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Sarabha

A wanderer (paribbājaka) who joined the Order and soon after left it. He then went about proclaiming in Rājagaha that he knew the Dhamma and Vinaya of the monks, and that was why he had left their Order. The Buddha, being told of this, visited the Paribbājakārāma, on the banks of the Sappinī, and challenged Sarabha to repeat his statement. Three times the challenge was uttered, but Sarabha sat silent. The Buddha then declared to the paribbājakā that no one could say that his claim to Enlightenment was unjustified, or that his Dhamma, if practised, did not lead to the destruction of suffering. After the Buddha’s departure, the paribbājakā taunted and abused Sarabha (A.i.185 ff).

It is said (AA.i.412 f) that Sarabha joined the Order at the request of the paribbājakā. They had failed to find any fault with the Buddha’s life, and thought that his power was due to a mystic formula (āvattanīmāyā), which he and his disciples practised once a fortnight behind closed doors. Sarabha agreed to find it out and learn it. He therefore went to Gijjhakūṭa, where he showed great humility to all the resident monks. An elder, taking pity on him, ordained him. In due course he learned the Pāṭimokkha, which, he realised, was what the paribbājakā took to be the Buddha’s “magic.” Having learned it, he went back to the paribbājakā, taught it to them, and with them went about in the city boasting that he knew the Buddha’s teaching and had found it worthless.

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