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The Gospel of Buddha

A modern retelling of the Buddha's work and life.

Chapter 49 - The Two Brahmans

AT one time when the Blessed One was journeying through Kosala he came to the Brahman village which is called Manasakata. There he stayed in a mango grove. And two young Brahmans came to him who were of different schools. One was named Vasettha and the other Bharadvaja. And Vasettha said to the Blessed One:

"We have a dispute as to the true path. I say the straight path which leads unto a union with Brahma is that which has been announced by the Brahman Pokkharasati, while my friend says the straight path which leads unto a union with Brahma is that which has been announced by the Brahman Tarukkha. Now, regarding thy high reputation, O samana, and knowing that thou art called the Enlightened One, the teacher of men and gods, the Blessed Buddha, we have come to ask thee, are all these paths salvation? There are many roads all around our village, and all lead to Manasakata. Is it just so with the paths of the sages? Are all paths to salvation, and do they all lead to a union with Brahma?

Then the Blessed One proposed these questions to the two Brahmans:

"Do you think that all paths are right?"

Both answered and said:

"Yes, Gotama, we think so."

"But tell me, continued the Buddha has any one of the Brahmans, versed in the Vedas, seen Brahma face to face?"

"No sir!"

was the reply.

"But, then,"

said the Blessed One,

"has any teacher of the Brahmans, versed in the Vedas, seen Brahma face to face?"

The two Brahmans said:

"No, sir."

"But, then,"

said the Blessed One,

"has any one of the authors of the Vedas seen Brahma face to face?"

Again the two Brahmans answered in the negative and exclaimed:

"How can any one see Brahma or understand him, for the mortal cannot understand the immortal."

And the Blessed One proposed an illustration, saying:

"It is as if a man should make a staircase in the place where four roads cross, to mount up into a mansion. And people should ask him, Where, good friends, is this mansion, to mount up into which you are making this staircase? Knowest thou whether it is in the east, or in the south, or in the west, or in the north? Whether it is high, or low, or of medium size? And when so asked he should answer, I know it not. And people should say to him, But, then, good friend, thou art making a staircase to mount up into something taking it for a mansion which all the while thou knowest not, neither hast thou seen it. And when so asked he should answer, That is exactly what I do; yea I know that I cannot know it. What would you think of him? Would you not say that the talk of that man was foolish talk?"

"In sooth, Gotama, said the two Brahmans, it be foolish talk!"

The Blessed One continued:

"Then the Brahmans should say,

"We show you the way unto a union with what we know not and what we have not seen."

This being the substance of Brahman lore, does it not follow that their task is vain?"

"It does follow,"

replied Bharadvaja.

Said the Blessed One:

"Thus it is impossible that Brahmans versed in the three Vedas should be able to show the way to a state of union with that which they neither know nor have seen. Just as when a string of blind men are clinging one to the other. Neither can the foremost see, nor can those in the middle see, nor can the hindmost see. Even so, methinks the talk of the Brahmans versed in the three Vedas is but blind talk; it is ridiculous, consists of mere words, and is a vain and empty thing. Now suppose,"

added the Blessed One

"that a man should come hither to the bank of the river, and, having some business on the other side, should want to cross. Do you suppose that if he were to invoke the other bank of the river to come over to him on this side, the bank would come on account of his praying?"

"Certainly not, Gotama."

"Yet this is the way of the Brahmans. They omit the practice of those qualities which really make a man a Brahman, and say, Indra, we call upon thee; Soma, we call upon thee; Varuna, we call upon thee; Brahma, we call upon thee. Verily, it is not possible that these Brahmans, on account of their invocations, prayers, and praises, should after death be united with Brahma.

"Now tell me,"

continued the Buddha,

"what do the Brahmans say of Brahma? Is his mind full of lust?"

And when the Brahmans denied this, the Buddha asked:

"Is Brahmas mind full of malice, sloth, or pride?"

"No sir!"

was the reply.

"He is the opposite of all this."

And the Buddha went on:

"But are the Brahmans free from these vices?"

"No, sir!"

said Vasettha. The Holy One said:

"The Brahmans cling to the five things leading to worldliness and yield to the temptations of the senses; they are entangled in the five hindrances, lust, malice, sloth, pride, and doubt. How can they be united to that which is most unlike their nature? Therefore the threefold wisdom of the Brahmans is a waterless desert, a pathless jungle, and a hopeless desolation."

When the Buddha had thus spoken, one of the Brahmans said:

"We are told, Gotama, that the Sakyamuni knows the path to a union with Brahma."

And the Blessed One said:

"What do you think, O Brahmans, of a man born and brought up in Manasakata? Would he be in doubt about the most direct way from this spot to Manasakata?"

"Certainly not, Gotama."

"Thus,"

replied the Buddha,

"the Tathagata knows the straight path that leads to a union with Brahma. He knows it as one who has entered the world of Brahma and has been born in it. There can be no doubt in the Tathagata."

The two young Brahmans said:

"If thou knowest the way show it to us."

And the Buddha said:

"The Tathagata sees the universe face to face and understands its nature. He proclaims the truth both in its letter and in its spirit, and his doctrine is glorious in its origin, glorious in its progress, glorious in its consummation. The Tathagata reveals the higher life in its purity and perfection. He can show you the way to that which is contrary to the five great hindrances. The Tathagata lets his mind pervade the four quarters of the world with thoughts of love. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere will continue to be filled with love, far reaching, grown great, and beyond measure. just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard and that without difficulty in all the four quarters of the earth; even so is the coming of the Tathagata: there is not one living creature that the Tathagata passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep felt love.

"This is the sign that a man follows the right path: Uprightness is his delight, and he sees danger in the least of those things which he should avoid. He trains himself in the commands of morality, he encompasseth himself with holiness in word and deed; he sustains his life by means that are quite pure; good is his conduct, guarded is the door of his senses; mindful and self possessed, he is altogether happy. He who walks in the eightfold noble path with unswerving determination is sure to reach Nirvana. The Tathagata anxiously watches over his children and with loving care helps them to see the light.

"When a hen has eight or ten or twelve eggs, over which she has properly brooded, the wish arises in her heart, O would that my little chickens would break open the eggshell with their claws, or with their beaks, and come forth into the light in safety! yet all the while those little chickens are sure to break the egg shell and will come forth into the light in safety. Even so, a brother who with firm determination walks in the noble path is sure to come forth into the light, sure to reach up to the higher wisdom, sure to attain to the highest bliss of enlightenment."

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