The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Story of Pokkharasati Brahmin and Ambattha 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 story of Māra. 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 10 - Story of Pokkharasāti Brahmin and Ambaṭṭha

(From Ambaṭṭha Sutta, Dīgha Nikāya, Vol II)

(For the full story of the Brahmin Pokkharasāti, the reader is referred to the Sīlakhandha Vagga of the Dīgha Nikāya. It is condensed here as much as possible.)

One day, at dawn, the Buddha surveyed the world of living beings and there appeared the Brahmin Pokkharasāti within the range of His Omniscience. After further reflection the Buddha saw the former good deeds of the Brahmin that would contribute to his attainment of the sotāpatti-magga.

The Buddha also foresaw, that:

“When I go to Icchanangala region, the Brahmin teacher Pokkharasāti will send his the young Brahmin Ambaṭṭha to inquire about My major and minor marks. Ambaṭṭha will hold a debate with Me, uttering all kinds foolish words. I must admonish him and dispel the poison of his pride. He will report the matter to his teacher. When his teacher hears his word, he will come to Me and examine My marks. I will then teach the Brahmin Pokkharasāti, who will attain the Fruition of Sotāpatti at the end of My Teaching.”

With His fore-knowledge, the Buddha journeyed to Kosala Kingdom with five hundred monks and on arriving at Icchanangala brahmin village in Kosala, the Buddha dwelt in a nearby huge grove at Icchānaṃgala.

At that time as city administrator appointed by King Pasenadī Kosala, the Brahmin Pokkharasāti administered the populous city of Ukkattha which was abounded in grass, firewood, water, rice and paddy.

(When the city was about to be founded its site was marked under the light of torches and firebrands, hence the name of the city, Ukkaṭṭha.)

(About the Brahmin Pokkarasāti: In the time of Buddha Kassapa he was a brahmin well-versed in the three Vedas. After giving alms and hearing the Dhamma, he was reborn in the deva-world.

(When he died in the deva-world and was reborn in the human abode in the moisture in a Paduma lotus, in a big lake near the Himavanta. A hermit, having built a hermitage near the lake, was living there. While standing near the lake, he saw the big lotus bud and thought to himself: “This big lotus bud is extraordinarily bigger than others. When it blossoms, I will take it.”

(The bud did not blossom even after a week. The hermit became impatient and stepping into the lake, he plucked the bud. As soon as it was broken from the stalk, the bud opened. Then to his surprise, the hermit found in the flower a baby boy, silvery white and covered with the pollen all over his body, like a silver statue with gold dust scattered over.

(The hermit thought: “This child will become a great man. I will start raising him from now.” He took the child to the hermitage, raised him and began to teach him the three Vedas when he was seven years old. The boy became a very famous brahmin teacher who was an authority the three Vedas. Later on, the brahmin teacher demonstrated his knowledge to King Kosala. As the King, having a high opinion of his knowledge, offered him the post of administrator of Ukkattha City. He was known as Pokkharasāti because he was conceived in the lotus-flower.

(The brahmin’s body had the colour of white lotus flower and was splendid like a silver post set up at the gate of a celestial city. His head had the dark blue colour of sapphire. His beard appeared like a dark line drawn on the surface of the moon. The eyes were like a blue lotus flower and the nose was quite clean and round like a silver tube. His palms, soles and lips seemed well tainted with lacquer. The brahmin’s body was very beautiful. He was fit to be made a king in a place where there was no ruler. Such was the splendour of the brahmin. Because of his resemblance to a white lotus, he was called Pokkharasāti.)

     ——(From the Commentary)——

Like the Brahmin Verañjā mentioned earlier, Pokkharasāti heard the news about the attributes of the Buddha. He has a residential pupil, named Ambaṭṭha, a young brahmin who was also well-versed in the three Vedas and various other sacred books, and worthy of brahmin teacher himself who held him in high esteem and ranked him as his peer.

Pokkharasāti told his pupil, Ambaṭṭha, about the reported virtues of the Buddha and said: “Dear son Ambaṭṭha, go to the Monk Gotama and enquired whether the report is true or not and whether He is true to His fame or not. The thirty-two marks of a great man are explicitly mentioned in our Vedas. For a great man who possesses these marks, there are only two possibilities: if he leads a worldly life, he will become a Universal Monarch, the ruler of the four continents; or if he leads an ascetic life, he will become a Buddha. My dear son Ambaṭṭha, I have taught you the Vedas and you have learnt them from me.”

(As an intelligent brahmin, Pokkharasāti thought: “In this world, there are many people like Purāṇa Kassapa and others who go about claiming to be Buddhas, so it is not advisable for me to associate with a teacher merely from hearsay. Certainly, it is hard to dissociate oneself from some person if one has become associated with them. Besides, such an attempt may be harmful to one’s welfare, so it is good to send my disciple and find out whether the Monk Gotama is a Buddha before I myself go and see Him.” So Pokkharasāti sent his disciple Ambaṭṭha.)

Then having risen and paid respect to his teacher, Ambaṭṭha said: “Very well, Master,” and went to Icchanangala grove with many other young men in his teacher’s chariot that was drawn by a mule. He went as far as the chariot could travel in the grove, then got off the chariot near the gate and entered the monastery on foot. (It was then noon.)

At that time, several monks who engaged in meditation were walking to and fro on the ground in the open air. Ambaṭṭha went to the monks and said: “Friends where is the Monk Gotama now? We have come to this place to see the Monk Gotama.”

Then the Monk thought to themselves:

“This youth Ambaṭṭha is of a well known family. He is also a pupil of the famous Pokkharasāti. For the Exalted One, it should not be burdensome to converse with such a son of a good family.”

So they said to Ambaṭṭha:

“Approach quietly that lodging with the doors closed. Enter the frontage slowly and after humming, knock at the door. The Exalted One will open the door for you.”

