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Udumbarika Sihanada Sutta

The Great Lion’s Roar to the Udumbarkans

Thus Have I Heard:

Once, long ago, the Buddha was staying at Eagle Peak in Rajagaha. At the same time, the wandering philosopher Banyan was staying at a Park that had been set-aside for such men by the Queen, Udumbarkika, with one hundred and forty score others.

Early that morning the layman Sandhana arrived in Rajagaha with the express purpose of visiting the Buddha, to discover that his timing was bad because the Buddha was in retreat. Then he decided to go visit Banyan, and he made his way to the Park.

When Sandhana reached the park he discovered the one hundred and forty score wandering philosophers, all gossiping and talking of various bits of news, debating theories, and passing around rumors. Banyan saw Sandhana, and then shushed his fellows, "Here cometh Sandhana, the follower of the noble ascetic Gotama. Silence! I implore you! He and his brethren, those other white robed laymen of Gotama are very fond of silence, and we want to encourage his kind to call on us; they are good fodder for our debates." Within moments, the Park had grown silent, like a tomb at night, or like the jungle just after the lion roars. Sandhana found Banyan, and they greeted each other kindly and took seats.

"I find it interesting, Sandhana, how the wanderers in this loose confederation conduct themselves. You make all manner of conversation and pass along gossip and rumors; the noise is almost a shock, given the sheer number of men present here. Methinks I like the Buddha’s conduct in this field better; reclusive in the forests, silent, away from maddening things like gossip and rumors."

Banyan decided to take this personally, and he countered, rather than replied, "Aye? Tell me now, you white robed layman, who does Gotama talk to and converse with? How can he possibly sharpen his speaking-skills or his mental abilities away from other people? Nay, I say that Gotama grows weaker in wisdom for his solitude, not stronger. He is not accustomed to crowds, he is not in touch with the people, and he is, no doubt, a poor debater. Hah! In fact, if he were to come to this Park right now, this very instant, we would befuddle and confuse him with one question; he would topple over like an empty jar."

The Buddha, hearing this exchange with his purified ear, left his retreat and went down from Eagle Peak, towards the Park. Banyan caught site of him approaching and again coaxed his men down to silence, as his last statement had brought them to cheering. He said to them, "Quiet, my men, quiet! We want that Gotama to come to us, and if we appease his desire for a quiet atmosphere, he will no doubt come. If he does come, we’ll ask him what his doctrine is."

Then the Buddha approached Banyan, who greeted him, "Merry Meet and Welcome, friend! At long last Gotama has seen fit to pay this place a visit, so please, take a seat." The Buddha took a seat, and Banyan sat on the ground.

"Banyan, what were you just now speaking of? What conversation did I just disturb?"

"Why, Venerable Sir, we were just planning on what question we would ask you should you come to our Park. Having planned it, I shall now ask it; "What is this Dhamma you teach to both your ascetic followers, and your white robed lay followers?""

"Banyan, I say to you that this Dhamma is going to be nary impossible for you to grasp. Why’s this? Because, Banyan, you hold onto different beliefs, you have different inclinations, and you are exposed to different experiences. Why don’t we instead talk of something more pleasant for you and your fellows? Let’s talk about your doctrines instead."

This greatly impressed the crowd of wandering philosophers, and a murmur rose among them of how impressive the Buddha was in declining to talk of his own doctrines, and inviting them to talk of theirs.

Banyan, after imploring his fellows to cease their murmuring, stated to the Buddha, "Sire, we preach soberness and strictness, seriousness and rigor. We regard austerities of the highest quality to be vital. As such, however, what do you think, Venerable Gotama, fulfills them?"

"A decent question in its own right, Banyan. Take a man who practices self-torture, going naked and without food and water, abusing himself, behaves like a dog, licking his hand and eating what food he does take raw and uncooked, ignoring the wishes of others. Or, when he needs to wear clothing, he uses rough clothes, the kind dead bodies are wrapped in. He makes his bed with thorn branches and dry hay, and he is dirty and unwashed. Or he washes three times before the sun sets, but he takes no water. Banyan, does such a man, in any of those instances, meet your marks for austerities?"

"Indeed, such man doing any of those practices would."

"I maintain that they are in fault, Banyan."

"Eh? How’s that?"

