Mettha's Questions - Maj. Gen. Ananda Weerasekera

Mettha's Questions - 1 : How to win this World

Mettha's Questions - 2 :
What are the factors that are conducive for one’s happiness?

Mettha's Questions - 3 : What leads to ruination of a man?

Mettha's Questions - 4 : Are you an Outcast?

ettha was watching the TV news. Her eyes were wide open and she looked astonished. It highlighted a news item, that in a certain part of India where a large number of under-privileged people were being assaulted and driven away for attempting to enter a Hindu Kovil* for worship. A group of seemingly affluent men having clubs and swords in their hands did not allow another group of people to enter the kovil.

Why? was the question troubling Mettha.

As the news item rolled on the TV, her favorite Old man too entered the hall. It was shocking to see several dead bodies lying around the temple .' Why are all these brutal clashes? 'Mettha turned to the old man with a disgruntled face. 'This is a bloody clash between high cast and low cast' he was biting his lower lip. ' This is the limit of ignorance how one human being treats another human being'.

'Switch off that TV. I'll teach you the foolish notions of the so-called cast system that is prevalent in India. He sat facing Mettha with a depressed sigh.' There were four major casts that existed in India from time immemorial. According to Rgveda of Hindus, they are brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and shudra.

The ancient Hindu Holy book says that when the cosmic man was sacrificed his mouth became the brahmana, his arms the ksatriya, his thighs the vaisya and his feet the shudra.

During the days of Buddha too the cast system prevailed strongly, dividing the society into four clear categories which discriminated the lower casts.

Buddha's main argument against cast was that no man could be superior or inferior in society merely by reason of his birth. He clearly pointed out that the position of man in society depended on his conduct.

"But still……."the old man looked up. "with all that noble teaching they still have divisions among human beings. The lower cast is known as neechakula. Originally they were treated as slaves and were treated as outcasts by the superior casts. Most disgusting customs were seen amongst them. The people of higher cast never sat down for a meal with the lower casts. Never allowed them to enter their premises from the front door. Never gave them a decent seat. Meeting them early morning was considered a bad Oman. Those absurd beliefs continued to the extent that they did not allow these helpless people to enter even a place of worship. They kill each other even now, due to cast consciousness."

* Hindu Kovil-It is a temple built by people who believe in Hinduism where statues of various Hindu Daities are kept for worshiping i.e. Vishnu, Gana, Lakshmi, Siva etc.

Mettha was very attentive.' I feel that, those who indulge in such inhuman activities should be treated as Out casts' Mettha voiced her opinion.

'Absolutely correct 'old man nodded and started to relate the interesting story.

Once Buddha was living in the temple, known as Jetavana,in the city of Saavatthi built by Anathapindika , one of the richest devotees at the time. One morning Buddha adjusted his robes and set off to the town for alms with the alms bowl.

The house of Aggika Bharadvaja, a brahmana, was situated in the same town. He, being a brahmana who believes in sacrifices had lit a huge fire for a sacrifice when Buddha was going from house to house for his alms. As Buddha approached Bharadvaja's house ,he yelled at Buddha. "You head-shaven shameful man ,stay there ."He shouted." You outcast, slave, stay there! " he shouted twice. "You blame worthy out- cast, stay where you are ! "Bharadvaja shouted from top of his voice.

The Buddha looked at the brahmana compassionately and said" Oh! brahmana, do you know who an outcast is?" Buddha looked at him straight into his eyes with full of loving kindness and spoke again. "or, do you know brahmana, what qualities make one an outcast?"

That compassionate , piercing voice of the Buddha shook Aggikabharadvaja. "No, venerable Gothama" he answered with a sombre voice." It is good if the venerable Gothama could expound to me who is an Outcast or what qualities makes one an outcast."

"O! Brahmana, if so listen carefully. I shall teach you. Keep well in mind."Buddha said. "Yes venerable Sir" brahmana answered.

"If a person,

    • is easily prone to anger.
    • has long standing hatred, enmity and grudge,
    • is an evil ungrateful and unwholesome person,
    • having faith in unwholesome vision or distorted Dhamma.,
    • is deceitful and cunning,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • Hurts beings once born or twice born,*
    • Has no compassion for living beings,
    • Such person is known as an outcast.

* There are beings who are born in its permanent shape at the inception. There are also species born in a different shape originally and transforms into its final shape. Eg. A butterfly is originally born as a caterpillar and change into form of a butterfly later.

