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 98

Vāseṭṭha Suttaɱ[1]

The Real Brahmin


[196] [108]

[1][pts][upal] [KD.SNP 115] THUS have I heard:

Once when the Lord was staying at Icchānankala
in the forests there;
a large number of very well-known and wealthy brahmins were dwelling there,
such as Cankī,
Todeyya[2] and other well-known and wealthy brahmins.

Now as the young brahmins Vāseṭṭha and Bhāradvāja were walking,
and strolling up and down,
they fell to discussing what makes a brahmin.

[107] Bhāradvāja maintained
that what made a brahmin
was pure descent on both sides
right back for seven successive generations of ancestors,
with no break or blemish in his lineage;
whereas Vāseṭṭha contended
that it was virtue and moral behaviour
which made a brahmin.

As neither could convince the other,
[KD.SNP 116] Vāseṭṭha proposed,
and Bhāradvāja agreed,
to refer the matter to 'the recluse Gotama'
who was now staying in the forest of Icchānankala
and of whom the high repute noised abroad
was 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.

So together they went to the Lord
and, when they were seated after greetings,
Vāseṭṭha addressed the Lord
in the following verses: -

Pokkharasāti's pupil I; my friend
for master had Tārukkha; both alike
in Threefold Lore have passed and so profess.

In all the Threefold Lore we perfect are,
in text and import each his master's peer.

[KD.SNP 117] On birth we differ. Bhāradvāja says
tis birth that makes the brahmin; I say life.

Agree we cannot; so an answer crave
from you, for high Enlightenment renown'd.

For, as with hands in adoration raised
men hail the crescent moon, so men hail you.

Of Gotama, whose vision views the world,
we ask if birth or life the brahmin makes.

Tell us; we know not, but would fain feel sure.

To Vāseṭṭha the Lord this answer gave: -

Types manifold of divers living things
in order'd sequence must I first unfold,
to show how nature stamps them diverse breeds
Regard the grass and trees, which ne'er proclaim,
but prove, how nature stamps them diverse breeds.

[KD.SNP 118] Pass next to insects, pass from moths to ants;
regard four-footed creatures, great and small;
regard the snakes whose length on belly goes;
pass now to fish that dwell in water's depths;
[110] then pass to birds that wing their way through air;
- all show how nature stamps them diverse breeds.

While these thus widely differ,
men alone show not that nature stamps them diverse breeds.

They differ not in hair, head, ears, or eyes,
in mouth or nostrils, eyebrows, lips,
throat, shoulders, belly, buttocks, back, or chest,
nor in the parts of shame, female or male,
nor yet in hands or feet, in fingers, nails,
in calves or thighs; in hue, or sound of voice;
- naught shows men stamped by nature diverse breeds;
[KD.SNP 119] 'twixt one mans body and his fellow-man's,
except in name, no difference exists.

The man that lives by keeping herds of cows,
- know him as farmer, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by divers handicrafts,
- know him as tradesman, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by selling merchandise,
- know him as merchant, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by service done for hire.
- know him as hireling, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by taking other? gear,
- know him as robber, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by warlike sword and bow,
- know him as soldier, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by sacrificial rites,
- know him as chaplain, not as brahmin true.

The man that lives by kingship and demesne,
- know him as monarch, not as brahmin true.

[3] Not birth, not parentage, my Brahmin makes;
- birth breeds the haughty heart of worldliness.

Unworldly, trammel-free, my Brahmin stands
dauntless, unshackled, passionless, and free.

[KD.SNP 120] My Brahmin yoke and harness, straps an pin,
hamper no more; Enlightenment is his.

[111] Guiltless, my Brahmin bans both stripes and bonds,
Endures, with meekness armed, in meekness strong.
Virtue's strait path my Brahmin humbly treads
in love; this life's his last, - Self-mastered now.

As off the lotus-leaf the raindrop rolls,
nor rests the mustard-seed on needle's point,
so in my Brahmin pleasure finds no home.

My Brahmin knows that, here and now,
his Ill is o'er; his burthen shed, he's free.

Profound in understanding, deep in love,
of true and false Paths judge impeccable,
my Brahmin gains the goal supreme of Truth.

My brahmin worldlings shuns and homeless folk;
with scanty needs to meet, he dwells aloof.

My Brahmin wreaks no harm on strong or weak;
no foe 'mong foemen, calm in broils is he,
among the trammerd trammel-less and free.

My Brahmin sheds deceit, lust, hate and pride,
as drops the mustard-seed from needle's point.

[KD.SNP 121] My Brahmin's unoffending helpful speech,
in truth conceived, can never wound the ear.

Unasked, my Brahmin takes naught long or short,
naught big or little, nothing choice or vile.

No yearnings fill my Brahmins placid breast;
he yearns for naught in this or other worlds.

Knowledge has purged my Brahmins mind of doubt;
he harbours nothing; Deathlessness is his.

Transcending good and evil here and now,
my cleans'd and stainless Brahmin grief ne'er knows.

Pure as th' unclouded moon's clear orb on high,
my Brahmin sheds delights and love of life.

From rebirth's slough, from folly's trackless maze,
my Brahmin wins a passage, crossing o'er
to dwell in rapture, far from hankerings
and doubts, to being dead in Deathlessness.

Renouncing pleasure for the Pilgrims way,
my Brahmin pleasures sheds and love of life.

Renouncing Cravings for the Pilgrim's way,
my Brahmin Cravings sheds and love and life.

Eschewing human ties, celestial ties [...][ed1]


[1] For text, see p. 115 of the Sutta Nipāta edited for P.T.S. 1913 (cf. Sutta No. 92). For matter, cf. Sutta No. 13 of Dīgha Nikāya, trans. at p. 298 et seqq. of vol. I of Dialogues of the Buddha.
Ed. note: References to the SNP page numbers are in Red, the page number in black is to the Pali text in our collection.

Purobita. L. religious advisor.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[2] Stated by Bu. to be five purobitas of King Pasenadi of Kosala.

[3] From this point to p.112. line 14, infra, these lines depicting the true Brahmin are incorporated in the Dhammapada (pp.57- unintelligible) of the P.T.S. edition of 1914.


[ed1] Our copy of the Chalmers translation is missing pages 112-113. See the Horner's translation of this sutta; or the Fausbøll translation of the SNP for the completion of this sutta.

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