Then Ambaṭṭha went and knocked at the door as instructed by the monks. The Buddha opened the door. Ambaṭṭha entered the building followed by the other young men. They exchanged pleasant words with the Buddha and sat at suitable places.

(Note: The Buddha did not get up and open the door by Himself. In fact, He stretched His hand, resolving that the door should be opened. Then the door opened by itself, as if it were saying: “Venerable Sir! You, who have given alms for crores of kappas, have not done the kind of kamma that would make you open the door with your hands.” This opening of the door by itself, as resolved by the Buddha, is expressed by “vivari bhagavā dvāraṃ” in Pāli, which is simply translated as “the Buddha opened the door.”)

Ambaṭṭha’s Behaviour

The young Ambaṭṭha was not even impressed by the splendour of the Buddha’s body. Bent on threatening, he unfastened the strip of cloth tied on his chest and hang it loose down his neck.

Holding the edge of his waist-cloth with one hand, he got onto the promenade and sometimes walked there, sometimes stood, sometimes showed his arm, sometimes showed his chest, sometimes showed his back, sometimes made a rude gesture with his hands, and sometimes made ugly facial expressions (such as grimaces), saying:

“O Gotama! Are you quite well? Do you get your food without any hardship? It is apparently not hard for you to get food. Certainly, all your physical features are robust and very impressive. Wherever you go, people adore you very much as a monk belonging to a royal family or as a Buddha and give choicest nourishing food. Friends, look at the abode of Gotama! It is like an extraordinary hall. It looks like a celestial mansion. Look at His bed and His pillow! For a man who lives in such a good place, how can it be possible to experience hardship in leading a monastic life!”

Thus Ambaṭṭha spoke only derisive words and ungentlemanly words that would be bitter and painful forever to ordinary people.

Then the Buddha thought: “This young Ambaṭṭha spends his energy irrelevantly like a man who stretches his hand to grasp the highest Brahmā abode (Bhavagga) or like a man who stretches his legs to wander in the Avīci hell or like a man who wants to swim across the great ocean or like a man who wants to climbs Mount Meru. I will now talk with him.’

So thinking the Buddha said to Ambaṭṭha: “You speak to Me disrespectfully and bitterly in a way that is unacceptable to good people. Do you speak to the aged brahmin teachers and their teachers in the same way.”

“No, Gotama, I do not speak to them in this way. When a brahmin wants to speak to a walking teacher, he speaks while walking. If he wants to speak to a standing teacher, he speaks while standing. If he wants to speak to a sitting teacher, he speaks while sitting. If he wants to speak to a teacher who is lying down, he has to speak while lying down.”

Monks denounced as Low Caste for The First Time

(Herein a brahmin usually spoke to his teacher only while walking, standing and sitting. But Ambaṭṭha was so arrogant that he mentioned the lying posture.) So the Buddha said: “ Ambaṭṭha, a walking brahmin pupil may speak to a walking brahmin teacher, a standing brahmin pupil may speak to a standing brahmin teacher, a sitting brahmin teacher may speak to a sitting brahmin teacher. Such a behaviour, all brahmin teachers approve. But you speak while lying down to your teacher who is also lying down (In that case, you are indeed like an ox.) Is your teacher then an oxen and you an ox.”

Then Ambaṭṭha became very angry and said: “O Gotama! with the dark, low-caste, vile and bare-headed monks who sprang from the instep of Brahmā, I speak in the same way as I now speak to you.” Thus he disparaged the Buddha using the word low-caste for the first time.

(Herein, according to Ambaṭṭha, brahmin sprang from the mouth of the Brahmā, princes from the chest, merchants from the navel, labourers from the knee and monks from the instep. Believing thus, Ambaṭṭha ranked the monks as men of the lowest caste and though he made no reference in his speech it was intended for the Buddha.)

Then the Buddha thought: “Since this young Ambaṭṭha came here, he has spoken to Me only with conceit motivating his remarks. Like a man who grasp a very poisonous snake by the neck or who embraces a big fire or who holds the trunk of a bull-elephant in a rut, he does not know his capacity. I will now let him know it.”

So the Buddha said:

“Ambaṭṭha, you came here for some purpose. (1) You should be well mindful of the purpose for which you came here (2) Oh! without having intelligence as yet, you consider yourself already intelligent. There is nothing but lack of cleverness to account for the way you behave and speak to me.” (Here the first statement means: “Your teacher has sent you here not for insulting us but for some other purpose. So now mind the business you are sent for.” After reminding Ambaṭṭha of the etiquette to be observed by visitors, the Buddha made the second statement to snub him.)

Resentful and displeased with the Buddha’s reference to his lack of cleverness.

Ambaṭṭha decided to censure the Buddha in the presence of his companion and said:

“Gotama! The Sakyan princes are arrogant rough, small-hearted, talkative and if they do not revere, adore, honour or bow to the brahmin is downright improper.” Thus Ambaṭṭha spoke in contempt of the Sakyan princes, using the word “low caste” for the first time.

Monks denounced as Low Caste for The Second Time

Then the Buddha asked Ambaṭṭha how the Sakyan princes had wronged him. Ambaṭṭha replied: “Gotama, I once went to Kapilavatthu City to do some business for my teacher Pokkharasāti. I visited the assembly hall of the Sakyan princes. At that time, many Sakyan kings, who have been anointed the princes, who have not been anointed yet, were tickling one another, laughing uproariously and playing boisterously while seated on a raised platform in the hall. In fact, they seemed to be laughing only at me. Nobody offered me a seat, Gotama! Not to thus revere, adore, honour or bow to the brahmin on the part of lowcaste Sakyan princes is downright improper.” Thus Ambaṭṭha denounced the Buddha for the second time using the word, “low-caste”.

