> image/svg+xml image/svg+xml image/svg+xml CS CS image/svg+xml CS image/svg+xml image/svg+xml image/svg+xml

How Brahmins Lived by the Dharma—Laurence Khantipalo Mills

Sutta Nipāta

Brāhmaṇadhammika Sutta

2.7. How Brahmins Lived by the Dharma

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Radiant One dwelt at Sāvatthī, in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s park. Then many decrepit old Kosalan brahmins, aged, elderly, advanced in years, attained to old age, those indeed of palatial abodes, went to the Radiant One and exchanged greeting with him. When this courteous and amiable talk was finished they sat down to one side. Sitting there these brahmins of palatial abodes said, “Master Gotama, are there now to be seen any brahmins who practise the Brahmin Dharma of the brahmins of old?”

“No, brahmins, there are no brahmins now to be seen who practise the Brahmin Dharma of the brahmins of old.”

“It would be excellent if the good Gotama would speak to us upon the Dharma of the brahmins of old if it would not be too much trouble.”

“Then brahmins, listen well and bear in mind what I shall say”.

“Indeed, venerable” said those brahmins of palatial abodes to the Radiant One. He spoke as follows:

In ancient times the sages then
austerely lived, were self-restrained,
let go five bases of desire
to fare for their own benefit.

Brahmins then no cattle had,
no gold, no grain they hoarded up,
their grain, their wealth was Vedic lore—
this the treasure they guarded well.

For them, whatever food prepared
was by the doorway placed
from faith prepared for those who sought,
for (donors) thought it should be given.

Then in various states and provinces
rich in colourful cloths well-dyed
with furniture and dwellings too
with these to brahmins they paid respect.

Unbeaten were brahmins and inviolate—
guarded by Dharma-goodness then,
none hindered or obstructed them
when they arrived at household doors.

Until the age of eight-and-forty
they practised celibate student life—
the brahmins of those ancient times
fared seeking knowledge and conduct good.

Those brahmins went not to others’ wives
nor bought a wife from other clans;
by mutual consent together they came,
being happy with each other.

Brahmins then did not indulge
in sexual intercourse out of time,
during menstruation,
but only when wives were free from this.

The celibate life was praised by them
with virtue and uprightness,
friendliness, penance and gentleness,
harming none and patient too.

Whoso ’mong them strong efforts made
resembling Brahma, best,
he never did engage in sex
not even in a dream.

Then some of them with wisdom blest
followed his practice path
praising the celibate life, as well
as virtue and as patience too.

Having begged rice, butter and oil,
with cloths and bedding too,
they sought and stored these righteously,
and from them made a sacrifice:
during that sacrificial rite
cattle they never killed.

Like mother (they thought), father, brother
or any other kind of kin,
cows are our kin most excellent
from whom come many remedies.

Givers of good and strength, of good
complexion and the happiness of health,
having seen the truth of this
cattle they never killed.

Those brahmins then by Dharma did
what should be done, not what should not,
and so aware they graceful were,
well-built, fair-skinned, of high renown.
While in the world this lore was found
these people happily prospered.

But then in them corruption came
for little by little they observed
how rajahs had to splendours won
with women adorned and elegant,

and chariot, yoked to thoroughbreds,
caparisoned, embroideries finely sewn,
and houses well-designed with walls—
insides divided into rooms,

filled with crowds of women fair
and ringed by herds of increasing cows—
all this the eminent wealth of men
the brahmins coveted in their hearts.

Then they composed some Vedic hymns
and went chanting to Okkāka king:
“Great your wealth and great your grain,
make sacrifice to us with grain and wealth”.

That rajah, Lord of chariots,
by brahmins was persuaded so
he offered all these sacrifices:
of horses, men, the peg well-thrown,
the sacrifice of soma drink
the one of rich results—
while to the brahmins wealth he gave:

of cattle, bedding and of cloth
with women adorned and elegant
and chariots yoked to thoroughbreds
caparisoned, embroideries finely sewn,

dwelling in which one would delight,
these well-divided into rooms
and many different kinds of grain,
this wealth he to the brahmins gave.

When they had all this wealth received
to hoard it up was their desire
for they were overwhelmed by greed—
their craving thus increased—
so they composed more Vedic hymns
and chanting went to Okkāka king.

“As water is, and earth, as well
as gold, as grain as well as wealth,
in the same way for human beings,
and cattle are necessities;
Great your wealth and great your grain,
make sacrifice to us with grain and wealth”.

That rajah, lord of chariots,
by brahmins was persuaded—so
in sacrifice, he caused to kill
cattle in hundreds, thousands too.

But neither with hooves nor horns
do cows cause harm to anyone,
gentle they are as sheep
yielding us pails of milk;
in spite of this the rajah seized
their horns, slew them by the sword.

Then devas, antigods, demons, led
by Indra, even the ancestors,
cried out “Against the Dharma is all this!”
while fell the sword upon the cows.

In former times three ills were found:
desire and hunger and decay;
but due to the killing of cattle,
ninety-eight diseases came.

This adharmic wielding of weapons,
descended from times of old:
in this are the innocents slain,
while ritual priests from Dharma fell.

So this ancient practice, base,
is censured by the wise;
where similar things are seen,
people blame the ritual priests.

When Dharma was perverted thus,
merchants and workers split apart,
and warrior-nobles split as well,
while wife her husband did despise.

Then nobles and those of Brahmā “kin”
and others restrained by love of caste,
neglected then their laws on “birth”
and under the sway of pleasures came.

When this was said the brahmins of palatial abodes exclaimed to the Radiant One: “Magnificent, Master Gotama! The Dharma has been clarified by Master Gotama in many ways, as though he was righting what had been overturned, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding a lamp in the dark so that those with eyes could see forms. We go for refuge to Master Gotama, to the Dharma and to the Saṅgha. May Master Gotama remember us as upāsakas who from today have Gone for Refuge for life.”