80 (translated at p. 310 et seqq. of Psalms of the Early Buddhists) and Vinaya I. 245.

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