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Sudatta, a wealthy merchant, (better known as Anathapindika because of his generosity to the destitute), was visiting his brother-in-law in Savatthi when he noted that a celebration was being organized. When he inquired as to whom they were honouring, he was informed that the Buddha was visiting Savatthi and that the celebrations were in honour of the Exalted One. Upon hearing the name Buddha, Anathapindika became transformed with fervour and vowed to see the Blessed One.
Early next morning he set off to see the Buddha. The Buddha, realizing that His chief lay disciple was on his way to see Him, went to meet Sudatta. Seeing Sudatta in the distance, the Buddha greeted him by name. Realizing that he was in the presence of the Blessed One, Sudatta fell down at the Buddhas feet and honoured Him. Then, overwhelmed by the Buddhas presence, Anathapindika inquired if the Blessed One had slept well. Anathapindika glimpsed the real stature of the Buddha when he heard His reply to this question of courtesy. The Buddha replied:
The Buddha then introduced Anathapindika to the Dhamma by using the method of graduated teaching known as anupubbikatha. He started with generosity and the benefits of giving. He then moved on to virtue and the benefits of virtue, and followed this with the bliss found in the heavenly realms. The Buddha then advised Anathapindika on the perils of vanity and the dangers of sense pleasures and introduced him to renunciation. Then, sensing that Anathapindikas mind was uplifted and serene, the Buddha taught him the Four Noble Truths which are the unique Teaching of every Buddha. On hearing the Buddha, Anathapindika, who was spiritually advanced, reached the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. Inspired and wanting to hear more, Anathapindika invited the Buddha to his brother-in-laws house for His noonday meal.
After the meal Anathapindika questioned the Buddha on a suitable place for His residence. On hearing that the Buddha was seeking a quiet place for His retinue and Himself to spend the rainy season, Anathapindika looked for a suitable park to make available to Him.
The park which Anathapindika chose for the Buddha was the lush garden of Prince Jeta (King Pasenadi Kosalas son). The Prince, however, was not selling his beautiful park. When the persistent Anathapindika would not relent from his request to buy the park, the exasperated Jeta said, "Cover the entire garden with 100,000 gold coins." This was an unreasonably high price even for a park as beautiful as his. To his surprise, Anathapindika accepted and soon carts arrived bearing thousands and thousands of gold coins that he strew all over the garden. His curiosity now aroused, Jeta asked Anathapindika the reason for which he needed the park. On hearing that it was for the Buddha and His retinue he relented and handed over the park to Anathapindika.
The Vinaya Pitaka describes the quarters Anathapindika built as a vast complex with monasteries, attendance halls, meditation cells, bathrooms, lotus ponds and walkways - a beautiful complex that would be worthy of the Buddha. In honour of the two men responsible for the compound, it was named Jetavana Anathapindikarama (Anathapindikas monastery in Jetas grove ). Anathapindika asked the Buddha the appropriate way to gift the monastery to Him. The Buddha then requested Anathapindika to donate the park by dedicating it to the Sangha of the present and the Sangha of the future. The Buddha then encouraged others in the building of monasteries by highlighting the benefits of such a gift to the Sangha. He said:
Anathapindika then provided the Sangha with rice gruel, alms bowls, robes and medicine and invited the monks to his seven-story mansion daily, to partake in the noonday meal. He also provided food and gifts for the townsfolk as part of the great donation. His mansion was thus a blaze of saffron robes enveloped by the soothing and calming Dhamma.
Every time the Buddha visited Savatthi, Anathapindika visited Him. At times, however, the Buddha was in residence elsewhere or was away helping another in distress. Anathapindika approached ananda and informed him of the disappointment of other devotees and himself who came to visit the Buddha. He informed ananda that he would like to build a shrine so that devotees would have a symbol of the Buddha to use to strengthen their minds.
When ananda reported this to the Buddha He said that there were three types of shrines that could be used as a symbol of the Buddha. The first type was generally built after the Buddhas Parinibbana and was a stupa that contained relics of the Blessed One. The second was an object that had a connection with the Enlightened One and had been used by Him such as a robe or an alms bowl. The third was a visible symbol of the Buddha such as a picture or a statue. The first was not appropriate during the lifetime of the Buddha and so it was decided to use an object that had helped the Enlightened One. Statues of the Buddha seem only to have became popular as a symbol worthy of reverence about 300 years after His Parinibbana.
The Bodhi tree in Uruwela, Buddha Gaya, seemed appropriate and so it was decided that a sapling of the tree would be brought and planted in Savatthi. Maha Moggallana, using astral travel, brought the sapling and Anathapindika planted it at the Jetavana Park. Devotees at the time of the Buddha as well as present-day devotees honour the Bodhi Tree as they would honour the Buddha and use this object to strengthen their minds. It should be noted, however, that it is only saplings or branches that are offshoots of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment that are worthy of respect. Buddhists, however, have extended this to other trees of the same species, and made the Bodhi Tree (Religiose Faicaso tree), a symbol of the Buddha and His enlightenment.
Anathapindika and his wife Punnalakkhana had three daughters and one son. Two of his daughters, Big Subhadda and Little Subhadda, followed in their parents footsteps and were devoted disciples of the Buddha. They were both happily married and, like their father, had attained the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. Their youngest daughter Sumana surpassed the others in wisdom and attained the second stage of sainthood, Sakadagami. She did not marry but this was not because she had renounced the lay life. In fact when she saw the happiness of her two elder sisters she was overcome by depression and her spiritual strength could not sustain her. She wasted away, eating hardly anything, and passed away at a young age. She was reborn in the Tusita heaven as a goddess amidst great comfort and pleasures. The text did not specify why she had problems in finding a suitable partner. As arranged marriages were the norm it should not have been difficult to find a suitable partner for one who was so wealthy and spiritually advanced.
