3.6. Sabhiya’s Questions
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 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.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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.”