"Banyan, consider this: there is an ascetic who practices his austerities with unmatched zeal, but is satisfied with just so much, or that much more: then it brings him naught but a big head. He becomes full of himself, and careless. That’s a blemish. Suppose that people take alms-food to him, gifts of love and gratitude, gifts given to him out of trust and respect: with his big head, once they have left, he divides the food up, throws out what he finds distasteful, and eats only what he thinks is worthy food. That’s also a fault. Suppose one takes up these austerities with the thought, "Ahh, now I am worthy of respect: the royalty and the noblemen will all bow down to me, and pay respect." That too, is a fault."

"Also, it can make them overly critical, and he will look at others he disfavors, and use his own austerities to belittle them saying, "See how that one indulges? See how he gnaws down those rich foods with that thundering maw his head wields? How can anyone respect him?" That’s another fault. Suppose he sees one of his rivals being praised, being offered alms, and being worshipped and thinks, "What? How dare they honor him and ignore me! I am obviously the superior, they just do not see it." He turns green with jealousy, which is another fault."

"Or suppose an ascetic, practicing austerities, takes up a high position with power and other benefits—that too is a fault. Or he goes around through villages wearing a veil of mock humility, doing everything but shouting "Hey! I’m better than you!" rubbing his false holiness into their faces. This too is a fault. Or he will fall to sneaky and clever ways, telling lies when they suit his needs. That is undeniably a fault."

"Suppose a Buddha or an Arahant gives Dhamma that the ascetic would and should agree with, but just for the sake of stirring disharmony, he does not. That is a fault. Or he can be short tempered, and angry a lot. That’s a taint. Or he is hateful and vengeful, cunning and tricky, green with envy, hypnotized by evil wants, or given to extremist attitudes, or corrupted by physical desires, and stubborn. Banyan, don’t you think that these are faults in the austerities you spoke of?"
"Indeed, they are great faults. It’d be easy enough for one man to have all of those faults you spoke of, leastways only one or two of them."

"Banyan, now consider a man who does the austerities you hold to be high, but who does not satisfy so easily. He does not get a big head, and he deftly avoids all of the faults I mentioned, thus, in that regard, he is pure. When a Buddha or an Arahant gives Dhamma that the ascetic would and should agree with, he agrees with it. This is the opposite of a fault, a taint, a blemish – it is an action that is pure. Likewise with his temper, he is not short-tempered, he is not hateful or vengeful, green with envy, cunning and tricky, swelled with pride, hypnotized by evil, and he is not stubborn, and does not hold extremist views. In all these respects, he has been purified. Well, Banyan, what do you say? Are the austerities made pure by these things?"

"Oh yes, indeed. It is in these regards that a man can penetrate to the core."

"Nay, Banyan. Its reaches not the core, but only the outside of the skin."

"Eh? Well then, how does one make his austerities achieve the core? Explain it to me, for I would like my austerities to reach the final stage."

And the Buddha told Banyan about the four-faceted restraint: restraining from doing harm, causing others to do harm, as well as not approving of harm done; refraining from stealing, not having others steal and disapproving of theft; the squelching of craving, not making others crave and the disapproving of craving, refraining from lying, not causing others to lie and disapproving of lying. The Buddha also spoke of going into private retreat into quite places, forests or graveyards, and meditating, abandoning both uncaring laziness and helter-skelter worry, with a calm mind, being absolutely sure of oneself concerning all things wholesome. The Buddha spoke of filling ones heart with loving kindness and equanimity, and of disbanding hatred and contempt.

"Well, Banyan, what do you say? Is this the core of the austerities, the highest attainable?"

"I should certainly think so, yes."

"Nay, Banyan, it is not the core. It is only right below the crust."

"Well, tell me what the core is!"

And the Buddha told Banyan about remembering past lives, and being able to use those memories to instruct other people.

"Well, Banyan, what do you say? Is this the core of the austerities, the highest attainable?"

"It must be, yes."

"Nay, Banyan, it is not the core – it is only the meat surrounding it."

"Please sir, Tell me what the core is!"

And the Buddha told Banyan of the purified eye, which can see into the other world, from the Heaven of the Thirty Three Gods to the Lonely, Regretting Hell [The Avichi Hell], the details of every living being and where their kamma will lead them.

"Well, Banyan, what do you say? Is this the core of the austerities, the highest attainable?"

"Yes, it must be."

