Long Discourses

Pāṭika Chapter

27. A Book of Genesis

Thus have I heard. The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, in the East Park, at the mansion of the Mother of Migāra. Now at that time Vāseṭṭha and Bhāradvāja were passing their probation among the brethren, desiring to become bhikkhus. Then at eventide the Exalted One, having arisen from his meditations, had come down from the house, and was walking to and fro in the open air, in the shade of the house.

Now Vāseṭṭha saw this, and on seeing it he told Bhāradvāja, adding: Let us go, friend Bhāradvāja, let us approach the Exalted One, for perchance we might have the good fortune to hear from the Exalted One a talk on matters of doctrine.

Even so, friend, Bhāradvāja made reply. So Vāseṭṭha and Bhāradvāja went and approached the Exalted One, and having saluted him, they walked after him as he walked to and fro.

Then the Exalted One said to Vāseṭṭha: You, Vāseṭṭha, being brahmins by birth and family, have gone forth from a brahmin family, your home, into the homeless life. Do not the brahmins blame and revile you?

Yea, verily, lord, the brahmins do blame and revile us with characteristic abuse, copious, not at all stinted.

But in what words, Vāseṭṭha, do they so blame you?

The brahmins, lord, say thus: “The brahmin class is the best.”

But in what terms, Vāseṭṭha, do the brahmins blame and censure you to this extent?

The brahmins, lord, say thus: Only a brahmin is of the best social grade; other grades are low. Only a brahmin is of a clear complexion; other complexions are swarthy. Only brahmins are of pure breed; not they that are not of the brahmins. Only brahmins are genuine children of Brahmā, born of his mouth, offspring of Brahmā, created by Brahmā, heirs of Brahmā. As for you, you have renounced the best rank, and have gone over to that low class—to shaven recluses, to the vulgar rich, to them of swarthy skins, to the footborn descendants. Such a course is not good, such a course is not proper, even this, that you, having forsaken that upper class, should associate with an inferior class, to wit, with shaveling friar-folk, menials, swarthy of skin, the offscouring of Our kinsman’s heels. In these terms, lord, do the brahmins blame and revile us with characteristic abuse, copious, not at all stinted.

Surely, Vāseṭṭha, the brahmins have quite forgotten the past (the ancient lore) when they say so? On the contrary, brahminees, the wives of brahmins, are known to be fertile, are seen to be with child, bringing forth and nursing children. And yet it is these very womb-born brahmins who say that … brahmins are genuine children of Brahmā, born from his mouth; his offspring, his creation, and his heirs! By this they make a travesty of the nature of Brahmā. It is false what they say, and great is the demerit that they thereby earn.

There are these four classes, Vāseṭṭha: nobles, brahmins, tradesfolk, workpeople. Now here and there a noble deprives a living being of life, is a thief, is unchaste, speaks lies, slanders, uses rough words, is a gossip, or greedy, or malevolent, or holds wrong views. Thus we see that qualities which are immoral and considered to be so, which are blameworthy and considered to be so, which ought not to be sought after and are so considered, which are unworthy of an Ariyan and are so considered, qualities sinister and of sinister effect, discountenanced by the wise, are to be found here and there in such a noble. And we may say as much concerning brahmins, tradesfolk and workpeople.

Again, here and there a noble abstains from murder, theft, inchastity, lying, slandering, gossiping, greed, malevolence and false opinions. Thus we see that qualities which are, and are considered, moral, inoffensive, unexceptional, truly Ariyan, benign and of benign effect, commended by the wise, are to be found here and there in a noble. And we may say as much concerning each of the others—brahmins, tradesfolk and workpeople.

Now seeing, Vāseṭṭha, that both bad and good qualities, blamed and praised respectively by the wise, are thus distributed among each of the four classes, the wise do not admit those claims which the brahmins put forward. And why? Because, Vāseṭṭha, whoever among all these four classes becomes a bhikkhu, an Arahant, one who has destroyed the deadly taints, who has lived the life, has done that which was to be done, has laid down the burden, has attained his own salvation, has destroyed the fetter of rebirth, and has become free because he has perfected knowledge—he is declared chief among them, and that in virtue of a norm (a standard), and not irrespective of a norm. For a norm, Vāseṭṭha, is the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

