Sela Sutta | Sn III-7


7. Sela Sutta

Discourse on the Brahmin Sela

Thus have I heard:

On one occasion the Buddha was making a journey in Aṅguttara Province, in the company of 1250 Bhikkhus, when they arrived at the market town of Āpaṇa.

At that time Keniya, the recluse said to his companions:

"Friends, Bhikkhu Gotama, a Sakyan Prince of the House of Śākya, who has become a Bhikkhu, is on a journey and he reported to have arrived in Āpaṇa, along with 1250 followers.

This venerable Gotama's reputation has spread far and wide as follows:

That he is known as Arahant because he is deserved special homage by all the worlds;

he is also known as Sammāsambuddha because he knows all things in their reality, without being shown by anybody;

he is also known as Vijjacaranasampanna because he is endowed with (supra-mundane) Knowledge and (unique) virtuous conduct;

he is also known as Sugata because he speaks only benign speech; he is also known as Lokavidu because he has full comprehension of the world;

he is also known as Anuttaropurisadhammasarathi because he is peerless in taming those who deserve the taming; he is also known as Satthadevamanussanam because he is the Teacher to all celestial beings and human beings;

He is also known as the Buddha because he discovers the Four Noble Truths; and he is also known as Bhagavān because he possesses supernormal powers.

The Buddha, having won by Insight-Knowledge, unguided by anybody, the real truth about all life that includes the celestial worlds of 'devas' and Brahmas, including the great Mara, and the human world of great monks, recluses and Brahmins and monarchs; realized the fruition of that knowledge and imparted that knowledge to all.

The Buddha preaches his teaching that is fine in the beginning, fine in the middle, fine in the end, which is subtle in meaning and beautiful in language.

He shows the Noble Practice that is perfect and pure.

Friend, it behaves us to go and see such an Arahant.

Then Keniya, the recluse approached the Buddha and after exchanging greetings and courteous compliments sat down at a (suitable) place.

To Keniya thus seated, the Buddha talked bearing on the Dhamma and its benefits, which the ascetics took in.

Gradually, the Buddha's discourse stirred up interest and gladdened Keniya's heart (in the prospect of practising the Dhamma).

Thereupon, the delighted Keniya requested the Buddha,

Would the Venerable Gotama, for the sake of merit, kindly accept my offerings of food tomorrow, together with all the Saṅgha in your company?

To this the Buddha replied:

Keniya, the number of the Saṅgha is no small one: it is 1250. And you have your confidence in (you frequently see) the Brahmins

Keniya requested for the 2nd time:

O Venerable Gotama, 1250 Bhikkhus may be a big number, and I may happen to have placed my confidence in the Brahmins, yet in any case I would request that the Venerable Gotama accept my offering of food tomorrow, along with all the Saṅgha here

For the 2nd time the Buddha replied: Keniya, the number of the Saṅgha is no small one: it is 1250. And you have your confidence in the Brahmins

Keniya requested for the 3rd time:

O Venerable Gotama, 1250 Bhikkhus may be a big number, and I may have confidence in the Brahmins. In any case, I would request that the Venerable Gotama accept my offering of food tomorrow, together with all your Saṅgha here.

This time the Buddha remained silent, signifying acceptance.

Thereupon Keniya understood the Buddha’s meaning and leaving the Buddha’s presence, headed for his monastery. There he said to his colleagues and relatives:

Here, friends and kinsmen, listen to me:

I have for merits sake invited Bhikkhu Gotama and his follower, bhikkhus to a meal tomorrow. Therefore, would you please lend me your hands to make my offerings a success?

Very well, Sir, replied Keniya’s colleagues and kinsman.

So saying, some of them dug fire-places for cooking; some split the firewood; some washed cooking utensils; some filled big jars with water; some prepared the floor-carpets for the feasting place.

Keniya personally supervised the erection of the circular pavilion for the occasion.

At that time Sela, the Brahmin was residing in the town of Āpaṇa; he was accomplished in reciting the Vedic hymns. He was learned in the Vedic texts.