(The Sakyan princes sneered at Ambaṭṭha because they know his ancestry. He arrived like one intoxicated with pride, his shoulder-bone bent and one hand holding the edge of his waistcloth that hang loosely down to his feet. They tickled one another, laughed and played boisterously saying: “Look folks! There comes Ambaṭṭha, a descendant of our slave, Kaṇhāyana.” Ambaṭṭha also knew his ancestry and so he consider rightly that the princes were laughing only at him.)

Monk denounced as Low Caste for The Third time

Then the Buddha said: “Ambaṭṭha, even a skylark can chirp as much as it like in her nest. Kapilavatthu is the city of Sakyan princes. You should not have a grudge with such a trivial matter.”

When the Buddha thus cited the simile of the skylark, Ambaṭṭha thought that the Buddha was free from conceit since he linked his relatives to the skylark and the brahmins to haṃsa, crane and peacock. So Ambaṭṭha went on to mention the four classes of people, saying: “Friend Gotama, there are four classes of people, namely, kings, brahmins, merchants and labourers. Of these four classes, the kings, merchants and labours are in fact servants of the brahmins. So, O friend Gotama, not revering, adoring, honouring or bowing to the brahmins on the part of the low-caste Sakyan princes is downright improper.”

Thus Ambaṭṭha belittled the Sakyan princes for the third time with the word, “low-caste.”

Proof of Ambaṭṭha’s Low Birth

As Ambaṭṭha persisted in denouncing the Sakyan princes as low caste people, the Buddha decided to asked him about his clan. So the Buddha said: “Ambaṭṭha, of what clan are you.” Ambaṭṭha, shouted three times: “Gotama, I am of Kaṇha clan.”

(Herein, Ambaṭṭha knew the impurity of the Kaṇha clan superficially. But he did not know the previous life of Kaṇha. Owing to his ignorance he thought that the Buddha could not say anything and he made the above remark because of his arrogance.)

Then the Buddha explained to Ambaṭṭha the lineage of Sakyan princes and the origin of the Kanha clan.

“Ambaṭṭha, if you trace back your genealogy, you will find that the Sakyan princes are the sons of lords and that you are the son of their slave-woman.

“Ambaṭṭha, the Sakyan princes regard King Okkāka as their grandfather. What happened long ago was that King Okkāka had a young Queen whom he loved very much. Wishing to give his kingdom to her son, he sent into exile his elder sons called Okkāmukha, Karakanda, Hatthinika and Sinisura. (Their elder and younger sisters, namely, Piyā, Sappiyā, Ānanda, Vijitā and Vijitasenā, these five princesses also accompanied the princes with the permission of the King.) The exiled princes founded a city in the teak forest, near a lake on the fringe of the Himavanta. They married their sisters in order to preserve the purity of their family.

“Ambaṭṭha, King Okkāka asked his ministers where his sons lived. They reported to him that the princes had founded a city in the teak forest, near a lake on the Himavanta and that they had married their sisters to preserve the purity of their family.

“Ambaṭṭha! King Okkāka exclaimed then: ‘My sons are so able. They are so able!’ in allusion to that exclamation the princes were known as Sakyan (Sakya, ‘able ones’). King Okkāka was the prototype of the Sakyan princes.

Origin of Kaṇha Clan

“Ambaṭṭha, King Okkāka had a slave woman named Disā. She gave birth to a son called Kaṇha. Immediately after his birth, Kanha said: ‘O Mother, cleanse me! Bathe me! Free me from this impurity! I will be one who can do good to you.

“Ambaṭṭha, just as nowadays, people call a ogre a pisaca, so also in those days people gave the name Kaṇha to ogres. They talked about the slave-woman’s son: ‘This child spoke soon after his birth. So he is a Kaṇha (ogre).’ The Kaṇha clansmen were known as Kaphayana after that saying: ‘That Kaṇha was the progenitor of the Kaṇha clan.’

“Ambaṭṭha, so if you trace back your ancestry, you will find that the Sakyan princes are the sons of the lord while you are the son of their slave-woman.”

When the Buddha spoke thus, the young men, who had come along with Ambaṭṭha, said together: “O Gotama! Do not disparage Ambaṭṭha so severely with the word. ‘son of a slave-woman.’ O Gotama! Do not disparage Ambaṭṭha so severely with the word, ‘son of a slave-woman.’ Ambaṭṭha is well-born, a young man of good family, well-informed, skilful in speaking and wise. He is competent to challenge and refute you in connection with your use of the word ‘son of a slave-woman.’

(Herein the outcry of these young men was designed merely to absolve themselves of blame before their teacher. In their view, Ambaṭṭha was the top disciple of their teacher. If they did not put in a word for him in his dispute with the Buddha, he would make such a report as would make his teacher displeased with them. So thinking, they supported Ambaṭṭha so as to be free from censure. They secretly wanted him to be snubbed. Indeed because of his arrogance they hated him naturally.)

Then the Buddha thought: “If these young men, seated there keep talking loudly, I will not come to the end of my speech. I will silence them and talk only with Ambaṭṭha.”

So the Buddha said to them:

“Young men! If you believe that because Ambaṭṭha is low born, not of good family, ill-informed, not skilful in speaking and devoid of wisdom, he is not competent to refute the Monk Gotama, then leave him alone. It rests only with you to argue with me about the matter. But if you think that Ambaṭṭha is well-born, of good family, well-informed, skilful is speaking and wise and competent to argue with Me about this matter, then you keep quiet. Let Ambaṭṭha alone argue with Me.”

Then the young men thought: “Ambaṭṭha (dare not raise his head again) when it is said that he is the son of a slave-woman. This matter of birth is inscrutable. If the Monk Gotama tell someone that he (that someone) is a slave, who will be able to challenge and contend with the Monk Gotama? Let Ambaṭṭha rid himself of the burden that is of his own making.”