Anathapindikas only son, Kala, was known as the dark one. He did not care for the Dhamma but immersed himself completely in affairs of business. He was completely absorbed in accumulating wealth. Anathapindika decided to trick his son into listening to the Buddha. He offered Kala one thousand gold pieces if he would observe the religious holiday with his family. Kala consented and soon found that it was relaxing to take one day off from business in the company of his family to observe religious rites. Then his father offered him another thousand gold pieces if he would visit the Buddha at the monastery, listen to the Dhamma, and learn a stanza of the Dhamma.
Kala agreed. He went to the monastery, saluted the Buddha respectfully and sat down to listen to the Dhamma. The Buddha, realizing that Kala was spiritually ready for the Dhamma, used His powers to make him misunderstand what he had learned. Just as Kala thought that he had mastered the teaching he had a doubt. He listened repeatedly with keen attention. Before long Kala was inspired by the Dhamma. He listened, enraptured by the teaching, and attained Sotapanna. After this he too, like his father, was absorbed in the practice of generosity and the Dhamma and was often called Little Anathapindika.
Anathapindika, who was totally committed to the Dhamma, influenced many persons to follow the Buddha by his example. He did not force his ideas or beliefs on them, but seeing his devotion, kindness and generosity, many of his friends and business associates adopted his ways. His home became a centre of generosity and kindness and his example spread to the surrounding areas.
The Buddha spent sixteen of the forty-five rainy seasons at the Jetavana Monastery in Savatthi. Because of this, many significant events took place and many discourses were dispensed by the Buddha at the Jetavana. When the Buddha was in residence Anathapindika visited the monastery twice a day to hear the Dhamma. He did not, however, feel that he should get any special treatment from the Buddha because he was His chief male lay benefactor. As such he often visited the Buddha and sat quietly awaiting instruction from the Buddha without question. If the Buddha was not forthcoming with the Dhamma he would relate an incident from his life and his response to it and wait for the Buddha to comment on the appropriateness of his actions. In this way Anathapindika related the day-to-day happenings to the Dhamma and ensured that he lived the Dhamma in all aspects of his life.
The Buddha often dispensed to Anathapindika teachings suitable for the lay devotees. On one occasion the Buddha dispensed a sutta on the four kinds of bliss to be won by a house- holder. He said they were:
The Buddha also declared to Anathapindika that there were five desirable, pleasant and agreable things to a householder which are rare in this world. They are long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heaven. He then said, "But of these five things, householder, I do not teach that they are to be obtained by prayer or by vows. If one could obtain these by prayers and vows then who would not do so?"
"For a noble householder who wishes to have long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heavenly realm it is not befitting that he should pray for long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heaven or take delight in doing so. He should rather follow a path of life that is conducive to long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heaven. By doing so he will obtain long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heaven". (Anguttara Nikaya)
The Buddha also instructed Anathapindika on the way in which one obtains long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heavenly realm. He said that one obtains these not by prayer but by perfection of confidence (in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha), perfection of virtue, perfection of generosity and perfection of wisdom.
And so we have in simple language a fundamental concept of the Buddhas teaching. The Buddha did not encourage His devotees to pray and take vows. Instead, He encouraged them to lead a moral, virtuous, and generous life in wisdom. The householder would then receive long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in a heavenly realm. The Buddha declared that Devas (Divine beings such as gods and angels) were compassionate beings who enjoyed helping the virtuous just as humans enjoyed doing so. They could not, however, change the kamma of any individual.
The Buddha also explained to Anathapindika the effects of gifts given carelessly and with a lack of respect. The Buddha said: "Whether one gives coarse or choice alms, if one gives without respect and politeness, not with ones own hand, gives only leftovers, and gives without belief in the result of actions, then when one is reborn, as a result of giving alms in this manner, ones heart will have no inclination for fine food and clothing, for fine vehicles, etc. A man will find that his wife, children and servants will not obey him, nor listen to him, nor pay respect to him. And why is that so? It is because that is the result of actions done without respect."
At one time Anathapindika had given all his wealth away and due to some unexpected misfortune did not have rich food as was customary to give to the Sangha and the needy. He continued, however, to give away whatever he had. The Buddha then addressed Anathapindika, who was rich in wisdom, and encouraged him in meditation by explaining the various benefits of wholesome actions. Comparing Anathapindika to a rich merchant named Velama of past eras who was equally generous, the Buddha said: ?More beneficial than large donations to the unworthy would be a single feeding of a noble disciple who is a Sotapanna. And progressively more beneficial than a single feeding of a Sotapanna is the feeding of a noble disciple who has attained Sakadagami, Anagami and Arahanthship. And even more beneficial than alms to a noble disciple who has attained Arahanthship would be the feeding of a Pacceka Buddha. And even more beneficial than feeding a Pacceka Buddha would be the giving of alms and building of monasteries for a Supreme Buddha. But better yet than gifts to the Buddha would be taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in confidence and observing the five precepts to perfection. And still more beneficial than taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and observing the precepts to perfection would be one moment of all-encompassing radiation of compassion and loving-kindness to all living beings. Best of all, however, would be to cultivate, even for the time of a finger snap, insight into the impermanence of all things (insight meditation). And thus the Buddha explained the benefits of wholesome deeds and the supremacy of meditation on insight.
This also illustrates the Buddhas graduated method of teaching where He started a householder on generosity and moved him gradually to virtue, meditation on loving-kindness, and finally to insight. Without first mastering generosity and virtue and the all-encompassing meditation of loving-kindness one cannot contemplate the impermanence of all phenomena, for in the peace and quiet that is required for insight, pangs of conscience and other dark thoughts may arise.
The Buddha emphasized the importance of mental culture on another occasion. Anathapindika, together with one hundred noble men, had visited the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery, saluted Him, and sat respectfully awaiting His Teachings. The Buddha addressed them and said, "Be sure you householders provide the monastic community with clothing, food, shelter and medicine. But you should not be satisfied with that. May you also from time to time strive to enter and abide in the joy of (meditative) seclusion."
