Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What makes one an outcast? (sutra)

Lankarama Buddhist Temple, La Puente; Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

Vasala Sutra: Discourse on Outcasts
Thus have I heard: On one occasion the Blessed One was living near Savatthi at Jetavana in Anathapindika's monastery.

Then in the forenoon the Blessed One [the Buddha] having dressed himself, took bowl and (double) robe, and entered the city of Savatthi for alms. Now at that time a fire was burning, and an offering was being prepared in the house of the Brahmin Aggika Bharadvaja. Then the Blessed One, while on alms round, came to the Brahmin's residence. 
"Stay there, you outcast!" said the Brahmin.
The Brahmin, seeing the Blessed One at a distance, yelled: "Stay there, shaveling! Stay there, you wretched wandering ascetic. Stay there, you outcast!"

When the Brahmin spoke in this way, the Blessed One said to him: "Do you know, Brahmin, what an outcast is and what conditions (actions, attributes) make one an 'outcast'?"

"No, indeed, Venerable Gautama, I do not know who an outcast is nor the conditions that make one an outcast. It would be good if Venerable Gotama were to explain the Dharma to me so that I might know who an outcast is and what the conditions are that make one an outcast."
"Listen then, Brahmin, pay attention, and I will explain."
"Yes, venerable sir," replied the Brahmin.
What karma makes a person an "outcast"?

1. "Whoever is angry, harbors hatred, and is reluctant to speak well of others (discounting the good of others), twisted in views, deceitful -- know that person as an outcast.
2. "Whoever in this world kills living beings, once-born or twice-born, in whom there is no sympathy for living creature -- know that person as an outcast.
3. "Whoever destroys and besieges villages and hamlets and becomes notorious as an oppressor -- know that person as an outcast.
4. "Be it in village or forest, whoever steals what belongs to others, what is not given -- know that person as an outcast.
5. "Whoever having actually incurred a debt runs away when pressed to pay, saying, 'I owe no debt to you' -- know that person as an outcast.
6. "Whoever coveting anything, kills a person going along the road, and grabs whatever that person has -- know that person as an outcast.
7. "One who for one's own sake, or for the sake of others, or for the sake of wealth utters lies (perjury) when questioned as a witness -- know that person as an outcast.
8. "Whoever by force or with consent associates [has sex] with the spouses of relatives or friends -- know that as an outcast.
9. "Whoever being able does not support mother and father who have grown old -- know that person as an outcast.
10. "Whoever strikes and annoys by (harsh) speech mother, father, brother, sister, mother-in-law, or father-in-law -- know that person as an outcast.
11. "Whoever when questioned about what is good, says what is detrimental, and talks in an evasive manner -- know that person as an outcast.
12. "Whoever having committed a harmful deed wishes that it may not be known by others and so commits it in secret -- know that person as an outcast.
13. "Whoever, having gone to another's house and partaken of choice food, does not honor that host by offering food when repaying the visit -- know that person as an outcast.
14. "Whoever deceives by uttering lies a Brahmin (priest) or  wandering ascetic, or any other mendicant -- know that person as an outcast.
15. "Whoever when a Brahmin or wandering ascetic appears during mealtime angers that (holy) person by harsh speech and does not offer a mendicant (any alms) -- know that person as an outcast.
16. "Whoever in this world, shrouded in ignorance, speaks harsh words (asatam) or falsehood expecting to gain something -- know that person as an outcast.
17. "Whoever debased by pride exalts oneself and belittles other -- know that person as an outcast.
18. "Whoever is given to anger, is miserly, has base desires, and is selfish, deceitful, shameless and fearless (about doing harm) -- know that person as an outcast.
19. "Whoever reviles the Enlightened One (the Buddha), or a (noble) disciple of the Buddha, whether a recluse or householder -- know that as an outcast.
20. "Whoever not being an arhat, a fully enlightened person, pretends to be one is (the worst) thief in the universe -- such a person is the lowest of outcasts.
21. "Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a Brahmin. By deed (karma, actions) one becomes an outcast; by deed one becomes a Brahmin.
22. "Know by the example I now cite (the fact that by birth alone one is not an outcast). There was an outcast's son, Sopaka, who became known as Matanga.
23. "This Matanga attained the highest fame so difficult to gain. Many were the warriors (kshatriya caste) and Brahmin (caste) who went to attend on him.
24. "Mounting the celestial chariot (the Noble Eightfold path, and coursing) along the passion-free high road (Sopaka, now a monk), reached the Brahma realm having given up sense desires.
  • [MEANING: By spiritually-motivated sexual abstinence/celibacy (brahmacharya="vehicle or way to Brahma") poor Sopaka, who was considered an outcast, reached the heavenly Realm of Brahma (considered the God Supreme by Brahmins) by his karma/conduct of having relinquished sensual craving that leads to rebirth in lower-heavenly, human, animal, and subhuman worlds within the "Sensual Sphere" or Kama Loka. And and by so doing Sopaka was reborn as Matanga, so famous (holy) he went from "untouchable" to someone attended on by members of the two highest castes, warriors and priests.]
25. "His (lowly) birth did not prevent him from being reborn in the Brahma realm. [On the other hand,] there are Brahmins born in the family of preceptors, kinsmen of (Vedic) hymns.
26. "They are often seen committing harmful deeds (bad karma). In this life itself they are despised, in the next they are reborn in an unwished for state of existence. High birth does not prevent them from falling into a miserable state or from censure (here and now).
27. "Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a Brahmin. By deed one becomes an outcast; by deed one becomes a Brahmin."
When the Buddha finished speaking, the Brahmin Aggika Bharadvaja said to the Blessed One: 

"Excellent, O Venerable Gautama, excellent! O, Venerable Gautama, it is just as if a person were to set upright what had been overturned, or were to reveal what had been hidden, or were to point the way to one who had gone astray, or were to hold a lamp in the dark so that those with eyes might see things!

"Even so in many ways has the Venerable Gautama expounded the Dharma. I go for guidance to the Venerable Gautama, the Dharma (the Teaching that leads to enlightenment), and the Sangha (the noble community of practitioners who have for themselves verified this Teaching).

"May the Venerable Gautama accept me as a lay follower who has gone for guidance from this day onwards as long as life lasts." More

Sādhu Sādhu Sādhu! ("It is good, it is good, it is good!" -- an exclamation of praise or agreement common in Theravada Buddhist countries).

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