So wishing to wash their hand and put the responsibility on Ambaṭṭha, they said to the Buddha evasively:

“Friend Gotama! Ambaṭṭha is well-born, of good family, well-informed, skilful in speaking and wise. He is competent to rebut (your) use of the word ‘the son of a slave-woman.’ We will keep quiet. Let Ambaṭṭha refute you.”

The Buddha now asked Ambaṭṭha:

“Ambaṭṭha here is a reasonable question for you. You will have to answer it although you do not wish to do so. If you do not answer it thoroughly or speak evasively or keep silent or go away, then your head will break up into seven pieces on the spot.

“Ambaṭṭha, what do you think of the question I will now ask? What have you heard from old brahmin teachers and their predecessors (about it)? How did the Kaṇha clan originate? Who was the ancestor of the Kaṇha clans?”

When the Buddha asked him thus, Ambaṭṭha remained silent: (His silence was the outcome of this thought: “The Monk Gotama wants me to admit verbally by myself that I am the son of a slave-woman. If I do so, then I will certainly be a slave. If the Monk Gotama asks me twice or thrice and I refuse to answer him, he will say nothing and then I will go away.”)

For the second time the Buddha asked him: “Ambaṭṭha! what do you think of the question I will now ask? What have you heard from old brahmin teachers and their predecessors? How did the Kanha clansmen originate? Who was their ancestor?” But Ambaṭṭha was still silent.

Then the Buddha said:

“Ambaṭṭha, now it is not the time for you to remain silent. If a man refuses to answer a reasonable question which the Buddha asks him twice, then his head will break into seven pieces on the spot.”

At that moment, Sakka (the King of Devas) came and stood in the air above Ambaṭṭha in the form of an ogre with a glowing and blazing iron hammer in his hand and threatening to break Ambaṭṭha’s head into seven pieces on the spot, if he refused to answer the reasonable question which the Buddha asked him thrice. Sakka in the form of an ogre was visible only to the Buddha and Ambaṭṭha.

Herein it may be asked as to why did Sakka come. (The answer is) he came in order to make Ambaṭṭha discard his false belief (or) in the above section when Sahampati Brahmā requested the Buddha to proclaim the Dhamma, Sakka, who was with the Brahmā, said: “Venerable Sir, you do the preaching, we will make disobedient and defiant people obey you. Let your authority be the Dhamma, ours will be the command.” In accordance with his pledge, Sakka came to scare Amhaṭṭha and force him to answer the Buddha’s question.

(With regard to the statement “Sakka, in the form of an ogre, was visible only to the Buddha and Ambaṭṭha”, It should be explained that if he were seen by other people as well, those who saw Sakka would have poor impression of the Buddha. They would say contemptuously that the Buddha showed the ogre to Ambaṭṭha because the latter would not accept His doctrine and that the young brahmin had to speak reluctantly under duress.)

As soon as he saw the ogre, Ambaṭṭha’s body sweated profusely. He felt his whole stomach was moving up and down making a terrible sound. He scrutinized his companions but he did not see any sign of creepy feat in them. He thought: “I am the only person threatened by this ogre. If I tell them about the ogre, they will say: ‘Do you alone have the eyes to see the ogre? You did not see the ogre before. You see him only when you find yourself at your wit’s end in your dispute with the Monk Gotama.’ Now there is no one other than the Monk Gotama for my refuge.”

Thus frightened with his hair standing on end, Ambaṭṭha approached the Buddha, sat at a lower place and said:

“What did Friend Gotama say, let Friend Gotama say it again.”

The Buddha then asked him for the last time:

“Ambaṭṭha, what do you think of my question? What have you heard from your old teachers and their predecessors? How did the Kaṇha clansmen originate? Who were their ancestors?”

Then Ambaṭṭha made the confession:

“Friend Gotama! I have heard what you said from my old brahmin teachers and their predecessor, Kaṇha clansmen have their origin in Kaṇha, the son of the slavewoman. That Kaṇha was their ancestor.”

Ambaṭṭha’s Ancestry

Ambaṭṭha’s confession caused an uproar among the other young brahmins. They shouted: “Friend, it is said that Ambaṭṭha is low born, not of a good family, and the son of the Sakyan princes' slave-woman. The Sakyan princes are said to be the sons of the masters of Ambaṭṭha. We have misunderstood the Monk Gotama and blamed him, whereas in fact, he is a speaker of the truth (Dhammavādi).”

Then the Buddha thought: “These young men are humiliating Ambaṭṭha severely with the word ‘son of a slave-woman’. I had better make Ambaṭṭha free from such a humiliation.”

So he said:

“Young men! Do not humiliate Ambaṭṭha severely with the word ‘son of a slavewoman!’ That Kaṇha was a powerful hermit. He went to the region south of the river Ganga and after having learnt the holy mantras he approached King Okkāka and asked for his daughter, Maddaūpī’s hand in marriage.

“King Okkāka said: ‘Hey! This hermit, Kaṇha, is the son of my slave-woman and yet he is asking for my daughter. What kind of a man is he?’ Furious and displeased, he bent his bow but he could not shoot the arrow nor could he withdraw it.

“Then the ministers approached the hermit and begged him to save the King. Kanha said that the King would be safe but he threatened that if the King dropped the arrow, the earth in the whole kingdom would be destroyed.”

(Herein, the hermit Kaṇha went to the region south of the Ganga as a lay man and while serving a brahmin hermit, he obtained from that hermit a mantra for obstructing arrows. Then he donned the robe of a hermit, came to King Okkāka, asked for the latter’s daughter and when the irate King bent his bow to kill him, he obstructed the arrow with his spell. The spell had the power only to obstruct the arrow. Kaṇha’s reference to the destruction of earth was an empty threat, merely a lie. The same may be said of his other threats.)

