GREAT MALE DISCIPLES - Part B
Anuruddha was one of Prince Siddhattha’s cousins. His father, who was named Amitodana, was a younger brother of King Suddhodana. Amitodana had two consorts. Anuruddha, his brother, Mahanama and his sister, Rohini, were born from one consort. Ananda, who later became the Buddha’s personal attendant, was the son of the other consort. As such Ananda was Anuruddha’s step-brother.
Anuruddha was brought up in immense luxury. His mother, who adored him, ensured that all his wishes were fulfilled. The following story illustrates the luxury he enjoyed. One day Anuruddha, who was playing marbles with his friends, decided to bet on his winning the game. He promised fresh cakes to whoever could beat him at marbles. Luck was against him. Again and again he lost to his friends. Each time he sent a message home to his mother asking for cakes, which she lovingly provided. Finally the message came back that there was no cake. Anuruddha, who had always had everything he wanted, thought that this was a new type of cake and sent a message back asking his mother to send the no-cake to pay off his debt.
When Sakyan princes began giving up their royal lineage to follow the Buddha, Mahanama, the older of King Amitodana’s sons, felt that either Anuruddha or he should follow in the footsteps of their Great Cousin. He called his younger brother and asked him if he would like to be ordained under the Buddha. Anuruddha, however, was too attached to sense pleasure. He was well-known for his love of dance, music and luxuries. Anuruddha felt that the homeless life would be too harsh for someone brought up in the lap of luxury. Mahanama, however, convinced his brother by describing the trials he would face when conducting the duties and responsibilities he had as a nobleman. When Anuruddha realized that he would have many responsibilities to fulfill if he were to take the place of his older brother and endless rounds of rebirth in samsara where he would toil embroiled in suffering, he decided to renounce his life of luxury. He went to his mother and asked her permission to be ordained under the Sakyan Sage.
His mother, who wanted to keep both her sons with her, refused. Thinking that his friend who was heir to the throne would never give up his royal heritage, she informed Anuruddha that he could go if his friend Bhaddiya went with him. Anuruddha spoke to his friend to convince him to join the order. Bhaddiya refused, as the glory of being a future king was more appealing to him. Anuruddha did not give up. Little by little he broke down the defences of his friend. First Bhaddiya agreed to join the Holy Order in seven years. On further insistence and pleading, Bhaddiya reduced the time until finally he agreed to leave in seven days as it would take that long for him to settle his affairs and hand over the succession of the position of viceroy to his successor. On hearing of their decision Anuruddha’s step-brother, Ananda, their cousin, Devadatta, and two other Sakyan princes, Kimbila and Bhagu, decided to join them. The princes, together with the court barber, Upali, left the palace under the pretence of going to the pleasure gardens.
After travelling for some distance the princes handed their royal jewels and rich clothes to Upali and donned the simple robes of ascetics. They then instructed Upali to return to the palace with the message that the Sakyan princes had left to join the order of the Noble Ones under the great Sakyan Sage, the Buddha. Upali, however, was afraid that the Sakyans, who were a very fierce warrior race, would not believe him. He felt that he would be killed, as the Sakyans would think that he, Upali, had robbed and killed the young princes. He asked permission to go with them to be ordained under the Buddha. The princes agreed.
Together, they proceeded to where the Buddha was residing and asked to be ordained. The Sakyan princes, who were well-known for their pride and arrogance, asked the Buddha to ordain Upali, the barber who had attended them for a long time, first, so that he would then be senior to them. As such they would have to pay obeisance and respect to Upali, which would help to subdue their Sakyan pride. The Buddha complied to their request.
Before long Anuruddha developed the divine eye – the ability to see beyond the range of the physical eye. He could survey one thousand world systems (the Buddha could see, and spoke of ten thousand world systems). These world systems could be compared to modern-day galaxies. The Buddha said that each world system contained 31 planes of existence in which there were 31 different life forms, and of such world systems He viewed ten thousand. Anuruddha, however, developed his divine eye only to the extent where he could view one thousand world systems. He also had the ability to see into the past births of others and to see their place of rebirth after death.
The development of the divine eye is mundane in character. It can be developed without reaching any of the four stages of spiritual development – Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami or Arahanthship. In fact, Anuruddha achieved it prior to obtaining the first stage of sainthood. As such it can be achieved by an unliberated worldling. The divine eye can be developed by one who has reached the fourth stage of mental absorption (Jhana) and takes this meditation further as described in The Path of Purification (Visudhimagga). Anuruddha often taught this skill to his students. His verses relate his experience thus:
"In fivefold concentration rapt,
The mind in peace and unified,
Inner tranquillity I gained
And thus was purified my eye divine.
In fivefold Jhanas standing firm
I knew the passing and rebirth of beings,
Their coming and their going I perceived,
Their life in this world and beyond.
-- (Theragatha, 916-917)
Despite this achievement Anuruddha had difficulties in reaching Arahanthship. His spiritual development, however, helped him to live in harmony with two other monks, Kimbila and Nandiya. These three lived alone in concentration in the Eastern Bamboo Park and met every fifth night to discuss the Dhamma. The harmony that existed between these monks became legendary. The Buddha once asked Anuruddha how he lived in peace and harmony with his two companions. Anuruddha replied, "In deed, words and thoughts I maintain loving kindness towards these venerable ones in public and in private thinking. Why should I not set aside what I want to do and do only what they want to do? We are different in body, Venerable Sir, but one in mind". The Buddha praised their harmony and held them as an example to other monks to strengthen the unity of the Sangha.
The Buddha then questioned Anuruddha on his difficulties in obtaining liberation. Anuruddha explained that he had reached a higher state of concentration in which he perceived an inner light and radiance but that the vision of light and radiance disappeared very soon and he did not understand the reason.
Describing from His own experience the Buddha then explained the eleven imperfections or hindrances that may arise and how to overcome them. Anuruddha followed the Buddha’s advice and developed further and further in refined meditative perceptions. He did not, however, reach Arahanthship.
One day Anuruddha visited Sariputta and said, "Brother Sariputta, with the divine eye I am able to perceive a thousand-fold world systems. My energy is strong, my mindfulness is alert and unconfused, my body is collected and unified. Yet my mind is not freed without clinging from the defiling taints".
