Sutta Nipāta

Sabhiya Sutta

3.6. Sabhiya’s Questions

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Radiant One dwelt at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels’ Feeding-ground. Now at that time a deva gave a question to Sabhiya the Wanderer, who had been his relative in a past life, saying, “Sabhiya, if any ascetic or brahmin can answer this question, you should live the Holy Life with them.”

When Sabhiya the Wanderer had learned that question from the deva, he approached various respected ascetics and brahmins and asked them the question. These included teachers with large followings and many devotees, well-known and famous, well-regarded by many people as having crossed over, such as Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosālo, Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccāna, Sañcaya Belaṭṭhaputta, and Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta. But when they were asked this question, they were not able to answer, and they showed unreasonable anger and annoyance. Then they asked Sabhiya questions in return.

Then it occurred to Sabhiya, “These teachers are not able to answer my question, and instead they ask me about something else. Perhaps I should return to the lesser life and enjoy sensual pleasures.”

Then he thought, “There is also this Ascetic Gotama, who is a teacher with a large following and many devotees, well-known and famous, well-regarded by many people as having crossed over. Why don’t I go and ask him this question?”

But then it occurred to him, “The respected ascetics and brahmins who I asked previously—Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosālo, Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccāna, Sañcaya Belaṭṭhaputta, and Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta—were not able to answer me, and they are old, elderly, great figures, come to the last stage of life, seniors, long gone forth. How could this Ascetic Gotama answer my question, since he is young, and only recently gone forth?”

Then he thought, “An ascetic should not be despised or held in contempt just because they are young. The Ascetic Gotama is young, but he is of great psychic power and might. Why don’t I go to him and ask this question?”

The Wanderer Sabhiya then set out for Rājagaha. Wandering by stages he arrived at Rājagaha and went to the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel’s Feeding Place. He approached the Buddha, exchanged courteous and amiable greetings with him, and sat down to one side. Then he addressed the Buddha with the following verses.

Sabhiya
I have come filled with doubts,
Wishing to ask a question;
When I ask them, please put them to rest,
By explaining each and every matter to me.

Buddha
Sabhiya, you have come from afar,
Wishing to ask a question;
When you ask them, I will put them to rest,
By explaining each and every matter to you.

Ask me, Sabhiya, your question,
Whatever you wish,
I will put to rest
Each and every question.

Then it occurred to Sabhiya the Wanderer: “How amazing! How incredible! With those other ascetics and brahmins I couldn’t get so much as an opportunity, while this Ascetic Gotama makes the opportunity himself!” Pleased and joyful, uplifted with rapture and happiness, he asked the Buddha this question.

Sabhiya
Attaining what is one called a “bhikkhu”?
How is one “gentle”? And how “tamed”?
Why is one called “awakened”?
Please answer me this question, Lord.

Buddha
By the path they walked themselves,
Nirvāṇa is realized and doubt is left behind;
Existence and non-existence have been abandoned,
Complete, having ended rebirth: they are a “bhikkhu”.

Mindful and equanimous everywhere,
They do not harm anyone in the world;
An ascetic crossed over, without distress,
And with no vanity: they are “gentle”.

With faculties developed
For the whole world, inside and out;
They have understood this world and the next,
And complete their time fulfilled: they are “tamed”.

Having thoroughly investigated the ages
Of transmigration through both deaths and births,
Free of passion and defilements, pure,
Arrived at the end of rebirth:
such is called “awakened”.

Then Sabhiya the Wanderer rejoiced, thankful for the Buddha’s answer. Pleased and joyful, uplifted with rapture and happiness, he asked the Buddha a further question.

Sabhiya
Attaining what is one called a “brahmin”?
How is one an “ascetic”? And how “washed”?
Why is one called “dragon”?
Please answer me this question, Lord.

Buddha
Having shaken off all bad deeds,
Stainless, well-stilled, and steadfast;
Gone beyond transmigration, consummate,
Unattached: such is called a “brahmin”.

Settled, with good and bad abandoned,
Dustless, knowing this world and the next;
Transcending birth and death,
True to themselves: such is called an “ascetic”.

Having washed off all bad deeds,
For the whole world, inside and out;
They have no wish for the human
Or divine existences: that is called “washed”.

Doing no harm at all in the world,
Not tied to any fetters;
Unattached everywhere, and free,
True to themselves: such is called a “dragon”.

Then Sabhiya the Wanderer rejoiced, thankful for the Buddha’s answer. Pleased and joyful, uplifted with rapture and happiness, he asked the Buddha a further question.

Sabhiya
Who do the Buddhas say is the “victor on the field”?
How is one “skilled”? And what is a “wise man”?
Why is one called a “sage”?
Please answer me this question, Lord.

Buddha
Having thoroughly investigated the fields,
Heavenly, human, even the Brahmā-fields,
One is freed from the root binding one to all fields,
True to themselves: such is called “victor on the field”.

Having thoroughly investigated the storehouses,
Heavenly, human, even the Brahmā-stores,
One is freed from the root binding one to all storehouses,
True to themselves: such is called “skilled”.