The following, Vāseṭṭha, is an illustration for understanding how a norm is the best among this folk both in this life and in the next. King Pasenadi of Kosala is aware that the Samaṇa Gotama has gone forth from the adjacent clan of the Sākyas. Now the Sākyas are become the vassals of King Pasenadi. They render to him homage and respectful salutation, they rise and do him obeisance, and treat him with ceremony. Now, just as the Sākyans treat King Pasenadi of Kosala, so does the king treat the Tathāgata. For he thinks: Is not the Samaṇa Gotama well born? Then I am not well born. The Samaṇa Gotama is strong, I am weak. He is attractive, I am not comely; the Samaṇa Gotama has great influence, I have but little influence. Now it is because the king honours a norm, reveres a norm, regards a norm, does homage to a norm, holds sacred a norm, that he renders homage and respectful salutation to the Tathāgata, rising and doing him obeisance, and treating him with ceremony. By this illustration may it be understood how a norm is the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

You, Vāseṭṭha, who, differing all of you in birth, in name, in clan and family, have gone forth from home into the homeless life, may be asked: Who are ye? Then do ye reply: We be Samaṇas who follow him of the sons of the Sākyans. He, Vāseṭṭha, whose faith in the Tathāgata is settled, rooted, established and firm, a faith not to be dragged down by recluse or brahmin, by deva or Mara or Brahmā or anyone in the world, well may he say: I am a veritable son of the Exalted One, born from his mouth, born of the Norm, created by the Norm, heir of the Norm. And why? Because, Vāseṭṭha, these are names tantamount to Tathāgata: Belonging to the Norm, and again, belonging to the highest, and again, one with the Norm, and again, one with the Highest.

There comes a time, Vāseṭṭha, when, sooner or later, after the lapse of a long, long period, this world passes away. And when this happens, beings have mostly been reborn in the World of Radiance; and there they dwell, made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. There comes also a time, Vāseṭṭha, when sooner or later this world begins to re-evolve. When this happens, beings who had deceased from the World of Radiance, usually come to life as humans. And they become made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory, and remain thus for a long, long period of time.

Now at that time, all had become one world of water, dark, and of darkness that maketh blind. No moon nor sun appeared, no stars were seen, nor constellations, neither was night manifest nor day, neither months nor half-months, neither years nor seasons, neither female nor male. Beings were reckoned just as beings only. And to those beings, Vāseṭṭha, sooner or later after a long time, earth with its savour was spread out in the waters. Even as a scum forms on the surface of boiled milky rice that is cooling, so did the earth appear. It became endowed with colour, with odour, and with taste. Even as well-made ghee or pure butter, so was its colour; even as the flawless honey of the bee, so sweet was it.

Then, Vāseṭṭha, some being of greedy disposition, said: Lo now! What will this be? and tasted the savoury earth with his finger. He thus, tasting, became suffused with the savour, and craving entered into him. And other beings, following his example, tasted the savoury earth with their finger. They thus, tasting, became suffused with the savour, a craving entered into them. Then those beings began to feast on the savoury earth, breaking off lumps of it with their hands. And from the doing thereof the self-luminance of those beings faded away. As their self-luminance faded away, the moon and the sun became manifest. Thereupon star-shapes and constellations became manifest. Thereupon night and day became manifest, months too and half-months, the seasons and the years. Thus far then, Vāseṭṭha, did the world evolve again.

Now those beings, Vāseṭṭha, feasting on the savoury earth, feeding on it, nourished by it, continued thus for a long long while. And in measure as they thus fed, did their bodies become solid, and did variety in their comeliness become manifest. Some beings were well favoured, some were ill favoured. And herein they that were well favoured despised them that were ill favoured, thinking: We are more comely than they; they are worse favoured than we. And while they through pride in their beauty thus became vain and conceited, the savoury earth disappeared. At the disappearance of the savoury earth, they gathered themselves together and bewailed it: Alas for the savour! Alas for the savour! Even so now when men having gotten a good savour say; Ah, the savour of it! Ah, the savour of it! They do but follow an ancient primordial saying, not recognizing the significance thereof.

Then, Vāseṭṭha, when the savoury earth had vanished for those beings, outgrowths appeared in the soil. The manner of the rising up thereof was as the springing up of the mushroom, it had colour, odour and taste; even as well-formed ghee or fine butter so was the colour thereof, and even as flawless honeycomb so was the sweetness thereof. Then those beings began to feast on these outgrowths of the soil. And they, feasting on them, finding food and nourishment in them, continued for a long long while. And in measure as they thus fed and were thus nourished, so did their bodies grow ever more solid, and the difference in their comeliness more manifest, some becoming well favoured, some ill favoured. Then they that were well favoured despised them that were ill favoured, thinking: We are more comely than they; they are worse favoured than we. And while they, through pride in their beauty, thus became vain and conceited, these outgrowths of the soil disappeared. Thereupon creeping plants appeared, and the manner of the growth thereof was as that of the bamboo, and they had colour, odour and taste. Even as well-made ghee or fine butter so was the colour thereof; even as flawless honeycomb so was the sweetness thereof.

