DN 5 Kuttadanta Sutta (A discourse on the right and wrong sacrifice)
Thus have i heard.
Once buddha with the company of 500 monks arrived at a Brahmin village called Khanumata where he stayed at the Ambalatthika park. At that time, there was a Brahmin called Kutadanta and this discourse recorded what was conversed between him and the Buddha. Kutadanta was living in a beautiful house given to him by King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha. Kutadanta was in the midst of planning a great sacrifice of 700 bulls, 700 bullocks, 700 heifers, 700 goats and 700 rams.
Kutadanta heard of Buddha's arrival at Khanumata and knew he was a great teacher of devas and humans and knew he taught the dhamma that is lovely in its beginning, lovely in its middle and lovely in its ending. So he decided to pay a visit to the Buddha. The rest of the brahmins knowing this advised him not to as this will result in his reputation to drop and that of Ascetic Gotama (Buddha) to increase; they said buddha should visit Kutadanta instead.
However Kutadanta defended the Buddha and explained to them why it is more fitting for the brahmins to go to the buddha to learn from him. So he made his way together with other brahmins to visit the buddha with an intention to ask buddha how to conduct a successful triple sacrifice with the 16 requisites.
After exchanging courtesies, Kutadanta asked Buddha to explain how to conduct the triple sacrifice with the 16 requisites. Buddha explained that there was once a king called Mahavijita who was very rich with lots of possessions and treasures. The King Mahavijita thought of conducting a sacrifice to benefit himself and to bring himself happiness; hence he asked his prime minister how to do it.
The prime minister replied:" The country is manifested with thieves, some villages are destroyed,the countryside is infested with robbers hence the countrymen is unhappy and poor. Should the king tax the people now, it will be inappropriate. Also if the king were to eliminate the robbers by executions or imprisonment; the problem will not be completely resolved. Those who survive the ordeal will seek revenge on the King. But we can solve poverty and thefts by providing grains and cattle to farmers, provide capital to the traders to aid their business and give reasonable wages to those who are serving the government. By doing so, everyone will have proper right livelihood, adequate wages to escape poverty and they will not harm the kingdom and they will not steal. Then the kingdom will be safe, revenues will be high and people will be happy. " The king accepted the prime minister's advice and the kingdom is in peace.
The king then said since the kingdom is peaceful now, he can make the sacrifice with 16 requisites for lasting benefits and happiness to himself now. The prime minister then explained what are the 16 requisites which do not involve any killing of living beings.
The king of four divisions of people under him: the nobles (Khattiyas), officials (advisers and counselors), Brahmins (priests), and householders. That makes up four articles of furniture.
The king had eight personal qualifications himself: The king is well-born on both sides, he is handsome, he is wealthy, he is powerful with 4 branched army (elephants, cavalry, chariots & infantry), he is generous to ascetics, he is learned, he is a wise scholar and he knew the meaning of whatever is said.
His advising Brahmin had four personal qualifications and this make up the total of the sixteen requisites required for sacrifice: His brahmin is well born, he is a scholar versed in mantras, he is virtuous and he is learned with great wisdom.
The prime minister then taught the king the three “modes” which simply are the three conditions of mind at three different times: the harboring of no regret before, harboring of no regret during, or harboring of no regret after the sacrifice, at the expenditure involved.
The prime minister then further cleared the king's doubts on what's more beneficial than carrying out a sacrifice. One who has right view and follows the five precepts : abstain from killing, abstain from lying, abstain from stealing, abstain from sexual misconduct and abstain from intoxicants will have more benefits than carrying out many sacrifices.
Hence after the prime minister's advise, no animals were slaughtered, no trees were cut down for sacrificial posts, no grasses were cut for the ritual site or vegetable, is injured. All the labor involved is voluntary and no slaves or servants were forced to work by force. Only ghee, oil, butter, curds, honey and sugar were used (somewhat vegetarian). The expenditure involved were sponsored by the wealthy khattiyas, counselors, influential brahmins and wealthy householders; no money were used from taxation of the countrymen.
