Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling among the Maghadans at the southern hill, near the brahmin village of Ekanāḷa. On that occasion five hundred ploughs of a farmer of the Bhāradvāja brahmin clan were at work sowing the fields. In the morning, the Blessed One, having dressed and taking the almsbowl and double-robe approached the place where the farmer Bhāradvāja was working. On that occasion the farmer Bhāradvāja was distributing food. Then the Blessed One approached the place of food distribution and stood at one side.
The farmer Bhāradvāja saw the Blessed One standing there for alms. Having seen the Blessed One, he said: “I, recluse, plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat. You too, recluse, should plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown you should eat.”
“I too, Brāhmaṇa, plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat.”
“We do not see the Venerable Gotama’s yoke, or plough, or plough-share, or goad, or oxen. However, the Venerable Gotama says: “I too, Brāhmaṇa, plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat.”
Then the farmer of the Bhāradvāja brahmin clan addressed the Blessed One in verse:–
“You claim to be a farmer, but we see no ploughing.
We ask about your ploughing, let us know about your ploughing.”
[The Blessed One replied]
“My bodily action and speech are guarded, my stomach restrained regarding food.
The truth destroys the weeds, gentleness is my release.
“Exertion is my yoked oxen that bring me to freedom from bondage.
Going without turning back, having gone where one does not grieve.
“In this way ploughing is done, bearing the fruit of immortality.
Having ploughed this ploughing, one is released from all suffering.”
Then the brahmin farmer Bhāradvāja having filled a large bronze bowl with milk rice and having paid homage placed it near him saying: “May the Venerable Gotama eat the milk rice. The venerable is a farmer as the Venerable Gotama ploughs and farms the fruit of immortality.”
“I do not eat food obtained by reciting verses, brāhmaṇa, this is not the way of those who see rightly.
The Buddhas refuse what is gained by chanting verses, this, brāhmaṇa, is not their mode of livelihood.”
“To the accomplished great sage who has destroyed the outflows and tranquillised remorse,
Other food and drink should be offered; that is the field of merit.”
“To whom then, venerable Gotama, should I give this milk-rice?”
“I do not see, brāhmaṇa, in the world with its gods, māras, brahmas, with its recluses and priests, its gods and men, except for a Tathāgata or a Tathāgata’s disciple anyone who could properly digest this milk-rice. So, brāhmaṇa, you should discard this milk-rice in a place where there is no grass or drop it into water without life.”
Then the brahmin farmer Bhāradvāja dropped that milk-rice into water without life. Then that milk-rice when thrown into water hissed and sizzled, boiled and steamed. Like a plough-share heated the whole day when thrown into water hisses and sizzles, boils and steams, likewise that milk-rice when thrown into water hissed and sizzled, boiled and steamed.
Then the brahmin farmer Bhāradvāja, in awe with his hair standing on end, approached the Blessed One, having approached and fallen down with his head at the feet of Blessed One, said to the Blessed One: “It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous, venerable sir! It is as if, venerable sir, someone had set upright what had been overturned, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to one who was lost, brought a light into the darkness so that those with eyes can see. Thus, venerable sir, the Blessed One has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May I obtain the going-forth in the presence of the Venerable Gotama, may I obtain ordination?”
The brahmin farmer Bhāradvāja obtained the going forth in the presence of the Blessed One, he obtained ordination. Before long the Venerable Bhāradvāja dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, striving energetically and resolute, realised by direct knowledge in this very life the goal of the holy life for the sake of which sons of good families rightly go forth from the household life to homelessness, and abided in it, knowing: “Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what ought to be done has been done, there will be no more of this.” The Venerable Bhāradvāja become another of the Arahants.
2. Just as rain prevents the farmer’s seeds from withering, austerity prevents confidence from withering. Here, austerity (tapo) refers to sense-faculty restraint. (SnA.i.145)