The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Account of the Brahmin Kasibharadvaja contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Eleventh Vassa at Brahmin Village of Nāḷa. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 3 - Account of the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja

Kasibhāradvāja’s Ploughing Ceremony.

That day witnessed the ploughing ceremony of Kasibhāradvāja Brahmin, a native of Ekanāḷa village, (the Brahmin was so named because he belonged to the clan of Bhārādvāja and his occupation was farming). The Brahmin’s programme for the first day of the festive ploughing and sowing was as follows:

Three thousand bulls of draught were kept in readiness. All their horns were dressed beautifully in gold sheaths and so were their hoofs in silver sheaths. All of them were adorned with white flowers and the scented prints of the five fingers. They possessed the mark of best breed, each with splendid head and four legs. Some had dark brown colour of colyrium stones, some had crystal white colour, some coral red while others were splotchy like masāragalla precious stone.

Likewise, five hundred farm workers, completely in white garments and bedecked with fragrant flowers, their right shoulder bearing large floral wreaths, and they were shining as they were besmeared with orpiment and realgar all over their bodies. When they set forth, they did so in groups, each having ten ploughs. The front of the ploughs, the yokes and the goads were covered with gold plates. Of the five hundred ploughs, the very first had eight bullocks harnessed to it; each of the remaining ones had four bullocks. The rest of the bullocks were brought as reserves to replace those tired. To each group of ten ploughs was attached a cartload of seeds. The ploughing was done by each farm-worker in turn. So was the sowing accomplished.

The landlord, Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja himself, had his beard and moustache groomed early in the morning, he had also bathed, applied paste of great fragrance to his body, put on his garment worth five hundred pieces and placed an upper robe worth a thousand on his left shoulder, each of his fingers had two rings, thus making twenty rings all together, his two ears wore ear-plugs with the design of the lion’s mouth; his head had a turban like that of the Brahmā, a gold ornament with a pattern of flowers was worn at his neck. Surrounded by a host of brahmins, he supervised the work.

Thereafter the Brahmin’s wife had many pots of milk food cooked and brought by carts. She bathed with scented water, fully dressed herself and went to the farm in the company of other brahmin women.

In the Brahmin’s house, too, everywhere was perfumed. Parched rice was strewn everywhere. Pots filled with water, banana-trees, flags, banners and streamers were used for decoration. And, with scents, flowers, etc., worship was done. In the field, flags of cylinder-shaped and flat were hoisted everywhere. Assistants, workers and those who assembled there numbered two thousand and five hundred. Everyone was in new clothes and milk-food had been prepared for them.

When everything was ready for the occasion at the farm, the Brahmin had his golden bowl, which was normally used for his eating, cleansed and filled with milk-food flavoured with butter, honey and molasses. He then had it offered in sacrifice to the god of the plough. The Brahmin’s wife had bowls of gold, silver, white copper and red copper distributed among the five hundred farm workers, and she herself fed them by pouring the milk-food into their bowls, one after another, with a cup-like ladle. After finishing the offerings to deities, however, wearing his sandals with red straps and holding a red walking-stick of gold, the Brahmin went from place to place to oversee as required, and to say: “Pour milk-food into this man’s bowl! Put butter into this man's! Ladle out molasses into his!”

This was how the ploughing ceremony of the Brahmin landlord Kasibhāradvāja was held.

The Buddha visited The Ploughing Ceremony

At that time, while staying at the fragrant chamber, the Buddha knew that the feast of milk-food was going on and decided that “The time has come for me to exhort the Brahmin!”. Hence, He adjusted His lower robe, girded His waist, put on His upper robe, took His alms-bowl, and went alone to the place where the ploughing ceremony was taking place in full swing,

(Herein whenever the Buddha wished to collect alms-food, the stone alms-bowl in inda-nīla blue (that had been presented by the four Guardian Deifies) appeared automatically in the middle of the Buddha’s two hands; it was not necessary for Him to go elsewhere and bring it. As the bee comes to the place of a variety of flowers, so the bowl presented itself to Him.

(Herein one may ask: “Why did not the monks follow the Buddha?” The answer is: When the Buddha was desirous of going alone, He entered the flagrant chamber at the time of collecting food in the morning and remained there after closing the door. From that hint the monks know “Today the Master wants to go alone into the town or the village. Surely the Master must have seen in His vision somebody to convert.” Knowing thus they took their respective alms-bowls and went on their rounds after circumambulating the fragrant chamber. On that day, for the conversion of Kasibhāradvāja, too, the Buddha did in the manner already mentioned. That was the reason for the monks did not go with the Buddha.)

