“He is not thereby just because he hastily arbitrates cases.
The wise man should investigate both right and wrong.”256
Some monks took shelter from a sudden shower of rain in a court, and while there they noticed that certain judges accepted bribes and decided cases unjustly. When they reported this to the Buddha, he uttered the above verses.
“One is not thereby a learned man merely because one speaks much.
He who is secure, without hate, and fearless is called ‘learned’.”258
The Group of Six Monks
The group of six monks called themselves wise and created disorder, bullying other monks and novices. When this was reported to the Buddha he uttered this verse in explanation.
“One is not versed in the Dhamma merely because one speaks too much.
He who hears little and sees the Dhamma within his own body¹
and who does not neglect the Dhamma,
he is versed in the Dhamma.”259
The Elder Ekudāna
An Arahant who knew only one verse lived in a certain forest. When he recited the verse on Uposatha days the deities applauded him. One day, two learned elders came there. The Arahant invited them to teach the Dhamma, saying that deities usually came to listen, but when the two monks preached there was no applause from the deities. Doubting what the resident monk had said, they invited him to teach the Dhamma. When he recited his single verse, the deities applauded as usual. Displeased at this apparent partiality of the deities, they reported these events to the Buddha. The Buddha uttered the above verse in explanation.
“He is not thereby an elder merely because his head is grey.
Ripe is he in age. ‘Old-in-vain’ is he called.”260
“In whom are truth, virtue, harmlessness, restraint and control,
that wise man who is purged of impurities is called an elder.”261
The Elder Lakuṇḍakabhaddiya’s Story
Thirty forest monks who came to see the Buddha saw this young novice leaving. The Buddha asked them whether they had seen an elder. They replied that they had only seen a young novice. The Buddha explained that one who understands the Four Noble Truths is an elder while someone, though with grey hairs, who doesn’t understand the essence is called “old in vain.” Then he uttered the above verse, and the thirty forest monks gained Arahantship.
“Not by mere eloquence, nor by handsome appearance,
does a man become a gentleman, if he is jealous, selfish, and deceitful.”262
The Story of Many Monks
Many young monks and novices showed their respect towards their teachers by performing the duties for them such as dyeing robes. Some elderly monks who were skilled preachers were jealous. With a base motive they approached the Buddha and suggested that he advise those young monks not to rehearse the Dhamma without being corrected by them. Understanding their base intentions, the Buddha uttered the above verses.
“Not by a shaven head does an undisciplined man, who utters lies, become a monk.
How will one who is full of desire and greed be a monk?”264
When defeated in argument, Hatthaka would invite his opponent to meet him at a certain place at an appointed time to resume the discussion. He would then go to there before the appointed time and declare that the absence of the opponent meant acknowledgement of defeat. When this matter was reported to the Buddha he questioned Hatthaka and explained the attitude of a true monk, uttering the above verses.
“He is not thereby a monk merely because he begs from others;
by following the whole code (of morality) one certainly becomes a monk
and not (merely) by such begging.”266
A Certain Brahmin’s Story
A brahmin retired from the world and was living the life of an ascetic begging food. He saw the Buddha and requested him to address him as ”monk” as he also was begging food. The Buddha answered that one does not become a monk merely by begging food.
“Not by silence (alone) does he who is dull and ignorant become a sage;
but that wise man who, as if holding a pair of scales,
embraces the best and shuns evil, is indeed a sage.”268
“For that reason he is a sage.
He who understands, both worlds is, therefore, called a sage.”269
The Non-Buddhist Ascetics
After finishing a meal non-Buddhist ascetics used to offer merit to the donors, but the Buddha’s disciples used to depart in silence. People were offended by this seeming discourtesy. The Buddha thereupon enjoined the monks to offer merit. Then the ascetics were silent, but found fault with the monks for discoursing at length. Thereupon the Buddha explained the attitude of a true sage.
“He is not a Noble One if he harms living beings;
by harmlessness towards living beings is he called ;Noble’.”270
The Fisherman’s Story
A man named Ariya was a fisherman. Knowing that he was ready to attain Stream-winning, the Buddha went to where he was fishing. Seeing the Buddha and the Saṅgha coming, he laid aside his fishing tackle, and stood up. The Buddha asked the leading elders their names, and they replied, “I am Sāriputta,” “I am Moggallāna,” and so on. Then the Buddha asked the fisherman, who replied, “I am Ariya, Venerable sir.” The Buddha said that one is not a Noble One who harms living beings, uttering the above verse. On the conclusion of the verse, the fisherman gained Stream-winning, thus becoming a true Noble One (Ariya).
“Not by mere morality and austerities, nor by much learning,
nor by developing concentration, nor by secluded lodging,
(thinking) ‘I enjoy the bliss of renunciation not resorted to by ordinary people,’
should you rest content without reaching the extinction of the corruptions.”271-272
The Monks Endowed With Lesser Attainments
Some monks who had attained varying degrees of spiritual progress did not strive to become Arahants, thinking that they could become Arahants at any time. Knowing the thoughts in their minds, the Buddha admonished them not to be complacent, advising them that even a little bit of becoming was suffering, just as even a little excrement was of bad smell. On hearing the above verse, the monks attained Arahantship.