Samyukta Āgama (2) 52
Sakka Saṃyutta Non-Buddhist teachers
Thus have I heard, once, the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha in the Gijjhakūṭa mountains. At that time there were ninety-six non-Buddhist groups, each praying and making offerings to someone. There were, for instance, donors who had faith in some non-Buddhist wanderer and those said: “One should first make offerings to our teacher the wanderer!” If they had faith in some non-Buddhist wandering ascetic they said: “First one should make offerings to our teacher the wandering ascetic!” If they had faith in the non-Buddhist teacher Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta they all said: “First give our teacher Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta a big offering, after that give to the others!” If they had faith in some non-Buddhist called a fire-worshiper they said: “One should make offerings to our teacher the fire-worshiper!” If they had faith in some non-Buddhist elder follower of the Vedas they said: “One should first make offerings to our teacher the elder follower of the Vedas!” If they had faith in some renowned non-Buddhist follower of the Vedas they said: “Make offerings to our teacher the renowned follower of the Vedas!” If they had faith in the Buddha, they said: “One should first make offerings to our teacher the Tathāgata and the community of monks!”
Sakka Devānaṃ Inda thought: “Extremely heretical views have arisen among the people of Rājagaha. Holding heretical views, while the Buddha and the Saṅgha exist in the world, is unwholesome.” With that, Sakka quickly transformed himself into an elder brāhmaṇa, of upright appearance, riding on a white chariot pulled by white horses. Surrounded to left and right by young men, he went to the temple district and passed right through it without stopping. All the people in Rājagaha thought: “Where will this elder brāhmaṇa go first? Let’s follow him!”
Then Sakka, knowing what they were thinking, turned his chariot to the south and went to Gijjhakūṭa. Arriving at the place where the chariots had to stop, he stopped among them, got down, entered the precinct, and approached the Buddha. Having paid homage at the Buddha’s feet and sat to one side, Sakka spoke in verse:
“To the noble king who turns the Dhamma wheel, / who can ferry one across from the shore of suffering to the other shore, where there is neither hatred nor fear, / I bow my head in homage.
If people want to generate merit, / where should they place their offerings? Wanting to attain pure merit / one should engender pure faith.
One makes offerings today / in order to obtain good results in future lives. From which field of merit / does one reap great fruits with only a small offering?”
Then the World-honored One, there on Gijjhakūṭa, expounded to Sakka what is most worthy of offerings, answering him in verse:
“Those who have attained the four fruits and the four paths, / having fulfilled the practice of meditation, Their power of merit is deep / like the great ocean.
These are called the truly best, / the disciples of the tamer, who in the vast darkness of ignorance / can light the candle of wisdom.
Always for the sake of sentient beings / preaching the Dhamma, showing the way: this is called the Saṅgha field of merit / vast without end.
Donations made to this field of merit / are called ‘well given.’ Donations made to this field of merit / are called ‘well offered.’
Burning things in a fire sacrifice and praying to the gods / is a waste and without benefit. This is not called ‘well sacrificed.’ / But on a true field of merit one makes only a little effort / and reaps great gains.
This is called ‘well sacrificed.’ / Sakka, you should know, to give to what is called a worthy ‘field of merit,’ / a person within the Saṅgha,
later one will certainly attain great fruits. / This is said at the right time, it is said by the Buddha. / The Buddha of countless merits
has praised the Saṅgha in hundreds of verses. / As the supreme recipient of offerings, Nothing surpasses the Saṅgha as a field of merit. / When people plant a small seed of goodness
they reap rewards beyond measure. / A good person, therefore, should make offerings to the Saṅgha. / Those who always uphold the Dhamma
are called the Saṅgha. / Just as in the great ocean there are many precious jewels, / so in the ocean of the Saṅgha
there are many precious jewels of merit. / To offer to the Saṅgha jewel is to be a worthy person, / one that reaps joy and faith.
If someone can give out of faith, / know that this person is always happy. / Because he is always happy
he can ferry himself across the three bad destinations, / clean away all impurities and remove the poisoned arrow of afflictions. / Giving with equanimity from one’s own hands,
one benefits oneself as well as others. / If one sacrifices like this, such a person is called / wise among human beings.
Once one’s faith is pure / one will reach the abode of the unconditioned, or utmost happiness of this world / where the wise attain rebirth.”
When Sakka heard these verses, he leaped up in joy, vanished from his seat and returned to his heavenly palace. Not long after Sakka had returned to his palace, the householders and brāhmaṇas of Rājagaha too rose from their seats, bared their right shoulders, knelt, and with palms together addressed the Buddha: “May the World-honored One and the community of monks accept a large alms-giving from us tomorrow morning. We happily invite you!”
The Tathāgata consented silently. When the householders and brāhmaṇas of Rājagaha understood that the Buddha had consented silently, they asked to leave, paid homage at the Buddha’s feet and returned to their homes. Having returned to their homes, each prepared fragrant and precious drinks and foods, cleanly arranged. Having done so, in the morning they prepared seats, readied clean water and sent a messenger to Gijjhakūṭa to tell the Buddha: “The alms-giving is ready.”
At that time the Tathāgata took his robe and begging bowl and accompanied by a multitude of monks, walking in front of them went to the town where the alms-giving was to take place. Having arrived, he took his prepared seat in front of the monks. The people of the city spread seats for the monks to sit on. When the householders saw that everybody was seated they brought clean water for hand-washing. The householders and brāhmaṇas served the fragrant, delicious food and drink with their own hands. All the people urged their guests to eat and try everything. When the World-honored One saw that the monks had finished their meal, he put his bowl away and gave it to Ānanda to clean. Thereupon the people got up and arranged their seats in front of the Buddha. They earnestly paid their respects and asked to hear the Dhamma. The Buddha lauded what they had offered and spoke this verse:
“Among Brahmanical texts, / those on the fire-sacrifice are the best. Among texts of non-Buddhists, / the Sāvitrī is the best.
Among people of the world, / the king is the highest leader. Among the hundred streams and many rivers, / the great ocean is deemed the best.
Among stars, stellar houses, and constellations, / moonlight is deemed the best. Among lights, / sunlight is the best.
Above, below, and in the four directions, / in the realms of gods and human beings, Among the host of noble ones / the Buddha is the most worthy of veneration.”
After the Buddha had in various ways taught the Dhamma to the people of Rājagaha, enlightened and instructed them, benefited and pleased them, the people leaped up happily from their seats and went back.
When the Buddha had finished speaking, the monks, having heard what the Buddha had said, were happy and remembered it well.