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Paribbājakā

The name given to the wandering religious mendicants, ascetics, and recluses (not otherwise classified) of the Buddha’s time. They were not exclusively brahmin. Their presence seems to have been recognised and respected from earlier times. Generally speaking, their creed is formulated as a belief in perfect bliss after death for the self purged from evil, and as a conviction that this bliss can be won by living a holy life (brahmacariyā), by freedom from all evil in acts, words, aims, and mode of livelihood (See, e.g., M.ii.24).

All these four standards of conduct were bodily incorporated in the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, and the last of the four gave to the Ājīvakā their specific name as a separate sect. The Paribbājakā claimed to be identical with the followers of the Buddha in their tenets and teaching (e.g., M.i.64 f, 84 f), but the Buddha maintained that the two teachings were quite distinct. This is clearly indicated (e.g.,Vin.i.39.) in connection with the conversion of Sāriputta and Moggallāna, who were Paribbājakā under Sañcaya. The goal of the Paribbājakā was deathlessness (amata) which, to them, probably meant birth in the world of Brahmā. Their conversion to the Buddha’s Doctrine followed the recognition that Gotama dealt, not with effects but with causes, and that he went to the root of the matter by teaching how casual states of consciousness arose and how they could be banished for ever. (Chalmers: Further Dialogues i. Introd. xxi. For discussions on the views of the Paribbājakā as compared with those of the Buddha, see also A.iv.35 ff., 378; i.215).

The Paribbājakā were not ascetics except in so far as they were celibates; some of them were women. They were teachers or sophists who spent eight or nine months of every year wandering from place to place for the purpose of engaging in friendly, conversational discussions on matters of ethics and philosophy, nature lore and mysticism. They differed very much in intelligence, earnestness, and even in honesty. Some of the views discussed in the Brahmajāla Sutta, for instance, and described as those of “Eel wrigglers” and “Hair splitters”, were undoubtedly truly thus described. The books mention halls erected for the accommodation of the Paribbājakā, such as those in Mallikā’s park at Sāvatthi (D.i.178), and the Kūṭāgārasālā at Vesāli.

Sometimes special places were set apart for them in the groves near the settlements, as at Campā on the bank of the Gaggarāpokkharaṇi (Ibid., 111), at the Moranivāpa in Rājagaha (A.v.326), and on the banks of the Sappinīkā (Ibid., i.185; ii.175).

It was in such places that the Paribbājakā met each other, and in the course of their journeys they would visit each other in order to exchange greetings of courtesy and to engage in profitable discussion. The utmost cordiality seems to have prevailed on these occasions, intercourse and discussions were free, there were no restrictions of creed, caste or pride. Thus:

The inhabitants of the towns and villager, near which the Paribbājakā stopped, visited them, both to show their respect and to benefit by their teachings. The names of a considerable number of Paribbājakā, besides those already mentioned, who were well-known in the time of the Buddha, are given in the texts (e.g., Annabhāra, Varadhara, etc., A.ii.175), also Sāmaṇḍaka (S.iv.26) and the Paribbājikā Sucimukhī (S.iii.238 f). In most cases they are represented as having large followings, so that they were evidently regarded as distinguished teachers.

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