At the time of the Buddha’s visit, the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja was still presiding the feast of milk-food for the members of his retinue. The Buddha then reached the site of the feast and stood at a suitable place.

(Herein the Buddha’s going to and standing on the feasting ground was just to grant His blessing to the Brahmin. In fact, He went there not because He wanted to partake of His share like a destitute. To elaborate: The Buddha had relatives numbering one hundred and sixty thousand which comprised eighty thousand being maternal and eighty thousand paternal. These relatives could afford to provide permanent sustenance by their wealth. Indeed the Buddha donned the robe not for food. Truly, He became an ascetic with the determination: “For countless aeons I had given the five great gifts and fulfilled the Perfections. Thereafter, having liberated Myself from saṃsāra, I will liberate beings worthy of liberating, as much as I am liberated. Having tamed Myself with the restraint of the six senses, I will tame beings worthy of taming, as much as I am tamed. Having calmed Myself with the extinction of all the heat of moral defilements, I will calm beings worthy of calming, as much as I am calm. Having attained Myself the element of peace with regard to the body and defilements, I will teach beings worthy of attaining the element of peace with regard to the body and defilements, as much as I do.” Therefore, it was because He wanted to liberate these beings as much as He had liberated Himself from saṃsāra;it was because He wanted to tame those beings as much as He had tamed Himself with the restraint of the six senses; it was because He wanted to calm those beings as much as He had calmed Himself with the extinction of all the heat of the defilements; it was because He wanted to attain the element of peace with regard to the body and moral defilements that He wandered about the world. In His present wandering, He went and stood there on the ground, where the feast of milk-food was in full swing, in order to show His favour to the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja.)

The Buddha, having stood at a place high enough for Him to be seen and to be heard by Kasibhāradvāja, emitted His body-rays in the colour called pīta as though it were a mixture of gold liquid and yellow orpiment. Far brighter than the light of a thousand suns and a thousand moons, the rays reached up to the distance of eighty cubits. Enveloped on all sides by the Buddha’s body light, the walls of the Brahmin’s workshop, the trees around and the lumps of turned-over earth and other objects looked like solid gold.

At that time the people who were helping themselves to the milk-food saw the peerless Buddha with the glowing Buddha-splendour. Accordingly, they washed their hands and feet and, with their joined hands raised in adoration, they stood surrounding the Buddha. When the Brahmin saw the Buddha being surrounded by the people, he became unhappy, thinking: “My work has been purposely disrupted!” Noticing the major and minor marks, the Brahmin wrongly remarked: “This monk Gotama, only if He were to work for His material progress He would have achieved something like the ruby hairpin worn on their heads by all the people in the whole Jambudīpa. He could have accomplished any sort of wellbeing! Yet, being lazy, He does nothing but eats the food that He gets at ploughing ceremonies and other functions, He goes about giving priority to the maintenance of His physical fitness.”

Because of his unhappiness and misapprehension, the Brahmin said to the Buddha contemptuously as follows:

“O Monk, I do the ploughing and sowing. Doing so I make a living. (Though I possess no marks like yours, my work is not adversely affected.) O Monk, you too should plough and sow like me. By so doing, live a happy life as I do. (To you who are endowed with the signs of greatness, what benefit will fail to accrue?)”

(The Brahmin had already learnt that “The glorious Prince Siddhattha has come into being at the palace of the Sakyans, in the city of Kapilavatthu! That prince has become an ascetic after renouncing the luxurious life of a Universal Monarch!” He therefore recognized that Prince Siddhattha was this monk. He said to the Buddha in the above manner because he meant to censure Him, saying: “Having given up the luxuries of a World King, should You (who have become a monk) now feel weary?” Or as the Brahmin was of sharp intelligence, he said so not because he wanted to denounce Him but because as he personally had witnessed the Buddha’s attractive frame, desired to extol His wisdom and lead Him into a dialogue.)

Then as he (the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja) was somebody worthy of conversation, was a farmer, the Buddha wanted to instruct him in accordance with his inclinations.

In order to give a Dhamma-talk, revealing Himself as the top ranking cultivator in the world of sentient beings, with the devas and Brahmās, the Buddha said:

“O Brahmin, like you I too plough the field and sow the seeds and live happily thereby.”

Then it occurred to Kasibhāradvāja: “This monk Gotama says: ‘I too plough the field and sow the seeds,’ but I do not see His implements such as yoke, goad, etc. Is He telling me a lie or is He not?" Then the Brahmin looked at the Buddha and examined Him from the feet to the top hair and saw clearly that He was fully endowed with the marks of a great man. He therefore pondered: “There is no reason for a man endowed with these marks to say what is untrue.”

