The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

41. Sāleyyaka Sutta: The Brahmins of Sālā

[285] 1. Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was wandering by stages in the Kosalan Country with a large Sangha of bhikkhus, and eventually he arrived at a Kosalan brahmin village named Sālā.
    2. The brahmin householders of Sālā heard: “The recluse Gotama, the son of the Sakyans who went forth from a Sakyan clan, has been wandering in the Kosalan country with a large Sangha of bhikkhus and has come to Sālā. Now a good report of Master Gotama has been spread to this effect: ‘That Blessed One is accomplished, fully enlightened, perfect in true knowledge and conduct, sublime, knower of worlds, incomparable leader of persons to be tamed, teacher of gods and humans, enlightened, blessed. He declares this world with its gods, its Māras, and its Brahmās, this generation with its recluses and brahmins, its princes and its people, which he has himself realised with direct knowledge. He teaches the Dhamma good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing, and he reveals a holy life that is utterly perfect and pure.’ Now it is good to see such arahants.”
    3. Then the brahmin householders of Sālā went to the Blessed One. Some paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down at one side; some exchanged greetings with him, and when this courteous and amiable talk was finished, sat down at one side; some extended their hands in reverential salutation towards the Blessed One and sat down at one side; some pronounced their name and clan in the Blessed One’s presence and sat down at one side; some kept silent and sat down at one side.
    4. When they were seated, they said to the Blessed One: “Master Gotama, what is the cause and condition why some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell? And what is the cause and condition why some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world?”
    5. “Householders, it is by reason of conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of unrighteous conduct that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell. It is by reason of conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of righteous conduct that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world.” [286]
    6. “We do not understand the detailed meaning of Master Gotama’s utterance, which he has spoken in brief without expounding the detailed meaning. It would be good if Master Gotama would teach us the Dhamma so that we might understand the detailed meaning of his utterance.”
    “Then, householders, listen and attend closely to what I shall say.”
    “Yes, venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this:
    7. “Householders, there are three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct. There are four kinds of verbal conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct. There are three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.
    8. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone kills living beings; he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. He takes what is not given; he takes by way of theft the wealth and property of others in the village or forest. He misconducts himself in sensual pleasures; he has intercourse with women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives, who have a husband, who are protected by law, and even with those who are garlanded in token of betrothal. That is how there are three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.
    9. “And how, householders, are there four kinds of verbal conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone speaks falsehood; when summoned to a court, or to a meeting, or to his relatives’ presence, or to his guild, or to the royal family’s presence, and questioned as a witness thus: ‘So, good man, tell what you know,’ not knowing, he says, ‘I know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I do not know’; not seeing, he says, ‘I see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I do not see’; in full awareness he speaks falsehood for his own ends, or for another’s ends, or for some trifling worldly end. He speaks maliciously; he repeats elsewhere what he has heard here in order to divide [those people] from these, or he repeats to these people what he has heard elsewhere in order to divide [these people] from those; thus he is one who divides those who are united, a creator of divisions, who enjoys discord, rejoices in discord, delights in discord, a speaker of words that create discord. He speaks harshly; he utters such words as are rough, hard, hurtful to others, offensive to others, bordering on anger, unconducive to concentration. [287] He is a gossip; he speaks at the wrong time, speaks what is not fact, speaks what is useless, speaks contrary to the Dhamma and the Discipline; at the wrong time he speaks such words as are worthless, unreasonable, immoderate, and unbeneficial. That is how there are four kinds of verbal conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.
    10. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone is covetous; he covets the wealth and property of others thus: ‘Oh, may what belongs to another be mine!’ Or he has a mind of ill will and intentions of hate thus: ‘May these beings be slain and slaughtered, may they be cut off, perish, or be annihilated!’ Or he has wrong view, distorted vision, thus: ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realised by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’ That is how there are three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct. So, householders, it is by reason of such conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of such unrighteous conduct that some beings here on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell.
    11. “Householders, there are three kinds of bodily conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct. There are four kinds of verbal conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct. There are three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.