Sariputta replied, "When you think, Brother Anuruddha, that with your divine eye you can see a thousand-fold world systems, that is self-conceit. When you think of your strenuous energy, your alert mindfulness, your calm body and your concentrated mind, that is agitation. When you think your mind is still not liberated from taints, that is scruples in you. Discard these three things. Do not pay attention to them. Instead, direct the mind towards the deathless." Anuruddha again went into solitude and directed his mind in earnest to remove these obstructions.
The Buddha, perceiving that Anuruddha was close to enlightenment but that he needed further instruction, appeared before him in form made by mind. The Buddha’s instruction to Anuruddha on the non-diffused helped him reach perfection. An hour after the attainment he proclaimed the following:
"He knew my heart’s intent, the Master,
He whose peer the world has not seen.
He came to me by mystic power,
With body wrought by mind.
To me when further Truths I wished to learn,
The Buddha (this last Truth) revealed:
He who delights in freedom from diffuseness,
That freedom from diffuseness taught to me.
And I who heard the blessed Dhamma dwelt,
Constantly intent to keep His rule,
The Threefold Wisdom have I made my own,
And all the Buddha’s ordinance is done."
-- (Theragatha, 901-903)
Because of Anuruddha’s development of the divine eye the Buddha declared that he was foremost among the monks who had developed the divine eye. Anuruddha had aspired to be foremost in the development of the divine eye one hundred thousand world cycles ago, at the time of the Padumuttara Buddha. On seeing the Buddha Padumuttara appoint one of His monks as foremost in the divine eye and being inspired by the character and qualities of the monk, Anuruddha decided that he would like to have such a position under a future Buddha. With this in mind he performed many meritorious deeds and aspired to be foremost in the divine eye under a future Buddha. The Padumuttara Buddha, seeing that Anuruddha’s aspiration would be fulfilled, announced that he would be foremost in the divine eye at the time of the Gotama Buddha.
After the passing away of the Padumuttara Buddha, Anuruddha approached the monk and asked him what meritorious acts he should perform to attain such a position. The monk then instructed him to light many lamps in the shrine that held the relics of the Padumuttara Buddha and to aspire that as these lamps dispelled the darkness, shedding light to the surrounding area so that others could see, may he develop the divine eye to view the many world systems and divine beings. The Theragatha states that at the time of the Buddha Kassapa, Anuruddha had lit butter lamps to honour the grave of the Kassapa Buddha and had renewed his aspiration. These and many other meritorious acts that Anuruddha performed led to the fulfilment of his aspiration at the time of the Gotama Buddha.
Twenty-three accounts of Anuruddha’s past lives have been documented in the Jataka (birth stories of the Buddha). Fifteen of these births were in the celestial realms, thirteen of which were as Sakka, the leader of the Tavatimsa heaven. It was Anuruddha as Sakka who dressed up as an old Brahmin to test the Bodhisatta further by asking for His wife, the princess Maddi, in the Vessantara Jataka. Twice as Sakka, Anuruddha saved the Bodhisatta’s life when He was in danger. It was also Anuruddha as Sakka who showed the Bodhisatta the celestial and hellish worlds in the Guttila Jataka. In the seven earthly past life stories he was often an ascetic. Only one past life story documents birth as an animal (wood pigeon). Anuruddha’s strength of character, his loyalty and his compassion to others are illustrated over and over again in these stories. In many births he had been of help to the Bodhisatta.
The Theragatha also documents some of his former lives. Anuruddha, who could see into his past births, described some of them as follows:
"I know my former lives, and where and how
I lived in years gone by: among the Gods of the Thirty-Three (Tavatimasa heaven)
I stood of Sakka’s rank.
Seven times a king of men I held my sway,
Lord of the earth from end to end foursquare,
A conqueror, of Jambudipa (India) chief,
Using no force or arms I ruled by right.
Thence seven. And another seven spans of life,
Fourteen former births I recognize,
Even then in the worlds of gods reborn."
-- (Theragatha 913-915)
Anuruddha outlived the Buddha and was instrumental in ensuring that the wishes of the divine beings were met at the Buddha’s funeral. When the Buddha passed away Maha Brahma (the Brahmin creator God) and Sakka (ruler of the Tavatimsa Heaven) honoured the Buddha in verses evoking the law of impermanence to console the grieving Brahmas and Devas. The third to speak was Anuruddha, who consoled the grieving with the following words:
"No movement of breath, but with steadfast heart,
Desireless and tranquil comes the Sage to His end.
With heart unshaken by any painful feelings,
Like a flame extinguished, His mind released."
Anuruddha also encouraged and helped Ananda to attain Arahanthship prior to the First Sangha Council. Anuruddha was in charge of the Angutttara Nikaya at the first council. He passed away at Veluva in the Vajjian land with the following prediction of his oncoming death:
"The Buddha has my loyalty and love,
And all of the Buddha’s Law is done.
Low have I laid the heavy load I bore,
Cause for rebirth is found in me no more.
In Veluva, in Vajjian land, it will be
That life will reach its final term for me;
And I beneath the bamboo-thicket’s shade that day,
Free from all taints shall wholly pass away."
-- (Theragatha 918-919)
11. Maha Kaccana
In the district of Ujjeni, in the capital city of Avanti, there lived a Brahmin couple of the Kaccayana clan named Tiritavaccha and Candima. As the Kaccayana clan was one of the oldest and most respected Brahmin clans they were very well-known and respected. They had a son whom they named Kancana (one with golden hue) because of his unusually golden skin. Kancana studied the Brahmanic Vedas and when he came of age replaced his father as court chaplain.
The king whom he served was known as Candapajjota, or ‘Pajjota the Violent’ due to his explosive temper. When the king heard that a Blessed One had arisen in the world a desire arose in him to see the Buddha. He requested his chaplain to invite the Buddha to Avanti as his guest. Kancana agreed to invite the Buddha if the King gave him permission to be ordained as a monk.