“The ministers again begged him to save the King and the country. He said that the King and the country would be safe but again he lied that if the King dropped the arrow, there would be no rain in the whole kingdom for seven days.

“Again the ministers begged him to spare the King and the country and make the rain fall. He said that both the King and the country would be safe and it would rain but he said that if the arrow were directed at the elder son, he would be safe without a hair standing on end. Kaṇha said this only after making the King promise to give his daughter.)

“Young men, the ministers then reported to King Okkāka. The King directed the arrow at his eldest son and the prince was safe without a hair standing on end. Then threatened with the weapon of mantra, King Okkāka became frightened, his hair stood up; and (after having made Kanha washed his head, he released him from slavery) he gave his daughter Maddarūpī.

“Young men, do not humiliate Ambaṭṭha severely with the word, ‘son of a slavewoman’. That Kaṇha is a powerful hermit.”

The Buddha gave his account of Kaṇha, saying that Ambaṭṭha was somewhat akin to the Sakyan princes (on his side) and thereby consoling the young Ambaṭṭha. So like a man on whom water is poured, Ambaṭṭha felt much relieved as his worry [about his social status] had been washed away. He became conceited, thinking that the Buddha had affirmed his kinship to the royal family, Khattiya on his mother’s side.

The Nobility of The Khattiyas

Ambaṭṭha considered himself a member of the ruling class, not knowing that he was not a real prince. So the Buddha decided to disillusion him and in order to explain the meaning of khattiya he further engaged in the following dialogue with the young man.

“Ambaṭṭha, now what do you think of the question that I will ask you? Suppose in this world a man of the aristocratic family marries a woman of brahmin family. As a result of their marriage a son is born. Will the son born of that couple receive priority among the brahmin as regard seat and water?”

When Ambaṭṭha answered: “Yes, Gotama, he may receive it.” the Buddha said again:

“May the brahmins serve that man at the feast in memory of the dead, the wedding feast, the feast at a sacrificial ceremony and at the feast given to guests?”

When Ambaṭṭha answered: “Yes, Gotama, they may serve him,” the Buddha asked again:

“May the brahmins teach or may not teach him the Vedas?”

When Ambaṭṭha answered: “Yes, Gotama, they may teach him,” the Buddha asked again:

“May the brahmin forbid or may not forbid his marriage with a brahmin woman?”

When Ambaṭṭha answered: “No Gotama, they may not forbid,” the Buddha, clinching the argument, asked:

“May royal family consecrate him a king?”

“No Gotama,” replied Ambaṭṭha reasonably, “They may not consecrate him because his mother is not a member of Khattiya family.”

(Here in this section Ambaṭṭha answered that a son of a Khattiya father and a brahmin mother is not crowned king because of the low birth of the mother, so also is the son born of a brahmin father and a Khattiya mother because of the low birth of the father. The Buddha made this clear in His further dialogue with Ambaṭṭha.)

Buddha: “Ambaṭṭha! What do you think of the question which I will now ask you? Suppose, in this world, a brahmin marries a Khattiya woman and a son is born of this marriage. May their son receive priority among the brahmin in respect of seat and water?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Gotama, he may.”

Buddha: “May the brahmins serve him at the feast in memory of the dead?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Gotama, they may.”

Buddha: “May they teach him the Vedas or may they not?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Gotama, they may.”

Buddha: “May they forbid his marriage with a brahmin woman?”

Ambaṭṭha: “No, Gotama, they may not.”

Buddha: “May the Khattiyas consecrate him king?”

Ambaṭṭha: “No, Gotama, they may not, because the father is not a Khattiya.”

Buddha: “So, Ambaṭṭha, if you compare a man with man or woman with a woman, you will find that only the Khattiyas are superior and that the brahmins are inferior.”

The following is a different dialogue between the Buddha and Ambaṭṭha to show the superiority of the Khattiyas and the inferiority of the brahmins.

Buddha: “Ambaṭṭha! What do think of the question which I will now ask you? Suppose in this world, a brahmin is exiled, with his head shaved and ashes sprinkled over it from the country or the city by other brahmins for a certain offence. May that exiled brahmin receive priority among the brahmins in respect of seat and water?

Ambaṭṭha: “No, Gotama, he may not.”

Buddha: “May the brahmins serve that (exiled) brahmin at the feast in memory of the dead, at the wedding feast, at the sacrificial feast and at the rest given to guests?”

Ambaṭṭha: “No Gotama, they may not.”

Buddha: “May the brahmins teach or may not teach the Vedas to that (exiled) brahmin?”

Ambaṭṭha: “No, Friend Gotama, they may not.”

Buddha: “May the brahmins forbid the marriage of that (exiled) brahmin with a brahmin woman?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Friend Gotama, they may.”

Buddha: “Ambaṭṭha, what do you think of the question that I will now ask you? In this world, the Khattiyas exile a Khattiya from the city or the county, with his head shaved and ashes sprinkled over it for some offence. May that man receive priority among the brahmin in respect of seat and water?” Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Gotama, he may.”

Gotama: “May the brahmins serve him at the feast in memory of the dead, at the wedding feast, at the sacrificial feast and at the feast given to guests?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Gotama, they may.”

Buddha: “May the brahmins teach or may not teach him the Vedas?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Gotama, they may.”

Buddha: “May they forbid or not forbid the marriage of that man with a brahmin woman?”

Ambaṭṭha: “No, Gotama, they may not.”

Buddha: “Ambaṭṭha, Khattiyas may have exiled a Khattiya with his head shaved and ashes sprinkled over and exiled from the country or the city for a certain offence and by such treatment he is very much disgraced. But even when he is very disgraced, the Khattiya is superior and the brahmin is inferior.”