The Buddha also emphasized the necessity of virtue before one could embark on mental culture. He said, "If the heart is corrupted then all actions, words, and thoughts are tainted. Such a person will be carried away by his passions and will have an unhappy death just as the gables, rafters and walls of a badly roofed house, being unprotected, will rot when drenched in rain." (Anguttara Nikaya)
On another occasion the Buddha explained to Anathapindika the attainment of Sotapanna, the first stage of sainthood. He explained that when the five fearsome evils have completely disappeared in a person, the four attributes of stream entry are present, and the noble method is wisely understood, a person could regard himself as a Sotapanna. The Buddha then elaborated on this brief statement. He explained that one who kills, steals, indulges in sexual misconduct, tells lies and takes intoxicants generates five fearsome evils both in the present and future and experiences pain and grief in mind. Whosoever keeps away from the five vices, for him the five fearsome evils are eliminated. The person possesses the four attributes of stream entry when he has unshakeable confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, observes the precepts flawlessly and has penetrated the noble method known as the doctrine of dependent origination. (Anguttara Nikaya)
Anathapindika had a long and happy life in the Dhamma. One day when he was sick and in great pain, he requested the monks to visit him at his home. Sariputta and ananda, out of compassion for the great benefactor of the Sangha, visited him. Sariputta calmed Anathapindikas mind by reminding him that he was a Sotapanna, and as such on the path to enlightenment. He could not fall away from the Dhamma or obtain rebirth in one of the unhappy plains.
Through the strength of this contemplation Anathapindika recalled his virtues and his confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. These thoughts relaxed Anatapindikas mind and gave him great happiness. The excruciating pain disappeared.
Anatapindika was nearing death. Having great respect for Sariputta and confidence in him, Anatapindika requested his presence ?out of compassion." Sariputta, accompanied by ananda, gave an inspiring sermon on non-attachment. Anathapindika was moved to tears by the profound discourse, the likes of which he had never heard before. Sariputta then informed him that such profound discourses were usually taught to the Sangha, not to white-clothed lay disciples. Anathapindika then urged Sariputta not to restrict the advanced teachings just to the Sangha. He said, ?Let such talks on the Dhamma be given to white-clad lay disciples also, for there are those with just a little dust in their eyes. If they do not hear such teachings they will be lost. Some may be able to understand.? Shortly after Sariputta and ananda left, Anathapindika died and was reborn in the Tusita heaven as a Deva. His gratitude and reverence for the Buddha were so great that he was drawn to Jetavana where the Buddha was residing. That night he came in splendour to Jetavana to praise the glory of the Buddha, His Teaching, and His chief disciple. Saluting the Buddha he said:
The Buddha declared Anathapindika to be His chief lay male benefactor. His generosity, virtue and exemplary behaviour are an example to all lay disciples. Many Buddhists emulate his lifestyle and use him as a role model.
In the City of Bhaddiya, in the kingdom of Magadha, there lived an extremely rich merchant named Mendaka. In a previous birth, during the time of a famine, he and his family had given their last provisions to a Pacceka Buddha. Resulting from this heartfelt gift, Mendaka and his family, (whom kamma had brought together again) had provisions in their home which could not be exhausted despite the fact that they still continued to practise generosity to the extreme. His son, Dhananjaya, and daughter-in-law, Sumanadevi, had an exquisitely beautiful daughter named Visakha. They lived in extreme wealth and comfort and were well-known for their generosity, which they practised to all.
One day, when Visakha was seven years old, the Buddha visited Bhaddiya with a large retinue of monks. When Mendaka heard of the Buddhas arrival he called his young granddaughter and instructed her to gather her maidservants and go out to greet the Buddha. Visakha did as she was told. She paid homage to the Buddha and prepared to listen to His teaching. The Buddha instructed Visakha on the Dhamma and established her and her entourage of 500 maidservants in the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. Mendaka, his wife, son, daughter-in-law and many other servants of the household who were present, also attained the first stage of sainthood.
The kingdom of Magadha was ruled by the righteous King Bimbisara. King Pasenadi Kosala, feeling that such a generous and well-respected family would be an asset to his kingdom, asked his friend, King Bimbisara, if Dhananjaya and his family would move to Kosala where they could be an example to his subjects. King Bimbisara complied with his friends request. Dhananjaya and his family moved to Kosala where they lived an exemplary life whilst practising the Dhamma. Visakha grew up in luxury with the opportunity to practise generosity and the Dhamma, to which she listened frequently.
At that time, there lived in Savatthi a rich merchant named Migara who had a son named Punnavaddhana. Despite his parents pleas, Punnavaddhana had refused to marry, insisting that his bride should be an exquisite beauty who possessed the five maidenly attributes: beauty of hair, teeth, skin, youth and form. Her hair had to be glossy and thick, reaching down to her ankles. Her teeth had to be white and even like a row of pearls. Her skin had to be of golden hue, soft and flawless. She had to be in the peak of youth, about sixteen. She had to have a beautiful, feminine figure, not too fat and not too thin. Migara, in desperation, sent a team of Brahmins to search throughout the kingdom for one who possessed all of his sons requirements.
At this time, the exquisitely beautiful Visakha, accompanied by her maidservants, was on her way to the river to bathe when they were caught by an unexpected storm. The maids ran for shelter while Visakha walked calmly and gracefully to the shelter. Migaras Brahmins, seeing the graceful Visakha, questioned her as to why she had not run to avoid getting wet. Visakha informed Migaras men that it was not appropriate for a maiden in her fine clothes to run, just as it was not appropriate for a king in royal attire, a royal elephant dressed for the parade, or a serene monk in robes, to run. Pleased with her reply and her exquisite beauty they went back and informed Migara that a suitable bride had been found for Punnavaddhana.
