At one time, the Buddha was living in the city of Rājagaha, in the Bamboo Garden, the squirrels’ feeding ground.
Now at that time the brahmin Aggika Bhāradvāja, the Bhāradvāja the Fire-Worshipper, wanted to offer and perform a fire sacrifice. Therefore he prepared ghee and milk rice.
Then the Buddha wore his robes in the morning, took his bowl and double-layered robe, and entered the city of Rājagaha for alms. Walking from house to house for alms, he went to Aggika Bhāradvāja’s house and stood outside.
Aggika Bhāradvāja saw the Buddha standing for alms and told him in verse:
“The person who has the three knowledges1
and higher conduct2 may enjoy this milk-rice.”
“Even though a person mutters many chants,
he cannot become a brahmin just by his high caste birth,
if he’s filthy and corrupt within,
with followers gained by fraud.
“But the person who has the knowledge to see his past lives,
and to see heaven and places of misery,
and has attained the ending of rebirth,
that enlightened monk has perfect insight.
“Because he has these three knowledges,
an enlightened monk is a true brahmin.
Since he has gained true knowledge and wise conduct,
he may enjoy this milk-rice.”
Then Aggika Bhāradvāja said, “Eat, Master Gotama! You are truly a brahmin.”
“Food given to me after hearing my stanzas isn’t fit for me to eat.
That’s not the way of those who see the truth, Aggika.
The Buddhas reject gifts earned after uttering stanzas.
Aggika, that is the pure conduct of the Buddhas, that’s how they live.
“There are other enlightened monks with no defilements and doubts.
Serve them your food and drink. They are the fertile field for the seekers of merit.”
When the Buddha taught this Dhamma, Aggika Bhāradvāja said to the Buddha, “Excellent, Master Gotama! Excellent! Just as if someone turned upright, what was upside down, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to whoever was lost, or lit a lamp in the dark so people with good eyes could see what’s there, Master Gotama taught me the Dhamma, which is clear in many ways. I go for refuge to Master Gotama, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. Bhante, may I become a monk under you?”
And he became a monk under the Buddha. Not long after his ordination, Bhante Aggika Bhāradvāja, living alone, withdrawn, diligent, passionate, and firm, soon realized the supreme goal of the spiritual path in this very life. He achieved with his own wisdom the goal for which a son would leave the lay life to become a monk.
He realized: “Rebirth has ended. The spiritual journey has been completed. What had to be done to end suffering has been done. There will be no rebirth.” Therefore, Bhante Aggika Bhāradvāja became one of the enlightened monks.