Then, Vāseṭṭha, those beings began to feast on the creepers. And they, feasting on them, feeding on them, nourished by them, continued so for a long long while. And in measure as they thus fed and were nourished did their bodies wax more solid, and the divergence in their comeliness increase, so that, as before, the better favoured despised the worst favoured. And while those, through pride in their beauty, became vain and conceited, the creepers disappeared. At the disappearance thereof they gathered themselves together and bewailed, saying: Verily it was ours, the creeper! Now it has vanished away! Alas and O me! We have lost! Even so now when men, being asked what is the matter, say: Alas and O me! What we had that have we lost! They do but follow an ancient primordial saying, not recognizing the significance thereof.

Then, Vāseṭṭha, when the creepers had vanished for those beings, rice appeared ripening in open spaces,

No powder had it and no husk. [Pure,] fragrant and clean grained.

Where of an evening they gathered and carried away for supper, there next morning the rice stood ripe and grown again. Where in the morning they gathered and carried away for breakfast, there in the evening it stood ripe and grown again. No break was to be seen [where the husks had been broken off].

Then those beings feasting on this rice in the clearings, feeding on it, nourished by it, so continued for a long long while. And in measure as they, thus feeding, went on existing, so did the bodies of those beings become even more solid, and the divergence in their comeliness more pronounced. In the female appeared the distinctive features of the female, in the male those of the male. Then truly did woman contemplate man too closely, and man, woman. In them contemplating over much the one the other, passion arose and burning entered their body. They in consequence thereof followed their lusts. And beings seeing them so doing threw, some, sand, some, ashes, some, cowdung, crying: Perish, foul one! Perish, foul one! How can a being treat a being so? Even so now when men, in certain districts, when a bride is led away, throw either sand, or ashes, or cowdung, they do but follow an ancient enduring primordial form, not recognizing the significance thereof.

That which was reckoned immoral at that time, Vāseṭṭha, is now reckoned to be moral. Those beings who at that time followed their lusts, were not allowed to enter village or town either for a whole month or even for two months. And inasmuch as those beings at that time quickly incurred blame for immorality, they set to work to make huts, to conceal just that immorality.

Then Vāseṭṭha, this occurred to some being of a lazy disposition: Lo now! Why do I wear myself out fetching rice for supper in the evening, and in the morning for breakfast? What if I were to fetch enough rice for supper and breakfast together? So he gathered at one journey enough rice for the two meals together.

Then some being came to him and said: Come, good being, let us go rice-gathering. That’s not wanted, good being, I have fetched rice for the evening and morning meal. Then the former followed his example and fetched rice for two days at once, saying: So much, they say, will about do. Then some other being came to this one and said: Come, good being, let us go rice-gathering. And he: Never mind, good being, I have fetched rice enough for two days. [And so, in like manner, they stored up rice enough for four, and then for eight days.]

Now from the time, Vāseṭṭha, that those beings began to feed on hoarded rice, powder enveloped the clean grain, and husk enveloped the grain, and the reaped or cut stems did not grow again; a break became manifest [where the reaper had cut]; the rice stubble stood in clumps.

Then those beings, Vāseṭṭha, gathered themselves and bewailed this, saying: Evil customs, sirs, have appeared among men. For in the past, we were made of mind, we fed on rapture, self-luminous, we traversed the air in abiding loveliness; long long the period we so remained. For us sooner or later, after a long long while the savoury earth had arisen over the waters. Colour it had, and odour and taste. We set to work to make the earth into lumps, and feast on it. As we did so our self-luminance vanished away. When it was gone, moon and sun became manifest, star-shapes and constellations, night and day, the months and half-months, the seasons and the years. We enjoying the savoury earth, feeding on it, nourished by it, continued so for a long long while. But since evil and immoral customs became rife among us, the savoury earth disappeared. When it had ceased outgrowths of the soil became manifest, clothed with colour, odour and taste. Them we began to enjoy; and fed and nourished thereby, we continued so for a long long while. But when evil and immoral customs arose among us, these outgrowths disappeared. When they had vanished, creepers appeared clothed with colour, odour and taste. Them we turned to enjoy; and fed and nourished thereby we continued so for a long long while. But since evil and immoral customs became prevalent among us, the creepers also disappeared. When they had ceased rice appeared, ripening in open spaces, without powder, without husk, pure, fragrant and clean grained. Where we plucked and took away for the evening meal every evening, there next morning it had grown ripe again. Where we plucked and took away for the morning meal, there in the evening it had grown ripe again. There was no break visible. Enjoying this rice, feeding on it, nourished by it, we have so continued a long long while. But from evil and immoral customs becoming manifest among us, powder has enveloped the clean grain, husk too has enveloped the clean grain, and where we have reaped is no re-growth; a break has come, and the rice-stubble stands in clumps. Come now, let us divide off the rice fields and set boundaries thereto! And so they divided off the rice and set up boundaries round it.

