One Morning Phra Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant went for an alms round in Savatee City and saw a Brahmin named Sangarava who believed that to be pure from all sins one had to wash oneself three times a day in the ganger river i.e. morning, noon and evening. People can do away with the evening sin with morning wash, and morning sin with noon wash and the sin committed from noon to evening was washed away with evening shower in the river. It is also believed that the ganger river flowed from the heaven and by the head of the god Shiva. The water didn’t only purify sinful people but could heal disease and if they are to die they would be united with their god.
As such it was normal to see yogis and other ascetics tortured themselves with strange and different means along both ganger riverbanks according to their belief and views in order to be connected with their gods.
Some sleep on thorny beds, some cover themselves with ashes, some stood on one leg and open their mouth for a long time, some held onto a branch and let their nails grow to the point that they could pierce their palms, some worship the fire or the sun.
However there were lots of yogis who through their practices attained trances until they could see the past and the future. Some became psychic and could read people’s mind and could answer questions that people have in their mind.
Phra Ananda reported to the Lord Buddha about Sangarava Brahmin who had a routine of having a bath in the ganger river.
Exalted one Sangaravah Brahmin is now an old man, he still listens to others. Due to his old belief he therefore doesn’t know the right practice. With your limitless compassion can your lord help him?
The Lord Buddha accepted his request by remaining silent
The next morning the Lord Buddha went to see the Brahmin and asked him:
“Brahmin do you still wash yourself three times a day in the Ganger river?”
Respectfully the Brahmin replied:
“Yes, Sir I still do it”
“ What benefit do you see to have a bath only in the Ganger river but not somewhere else. Please don’t feel that I am interfering with your private life”.
The Brahmin replied with confidence:
“Phra Gotama, I have heard since I was young that theGangerRiveris sacred and can help cleansing all sins because it flowed down the head of Shiva’s head. This is a heavenly river. This is the practice that had been observed by my ancestors and I believe that it could really cleanse all sins.
The Lord talked to the Brahmin with a gentle and friendly voice. Please think that we are exchanging knowledge may I ask you is the sin in the body or mind?”
“ Of course in the mind Phra Kotama”
“when you have a shower to cleanse the body does the water get through to the mind”
“But Phra Gotama the water from theGangerRiveris not ordinary water it is sacred and it is believe that it can cleanse the sin”
“ Do you think our belief can change the truth?”
“ No Sir. Belief can not change the truth, it is as it is no matter whether we believe or not”.
So you agree that no belief can change the truth. But is it true that theGangerRivercan cleanse the sin like you believe.
Listen Brahmin, if a man is lost in the forest and he is heading to the East because he believes it is but in reality it is West, his belief can not change the direction. It is similar to Brahmins who believed that theGangerRiveris sacred and but with their faith they can’t make the water cleanser of the sin,
Behold Brahmin, this is similar to a man with a copper pot that is filthy on the outside and inside. He is trying to clean the pot with lots of water but he only cleans on the outside. So you think that the pot is clean inside as well?.
“ It is impossible Phra Kotama, The man is wasting his energy, he could make the inside of the pot clean. It remains murky as it is.”
“ Behold Brahmin, I say that wrong actions, wrong speech and wrong thoughts caused the flaw to the mind. The mind can only be cleansed by the Dhamma It can not be cleansed with water”.
“Therefore the water from the person who has pure actions, pure speech and pure thought is sacred”
“Come Brahmin come and have a shower in our Dhamma disciplines that are profound and pure, that have the precepts as the shoreline and that are praised by pundit. All knowers loved to take a shower with it and could reach the other shore without being blemished.”
As the Lord explained, the Brahmin said joyfully: Most excellent, Lord! Most excellent! Just as one might set up what was thrown down, or were to reveal which was hidden away, or point out the right road to him who had gone astray, or might bring a lamp into the darkness so that they who have eyes could see external forms. So I, Lord, go to the Lordas refuge and to Dhamma and to the Bikkhu-sangha . Lord, may the exalted one accept me as a lay disciple gone for refuge from this day forth as long as life lasts.