At that moment there arose in him sense of adoration for the Buddha and he abandoned such a rude mode of address as Samaṇa (Monk), and called Him by His clan name and said:

“We do not see the Venerable Gotama’s yoke, plough, ploughshare, goad and bullocks. Even then You asserted, saying: ‘Brahmin, like you I too plough the field and sow the seeds and live happily thereby.’ ”

The Brahmin then asked in verse:

1) Kassako paṭijānāsi
na ca passāmi te kasim.
Kasim no pucchito brūhi
yathā jānemu te kasiṃ

(O Gotama,) you declare that you are a farmer. But I do not see your implements, say, yoke, plough and others that are required for farming. As you are now asked, please tell us in such a way that we might know all the implements (of yours, Gotama,) for farming.

To the complete question put forth by the Brahmin, the Buddha gave a complete reply in four verses, three containing the answers themselves and the fourth the conclusion.

The text of the verses and their translations are as follows:

Answer in Verse (1)

2) Saddhā bījaṃ tapo vuṭṭhi
paññā me yuga-naṅgalaṃ
Hirī īsā mano yottaṃ
sati me phālapācanaṃ

(a) (“O Brahmin of Bhāradvāja clan!) My faith is the seeds, the faith which is of four kinds: āgama[1], adhigama[2], okappana[3] and pasāda[4]. (For these four, read the Pāthika-vagga Commentary and others works.)

(b) My restraint of the six senses is the rainfall that contributes to the development of the plants.

(c) My Insight-Wisdom (vipassanā-paññā) and the fourfold Path-Wisdom (magga-paññā) are the yoke and the log of the harrow.

(d) My shame (hirī) and fear (ottappa) of evil deeds are the twin shafts of the harrow.

(e) My mind generating concentration (samādhi) is the ropes which are of three kinds, one for tying, another for harnessing and a third for linking.

(f) My mindfulness (sati) accompanied by Insight-Wisdom and that accompanied by Path-Wisdom are the harrow teeth and the goad.)

(N.B. The Brahmin asked exclusively about the yoke, harrow and other implements. But the Buddha answered by adding essential facts (though they were omitted in the question). He did so because of the analogy between the two rootcauses [of faith and seeds]. Such a way of teaching is an asset of every Enlightened One. The Buddha, desirous of teaching by disclosing that asset, and by supplying the other required factors of the same analogy, said that his faith formed the seeds. (Herein what is meant by “the analogy between the two root-causes?” Did not the Brahmin ask only with reference to the implements such as yoke, harrow and the like? Then why did the Buddha talk about His faith by comparing it to the seeds and by bringing it into His answer though not mentioned in the Brahmin’s question? If an answer contains something not asked about, is not it impertinent to the questions? Although the Brahmin confined his questions to farm implements, such as the yoke, harrow and the like, why did the Buddha touch upon extra things as well in His answers such as faith equalling the seeds and so on? Did not this render His answer irrelevant? Such queries might crop up.

(The answer is: Never did the Buddha speak without relevance. It was customary for the Buddhas to teach by introducing new facts by way of analogy.

(Here references should be noted as follows: The Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja asked about farming with reference to the yoke, plough and other implements. But the Buddha, who was thus asked, did not leave out anything at all from His answer saying: “Oh, this is not questioned by the Brahmin.” Such regard, on the part of the Buddha, meant His care taken for the Brahmin out of compassion. Being desirous of speaking of farming from the very beginning so that the Brahmin might know the whole business together with the four points of (1) root-cause (mūla), (2) support (upakāra), (3) accumulation (sambhāra), and (4) result (phala) that were excluded from his questions. Though the Brahmin failed to ask fully because his knowledge and wisdom was not deep enough, the Buddha answered all the unasked but essential points as well in His answer because so great was His compassion.

(Further explanation: Seeds are the basic requirement for farming. No seeds, no farming. The quantity of seeds determines the amount of farm work. There is no farm work done more than what is demanded by the seeds. Hence the seeds are the principal root-cause of farming. On account of this, the Buddha desired to describe the task of farming beginning from that root-cause. Because the seed as the rootcause of secular farming, the theme of the Brahmin’s question was analogous to the root-cause of spiritual farming of the Buddha, He also wished to add the very analogy. Hence His saying: “My faith is the seeds.” (As has been said above, ‘the analogy between the root-cause of secular farming, i.e. seeds and the root-cause of spiritual farming, i.e. faith.’ Thus the profound significance of this statement should be understood.)

(Again, it may be argued: “What the Brahmin asked should have been answered first. Yet, why did the Buddha answer first but not later what was not asked by the Brahmin?”

