Ekottara Agama 18.4

Thus have I heard.1

At one time the Buddha was staying, together with a large [number of] bhikṣus, viz. five hundred persons altogether, in Rājagṛha, at Karaṇḍa’s Bamboo Grove. Then, in time, the Exalted One put on his [outer] robes, took up his alms-bowl and entered Rājagṛha to beg for his alms-food in a bazaar lane.

Now in that lane there was a brahmin lady who was about [to prepare] a meal. At that very time a brahmin passed through a gate. Seeing the Exalted One some distance away, he went to the latter’s whereabouts—‘Do you ever see a [real] brāhmaṇa?’ he asked the Exalted One.

As Venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa was just leaving that lane, the Exalted One raised his hand and, pointing to [Mahā-Kāśyapa], said, ‘That is a brāhmaṇa.’

Meanwhile the brahmin lady [had approached] the Tathāgata and gazed on his face without saying a single word while the Exalted One uttered the following verses:

He who is free from desire and hatred,
Who has overcome ignorance and delusion,
The Arhat who has put an end to malign influences—
He is called a brāhmaṇa.

He who is free from desire and hatred,
Who has overcome ignorance and delusion,
Since he has disentangled himself from all fetters (saṁyojana)—
He is called a brāhmaṇa.

He who is free from desire and hatred,
Who has overcome ignorance and delusion,
Because of his having eradicated egotism and self-conceit (asmināna)—
He is called a brāhmaṇa.

If one wishes to know the Dharma,
The Teaching of the Perfectly Enlightened One,
One should with entire sincerity take refuge
In them being foremost and unsurpassed.’

Thereafter the Exalted One suggested to Mahā-Kāśyapa, ‘Please go [for alms] for the sake of that brahmin lady so that on this very life (tatraiva janmani) she may atone for previous wrongdoing (pūrvapāpa).’

According to the Buddha’s suggestion, Kāśyapa went to the brahmin lady’s home and sat down on a prepared seat. She cooked many kinds of rich and delicious food in order to offer it respectfully to Kāśyapa. He accepted the food and, with a view to saving sentient beings and for the sake of that lady,2 he referred to the blessings resulting from works of merit;3 [then he uttered the following verses]:

The fire in which oblations (huta) are offered is the best,
Of all that is written down (lipi) verses are foremost;
A king is the person of exalted rank amidst his subjects.
Among all bodies of water the ocean is unsurpassed,
Among all heavenly bodies the moon is chief, and
All sources of light outshines the sun.

At the intermediate points of the compass,4
At the zenith and nadir, in all regions of the cardinal points,
In the heavens and in this world of mankind, the
Buddha is supreme. Whoever wishes to make merit may
Take refuge in this Perfectly Enlightened One (sambuddha).’

When the brahmin lady heard those words, she was so elated that she could not help jumping for joy. In front of Mahā-Kāśyapa she said: ‘[I] will earnestly devote myself (adhi-muc) solely to [becoming] a [real] brāhmaṇa. Kindly accept my invitation always to collect alms-food in this house.’

Mahā-Kāśyapa readily consented. [After some time,] seeing that Kāśyapa had finished his meal, the brahmin lady fetched a humble seat and sat down in front of him. Now, by means of gradual instruction (anupūrvikā kathā)5 Kāśyapa set forth the Dharma with its subtleties (sūkṣma), namely by expatiating on liberality, morality, on being born in a heavenly world, on desire causing impurity (samala), on the destruction of the malign influences as being the best, and on the desirability on going forth into homelessness. When Venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa knew that her mind has become receptive and unhindered, exalted and serene, he taught the Dharma [to her], as is all Buddhas’ wont, [that is to say] unsatisfactoriness, its origin,6 final cessation and the way [leading to the final cessation of unsatisfactoriness]. While Venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa was winding up his discourse on behalf of the brahmin lady, just there on her seat the immaculate Dharma-eye opened to her, ridding her of all impurities.7 The immaculate Dharma-eye opened to her then and there, just as a new, clean and spotless [piece of] felt8 dyes well without difficulties. As she had reached the Dharma, seen the Dharma, realised the Dharma, she was freed from doubts and won fearlessness.9 Of her own accord, she took refuge in the Three Most Important (agrya) Things, that is in the Buddha, Dharma and in the Community of the Noble Ones, and undertook to observe the Five Precepts. Venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa went on imparting to the brahmin lady the Dharma with its subtleties, and after that he rose from his seat and left.

Hardly had Kāśyapa gone when the lady’s husband returned home. The brahmin noticed that his wife’s complexion was unusually bright and out of the ordinary. So he asked her about this, and she gave the reasons for it, explaining everything to her husband. After listening to her words, the brahmin and his wife went to the monastery (vihāra, ārāma)10 where the Exalted One was staying. The brahmin and the Exalted One exchanged greetings (lit. praśna), and thereafter [the former] sat down at one side. The brahmin lady bowed down her head at the Exalted One’s feet and [also] sat down at one side.

‘The brāhmaṇa has been to my house,’ said the brahmin to the Exalted One,11 ‘now [he must] be here.’ Venerable Mahā-Kāśyapa had gone [to a place] not far from the Exalted One’s and was sitting there cross-legged, straightening body and mind and wisely reflecting upon the subtle Teaching. Pointing towards Mahā-Kāśyapa, the Exalted One said: ‘This Venerable is the brāhmaṇa par excellence.’

