With Sela —Bhikkhu Sujato

Middle Discourses 92

With Sela

1.1So I have heard. 1.2At one time the Buddha was wandering in the land of the Northern Āpaṇas together with a large Saṅgha of 1,250 mendicants when he arrived at a town of the Northern Āpaṇas named Āpaṇa.

2.1The matted-hair ascetic Keṇiya heard: 2.2“It seems the ascetic Gotama—a Sakyan, gone forth from a Sakyan family—has arrived at Āpaṇa, together with a large Saṅgha of 1,250 mendicants. 2.3He has this good reputation: 2.4‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed.’ 2.5He has realized with his own insight this world—with its gods, Māras and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, gods and humans—and he makes it known to others. 2.6He teaches Dhamma that’s good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased. And he reveals a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure. 2.7It’s good to see such perfected ones.”

3.1So Keṇiya approached the Buddha and exchanged greetings with him. 3.2When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side. 3.3The Buddha educated, encouraged, fired up, and inspired him with a Dhamma talk.

3.4Then he said to the Buddha, 3.5“Would Master Gotama together with the mendicant Saṅgha please accept tomorrow’s meal from me?”

3.6When he said this, the Buddha said to him, 3.7“The Saṅgha is large, Keṇiya; there are 1,250 mendicants. And you are devoted to the brahmins.”

3.8For a second time … 3.9 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13and a third time Keṇiya asked the Buddha to accept a meal offering. 3.14 3.15 3.16Finally, the Buddha consented in silence.

4.1Then, knowing that the Buddha had consented, Keṇiya got up from his seat and went to his own hermitage. There he addressed his friends and colleagues, relatives and family members, 4.2“Gentlemen, please listen. 4.3The ascetic Gotama together with the mendicant Saṅgha has been invited by me for tomorrow’s meal. 4.4Please help me with the preparations.”

4.5“Yes, sir,” they replied. Some dug ovens, some chopped wood, some washed dishes, some set out a water jar, and some spread out seats. 4.6Meanwhile, Keṇiya set up the pavilion himself.

5.1Now at that time the brahmin Sela was residing in Āpaṇa. He had mastered the three Vedas, together with their vocabularies, ritual, phonology and etymology, and the testament as fifth. He knew philology and grammar, and was well versed in cosmology and the marks of a great man. And he was teaching three hundred students to recite the hymns.

6.1Now at that time Keṇiya was devoted to Sela. 6.2Then Sela, while going for a walk escorted by the three hundred students, approached Keṇiya’s hermitage. 6.3He saw the preparations going on, 7.1and said to Keṇiya, 7.2“Keṇiya, is your son or daughter being married? Or are you setting up a big sacrifice? Or has King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha been invited for tomorrow’s meal?”

8.1“There is no marriage, Sela, and the king is not coming. 8.2Rather, I am setting up a big sacrifice. 8.3The ascetic Gotama has arrived at Āpaṇa, together with a large Saṅgha of 1,250 mendicants. 8.4He has this good reputation: 8.5‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed.’ 8.6He has been invited by me for tomorrow’s meal together with the mendicant Saṅgha.”

8.7“Mister Keṇiya, did you say ‘the awakened one’?”

8.8“I said ‘the awakened one’.”

8.9“Did you say ‘the awakened one’?”

8.10“I said ‘the awakened one’.”

10.1Then Sela thought, 10.2“It’s hard to even find the word ‘awakened one’ in the world. 10.3The thirty-two marks of a great man have been handed down in our hymns. A great man who possesses these has only two possible destinies, no other. 10.4If he stays at home he becomes a king, a wheel-turning monarch, a just and principled king. His dominion extends to all four sides, he achieves stability in the country, and he possesses the seven treasures. 10.5He has the following seven treasures: 10.6the wheel, the elephant, the horse, the jewel, the woman, the treasurer, and the counselor as the seventh treasure. 10.7He has over a thousand sons who are valiant and heroic, crushing the armies of his enemies. 10.8After conquering this land girt by sea, he reigns by principle, without rod or sword. 10.9But if he goes forth from the lay life to homelessness, he becomes a perfected one, a fully awakened Buddha, who draws back the veil from the world.”

11.1“But Keṇiya, where is the Blessed One at present, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha?”

11.2When he said this, Keṇiya pointed with his right arm and said, 11.3“There, Mister Sela, at that line of blue forest.”

12.1Then Sela, together with his students, approached the Buddha. 12.2He said to his students, 12.3“Come quietly, gentlemen, tread gently. 12.4For the Buddhas are intimidating, like a lion living alone. 12.5When I’m consulting with the ascetic Gotama, don’t interrupt. 12.6Wait until I’ve finished speaking.”

13.1Then Sela went up to the Buddha, and exchanged greetings with him. 13.2When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side, 13.3and scrutinized the Buddha’s body for the thirty-two marks of a great man.

13.4He saw all of them except for two, 13.5which he had doubts about: 13.6whether the private parts are retracted, and the largeness of the tongue.

13.7Then it occurred to the Buddha, 13.8“Sela sees all the marks except for two, 13.9which he has doubts about: 13.10whether the private parts are retracted, and the largeness of the tongue.”

14.1The Buddha used his psychic power to will that Sela would see his retracted private parts. 14.2And he stuck out his tongue and stroked back and forth on his ear holes and nostrils, and covered his entire forehead with his tongue.

15.1Then Sela thought, 15.2“The ascetic Gotama possesses the thirty-two marks completely, lacking none. 15.3But I don’t know whether or not he is an awakened one. 15.4I have heard that brahmins of the past who were elderly and senior, the teachers of teachers, said, 15.5‘Those who are perfected ones, fully awakened Buddhas reveal themselves when praised.’ 15.6Why don’t I extoll him in his presence with fitting verses?”

