DN27.1. Purification in the Four CastesAggañña Sutta ("The Origin of the World")
Vāseṭṭha, there are these four castes: aristocrats, brahmins, merchants, and workers. Some aristocrats kill living creatures, steal, and commit sexual misconduct. They use speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, and nonsensical. And they’re covetous, malicious, with wrong view. These things are unskillful, blameworthy, not to be cultivated, unworthy of the noble ones—and are reckoned as such. They are dark deeds with dark results, criticized by sensible people. Such things are seen in some aristocrats. And they are also seen among some brahmins, merchants, and workers.
But some aristocrats refrain from killing living creatures, stealing, and committing sexual misconduct. They refrain from speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, and nonsensical. And they’re content, kind-hearted, with right view. These things are skillful, blameless, to be cultivated, worthy of the noble ones—and are reckoned as such. They are bright deeds with bright results, praised by sensible people. Such things are seen in some aristocrats. And they are also seen among some brahmins, merchants, and workers.
Both these things occur like this, mixed up in these four castes—the dark and the bright, that which is praised and that which is criticized by sensible people. Yet of this the brahmins say: ‘Only brahmins are the highest caste; other castes are inferior. Only brahmins are the light caste; other castes are dark. Only brahmins are purified, not others. Only brahmins are Brahmā’s rightful sons, born of his mouth, born of Brahmā, created by Brahmā, heirs of Brahmā.’
Sensible people don’t acknowledge this. Why is that? Because any mendicant from these four castes who is perfected—with defilements ended, who has completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own true goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and is rightly freed through enlightenment—is said to be the best by virtue of principle, not without principle. For principle, Vāseṭṭha, is the best thing about people in both this life and the next.
And here’s a way to understand how this is so.
King Pasenadi of Kosala knows that the ascetic Gotama has gone forth from the neighboring clan of the Sakyans. And the Sakyans are his vassals. The Sakyans show deference to King Pasenadi by bowing down, rising up, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him. Now, King Pasenadi shows the same kind of deference to the Realized One. But he doesn’t think: ‘The ascetic Gotama is well-born, I am ill-born. He is powerful, I am weak. He is handsome, I am ugly. He is influential, I am insignificant.’ Rather, in showing such deference to the Realized One he is only honoring, respecting, and venerating principle. And here’s another way to understand how principle is the best thing about people in both this life and the next.
Vāseṭṭha, you have different births, names, and clans, and have gone forth from the lay life to homelessness from different families. When they ask you what you are, you claim to be ascetics, followers of the Sakyan. But only when someone has faith in the Realized One—settled, rooted, and planted deep, strong, not to be shifted by any ascetic or brahmin or god or Māra or Brahmā or by anyone in the world—is it appropriate for them to say: ‘I am the Buddha’s true-born child, born from his mouth, born of principle, created by principle, heir to principle.’ Why is that? For these are terms for the Realized One: ‘the embodiment of truth’, and ‘the embodiment of holiness’, and ‘the one who has become the truth’, and ‘the one who has become holy’.
There comes a time when, Vāseṭṭha, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos contracts. As the cosmos contracts, sentient beings are mostly headed for the realm of streaming radiance. There they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.
There comes a time when, after a very long period has passed, this cosmos expands. As the cosmos expands, sentient beings mostly pass away from that host of radiant deities and come back to this realm. Here they are mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the sky, steadily glorious, and they remain like that for a very long time.
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