AN 3.64 Sarabha

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AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 18, 2013 7:56 am

AN 3.64 Sarabha
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


http://suttacentral.net/an3.64/en/

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha on Mount Vulture Peak. Now on that occasion a wanderer named Sarabha had recently left this Dhamma and discipline [446]. He had been telling an assembly in Rājagaha: “I have learned the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son. After I learned their Dhamma, I left that Dhamma and discipline.”

Then, one morning, a number of bhikkhus dressed, took their bowls and robes, and entered Rājagaha for alms. They then heard the wanderer Sarabha making such a statement to an assembly in Rājagaha. When those bhikkhus had walked for alms in Rājagaha, after their meal, when they returned from their alms round, they approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“Bhante, the wanderer Sarabha, who recently left this Dhamma and discipline, has been telling an assembly in Rājagaha: ‘I have learned the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son. After I learned their Dhamma, I left that Dhamma and discipline.’ It would be good, Bhante, if the Blessed One would go to the wanderers’ park on the bank of the Sappinikā river and, out of compassion, approach the wanderer Sarabha.” The Blessed One consented by silence.

Then, in the evening, the Blessed One emerged from seclusion and went to the wanderers’ park on the bank of the Sappinikā river. He approached the wanderer Sarabha, sat down on the seat that was prepared for him, and said to him: “Is it true, Sarabha, that you have been saying: ‘I have learned the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son. After I learned their Dhamma, I left that Dhamma and discipline’?” When this was said, the wanderer Sarabha was silent.

A second time the Blessed One said to the wanderer Sarabha: “Tell me, Sarabha, how have you learned the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son? If you have not learned it completely, I will complete it. But if you have learned it completely, I will rejoice.” But a second time the wanderer Sarabha was silent.

A third time the Blessed One said to the wanderer Sarabha: [447] “Tell me, Sarabha, how have you learned the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son? If you have not learned it completely, I will complete it. But if you have learned it completely, I will rejoice.” But a third time the wanderer Sarabha was silent. [448]

Then those wanderers said to the wanderer Sarabha: “The ascetic Gotama has offered to give you whatever you might ask him for, friend Sarabha. Speak, friend Sarabha! How have you learned the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son? If you have not learned it completely, the ascetic Gotama will complete it for you. But if you have learned it completely, he will rejoice.” When this was said, the wanderer Sarabha sat silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless.

Then the Blessed One, having understood that the wanderer Sarabha sat silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless, said to those wanderers:

(1) “Wanderers, if anyone should say about me: ‘Though you claim to be perfectly enlightened, you are not fully enlightened about these things,’ I might question him closely about this matter, interrogate him, and cross-examine him. [449] When he is being closely questioned by me, interrogated, and cross-examined, it is impossible and inconceivable that he would not incur one or another of three consequences: he would either answer evasively and divert the discussion to an irrelevant subject; or display anger, hatred, and bitterness; or would sit silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless, just like the wanderer Sarabha. [450]

(2) “If, wanderers, anyone should say about me: ‘Though you claim to be one whose taints are destroyed, you have not fully destroyed these taints,’ I might question him closely about this matter, interrogate him, and cross-examine him. When he is being closely questioned by me, interrogated, and cross-examined, it is impossible and inconceivable that he would not incur one or another of three consequences: he would either answer evasively and divert the discussion to an irrelevant subject; or display anger, hatred, and bitterness; or would sit silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless, just like the wanderer Sarabha.

(3) “If, wanderers, anyone should say about me: ‘The Dhamma does not lead one who practices it to the complete destruction of suffering, the goal for the sake of which you teach it,’ [451] I might question him closely about this matter, interrogate him, and cross-examine him. When he is being closely questioned by me, interrogated, and cross-examined, it is impossible and inconceivable that he would not incur one or another of three consequences: he would either answer evasively and divert the discussion to an irrelevant subject, or display anger, hatred, and bitterness, or would sit silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless, just like the wanderer Sarabha.”

Then the Blessed One, having roared his lion’s roar three times in the wanderers’ park on the bank of the Sappinikā river, rose up into the air and departed. [452]

Then, soon after the Blessed One had left, those wanderers gave the wanderer Sarabha a thorough verbal lashing, saying: [453] “Just as an old jackal in a huge forest might think: ‘I will roar a lion’s roar,’ and yet would only howl and yelp like a jackal, so, friend Sarabha, claiming in the absence of the ascetic Gotama: ‘I will roar a lion’s roar,’ you only howled and yelped like a jackal. Just as, friend Sarabha, a chick might think: ‘I will sing like a cock,’ and yet would only sing like a chick, so, friend Sarabha, claiming in the absence of the ascetic Gotama: ‘I will sing like a cock,’ you only sang like a chick. [454] Just as, friend Sarabha, a bull might think to bellow deeply in an empty cow shed, so, friend Sarabha, in the absence of the ascetic Gotama you thought you could bellow deeply.” In this way those wanderers gave the wanderer Sarabha a thorough verbal lashing.

Notes
[Bhikkhu Bodhi gives the Chinese text when discussing Chinese parallels. There are some parallels at Sutta Central here, but not in English.]

