The Buddha His Life & Teachings

By Venerable Piyadassi Thera

True Purification

In the understanding of things, neither belief nor fear plays any role in Buddhist thought. The truth of the Dhamma can be grasped only through insight, never through blind faith, or through fear of some known or unknown being.

Not only did the Buddha discourage blind belief and fear of an omnipotent God as unsuitable approaches for understanding the truth, but he also denounced adherence to unprofitable rites and rituals, because the mere abandoning of outward things, such as fasting, bathing in rivers, animal sacrifice, and similar acts, does not tend to purify a man or make a man holy and noble.

We find this dialogue between the Buddha and the brahmin Sundarika Bhâradvâja: Once the Buddha, addressing the monks, explained in detail how a seeker of deliverance should train himself, and further added that a person whose mind is free from taints, whose life of purity is perfected, and the task done, could be called one who bathes inwardly.

Then Bhâradvâja, seated near the Buddha, heard these words and asked him:

“Does the Venerable Gotama go to bathe in the river Bâhuka?”
“Brahmin, what good is the river Bâhuka? What can the river Bâhuka do?”
“Indeed, Venerable Gotama, the river Bâhuka is believed by many to be holy. Many people have their evil deeds (pâpa) washed away in the river Bâhuka.”

Then the Buddha made him understand that bathing in rivers would not cleanse a man of his dirt of evil, and instructed him thus:

“Bathe just here (in this Doctrine and Discipline, Dhamma-vinaya), brahmin, give security to all beings. If you do not speak falsehood, or kill or steal, if you are confident, and are not mean, what does it avail you to go to Gayâ (the name of a river in India during the time of the Buddha)? Your well at home is also a Gayâ.”n39