Be a Dignified Disciple
Disciples of the Supreme Buddha are divided into two main groups. The first group consists of monks and nuns, and the second group consists of lay people. These disciples have gone for refuge only to the Noble Triple Gem. Disciples of the Supreme Buddha are not like ordinary people who go for refuge to various beliefs based on blind faith.
Disciples of the Supreme Buddha are full of confidence in the realization of the Buddha (Saddhā). They are wise, brave, and dignified. They do not possess cowardly and weak personalities that wilt and bend over in the face of various other false beliefs. They do not have a slimy nature that wavers from one belief to another.
During the time of the Supreme Buddha, the invasions from other religions were more powerful than seen in the present day. Religious leaders with false views such as Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta always tried to weaken disciples who had gone for refuge to the Noble Triple Gem. However, it was impossible for them to realize their lowly aims. The only reason for this was that disciples of the Buddha were so well established in the refuge of the Triple Gem, with spiritual strength and unshaken confidence similar to a stone post planted deep in the ground standing unshaken by the wind.
What we need today are such dignified disciples, both monks and laity. We do not need people who pursue horoscopes and auspicious times, make various offering and pray fervently at Kovils and temples, and run around aimlessly with fearful minds. Such people are useless for the country and themselves. Monks and laity, who bend over when then see a pastor, lebbe, or priest, bring harm to the Supreme Buddha’s dispensation, and will never bring benefit and well-being.
The Nigaṇṭha Sutta, in the Cittasaṁyutta of the Connected Discourse of the Buddha, contains a wonderful account of an incident we can take inspiration from. It describes the exemplary and dignified personality of a disciple of the Supreme Buddha.
His name was Chitta. He was foremost in wisdom among the lay disciples of the Supreme Buddha. Citta was a non-returner and extremely well-versed in the Dhamma. He lived in the village of Macchikāsanda.
One day, Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta came to this village with a large group of nigaṇṭhas. Citta the householder went to meet Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta. On that occasion, Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta asked Chitta an interesting question, “Do you have faith in the ascetic Gotama when he says that there is a concentration without thought and examination, there is a cessation of thought and examination?”
One thing is clear from this question. It is that Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta did not even accept the second jhāna. Thought and examination are stilled in the second jhāna. The response of Citta, the householder stumped Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta.
“Sir, I do not go by faith in the Blessed One when he says ‘there is a concentration without thought and examination, there is a cessation of thought and examination”
When he heard this, Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta was delighted. He said aloud to his followers, “See this, my friends, how straightforward Citta the householder is! How honest and without deception! One who thinks that thought and examination can be stopped might imagine he could catch the wind in a net or stop the current of the river Ganges with his fist.”
Then Chitta the householder asked Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta a question, “Well Sir, what do you think is superior, knowledge or faith?”
“Householder, knowledge is superior to faith.”
“Sir, I have the ability, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, to enter and dwell in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. I have the ability to still thought and examination, to enter and dwell in the second jhāna with rapture born of concentration. I have the ability to enter and dwell in the third and fourth jhānas. Since I know and see very well about jhānas, why should I have faith in any other ascetic or brahmin regarding the claim that there is a concentration without thought and examination, a cessation of thought and examination?”
When he heard this, Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta was furious. He started screaming.
“See, how crooked Citta the householder is! How fraudulent and deceptive he is?”
Citta the householder was not disturbed. He replied calmly to Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta.
“Just now, Sir, you said ‘See this, my friends, how straightforward Citta the householder is! How honest and without deception!’
Now you are saying ‘See, how crooked Citta the householder is! How fraudulent and deceptive he is!’
Sir, if your former statement is true, then your latter statement is false. If your latter statement is true, then your former statement is false.”
“Sir, there are ten reasonable questions. One day when you understand their meaning you will come to me with your group of nigaṇṭhas. It is like this: One question, one topic, one answer. Two questions, two topics, two answers. Three … Four … Five … Six … Seven … Eight … Nine … Ten questions, ten topics, ten answers.”
Then Citta the householder rose from his seat and left without having asked Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta these ten reasonable questions.
Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta and his followers remained, with shoulders drooped. Be like Chitta the householder! Be brave and unshaken in the face of false views and other beliefs! Clearly display that you are firmly established in the Noble Triple Gem!
Venerable Kiribathgoda Gnānānanda Thera