(The answer in brief: (1) Though the seed-like faith should be answered later, the Buddha answered it first because it would benefit the Brahmin much. (2) The rainfall-like sense-restraint and the seed-like faith are related to each other as cause and effect; hence the rainfall-like sense-restraint was spoken of immediately after the seed-like faith though it should have been done so later on.

(The answer expanded:

(1) The Brahmin was intelligent.

But as he was born in a family of wrong views, his faith was very weak. One, who is strong in intelligence but weak in faith, does not believe others (not his teachers in the least). He does not practise what should be practised and is likely to fail thereby to attain the extraordinary Path and Fruition. Kasibhāradvāja’s faith, free from mental defilement, was weak (because of his birth in a family of wrong views.) Therefore his weak faith combined with strong intelligence could not earn him the Path and Fruition. The combination is somewhat like a bullock yoked together with an elephant. It was the faith that would lead the Brahmin to the spiritual attainment. Therefore, in order to establish him in faith (which was required), the Buddha, incomparably clever in teaching, taught faith first though it should come later.

(2) Rainfall is immensely beneficial to the seeds.

The relationship between cause and effect could be fully appreciated only if the Buddha spoke of rainfall immediately after His reference to the seeds. Hence His answer concerning rainfall, which should have followed later, was given earlier (i.e., next to the answer concerning the seed-like faith.) (Not only the rainfall but also the shafts of the harrow, ropes, etc., the Buddha spoke of at their respective appropriate places in the sequence. The characteristics and other particulars of faith may be learned from the texts concerned.)

(The analogy between faith and seeds is this: The natural seeds, the basic cause of the secular farming of the Brahmin, did two things: (1) shooting roots downwards and (2) developing sprouts upwards. Similarly, the seed-like faith, the basic cause of the spiritual farming by the Buddha, performed two things: (1) shooting the roots of morality (sīla) downwards and (2) developing the sprouts of Tranquillity (samatha) and Insight (vipassanā) upwards.

(Just as the natural seeds absorb the nutritious elements of the soil as well as of the water through the roots and grow to bring maturity to the crop through their stems, even so the seed-like faith absorbs the elements of Tranquillity and Insight through the roots of morality and grows to bring maturity to the crop of Noble Fruition (ariya-phala) through the stem of Noble Path (ariya-magga).

(a) (Just as the natural seeds that lie in fertile soil attain development with their roots, sprouts, stems and ears, producing sap and paddy crop full of grains, even so the seedlike faith that lies in the fertile soil of the mental process attain development with Moral Purity (sīla-visuddhi), producing the sap of the Noble Path (ariyamagga) and the crop of arahatship full of Analytical Knowledge (paṭisambhidā) and Higher Psychic Power (abhiññā). Hence the Buddha’s saying “My faith is the seeds.”)

(With reference to the saying: “My restraint of the six senses is the rainfall.” Just as the Brahmin’s paddy seeds and the paddy-plants that had come out from the seeds always grew abundantly without withering because they received the help of the rainfall, even so the Buddha’s morality (sīla), concentration (samādhi) and wisdom (paññā), that had their immediate cause in the seed-like faith constantly develop without weakening,

(b) (By this saying the Buddha pointed out the profound meaning as follows: “Brahmin, if it rains after you have sown the seeds, that is all right. If not, you have to provide water by yourself. As for me, I attach the yoke and plough of Insight Wisdom (vipassanā-paññā) and Path-Wisdom (magga-paññā) to the plough of shame (hirī) and fear (ottappa) by means of the rope of concentration (samādhi); then harnessing the draught-bullocks of energy (vīriya) I prick and drive them with the goad of mindfulness (sati);thus I plough the fertile field of my mental process and sow the seed-like faith. Never has there been a time when the seed-like faith is deprived of rain water. Rain in the form of my restraint of the six senses is always falling on the fertile field of my mental process.”

(With reference to the Buddha’s saying: “My Insight Wisdom and Path-Wisdom are the yoke and the harrow.” The Brahmin’s yoke and harrow are analogous to the Buddha’s Insight-Wisdom and Path-Wisdom. The yoke is the support for the harrow shafts. It lies before the latter, to which it is connected. It is also something on which the ropes depend. It serves by making the draught-bullocks move together. Likewise, wisdom is the chief support of faultless virtues led by shame and fear. It is also the head and forerunner of faultless virtues. As it cannot exist without the shaft-like shame and fear, the latter should be bound up with the yoke of wisdom. As it is something on which the rope of concentration depends, it gives support to the latter. As wisdom checks both excessive and meagre exertions, it serves it by regulating the movement in unison of the draught-bullocks of energy.