    12. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of bodily conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct? Here someone, abandoning the killing of living beings, abstains from killing living beings; with rod and weapon laid aside, gentle and kindly, he abides compassionate to all living beings. Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given; he does not take by way of theft the wealth and property of others in the village or in the forest. Abandoning misconduct in sensual pleasures, he abstains from misconduct in sensual pleasures; he does not have intercourse with women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives, who have a husband, who are protected by law, or with those who are garlanded in token of betrothal. That is how there are three kinds of bodily conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct. [288]
    13. “And how, householders, are there four kinds of verbal conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct? Here someone, abandoning false speech, abstains from false speech; when summoned to a court, or to a meeting, or to his relatives’ presence, or to his guild, or to the royal family’s presence, and questioned as a witness thus: ‘So, good man, tell what you know,’ not knowing, he says, ‘I do not know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I know’; not seeing, he says, ‘I do not see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I see’; he does not in full awareness speak falsehood for his own ends, or for another’s ends, or for some trifling worldly end. Abandoning malicious speech, he abstains from malicious speech; he does not repeat elsewhere what he has heard here in order to divide [those people] from these, nor does he repeat to these people what he has heard elsewhere in order to divide [these people] from those; thus he is one who reunites those who are divided, a promoter of friendships, who enjoys concord, rejoices in concord, delights in concord, a speaker of words that promote concord. Abandoning harsh speech, he abstains from harsh speech; he speaks such words as are gentle, pleasing to the ear, and loveable, as go to the heart, are courteous, desired by many, and agreeable to many. Abandoning gossip, he abstains from gossip; he speaks at the right time, speaks what is fact, speaks on what is good, speaks on the Dhamma and the Discipline; at the right time he speaks such words as are worth recording, reasonable, moderate, and beneficial. That is how there are four kinds of verbal conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.
    14. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct? Here someone is not covetous; he does not covet the wealth and property of others thus: ‘Oh, may what belongs to another be mine!’ His mind is without ill will and he has intentions free from hate thus: ‘May these beings be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety! May they live happily!’ He has right view, undistorted vision, thus: ‘There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings who are reborn spontaneously; there are good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realised by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’ That is how there are three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct. So, householders, it is by reason of such conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of such righteous conduct that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world. [289]
    15. “If, householders, one who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: ‘Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of well-to-do nobles!’ it is possible that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he will reappear in the company of well-to-do nobles. Why is that? Because he observes conduct that is in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.
    16–17. “If, householders, one who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: ‘Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of well-to-do brahmins! … in the company of well-to-do householders!’ it is possible that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he will reappear in the company of well-to-do householders. Why is that? Because he observes conduct that is in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.
    18–42. “If, householders, one who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: ‘Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the gods of the heaven of the Four Great Kings! … in the company of the gods of the heaven of the Thirty-three … the Yāma gods … the gods of the Tusita heaven … the gods who delight in creating … the gods who wield power over others’ creations … the gods of Brahmā’s retinue … the gods of Radiance … the gods of Limited Radiance … the gods of Immeasurable Radiance … the gods of Streaming Radiance … the gods of Glory … the gods of Limited Glory … the gods of Immeasurable Glory … the gods of Refulgent Glory … the gods of Great Fruit … the Aviha gods … the Atappa gods … the Sudassa gods … the Sudassī gods … the Akaniṭṭha gods … the gods of the base of infinite space … the gods of the base of infinite consciousness … the gods of the base of nothingness … the gods of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception!’ it is possible that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he will reappear in the company of the gods of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.
    43. “If, householders, one who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: ‘Oh, that by realising for myself with direct knowledge I might here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of the taints!’ it is possible that, by realising for himself with direct knowledge, he will here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of the taints. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.” [290]
    44. When this was said, the brahmin householders of Sālā said to the Blessed One: “Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent, Master Gotama! Master Gotama has made the Dhamma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the darkness for those with eyesight to see forms. We go to Master Gotama for refuge and to the Dhamma and to the Sangha of bhikkhus. From today let Master Gotama accept us as lay followers who have gone to him for refuge for life.”
 

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© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2009)

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