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Sāleyyaka Suttaṃ

(M.i.285)

A Discourse to the Brahmins of Sālā

Thus have I heard — On one occasion the Blessed One was wandering among the Kosalans with a large group of monks and, having arrived at a Brahmin village named Sālā, stayed there. The brahmin householders of Sālā had heard: “Truly, the recluse Gotama the son of the Sakyans of the Sakyan clan has gone-forth and while wandering in Kosala with a large following of monks has arrived at Opāsāda, and is dwelling to the north of Opāsāda in a Sal grove known as the God’s grove. A good reputation regarding friend (bho)¹ Gotama has spread thus: ‘Indeed the Blessed One is a worthy one, a fully enlightened Buddha, endowed with vision and conduct, fortunate, a knower of the worlds, the incomparable charioteer of trainable persons, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened, and blessed. Having realised with direct knowledge this world with its deities, māras, and brahmas, this generation of recluses and priests, deities and human beings, he declares it. He teaches the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with meaning and phrasing, he declares a holy life that is perfect and pure.’ It is good to meet such worthy ones.”

Then the Brahmin householders of Sālā approached the Blessed One, and having approached him some of them having paid homage sat down at one side; some exchanged friendly greetings with the Blessed One, and having had a friendly conversation sat down at one side; some have greeted the Blessed One with joined palms, sat down at one side; some, having announced their name and clan in his presence, sat down at one side; some, remaining silent, sat down at one side. Sitting at one side, the Brahmin householders of Sālā spoke thus to the Blessed One: “What is the root cause (hetu), friend Gotama, what is the reason (paccayo) why some beings here after the break-up of the body after death arise in a state of loss, in an unfortunate destination, in perdition, in hell? What is the root cause, friend Gotama, what is the reason why some beings here after the break-up of the body after death arise in a fortunate destination, in a heavenly realm?”

“Unrighteous conduct that is not in accordance with the Dhamma is the root cause, householders, why some beings, on the break-up of the body after death arise in states of loss, in an unfortunate destination, in perdition, in hell. Righteous conduct that is in accordance with the Dhamma is the root cause, householders, that some beings on the break-up of the body after death arise in a fortunate destination in a heavenly realm.”

“We do not understand what friend Gotama has said in brief, without expounding the meaning in detail. It would be good if friend Gotama would expound the Dhamma, which he has said in brief, in detail so that we would understand the meaning.”

“Then, householders, listen and pay careful attention, I will speak.”

“Very well, Venerable sir,” those Brahmin householders of Sālā replied to the Blessed One.”

The Blessed one said: “Householders, there are three kinds of bodily unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma, four kinds of vocal unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma, and three kinds of mental unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma.

“What, householders, are the three kinds of bodily unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma? Here, householders, a certain person is a killer of living beings, cruel, bloody-handed, inclined to striking and violence, without compassion for living beings. He is a taker of what is not given (adinnādāyī hoti). Having gone to a village or a forest, he steals the property and wealth of others. He is an adulterer (kāmesumicchācārī hoti). He engages in sexual relations with those protected by their mother, father, parents, brother, sister, relatives, clan, Dhamma,² with a husband (sassāmikā), with a legal prohibition (saparidaṇḍā),³ or at least betrothed by means of a flower garland. Thus, householders, are the three kinds of bodily unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma.

