DiscoverDhammagiri Buddhist PodcastsThe Buddha and the Leper | SUTTA EXPLORATION Udana 5.3
The Buddha and the Leper | SUTTA EXPLORATION Udana 5.3

The Buddha and the Leper | SUTTA EXPLORATION Udana 5.3

Update: 2021-12-23
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Ajahn Dhammasiha presents and comments on a sutta in Udāna, one of the oldest and most authentic parts of the Pali Canon.

A poor, despised sufferer of leprosy approaches a large crowd where the Buddha is teaching, hoping to beg for some food.

However, he ends up listening to the Buddha, and is the only one in the whole crowd to realize the Dhamma, attaining Stream-entry (Sotāpatti), the first stage of enlightnment.

Later, the Buddha reveals the karmic cause for his leprosy: In a past life, out of contempt he had insulted the Paccekabuddha Tagarasikhi, and even spat at him, thinking "Who is this leper prowling about and begging?"

As a result of that deed he was first reborn in hell, and after returning to the human world, the remainder of that karma was the cause for him developing leprosy.

This Sutta teaches us how dangerous apparently minor actions actually can be, like contempteous remarks, or arrogant rejection of socially stigmatised persons.


For instance, many are lacking awareness how much karma one can potentially make on social media. Despising or riviling others in tweets, on TikTok, facebook shares, youtube comments and so on can constitute significant bad karma, and we need mindfulness and restraint to guard against that danger.

The story also shows that social standing and spiritual Pārami can differ dramatically: In this case, the most socially rejected and despised actually turned out to be the spiritual most mature one. We should exercise utmost caution not to misjudge or disdain anyone just by external appearance, or due to disapproval by society.


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The Buddha and the Leper | SUTTA EXPLORATION Udana 5.3

The Buddha and the Leper | SUTTA EXPLORATION Udana 5.3