If a person,

    • Destroys villages and towns ,
    • Incites and provokes others for such destruction,
    • Is known as an agitator or a terrorist,
    • Such person is known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • Takes that which is not given to him and commits theft of whatever belonging to others , whether in the jungle or in the village,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • having taken a loan, and being blamed by the creditors, runs away saying 'There is no loan due to you',
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • kills a man or a woman on the road with the intention of taking by force even the little, they posses,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • When called to bear witness gives false evidence and speaks untruth, for one's own gain, or for the gain of others, and lies with the intention of gaining some wealth,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • Indulges in sexual misconduct with the wives of relatives or friends, either by force or with consent,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • Being able, does not maintain the mother or the father in their old age and when they are weak,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • Physically hurts by striking, or scolds using harsh words his mother, ,father, sister, brother or in-laws ( i.e. mother or father in law ),
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • When asked for fruitful moral advice, which is beneficial for both worlds, conceals the truth or gives immoral or harmful advice,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • Having done an evil act or deed, wishes ' Let me not be known as an evil doer in society' or commits unwholesome deeds discreetly,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

  • Having visited houses of relatives and friends, and eaten good food and having enjoyed their hospitality, do not reciprocate when they visit his home,Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

  • Cheats or deceives, a priest, a monk, a recluse or a beggar with falsehood,Such a person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

  • Scolds with harsh words when a priest, a monk or a recluse visits one's home during meal-time and refuses to offer meals or to meet him,Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • With extreme ignorance , speaks unvirtuous words with the intention of gaining even a little benefit,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

  • Through his vicious pride, degrades, insults and look-down upon others whilst praising himself, Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • provokes and makes others angry,
    • has thoughts of a miser,
    • has unwholesome thoughts,
    • pretends to be one with high morals,
    • Has no shame or fear to commit unwholesome deed,

Such person should be known as an outcast.

If a person,

    • abuses, or insults and demeans the Buddha, the followers of the Dhamma, his disciples, wondering mendicants and any layman or householder ,
    • Such person should be known as an outcast.

"If a person, "Buddha addressed firmly,

    • "pretends and declares himself to be a worthy one an Arahant, without being an Arahant, he is the biggest thief (Maha-Chora*) in the world system which includes the Brahma worlds. He indeed is the worst outcast."
    • Buddha looked straight at Bharadvaja and spoke again. 'This is how the term 'outcast,' (Vasala) is interpreted according to my Dhamma.'

Buddha further added,

    • By birth is one not an outcast ,
    • By Birth is one not a brahmana,
    • By action is one an outcast,
    • By action is one a brahmana.

"Mettha,! This is what the following popular Pali stanza means ,the old man continued,

"Na jaccaa vasalo hoti
Na jaccaa hoti brahmano
Kammana vasalo hoti
Kammana hoti brahmano."

Buddha having explained the above spoke again." You should know more on this by following story.

Sopaka the son of an outcast was admirable and well known later as Mathanga. He reached the highest fame. Once upon a time, Mathanga became an extremely popular intellectual, a famous pandit. Lot of people of Khattiya cast (i.e. royalty) and many Brahmanas came to his assistance and to attend to him. He having followed the path taken by the worthy ones such as Buddhas and ascending the divine chariot, giving up all desires of lust and passion was born in the World of Brahmas."

Buddha further added 'The cast to which Mathanga was born, did not hinder his being born in the brahma world. People who are born in the families of religious scholars, where they chant the brahmanic texts i.e. Wedas,and those who learn Mantras are constantly seen doing evil action. They become blame-worthy even in this world and born in the world beyond in a woeful state. The cast to which one is born does not prevent one from being reborn in a woeful state or protect one from blame or insult.

  • By birth is one not an outcast ,
  • By Birth is one not a brahmana,
  • By action is one an outcast,
  • By action is one a brahmana."

When it was said thus the brahmana spoke to the Buddha 'excellent! Venerable Gothama, Excellent.! Just as, O Venerable Gothama, a vessel turned upside down is turned up,

Or what is closed is made to open,

Or just as showing the way to one who has lost his way,

Or as one who holds an oil lamp in the dark with the thought ' Let those who have eyes see forms "

In similar manner, in various ways venerable Gothama declared the Dhamma. Venerable Sir, I take refuge in Buddha, the Dhamma and the multitude of monks. May the venerable Gothama accept me as a lay devotee who has taken refuge from today till the end of my life.'

The old man stretched his arms and looked at the young lady, Mettha.

'Do you like the story of the Out-casts?'

'Yes father' Mettha replied. 'But I would like to know more about Pandit Matanga. I have heard that he has even performed miracles through powers of meditation in one of his previous births as a Bodhisattha'

'Yes, that is a very interesting story. Now listen' the old man spoke while he sipped the glass of water offered by Mettha.