“Ambaṭṭha, Sannankumara Brahmā too, utters this verse.”

Khattiyo settho janetasmiṃ
ye gottapatisārino
vijjā-caraṇa sampanno
so settho deva-mānusse
.

Among people who count much on ancestry, the Khattiyas are praiseworthy and superior. Among devas and humans, one who has wisdom and practised that wisdom is praiseworthy and superior.

“Ambaṭṭha, this verse is well-spoken by Sanankumara Brahmā. It is not ill-spoken: it is relevant to welfare; it is not irrelevant to welfare. I approved of it. Ambaṭṭha, I too like Sanankumara Brahmā, uttered this verse:”

Khattiyo seṭṭho janetasmiṃ
so seṭṭha devamānusse
.

Vijjā and Carana elaborated

There is the phrase “Vijjā-carana-samapanno” in the verse it means “possessed of vijjā

(Knowledge) and caraṇa (Practice)”. In the view of Ambaṭṭha, vijjā refers to the three Vedas while caraṇa to the five moral precepts. Ambaṭṭha thought that if a man who possesses vijjā and caraṇa is praiseworthy and superior, only then the brahmins were the praiseworthy and superior people. Wishing to know these two qualities, he asked: “O

Friend Gotama, what is caraṇa and what is vijjā?”

Then the Buddha, desiring to point out the supreme, transcendent knowledge and practice, leaving aside the three Vedas and the Five Precepts that are bound up with the well known caste system, etc. of Brahmanism, said:

“Ambaṭṭha, in the matter of possessing supreme transcendent knowledge and practice, you should never utter word such as ‘you are fit for me’ or ‘you are not fit for me’, words that stem from attachment to birth, attachment to clan and attachment to pride.

“Ambaṭṭha, only in a human society with its marriage customs involving the taking or giving of a daughter, should you ever utter words that stem from attachment to birth, clan and pride, words such as ‘you are fit for me’ or ‘you at, not fit for me’.

“Ambaṭṭha, those, who cling to words stemming from attachment to birth (jātivāda), words stemming from attachment to clan (gotta-vāda), words stemming from attachment to pride (māna-vāda) and words stemming from attachment to marriages that involve the taking or giving of a daughter, are far from possession of the supreme, transcendent knowledge and practice.

“Ambaṭṭha, one can realize the supreme, transcendent practice only if one overcomes clinging to birth, clinging to clan, attachment to pride, attachment to marriages that involve taking or giving of a daughter.”

Then Ambaṭṭha thought: “It has been our belief that we are still in possession of Knowledge and Practice. But just as a violent storm roughly gets rid of husks of grain, the Monk Gotama illumined us about those Knowledge and Practice. The Monk Gotama insists and extols only this supreme Knowledge and Practice which we cannot grasp. We should know the knowledge and practice which this Monk Gotama talk about” and again asked the

Buddha: “O Friend Gotama, what is caraṇa and what is vijjā?”

Then as in the Samañña-phala Sutta, the Buddha gave a talk on the supreme, transcendent Knowledge and Practice, section by section, beginning with the appearance of the Buddha and ending in the attainment of arahatship. (Readers may look up the teaching in the translation of the Sutta.)

The Four Causes of Destruction

(To state briefly:) Then the Buddha pointed out to Ambaṭṭha the four causes of destruction of Knowledge and Practice (or of the Dhamma.) The four causes of are:

(1) The life of an ascetic, who, being unable to live up to the doctrine for the attainment of Knowledge and Practice, enters the forest and takes to eating fallen fruits, (2) the life of an ascetic, who, being unable to practise even that much, enters the forest and takes to eating roots and fruits, (3) the life of an ascetic, who, being unable to practise even that much, builds a fire-shed near a town or village and worship fire, (4) the life of an ascetic, who, practise even that much builds a pavilion with entrance from four directions at the junctions of the cross roads, for making-money by providing drinking-water to all the people who come from four quarters, etc. The Buddha described these four types of ascetics making the so-called self-styled Samaṇas and Brāhmanas as merely attendants of the monk who possessed the Knowledge and Practice of the Buddha-dhamma. Ambaṭṭha and his teacher were lacking in such Knowledge and Practice. So they did belong to the four types of degenerate monks and hermits, not to speak of the types of true monks who possessed the two qualifications.

The Buddha elicited these facts from Ambaṭṭha through his questions and then criticized him for the first time.

“Ambaṭṭha you and your teacher lack supreme Knowledge and Practice. Nay, you even do not have the lesser qualities of those whose mode of life is the cause of the destruction of such Knowledge and Practice.

“Ambaṭṭha, your teacher, the Brahmin Pokkharasāti, does not have the lesser qualities (leading to such destruction) and yet he says impertinently: ‘What kind of people are these low-born, bare-headed and useless monks who sprang from the instep of the Brahmā? How can it be possible for the brahmins well-verses in the three Vedas to discuss with them? Ambaṭṭha, you note this defect of your brahmin teacher Pokkharasāti.” Then the Buddha added:

“Ambaṭṭha, your brahmin teacher, Pokkharasāti, enjoys the privileges granted by King Pasenadī Kosala. Yet the King does not give the brahmin teacher any opportunity to face him. Also, when he consults the Brahmin Pokkharasāti, he does so from behind a curtain. Ambaṭṭha, why does not the King allow the brahmin to face him, the brahmin who is recipient of provisions lawfully given by him? (You think over the reason for this matter.) Ambaṭṭha, you note this defect of your brahmin teacher Pokkharasāti.”

This was the second criticism made by the Buddha.