"Indeed, it is, Banyan. That austerity is the purest of pure, it is the core. So now, when you ask me what Dhamma I teach to my followers, I say to you that it is something even more noble and far reaching than this that I train them in."

At this, the wandering philosophers made a great commotion, lamenting and complaining at what the Buddha had said, crying, "We’re ruined! This is the highest teaching we know of!"

Then Sandhana realized, "The wandering philosophers are actually paying attention and believing what the Buddha says." And he said to Banyan, "Banyan, did you not say to me, "How can he possibly sharpen his speaking-skills or his mental abilities away from other people? Nay, I say that Gotama grows weaker in wisdom for his solitude, not stronger. He is not accustomed to crowds, he is not in touch with the people, and he is, no doubt, a poor debater. Hah! In fact, if he were to come to this Park right now, this very instant, we would befuddle and confuse him with one question; he would topple over like an empty jar." So now the Buddha is here, why do you not befuddle and confuse him with one question, or topple him over like an empty jar?"

Banyan’s face paled, and he grew silent and baffled, slouching as if trying to hide inside of himself.

The Buddha, seeing Banyan’s condition, said, "Well, now, Banyan, did you truly say that?"

"Yes, Sire, I did, but they were mistaken, hasty words!"

"Banyan, what think you? Have you ever heard an instance of a man obtaining tangible, true wisdom through loud, violent debates with clamorous noises and meaningless gossip? Or do people talk of wise men living in the deep forests, or on high mountaintops, in solitude, contemplating and reflecting, just as I do now?"

"I have always heard it said that wise men live as you do, sire."

"Banyan, you are a mature man and intelligent. Didn’t it ever occur to you that, "This man is a fully enlightened Buddha who teaches a good and pure doctrine; he is calm as is his Dhamma; he is restrained, as is his Dhamma; he had gained Nibbana and teaches a Dhamma that leads to Nibbana?"

"I was a fool, sire, and I transgressed. I was blinded by evil, I didn’t see what it was I did. Sire, please accept my confession, my apology, and may I restrain myself in the future!"

"Yes, Banyan, you had been overcome by transgression, and you were blinded by evil to speak thus of me. But since you have identified your misbehavior yourself, and have made amends, your confession and apology is accepted graciously. Banyan, it is the mark of a wise man for one to recognize his own mistakes and to make confessions and amends for them."

"But Banyan! Let me say this to you: If any man of intelligence who is sincere, honest, and straightforward, comes to me – I shall instruct him in Dhamma. If he sticks to it, within seven years he will attain that unequaled goal of all holy men who set out from their householders life, by his own realizations and his own understandings. But not just seven years, in six, five, four, three, two, one, a half of a year, a month, half of a month, even in so little a time as seven days he can attain to that goal."

"But Banyan! Now you may think, "This Gotama speaks these words that he may steal away my disciples" – but this is not true. Let him who is your teacher remain so. Now you think, "This Gotama wants us to give up our rules and methods" – but this not true either. Your rules should remain just as they are, as long as you see them fit. Now you think, "This Gotama wants us to abandon our way of life" – this is also not true. Let your way of life remain unchanged. Now you think, "This Gotama wants us to break our own rules and change the things that we consider to be bad" – This is not the case. Anything that you consider wrong now should stay that way so long as you see fit. Or likewise you think, "This Gotama wants to pull us away from what we consider to be good" – and likewise, this is not the case. Let what you consider "good" to stay that way so long as you see fit. Banyan, know that I do not speak for any of those reasons."

"Banyan, there are tainted things that have yet to be abandoned, corrupted things that conduce to samsaric rebirth, and fearful futures filled with pain, decay, and doom. I teach Dhamma, and I say what I say for one sole purpose: that people abandon that which leads them to sorrow. If you practice according to this Dhamma, corrupted things dissipate and pure ones take their place, and attain to high realizations even in this very life, by wisdom that is none other than your own."

Although the wandering philosophers listened, and although his words affected them, none of them said a word, or took an action. Each and every one of them sat there silently, slouching, and moping. Then the Buddha stood up, looked at the crowd of men, and said, "Mara has them all so firmly clutched in its grasp that they choose to remain fools than to ever say, "Let us try this Dhamma of Gotama’s and learn it, for seven days is an insignificantly small period."

Then, having roared the roar of a Lion, there in the park, given to the wandering philosophers by the queen, the Buddha left that place and returned to Eagle Peak, being closely followed by Sandhana.

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