He mastered the Nighaṇḍu (lexicon), the Kedubha (prosody), the Grammar, the 5th Vedic book of Itihāsa (oral traditional history or legendary lore) and the 3 Vedic Books. He was conversant with the Pāda (the Scholium), the Brahkaron (analytical grammar).

He was perfectly acquainted with the Lokayātana (Treatise on Materialism) and the Mahā-puruṣa-Lakkhaṇa (Treatise on the Distinguishing Marks of Great men).

He had 300 youths under him learning the Vedic Books.

Then Keniya had a high esteem of Sela.

Sela together with his 300 youthful pupils were taking a stroll when they happened to pass by Keniya’s monastery.

They saw the bustle there- some digging fire-places for cooking... (sic.) some preparing the floor-carpets...(sic.), Keniya personally supervising the erection of the ceremonial circular pavilion.

So Sela the Brahmin asked:

Revered Keniya, are you celebrating the marriage ceremony of a son or that of a daughter? Or are you making a grand sacrifice? Or are you going to entertain the King Bimbisāra (Lord of Māgadha) and his retinue tomorrow?

No, revered Sela, Keniya replied, I am not celebrating either the marriage ceremony of a son or that of a daughter. Nor have I invited the King and his retinue to a feast tomorrow.

As a matter of fact, I am preparing for a grand sacrifice. Bhikkhu Gotama, a Sakyan Prince of the House Śākya, who has become a Bhikkhu is on a journey of our Aṅguttarapa province.

He is here in our town; together with a company of 1250 Bhikkhus .His reputation has spread far and wide... (sic).

He is known as the Buddha because he discovers the Four Noble Truths; he is also known as Bhagavān because he possesses supernormal powers.

Yes, his reputation, as I‘ve said above, has spread far and wide. That Buddha and his company, the Saṅgha, I have invited, for merits sake to a feast tomorrow.

Revered Keniya, you said ‘Buddha’, didn’t you?

Yes, Revered Sela, I said ‘Buddha.

(Again Sela asked in excite:) Revered Keniya, you did say ‘Buddha’ didn’t you?

Yes, Revered Sela, I did, of course.

Thereupon, Sela, the Brahmin bethought himself thus:

It is a rare chance indeed that even the sound Buddha is heard in the world. In our Vedic texts, there is mention of the 32 auspicious marks of a Great Man.

A man possessing these marks is bound to become either of these 2 and nothing else,

that is, if he remains a layman he will become the Universal Monarch who is righteous himself and who rules according to righteousness;

who rules all the 4 Great Islands (continents) bounded by the 4 Great Oceans; who overpowers all opposition; who keeps his domains in peace, and who is endowed with the 7 kinds of precious possessions.

By the 7 kinds of possessions is meant possession of these items:

  1. the ‘Cakka’ (the wheel, the wishing-insignia),
  2. the royal elephant,
  3. the royal charger,
  4. the royal ruby,
  5. the royal queen,
  6. the royal treasure (Rich man)
  7. the royal eldest son (their-apparent).

The Universal Monarch is also served by over a thousand royal sons who are bold, mighty and menacing and who can quell all foes. He rules all lands bounded by the Great Oceans, without wielding a rod, but by mere righteousness.

In case the man of such unique features leaves lay life and becomes Bhikkhu he would certainly become an Arahant, deserving worship by all the worlds;

the One who knows all Dhamma in their true nature, by own insight, without a teacher the One who has removed the lid of defilements in the world, the Buddha.

Revered Keniya, he addressed Keniya, the monk, where is the Venerable Gotama, the Arahant and the ‘Knower-of-all-Dhammas-by self-enlightenment staying now?

Thereupon Keniya, raising his right arm (and pointing towards yonder woodland) said,

Revered Sela, there amidst yonder shark green rows of woodlands the Buddha is now staying.

Then Sela and his 300 young pupils went (forth with) to where the Buddha was staying.

He warned his pupils,

Hey ,boys, come quietly, come close behind me gently. Mark that the Buddhas dwell in solicitude like the lion, and it’s no simple matter to go before a Buddha.

And also note that you must not interfere when I am in discussion with the Buddha. Wait till the end of the discussion if you want to say anything.