(Herein the Brahmin knew the mantra for deception in one’s presence (summukhā avaṭṭaṃ). If, while the King was adorned with a very costly ornament, he stood near the King and recited the mantra, uttering the name of the ornament, the King had to give the ornament without being able to say: “I will not give it”. Then on a festival day, he would say: “Bring the mahāraha ornament” then the attendants informed him of his having given it to the Brahmin Pokkharasāti. The King asked why he had given it and the ministers said that the Brahmin knew the mantra for immediate deception, that he had tricked the King and taken away the Mahāraha ornament.

(Other ministers too, who envied the Brahmin for his close relationship with the King said: “Great King, the Brahmin Pokkharasāti has a kind of leprosy called leucoderma. This kind of leprosy is infectious through physical contact. So do not embrace and fondle the Brahmin as you do now when you see the Brahmin.” From that time, the King did not allow the Brahmin to face him.

Still in spite of this loss of privilege, the Brahmin Pokkharasāti was a scholar learned in law and statecraft. There was nothing which went wrong if it was done after consultation with him. Therefore, the King sat behind a curtain and consulted the Brahmin who remained outside behind the curtain.

(This was known to no one except the King and the Brahmin. The Buddha revealed the secret (not to humiliate the Brahmin but) because He knew that such revelation would certainly convince others of His Omniscience.)

Then the Buddha questioned Ambaṭṭha and made him admit that it was impossible for a commoner or his slave to become a king or a minister just by sitting at a place where the King of Kosala conferred with the ministers and princess and by repeating what they said at such meetings. The Buddha pointed out that likewise it was impossible for Ambaṭṭha or his teacher to become a hermit or a probationary hermit just by reciting and teaching the Vedas that were recited and taught by ancient hermits like Aṭṭhaka, Vāmaka and others.

The Buddha again questioned Ambaṭṭha and made him admit that unlike Ambaṭṭha and his teacher, Aṭṭhaka, Vāmaka and others of ancient times did not don good garments, eat good food, move in the company of women, ride good chariots, keep their good mansions well-guarded and indulge in sensual pleasures.

Then in conclusion, the Buddha said:

“Ambaṭṭha, thus you and your teacher are not hermits or probationary hermits. One who has doubt about my Buddhahood should remove that doubt by asking Me, I shall dispel his doubt by answering the questions.”

(The Buddha said so because there was no likelihood of Ambaṭṭha’s attainment of the Path and Fruition in his present life. The day would only pass away. The young Brahmin has come to examine the major marks possessed by the Buddha. He had now forgotten the object of his visit and so the Buddha decided to remind him of it indirectly.)

No one was capable of examining the major marks of a Buddha who was sitting or lying.

Examination was possible when He was standing or walking. Also. It was customary of the Buddha to rise and walk when someone came to investigate the marks. For these reasons, the Buddha came out of the monastery and went for a walk. Ambaṭṭha followed the Buddha closely.

Two Major Marks Shown

Walking behind the walking Buddha, Ambaṭṭha looked for the thirty-two major marks of an extraordinary man in the body of the Buddha. He saw clearly thirty of them. He did not, however, see the remaining two great marks namely, (1) the male genital covered with a sheath and (2) the thin, long and flat tongue. Therefore, he had doubts and was sceptical and indecisive.

Knowing this very well, the Buddha created, by His supernormal power, the man’s genital covered with sheath, in such way as to make it visible to the young man Ambaṭṭha. Then He stuck out His tongue and passed it in both ears, right and left (thereby revealing its length), passed it into both nostrils, right and left (thereby revealing its tenderness), and covered the whole forehead with the tongue (thereby revealing its flatness.)

Then Ambaṭṭha concluded that the Buddha really possessed those marks and took leave of Him, saying: “Well, Gotama, we will go now. We have many things to attend to.” When the Buddha said: “Ambaṭṭha you may go if you wish.” Ambaṭṭha got onto his mule drawn chariot and left.

Stuck out His Tongue and passes It in Both Ears, Right and Left

At that time the brahmin teacher, Pokkharasātti, had come out of Ukkattha City and together with many brahmins, he was waiting for Ambaṭṭha in his garden. Ambaṭṭha went to the garden in his chariot as far as he could go and then stopping, he walked on foot. Then after paying respect to his teacher, he sat down at a certain place. Then there followed a dialogue between the teacher and Ambaṭṭha:

Pokkharasāti: “Ambaṭṭha have you seen the Monk Gotama?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes Sir, we have seen the Monk Gotama’.”

Pokkharasāti: “Ambaṭṭha, is the report about the reputation of the Monk Gotama true or false? Does the reputation of Gotama has any basis or does it have no basis?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Sir, the report about the Gotama’s reputation is true. The reputation of Gotama has some basis, in fact. Gotama really possesses the thirty-two major marks of an extraordinary man and the marks are thoroughly genuine.”

Pokkharasāti: “Ambaṭṭha, did you ever talk with the Monk Gotama about something?”

Ambaṭṭha: “Yes, Sir, I talked with the Monk Gotama about something.”

Pokkharasāti: “Ambaṭṭha, how did you talk with the Monk Gotama about something?”

Thus questioned, Ambaṭṭha reported to his teacher all the conversation that he had with the Buddha.

Then the teacher Pokkharasāti said:

“Oh! Our young sages and intellectuals are so amazing! Oh! your experts in the Vedas are so wonderful! With such an assistant (like Ambaṭṭha), a man is bound to land in one of the four lower worlds after physical dissolution and death.”

Thus he rebuked Ambaṭṭha, and being furious and displeased, he kicked the young man, making him collapse. He was angry with Ambaṭṭha but in a moment there also arose in him the desire to go and see the Buddha (As for Ambaṭṭha, the privilege that he formerly had of going together with his teacher in a chariot as a charioteer was forfeited and from that time, he had to go on foot before the chariot.)