With the king’s permission Kancana and seven other courtiers left Avanti and set out for Savatthi, where the Buddha was residing. Inspired by the Buddha’s teaching, all eight attained Arahanthship together with the four analytical knowledges and were ordained as monks. Kancana was known as Kaccana after ordination. Kaccana enumerated the scenic beauty of Ujjeni to the Buddha, with the intention of inviting Him to visit Avanti. The Buddha, realizing that Kaccana was quite capable of inspiring the king, his ministers and townsfolk, asked Kaccana to return to Avanti with the former courtiers.
On the way back the eight monks stopped overnight at a city named Telapanali. In this city lived two beautiful maidens. One was a rich girl who had lost all her hair due to a disease. The other was a girl who had become impoverished after her parents’ death. The poor girl, who lived with her former governess, had thick, beautiful, long hair, which was the envy of the rich girl. The rich girl had repeatedly offered to buy the lustrous hair of the poor girl for a considerable amount of money, to make a wig. The poor girl, however, had refused her offer.
When the poor girl saw the serene monks on their alms round there arose a longing in her to offer them a meal. Not having the necessary means, she cut off her hair and sold it to the rich girl. Using the money, she bought the items required to make a delicious meal and prepared food for the eight monks. So great was her devotion and happiness in this gift that the effect of her wholesome deed was instant. Her hair grew back in all its splendour to its original length.
When Kaccana returned to Avanti, he informed the king of this incident. The king then requested that the girl be brought to Avanti and made her his chief consort. After this incident King Pajjota had great confidence in Kaccana. Before long Avanti was a single blaze of saffron robes as ministers and townsfolk embraced the Buddha’s Teaching and entered the Noble Order. The queen, who was deeply grateful to the elder for her good fortune, built for him a monastery in the Golden Grove Park.
The Buddha used two methods of teaching for His monks. Often he began with a short verse, on which he then elaborated with well-organised examples and similes, and then concluded by linking it back to the opening verse by summarizing the deep contents of His message. At times, however, He gave a short message full of deep meaning, on which He did not elaborate, as He wanted His Sangha to reflect on the message and ascertain its meaning through examination and contemplation. The more spiritually advanced met this challenge with enthusiasm, as it stretched their minds and helped them to grow. But at times the novice monks could not discern the meaning of His words. The novice monks then approached Kaccana and asked him to explain the Buddha’s words. Kaccana then elaborated on the teaching and explained it in a manner that was understood by the less advanced members of the Sangha. The Buddha, when informed of Kaccana’s explanation, consistently praised him for his interpretation by saying that He Himself would have given exactly the same answer had the question been put to Him. Because of Kaccana’s analytical, organised mind and his ability to penetrate the Dhamma and then simplify the message in a manner that was easy to understand, the Buddha declared him as foremost among the monks who elaborated on short verses taught by Him. Kaccana was known as Maha Kaccana to distinguish him from other monks who had the same Brahmanic name.
As with the other titles that the Buddha gave to His Sangha, this appointment was not a chance happening. The aspiration and meritorious deeds that led to this appointment were sown many aeons ago at the time of the Padumuttara Buddha. At that time Kaccana was born to a wealthy family and saw the Padumuttara Buddha appoint a Bhikkhu as foremost among monks who explain in detail short verses declared by Him. Kaccana was inspired by the Bhikkhu’s ability and a strong desire arose in him to strive for a similar title at the time of a future Buddha. Inviting the Buddha and His retinue of monks to his home for a week, he provided them with alms and necessities. He then built a stupa with a seat, which he had inlaid with gold and fitted with a jewelled parasol, for the Buddha Padumuttara.
Kaccana then prostrated himself respectfully in front of the Buddha and aspired to be the foremost monk who explained in detail short verses declared by a future Buddha. The Buddha Padumuttara, seeing that Kaccana’s aspiration would be fulfilled, prophesied that at the time of the Gotama Buddha, 100,000 aeons into the future, he would be born to a Brahmin family by the name of Kaccana and be declared as the monk foremost in explaining in detail the short verses declared by the Buddha Gotama.
The Buddha Padumuttara also made other prophesies about Kaccana’s future births. He declared that as a result of his meritorious deeds Kaccana would be the Lord of the Gods for 30 aeons. He would then return to the human world as a world monarch named Pabhassara. Kaccana continued in samsara performing meritorious deeds and renewing his aspiration until he was reborn as Kancana in the Kaccayana clan to fulfil his aspiration.
The text also indicates the origin of his unusually beautiful, golden complexion. Shortly after the Parinibbana of the Kassapa Buddha (the Buddha who preceded our Gotama Buddha), Kaccana had donated a golden brick to make a stupa in the name of the Kassapa Buddha and had made a wish to have a golden hue like the gold he had donated whenever he was reborn. This wish had resulted in Kaccana’s skin having an unusually beautiful, golden hue.
Maha Kaccana made an invaluable contribution to the preservation of the Dhamma. His lucid explanations of deep subjects have been carefully documented and as such helped not only the contemporaries of the Buddha but following generations. The text documents well his role as a great teacher. His primary role, however, was to elaborate on the statements made by the Buddha. Compared to the other great disciples there are only a few recorded instances where he taught the Dhamma to one person individually. His explanations and teachings are clear and to the point, using an analytical approach as opposed to using similes and examples.
Kaccana begins with a short utterance of the Buddha. He then goes on to explain in detail its hidden meaning. Eight Suttas found in the Nikayas, three in the Majjhima Nikaya, three in the Samutta Nikaya and two in the Anguttara Nikaya, are especially noteworthy. There are also in the Nikayas some teachings which are directly attributed to Maha Kaccana. These teachings have a distinctive flavour revealing the mind from which they were born. They are thorough, well-rounded, balanced and meticulous. Often Kaccana explains the essence of the verse with only a few words.
A few examples of Kaccana’s skill in explaining the deep meaning of the Buddha’s words and the Buddha’s praise of his skills follow:
One day when the Buddha was seated in meditation in the Nigrodha park in Kapillavatthu, an arrogant Sakyan named Dandapani approached Him and asked in a discourteous tone, "What does the recluse assert? What does he proclaim?"
