The Haughty Brāmin

1:4 Haughty (4) ((Huhuka Sutta)

Thus it has been made known. At another time the Blessed One was contemplating near Uruvelā, on the bank of the river Nerañjarā which nearby stood the Ajapāla Banyan Tree, when he arose from his Deep Samadhis at the end of seven days having thus completed the contemplative session.

It just so happened that a haughty Brāmin then approached him after making the usual courteous greeting. While he stood near him he inquired, “In what manner, Master Gotama, is one considered to be a Brāmin? Furthermore, what are the necessary qualities that constitute the making of Brāminhood?”

Upon realizing the nature of the question, accompanied with its air of haughty superiority, the Blessed One uttered the following piercing verse:

An authentic Brāmin is one who has eradicated all evil traits;
Who is never pumped-up with pride and thus never stained with hypocrisy,
Self-controlled and perfected in proper gnosis and has embraced mindful living,
He, then, is honored to bear the title of Brāminhood,
Thus forever dropping the false air of superiority.

Ajapāla Banyan Tree: Peter Masefield states that this particular tree, near in vicinity of the Bodhi-tree is a scene frequented in many episodes of the Buddha’s career, including several scenes with Māra. Many times it is confused as being the Bodhi-tree itself, but is quite different when placed side by side:

Bodhi Tree

Banyan Tree

One Source specifies the following:

They look different enough! The Bodhi tree has thin bright-green leaves with the characteristic long pointed tip while the Banyan’s leaves are ovate/elliptic-shaped, thick and dark green. The fruit of the former is small and brown while that of the latter is large and purple. Their botanical names are distinct too; Ficus religiosa for the former and Ficus bengalensis for the latter. But most noticeable of all is that the Banyan puts forth numerous aerial roots which support its spreading branches and form accessory trunks, and the Bodhi does not.

*In the literature there are four other periods of seven days, each spent under a different tree – the Banyan, the Mucalinda and the Rajayatana tree and then once more back to the Banyan*

a haughty Brāmin: this representative of the priestly caste is outright snooty with an obvious air of smug superiority due his position. But the Blessed One turns the tables on him, perhaps similar in tone when Jesus addressed the Pharisees, by schooling that one’s station in life does not indicate any special-merit above and beyond anyone else. Rather, what makes the man wise is the manner in which he lives out his life rather than just going about spewing out the status-quo. Such a true Noble-One is never haughty but forever mindful of one’s “true-position” in the Unborn.

1:5 Brāmins (5) (Brahmana Sutta)

Thus it has been made known. On a different occasion the Blessed One was near Sávatthì in the Jeta Wood at Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Also present were the Venerable Sáriputta, the Venerable Mahámoggallána, the Venerable Mahákassapa, the Venerable Mahákaccáyana, the Venerable Mahákoþþhita, the Venerable Mahákappina, the Venerable Mahácunda, the Venerable Anuruddha, the Venerable Revata, and the Venerable Nanda who were approaching the Blessed One. Upon seeing them approach, the Lord exclaimed, “Look, disciples, the Brāmins are coming, here come the Brāmins!”

As he said this, a certain Brāmin by birth addressed him saying, “To what extent, Lord, may one be considered as a Brāmin? Futhermore, what are those things that constitute Brāminhood? 

Upon realizing the nature of the question, the Blessed One uttered the following piercing verse:

One who has banished all evil qualities,
Who remain forever mindful,
They are the true Noble Ones who have severed all their shackles,
Just so is one who has embraced Brāminhood.

Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery:

(P. Anāthapiṇḍika; T. Mgon med zas sbyin; C. Jigudu zhangzhe; J. Gikkodoku chōja; K. Kŭpkodok changja 給 孤 獨 長 者). In Sanskit, “Feeder of the Defenseless”; a wealthy merchant from the city of ŚRĀVASTĪ who became such a great patron of the SAṂGHA that the Buddha declared him to be chief among laymen (UPĀSAKA) in his munificence. His personal name was Sudatta; Anāthapiṇḍada was a sobriquet suggesting his philanthropic qualities. Anāthapiṇḍada’s father-in-law introduced him to the Buddha, and he was quickly converted, becoming in the process a stream-enterer (SROTAĀPANNA). Anāthapiṇḍada built numerous dwellings, guest houses, and residential parks for the Buddha and his monastic order and was unstinting in his donation of requisites. The most famous of the residences he built was the JETAVANA park on the outskirts of Śrāvastī.)

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 3753-3765). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Once again as in 1.4, there is the emphasis upon diluting the haughty spirit in favor of those true Noble Ones who have embraced the authentic path of the Buddhadharma. The Blessed One is here saying to his disciples, “here they come again, those smug ones.” While never condemning the person, the Buddha does expunge those false qualities of the worldly ones who have nothing whatsoever to do with the things of the spirit, but who forever harbor the negative qualities of the status-quo.

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