Now some being, Vāseṭṭha, of greedy disposition, watching over his own plot, stole another plot and made use of it. They took him and holding him fast, said: Truly, good being, thou hast wrought evil in that, while watching thine own plot, thou hast stolen another plot and made use of it. See, good being, that thou do not such a thing again! Ay, sirs, he replied. And a second time he did so. And yet a third. And again they took him and admonished him. Some smote him with the hand, some with clods, some with sticks. With such a beginning, Vāseṭṭha, did stealing appear, and censure and lying and punishment became known.

Now those beings, Vāseṭṭha, gathered themselves together, and bewailed these things, saying: From our evil deeds, sirs, becoming manifest, inasmuch as stealing, censure, lying, punishment have become known, what if we were to select a certain being, who should be wrathful when indignation is right, who should censure that which should rightly be censured and should banish him who deserves to be banished? But we will give him in return a proportion of the rice.

Then, Vāseṭṭha, those beings went to the being among them who was the handsomest, the best favoured, the most attractive, the most capable and said to him: Come now, good being, be indignant at that whereat one should rightly be indignant, censure that which should rightly be censured, banish him who deserves to be banished. And we will contribute to thee a proportion of our rice.

And he consented, and did so, and they gave him a proportion of their rice.

Chosen by the whole people, Vāseṭṭha, is what is meant by Mahā Sammata; so Mahā Sammata (the Great Elect) was the first standing phrase to arise [for such a one]. Lord of the Fields is what is meant by Khattiya; so Khattiya (Noble) was the next expression to arise. He charms the others by the Norm—by what ought (to charm)—is what is meant by Raja; so this was the third standing phrase to arise.

Thus then, Vāseṭṭha, was the origin of this social circle of the Nobles, according to the ancient primordial phrases [by which they were known]. Their origin was from among those very beings, and no others; like unto themselves, not unlike; and it took place according to the Norm [according to what ought to be, justly], not unfittingly.

For, Vāseṭṭha.

The norm’s the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

Now it occurred, Vāseṭṭha, to some of those beings, as follows: Evil deeds, sirs, have become manifest among us, inasmuch as stealing, censure, lying, punishment can be noticed, and banishment. Let us now put away from us evil and immoral customs. And they put away from them such customs. They put away (bāhenti) evil, immoral customs, Vāseṭṭha, is what is meant by Brahmins, and thus was it that Brahmins became the earliest standing phrase [for those who did so]. They, making leaf huts in woodland spots, meditated therein. Extinct for them the burning coal, vanished the smoke, fallen lies pestle and mortar; gathering of an evening for the evening meal, of a morning for the morning meal, they go down into village and town and royal city, seeking food. When they have gotten food, back again in their leafhuts they meditate. When men saw this, they said: These good beings, having made unto themselves leaf-huts in the forest region, meditate therein. For them burning coal is extinct, smoke is known no more, pestle and mortar have fallen from their hands; they gather of an evening for the evening meal, of a morning for the morning meal, and go down into village and town and royal city seeking food. When they have gotten food, back again in their leaf-huts they meditate. They meditate (jhāyanti), Vāseṭṭha, is what is meant by the brooding one (jhāyakā). Thus was it that this was the second phrase that arose.

Now certain of those beings, Vāseṭṭha, being incapable of enduring this meditation in forest leaf-huts, went down and settled on the outskirts of villages and towns, making books. When men saw this, they said: These good beings, being incapable of enduring meditation in forest leaf-huts, have gone down and settled on the outskirts of villages and towns, and there they make books. But they cannot meditate. Now, these meditate not, Vāseṭṭha, is what is meant by Ajjhāyaka (repeaters, viz., of the Vedas).

Thus this third phrase for such people came into use.

At that time they were looked upon as the lowest; now they are thought the best.

