Samyutta Nikaya
Brahmaṇa Saṁyutta

SN 7.9 Sundarika Sutta

Are we special because of our birth or because of our actions?

At one time, the Buddha was living in the province of Kosala on the bank of the Sundarika river.

Now at that time, Sundarika Bhāradvāja of the brahmin caste, was offering and performing a fire sacrifice on the bank of the river Sundarika.

Then he looked all around the four directions, wondering, “Now who should I give the food of this offering to?”

He saw the Buddha meditating at the root of a certain tree with his robe pulled over his head and face. Taking the food in his left hand and a pitcher in the right, he approached the Buddha. When the Buddha heard Sundarika’s footsteps, the Buddha uncovered his head and face.

Sundarika thought, “This is a bald-headed man, he has a shaven head!”1and he wanted to turn back.

But a second thought occurred to Sundarika, “Even some priests of brahmin caste are bald headed. Why don’t I go to him and ask about his caste?”

Then Sundarika went up to the Buddha, and asked, “Sir, in what caste were you born?”

The Buddha:

“Don’t ask about somebody’s birth.
Instead, ask about how I live my life.
Any wood can surely generate fire.

“It doesn’t matter if the person
is from either a low caste or high caste family.
If that person is energetic, wise and abstaining from evil
using the shame of wrong doing,
he is a superb individual among people.

“There are noble ones tamed by realizing the truth of life.
They have reached the highest level of realization.
They have completed the spiritual journey.
Gifts should be given to such noble ones who are worthy of offerings.”


“My sacrificial offering must have been well performed,
today I have met such a noble one!
It’s because I’d never met anyone like you,
that in the past, ordinary ones ate the food of my offering.
Eat, Master Gotama, you are truly a brahmin.”

The Buddha:

“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, Sundarika.
The Buddhas reject gifts earned after uttering stanzas.
Sundarika, 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.”

Sundarika asked, “Then, Master Gotama, to whom should I give the food of this offering?”

“Sundarika, in this world with its gods, Māras, brahmas, and humans, there is no one by whom this milk-rice, if eaten, could be properly digested except by the Buddha or the disciple of the Buddha. Therefore, Sundarika, throw the milk-rice away in a place without grass, or into water where there are no living beings.”

So Sundarika threw the milk-rice into some water with no living beings. The milk-rice, when dropped into the water, hissed and sizzled, smoked and steamed. Just as an iron ball heated all day, when tossed in water, hisses and sizzles, smokes and steams, in the same way the milk-rice, when dropped in the water, hissed and sizzled, smoked and steamed.

Then Sundarika, alarmed, with his hair standing on end, went to the Blessed One, and stood near the Blessed One. The Blessed One said to Sundarika in verse:

“Sundarika, do not think that you can purify your life
by burning wood. It is just an external burning.
Skilled noble ones do not approve of such a purification.

“I have given up burning wood.
Sundarika, I kindle the light within my self.
It is the constant light of wisdom.
My mind is always concentrated.
I live my enlightened life with a liberated mind.

“Sundarika, you’re burdened by the conceit of your ascetic possessions.
Your life smokes in anger and leaves the ashes of lies.
Your tongue is the spoon used at the sacrifice of offerings.
However, the light should be kindled in your heart. A well-trained mind shines brightly.

“Sundarika, the Dhamma of the Buddha is the lake with the shores of virtue.
Living with a still mind is always praised by the noble people.
Those skilled Dhamma practitioners bathe in that lake.
They cross to the far shore without getting wet.

“Sundarika, a person becomes noble by practising the good qualities
such as truth, noble Dhamma, restraint of life, and celibacy that is based on the noble path.
Therefore, you should worship noble ones who possess virtuous qualities.
I call such a person ‘the one who follows the Dhamma.’”

When the Buddha taught this Dhamma Sundarika 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 Sundarika 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 Sundarika Bhāradvāja became one of the enlightened monks.

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Saṁyutta Nikāya 7.9 Sundarika Sutta: Sundarika

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