The Seven Matted-hair Ascetics
Thus have I heard — On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in the eastern monastery in the palace of Migāra's mother. Then on that occasion in the early evening the Blessed One, having emerged from seclusion, was sitting outside on the verandah. Then King Pasenadi of Kosala approached the Blessed One, and having approached, paid homage and sat at one side.
Then on that occasion, seven matted-hair ascetics (Jāṭilā), seven ascetics (Nigaṇṭhā), seven naked ascetics (Acelakā), seven loin-cloth ascetics (Ekasāṭakā), and seven wanderers (Paribbājakā), with long hair and nails carrying their belongings on a pole, passed by not far away from the Blessed One.
Seeing them, King Pasenadi of Kosala rose from his seat, arranged his robe over one shoulder, kneeled on his right knee, and saluted them with joined palms announcing his name three times, “Venerable sirs, I am King Pasenadi of Kosala.”
When they had passed by the king approached the Blessed One, paid homage, and sat down at one side. Sitting there the king said the Blessed One: “Are they, venerable sir, among those in the world who are Arahants or on the path to Arahantship?”
“It is difficult for you, great king, as a householder enjoying sensual pleasures, living encumbered by children, using silks and sandalwood, wearing garlands, perfumes and cosmetics, making use of and enjoying gold and silver, to know rightly if they are Arahants or on the path to Arahantship.
“It is by living together one someone, great king, that their morality (sīlaṃ) can be known; and that after a long time not a short time, by one who is attentive not by one who is inattentive, by one who is wise, not by one who is unwise.
“It is by engaging in business with someone, great king, that their integrity (soceyyaṃ) can be known; and that after a long time not a short time, by one who is attentive not by one who is inattentive, by one who is wise, not by one who is unwise.
“It is by adversity, great king, that their courage (thāmo) can be known; and that after a long time not a short time, by one who is attentive not by one who is inattentive, by one who is wise, not by one who is unwise.
“It is through discussion with someone, great king, that their wisdom (paññā) can be known; and that after a long time not a short time, by one who is attentive not by one who is inattentive, by one who is wise, not by one who is unwise.”
“It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous! How well said is this, venerable sir, by the Blessed One: ‘It is difficult, great king … by one who is wise, not by one who is unwise.’
“Those who are my spies, venerable sir, go out into the countryside. They go first, and I go in procession afterwards. When they have scrubbed off the dirt and mud, shaved their beards and trimmed their hair, they put on white clothes, and enjoy the five strands of sensual pleasures.”
Then the Blessed One having understood the meaning of this uttered this verse —
1. The Nigaṇṭhā wore a cloth over their private parts, while the Acelaka went completely naked.
2. In the Kasibhāradvāja Sutta the Buddha refuses an offering made by the farmer after he recited a verse. It is a wrong livelihood for monks to make any charge for teaching the Dhamma. They should teach without any expectation of offerings. Donations should have no strings attached to them.
3. The same discourse is repeated at S.i.77, but the concluding verse is different. There, the Buddha uttered two verses warning that a man is not easily know by outward appearance and that one should not make a quick appraisal. Like earrings of clay, or brass coins coated with gold leaf, some men are outwardly composed, but inwardly impure.