Sela then approached the Buddha, and after an exchange of friendly greetings and courteous compliments, seated himself at a (suitable) place.

Then he surveyed the Buddha from head to foot to examine the presence or otherwise of the 32 distinguishing marks on his body.

He found most (the 30) of them but the (remaining) 2 he was unable to see.

He was unable to see the genital organ, which was sheathed, and the extraordinarily long and wide tongue.

Since he could not see these 2, he had doubts if they existed at all; he felt uncertain, of course. Without seeing it he could not believe it (i.e., their presence).

Thereupon the Buddha bethought Himself thus:

This Brahmin Sela has seen most (the 30) of my distinguishing marks of a Great Man, but he cannot see the 2 (hidden), so he has his doubts about the presence of the (sheathed) genital organ and the (super-sized) tongue. He (naturally) feels sceptic. I should reveal these 2 marks by supernormal-power.

Thereupon the Buddha let Sela (and Sela alone) see the genital organ by means of supernormal power. He then thrust out His tongue and touched His 2 ear cavities each in turn with the top of the tongue.

Likewise he touched the nostrils each in turn, with the tip of the tongue. He also covered the entire forehead with the tongue.

After that Sela reflected thus:

"Bhikkhu Gotama is possessed of the full 32 distinguishing marks of a Great Man. He is not deficient in any of the 32.

I do not know for certain whether he is a Buddha or not.

But I have heard the elderly and experienced Brahmin teachers, traditionally say that the Buddhas, the Arahants and the ‘Knowers-of-all-Dhammas-by-self-enlightenment,’ are wont to acknowledge their Buddhahood if they are openly credited with the noble qualities (pertaining to the Buddhas only).

It would be a good idea if I sang fitting stanzas in praise if Bhikkhu Gotama before his presence.

Thus thinking, he sang the following stanzas:-

553. O the resplendent Buddha, possessed of the marks signifying a great man, of perfect form and charming looks, with a golden complexion, and clean white teeth, You are the mighty and diligent One. (1)

554. Certainly, Sir! what we had all along imagined to see on a perfect form the distinguishing marks distinctly noticeable, now they all are there on Your sacred body, distinctly noticeable. (2)

555. O Buddha, with clear, serene eyes and face beaming like the full moon, borne on the straight, majestic body as splendid as a Brahma’s, You outshine all the Bhikkhus around You like the Sun. (3)

556. O Bhikkhu, You are extremely good-looking, Your complexion is golden. What use is there in becoming a Bhikkhu for so handsome a man like You? (4)

557. You ought to become the Universal Ruler, ruling over all lands with only the Great Oceans their limit, conquering all foes, overlord of the Jambudvīpa and all the 4 Great Islands (continents), chief of all chariot-riding monarchs. (5)

558. O Gotama Buddha, let all royal monarchs as well as vassal kings become your followers; please rule as the Universal Monarch, as lord of the human world and sovereign of all ruling monarchs. (6)

559. The Buddha replied:

- Sela, I am a monarch myself; I am the Supreme Monarch.

I turn the Wheel of Law in accordance with the Dhamma, and I have set the Wheel of the Dhamma Turning, which nobody in all the 3 planes could do. (7)

560. (Said Sela:) O Gotama, You admit that You are the Knower-of-all-Dhammas-by-self-enlightenment; You are the peerless Lord of the Dhamma, and You own that You run the Wheel of Law. (8)

561. (That Being so,) who is the chief disciple that serves You closely, that is competent to disseminate Your Doctrine? (9)

(The Buddha replied:)

Sela, I have set the Wheel of the Dhamma Turning; the Turning Wheel of the Dhamma,

this unrivalled Teaching, is capable of being propagated by my Chief Disciple Sāriputta who may properly be called my own son. (10)

563. O Brahmin, what is the Truth and what the Way of release, I have by my own enlightenment seen;

what needs to be cultivated according to the Way, I have duly cultivated; what is to be discarded, also I have discarded.