“What, householders, are the four kinds of vocal unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma? Here, householders, a certain person is a liar (musāvādī hoti).⁴  When gone to a court, or an assembly, or to the midst of his relatives, or to the midst of a guild, or in the midst of the royal family, and questioned as a witness: ‘So, good man, tell us what you know,” not knowing, he says, ‘I know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I do not know,’ or not seeing, he says, ‘I see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I do not see.’ Thus, for his own sake or for the sake of another or for the sake of a trifling material gain he tells deliberate lies. He a gossip (pisuṇavāco hoti).⁵ Having heard something here he tells it there to cause division; having heard something there he tells it here to cause division. Thus he is a breaker of concord, a creator of division, he finds pleasure in discord, rejoices in discord, delights in discord, and speaks words that create discord. He is an abuser (pharusavāco hoti). His speech is rough (aṇḍakā), harsh (kakkasā),  sarcastic (parakaṭuka), scolding (parābhisajjanī), bordering on anger (kodhasāmantā), not conducive to concentration (asamādhisaṃvattanikā) — that kind of speech is what he says. He is a chatterbox (samphappalāpī hoti).⁶ He speaks at the wrong time (akālavādī), he speaks what is not factual (abhūtavādī), he speaks what is unbeneficial (anatthavādī), he speaks what is not the teaching (adhammavādī), he speaks what is not the discipline (avinayavādī), He speaks words that are not worth remembering (anidhānavatiṃ), untimely (akālena), irrelevant (anapadesaṃ), not connected with the goal (apariyantavatiṃ), not connected with benefit (anatthasaṃhitaṃ). Thus, householders, are the four kinds of vocal unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma.

“What, householders, are the three kinds of mental unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma? Here, householders, a certain person is covetous (abhijjhālu hoti), whatever is the property and wealth of others that he covets: ‘Oh, if only that were mine.’ He is malevolent, thinking wicked thoughts: ‘May these beings be killed or executed or destroyed or may they perish.’ He holds wrong-views (micchādiṭṭhiko hoti), seeing things perversely (viparītadassano): ‘There is nothing given (natthi dinnaṃ),⁷ nothing offered (natthi yiṭṭhaṃ), nothing sacrificed (natthi yiṭṭhaṃ), no fruit or result of good and evil deeds (natthi sukatadukkaṭānaṃ kammānaṃ phalaṃ vipāko), there is no this world (natthi ayaṃ loko), there is no other world (natthi parao loko), there is no mother (natthi mātā), there is no father (natthi pitā), there are no spontaneously reborn living beings (natthi sattā opapātikā), there are not any recluses or brahmins in the world who have lived correctly, practised perfectly and realised this world and the other world by direct knowledge (natthi loke samaṇabrāhmaṇā sammaggatā sammāpaṭipannā ye imañca lokaṃ parañca lokaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā pavedentī).’ Thus, householders, are the three kinds of mental unrighteous conduct that are not in accordance with the Dhamma.

“Thus unrighteous conduct that is not in accordance with the Dhamma is the root cause, householders, why some beings, on the break-up of the body after death arise in states of loss, in an unfortunate destination, in perdition, in hell.

“Householders, there are three kinds of bodily righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma, four kinds of vocal righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma, and three kinds of mental righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma.

“What, householders, are the three kinds of bodily righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma? Here, householders, a certain person abandons killing living beings, abstains from killing living beings, having put aside sticks and weapons is ashamed of evil, and dwells showing kindness and compassion for all living beings. Abandoning the taking of what is not given, abstaining from taking what is not given. Whatever is the property and wealth of others, whether in the village or the forest, that he or she does not steal what is not given. Abandoning adultery, abstaining from adultery. He does not engage in sexual relations with those protected by their mother, father, parents, brother, sister, relatives, clan, Dhamma, with a husband with a legal prohibition, or at least betrothed by means of a flower garland. Thus, householders, there are three kinds of bodily righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma.

“What, householders, are the four kinds of vocal righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma? Here, householders, a certain person abandoning lying, abstains from lying. When gone to a court, or an assembly, or to the midst of his relatives, or to the midst of a guild, or in the midst of the royal family, and questioned as a witness: ‘So, good man, tell us what you know,” not knowing, he says, ‘I do not know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I know,’ or not seeing, he says, ‘I do not see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I see.’ Thus, for his own sake or for the sake of another or for the sake of a trifling material gain he does not tell deliberate lies. Abandoning gossip, he abstains from gossip. Having heard something here he does not tell it there to cause division; having heard something there he does not tell it here to cause division. Thus he is a maker of concord, a creator of unity, he finds pleasure in concord, rejoices in concord, delights in concord, and speaks words that create concord. Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. His speech is gentle, pleasing to the ear, affectionate, heartfelt, polite, lovely and pleasing to many people — that kind of speech is what he says. Abandoning idle-chatter, he abstains from idle-chatter. He speaks at the right time (kālavādī), he speaks what is factual (bhūtavādī), he speaks what is beneficial (atthavādī), he speaks what is the teaching (dhammavādī), he speaks what is the discipline (vinayavādī), He speaks words that are worth remembering (nidhānavatiṃ), timely (kālena), relevant (sapadesaṃ), connected with the goal (pariyantavatiṃ), connected with benefit (atthasaṃhitaṃ). Thus, householders, are the four kinds of vocal righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma.