The Buddha, realizing well Dandapani’s quarrelsome nature and intention, replied:
"Friend, I assert and proclaim such (a teaching) that one does not quarrel with anyone in the world, with its gods, with its maras and its Brahmas in this generation, with its recluses, Brahmins, its princes and its people; such that perceptions no more underlie that Brahmins who abide detached from sensual pleasures, without perplexity, free of worry, free from craving, for any kind of being." (Majjhima Nikaya)
This reply was totally incomprehensible to Dandapani, who left, subdued. One monk who had not understood the meaning of the Buddha’s words inquired as to what exactly the Blessed One’s teaching was whereby one can avoid all quarrels and at the same time be free from the influence of craving."
The Buddha’s deep reply was:
"Bhikkhus, as to the source through which perceptions and notions tinged by mental proliferation beset a person, if nothing is found to delight in, welcome, and hold to, this is the end of the underlying tendencies to lust, aversion, views, doubt, conceit, the desire for being, and ignorance; this is the end of reliance on rods and weapons, of quarrels, brawls, disputes, recriminations, malice, and false speech; here these evil, unwholesome states cease without remainder." (Majjhima Nikaya)
The monks, however, could not comprehend the Buddha’s words. As the Buddha had retired to His quarters they did not want to question Him further. Instead, they approached Maha Kaccana and asked him for an explanation.
Maha Kaccana first informed them that it was the Buddha to whom they should go, for it was He who could best answer their questions. He reminded the monks that coming to him when the Buddha was present was like seeking heartwood among the branches and leaves of a tree when the trunk was present. Upon being told the circumstances, he explained the words of the Buddha which emanated from the doctrine of dependent origination, as follows:
"Dependent on the eye (and other sense organs), eye-consciousness (and other forms of sense consciousness), occur. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, there is feeling. What one feels one perceives. What one perceives one thinks about. What one thinks about one mentally propagates. With what one has mentally propagated as the source, perceptions and notions (conditioning activities) tinged by mental propagation, beset a person with respect to past, future and present forms cognisable through the eye. The same pattern is repeated for each of the sense organs." The elder then expanded and linked it with the teaching of the Doctrine of Dependent Origination and explained to the monks how everything is conditionally dependent on the preceding condition and ceases with the cessation of the preceding condition.
The Maha Kaccana Bhaddekaratta Sutta from the Majjhima Nikaya also illustrates Maha Kaccana’s gift in explaining the complex. A Bhikkhu named Samiddhi approached the Buddha and requested Him to dispense the Bhaddekaratta Sutta, which was in general known by memory to all the monks. The Buddha responded by saying:
"Let not a person revive the past
Or on the future build his hopes,
For the past has been left behind
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let him see
Each presently arisen state;
Let him know that and be sure of it,
Today the effort must be made;
Tomorrow death may come, who knows?
No bargain with Mortality can
Keep him and his hordes away.
But one who dwells thus ardently
Relentlessly by day and night —
It is he the Peaceful Sage has said,
Who has one fortunate attachment."
The Buddha then arose and retired to His chambers. Samiddhi did not understand the Buddha’s poem, but he did not want to disturb Him. Approaching Maha Kaccana, Samiddhi saluted him respectfully and asked him the meaning of the poem.
After reminding Samiddhi that it was not appropriate that he should come to him when the Buddha was in residence, Kaccana took the first two lines of the poem and explained them by way of the six sense bases.
Starting with the sense base of the eye, he said, "One revives the past when one recollects the eye and the forms seen in the past, dwelling upon them with desire and lust. One builds up hope on the future when one sets one’s heart to experiencing future sense objects that one has not as yet encountered. One who does not bind himself to desire and lust resulting from past memories of sensory experience and yearnings for future sensory experiences is one who does not revive the past or build up hope on the future. Similarly, one whose mind is shackled by lust to the present sense faculties and their objects is one vanquished in regard to presently risen states, while one who is not bound by lust to the present sense faculties is called one invincible in regard to presently arisen states. The elder then repeated the above explanation using each of the other sense bases.
In this manner, using simple language, the elder advised the monks not to be attached to sense objects of the past, present and future. Instead, to strive with insight to observe the impermanence of all phenomena because death could strike anyone at any time. And one could not bargain with death. Maha Kaccana thus encouraged Samidhi not to waste a moment but to strive on with diligence to experience insight.
Later, when the monks told the Buddha of Maha Kaccana’s explanation, He praised the elder by saying that if He had been questioned, He too would have answered in the same manner.
Maha Kaccana also used his analytical abilities and organization skills to teach the Dhamma. The Majjhima Nikaya has a very interesting dialogue between the elder and King Avantiputta of Madhura, who was the grandson of King Candappajjoti of Avanti. Once when Maha Kaccana was residing in Madhura, King Avantiputta, having heard of his fame, approached the elder and questioned him. His question, however, was not a complex question from the higher teaching. It was a topic of importance that was weighing heavily on the Brahmins who thought that they were the superior ones chosen by Maha Brahma, their creator God. The noble caste rulers had established their supremacy over the entire Indian nation by claiming that they were the fairest caste, the purified, the sons of Brahma, His offspring – born of Brahma, created by Brahma, heirs of Brahma. At the time of the Buddha, the Brahmins had succeeded in establishing their supremacy over the whole Indian social system by declaring that those born to the Brahmin caste, to a Brahmin family, were the direct descendants of Maha Brahma, the title given to the creator God. They were the chosen people. They were the undisputed leaders and nobility. The Buddha, however, had denounced the degrading caste system and declared that it was not by birth that one was a Brahmin (nobleman), but by deeds.
King Avantiputta’s question to Maha Kaccana, who was from a very old, well-respected, and high-caste Brahmin family, had far-reaching, significant importance. The king attempted to justify this drive for power by appealing to the divinely ordained status, in keeping with the Brahmanic beliefs. He questioned the elder, who himself was of pedigreed Brahmin caste, about the supremacy of the Brahmins. The Elder then corrected his false views by saying:
"The claim of the Brahmins is just a saying in the world – one with no divine sanction at all." Then, to prove his point further, the elder elaborated on his claim by saying: "Anyone of any social class who gains wealth can command the labour of those of other castes. Even a menial could enrol a Brahmin in his service. One of any caste who violates the principles of morality could be reborn in hell (Devadatta and King Ajatasattu) while one of any caste who observes the principles of morality and generosity could be reborn in a happy realm (Laja). One of any caste who breaks the law will be punished. One of any caste who renounces the world and becomes an ascetic will receive homage and respect (Sunita and Upali)." The Elder continued to conclude that these four castes (in existence at that time) were all the same, that there was no difference, no divine sanction in them at all.