Both families were happy with the arrangement. And so it was that Visakha, with great ceremony, was given in marriage by her father to Punnavaddhana. Her father, who was devoted to her, provided Visakha with many gifts and an exquisite jewelled headdress that reached all the way down her long hair to her feet, as a wedding gift. He also advised her on the appropriate conduct for a married woman. The advice he gave his daughter was as follows:
Whilst this advice that Dhananjaya gave to his daughter would not be acceptable to most modern women, it was what was expected of women at the time of the Buddha. Visakha, who abided by this advice and instruction, was considered a model wife.
As Visakhas beauty and generosity were well-known many well-wishers came to honour the beautiful bride and shower her with gifts. With her love for generosity,Visakha distributed these gifts to the needy in Savatthi. So pleased were the people with her act that she soon became everybodys favourite. As was the custom at that time, Visakha lived with her husbands family.
Visakhas father-in-law, Migara, was a devotee of a clan of naked ascetics. Even though the Buddha and His disciples lived in a monastery close to their home, they were not invited to Migaras house. One day Migara invited the naked ascetics and asked Visakha to attend to their needs. Visakha was horrified at their lack of modesty and refused. This caused much anger among the naked ascetics who condemned Migara for bringing a female devotee of the Ascetic Gotama into his house.
Shortly after this incident, when Migara was eating rich rice pudding in a golden bowl, a Buddhist monk came for alms. Even though Migara could see the monk he ignored him and continued with his meal. Visakha, who was fanning her father-in-law, requested the monk to leave by saying, ?Pass on, Venerable Sir, my father-in-law eats stale food."
Migara, who ate rich, fresh food in a golden bowl, was furious at these words which he felt were an insult. He commanded Visakha to leave his house and go back to her parents. Instead, she called in an independent mediator to judge her conduct. She explained to the adviser that the rich food her father-in-law was eating were benefits resulting from his past good deeds. As such, instead of performing wholesome deeds which would ensure continued prosperity, he was "eating stale fare".
When Migara understood the meaning of Visakhas words he asked her forgiveness. Visakha, however, decided that she no longer wished to live with her husbands family. This was not the first time that she had been accused wrongfully by Migara. She decided to go back to her parents. Migara, who had finally realized the noble qualities of his daughter-in-law, was horrified. He begged her to remain. Visakha agreed to remain if she was allowed to invite the Buddha and His retinue to their home for meals. When Migara agreed, Visakha invited the Buddha and His retinue of monks for their meal and made arrangements for the preparation of rich food.
After the meal the Buddha dispensed the Dhamma. Migara and his wife, who were both spiritually developed as a result of past meritorious effort, both attained the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. After this, Migara, who was deeply grateful to Visakha, called her Migara Mata, or mother of Migara, and respected her as he would his own mother. He also became a devotee of the Buddha.
In great joy, Visakha continued to perform generosity to the Buddha and His retinue of monks. She had ten sons and ten daughters whom she brought up in the Dhamma. Being fond of beautiful clothes and ornaments, Visakha indulged herself, always dressing her best in exquisite garments. One day she accidentally left her priceless jewelled head-dress at the Jetavana, the monastery in which the Buddha was residing. Feeling that an item left in the monastery should not be taken back, she offered it to the Buddha. On being told that priceless treasures were of no value to His retinue of monks, Visakha offered the jewelled head-dress for sale with the idea of building monasteries and providing the requisites with the money generated. Unable to find a buyer who could afford the exquisite jewelled head-dress, she bought it herself and used the money to build the Pubbarama Monastery (also known as the Mansion of Migaras Mother) to support the Buddha and His retinue of monks and nuns.
Visakha was overjoyed with her gift to the Buddha. On the day that she gifted the monastery to the Buddha, she sang songs of joy and walked around the Pubbarama together with her children and grandchildren. The Buddha informed the people that Visakha was singing songs of joy because she had just fulfilled an aspiration made many world cycles ago to be the chief female lay disciple of the Buddha.
The Buddha spent nine rainy seasons at the Pubbarama Monastery, during which time He dispensed many Suttas and helped many persons. On one occasion, He was residing at the Pubbarama when a disturbance attracted His attention. He saw a dishevelled Visakha in wet clothes running towards Him in tears. Visakha was bathing in the river when the news of the death of her favourite grandchild, Datta, reached her. Unable to control her grief, she ran to the Buddha for solace and comfort.
The Buddha questioned her as to the cause of Visakhas grief and was told that it was because her beloved grandchild had died. She went on to explain how much happiness the child had brought her. The Buddha then asked her if she would be happy if she had as many grandchildren as there were citizens in Savatthi. Visakha confirmed that she would indeed be very happy as her grandchildren brought her untold happiness. The Buddha then asked Visakha how many of Savatthis citizens died each day. Visakha replied that many died each day. The Buddha then explained to her the impermanence of life. "Death," he said, ?comes to all living beings. Think then how unhappy you will be, for you will have so many more grandchildren, some of whom will die each day. Surely then you will be coming like this to me for comfort many, many more times."
Visakha reflected on the Buddhas words and realized that the stronger her attachment, the greater would be her grief at separation. Understanding through realization that all component things are impermanent, she composed herself and left the Buddha. Visakha was able to understand this because she had reached the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna, at a young age after listening to the Buddhas teaching.
Visakha also helped many noble ladies in the Dhamma. Once when she took a large gathering of ladies to hear the Dhamma she was horrified to see that they had consumed large quantities of intoxicants and behaved in an unladylike manner. She then asked the Buddha how humans had first become involved with intoxicants. The Buddha then dispensed the Kumbha Jataka, where a man had found fermented fruit and water in the crevice of a tree and started to consume the fermented liquid to obtain a false feeling of well-being.