[446] Mp explains that he had been commissioned by the wanderers in his own community to take ordination with the bhikkhus, learn the secret of their success (which they believed to be a kind of magic they used to attract followers), and then return and share it with them. After his ordination he concluded that the Pātimokkha was the key to their success. Having learned the Pātimokkha, he returned to the wanderers and reported that he had learned the Dhamma of the Buddha’s followers. The background story is similar to that of the Susīma Sutta (SN 12:70, II 119–28) (Study Group Thread here)but has a different outcome.

[447] Ee has an additional line here: mayā kho Sarabha paññāyati samaṇānaṃ Sakyaputtiyānaṃ dhammo: “Sarabha, the Dhamma of the ascetics who follow the Sakyan son has been seen by me.” Be has a variant on this line in parentheses but Ce does not have anything corresponding to it.

[448] At MN 35.13–14, I 231,27–28, 32–35, it is said: “If anyone, when asked a reasonable question up to the third time by the Tathāgata, still does not answer, his head splits into seven pieces then and there.” Here, however, Sarabha fails to answer the Buddha’s question after it has been posed three times, yet his head remains intact and no threat is raised against him.

[449] This is the first of the Buddha’s four kinds of self-confidence (vesārajja), on which see AN 4.8. The second claim, just below, refers to the second kind of self-confidence, and the third claim to the fourth kind of self-confidence. The third kind of self-confidence is not included here.

[450] From the Pāli, it is unclear what the three alternatives are in this statement. In Ce the disjunctive vā occurs only twice in this sentence, suggesting only two alternatives. Ee has three occurrences of vā, but tuṇhībhūto vā maṅkubhūto vā divides two terms that normally belong to a single alternative. Be has only one vā, which leaves the question of the alternatives even more obscure. I have chosen to separate “he would answer evasively…” and “display anger, hatred, and bitterness,” even though we often find the sequence without a disjunction: aññenaññaṃ paṭicarati, bahiddhā kathaṃ apanāmeti, kopañca dosañca appaccayañca pātukaroti. In this respect, I have followed the divisions of the Chinese parallel, SĀ 970, which at T II 250b21–23 does offer three distinct alternatives: : “He would divert the discussion to an outside subject, or (), overcome by anger and conceit, would unreasonably display hostility and impatience, or () would silently harbor shame, his head lowered, privately reflecting.”

[451] Yassa kho pana te atthāya dhammo desito so na niyyāti takkarassa sammā dukkhakkhayāyā ti. Mp takes yassa atthāya to mean “the purpose for which” the Dhamma is taught, identified as the destruction of lust, etc., and “the Dhamma” to be meditation on unattractiveness, etc. The verb niyyāti means “goes out” (to the complete destruction of suffering). Takkarassa is likely to be a sandhi formation: takkaro assa. I have been able to track down two Chinese versions of the phrase (there may be more): (1) EĀ 27.6 (T II 645c10–11) reads (“It is impossible that this outward-going Dharma of the noble ones does not go out to the complete end of suffering”). (2) EĀ 46.4 (T II 776c28– 777a2) has (“By this Dharma taught by me the noble ones go out correctly to the complete end of suffering. It is impossible that any ascetic (etc.) could come and say: ‘[They] have not reached the complete end of suffering’”).

[452] Here the Chinese of SĀ 970, at T II 250b28, has simply “he got up from his seat and left” () without a supernormal departure.

[453] Vācāya sattitodakena sañjambharim akaṃsu. Be and Ee have sannitodakena for Ce sattitodakena. The Chinese counterpart at T II 250c8 says simply: “they reproached him and censured him to his face” ().

[454] Seyyathāpi, āvuso sarabha, ambakamaddari ‘phussakaravitaṃ ravissāmī’ ti ambakamaddariravitaṃyeva ravati. Be has ambukasañcārī for Ce and Ee ambakamaddari and purisaka for phussaka. I have taken some liberty in rendering the obscure names of these birds in order to bring out the sense. Mp (Ce) glosses ambakamaddari as a small chicken (khuddakakukkuṭikā) and phussaka as a large chicken (mahākukkuṭa). The Chinese parallel, at T II 250c3, has: “Just as a woman might try to make the sound of a man but only makes the sound of a woman” (). Pāli purisakaravitaṃ might be understood as the crying out of a man, and ambaka as a woman, but in the absence of a clear and simple contrast between ambaka and purisa in the same edition, I follow Mp’s gloss.
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby Taijitu » Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:55 pm

From this I feel I have learnt:

1. Sarabha had most likely learnt the Dhamma

2. Had it only been the Blessed One and Sarabha alone the conversation would have been different as through compassion Sarabha may have wished to share his being.

3. The Blessed one does not need compassion or to rejoice as he is in a permanent state of happiness.

4. The Blessed one understood why his questions did not cause Sarabha to feel glum but the questions of the wanderers did, through Sarabha's compassion for the wanderers and knowledge that he was not the Blessed One.

