“Long Nails” thought to himself, “Before, my pride was hurt on account of being defeated by my sister. Now, yet again, I undergo humiliation by these people.” On account of these two events, he made a vow to himself, “I will not [even take time to] trim my fingernails. I must exhaustively study all of the Eighteen Classics.” People noticed his fingernails growing long. Because of this they referred to him as the brahmacÁrin “Long Nails.”
By using the power of wisdom derived from all types of classical texts, by using all manner of satirical barbs, [by maintaining that], “This is Dharma,” or that “This is non-Dharma,” “This is admissible,” or “This is inadmissible,” “This is true,” or “This is not true,” “This is existent,” or “This is nonexistent,” this man was able to refute other dialectical positions. He was like a mighty, crazed elephant which blocks and gores, kicks and tramples and which none can bring under control. After the brahmacÁrin “Long Nails” had employed his dialectical strength to smash and overcome all of the dialecticians, he returned to the country of Magadha, to the city of RÁjagàha, to the community of Nara. He went to the place of his birth and asked the people, “Where is the child which my sister bore?”
Someone told him, “When your sister’s son had reached the age of eight he had completely mastered all of the classical texts. When he reached the age of sixteen, he had overcome everyone in debate. There is a man of the Way from the ãÁkya clan named Gautama. [Your nephew] became his disciple.” When Long Nails heard this he became arrogant and incredulous and said, “What sort of trick could he have used to deceive and induce one so intelligent as my nephew to shave his head and become a disciple? Having said this, he proceeded directly to the Buddha’s place.
At this time ãÁriputra (the son of ãÁri) had newly received the precepts [of ordination] but a half-month before. He stood in service at the Buddha’s side and used a fan to fan the Buddha.
The brahmacÁrin Long Nails went to see the Buddha and having made salutations sat to one side and thought, “All treatises can be refuted, all discourse can be devastated, all beliefs can be subverted. What is it in all of this that is the reality mark of all dharmas? What is it that is the ultimate meaning? What is it that is the nature? What is it that is the characteristic? And what is it that is not an inverted view?” He was thinking like this. “[Resolving this quandary] is like seeking to completely reach the far shores and plumb the depths of a great ocean. Even though one may search for a long time, one can’t find a single dharma actually admissible to the mind. What dialectical path did he use to win over my nephew?”
To be continued