T212. Producing Light: (C1:3) The Four Brahmins

Four brahmins want to be born in heaven, but the Buddha find a way to liberate them.

Chapter 1: Impermanence

3. The Four Brahmins

Once, there were four brahmins who had attained the supernormal powers. They could fly and travel with the miraculous ability of non-obstruction. These four brahmins said to each other: “There are people who give fine meals to the mendicant Gautama. They readily attain birth as gods and aren’t estranged from their halls of merit. Those who hear his teaching enter the door of liberation. Today, we aim for and covet the merits of heaven. We don’t want liberation, so hearing his teaching isn’t necessary.”

These four men then each took four portions of sweet rock honey, and one of them went to the Tathāgata first to present it to the Bhagavān. Once the Tathāgata had accepted it, he addressed that brahmin, reciting this line of verse:

“What’s formed is impermanent.”

After the brahmin heard it, he covered his ears with his hands.

Next, the second man went to the Tathāgata and offered up his rock honey. The Tathāgata again spoke this line of verse:

“It’s the law of arising and fading away.”

After the brahmin heard it, he covered his ears with his hands.

Next, the third man went to the Tathāgata and offered up his rock honey. Once the Tathāgata had accepted it, he again spoke a line of verse:

“Men are born and quickly die.”

After the brahmin heard it, he covered his ears with his hands.

Next, the fourth man went to the Tathāgata and offered up his rock honey. Once the Tathāgata had accept it, he again spoke a line of verse:

“The cessation of this is happiness.”

After the brahmin heard it, he covered his ears with his hands, and they each took their leave. The Tathāgata had examined their minds, intent, and thoughts, and he knew that they could attain liberation. So, he employed a device, an obscure form that wasn’t obvious.

The four men gathered somewhere and discussed it with each other: “Although we gave alms to the mendicant Gautama, our aim wasn’t decided. What words did the mendicant Gautama teach us?”

They asked the first one, “When you presented your rock honey, did you get some words, or did you not hear the teaching?”

He responded, “I heard a single line of doctrine from the Tathāgata. ‘What’s formed is impermanent.’ After I heard this doctrine, I covered my ears with my hands and didn’t accept it.”

Next, they asked the second man, “What words did you get when you went to the Tathāgata?”

That man also related what happened, “I went to the Tathāgata and offered up the rock honey. While I was with the Tathāgata, he spoke this verse: ‘It is the law of arising and fading away.’ After I heard this, I covered my ears with my hands and didn’t accept it.”

Next, they asked the third man, “What words did you get when you went to the Tathāgata?”

That man again related what happened. “I went to the Tathāgata and offered up the rock honey. While I was with the Tathāgata, he spoke this verse: ‘Men are born and quickly die.’ After I heard this, I covered my ears with my hands and didn’t accept it.”

Next, they asked the fourth man, “What words did you get when you went to the Tathāgata?”

That man responded, “I went to the Tathāgata and offered up the rock honey. While I was with the Tathāgata, he spoke this verse: ‘The cessation of this is happiness.’”
After the four men had recited these lines, their minds were opened, and they understood his intent, attaining the fruit of non-returners.

At that time, the four men knew they each had realized that fruit and went back, reproaching themselves. They went to the Tathāgata, prostrated their heads to his feet, and then stood to one side. After a moment, they retreated to sit and said to the Bhagavān, “Tathāgata, please permit us to be on the path and attain what’s next for a mendicant.”

The Bhagavān told them, “Welcome, monks. You’ve chosen to cultivate the religious practice.”

At that time, these four men’s hair fell from their heads by itself, and their bodies were miraculously clothed in reddish brown robes. They immediately attained the fruit of arhats there in the presence of the Buddha.

Translated to Chinese by Śramaṇa Chu Fonian
Translated to English by Charles D. Patton, II

First Edition (August 12, 2019)

Author: Charlie

Poet, writer, translator.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s