5. Kutadanta Sutta

Kutadanta’s Question

Brahman Kutadanta is prepaing to perform an abundant sacrifice. A lot of bulls, cows, goats and rams are brought to the sacrificial pillar. However, the Brahman wants to know from the Buddha what sacrifice will be the most successful. Therefore, accompanied by other Brahmans, he goes to the Blessed. Approaching the Buddha and sitting beside, Kutadanta asks him his question.

The Buddha’s story about the King and the wise Brahman priest

The Buddha tells him that in ancient times there was a rich and powerful king Maha Vijita who, for the sake of reaching the heavenly worlds, decided to make an abundant offering and, in order to accomplish this, he addressed his Brahman Priest. The Brahman priest, in response, drew the king’s attention to the fact that robbery and poverty prevailed in his country. If the king began to think about demanding tribute (for sacrifice) in a country that is anxious and oppressive, then he did what is not to be done. Instead, the king should give all his people an opportunity to ensure their livelihood and subsistence. For farmers – their grain; for merchants – cash; for those who are in the king’s service – all necessary provision; so, without depriving citizens of fruits of their labor, and allowing them to possess all that is necessary, the king would stop their inclinations to engage in brigandage and robbery. Then, rejoicing, dancing with the children in their arms, all people would live happily without locking their houses’ doors.

The king followed the advice and soon his country began to flourish. Then once again, the king asks the priest to prepare a sacrifice. The priest offers the king to obtain the consent of his citizens, and they approve of the idea of offerings. The priest then teaches the king to get rid of the regret that people of different qualities would come to the sacrifice ceremony: those who are merciful and those who kill sentient beings; those who refuse what is not given to them, and those who take what is not given to them; restrained and insatiable in search for sensual pleasures; truthful and slanderers; soft and rough in speech; serious and frivolous; non-greedy and greedy; benevolent and spiteful. Let those whose qualities are evil remain with that; the king should direct his thoughts and mercy to those who are endowed with good qualities.

So, having obtained the consent of his citizens and having prepared, the king announces about the forthcoming offering. Brahmans and Kshatriyas, wealthy townspeople and villagers bring the king their share for the sacrifice, but the king refuses to accept their gifts, saying that thanks to their taxes, he has already collected great wealth – let them take what they offered and even more – from his wealth. Residents reflect on the fact that they should not take back their gifts and decide, following the king’s example, to make their own offerings.

After this, the Brahman priest explains to the King that a good offering is an offering, which is made without killing creatures, without cutting down trees and destroying plants, without forcing slaves and servants to act with beating or threats – so that only those who want to work will work. The offering itself should be made only with purified cow butter (ghee), sesame oil, fresh butter, curd cheese, honey and molasses.

The second question of Kutadanta

The Brahmans rejoice when they hear the story of the Buddha; Kutadanta remains deeply thoughtful and expresses an assumption that Buddha was one of the heroes of this story: either the King or the wise Brahman priest. The Buddha confirms that at that time He was the Brahman priest. After this, Kutadanta asks the Buddha to say whether there is an offering that is better, giving a finer fruit than offering of the King Maha Vijita.

The Buddha’s answer

The Buddha answers this question in the affirmative. He explains that those who give constant alms to hermits and those who build monasteries for hermits, get more refined fruits (hermits do not approach usual sacrifices because of the use of violence in their preparation). Kutadanta continues to inquire whether there is the best sacrifice, and again receives the affirmative answer: the best offering is finding the refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and fulfillment of the basic rules of moral self-discipline: refrain from destroying life; do not take what is not given; manage your feelings (rather than serve them); refrain from lie; refrain from inebriation and frivolity.

There is even more beautiful offering: the Buddha describes the stages of overcoming the hindrances (sensory desire, ill will, sloth-torpor, restlessness-worry and doubt). Then the Buddha describes the stages of meditative maturation, right up to the achievement of Wisdom – the destruction of rebirth. This story of the best offering entirely repeats the description of the visible fruits of hermitage in the Samaññaphala Sutta (Digha Nikaya 2).

Kutadanta’s decision

Kutadanta recognizes truth in the Buddha’s words and decides to release all the animals brought to the sacrificial pillar: let them eat green grass, drink cool water, breathe cool breeze. Then, Kutadanta invites the Buddha with his Sangha for a meal next morning. The Blessed silently agrees. And so Kutadanta becomes a layman supporting the Sangha.

Vladimir Pyatsky & Smadar Pyatsky

Translation: Natalia Tsimbler