Having investigated the sense fields
Both inside and out, one is of pure wisdom;
Transcending black and white,
True to themselves: such is called “wise”.

Knowing good and bad principles,
Inside and out in all the world;
Worthy of worship by gods and humans,
Gone beyond the tie and the net, they are a sage.

Then Sabhiya the Wanderer rejoiced, thankful for the Buddha’s answer. Pleased and joyful, uplifted with rapture and happiness, he asked the Buddha a further question.

Sabhiya
Attaining what is one called “knowledgable”?
How is one “informed”? And how “energetic”?
Why is one called “thoroughbred”?
Please answer me this question, Lord.

Buddha
Having thoroughly investigated the knowledges,
Whether those of ascetics or of brahmins,
One is free of desire for all feelings,
Gone beyond all feelings, they are “knowledgable”.

Understanding the proliferation
Of mental and physical phenomena,
Inside and out, the root of disease;
One is freed from the root binding one to all diseases,
True to themselves: such is called “informed”.

Abstaining from all bad deeds,
The energetic one escapes the suffering of hell;
Energetic, resolute,
True to themselves: such is called “hero”.

One who has cut the bonds,
Inside and out, the root of attachment;
One is freed from the root binding one to all attachments,
True to themselves: such is called “a thoroughbred”.

Then Sabhiya the Wanderer rejoiced, thankful for the Buddha’s answer. Pleased and joyful, uplifted with rapture and happiness, he asked the Buddha a further question.

Sabhiya
Attaining what is one called “scholar”?
How is one “noble”?
And how “well conducted”?
Why is one called “wanderer”?
Please answer me this question, Lord.

Buddha
Having learned all phenomena
in the world with direct knowledge,
Whatever is blameworthy or blameless;
One who is a winner, doubtless, free,
Untroubled in every respect, is a “scholar”.

Having cut off corruptions and attachments,
Knowing, one does not go to another womb.
Dispelling the three defiled perceptions,
He comes back for no age,
that is who they call “noble”.

One who is accomplished in good conduct,
Always skilful in understanding principles;
Not attached anywhere, with mind freed,
And bearing no grudges, is “well conducted”.

Whatever deeds are to result in suffering,
Above, below, across, or in-between;
Having gone forth one lives to fully understand
Illusions, conceit, as well as greed and hatred;
Terminating mental and physical phenomena,
That, they say, is an accomplished wanderer.

Then Sabhiya the Wanderer rejoiced, thankful for the Buddha’s answer. Pleased and joyful, uplifted with rapture and happiness, he stood up from his seat, arranged his robe over one shoulder, and, raising his folded palms to the Buddha, spoke these suitable verses of praise in his presence.

Sabhiya
One of vast wisdom, you have dispelled the dark flood,
The three and sixty doctrines of the ascetics,
Which are false refuges,
Dependent on perceptions and conventions.

You’ve made an end, crossed over suffering,
I hold you as an arahant,
Fully awakened, with corruptions ended;
Brilliant, thoughtful, with expansive wisdom,
You have brought me across, finisher of suffering.

Understanding my anxiety,
You carried me over my doubts. Homage to you!
Sage accomplished in the ways of silence,
You are gentle, not callous, Kinsman of the Sun.

The anxieties I had before,
You have answered them, seer;
For sure you are a sage, fully awakened,
You have no hindrances.

All of your griefs
Are demolished and destroyed;
You are cooled, tamed,
Firm and strong in truth.

Dragon of dragons, great hero,
While you are speaking,
The gods all rejoice,
Both Nāradas and Pabbatas.

Homage to you, thoroughbred among men!
Homage to you, best of men!
In all the world with its gods,
There is no-one like you.

You are the Buddha, you are the Teacher,
You are the sage who overcame Māra;
You have cut all underlying tendencies,
Crossed over, you bring this generation across.

You have transcended all attachments,
And destroyed your corruptions;
You are a lion, without grasping,
With fears and terrors abandoned.

As a drop of dew
Does not smear a lotus,
Neither good nor bad smears you.
Stretch out your feet, my hero,
Sabhiya bows to his teacher!

And then Sabhiya the wanderer, fell at the Buddha’s feet and said to him: “Amazing, venerable sir, incredible, venerable sir! It is as if someone were to turn upright what had been overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to light a lamp in the darkness, so that those with eyes could see. In the same way the Buddha has made the Dhamma clear in many ways. I go to the Buddha for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the monastic Saṅgha. Bhante, I ask for the going forth and ordination in the Lord’s presence.”

“Sabhiya, anyone who was previously a follower of another sect and who asks for going forth and ordination in this Dhamma and Vinaya should stay on probation for four months. When four months have passed, the monastics, if they are satisfied, may give the going forth and ordination into the status of a bhikkhu. However, I also consider individual cases differently.”

“Venerable sir, in that case I will remain on probation for four years, and after four years if the monastics are satisfied they may give me the going forth and ordination into the status of a bhikkhu.”

Then Sabhiya the Wanderer received the going forth and ordination in the Buddha’s presence. … And he became one of the arahants.