‘In what respect, Gautama,’ asked the brahmin, ‘is an ascetic a brāhmaṇa? Is an ascetic not different from a brāhmaṇa?’

‘If one wishes to speak of an ascetic,’ replied the Exalted One, ‘take myself [, for example]. Since I have been conscientiously following all the rules of moral conduct (śīla) pertaining to ascetic discipline (vinaya) which ascetics respectfully [have to] observe, I am an ascetic. If we now want to speak of a brāhmaṇa, take again myself, for example. As I have fully mastered in [theory and] practice the Dharma followed by all brāhmaṇas of the past, I am a brāhmaṇa. Take, for instance, Mahā-Kāśyapa. Bhikṣu Kāśyapa is an ascetic, because he makes the most of ascetic discipline in its entirety. Take again, for instance, Bhikṣu Kāśyapa. He is a brāhmaṇa, for he is a past master of all pious acts of austerity (vrata) and rules of moral conduct which brāhmaṇas respectfully observe.’

After these [words] the Exalted One uttered the following verses:

Him I do not call a brāhmaṇa who is an
Expert in sacrificial formulae (mantra);
His recitals [may] earn him a Brahmā heaven,
But such status does not free him from his fetters.

Only] he who is fetter-free, not bound for a [new] form
Of existence, does realise ultimate emancipation (mokṣa).
He who does no more cling even to heavenly bliss
Is a [true] ascetic, a [true] brāhmaṇa.’

Then the brahmin asked the Exalted One: ‘Fetters being spoken of, what are these so-called fetters?’

‘Sensuous greed,’ replied the Exalted One, ‘is a fetter. Aversion or hatred is a fetter, and ignorance or delusion is a fetter. As for the Tathāgata, he is completely rid of sensuous greed, once and for all; and the same holds good of aversion, hatred, ignorance and delusion.’

‘If only the Exalted One would teach me his profound and subtle Dharma, requested the brahmin, so as to be no more in the grip of these fetters.’

Accordingly, the Exalted One gradually imparted to the brahmin his subtle Teaching, expatiating on liberality … on the desirability of going forth into homelessness. When the Exalted One knew that the brahmin’s mind had become receptive …, he taught him the Dharma as all Buddhas of the past were wont to do, that is to say unsatisfactoriness … While the Exalted One was winding up his discourse on behalf of the brahmin, just (T2, 590a) there on his seat the immaculate Dharma-eye opened to him… As the brahmin had reached the Dharma, seen the Dharma, realised the Dharma, he was freed from doubts and won fearlessness. Of his own accord, he took refuge in the Three Most Important Things … and undertook to observe the Five Precepts. He had irreversibly become [one of] the Tathāgata’s true sons.12 Having heard the Buddha’s words, the brahmin [lady’s] husband was pleased and applied himself to practice.’

1 See T2, 589a9ff.; Hayashi, p. 147ff. Originally published as Ekottarāgama XIX, Buddhist Studies Review, 12.2, 1995, p 157–162. Translated from the Chinese version by Thich Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.

2 Lit.: ‘human being’.

3 Cf. BHSD 260 f., under dakṣinādeśanā.

4 After Hayashi, p. 148, n. 10.

5 Cf. Divy(V) 221, 13; BHSD 30. As for Pāli loci, see e.g., Vin I. 15 f.: ekamantaṁ nisinnassa… anupubbikathaṁ kathesi, seyyathīdaṁ—dānakathaṁ sīlakathaṁ saggakathaṁ, kāmānaṁ ādīnavaṁ okāraṁ sankilesaṁ, nekkhamme ānisaṁsaṁ pakāsesi …

6 See BSR 10, 2, p. 220, n. 16.

7 See BSR 11, 2, p. 166, n. 16. See also the entry on Dhammacakkhu at Enc-Buddh IV, 3, pp. 478–81.

8 The Indic original surely had ‘piece of cloth’, vastra, Pāli vattha; cf. Vin, ibid.: seyyathāpi nāma suddhaṁ vatthaṁ apagatakālakaṁ sammadeva rajanaṁ paṭiggaṇheyya…

9 For a Pāli parallel see, e.g., M I, 380: Atha kho… diṭṭhadhammo pattadhammo viditadhammo pariyogāḷhadhammo tiṇṇavicikiccho vigatakathaṁkatho vesārajjappatto… A Sanskrit parallel occurs at NidSa 20.16: dṛṣṭadharmā prāptadharmā viditadharmā paryavagāḷhadharmā tīrṇakāṅkṣas tīrṇavicikitso… vaiśāradyaprāpto… Cf. also CPS II, p. 182 (16.15) and ibid., n. 3 in which Waldschmidt quotes another parallel, with reference to a bhikṣunī, from Divy.

10 After Hackmann, p. 127; lit. ‘essence-hut’, Soothill, p. 427: ‘pure abode, … a monastery or nunnery’.

11 From this remark it can be inferred that the brahmin lady’s husband is identical to the above brahmin who asks the Buddha about the existence of a ‘real brāhmaṇa’.

12 Cf. Bhagavato putto oraso at M III, 29, S II, 221, III, 83. In these places the ‘legitimate sons’ of the bhagavat respectively are Sāriputta, Mahā-Kassapa and, generally speaking, the arhats. It seems quite remarkable that here in EĀ a layman who has become a streamwinner is referred to as ‘true son’ (zhēn zĭ) of the Tathāgata.