'Boodhisatta was once born in a chandala village, outside Benares, to a chandala family, the lowest cast at the time. He was named Matanga. One day a princess named Ditthamangalika, the daughter of a rich merchant, belong to the highest cast then in society, was on her way to the park with her friends. She saw Mathanga, an outcast coming towards the city facing her. The brahmana princess was horrified and thinking that the sight of an outcast is inauspicious and turned back home, disappointed. As she reached her palace, she washed her eyes with perfumed water to wash away the ill-omened, unfortunate sight of an outcast. Her companions and guards annoyed at being deprived of their fun at the park, caught Mathanga and beat him mercilessly and left him senseless on the road. On recovering consciousness, he realised as to why he had to under go all this agony. He made up his mind and was determined to get Ditthamangalika as his wife. After some time one day, he went in front of Ditthamangalika's father's palace and sat down saying that he will not rise unless and until he get the beautiful princess as his wife. He stood fasting fearlessly and laid there continuously for seven days. As the days passed by the elders and relations of the princess feared the ignominy and the disgrace to their cast of having a chandala, an outcast die at their doorstep. The people of Brahmana cast could sacrifice any thing to protect their honour. They got together and discussed the vital issue, of how to avoid the humiliation wich was imminent. Finally they decided to give Ditthamangalika to Matanga as his wife.

The beautiful princess came crying and knelt down before Mathanga. Then she requested him to take her to his home.Mathanga then said to her "No princess, I cannot even get up. I am lifeless. My whole body is in pain. including my bones. It is because your guards and companions assaulted me severely. Therefore please carry me on your shoulders."

Dittamangalika then carried her husband, a chadala, on her shoulders and went through the city of Benares to the chandala village whilst the whole township watched them.

Mathanga, having gone home realised that his act completely destroyed the honour, pride and prestige that his wife possessed as a daughter of a brahmana family of the highest cast. Mathanga felt sorry and decided to bring her much honour, respect and recognition in society.

He then left the wife and retired into the forest with the intention of achieving a higher state of mind through meditation. Within seven days Mathanga reached a very high state of mental power, by which he gained the ability to perform certain miracles. Having gained such powers he came back to his wife and told her to go into the city and proclaim that her husband was not a chandala, an outcast but Maha Brahma, The Greatest God..

Do you know who Maha-Brahma is? The then society and the Hindus in particular believed that Maha-Brahma is the Creator of the whole universe and the Supreme God of all Gods. They also believe that the ultimate salvation of any human being is to reach the Aathma of Maha-Brahma with that of their personal Aathmas. Ancient scripts had taught them that people of Brahmana Cast were created by Maha-Brahma through his Mouth. They believed that they were created by the Brahma the Great. Hence they were the most pure and most dignified. They were the true sons of Maha-Brahma.

So, Mathanga advised his wife to tell all citizens that her husband is non other than Maha-Brahma and in another seven days time he would come to her on the full moon day through the moon. He also told her to warn all the people in the city of Benares to expect him.

As predicted it happened. The Bodhisatta, with all his supernatural powers descended to his village, from the direction of the moon illuminating the entire area.

The people thenceforth paid tribute to her and honoured her as a goddess. As Mathanga wished and predicted, the water in which she washed her feet was used for the coronation of kings. The water in which she bathed became medicine for the sick, whatever the cast. She was worshiped by everyone who believed in Maha-Brahma by placing his or her head on her feet. In no time she became the highest respected lady and the richest.

Few days later Mathanga conveyed to his wife that she had conceived a son and left her to the attendants and returned to the jungle.

The story goes on to describe as to how Mathanga corrected his own son who had embraced wrong views.'

"This is enough" the old man rose from his seat.

The Buddha's advice to Aggikabharadvaja, the proud brahmana is known as Vasala Sutra. The first twenty stanzas contain 33 reasons, which makes one an Outcast.

'Mettha' the old man held her hand while walking towards the main door.' You see this long wooden bench in the verandah kept away from the other cushioned chairs..' He asked her and sat on the wornout bench.

'Yes' Mettha answered. 'but what about it ?'

'Your father wants certain villages to sit on that chair, may be they are inferior in cast or status.'

'Yes I have seen some of them sitting on this chair and not on any other chair.' Mettha admitted and was surprised.

The old man declared even this day and age the educated too display their ignorance fostering and nurturing the Cast System.

Mettha felt shy. She shouted at the male servant. 'Take this chair away and put it in the storeroom

'Good Night!' The old man kissed Mettha's forehead and walked away.