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The Two Brahmans

At one time when the Blessed One was journeying through Kosala he
came to the Brahman village which is called Manasakata. There he
stayed in a mango grove.

And two young Brahmans came to him who were of different schools.
One was named Vasettha and the other Bharadvaja. And Vasettha
said to the Blessed One:

"We have a dispute as to the true path. I say the straight path
which leads unto a union with Brahma is that which has been
announced by the Brahman Pokkharasati, while my friend says the
straight path which leads unto a union with Brahma is that which
has been announced by the Brahman Tarukkha.

"Now, regarding thy high reputation, O samana, and knowing that
thou art called the Enlightened One, the teacher of men and gods,
the Blessed Buddha, we have come to ask thee, are all these paths
paths of salvation? There are many roads all around our village,
and all lead to Manasakata. Is it just so with the paths of the
sages? Are all paths paths to salvation, and do they all lead to
a union with Brahma?

And the Blessed One proposed these questions to the two Brahmans:
"Do you think that all paths are right?"

Both answered and said: "Yes, Gotama, we think so."

"But tell me," continued the Buddha, "has any one of the
Brahmans, versed in the Vedas, seen Brahma face to face?"

"No, sir!" was the reply.

"But, then," said the Blessed One, "has any teacher of the
Brahmans, versed in the Vedas, seen Brahma face to face?"

The two Brahmans said: "No, sir."

"But, then," said the Blessed One, "has any one of the authors of
the Vedas seen Brahma face to face?"

Again the two Brahmans answered in the negative and exclaimed:
"How can any one see Brahma or understand him, for the mortal
cannot understand the immortal." And the Blessed One proposed an
illustration, saying:

"It is as if a man should make a staircase in the place where
four roads cross, to mount up into a mansion. And people should
ask him, 'Where, good friend, is this mansion, to mount up into
which you are making this staircase? Knowest thou whether it is
in the east, or in the south, or in the west, or in the north?
Whether it is high, or low, or of medium size?' And when so asked
he should answer, 'I know it not.' And people should say to him,
'But, then, good friend, thou art making a staircase to mount up
into something--taking it for a mansion--which all the while thou
knowest not, neither hast thou seen it.' And when so asked he
should answer, 'That is exactly what I do; yea I know that I
cannot know it.' What would you think of him? Would you not say
that the talk of that man was foolish talk?"

"In sooth, Gotama," said the two Brahmans, "it would be foolish

The Blessed One continued: "Then the Brahmans should say, 'We
show you the way unto a union of what we know not and what we
have not seen.' This being the substance of Brahman lore, does it
not follow that their task is vain?"

"It does follow," replied Bharadvaja.

Said the Blessed One: "Thus it is impossible that Brahmans versed
in the three Vedas should be able to show the way to a state of
union with that which they neither know nor have seen. Just as
when a string of blind men are clinging one to the other. Neither
can the foremost see, nor can those in the middle see, nor can
the hindmost see. Even so, methinks, the talk of the Brahmans
versed in the three Vedas is but blind talk; it is ridiculous,
consists of mere words, and is a vain and empty thing."

"Now suppose," added the Blessed One, "that a man should come
hither to the bank of the river, and, having some business on the
other side, should want to cross. Do you suppose that if he were
to invoke the other bank of the river to come over to him on this
side, the bank would come on account of his praying?"

"Certainly not, Gotama."

"Yet this is the way of the Brahmans. They omit the practice of
those qualities which really make a man a Brahman, and say,
'Indra, we call upon thee; Soma, we call upon thee; Varuna, we
call upon thee; Brahma, we call upon thee.' Verily, it is not
possible that these Brahmahns, on account of their invocations,
prayers, and praises, should after death be united with Brahma."

"Now tell me," continued the Buddha, "what do the Brahmans say of
Brahma? Is his mind full of lust?"

And when the Brahmans denied this, the Buddha asked:

"Is Brahma's mind full of malice, sloth, or pride?"

"No, sir!" was the reply. "He is the opposite of all this."

And the Buddha went on: "But are the Brahmans free from these

"No, sir!" said Vasettha.

The Holy One said: "The Brahmans cling to the five things leading
to worldliness and yield to the temptations of the senses; they
are entangled in the five hindrances, lust, malice, sloth, pride,
and doubt. How can they be united to that which is most unlike
their nature? Therefore the threefold wisdom of the Brahmans is a
waterless desert, a pathless jungle, and a hopeless desolation."

When the Buddha had thus spoken, one of the Brahmans said: "We
are told, Gotama, that the Sakyamuni knows the path to a union
with Brahma."

And the Blessed One said: "What do you think, O Brahmans, of a
man born and brought up in Manasakata? Would he be in doubt about
the most direct way from this spot to Manasakata?"

"Certainly not, Gotama."

"Thus," replied the Buddha, "the Tathagata knows the straight
path that leads to a union with Brahma. He knows it as one who
has entered the world of Brahma and has been born in it. There
can be no doubt in the Tathagata."

And the two young Brahmans said: "If thou knowest the way show it
to us."

And the Buddha said:

"The Tathagata sees the universe face to face and understands its
nature. He proclaims the truth both in its letter and in its
spirit, and his doctrine is glorious in its origin, glorious in
its progress, glorious in its consummation. The Tathagata reveals
the higher life in its purity and perfection. He can show you the
way to that which is contrary to the five great hindrances.

"The Tathagata lets his mind pervade the four quarters of the
world with thoughts of love. And thus the whole wide world,
above, below, around, and everywhere will continue to be filled
with love, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure.

"Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard--and that without
difficulty--in all the four quarters of the earth; even so is the
coming of the Tathagata: there is not one living creature that
the Tathagata passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all
with mind set free, and deep-felt love.

"And this is the sign that a man follows the right path:
Uprightness is his delight, and he sees danger in the least of
those things which he should avoid. He trains himself in the
commands of morality, he encompasseth himself with holiness in
word and deed; he sustains his life by means that are quite pure;
good is his conduct, guarded is the door of his senses; mindful
and self-possessed, he is altogether happy.

"He who walks in the eightfold noble path with unswerving
determination is sure to reach Nirvana. The Tathagata anxiously
watches over his children and with loving care helps them to see
the light.

"When a hen has eight or ten or twelve eggs, over which she has
properly brooded, the wish arises in her heart, 'O would that my
little chickens would break open the egg-shell with their claws,
or with their beaks, and come forth into the light in safety!'
yet all the while those little chickens are sure to break the
egg-shell and will come forth into the light in safety. Even so,
a brother who with firm determination walks in the noble path is
sure to come forth into the light, sure to reach up to the higher
wisdom, sure to attain to the highest bliss of enlightenment."

Next: Guard The Six Quarters

Previous: The Dhammapada

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