5. The cruelty of the wanderers.
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby Weakfocus » Wed Dec 18, 2013 3:28 pm

Taijitu wrote:From this I feel I have learnt:

1. Sarabha had most likely learnt the Dhamma


Um, no. Sarabha did not understand Dhamma and you did not understand the sutta. Buddha questioned him in the manner in he did for the benefit of the assembled people, including Sarabha himself. If Sarabha had indeed understood Dhamma and become liberated he would not have sit "silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless."

Poor Sarabha must have accumulated bad kamma with this action, he should have apologized to Buddha immediately when questioned and sought refuge. But if he had enough sense to do that he would not have made his statements in Rajgaha in the first place.

From Palikanon:
Sarabha

A Paribbājaka who joined the Order and soon after left it. He then went about proclaiming in Rājagaha that he knew the Dhamma and Vinaya of the Sākyaputta monks, and that was why he had left their Order. The Buddha, being told of this, visited the Paribbājakārāma, on the banks of the Sappinikā, and challenged Sarabha to repeat his statement. Three times the challenge was uttered, but Sarabha sat silent. The Buddha then declared to the Paribbājakas that no one could say that his claim to Enlightenment was unjustified, or that his dhamma, if practised, did not lead to the destruction of Ill. After the Buddha's departure, the Paribbājakas taunted and abused Sarabha (A.i.185ff).

It is said (AA.i.412 f ) that Sarabha joined the Order at the request of the Paribbājakas. They had failed to find any fault with the Buddha's life, and thought that his power was due to an "āvattanīmāyā," which he and his disciples practised once a fortnight behind closed doors. Sarabha agreed to find it out and learn it. He therefore went to Gijjhakūta, where he showed great humility to all the resident monks. An Elder, taking pity on him, ordained him. In due course he learned the pātimokkha, which, he realized, was what the Paribbājakas took to be the Buddha's "māyā." Having learned it, he went back to the Paribbājakas, taught it to them, and with them went about in the city boasting that he knew the Buddha's teaching and had found it worthless.
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby Taijitu » Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:32 pm

Weakfocus wrote:Um, no. Sarabha did not understand Dhamma and you did not understand the sutta. Buddha questioned him in the manner in he did for the benefit of the assembled people, including Sarabha himself. If Sarabha had indeed understood Dhamma and become liberated he would not have sit "silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless."

Poor Sarabha must have accumulated bad kamma with this action, he should have apologized to Buddha immediately when questioned and sought refuge. But if he had enough sense to do that he would not have made his statements in Rajgaha in the first place.


1. He did not sit silenced, disconcerted, hunched over, downcast, glum, and speechless when The Blessed one asked his questions only when the wanderers asked the question. To me that makes a big difference.

2. Sarabha's head did not split open.

3. To my mind there was not too much cruelty shown to Sarabha. The real cruelty was what the wanderers did to themselves.

4. I understand what this means to me.

I agree though that Buddha questioned him in the manner he did for the benefit of the assembled people, including Sarabha himself.

What would you have done if you were one of the audience?

I would have apologised to Sarabha for disturbing his mood and followed Buddha to ask him a question to further my understanding of what occurred.

P.S. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarabha's actions after he claimed to have understood Dhamma were unfortunate for him thus suggesting to me he did not understand Buddha fully.
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby Taijitu » Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:04 am

This is my understanding of Sarabha.

Sarabha may have understood the Dhamma. Had he just left and not spoken a word this story would not exist. Instead he chose to teach wrongly what he had learnt.

In the presence of Buddha Sarabha was unable to speak realising he was unable to teach Dhamma. His head did not split when asked a reasonable question up to the third time by Buddha thus suggesting he understood Dhamma. He was unable to speak in front of the wanderers, however, which suggests to me he realised his inability to teach.

To me it was his compassion for the wanderers that made him uneasy when they asked their question as he knew he could not teach them.

I do not claim that this is correct it is only what I felt this story taught me. It is one thing to understand something, quite another to be able to teach it.

If I am wrong minded with this view then please show compassion towards me and correct where I have gone wrong.
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Mine is a traceless stream-and-cloud life,
Of these mountains, which shall be my home?
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:25 am

It is interesting that SN 12.70 with Susı̄ma is a somewhat similar story about stealing the Dhamma.
See:
Footnote [446]
http://suttacentral.net/sn12.70/en
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=12606

:anjali:
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby Taijitu » Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:10 am

Thank you mikenz66 and weakfocus for helping me see the simple truth that Sarabha had not learnt the Dhamma.

This has given me something to overcome in myself.
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I pass the old Zen barrier.
Mine is a traceless stream-and-cloud life,
Of these mountains, which shall be my home?
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Re: AN 3.64 Sarabha

Postby yikeren » Wed Dec 25, 2013 10:56 pm

Another wonderful selection. Thanks

To me, the Sutta teaches us the approach to take when selecting our teachers. The first "roar" asks us to assess the claims of attainment (of the teacher), the second the behaviour, and the third, the usefulness of the teaching.

To make the Sutta really personal, I become Sarabha, and ask myself whether I ever claim to know the Dhamma (like right now!). No, I don't and thus would welcome any comment, correction or even scolding :thinking:
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