At one time when the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi, a wanderer named Pasūra was a great debater. He claimed to be the best debater in the whole of India (Jambudīpa). Wherever he went he set up a rose-apple (jambu) branch as a banner, challenging anyone who would debate with him to knock it down. On his return from almsround in Sāvatthi, the Venerable Sāriputta saw the branch, and told some village boys to knock it down. Then he returned to his dwelling. Pasūra, on returning from almsround and finishing his meal, went to that place and was delighted to learn that it had been broken down by the chief disciple of the Buddha, so he would have an opportunity to exhibit his wisdom by defeating the chief disciple in debate. He entered Sāvatthi to bring some judges and inform the people, and a great crowd of believers and non-believers set out for the monastery in Prince Jeta’s grove.
To avoid bringing a great crowd into the monastery, the Venerable Sāriputta had a seat set up at the gateway. The wanderer approached the elder, asking: “Were you friend the monk (pabbajita) who broke my banner?” The elder replied that he did. “Then let us have some discussion. You, monk, ask, I will answer.” Then the elder said, “Which is harder, to ask questions, or to answer them?” “Friend monk, to answer questions is harder than asking. One who asks can ask whatever he wants.” “Then, wanderer, you ask, I will answer.”
When this was said the wanderer thought, “This bhikkhu is worthy of breaking my banner,” and asked the elder, “What is a man’s sensuality (Ko purisassa kāmo’ti)?”
The elder said, “Lustful thought is a man’s sensuality (Saṅkapparāgo purisassa kāmo’ti).
Disturbed at the elder’s reply, wishing to get the better of him, he said, “Then, friend, you do not state that manifold beautiful objects are a man’s sensuality?”
“That is correct, wanderer, I do not state that.”
Then that wanderer having confirmed the answer three times, turned to the judges: “Listen, friends, this is the error in this recluse’s view.” [Turning to the elder] he interrogated him saying: “Friend monk, do your fellow monks dwell in the forest?”
“Yes, wanderer, they do.”
“Do those who are dwelling there have sensual thoughts?”
“Yes, wanderer. Those who are ordinary persons have sensual thoughts.”
“Then do they have the nature of recluses? Are they not householders who enjoy sensual pleasures?” Having spoken thus, he said further:
“You state that manifold beautiful objects are not sensuality, but sensual thoughts are.
Thinking unwholesome thoughts, a bhikkhu would be one who enjoys sensual pleasures.”
Then the elder pointed out the error in the wanderer’s view: “Do you say, wanderer, that lustful thought is not a man’s sensuality, but that manifold beautiful objects are?”
“Yes, friend monk, I do.”
Then the elder, having made the wanderer confirm the answer three times, he turned to the judges: “Listen, friends, this is the error in the wanderer’s view. [Turning to the wanderer] he interrogated him saying, “Friend Pasūra, do you have a teacher?”
“Yes, monk, I do.”
“Does he see objects with the eye, hear sounds with the ear, and so forth?”
“Yes, monk, he does.”
“Then if so, does he have the nature of a teacher? Is he not a householder who enjoys sensual pleasures?” Have spoken thus, he said further:
“You state that manifold beautiful objects are sensuality, but sensual thoughts are not.
Then seeing pleasant objects, hearing pleasant sounds, smelling pleasant odours, tasting pleasant flavours, touching pleasant contacts, your teacher is a householder who enjoys sensual pleasures.”
When this was said the wanderer had nothing to say, thinking: “This monk is a great debater, having gone-forth in his presence I will train myself in the teacher’s doctrine.” He entered Sāvatthi to get a bowl and robes, then entered Prince Jeta’s grove. There, having seen the golden complexion, graceful movements and gestures of Venerable Lāḷudāyī, thinking: “This bhikkhu is very wise and a great debater,” he went forth in his presence, and defeated him in debate. Clad in the robes, he left for the place of the heretics and announced: “I will debate with the recluse Gotama.” He then went to Prince Jeta’s grove followed by a large multitude. The deity guarding the gate of Prince Jeta’s grove thinking: “He is incapable,” bound his mouth shut. Having approached the Blessed One he sat like a mute. The people who thought: “Now he will ask,” seeing him with his face downcast made a great noise: “Speak, friend Pasūra, speak.” Then the Blessed One, having said, “What can Pasūra say?” gave this discourse to the assembled multitude.
“Only here is purity,” they declare, “Purity is not in the teachings of others,” they say.
Whatever they depend on, they say is excellent and thus have settled on diverse truths.
“Desiring debate, entering into an assembly, they call each other fools;
Boasting about their clung to doctrines, desiring praise, calling themselves the experts.
“Ready to speak in the midst of a gathering, wishing for praise, he fears defeat.
If refuted he is discontented and seeks faults in others, being agitated.
“When his view is refuted by the judges,
he laments and grieves his inferior argument crying, ‘He has defeated me!’
“These disputes arise among recluses, resulting in victor or defeat.
Seeing this, avoid disputing. There is no benefit other than gaining praise.“
“He who is praised in the midst of an assembly, having successfully defended his view,
Will be elated and haughty, having attained what he wished.
“That elation is the basis for his downfall; still he talks with pride and excessive conceit.
Seeing this, avoid disputing; the skilful do not say that purity is achieved by that.
“Like the king’s champion nourished by good food, goes out roaring, seeking for a rival.
Where there is a rival you may go there, here is nothing left to fight over.
“Those who grasp a doctrine and argue that it alone is the truth,
You may debate with them, but here there is no opponent to dispute with.
“Those who wander without any enemy, who do not oppose one doctrine with another,
What would you gain from them, Pasūra? They who grasp nothing as the highest.
“You have come speculating, thinking about different views,
However, with one who is purified, it is not possible for you to proceed.”