At the end of this explanation given by the Buddha, the brahmins present applauded on how splendid it was to conduct a sacrifice this way which is very different from the way the brahmins conduct the usual sacrifice (involving slaughtering of animals, cutting down of trees and spending lots of money). Brahmin Kutadanta then asked Buddha how he knew how this sacrifice was conducted and asked if Buddha was present at the time of King Mahavijita. Buddha replied that he was actually the prime minister who advised King Mahavijita in his previous life. Hence this sutta maybe a Jataka story.
Kutadanta once again asked Buddha: "Is there any simpler, more fruitful and profitable thing to do than this sacrifice with 16 attributes?". Buddha replied: " There is, brahmin. That is generosity and donating to virtuous ascetics and the needy. It is better to give DANA (charity) than to waste money setting up the sacrifice. "
Kutadanta asked again :" What is more profitable than the above?". Buddha replied :" There is, brahmin. That is to provide shelter / accommodation for the Sangha (monks). "
Kutadanta asked again :" What is more profitable than the above?". Buddha replied :" There is, brahmin. That is if someone with a pure heart to go to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha for refuge. "
Kutadanta asked again :" What is more profitable than the above?". Buddha replied :" There is, brahmin. That is for someone with a pure heart to take 5 precepts : abstain from killing, abstain from lying, abstain from stealing, abstain from sexual misconduct and abstain from intoxicants."
Kutadanta asked again :" What is more profitable than the above?". Buddha replied :" There is, brahmin. A Tathagata, an arahant, a fully enlightened buddha has arisen in this world and endowed with conduct and wisdom; he taught the dhamma to the humans and devas the path to end suffering which is the noble eightfold path to nibbana. The buddha taught the dhamma that is lovely in its beginning, lovely in its middle and lovely in its ending.
A disciple should practices morality ( right speech, right action, right livelihood and observe the 5 precepts ) and guard the sense doors. The five precepts refer to abstinence from killing, abstain from lying, abstain from stealing, abstain from intoxicants and abstain from sexual misconduct. The disciple through discipline and practice; attains the 4 Jhanas ( meditative adsorptions), develops various insights , achieve cessation of the corruptions (taints) . Then he develops wisdom ( panna). He knows there is nothing in this world.
So Brahmin, by following the noble eightfold path, understanding the four noble truths, learning the dhamma and practicing meditation; this is greater and more perfect, more profitable and more fruitful than any other sacrifices." Brahmin Kutadanta praised buddha for his excellent explanation and teaching; describing it as pointing out the way to one who had got lost. He went to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha for refuge and asked Buddha to allow him to be a lay-follower. He then set free the 700 bulls, 700 bullocks, 700 heifers, 700 goats and 700 rams instead of slaughtering them for the sacrifice.
Buddha further delivered discourses covering generosity, morality, on heaven, the danger of sense desires and the benefits of renunciation to Kutadanta. When Kutadanta's mind was ready, free from hindrances and calm; buddha further delivered a teaching of the dhamma in brief which covers the four noble truths (suffering, origin of suffering, cessation of suffering and the noble eightfold path) . Just like a cloth with all stains removed; brahmin kutadanta had the pure and spotless dhamma eye and he knew " whatever things have an origin must come to cessation. (impermanence)". He invited Buddha over to his place for meal the next day as dana.
Moral of story: instead of the bloody sacrifice that were usually practiced by brahmins back in that era, Buddha taught of a bloodless sacrifice to the brahmin. Buddha also emphasized being virtuous, observing the five precepts, practicing meditation, providing the 5 requisites to the sangha and learning the dhamma brings more joy and benefit than any sacrifices. Hence this sutta is also called the discourse on "Bloodless sacrifice".
References: 1. www.accesstoinsight.org 2. https://suttacentral.net/ 3. The long discourses of the Buddha (Bhikkhu Bodhi)