The Buddha also helped Visakha on another occasion, when she was upset at some unfair taxes that had been levied upon her. Visakha had mailed a parcel to some relatives and the border guards had charged an unreasonably high levy on the goods. Visakha had complained to the king but, due to pressures of state affairs, he had ignored her complaint. Annoyed and angry, Visakha visited the Buddha for solace. The Buddha calmed her mind by saying:
These words of wisdom from the Buddha helped Visakha put this minor irritation in perspective. The Buddhas advice is as valid today as it was 2,500 years ago. So strong are the bonds of craving and attachment that often we are angered and affected by small issues, quite a number of which are outside our control and trivial when compared to other issues of greater consequence that afflict mankind.
Visakha often questioned the Buddha on subjects that interested her, and the Anguttara Nikaya contains three suttas that the Buddha dispensed to her in answer to her questions. In one instance Visakha asked the Buddha what qualities in a woman would enable her to conquer this world and the next. The Buddha replied:
The Buddha also instructed Visakha on the appropriate way to observe the religious holidays (uposatha). Visakha had observed the religious holiday and come to Him for instruction on the best way to observe the holiday. After first informing her of the wrong ways of observing the holidays, the Buddha informed her of the correct way by saying that she should observe the eight precepts, reflect on the greatness and good qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, reflect on the virtues of the Devas, and reflect on her own virtues. The Buddha then went on to describe the happy and carefree life of the Devas and concluded by saying, "Miserable is the glory of the humans compared to such heavenly bliss." The Buddha described the wonders of heavenly birth as He knew that Visakha, who was a Sotapanna, would at death enjoy such heavenly bliss.
One day when the Buddha was residing in the Pubbarama, Visakha approached the Buddha and asked for eight boons. The Buddha informed her that The Perfect One was beyond the practice of granting boons. She then informed Him that these boons would be of great benefit to the Sangha and that they were allowable boons. With the Buddhas consent, Visakha asked the Buddha to be allowed to give the following gifts to the Order:
The Buddha then questioned Visakha on what inner benefits she expected from the giving of these gifts. Visakha replied that often the Sangha who have spent the rains at different locations come to the Buddha and ask Him about a monk (or nun) who has passed away and question Him as to the place of rebirth. The Blessed one will then explain his (or her) attainment and place of rebirth. I shall approach the monk and ask, ?Lord, did that Bhikkhu (Bhikkhuni) ever come to Savatthi? And if he answers yes, I shall conclude that surely a rains cloth will have been used by this Bhikkhu, or visitors food, or food for one going on a journey, or food for the sick, or food for those tending the sick, or rice gruel. And when I reflect thus, I shall be glad and happy. When my mind is happy my body will be tranquil. When my body is tranquil I shall feel pleasure. When I feel pleasure my mind will become concentrated. This will result in the development of the spiritual faculties and powers and the enlightenment faculties. This, Lord, is the benefit that I foresee for myself."
Praising Visakha for asking the eight boons, the Buddha granted her permission to give gifts to the Sangha as requested. The manner in which Visakha gives gifts is noteworthy. Not only is the intention intense but she holds the intensity during the time of preparation (before), during the time of giving and when reflecting on the gift (after) the act of generosity. This intense happiness or volition before, during, and after the act of generosity ensures maximum results. Giving with the intention of purifying oneself, developing ones mind, and attaining Enlightenment is the proper way to give a gift and we should all learn from Visakha, the Buddhas chief female lay benefactor, on the appropriate way to practise generosity.
Because of her generosity to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, the Buddha declared that Visakha was His chief female lay benefactor. In addition to providing the requisites to the Buddha and the Sangha, Visakha also helped with issues and disputes that arose among the nuns. She led a long and healthy life and passed away at the age of 120. Visakha, who possessed the five attributes of maidenly beauty, was said to have been exquisitely beautiful to the end, retaining her youthful form and beauty throughout her latter years.
Citta was a wealthy merchant who owned a small hamlet named Migapathaka and a forest named Ambarukkhavana. He presented the Ambarukkhavana to the Buddha and His disciples and built a monastery for the Noble One to use as a residence. Citta was one of the Buddhas model lay disciples. Just as the Buddha encouraged His monks to emulate Sariputta and Moggallana, He encouraged young men to emulate Citta, by saying, "Should a devoted mother wish to encourage her beloved only son in a proper way, she may tell him to emulate the householders Citta and Hatthaka. They are the guiding students for my lay disciples."
When deciding on the Noble One foremost in expounding the Dhamma, the Buddha appointed the Bhikkhu Punna Mantaniputta (who helped ananda attain Sotapanna) and the nun Dhammadinna. Likewise, among the laity, the householder Citta was appointed by the Buddha as the lay disciple foremost in expounding the Dhamma.
This was not Cittas first encounter with the Buddha. The Jataka stories relate that they were closely associated in a former birth. Citta was the Bodhisattas servant in a past birth and followed his master into renunciation (Jataka 488). He was a disciple of Maha Kacchana and had learned analytical and organizational skills, which helped him to expound the Dhamma in a manner that people could very easily understand.
Citta paid great respect and reverence to a certain Bhikkhu named Sudhamma who had entered the Noble Order after hearing the Dhamma from Citta. One day Sariputta, Moggallana, Anuruddha, ananda and several other great disciples arrived at Macchikasanda, the city in which Citta lived. Citta approached them and listened to the Dhamma. Sariputta dispensed a profound discourse, which resulted in Cittas attaining the second stage of sainthood, Sakadagami. Citta immediately invited the distinguished elders for the following days meals. Afterwards he realized that he had left out Sudhamma, to whom he had previously extended his hospitality consistently. Approaching Sudhamma, he let him know of the invitation.