Thus have I penetrated into the Four Noble Truths, so I am the Buddha. (11)

564. O Brahmin, hold no more doubts about me and rest assured (that I am truly a Buddha); a very rare chance it is that one has the fortune to meet a Buddha. (12)

565. O Brahmin, the occurrence of the Knower-of-all-Dhammas-by-self-enlightenment is a rare chance indeed. And I am such a Knower who has pulled out all darts of defilements and who stands supreme. (13)

566. Nobler beyond any norms of nobility, I am the Brahma, the Noblest One having crushed Mara’s evil hordes, and having tamed all foes, I am happy with my profound security. (14)

567. (Said Sela):

Hey, boys, note what the All-seeing Eye has said; consider carefully those brave words like the lion’s roar in the forest, uttered by the Clean One without darts of defilements, the Diligent One. (15)

568. (Here we have) nobler beyond any norms of nobility, the Brahma, the Noblest One, destroyer of Mara’s evil hordes! Whoever could remain without admiration for such a Peerless One, may he be of the lowliest birth? (16)

569. I am now going to be a Bhikkhu here and now under the illustrious and learned Master. Those of you who wish to stay with me as a Bhikkhu may do so; those not thus wishing may go wherever you like. (Said Sela to his pupils) (17)

570. Sir, if you feel happy to serve the Buddha as a Bhikkhu, we too would become bhikkhus under the illustrious and learned Master, (replied the pupils) (18)

571. O Buddha, the Mighty One, we, 300 Brahmins here, in making obeisance to You, we earnestly beg that we may be allowed to follow the Noble Practice under Your guidance. (19)

572. (The Buddha said:)

Sela, the well-proclaimed Dhamma, that can be comprehended by own experience here and now, that is instantly beneficial to the diligent, is worth practising, no vain effort to a vigorous Bhikkhus. (20)

Sela and his 300 pupils were admitted into the Saṅgha first as novices, then as Bhikkhus.

(That night having passed,) the next morning, Keniya the recluse had his feast laid out at his monastery and intimated the fact to the Buddha, to come over and accept the offering.

The Buddha then robed himself, and carrying outer robe and alms-bowl, went to the Keniya’s monastery where He sat in the company of the Saṅgha.

Keniya made offerings of choicest delicacies personally to the Buddha and the Saṅgha until the offerees signified that they had had enough.

After the Buddha had taken the meal and dispensed with the alms-bowl, Keniya took a seat beneath the Buddha.

Then the Buddha said the following stanzas in praise of Keniya’s offerings:-

573. (Keniya) the sacrificial fire is the foremost (chief) among all forms of sacrifice; Sāvatthī, (prosody) is the foremost among all Vedas; the King is the foremost among men; the Great Ocean is the foremost among all rivers. (21)

574. The Moon is the foremost among all planets (of the night sky); the Sun is the foremost among the bright things; the Saṅgha is the foremost among donees to a donor who for merit makes offerings. (22)

After praising the meritorious deed of Keniya’s in the above stanzas, the Buddha left the place.

Then the Venerable Sela and his pupils went into solitary retirement. By earnest efforts in mindfulness with their minds intent on Nibbāna, it was not long afterwards... (sic) they attained Arahatship.

Thereafter the Venerable Sela approached the Buddha and placing the upper robe on his left shoulder, in worshipping posture, he addressed the Buddha in verse as follows:-

575. O the All-seeing Buddha possessed of 5 Eyes, 8 days ago we took homage in You; now, only after 7 nights, we’ve become die tamed ones under Your Teaching. (23)

576. O Buddha, the Knower of the Four Noble Truths, You are the Teacher, You have quelled the forces of Mara, destroyed all inclinations to defilements, and saved the great multitude of sentient beings from Saṁsāra. (24)

577. Getting beyond all the substrata of existence, You have broken up all moral blemishes. There’s no clinging in You, and like the lion, the king of beasts, You have no fear and dismay. (25)

577. (Buddha), the 300 Bhikkhus here stand in worshipping posture to You; kindly stretch out both Your feet so that these Arahants may make obeisance to their Great Master.(So said Sela and his pupils). (26)

End of the 7th Sela Sutta