At the end of the discussion King Avantiputta expressed his appreciation by saying, "I go to Master Maha Kaccana for my refuge, I go to the Dhamma for my refuge, I go to the Sangha for my refuge." Maha Kaccana corrected him by saying, "Do not come to me for refuge. Go to the Fully Enlightened One, to whom I too go for refuge. When the king inquired as to the whereabouts of the Buddha, the elder informed him that the Blessed One had already attained Parinibbana, leading us to the conclusion that this discussion occurred after the passing away of the Buddha.
Not only was Maha Kaccana honoured and respected by the Sangha and lay disciples, he was also well-respected and honoured by the gods. Monks usually dispersed to various cities and monasteries for the rainy season. At the end of the rainy season they gathered at an assembly that was held by the Buddha to advise the monks and to admonish them for any indiscretions. Many monks travelled back to wherever the Buddha was residing for this assembly. Maha Kaccana was no exception. Often travelling from afar, he ensured that he was present for the after-rains assembly. The other elders, accustomed to seeing Maha Kaccana, kept a seat for him in the assembly.
On one such occasion Sakka, the king of the Tavatimsa Heaven, together with a large retinue, descended to earth to pay homage and respect to the great disciples. On noticing that Maha Kaccana was absent, Sakka thought to himself, "It would be good if the Noble Elder were to arrive so that I can pay respect to him". Just then Maha Kaccana entered the assembly and sat down in the seat prepared for him. Overwhelmed with joy, Sakka dropped to his knees and, grasping the elder’s feet, paid homage to him by bowing low. He then showered him with garlands and incense.
Novice monks were affronted as to why Sakka had singled out Maha Kaccana for special homage. The Buddha, however, reproved them by saying that those monks, like Maha Kaccana, who guarded the sense doors (to ensure no unwholesome deeds were performed), were beloved by both gods and humans. He then declared:
"Even the Devas hold him dear,
Whose senses are subdued.
Like horses trained well by a charioteer,
Whose pride is destroyed,
And who is free from corruptions."
-- (Dhmmapada 94)
In this manner the Buddha assured His disciples that one did not have to resort to prayers to obtain favours from the gods. The Devas enjoyed favouring and honouring those who practised the virtues and kept the precepts of morality.
Maha Kaccana assisted many novice monks and lay devotees to understand the complex teachings. His keen mind, analytical abilities, and organizational skills helped many of the less spiritually advanced to grasp the deep teachings of the Buddha. Maha Kaccana was declared by the Buddha to be foremost among the monks who explained in detail brief statements proclaimed by the Buddha.
At the time of the Gotama Buddha, in the city of Kosabhe, there lived a wealthy, high-caste merchant and his wife. After some time the wife conceived and the couple was blessed with a beautiful baby son on whom they lavished all their love and affection. As they lived close to the river Yamuna, the baby was taken to the river by his nurse for his daily bath.
The river Yamuna was a deep, wide river with shallow banks and swiftly-flowing water. The nurse was bathing the young baby when she was terrified by a large fish that was swimming towards her. In her haste to get out of the water she lost the baby. Wading into the river she tried to swim after the precious child. The current, however, was swift. She watched in horror as the child was taken further and further from her reach, towards the large fish.
Many miles down the river was a fishing village. The men who fished in the Yamuna river were excited, for their nets had drawn a very large fish. Hauling in their nets with difficulty, they took the large fish which was thrashing about to the home of the wealthiest resident, who had a large household with many servants. Knowing that only the rich could afford such a large fish they sold it to the merchant, who had no children. The fish was taken to the kitchen, but the cook was reluctant to cut the unusually large and beautiful fish. Deciding to serve it whole, he carefully opened it by inserting his knife along its side. The cook was greatly surprised to find a young baby, still alive, in the stomach of the fish. Running to his mistress, he handed the beautiful baby to her. The woman, who had no children, was filled with joy at the sight of the baby, and decided to bring him up as her own.
The unusual story of the child’s beginning soon spread throughout the village. Many came to see the beautiful baby who was regarded as a miracle child. Before long the news spread upriver to the grieving parents who were still in deep sorrow due to the loss of their son. Suspecting that it could be their child, they visited the fishing village to examine the baby. Recognizing the baby as her own, the birth mother asked for the custody of her child. However, the new mother, who had brought up the child with love, was too attached to the baby to part with it. Unable to settle the dispute on their own, the two families took their grievance to the king. The king heard both sides of the story and gave both families joint custody of the child, who was renamed Bakkula meaning ‘two castes’. Bakkula had the unique privilege of claiming lineage from two very wealthy, high-caste Brahmin families. He grew up in the midst of extreme luxury and love from both sets of parents. He had the best available education and took turns living with both sets of parents. As he came of age his parents arranged a marriage to a beautiful girl.
The aspiration made many eons ago had to be fulfilled. As he grew older Bakkula was inspired by the teachings of the Gotama Buddha. He decided to join the Buddha’s Noble Order. Eight days later he attained the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
The monks soon noticed a strange phenomenon regarding Bakkula. Not only was he as knowledgable as any physician, he was also exceptionally healthy, never succumbing to sickness despite the fact that he often tended the sick monks. Bakkula was also well- known for his remarkable memory. Similarly to the chief disciples of the Buddha, Sariputta and Moggallana and his former wife, Yasodara, Bakkula could recall his past births over infinite periods of time.
The Buddha appointed Bakkula as the monk foremost in good health and longevity. Bakkula entered the noble order at the age of eighty and led the life of a householder for eighty years and the life of a monk for 80 years. To understand the cause of his remarkable memory and his longevity one needs to go back many, many years into the past.