(c) (When harrowing is done, the log fitted with teeth breaks up the soil. It also destroys big and small roots. Similarly, when the Buddha’s log of wisdom fitted with the teeth of mindfulness breaks up the four masses (ghāna), namely, the mass of continuity (santati), the mass of composition (samūha), the mass of function (kicca) and the mass of sense object (ārammaṇa). It also destroys all the big and small roots of mental defilements (kilesa). Hence the Buddha’s saying: "My Insight-Wisdom and Path-Wisdom are the yoke and the harrow."

(With reference to the saying: “My shame and fear are the twin shafts of the harrow.” Shame and fear are born together and exist together. When shame is experienced, fear also is then experienced. Hence the translation: “My shame (hirī) and fear (ottappa) of evil are the twin shafts of the harrow.”

(d) (Just as the Brahmin’s harrow shafts hold on the yoke and the log, even so the Buddha’s twin shafts of shame and fear hold on the yoke and the log of Mundane Insight Wisdom (Lokiya vipassanā-paññā) and Supra-mundane Path Wisdom (Lokuttara magga-paññā) (as the existence of the two kinds of wisdom depends on that of the two: shame and fear of evil.) The yoke and the log do their respective jobs (as has been mentioned before) only when they are bound up with the shafts. Only then are they neither shaky nor loose (but remain tight and fastened). In the same way, the (aforesaid) two kinds of Wisdom perform their respective duties only when they are bound up with the twin shafts of shame and fear. Only then are they neither slackened nor weakened but remain tight and fastened and unmixed with unwholesome things that may arise from lack of shame (ahirīka) and lack of fear (anottappa). Hence the Buddha’s saying: “My shame and fear of evil deeds are the twin shafts of the harrows.”

(With reference to the saying: “My mind is the ropes”: The key word ‘mind’ means ‘concentration.’ Hence the translation: “My mind generating my concentration is the ropes, which are of three kinds: one for tying, another for harnessing and the third for linking.”

(e) (There are three kinds of ropes, one for tying, i.e. tying the shafts and yoke; another for harnessing, i.e. harnessing the draught bullocks to the yoke, and the remaining one for linking, i.e. linking the driver with the bullocks. Just as the Brahmin’s three ropes kept the shaft, the yoke and the bullocks together and made them accomplish their respective tasks, even so the Buddha’s rope of concentration helped Him focus the shafts of shame and fear, the yoke of wisdom and the bullocks of energy on a single sense object and made all these carry out their respective functions. Hence the Buddha’s saying: “My mind generating my concentration is the ropes.”

(With reference to the saying: “My mindfulness accompanied by Insight Wisdom and that accompanied by Path Wisdom are the harrow-teeth of the harrow and the goad.” Just as the natural harrow-teeth guard and lead the harrow log, even so mindfulness guards Wisdom by exploring the perspective of wholesome things and bringing them into focus. In many Pāli Texts therefore the Buddha teaches mindfulness to be the protector. By never being negligent, the harrow-teeth of mindfulness precedes the harrow-log of wisdom. Indeed the factors that have been investigated by the preceding mindfulness are penetrated by the following wisdom.

(f) (Just as the natural goad, warning the bullocks of the danger of being pricked or beaten, gives them no chance of retreating and stopping, but checks their going astray, even so the goad of mindfulness, warning the bullock-like energy of the danger of falling into woeful states, gives it no chance of idling, retreating and stopping, and checks thereby its mental wandering in undesirable sensual pleasures; fastening it to meditation practice, it also deters the bullock-like energy from following the wrong path. Hence the Buddha’s saying: “My mindfulness accompanied by Insight-Wisdom and that accompanied my Path-Wisdom are the harrow-teeth and the goad.”

Answer in Verse (2)

3) Kāyagutto vacīgutto
āhāre udare yato
Saccaṃ karomi niddānaṃ
soraccam me pamocanaṃ

(O Brahmin of Bhāradvāja clan! Just as you make your field secure by fences, even so) I (the Teacher of the three classes of beings) make the field of my mental process secure by the fences of threefold wholesome physical conduct and fourfold wholesome verbal conduct. (By this is taught Pātimokkha-saṃvara-sīla, Moral restraint under the Pātimokkha Rules.) With regard to the use of the four requisites, I restrain myself well to avoid the twenty-one unlawful ways of acquisition. (By this is taught Ajivapārisuddhisīla, Moral practice of living a life of purity.) With regard to the stomach, I restrain myself well by eating moderately. (By this is taught Paccayasannissita-sīla, Moral practice of depending on requisites, represented by bhojane mattaññuta, knowledge of moderation concerning food.) Through the eightfold noble speech (ariya-vohāra) the truthful words, I uproot the weeds of eightfold ignoble speech, (anariya-vohāra), the weeds of falsehood. Arahatship, delight in the state called Nibbāna, means the outright removal of the harrow, complete giving up of the field and perpetual retirement belonging to me, the Teacher of the three classes of beings.