When Sudhamma found out about Cittas invitation to others he was suffused with jealousy and reprimanded Citta for not having informed him earlier. Even though Citta had since invited him, Sudhamma scornfully declined. However, he could not refuse Cittas invitation. He joined the others as if nothing had happened and praised Cittas hospitality. But then he showed his true jealousy by adding scornfully that the meal would have been complete if Citta had offered cream cakes. Citta replied that his favourite monks behaviour reminded him of a story of a hybrid of a cock and a crow. The story illustrated the fact that jealousy and the refusal of the invitation were inappropriate behaviours for a monk. And criticizing the food showed poor manners towards a householder. Sudhamma was insulted by this comparison and left abruptly. Citta asked him to visit the Buddha and explain what had happened.
Sudhamma went to the Buddha and complained to Him about the unfavourable comparison made by Citta. The Buddha, however, admonished Sudhamma by saying that his behaviour was inappropriate for a Bhikkhu. Not only was it inappropriate for him to have refused Cittas invitation through jealousy, but it was also inappropriate that he should have insulted his generous host by complaining about the food served. The Buddha asked, "How could you insult a faithful lay disciple like Citta?" At a meeting of the Sangha where the Bhikkhus transgressions were discussed it was decided that Sudhamma should ask Cittas forgiveness for his behaviour.
Sudhamma then set out to beg forgiveness but on reaching Cittas house turned back in embarrassment. When the Buddha heard that Sudhamma did not apologize to Citta He had another monk accompany Sudhamma to give him the confidence required to own up to his inappropriate behaviour.
From this incident we see a very significant aspect of the Buddhas teaching. The Buddha always encouraged persons who had done wrong deeds to ask for forgiveness. But forgiveness was asked from those whom one had wronged. The Buddha realized that people make mistakes and even Bhikkhus from time to time behave badly. He did not grant forgiveness for such deeds. Forgiveness for such deeds could only be granted by the person who had been wronged. The wrongdoer reduces the negative effect of his wrong act by genuine regret. But forgiveness can only be received from the wronged. Whilst one may feel better about the misdeed when admitting wrongdoing to a friend or colleague, they cannot reduce or mitigate the wrong. That can be done only through true regret to the wronged. The wronged should then graciously accept the apology and grant forgiveness.
Forgiveness from the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha that Buddhists ask for in their daily reciting is a forgiveness for wrongs done to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Buddhists observe the precepts (modes of conduct) daily but often break the vows they have taken. As these vows are taken of their own free will Buddhists ask for forgiveness from the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha when they break the precepts. Forgiveness that Buddhists request is for transgressions of the precepts they take daily and for other wrongful deeds they may have committed against the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Buddhist do not ask the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha for forgiveness for wrongful deeds they may have done to another person. Forgiveness for these should be obtained from the person to whom the wrongful deed was done.
The first documented teaching by Citta relates an event where some senior Bhikkhus were sitting together in the entrance of the monastery discussing whether fetters and sense objects are one and the same. Some of the monks felt that they were the same, while some felt that they were not. Citta joined the gathering and the monks asked him his opinion. He declared that in his view fetters and sense objects were different not only in name but also in meaning.
Citta then used an example to illustrate his viewpoint. He said that just as a pair of black and white oxen tied to a cart were not fetters to each other but were both fettered by a single rope or yoke strap, the sense faculties do not bind the external objects. Instead, they are bound or yoked by craving. The Bhikkhus praised Cittas understanding of the Dhamma and said that he must surely possess the eye of wisdom.
On another occasion a Bhikkhu named Kamabhu recited a stanza dispensed by the Buddha and asked Citta for its meaning. The stanza with which he needed help was as follows:
After some reflection Citta explained that the Buddha was referring to an Arahanth, who, without blemish or ties, has crossed the stream. He has done away with greed, hatred and delusion and is safe from the ocean of craving. The chariot is the body, the one axle is mindfulness, the smooth, frictionless holding together of the parts (faultless) is virtue and the white canopy is the final deliverance of emancipation. Impressed by his explanation, the Bhikkhu Kamabhu thanked Citta and praised him by saying that he had surely achieved great wisdom to be able to explain such complex teachings.
One day after some Bhikkhus had partaken of alms at Cittas house, he accompanied them back to the monastery. It was an extremely hot and dusty day and the monks were perspiring freely. The youngest Bhikkhu, Mahaka, remarked that it was very hot and that wind and rain would certainly be welcome. In this instance Mahaka was not just making an observation. He, who had supernormal powers, was asking permission to use these powers to activate rain. When permission was granted and Mahaka did procure rain to refresh his companions, Citta was very impressed.
Citta then approached Mahaka and asked him to demonstrate more of his supernormal powers. The Buddha had specifically forbidden monks to show off their supernormal powers to the householders for purposes of impressing them or creating awe. Mahaka, however, was very young. Enjoying the praise and attention he was receiving, he placed his coat on a bale of hay and went inside his meditation cell. Then, closing the door, he created a tremendously powerful beam that penetrated through the keyhole and burnt the hay while it left the coat untouched.
Impressed by the powers of one so young, Citta offered to support Mahaka for life. Mahaka, however, realized that he had disobeyed the instruction of the Buddha by showing off his powers. Refusing Cittas generosity, he left the city in search of a place where he would not be known.
Citta used his knowledge to help both believers and non-believers. A naked ascetic by the name of Kassapa, who was a family friend, decided to visit Citta when he visited Migapathaka. Citta questioned him as to how long he had practised this form of asceticism. His friend replied that he had been an ascetic for thirty years. Citta then asked Kassapa if he had attained any superhuman states of bliss or supernormal insight. Kassapa replied that he had not, that all he had done was to go about naked, shaving his head and dusting his seat.
Kassapa then questioned Citta on how long he had been a follower of the Buddha. When Citta replied that he had been a lay disciple for thirty years, Kassapa asked him if he had attained any superhuman states. Citta replied that he had most certainly attained the four Jhanas of mental ecstasy and that if Kassapa questioned the Blessed One He would confirm that no fetters bound him to the sense spheres. Kassapa immediately realized that Citta was Anagami or non-returner, for it was only those who had attained the stage of Anagami who were assured of birth in a non-sense sphere Brahma world. Kassapa was also surprised that his friend, who was a householder, had attained such a high stage of spiritual development when he himself, worn out through the practice of extreme austerities, had gained none.
