4. Catukka Nipāta
III. Uruvelā Vagga
The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha
IV. The Book of the Fours
Dutiya Uruvelā Suttaɱ
Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
© 2012 Bhikkhu Bodhi
Boston, MA 02115
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Then a number of brahmins, old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage, approached me and exchanged greetings with me.
When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, they sat down to one side and said to me:
"We have heard, Master Gotama:
'The ascetic Gotama does not pay homage to brahmins who are old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage; nor does he stand up for them or offer them a seat.'
This is indeed true, for Master Gotama does not pay homage to brahmins who are old, aged, burdened with years, advanced in life, come to the last stage; nor does he stand up for them or offer them a seat.
This is not proper, Master Gotama."
"It then occurred to me:
'These venerable ones do not know what an elder is or what the qualities that make one an elder are.
Even though someone is old — eighty, ninety, or a hundred years from birth — if he speaks at an improper time, speaks falsely, speaks what is unbeneficial, speaks contrary to the Dhamma and the discipline; if at an improper time he speaks such words as are worthless, unreasonable, rambling, and unbeneficial, then he is reckoned as a foolish [childish] elder.
"But even though someone is young, a youth with black hair, endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life, if he speaks at a proper time, speaks what is truthful, speaks what is beneficial, speaks on the Dhamma and the discipline; if at a proper time he speaks such words as are worth recording, reasonable, succinct, and beneficial, then he is reckoned as a wise elder.
"There are, bhikkhus, these four qualities that make one an elder.
(1) "Here, a bhikkhu is virtuous; he dwells restrained by the Pātimokkha, possessed of good conduct and resort, seeing danger in minute faults. Having undertaken the training rules, he trains in them.
(2) "He has learnt much,  remembers what he has learnt, and accumulates what he has learnt.
Those teachings that are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with the right meaning and phrasing, which proclaim the perfectly complete and pure spiritual life — such teachings as these he has learnt much of, retained in mind, recited verbally, investigated with the mind, and penetrated well by view.
(3) "He is one who gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life.
(4) "With the destruction of the taints, he has realized for himself with direct knowledge, in this very life, the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom; and having entered upon it, he dwells in it.
"These are the four qualities that make one an elder."
The dullard with a restless mind
who speaks much chatter,
his thoughts unsettled,
delighting in a bad teaching,
holding bad views, disrespectful,
is far from an elder's stature.
But one accomplished in virtue,
learned and discerning,
self-controlled in the factors of firmness,
who clearly sees the meaning with wisdom;
gone beyond all phenomena,
not barren, discerning;
who has abandoned birth and death,
consummate in the spiritual life,
in whom there are no taints —
he is the one I call an elder.
With the destruction of the taints
a bhikkhu is called an elder.