(The meaning here is: “Brahmin, just as you make, after sowing the seeds, a barrier of thorns, a barrier of trees, a barrier of logs or a barrier of bamboos, so that cattle, buffalos and deer could have no access and destroy the crop, even so I, after sowing the seeds of faith, build the three big walls of pātimokkha-saṃvara-sīla, ājīva-pārisuddhi-sīla and paccaya-sannissita-sīla so that cattle, buffalos and deer in the form of unwholesomeness, such as passion, hatred, delusion, etc, could have no access and destroy the crop of various meritorious deeds that I (who am a great farmer) possess.

Brahmin, just as you, after doing the external (bahira) work of secular ploughing, with the hands or with the sickle, pull out and get rid of the weeds, which are damaging to the crop, even so I, after doing the internal (ajjhattika) work of spiritual ploughing, pull out and get rid of the following eightfold ignoble speech, the weeds of falsehood:

(1) To say “I see” when seeing not,
(2) To say “I hear” when hearing not,
(3) To say “I attain” when attaining not,
(4) To say “I know” when knowing not,
(5) To say “I see not” when seeing,
(6) To say “I hear not” when hearing,
(7) To say “I attain not” when attaining,
(8) To say “I know not” when knowing).

Of this eightfold ignoble speech, the weeds of falsehood, do I perform the pulling out, cutting off and eradicating with the hands or the sickle of eightfold noble speech, the truthful words, such as:

(1) To say “I see not” when seeing not,
(2) To say “I hear not” when hearing not,
(3) To say “I attain not” when attaining not,
(4) To say “I know not” when knowing not,
(5) To say “I see” when seeing,
(6) To say “I hear" when hearing,
(7) To say “I attain” when attaining,
(8) To say “I know” when knowing.

“Brahmin, your removal of the harrow, your giving up of the field and your retirement is not forever since you have to do the job of harrowing again in the evening, next day or next year. My removal of the harrow, My giving up the field and My retirement is not like yours. Indeed, Brahmin, until My attainment of arahatship, I knew no such thing as removal of the harrow, giving up of the field and retirement. I will explain further, Brahmin, since the lifetime of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā I have not removed the harrow, given up the field and retired until I attained the Wisdom of the Path to arahatship, Omniscience. For the whole period of four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons, I had to do the internal work of spiritual farming by harnessing the four big bullocks of right exertion or glowing energy to the harrow of Wisdom.

O Brahmin, after restlessly doing the spiritual farming for the aforesaid period of four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons, only when I attained arahatship that is encircled by all the attributes of a Buddha, sitting on the golden throne of Aparājita under the Mahābodhi tree, which indeed is peace, the end of all worries, did I take off the bullocks of energy from the harrow of Wisdom, give up the field of mental process and retire once and for all by engaging (as long as time permitted) in the Fruition of Arahatship. Now I have nothing at all to do with the work of farming again.”

Answer in Verse (3)

4) Viriyam me dhuradhorayhaṃ
Gacchati anivattantaṃ
yattha gantvā na socati

(“O Brahmin of Bhāradvāja clan!) My two kinds of energy (vīriya), physical (kāyika) and mental (cetasika), form a pair of draught bullocks that are harnessed to the harrow at the front;(or) My four kinds of right exertion (sammappadhāna) are the four (two pairs of) draught bullocks. They (that pair of two bullocks of physical and mental energy of Mine or those two pairs of bullocks of right exertion of Mine) are able to lead Me to Nibbāna that is free from the torment caused by the four bonds, namely, the bonds of sensual pleasure (kāma-yoga) and so on. Having gone to Nibbāna where a farmer like Me would not grieve at all, to that Nibbāna, free from grief, did I attain without returning through the power of Wisdom and Knowledge.

(Explanation: Just as the Brahmin’s harrow-log drew by a pair of draught bullocks harnessed at the front crushed earth-masses and destroyed big and small tree roots, even so the Buddha’s log of Wisdom, drew forcefully by the twin bullocks of physical and mental energy, crushed the fourfold earth-mass, namely, the mass of continuity (santati), the mass of composition (samūha), the mass of function (kicca) and the mass of sense object (ārammaṇa), I also got rid of the big and small tree-roots of mental defilements.

