Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in the Prince Jeta grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then, in the morning, having dressed and taking the double-robe and almsbowl, the Blessed One entered Sāvatthi for alms. On that occasion, in the dwelling of a fire-worshipping brahmin, Aggika Bhāradvāja, the fire was lit and the sacrifice was prepared. Then as the Blessed One was walking from house to house for alms he arrived at the dwelling of the brahmin Aggika Bhāradvāja. The brahmin Aggika Bhāradvāja saw him coming from a distance. Having seen him he said to the Blessed One: “Stop there shaveling! Stop there recluse! Stop there outcaste!”
When this was said, the Blessed One said to the brahmin Aggika Bhāradvāja: “Do you know, brahmin, what an outcaste is? What makes one an outcaste?”
“No, friend Gotama,¹ I do not know what an outcaste is. What makes one an outcaste. It would be good if the venerable Gotama would teach me about this matter, so that I would know what an outcaste is, what makes one an outcaste.”
“Then, brahmin, listen and pay careful attention, I will speak.”
“Very well, friend,” the brahmin Aggika Bhāradvāja replied to the Blessed One.
The Blessed One said:–
“The man who is angry, fault-finding, evil-minded, and envious.
A hypocrite whose views are wrong, know him as an outcaste.
“Whether once-born or twice-born,² whoever injures living beings,
Who has no compassion for living things, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever destroys and besieges villages and towns,
Who is known as an oppressor, know him as an outcaste.
“In villages or forests, whatever belongs to others,
Whoever take by theft, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever, having incurred debts, when pressed to pay up,
Claims, ‘I am not indebted to you,’ know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever desiring any little thing, takes it, having killed or beaten ³
a person going along a path, know him as an outcaste.
“The man who, for his own sake, for that of others, or for wealth,
Commits perjury in court, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever has affairs with the wives of his relatives or friends,
Whether by force or by mutual affection, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever, though affluent and able, does not support his mother or father
Who are decrepit with youthfulness gone, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever strikes his mother or father, brother, sister, or mother or father in-law,
Or harasses them with speech,⁴ know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever being asked for beneficial advice, exhorts to do what is harmful,
Speaking deceitfully in riddles, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever, having done an evil deed, not wishing others to know,
Concealing his behaviour, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever having gone to another family, and having eaten delicious food,
Does not reciprocate their hospitality, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever deceives a priest, a recluse, or another who lives on alms,
By lies and deceit, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever, when a priest or recluse comes at the meal-time,
Harasses him with speech and does not give, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever speaks empty words,⁵ entangled in ignorance,
Longing for trivial gains, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever exalts himself, and denigrates others,
Wallowing in conceit, know him as an outcaste.
“Wrathful and stingy, of evil desires, envious and fraudulent.
Shameless and reckless, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever reviles the Buddha or his disciples,
Whether one gone-forth or a householder, know him as an outcaste.
“Whoever is not an Arahant, who claims to be an Arahant,⁶
He is the greatest thief in the world, he is the lowest of outcastes.
“Thus I have shown those who are outcastes.
Not by birth is one an outcaste, not by birth is one a brahmin.⁷
By kamma one is an outcaste, by kamma one is a brahmin.
“Mātaṅga ⁹ attained the pinnacle of fame, so hard to achieve.
Many nobles and brahmins came to serve him.
“Mounting the celestial chariot, driving on the dustless highway.
Having freed himself from sensual passion, he arose in the Brahma realm.
His birth did not prevent him from rebirth in the Brahma realm.
“Brahmins born into a family of those who recited the mantras,
Their evil deeds are always to be seen.
“In this very life they are despised, and hereafter they go to a bad destination.
Their birth does not protect them from an evil destination or being despised.
“Not by birth is one an outcaste, not by birth is one a brahmin.
By kamma one is an outcaste, by kamma one is a brahmin.”
When this was said, the brahmin Aggika Bhāradvāja said to the Blessed One: “Excellent, Venerable Gotama, magnificent, Venerable Gotama! It is as if, Venerable 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 the Venerable Gotama. I go for refuge to the Venerable Gotama, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha of monks. May the Venerable Gotama regard me as a disciple gone to him for refuge from today onwards for as long as I live.”
1. “Bho” — a familiar form of address used when speaking to equals or inferiors. The term “Bhavaṃ,” which the brahmin uses when asking the Buddha to teach him is more respectful.
2. Twice-born are those beings born from eggs such as birds and reptiles. Fertile eggs are living, so removing them from the nest breaks the first precept regarding killing.
3. The Commentary glosses: hantvā as having killed (māretvā), having beaten (koṭṭvā), he takes their property.
4. He strikes them with his hand, a clod, or with something else, or angers them with harsh speech.
6. An offence of defeat for a Buddhist monk or nun.
7. Does this conflict with the teaching in the Lesser Discourse on the Analysis of Kamma, which teaches that rebirth in a low family is due to not showing due respect to those deserving respect such as parents, teachers, and recluses; and that being reborn into a family of high status is due to paying due respect? No! It does not conflict with that teaching. The result of past kamma bears fruit at the time of birth. This teaching is about the lack of morality and good character that justifies someone being regarded as an outcaste; as someone to be shunned. Character depends on both nature and nurture. Status depends on wealth and influence. The Buddha tells the story of Mātaṅga to illustrate the dominance of character over status. One could cite many such cases from the present-day. Character is easily spoiled by wealth or fame. Being born poor and of low social status is certainly a disadvantage, but it is not an indicator of weak character and defective morality.
8. Sopāka is the name of a very low-caste that the PTS dictionary cross-references to Sapāka = dog-cooker, an outcaste.
9. Although the Buddha did not state it in this discourse, the Bodhisatta was born as Mātaṅga in one of his previous existences. The dustless highway in the following verse refers to the practise of chastity and the Sublime States (Brahmavihāra), and not to the Noble Eightfold Path leading to nibbāna as in other translations. Had he attained nibbāna as Mātaṅga, the Bodhisatta would not have taken rebirth again in the human realm. The Suttanipāta Commentary (Sn.A.i.184-191) tells the story of Mātaṅga in some detail.