One hundred thousand world cycles and one infinite period ago, a Supreme Buddha named Anomadassi reigned over India. Having realized the timeless Four Noble Truths and the Doctrine of Dependent Origination, the Anomadassi Buddha, together with His Chief Disciples, Nisabha and Anoma, taught the Buddha Dhamma for the benefit of mankind and gods. The Anomadassi Buddha, who was travelling through villages and cities preaching the Dhamma, was in a monastery in a beautiful grove of flowering trees near a huge rock formation known as Sobitha when he was stricken with grave illness. Enduring His pain and discomfort with the strength of His mind, the Anomadassi Buddha continued His noble mission of helping mankind eradicate all suffering by showing them the path to emancipation.
At this time a young man who was skilled in his studies, not content with his education, turned to searching for truth. Giving up his household life he took to the life of an ascetic. Before long he attained the mental ecstasies (Jhana). Inspired by the teachings of the Anomadassi Buddha, he entered the Noble Order. However, despite his effort he did not attain enlightenment. Seeing the Buddha Anomadassi and diagnosing His illness, the young monk requested permission to treat His ailment. He then combed the area, obtained the necessary herbs and roots, and prepared the medicine required for treatment. Offering the medicine to the Anomadassi Buddha with devotion and compassion, he tended to the Buddha’s needs and restored Him back to health. He then aspired for long life and good health in all his future births in samsara (cycle of birth and death). Realizing that he required more effort and meritorious deeds to attain emancipation, he continued to perform meritorious deeds.
The Anomadassi Buddha looked into the future and prophesied that the young monk would be reborn in the Brahma realms for many world cycles, after which he would return to the human world as a royal monarch. He would then enjoy the comforts of a royal monarch for many births. Throughout his birth in the celestial and human realms he would be blessed with long life and exceptionally good health.
Bakkula’s next documented birth is during the reign of the Padumuttara Buddha. He was inspired by a monk on whom the Padumuttara Buddha had conferred the title of monk foremost in long life and good health. He performed many meritorious deeds and aspired to be foremost in long life and good health under a future Buddha. The Padumuttara Buddha prophesied that many eons into the future there would reign a Supreme Buddha of the Sakyan clan by the name of Gotama. At this time, Bakkula would be born into a wealthy Brahmin family, attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana, and be declared the monk foremost in good health and longevity.
The next documented birth story is at the time of the Vipassi Buddha, when Bakkula was born in the city of Bandumatti. On completing his education he decided to join the Noble Order. Before long he attained the mental ecstasies. During this time a contagious desease spread among the Vipassi Buddha’s Noble Order. By using his supernormal powers Bakkula gathered the herbs and roots required and prepared the medicine that cured the Sangha. He then renewed his aspiration. At death he was reborn in the Brahma realms and had the opportunity to enjoy celestial bliss for a long period of time.
The next documented birth story is at the time of the Kassapa Buddha. After seeing a derelict monastery he repaired it and offered it to the Sangha. Taking refuge in the Kassapa Buddha he continued his efforts at emancipation. At death he was reborn in the heavens.
As prophesied, the aspiration made at the time of the Padumuttara Buddha was fulfilled during the reign of the Gotama Buddha. Bakkula, with his remarkable memory and the experience gained by attending the First Sangha Council was invaluable in teaching and assisting the Sangha in preserving the Word of the Buddha.
At the time of the Buddha Gotama there reigned a righteous King and Queen named Koliya and Suppavasa. After some time Queen Suppavasa conceived a child. The unborn child brought great fortune to the kingdom. Not only did the queen receive many gifts from friends and relatives, but the whole kingdom became prosperous. Crops grew in abundance and everyone was well-fed and healthy.
The queen grew heavy with child but when the natural time for the birth arrived, she failed to deliver the baby. She grew uneasy as time passed by with still no signs of the birth, and asked the King to invite the Buddha and His retinue of monks for a meal. After the meal the Buddha blessed the queen by saying:
"May Suppavasa, daughter of the Koliya clan,
Be happy and healthy and give birth to a healthy son."
After the Buddha left, the queen gave birth to a beautiful, healthy son. As a mark of respect for the Buddha, who had eased the queen’s heavy burden with His blessings, He and His retinue were invited to receive alms at the palace for seven days. The prince was named Sivali, as from the time of his conception, the people’s hardships were alleviated through an abundance of rich crops.
One day when Sariputta was on his alms round he visited the prince and informed him of the suffering that he and his mother had undergone because of the delayed pregnancy. Sariputta then went on to explain to the prince the unwholesome action that his mother and he had performed and the resulting effects of their actions.
In a previous birth Sivali had been born as the King of Benares and had waged war on a neighbouring kingdom. He had surrounded the kingdom and told the citizens to surrender or fight back. When they refused to surrender, in collaboration with his consort, his present mother, he had decided to surround the city and hold them hostage until they did so. The citizens, who did not want to fight back or live under the rule of such a king, had not surrendered. As a result they had suffered greatly without food for a very long period. Many of the sick and the elderly had died but the arrogant king and his queen had not given in. Many months later the King had withdrawn his troops and released his hostages but he had paid dearly for the suffering he had caused. At death he was reborn in Avichi hell. The delayed pregnancy and the suffering he and his mother had undergone resulting from the delay were the residual effects of this action.
After illustrating the Noble Truth of suffering, Sariputta asked the prince if he would like to join the Noble Order so that he could seek the path to end all suffering. The prince was overjoyed at this invitation and agreed to join the order with his mother’s permission.
The queen, who was a devoted follower of the Buddha, agreed. She escorted Prince Sivali in procession to the monastery to be ordained. On the day of ordination when his hair was shaved, Sariputta advised Sivali to meditate on the impurities of the body. Sivali, who was spiritually advanced resulting from previous wholesome actions, focused his mind as instructed. Before the completion of the shaving of his hair, Sivali attained the supreme wisdom of Nibbana.
The monks soon noticed a strange phenomenon when they were with Sivali. Sivali always seemed to have an abundance of rich, fragrant food and the other requisites (robes, shelter and medicine). Monks who were with him also had the opportunity to share in the bounty. Wherever Sivali went people flocked around to prepare food for him. Sivali was indeed blessed with all the requisites of a monk.