Such then, Vāseṭṭha, according to the ancient, yea, primordial, expressions by which they were known, was the origin of this social circle of the Brahmins. Their origin was from just those beings [above referred to]; beings like unto themselves, not unlike; [and it took place] according to the Norm [according to what ought to be, justly] not unfittingly.

For, Vāseṭṭha, The Norm’s the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

Now, Vāseṭṭha, there were some others of those beings who, adopting the married state, set on foot various trades. That they, adopting the married state, set on foot various [vissa] trades is, Vāseṭṭha, the meaning of vessā (tradesfolk). So this word came into use as a standing expression for such people. The origin, Vāseṭṭha, of the social group called the Vessas was in accordance with this ancient, yea, primordial designation. It was from just those beings [above described] beings like unto themselves, not unlike. And it took place in accordance with the Norm [according to what ought to be, justly] not unfittingly.

For, Vāseṭṭha, The norm’s the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

Now, Vāseṭṭha, those of these beings that remained over took to hunting. But those that live on hunting, and suchlike trifling pursuits, is what is meant by Sudda (the lowest grade of folk). Thus then, according to the ancient, yea, primordial expression, is the origin of this social group called Suddas. Their origin was from just those beings (above described), beings like unto themselves, not unlike; [and it took place] according to the Norm, [according to what ought to be] not unfittingly, namely, from those who were not different from other beings, but like them, not unlike them, by a norm and not through lack of a norm.

For, Vāseṭṭha, The norm’s the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

Now there came a time, Vāseṭṭha, when some Khattiya, misprizing his own norm, went forth from home into the homeless life, saying: I will become a recluse. Some Brahmin too did the same, likewise some Vessa and some Sudda, each finding some fault in his particular norm. Out of these four groups or circles, Vāseṭṭha, the company of the recluses came into being. Their origin was from just these beings like unto themselves, not different. And it took place according to a norm [a fitness, justly], not unfittingly.

For, Vāseṭṭha, The norm’s the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

Now a khattiya, Vāseṭṭha, who has led a bad life, in deed, word and thought, whose views of life are wrong, will, in consequence of his views and deeds, when the body breaks up, be reborn after death in the Waste, the Woeful Way, the Downfall, Purgatory. And a Brahmin too … a Vessa too … a Sudda too, who has led a bad life, in deed, word and thought, whose views of life are wrong, will, in consequence of his views and deeds, when the body breaks up, be reborn after death in the Waste, the Woeful Way, the Downfall, Purgatory.

Again, Vāseṭṭha, a Khattiya … or Brahmin … or Vessa … or Sudda, who has led a good life, in deed, word and thought, whose views of life are as they should be, will, in consequence of his views and deeds, when the body breaks up, be reborn after death in a happy, bright world.

Again, Vāseṭṭha, a Khattiya … a Brahmin, too … a Vessa, too … a Sudda, too, who has lived a life both good and bad, in deed, word and thought, whose views of life are mixed, will, in consequence of his mixed views and deeds, when the body breaks up, be reborn after death suffering both happiness and unhappiness.

Again, Vāseṭṭha, a Khattiya … a Brahmin, too … a Vessa, too … a Sudda, too, who is self-restrained in deed, word and thought, and has followed after the practice of the seven principles which are the Wings of Wisdom, attains to complete extinction [of evil] in this present life.

For, Vāseṭṭha) whosoever of these Four classes becomes, as a bhikkhu, an arahant, who has destroyed the intoxicants, who has done that which it behoved him to do, who has laid down the burden, who has won his own salvation, who has wholly destroyed the fetter of re-becoming, who through knowledge made perfect is free,—he is declared chief among them, in virtue of a norm, not in the absence of a norm. For, Vāseṭṭha, The norm’s the best among this folk both in this life and in the next.

Now this verse, Vāseṭṭha, was spoken by Brahmā, the Eternal Youth:

The Khattiya is the best among this folk
Who put their trust in lineage.
But one in wisdom and in virtue clothed,
Is best of all ‘mong spirits and men.

Now this stanza, Vāseṭṭha, was well sung and not ill sung by Brahmā the Eternal Youth, well said and not ill said, full of meaning and not void thereof. I too, Vāseṭṭha, say:

The Khattiya is the best among this folk
Who put their trust in lineage.
But one in wisdom and in virtue clothed,
Is best of all ‘mong spirits and men.

Thus spake the Exalted One. Pleased at heart Vāseṭṭha and Bhāradvāja rejoiced in what the Exalted One had said.

Here ends the Aggañña-Suttanta.