Pokkharasāti’s Visit to The Buddha

The Brahmin Pokkharasāti was very much anxious to meet the Buddha but the other brahmins told him to put off the visit till the next day as it was already too late to make the visit on that day.

Then having prepared very delicious food, he put the food in the vehicle, had the fire torches hoisted on it and coming out of Ukkaṭṭha City, he went to Icchanāṅgala grove. He went in the vehicle as far as possible, then stepped off and approached the Buddha on foot. He greeted the Buddha, exchanged memorable words and took his seat at a certain place.

(Explanation: “Put the food in the vehicle” is the translation for the Pāli phrase: ‘yane āropetvā’ that is found in both Myanmar and Sinhalese Piṭakas. Translators have made the special observation that the house in the context could not be in the Ukkaṭṭha City, and that it might be Pokkharasāti’s house in Icchanangala village or elsewhere.

If the Pāli phrase were ‘Yānaṃ abhiruhitvā’ it would mean ‘riding the vehicle’, a translation that would be more appropriate to the context. It would also accord with the Pāli passage: ‘Lārohaniyaṇ nagaṃ abhiruhitvā Okkāsu, dhāriya-mānāsu niyyāsi’. In the Sāmānnaphala Sutta, Icchānaṅgala was certainly in Ukkaṭṭha township. The Pāli word ‘nivesana’ refers only to a dwelling-place and the word ‘parivsana’ is used for a rest house in the Sunivessakāre Vat.)

After taking his seat, the Brahmin Pakkharasāti had the following conversation with the Buddha:

Pokkharasāti: “Gotama did our pupil Ambaṭṭha come to this place?”

Buddha: “Yes, Brahmin, your pupil Ambaṭṭha did.”

Pokkharasāti: “Friend Gotama, did you talk with Ambaṭṭha about anything?”

Buddha: “Yes Brahmin, I talked with Ambaṭṭha about something.”

Pokkharasāti: “Friend Gotama, how did you talk with Ambaṭṭha?”

Then the Buddha told the Brahmin Pokkharasāti all about the conversation with Ambaṭṭha. Pokkharasāti apologised to the Buddha, saying: “Friend Gotama, young Ambaṭṭha is a fool. Kindly excuse him.” The Buddha said: “Brahmin, I wish Ambaṭṭha happiness,” thus forgiving the young man.

Investigation of Pokkharasāti

Then the Brahmin Pokkharasāti looked for the thirty-two marks of an extraordinary being in the body of the Buddha. He saw thirty major marks as did Ambaṭṭha, but not the other two major marks, namely, (1) the male genital covered with a sheath and (2) the thin and long tongue, he was doubtful, sceptical and indecisive.

Knowing this well, the Buddha created, by His supernormal power, the male genital covered with a sheath so as to make it visible to the Brahmin. Then the Buddha stuck out His tongue and passed it in both ears, right and left (thereby revealing its length), passed it into both nostrils, right and left (thereby revealing its tenderness) and covered the whole forehead with the tongue (thereby revealing its flatness.)

Then Brahmin Pokkharasāti became really convinced that the Buddha certainly possessed all the thirty-two major marks of an extraordinary being and said:

“Let the Venerable and the monk-disciples accept the meals at my house today for my benefit.”

The Buddha accepted the invitation by saying nothing.

Knowing of the Buddha’s acceptance, when the meal was ready, the Brahmin Pokkharasāti informed Him that the meal was ready, that it was time for the Buddha to partake of it. So at his invitation, the Buddha went to the Brahmin’s house with His monks in the morning and sat in the seats prepared for them.

Then the Brahmin Pokkharasāti and his young pupils undertook the responsibility and personally served the Buddha and the monks respectively with good, delicious food. When the Brahmin knew that the Buddha had finished His meal and put aside the bowl, he took a seat and sat down at a proper place.

The Buddha gave the Brahmin Pokkharasāti a series of Dhamma talks leading to the Path and Fruition, talks on (1) generosity, (2) morality, (3) the attainment of the the deva-world and (4) the noble way leading to the Path, Fruition and Nibbāna. While following these talks, the mind of the Brahmin became stable, tender, free from hindrances, joyous and clear, then the Buddha preached the Four Truths that He Himself had discovered (sāmukkaṃsika) and the Brahmin attained the Fruition of Sotāpatti.

Pokkharasāti’s Special Request

Then the Brahmin Pokkharasāti, who had become a sotāpanna-ariya, said to the Master:

“O Venerable Gotama, Your Teaching is so delightful just as an object that has been upside down is turned upside up, just as a covered object is uncovered, just as a man who has lost his way is shown the right way, just as fire-torches are lighted in the darkness in order that those who have eye-sight may see various objects, so also You, Venerable Gotama, have clearly preached to me the Dhamma in many ways.

“O Venerable Gotama, with my son, daughter, wife, followers and councillors, I seek refuge in the Venerable Gotama, in the Dhamma and in the Sangha. From today, let the Venerable Gotama regard me as a lay man devoted to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha for the rest of his life.

“Just as the Venerable Gotama visit the house of other lay devotees in Ukkaṭṭha, so also kindly visit my house. Young men and young women in my house will pay respect to You. They will welcome You. They will offer seats or water to You. At the very least they will be much inspired with faith. The response of these young men and women to Your visit will be conducive to their welfare and prosperity for a long time.”

Thus having committed himself to the Buddha, etc. on the supramundane level, the Brahmin invited the Buddha to his house. The Brahmin Pokkharasāti’s commitment to the Buddha, etc. differed from that of other lay devotees in that (1) it embraced his sons, daughters, wife, followers, and councillors and (2) by the last paragraph, he stated the reasons for his commitment.

Therefore, in conclusion the Buddha extolled him, saying: “Brahmin, you have spoken well” and accepted the invitation.

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