And so it was that wherever Sivali travelled he was well taken care of. He and his retinue of 500 monks were in an uninhabited forest for seven days, but they were not short of food. The Devas made sure that all their requirements were met. Similarly when Sivali was travelling through the desert his requisites were provided. The Buddha, seeing that Sivali was fulfilling a previous aspiration in His reign, declared that he was foremost among the monks in obtaining requisites. He also instructed monks who were travelling on long, tedious journeys through uninhabited terrain to be accompanied by Sivali, as with him by their side they would be ensured of the requisites. In fact, on one occasion when the Buddha and His retinue of 30,000 monks were travelling to visit the monk Khadhiravaniya Revata (Sariputta’s younger brother) they had to cross an uninhabited forest. Ananda, fearing that they would not be able to obtain food in the jungle for such a large number of monks, questioned the Buddha about the logistics of the journey. The Buddha assured Ananda that they had nothing to worry about as Sivali was with them. With Sivali present there would be no shortage of food because even the Devas revelled in taking care of his requirements.
In general the effects of one’s wholesome and unwholesome intentional actions are reaped only by the doer. However, there are instances, as with Sivali, that others too benefit from unusually strong actions of another. This overflow of the results of the effect of a persons strong kamma on others is known as nissandha pala (overflowing results of kamma). While vipaka pala (results of kamma) are reaped only by the doer nissandha pala are experienced by others who happen to be with you.
Nissandha pala could be both wholesome and unwholesome in accordance with the deed performed. For instance Sariputta did not obtain alms in one instance resulting from the nissandha pala of Losaka’s strong unwholesome deeds.
To seek the cause of this strange phenomenon we need to go back many aeons to the time of the Buddha Padumuttara. Sivali, who had been born as a poor man, had the opportunity to see the Buddha Padumuttara confer on another monk the honour of being foremost among monks who obtain the requisites. Fascinated by the way everyone desired to provide alms and robes to this monk, Sivali had decided that he too would like to hold a similar position in a future birth. He had then performed many acts of generosity to the Buddha Padumuttara and His retinue and made an aspiration.
The Buddha Padumuttara, foreseeing that Sivali’s aspiration would be fulfilled, had prophesied that at the time of the Gotama Buddha he would be foremost among the monks who obtained requisites. From this point onwards, Sivali had started in earnest to work toward his aspiration. At death he was reborn in a heavenly realm where he enjoyed many years of heavenly bliss.
The next documented birth story took place at the time of the Buddha Vipassi, 91 world cycles before our Gotama Buddha. Sivali was born as a merchant in the City of Bandhumati. The City was preparing a great alms-giving for the Buddha Vipassi and His retinue of monks, when they realized that they were short of curd and honey, a delicacy that was often served after the noonday meal. Messages were sent all over the city to obtain the required delicacy. Unable to obtain the quota required, the king’s men raised the price of the curd and honey from one gold coin to 100 coins.
In the meantime Sivali, a merchant who sold curd and honey, was approached and offered 100 gold coins for his merchandise. Sivali was surprised at the unusually high offer and asked for whose consumption they were buying the curd. On being told that it was for the Buddha Vipassi and His retinue of monks, Sivali asked permission to donate his wares to the Buddha. He then renewed his aspiration to be foremost among the monks who received requisites. The Buddha Vipassi, seeing that Sivali’s aspiration would be fulfilled, blessed him by saying, "May your aspiration be fulfilled." Sivali then became a devotee of the Vipassi Buddha and practised His Dhamma.
Resulting from this strong aspiration and the meritorious deeds and efforts performed in previous births, Sivali fulfilled his aspiration to be foremost among the monks who obtained requisites at the time of the Gotama Buddha. To date, Buddhists venerate the Arahanth Sivali, and often keep a picture or a discourse known as the Sivali Paritta in their home as a symbol of abundance of food and prosperity.
One of King Pasenadi Kosala’s subjects was a learned Brahmin by the name of Bhaggava Gagga, who served as his royal chaplain. Bhaggava and his wife Mantani had a baby son. In keeping with the custom of the times his father cast a horoscope for the new-born babe. To his horror, he found that the baby was born under the "robber constellation", which would result in tendencies of a life of crime.
That morning when the chaplain visited the king and asked him how he had slept, the king informed him that he had had a night of terror. "I woke up in the night", said the king, "and saw my weapons which were lying at the side of my bed sparkling brightly. Could this", he asked, "mean danger to my kingdom or myself?"
Bhaggava then informed the king that the same strange phenomena had occurred throughout the city and informed the king that the cause was his newborn son who had a robber’s horoscope. The king then asked Bhaggava if the stars foretold that the boy was to be a lone robber. Bhaggava informed the king that indeed the stars foretold that his son would lead a life of solitary crime. Bhaggava then asked the king if they should kill the baby now to prevent the crimes that would be unleashed in the future if this baby lived. King Pasenadi, reflecting on the fact that the child would grow up to be a lone robber, asked his chaplain to bring him up carefully and to educate him well so that this prediction could be avoided.
Bhaggava and Mantani decided to name the baby Ahimsaka, or "harmless", in the hope that his name and a good upbringing and education would change the latent tendencies that were dormant in him. Ahimsaka grew up to be physically strong, intelligent and well-behaved. As he excelled in his studies his father sent him to Takkasila, the famous ancient university of India, for his higher education. Ahimsaka, who was a good student, soon surpassed all the other students and excelled. Before long he was the favourite of his teacher. His teacher treated him as his son and often invited Ahimsaka to share meals with him in his home. Ahimsaka’s academic excellence and his obvious friendship with the teacher made him many enemies. His fellow students, jealous of his success, decided to poison the teacher’s mind in order to destroy the friendship.
They began systematically to poison the mind of the teacher by making false accusations against Ahimsaka. At first the teacher disregarded their slander and rebuked them, but when more and more students independently came to him with the same story his confidence wavered. Slowly a seed of doubt entered his heart. Was Ahimsaka plotting against him? Was he planning to take over his pupils and surpass him? His teacher decided that he would have to kill Ahimsaka before he himself was killed. But Ahimsaka was big and strong. Killing him would not be easy. Besides, his reputation as a teacher would be ruined if he were in any way connected with Ahimsaka’s death. The teacher reflected on a plan to get rid of Ahimsaka, whom he now perceived as a threat, in a manner that would not incriminate him.