Reflecting on his friends achievements, Kassapa asked Citta to help him take the robes under the Blessed One. He was duly ordained and before long attained Arahanthship. Other friends of Cittas such as Sudhamma, Godatta, and Isidatta also became Bhikkhus after discussing the Dhamma with him. They all attained the supreme bliss of Arahanthship and surpassed Citta who reached only the third stage of sainthood. The text does not specify as to why Citta had not considered joining the Noble Order when he had encouraged many of his friends to do so. It is assumed that it is because of his personal life and some obligations he had that necessitated that he remain as a householder.
The laymen, Bhikkhus and Devas respected Citta as a great teacher. When he fell ill just prior to his death, the Devas appeared to him and urged him to aspire to be a world monarch in his next life. Citta then informed them that he was seeking something nobler and higher than to be a world monarch in his next life. He was aspiring for the unconditioned Nibbana. The Devas were obviously not aware that Citta had reached the third stage of sainthood. Those who attain Anagami are reborn in the Suddhavassa Brahma Realm where they eventually attain Arahanthship.
Cittas relatives, unable to view the Devas, thought that he was delirious as it seemed as if he was talking to himself. He reassured them by affirming that he was talking to invisible divine beings. Then, at the request of the Devas, he gave his last advice to those gathered. Citta requested them to have trust and confidence in the Buddha and the Dhamma and to remain unswervingly generous to the Sangha.
Rohini was one of the Buddhas cousins and the sister of Anuruddha. When the ladies of the court decided to follow Pajapati Gotami and join the order of nuns, Rohini declined.
When Anuruddha visited Kapilavatthu with a large retinue of monks, all his relatives came to the monastery to pay their respects. Rohini, however, did not come. When Anuruddha inquired as to why his sister had not come he was informed that she was embarrassed to face people as she was suffering from an unsightly skin rash. Anuruddha asked that she be brought to his presence. Rohini came with her face covered by a veil.
Anuruddha asked Rohini to construct an assembly hall for the monks and nuns, as her affliction was of kammic origin. As she did not have the money needed to construct an assembly hall, she decided to sell her jewels to obtain the required funds. With the help of her Sakyan cousins and under the guidance of the Ven. Anuruddha, an assembly hall was built for the Buddha and His retinue. Upon the completion of the structure, Rohinis unsightly rash disappeared. Rohini then invited the Buddha and His retinue for a meal.
The Buddha, having asked on whose account the assembly hall was built and who had provided the meal, was informed of Rohinis surprising story. He then informed her of the cause of her unsightly rash. Many births ago she had been the chief consort of the King of Benares. She had had a falling out with one of the kings dancing girls, whom he favoured. Rohini, who was jealous of the dancing girl, had secured scabs from an infected person, crushed them to a powder and spread them on the bed and over the face of the dancing girl. This had led to an infection that had caused an ugly rash on the skin of the dancing girl. The kammic effect of this unwholesome act was the ugly rash that Rohini had. The wholesome effects of the building of the assembly hall had helped to nullify the effects of this evil kamma.
After listening to the Dhamma, Rohini attained the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. She became a supporter of the Buddha and His monks and continued to perform many meritorious deeds. At death she passed away to the Tavatimsa Heaven where she was born as the very beautiful consort of Sakka, the king of the Tavatimsa Heaven.
Prince Abhaya, the son of King Bimbisara, was riding through the city when he saw a flock of crows circling and cawing loudly around a small bundle. Stopping his carriage, he investigated the sound and found a newborn baby boy who had been left to die amongst the garbage on the roadside. Upon inquiry he learned that a courtesan had discarded her illegitimate son whom she felt was a burden, and had left him to die.
Prince Abhaya was transfused with compassion for the newborn babe that still clung to life despite its ugly surroundings. He decided to adopt the baby as his own. The baby was named Jivaka Komara Bhacca Jivaka, meaning life, because of his will to live, and Komara Bhacca, which meant adopted by a prince.
Jivaka led a privileged life in the palace. His friends, however, often teased him as he had no mother. Jivaka, who was embarrassed by the teasing, questioned his father about his origin. When he heard about his origins and his will to live he decided that he would one day grow up to be a preserver of life. He felt that he had no real heritage or family as he was only the adopted son of the prince. Physicians, however, were treated with great respect. Determined to earn the respect he felt he lacked due to his birth, Jivaka decided to go to the University of Taxila to become a physician.
Jivaka approached Disapamok, a well-known scholar, for his training. At this time Sakka, the King of the Heavens, was observing the world. He realized that it was time for Jivaka, who had in past births aspired to be the physician of the Buddha, to begin his training. Sakka, however, wanted to ensure that Jivaka had more than just the best training available in India. This was the young man who would have the privilege to be the physician of the Buddha. Sakka decided to take a hand in the training of young Jivaka so that he would have celestial knowledge in the art of medicine. With this in view, He entered the body of Disapamok. Jivaka excelled in his studies. Disapamok, however, soon realized that the training that he was providing was being influenced by celestial beings. The knowledge that was being imparted through him far excelled his knowledge of medicine. Jivaka quickly learned medicines and cures of which Disapamok himself had no knowledge. Jivaka completed in seven years the physicians training which usually took eleven years.
Realizing that Jivakas education was complete, Disapamok asked him to go forth and bring back a plant, herb or root that could not be used for medicinal purposes for the preservation of life. After travelling far and wide Jivaka returned to his teacher to inform him that no such plant, herb, or root existed. All of natures treasures were beneficial for the preservation of life. The joyous teacher then praised his pupil by informing him that his education was complete. Jivaka had surpassed his teacher in knowledge.