“What, householders, are the three kinds of mental righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma? Here, householders, a certain person is not covetous. Whatever is the property and wealth of others he does not covert: ‘Oh, if only that were mine.’ He is not malevolent, his thoughts are uncorrupted (appaduṭṭhamanasaṅkappo): ‘May these beings be free from enmity, affliction, and fear. May they keep themselves happy! He holds right-views, seeing things without perversion: ‘There is something given, something offered, something sacrificed, there is the fruit or result of good and evil deeds, there is this world, there is the other world, there is mother, there is father, there are spontaneously reborn living beings, there are recluses or brahmins in the world who have lived correctly, practised perfectly and realised this world and the other world by direct knowledge.’ Thus, householders, are the three kinds of mental righteous conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma.

“Thus Righteous conduct that is in accordance with the Dhamma is the root cause, householders, that some beings on the break-up of the body after death arise in a fortunate destination in a heavenly realm.

“Householders, if one who lives by the Dhamma, who lives righteously, should wish: ‘Oh, on the break-up of the body after death may I be reborn in the company of nobles (khattiya) of great wealth (mahāsālānaṃ);’ this is possible. What is the reason for that? Because he lives by the Dhamma, he lives righteously.⁸

“Householders, if one who lives by the Dhamma, who lives righteously, should wish: ‘Oh, on the break-up of the body after death may I be reborn in the company of Brahmins of great wealth … householders of great wealth,” … this is possible. What is the reason for that? Because he lives by the Dhamma, he lives righteously.

“Householders, if one who lives by the Dhamma, who lives righteously, should wish: ‘Oh, on the break-up of the body after death may I be reborn in the company of the deities of the four great kings (cātumahārājikānaṃ devānaṃ) … deities of the thirty-three (Tāvatiṃsānaṃ devānaṃ) … the Yāma deities (Yāmānaṃ devānaṃ) … the delighted deities (Tusitānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities who delight in creating (Nimmānaratīnaṃ devānaṃ) the deities who delight in the creations of others (Paranimmitavasavattīnaṃ devānaṃ)⁹ … the [first jhāna] Brahma deities (Brahmakāyikānaṃ devānaṃ), this is possible. What is the reason for that? Because he lives by the Dhamma, he lives righteously.

“Householders, if one who lives by the Dhamma, who lives righteously, should wish: ‘Oh, on the break-up of the body after death may I be reborn in the company of the [second jhāna] radiant deities (Ābhānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of limited radiance (Parittābhānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of unbounded radiance (Appamāṇābhānaṃ devānaṃ … the deities of streaming radiance (Ābhassarānaṃ devānaṃ) … the [third jhāna] deities of limited glory (Parittasubhānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of unbounded glory (Appamāṇasubhānaṃ) … the deities of radiant glory (Subhakiṇhānaṃ) … the [fourth jhāna] very fruitful deities (Vehapphalānaṃ devānaṃ) ¹⁰ the durable deities (Avihānaṃ devānaṃ) … the untroubled deities (Atappānaṃ devānaṃ) … the beautiful deities (Sudassānaṃ devānaṃ) … the clear-sighted deities (Sudassīnaṃ devānaṃ) … the peerless deities (Akaniṭṭhānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of the sphere of infinite space (Ākāsānañcāyatanūpagānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of the sphere of infinite consciousness (viññāṇañcāyatanūpagānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of the sphere of nothingness (Ākiñcaññāyatanūpagānaṃ devānaṃ) … the deities of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception (Nevasaññānāsaññāyatanūpagānaṃ devānaṃ) … this is possible. What is the reason for that? Because he lives by the Dhamma, he lives righteously.