(Alternatively, just as there were two pairs of bullocks (four bullocks in all,) for the Brahmin’s harrow, one pair attached to the first yoke and the other attached to the next, even so there were at the Buddha’s Dhamma-harrow fourfold right exertion corresponding to the Brahmin’s two pairs of bullocks (four bullocks in all); just as the Brahmin’s two pairs of bullocks attached to his harrow struggle energetically and accomplished two functions, namely, the function of destroying the weeds that had grown as well as the weeds that would grow, and the function of generating the paddy plants, even so the Buddha’s fourfold exertion corresponding to the Brahmin’s two pairs of bullocks energetically struggled and accomplished two functions, namely, the function of removing unwholesomeness that had arisen as well as unwholesomeness that would arise, and the function of generating wholesomeness.)

“O Brahmin, just as your two pairs of draught bullocks move in the direction of east, in the direction of west and so on as you drive them, even so the bullocks, i.e. My two pairs of right exertion move straight to Nibbāna as I drive them in that direction; the difference between your moving and Mine is this: when your two pairs of bullocks reach the edge (the ridge) of the field they turn back. But My two pairs of bullocks, i.e. My right exertion has been moving towards Nibbāna without turning away since the lifetime of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā.

Your two pairs of bullocks could not manage to reach the place where a farmer like you are free from sorrow As for My two pairs of bullocks, in the form of right exertion, they have managed to reach the place of Nibbāna free from sorrow of a farmer like me.”

Conclusion in Verse

5) Evam esa kasi kattha,
sa hoti amatapphala
Etam kasim kasitvāna
sabbadukkha pamuccati

(“O Brahmin of Bhāradvāja clan!) I (the Teacher of the three classes of beings) have done the Dhamma-ploughing in My person without interruption for four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons. That Dhamma-ploughing of Mine bears the fruit of Nibbāna with the rich taste of peace. (It bears that tasty fruit of Nibbāna not only for Me, but for anyone be he a, deva, a human, or a Brahmā) when the harnessing of the bullocks of right exertion and the Dhamma-ploughing is done in one’s person without interruption one could absolutely be free from all suffering and have Nibbāna for his possession.

In this way, the Buddha, in delivering the sermon to Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja, concluded it by fixing it with the pinnacle of arahatship and leading up to the height of Nibbāna.

Having listened to the profound teaching, Kasibhāradvāja Brahmin came to a good understanding: “Despite my eating of the crop obtained from my ploughing, I feel hungry next day as usual. The Dhamma-ploughing of the Venerable Gotama, however, produces the fruit of Deathlessness called Nibbāna. Having partaken of that fruit of Deathlessness from the Dhamma-ploughing, one could liberate oneself from suffering once and for all.” Thus the Brahmin developed devotion, understood clearly and desirous of doing what every devotee would do: he poured milk-food into the golden bowl, which was meant for his own use and worth a hundred thousand coins, then he added butter, honey, molasses, etc. to it so that it looked attractive to the palate.

Finally he covered the golden bowl with a white cloth and took it by himself and offered it respectfully to the Buddha with these words:

“May the Venerable Gotama have the milk-food! The Venerable Gotama is indeed a ploughman, for he has done the Dhamma-ploughing which produces the crop of Nibbāna!”

Then the Buddha delivered these two stanza to the Brahmin:

(6) Gāthābhigītaṃ me abhojaneyyaṃ
sampassatam Brāhmana n'esa Dhammo.
Gāthābhigītaṃ panudanti Buddhā
dhamme sati Brāhmana vuttiresā

“O Brahmin of Bhāradvāja clan! The food obtained by uttering verses ought not to be enjoyed at all by me. Enjoyment of such food thus obtained is not the custom of Buddhas who observe purity of livelihood. (Therefore) they all reject the food obtained by uttering verses. O Brahmin of Bharadvaja clan! When one observes purity of livelihood, one seeks the four requisites lawfully without being attached to any family just like stretching one’s hand in space. Such is the way of making a living with purity by all Buddhas.” (Herein a question may arise: Did the Buddha utter the verses to get the milk-food, for mention is made of the food obtained by uttering verses? The answer is: No, the Buddha uttered the verses not to get the food. In fact, He had not received even a ladleful of food though He had stood near the field since that early morning; yet He uttered the three verses clearly describing how He performed the Dhammafarming and thereby explaining fully the attributes of a Buddha. And the food thus received happened to be like something acquired by dancers by dancing and singing. Hence “the food obtained by uttering verses.” Such food is not worth eating by Buddhas. Hence “it ought not to be enjoyed at all.”

(The verse contains four lines: the first three lines point out the purity of the discourse by absolving the Buddha from any blame and accusation by the unwise, who would say: “By singing the song the monk Gotama made the unfaithful and displeased Brahmin desire to give, and thereby accepted the food. This discourse of the monk Gotama was intended to attract the material offering of the food.” The fourth line indicates the purity of the Buddha’s livelihood.)