Jivaka decided to go back to Rajagaha to his adoptive father. On the way he stopped to rest in a city named Saletha. He soon heard that the young daughter of the citys wealthiest nobleman was sick. Despite the ministering of many well-known physicians, she had suffered from severe headaches for seven years. Jivaka approached the nobleman, as he was confident that he could cure the maiden. The maiden, however, was not impressed by the very young man who claimed he could cure her when older, well-known physicians had failed. Offering his services for free, Jivaka continued to declare boldly that he could cure her.
Gathering herbs and roots, Jivaka prepared the medicine which he then administered to her through her nostrils. Before long the maidens headaches disappeared. The grateful nobleman showered Jivaka with gifts and gold and provided him with a golden chariot. Jivaka approached Prince Abhayas palace in great style.
Handing over his newly earned wealth to his adoptive father, Jivaka thanked him for his love, compassion, and caring. Prince Abhaya, however, returned all the wealth to Jivaka and informed him that he owed him naught as he was his true son and heir. He then told him that during his absence he had found out the full story of his origin. His mother, Salawathi, was the sought-after courtesan of the kings and nobility. Wanting to retain her freedom, she had discarded the baby whom she felt would be a burden to her. Prince Abhaya had unknowingly adopted his own child as he had loved his son dearly even prior to knowing that he was in fact his own child. Prince Abhaya built a palace to serve as Jivakas residence and provided him with many servants.
Jivakas second patient was none other than his own grandfather, King Bimbisara. The king had a huge growth in his stomach that bled from time to time on his royal robe. So prominent was the growth that his consorts had started to tease the king by saying that he was with child. The king had been treated by all the great physicians of the country to no avail. Prince Abhaya informed Jivaka of his grandfathers plight.
Diagnosing the disease sight unseen, Jivaka immediately prepared the suitable medicine. Then hiding it on his person, he visited the king. After examining the king he administered the medicine that he had brought with him. Before long the kings growth shrank and his wound healed. The grateful king called his entourage of five hundred consorts who had teased him unmercifully by asking if his first-born was to be a boy or a girl, and commanded them to give all their jewellery as a gift to Jivaka. Before long a mound of precious jewellery higher than Jivaka himself was placed at his feet. However, Jivaka refused this payment and requested permission from the king to return the ornaments back to his consorts. Even more impressed by Jivakas deportment, the king showered him with wealth, gifted him with the royal mango grove and made him the royal physician.
Jivakas reputation as a great physician grew quickly. He was the physician of kings, noblemen and the Buddha. The text mentions that he operated and successfully removed two tumours from the brain of a rich merchant who was a good friend of King Bimbisara. He also operated successfully to remove a blockage in the intestines of a nobleman. In one instance when the Buddha was afflicted with stomach problems, Jivaka prepared the medicine, and applying it on a blue lotus flower, offered it to the Buddha. Jivaka then asked the Buddha to inhale the essence emanating from the flower. The medicine which Jivaka had prepared with devotion and presented so beautifully, cured the Buddhas stomach ailment.
Jivaka had in one instance risked his life to attend a very cruel and vicious king named Chanda Pradyotha. One of the King Pradyothas subjects had offered him a shawl that had been dropped by a Deva in the forest. Admiring the very beautiful shawl, the king had reflected that he should gift it to Jivaka who had risked his life to save him. Jivaka, however, felt that there was only one person worthy of such a shawl. He in turn offered it to the Buddha. The Buddha accepted the celestial shawl and, as requested by Jivaka, dispensed a sermon on the giving of robes. After listening to the discourse, Jivaka attained the first stage of enlightenment, Sotapanna. The Buddha felt that keeping such a valuable shawl in the monastery would attract thieves, which would endanger His monks. Addressing ananda, he requested that the shawl be cut into strips and resewn so that it would be of little value to thieves. This custom of wearing patched garments still remains among the Sangha. Even their new robes are made of strips of material that are sewn together so that even the robe they wear would help them in the practice of non-attachment.
Jivaka built a monastery in his mango grove so that he could be close to the Buddha when attending to His needs. It was Jivaka who attended to the Buddhasfoot when it was cut by the sliver of rock that Devadatta rolled down the hill at Gijjhakuta. It was also Jivaka who treated the Buddha in His last days, when He was overcome by stomach pains.
The Buddha dispensed the Jivaka Sutta when Jivaka questioned him on the controversial question of the kammic effects of eating meat. The Buddha explained that the eating of meat was not in itself an unwholesome act if the following conditions were met:
The Buddha said:
The Buddhas teaching is known as the middle path. He did not go to extremes or command anyone to do anything. While he gave permission for His monks to be vegetarians if they so wished, He did not state this to be a discipline rule as he felt that doing so would cause unnecessary hardship to His monks.
Buddhists should refrain from eating meat that has been seen, heard or suspected to have been killed for them. Buddhists should also refrain from killing, instigating others to kill or from a livelihood that involves the breeding of animals for killing. Monks have also been instructed in the Vinaya Pitaka to refrain from eating certain types of meat such as snake and elephant flesh, because wild animals are attracted to the smell of such flesh and tend to attack those who have partaken of such meat.
The Buddha has declared that kamma is intention. As such one should not condemn a person just because he is eating meat to sustain himself. This is not the same as a person who is eating meat as a result of intense greed for meat and enjoyment in killing for the palate. Neither should one discourage those who have chosen to refrain from eating meat. A balanced diet can be achieved without meat. Many Buddhists have opted to become vegetarians as it assists them in the practice of loving-kindness.
It was also at Jivakas request that the Buddha established that monks should sweep the compound of the monastery and attend to other duties that would exercise their bodies. Jivaka, seeing the benefit of exercise for a healthy life, requested this and other mild duties to be performed by the monks to ensure their health. With foresight, love and compassion the devoted Jivaka took care of the physical health of the Buddha and His Sangha.
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