Sabhiya Sutta | Sn III-6


6. Sabhiya Sutta

Discourse on the Sabhiya, Wondering Ascetic

Thus have I heard:

On one occasion the Buddha was residing in the Bamboo Grove Monastery, the feeding ground for the black squirrels in Rājagaha:

At that time, Sabhiya the non-Buddhist monk was being advised by a 'deva', who, in one of their previous existences was related to him.

The 'deva' taught certain questions and then said,

Sabhiya, whichever monk, or Brāhmaṇa can answer these questions (put by you), and you should take him as your religious teacher.

Serve him well and take upon yourself the Noble Practice under his guidance.

Sabhiya, after learning the questions from the 'deva' approached the religious teacher of greatest renown, namely:

  1. Pūraṇa Kassapa,
  2. Makkhali Gosāla,
  3. Ajita Kesakambalī,
  4. Pakudha Kaccāyana,
  5. Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta
  6. Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta,

who had great followership, who had well-organized companies of religious devotes, who were heads of those companies,

who were outstanding and famous, who propounded certain views (religious theories and who were generally reputed as respectable and wise.

But when he put his questions to these 6 famous teachers, they were unable to answer.

They were highly embarrassed and they did not hide their being so; moreover, they put their own questions to Sabhiya (as repaying the embarrassment in kind).

Thereupon Sabhiya got frustrated. He thought,

And these great teachers, with great followership, heads of well-organized religious companies, outstanding, and profounder of theories, whom people believe as respectable and wise, do not know the answer to my questions.

They got embarrassed for their inability. They did not hide their embarrassment. They even put me their own questions as though paying tit for that.

May be I am doomed. May be there's no use with my religious practice. May be I'd rather turn layman and enjoy life.

However, on second thoughts, he remembered thus:

Gotama the Bhikkhu also has great followership. He has a well-established Order, and he heads the Order.

He is outstanding and famous too. He is also a profounder of theory. He is also generally said to be wise and respectable. May be I should go and ask him.”

But then it occurred to him thus:

Why even those aged, very senior, very experienced, and at their last stage of life, elder monks, senior in their own company, of long standing in monkshood, who have followership,...(sic)

those great teachers, Pūraṇa Kassapa, etc., could not answer my questions. They got embarrassed.....(sic)

How could Gotama, the Bhikkhu answer them, for he is quite young and just a junior monk?

Later he thought, But just because Bhikkhu Gotama is young he should not be disregarded; underestimated; you cannot say he won't be able to answer. Though Gotama may be young he is prepossessed of wonderful powers. Yes, it's well that I go to him and ask.”

Thereupon Sabhiya made the journey to Rājagaha. After proceeding stage by stage he reached the Veluvana Monastery in the feeding ground for black squirrels in Rājagaha.

He approached the Buddha and, after exchanging greetings and courteous compliments, took his seat a (suitable) place.

He then addressed the Buddha in following stanza:

515. (Sabhiya said:) O Buddha, being vexed by uncertainty, I have come to clear myself of these doubts; kindly resolve those puzzles for me one and for all:

Please answer them one by one according to their meaning. (1)

516. (Said the Buddha:) O Sabhiya, you have come from afar to ask those questions, to resolve your puzzling doubts. Well, when I have them I will answer them one by one according to their meaning. (2)

517. Now Sabhiya, ask me anything you have in mind. Whatever problems vex you, I will put an end to your scepticism once and for all. (3)

Thereupon Sabhiya be though himself,

Oh dear! How wonderful! Oh dear! How astounding! I had not even got leave to ask these questions from the other monks and Brahmins. Now, Bhikkhu Gotama lets me to ask.

Greatly pleased and elated, he put his questions to the Buddha in the following stanza:

518. (Asked Sabhiya,) O Buddha, for what attainment is one called a 'Bhikkhu'? How does one come to be called 'the Calm One'? What kind of person is a ' Tamed One'? And how does one deserve the title 'Buddha'?

May I have the answer to those questions. (4)

519. (Replied the Buddha:) O Sabhiya, by one's own effort along the Path, one attains extinction of defilements, Nibbāna;

has overcome scepticism; no false beliefs, either in the Annihilist view or in the Eternalist view, occupy his heart;

accomplished is in the Noble Practice of the Path; hence no rebirth is store for him: That one is called a 'Bhikkhu'. (5)

520. Indifferent to all sense objects, he is constantly mindful; no pain whatever does he cause to anybody in all the worlds; he has crossed the (4 great) floods (of rebirth);

all evils extinct in him, he is untroubled by any unclean thoughts; being out of obsessions, such a one is called the Calm One. (6)

521.Contemplated comprehension been achieved by him in respect of all the sense objects (coming into contact) through the 6 faculties, either in himself or in anything outside that exists knowing the true nature of life, both here and hereafter, he serenely awaits the time to lay down the burden of existence.

Such a one, fully contemplated, is a Tamed One.(7)

522. He comprehends with supra-mundane knowledge about the worlds through the aeons as well as the process of all existences involving the duo-phases of death and rebirth.