“Householders, if one  who lives by the Dhamma, who lives righteously, should wish: ‘Oh, on the break-up of the body after death may I attain in this very life by direct knowledge that destruction of the outflows without remainder,¹¹ that liberation of the mind and liberation by wisdom ... this is possible. What is the reason for that? Because he lives by the Dhamma, he lives righteously.”

When this was said, the Brahmin householders of Sālā spoke thus to the Blessed One: “Excellent, friend Gotama, magnificent, friend Gotama! It is as if, friend Gotama, what was overturned was set upright, what was hidden was revealed, the right way was pointed out to someone who was lost, or a light was lit in the darkness so that those with eyes could see. Thus, the truth has been explained in various ways by friend Gotama. We go for refuge to the Venerable (bhavantaṃ)¹ Gotama, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha of monks. May the Venerable Gotama regard us as disciples gone to him for refuge from today onwards for as long as we live.”

Notes:

1. The epithet “bho” is given in the PTS as a familiar term of address (in speaking to equals or inferiors). The term “bhavantaṃ” is given as a pronoun of polite address "Sir, Lord," or "venerable.  Perhaps I am reading more into this distinction than really exists, but it seems to me that the Brahmins would be more respectful when taking refuge than they were when they first spoke to the Blessed One. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ñāṇamoli, and Ajahn Thanissaro all use “Master” throughout.

2. A woman protected by any of her relatives means she is not living independently from them. Protected by Dhamma means a nun or a woman living in a nunnery as a trainee. Sexual relations (kāmesu) means literally sensual pleasures. The scope of sexual misconduct is broader than just adultery. Rape, statutory rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, should all be included.

3. With a legal prohibition means the courts have decided that anyone having intercourse with this woman would be subject to a punishment. I suppose that this would have been used to protect the mentally ill, or to protect the community from the spread of venereal diseases.

4. Other translations here have “a speaker of falsehood.” I prefer to translate this as “liar” since it is then clear that the intention is to deceive. One may make a false statement, believing it to be true, without any intention to deceive. Conversely, someone may make a true statement with the intention to deceive, like Bill Clinton’s statement when he said “I did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.” It was true that he had not had sexual intercourse with her, but he had engaged in other kinds of sexual activity.

5. To gossip is defined by the WordWeb Thesaurus as 1. “Talk informally about someone else's private or personal business, esp. spreading negative or scandalous information even though it has not been confirmed to be true,” or 2. “Talk socially without exchanging too much information.” Bhikkhu Bodhi and Ajahn Thanissaro translate  “samphappalāpi hoti” as “a gossip” in this second sense of the term. I use it in the first sense, which is to tell tales with malicious intent to cause division. It may be true or false, but the intent is to cause separation and harm. To speak the truth to others with the wholesome intention of protecting them from evil-doers is not gossip.

6. A chatterbox engages in idle-chatter that is not beneficial. Even worldly talk may be beneficial to others, if spoken at the right time, but one should know the proper limit.

7. This is the standard definition of wrong-view that is diametrically opposed to mundane right-view. In his Manual of the Excellent Man the Ledi Sayādaw describes it as the basic attainment for one who calls himself a Buddhist. It is noteworthy that these three kinds of unwholesome mental kamma are sufficient to send one to the lower realms, even if one does not say or do anything to act upon them. Merely lusting after someone else’s wife, hating someone enough to wish them will, or holding a wrong-view are sufficient, if not corrected, to send someone to the lower realms.

8. Whether one wishes or not, if one lives righteously, one gains a fortunate human rebirth, or the celestial realms. Cf. the Vāsijāṭa Sutta.

9. The highest of the fortunate sensual realms (kāmasugati bhūmi).

10. The mindless deities (asaññasattā) are not included. It seems to be not something that a Buddhist would aspire to. The Buddha’s meditation teachers, Āḷāra and Udaka, were reborn in this realm, so they were not able to benefit from the Buddha’s teaching.

11. Arahantship. A few lay people gained Arahantship while still living; others attained it at the point of death. It is the highest goal, and superior to any of the celestial realms.

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