15.7Then Sela extolled the Buddha in his presence with fitting verses:

16.1“O Blessed One, your body’s perfect,
16.2you’re radiant, handsome, lovely to behold;
16.3golden colored,
16.4with teeth so white; you’re strong.

16.5The characteristics
16.6of a handsome man,
16.7the marks of a great man,
16.8are all in your body.

16.9Your eyes are clear, your face is fair,
16.10you’re formidable, upright, majestic.
16.11In the midst of the Saṅgha of ascetics,
16.12you shine like the sun.

16.13You’re a mendicant fine to see,
16.14with skin of golden sheen.
16.15But with such excellent appearance,
16.16what do you want with the ascetic life?

16.17You’re fit to be a king,
16.18a wheel-turning monarch, chief of charioteers,
16.19victorious in the four directions,
16.20lord of all India.

16.21Aristocrats, nobles, and kings
16.22follow your rule.
16.23Gotama, you should reign
16.24as king of kings, lord of men!”

17.1“I am a king, Sela—
17.2the supreme king of the teaching.
17.3By the teaching I roll forth the wheel
17.4which cannot be rolled back.”

18.1“You claim to be awakened,
18.2the supreme king of the teaching.
18.3‘I roll forth the teaching’:
18.4so you say, Gotama.

18.5Then who is your general,
18.6the disciple who follows the Teacher’s way?
18.7Who keeps rolling the wheel
18.8of teaching you rolled forth?”

19.1“By me the wheel was rolled forth,” 19.2said the Buddha,
19.3“the supreme wheel of teaching.
19.4Sāriputta, taking after the Realized One,
19.5keeps it rolling on.

19.6I have known what should be known,
19.7and developed what should be developed,
19.8and given up what should be given up:
19.9and so, brahmin, I am a Buddha.

19.10Dispel your doubt in me—
19.11make up your mind, brahmin!
19.12The sight of a Buddha
19.13is hard to find again.

19.14I am a Buddha, brahmin,
19.15the supreme surgeon,
19.16one of those whose appearance in the world
19.17is hard to find again.

19.18Holy, unequalled,
19.19crusher of Māra’s army;
19.20having subdued all my opponents,
19.21I rejoice, fearing nothing from any quarter.”

20.1“Pay heed, sirs, to what
20.2is spoken by the seer.
20.3The surgeon, the great hero,
20.4roars like a lion in the jungle.

20.5Holy, unequalled,
20.6crusher of Māra’s army;
20.7who would not be inspired by him,
20.8even one whose nature is dark?

20.9Those who wish may follow me;
20.10those who don’t may go.
20.11Right here, I’ll go forth in the presence of him,
20.12this man of such splendid wisdom.”

21.1“Sir, if you like
21.2the teaching of the Buddha,
21.3we’ll also go forth in the presence of him,
21.4this man of such splendid wisdom.”

22.1“These three hundred brahmins
22.2with joined palms held up, ask:
22.3‘May we lead the spiritual life
22.4in your presence, Blessed One?’”

23.1“The spiritual life is well explained,” 23.2said the Buddha,
23.3“visible in this very life, immediately effective.
23.4Here the going forth isn’t in vain
23.5for one who trains with diligence.”

24.1And the brahmin Sela together with his assembly received the going forth, the ordination in the Buddha’s presence.

25.1And when the night had passed Keṇiya had a variety of delicious foods prepared in his own home. Then he had the Buddha informed of the time, saying, 25.2“It’s time, Master Gotama, the meal is ready.”

25.3Then the Buddha robed up in the morning and, taking his bowl and robe, went to Keṇiya’s hermitage, where he sat on the seat spread out, together with the Saṅgha of mendicants. 25.4Then Keṇiya served and satisfied the mendicant Saṅgha headed by the Buddha with his own hands with a variety of delicious foods. 25.5When the Buddha had eaten and washed his hand and bowl, Keṇiya took a low seat and sat to one side. 25.6The Buddha expressed his appreciation with these verses:

26.1“The foremost of sacrifices is offering to the sacred flame;
26.2the Sāvittī is the foremost of poetic meters;
26.3of humans, the king is the foremost;
26.4the ocean’s the foremost of rivers;

26.5the foremost of stars is the moon;
26.6the sun is the foremost of lights;
26.7for those who sacrifice seeking merit,
26.8the Saṅgha is the foremost.”

26.9When the Buddha had expressed his appreciation to Keṇiya the matted-hair ascetic with these verses, he got up from his seat and left.

27.1Then Venerable Sela and his assembly, living alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute, soon realized the supreme end of the spiritual path in this very life. They lived having achieved with their own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.

27.2They understood: “Rebirth is ended; the spiritual journey has been completed; what had to be done has been done; there is no return to any state of existence.” 27.3And Venerable Sela together with his assembly became perfected.

28.1Then Sela with his assembly went to see the Buddha. He arranged his robe over one shoulder, raised his joined palms toward the Buddha, and said:

28.2“This is the eighth day since
28.3we went for refuge, O seer.
28.4In these seven days, Blessed One,
28.5we’ve become tamed in your teaching.

28.6You are the Buddha, you are the Teacher,
28.7you are the sage who has overcome Māra;
28.8you have cut off the underlying tendencies,
28.9you’ve crossed over, and you bring humanity across.

28.10You have transcended attachments,
28.11your defilements are shattered;
28.12by not grasping, like a lion,
28.13you’ve given up fear and dread.

28.14These three hundred mendicants
28.15stand with joined palms raised.
28.16Stretch out your feet, great hero:
28.17let these giants worship the Teacher.”