When the Buddha uttered thus the Brahmin Bhāradvāja became sad, thinking: “The Venerable Gotama has rejected my milk-food. He said it was not worth-eating. I am so unfortunate! I have been deprived of the opportunity of giving alms.” He thought further: “If the Venerable Gotama does not accept my milk-food, it were well if He would accept something else from me.” Then it occurred thus to the Buddha, who was aware of this: “After setting aside the hour for alms-round I came here with the idea that I would arouse faith in the Brahmin within so limited a time. Now the Brahmin is dejected; should he form a wrong attitude towards Me through dejection, he would not be able to attain the penetrative knowledge of supreme Nibbāna.”

Being desirous of fulfilling the Brahmin’s wish so that he would cultivate faith in Him, the Buddha uttered the following verse:

(7) Aññena ca kevalinaṃ mahesiṃ
khīṇāsavaṃ kukkucca-vupasantaṃ.
Aññena pānena upaṭṭhahassu
khettaṃ hi tam puññapekkhassa hoti

(“O Brahmin of Bhāradvāja clan!) With food and drink, other than this, attend upon the arahat, who is free from āsavas, endowed with all the attributes of a Buddha, the habitual seeker of such virtues as higher morality, whose scruples have been quenched. (Though the Buddha tried to arouse the desire in the Brahmin to give, He said only implicitly. He did not say directly: “Give it to me, bring it to me.”) Only a Buddha’s dispensation, with its eight marvellous characteristics, is the excellent great field of fertile soil for you, who have a bent on acts of merit.

Then the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja thought: “I have brought this milk-food for the sake of the Buddha. Therefore I should not give it to somebody else of my own accord,” and asked: “Venerable Gotama, in that case, whom should I offer this milk-food?” “O Brahmin,” replied the Buddha, “neither in this world of celestial beings together with devas, māras and Brahmās nor in the world of human beings with ascetics, and brahmins, princes and commoners, do I see nobody, apart from Me or from my disciples, who can well digest that milk-food when eaten. Therefore, O Brahmin, you should dump it in a place without green grass or in the water without insects.”

(Herein why could nobody among the devas and human beings digest this milkfood? It could not be digested because this coarse human food was mixed with the soft and delicate food (ambrosia) of devas. When the Brahmin was pouring the food intended for the Buddha, the devas added ambrosia to it. (It could have been digestible if it were only pure ambrosia and eaten by devas, and so would have been the unmixed milk-food eaten by men.)

(The milk-food being coarse, even though mixed with the soft ambrosia, devas could not digest it because they had delicate bodies and the food was indigestible for them. So was it for human because it contained ambrosia and human had coarse bodies.

(As for the Buddha, he could digest the milk-food mixed with ambrosia by virtue of his natural metabolism (Some Pitāka teachers attribute this ability to the Buddha’s physical and mental powers.) For the arahats (disciples of the Buddhas), too, the food was digestible because of their power of concentration and their knowledge of how to eat it in moderation. This was not possible for others, not even for those with psychic powers. Or this should not be a matter for speculation. It concerns only Buddhas.)

The Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja floated the milk-food in the insect-free water. It at once made a sizzling sound and there arose much vapour from all sides, just as a ploughshare (an iron bar) that has been baked the whole day sizzles and produces much vapour all round when it is dumped into water.

Thereupon the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja became afraid with his hair standing on end, and approached the Exalted One.

Touching the feet of the Exalted One (with his head), he said:

“O Venerable Gotama! Very delightful indeed is Your Teaching! Just as an object lying prone is turned upside down, or a covered object is uncovered, or a man, who has lost his way, is shown the right way, or a torch is lighted in darkness in order that people with eyes may see different objects, so also the Venerable Gotama has clearly preached the Dhamma to me in many ways. O Venerable Gotama! I seek refuge in You, in the Dhamma and in the Sangha!

“O Venerable Gotama! Let me be initiated! Let me be ordained under You!”

The Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja became a monk under the Exalted One and not long after his ordination, the Venerable Kasibhāradvāja retired alone to a quiet place. There he practised the Dhamma, exerting his effort vigilantly and vigorously with his mind bent on Nibbāna. Finally, he attained became an arahat.

(This account of the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja is based on Kāsibhāradvāja Sutta, the first volume of the Commentary on the Sutta Nipāta.)

Footnotes and references:


Āgama-saddhā (āgamana-saddhā): faith inspired by the determination to become a Buddha.


Adhigama-saddhā (adhigamana-saddhā): faith inspired by the attaimnent of the Path and Fruition.


Okappana-saddhā: faith inspired by the understanding of the attributes of the Triple Gem.


Pasāda-saddhā: faith inspired by the sight and sound of what is pleasing to the heart.

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