Pure with a total absence of lust, he has entered Nibbāna where rebirth never occurs. Such a Noble One is called a Buddha.(8)

Thereupon Sabhiya, the monk was very much satisfied, and in a glad and jubilant tone asked the Buddha further questions:

523. (Asked Sabhiya:) O Buddha, for what attainment is one called a Brāhmaṇa? How does one come to be called Snātaka (trainer of men)? What kind of person is a Nāga?

May I have the answer to those questions? (9)

524. (Replied the Buddha:) (O Sabhiya), he has put away all evils, spotless is his mind, and he stands serene in the fruition of the Path.

He has passed Saṁsāra he has accomplished the cultivation for Insight-knowledge. No leaning on craving and false views lurk in him.

Such noble qualities entitle an Arahant to be called a Brāhmaṇa. (10)

525. Knowing the Noble Truths through the Path, he has quelled all defilements. Merit and demerit alike he rejects. Never so much as a tinge of taint corrupts his mind.

In the discernment of life's process covering both the present existence and the following, he has overcome rebirth and (its sequel) death.

Such an Arahant, endowed with these qualities is called the Serene One, the Samaṇa. (11)

526. Cleansed is he of all evils concerning (the aggregate of) existence in himself or all things external; he lets no thoughts occur, by way of craving and false view that would lead to rebirth in the human world or the celestial worlds.

Such an Arahant with such a pure heart is called a 'Cleansed One'. (12)

527. In respect of nothing whatever in all life would this Noble One commit any evil deed; with all fetters and involvements having been forsaken, he is (doubly) liberate from any attachment to any of the compounded existence of aggregates.

A Noble One with such qualities is called a 'Nāga' (13)

Thereupon Sabhiya … (sic), asked to the Buddha the following further questions:

528. (Asked Sabhiya:) O Buddha, whom do the Buddhas call the Conqueror of Kamma? Why does one get the title Destroyer of depositories?

What kind of man is known as a Wise Man'? And how does one acquire the title of Muni? May I have the answers to those questions (too)? (14)

529. (Replied the Buddha:) (O Sabhiya,) he understands by In- sight-knowledge, the cause of every Kamma that sends one from world to world, human to the Brahmas and vice versa,

— thereby forsaking craving and gaining release, one in command of such steadfastness of mind is called the 'Conqueror of Kamma'. (15)

530. He understands by Insight -knowledge, every kind of depository where 'Kamma's potential is kept intact,— that send one from world to world, human to the Brahmas, and vice versa, so he is able to cut the root cause thereby forsaking craving, and gaining release. One in command of such steadiness of mind is called the Destroyer of depositories. (16)

531. Both within (oneself) and without (in the entire world), he sees to the purity (untaitedness) of his senses, when caused by contact between the respective sense objects and the sense-bases. So he gains Insight-knowledge that purifies his heart.

Thus purified, he overcomes all volitions, meritorious or otherwise. One in command of such steadfastness of mind is called the Wise Man. (17)

532. Both within (oneself) and without (in the entire world), he sees by Insight-knowledge the unmeritorious conduct (volitions) as well as the meritorious.

Having passed through the meshes of human passions, he is paid homage to by man and 'deva' alike. Such a Arahant acquires the title of Muni. (18)

Thereupon Sabhiya … (sic) asked to the Buddha the following further questions:

533. (Asked Sabhiya:) O Buddha, what accomplishments entitle one to be called Vedagū? On what account does one de- serve the title Anubuddha?

What kind of person is meant by the 'Diligent One'? And how does one get the name Ajāniya? May I have the answer to those questions (too)? (19)

534. (Replied the Buddha:) O (Sabhiya) he masters the learning of every Veda, the religious texts of the monks and Brahmins; then he gains a discernment surpassing the Vedas and frees himself from attachment to any feelings.

Such a Noble One is called a 'Vedagū'. (20)

535. Whether within (oneself ) or without (in all the world) he sees by penetrative knowledge the real nature of mind and matter as nothing but ill, as well as the root cause behind them, and accordingly he tears away from the root cause of craving, vanity and false views.

One in command of such steadfastness of mind is called an Anubuddha. (21)

536. Abstaining from all evil deeds in life, he remains beyond the wonderful existence in the nether world of retribution. He abides in fortitude vigorous in the practice for Insight-knowledge, so that fortitude is his hall-mark.

One in command of such steadfastness of mind is an Arahant, the Energetic One. (22)

537. He has uprooted all the root-cause of attachment, both within (himself) and without (in the entire world); freed is he from all form of attachments that had held him in bondage.

One in command of such steadfastness of mind is the one with super-discernment, the Ajāniya. (23)

Thereupon Sabhiya ... (sic) asked to the Buddha the following further questions:

538. (Asked Sabhiya:) O Buddha, what attainments make one a Sottiya, the Learned One'? How does one get the name Ārya? What kind of person is a 'Well-conducted One'? And why does a person get the title Paribbājaka?

May I have the answer to those questions (too)? (24)

539. (Replied the Buddha:) (O Sabhiya,) On hearing any Dhamma in life, he comprehends it by Insight-knowledge; he has overcome all volitions that would lead to either blameworthiness or blamelessness.

