Yeah, Like Whatever, Mr. Buddha

by | Jul 7, 2024 | Buddhism for All

(Context: Come, See.)

This story occurred not long after the Buddha’s enlightenment.  He had no disciples at this time, and he was walking to where he knew his five former companions were so that he could teach them the Dharma.  On his way, he met his first potential disciple, and that did not go well.

On the road between Uruvelā and Benares, the Buddha met a man called Upaka.  Upaka was immediately impressed, so he stopped the Buddha to ask him, “Friend, your features are serene, your complexion is pure and bright.  Who is your teacher and what is his Dharma?”  The Buddha answered, “I have no teacher, I alone am fully enlightened.”  Upaka said sarcastically, “If that is the case, you must be the Universal Victor (anantajina, a spiritually perfect one).”  The Buddha said, “Yes, I am.”  Upaka said, “So you are.”

Upaka shook his head.  They both continued walking in different directions.[1]

The most striking part of this story is, true to the spirit of ehipassiko (“come, see”), the Buddha did not try to convince Upaka of anything, he just let him continue walking away.  Oh, don’t worry about Upaka, he eventually figured it out and became a disciple of the Buddha.

There is a similar modern story from another source told in this way.

Soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,

“My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”


“Are you some sort of a magician or a wizard?”


“Are you a man?”


“Well, my friend, then what are you?”

And the Buddha replied, “I am awake.” [2]

[1] Majjhima Nikāya 26.

[2] Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, Seeking the Heart of Wisdom.  Shambhala (2001).  This story appears to be based on one in Aṅguttara Nikāya 4.36.

Chade-Meng Tan

Meng is an award-winning engineer, international bestselling author, movie producer and philanthropist. His work has been nominated eight times for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Read Meng's story)

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