Life of the Buddha

(Part One) 31. Sunita, the Scavenger

In Savatthi there was a scavenger named Sunita. He was a road-sweeper and barely earned enough to feed himself. Sunita slept on the roadside, for he did not have a house to go to. He saw other people enjoying themselves but he could not mix with them because these people called him an outcast. Whenever a higher caste person went on the road Sunita had to run and hide so his shadow did not fall on them. If he was not quick enough he would be scolded and beaten. Poor Sunita lived a miserable life.

One day, as he was sweeping a dirty, dusty road, Sunita saw the Buddha with thousands of followers coming towards him. His heart was filled with joy and fear and finding no place to hide he just stood, joining his palms in respect. The Buddha stopped and spoke to poor Sunita in a sweet, gentle voice saying, “My dear friend, would you like to leave this work and follow me?”

Nobody had ever spoken to Sunita like this before. His heart was filled with joy and his eyes with tears. “O, most venerable Sir, I have always received orders but never a kind word. If you accept a dirty and miserable scavenger like me I will follow you.”

So the Buddha ordained Sunita and took him along with the other monks. From that day forth no one knew what Sunita’s caste was, and nobody treated him with disgust and cruelty. Everybody, even kings, ministers and commanders, respected him.