Scepticism he has none, and he is a liberated one. In respect of all the aggregates of existence, he does not have to suffer the pangs of passion.

Such a Noble One truly is a Sottiya, a 'Learned One'. (25)

540. Having cut off all moral taints and longings that craving and false views lure up, he has won the Path's knowledge. Rebirth is no more his lot.

The 3 kinds of wrongful thoughts cannot obsess him, and he has dislodged himself from the mine of sensuality. Devoid of craving and false views, fanciful thoughts do not visit him anymore.

Such a Noble One goes by the name of Ārya. (26)

541. Under the Buddha’s Teaching, a disciple attains his goal of the Path-Knowledge, by virtue of the noble observances.

Accomplished in the virtuous conduct, he is all the time inclined to Nibbāna.

His mind is (doubly) liberated from any attachment to any of the compound existence of aggregates, hence he has no heartburning.

Such a Noble One is known a Well- conducted One. (27)

542. He has removed by the Path's Knowledge, all Kamma, whether of the past, or the future, or the present, which all entail ill only.

Being accomplished in the Path's Knowledge, he discerns (the dangers of) deceit, vanity, greed and anger. He has set the limit to mind and matter so that no rebirth will take place for him.

That one who has realized his ultimate goal of Nibbāna is called a Paribbājaka? (28)

Thereupon Sabhiya, the monk was delighted with the discourse and in a glad and jubilant mood stood up;

then placing the upper robe onto his left shoulder as a mark of reverence, raised up his hands in worship, and sang before the Buddha's presence in the following happy stanzas in praise of the Buddha;

543. O Buddha, endowed with wisdom as vast as the Earth, You have subdued the 63 kinds of false views, based on the non-Buddhist doctrines, and propounded by misconceptions about things of common usage only, (hence lacking substance of truth), and have forded the greatest darkness.(29)

544. O Buddha, you have traversed the ocean of ills to safety's yonder shores.

Universally worthy of the highest homage, you are the knower of all Dhamma, unaided by anyone; we hold you as the One absolutely free from moral taints.

O Buddha, of the radiant knowledge, the sensible knowledge, the Infinite Knowledge, the Engineer that can halt the process of ill, You have saved me from floundering. (30)

545. O Buddha, you know what had vexed me. And you have cleared away all those doubts. For this I pay you my humble homage.

O Great Muni, the winner of the goal of Nibbāna along the Path's Knowledge, O the Secure One not afflicted by dart of defilement, Kinsman of the Sun, You are indeed the Stilled One. (31)

546. Previously, I had doddered in doubts, which now you have dispelled with your All-seeing Knowledge.

O Buddha, You certainly are the Great Muni, the Discoverer of the Four Noble Truths Whom no hindrances hamper. (32)

547. O Buddha, You have destroyed all forms of despair, like the elephant tramples and lays waste a stretch of reeds. You are the cool One, the master of own faculties, possessed of fortitude, and right efforts. (33)

548. O the greatest of Arahants, possessing the vigour of the leader- bull elephant, Your discourse is acclaimed by all celestial groups named Marada and Pabbata. (34)

549. We pay you our homage, O the Unique One, the Best of men in all the worlds, including the celestial realms, none can equal you. (35)

550. O Buddha, the Knower of the Four Noble Truths, You are the Teacher; You have quelled the 5 Maras or evils; destroyed all inclinations to defilements, and saved the great multitude of sentient beings from Saṁsāra. (36)

551. Having traversed all the substrata of existence, You have broken all moral taints. There's no clinging in you, and like the lion, the king of beasts, You have no fear and dismay. (37)

552. Just as lovely lotus is not smeared with the water in which it grows, you are never smeared by meritorious nor unmeritorious actions. O Mighty Buddha, kindly stretch out your feet so that I may make obeisance to my teach. (38)

Thereupon Sabhiya the monk touched both the Buddha's feet with his head and exclaimed:

Excellent Venerable Sir, Excellent.... (sic) I take refuge in the Buddha, in the Dhamma as well, and in the Saṅgha as well.

May I be allowed to become a novice in the Saṅgha before the Buddha? May I be allowed to become a member (as a Bhikkhu) of the Saṅgha in the presence of the Buddha?

Sabhiya, a non-Buddha who had held false views, wishing to join the Saṅgha, ordinary remains on 4 months’ probation. After that period if the members of the Saṅgha are satisfied with his conduct they may bestow him full-fledged membership as a 'Bhikkhu'.

However, in your case I recognize difference (in merit) between different persons. so said the Buddha.

O Buddha, if non-Buddhists who had held false views had to re- main on 4 months’ probation to be accepted as a novice, and then admitted into the Saṅgha, I am prepared to remain 4 years on probation.

At the end of the 4 years, if the Saṅgha be satisfied, may I become a novice, and then become a Bhikkhu, replied Sabhiya. Sabhiya, the monk was allowed by the Buddha to become a novice there and then, allowed to become a Bhikkhu.

The Venerable Sabhiya became one of the Arahants.

End of the 6th Sabhiya Sutta