Ahimsaka had just completed his course of studies. It was the custom at that time for the pupils to give a gift to honour the teacher who had taught them. Reminding Ahimsaka of this honoured custom, he requested a necklace of one thousand fingers, each of which was to be obtained from a different person’s body. The teacher most probably had secretly cast Ahimsaka’s horoscope himself, for this science was well-known at that time, and had seen that Ahimsaka had within him criminal tendencies. He also expected that before long Ahimsaka would be caught by the king’s men and executed for his crimes. Thus, thinking that he had come up with a foolproof plan to kill Ahimsaka, he insisted on his gift when Ahimsaka hesitated.
Ahimsaka came from a family who believed in non-violence. Remembering his parental and family values, Ahimsaka refused to provide this gift. But the teacher insisted by telling him that this was expected of him and that not giving the requested gift would totally nullify the value of all he had learned, as he would not have met the honoured teacher’s wish. Ahimsaka therefore felt compelled to agree.
At this point Ahimsaka’s latent tendencies for violence arose and exploded within him. In previous births he had been strong and violent. He had, in fact, eaten human flesh and relished killing. His dark past and lack of compassion resurfaced and the good influence of his parents and upbringing were forgotten. His love for danger, adventure and killing took over. Instead of collecting the thousand fingers from dead bodies, which could have been found in the burial grounds, he took to a life of crime in the Jalini forest in his home state of Kosala.
There he lived on a high cliff, observing travellers upon whom he swooped down and killed. Slaying them, he took one finger from each victim. First he hung the finger on a tree so that birds and other creatures would eat the rotting flesh and then he threaded the bones into a garland which he wore round his neck. Before long he came to be known as Angulimala, or "garland of fingers".
The whole city was in terror. Angulimala’s power and strength were unconquerable. Many had tried to capture the dreaded serial killer but had fallen victim to his vicious strength and inhuman cruelty. Angulimala began to enjoy his cruel life and was completely overtaken by his past dark life of killing and cruelty. No one dared to approach the forest for fear of death. Angulimala started to venture into the outskirts of the city to find his victims. He even started breaking into homes and raiding the city in the night to kill and obtain the fingers. The villagers, who were petrified, left their homes and fled to the capital of Savatthi. They camped outside the palace walls and complained to the king that more and more of the townspeople were being killed mercilessly by Angulimala. The king therefore prepared the army to capture him.
At this time Angulimala had collected 999 of the thousand fingers required for his gift to the teacher. Angulimala’s true name and descent were not known, as his appearance had changed. His beard and hair were matted and he was covered in stale, dried blood. The stench of death and raw meat surrounded him. He looked like a wild, fearsome killer. The mild-mannered Ahimsaka was unrecognizable.
News of the terror wrought by Angulimala had finally reached his parents. Suspecting that Angulimala was their son who had never come back from the Takkasila University, his mother pleaded with her husband to bring their son back. But Bhaggava had no use for such a son. He refused, saying, "Let him be captured, let him be executed by the king’s men". Mantani decided to venture into the forest alone to save her son. With the unconditional love that a mother has for her child she hoped to persuade Angulimala to mend his ways, as the king was preparing his army to capture and execute him.
Angulimala was searching desperately for his last victim. He was tiring of his life of crime and had become eager to reach his goal. In the distance he saw a woman approaching his hide-out in the Jalini forest. Swooping down the mountain, he began chasing the old woman whom he soon realized was his mother.
At this time the Buddha, with his compassionate eye, was observing the world, looking for those with wisdom and in need to help. He saw Angulimala running after his mother for his final kill. He also saw that Angulimala had within him the goodness to attain emancipation. This was not His first encounter with Angulimala. In many past lives they had met and the Buddha had conquered Angulimala’s strength of body with His strength of mind. Once Angulimala had even been the Bodhisatta’s uncle (Jataka 513). He walked toward the Jalini forest to prevent the grave, hideous crime of matricide. Townsfolk tried to prevent the Buddha from continuing by telling Him of the murderous serial killer.
The Buddha, disregarding their plea, ventured into the deep forest. Projecting himself between Angulimala and his mother, the Buddha attracted his attention. Seeing the calm and serene Buddha, Angulimala swerved. "Why should I kill my mother," thought Angulimala, "my last victim will instead be this ascetic who stands calmly in my way".
Swerving, he started after the Buddha. Angulimala brandished his sword as he thrashed amongst the foliage, intent on catching up with the Buddha. But despite his superhuman strength and fast pace he could not keep up with the Buddha. The Buddha did not seem to be running and yet, despite Angulimala’s efforts, He remained a few paces ahead. Exhausted, Angulimala called out to the Buddha, "Stop, recluse! Stop, recluse!" The Buddha calmly replied, "I have stopped, Angulimala. You too should stop."
Angulimala was perplexed by the Buddha’s words. Stopping, he questioned the Buddha as to what He meant. The Buddha then explained:
"Angulimala, I have stopped forever,
I abstain from violence towards all living beings
But you have no restraint towards things that breathe
So that is why I have stopped and you have not."
When Angulimala heard these words a miraculous change occurred. His former good deeds and purity surfaced. He knew that the Compassionate One had come to the Jalini Forest solely on his behalf. Moved to the very core of his being, Angulimala threw down his sword, knelt before the Buddha with bowed head, and pledged to change.
"Oh at long last this Recluse, a Venerated Sage,
Has come to this forest for my sake.
Having heard your stanza, teaching me the Truth (Dhamma)
I will indeed renounce evil forever."
The Buddha ordained Angulimala and took him back to the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi. The villagers, unaware of the transformation that had taken place, continued to complain to the king, who, together with his best soldiers, set off to the Jalini forest to capture Angulimala. On the way they passed the Jetavana Monastery. Being an ardent follower of the Enlightened One, King Pasenadi Kosala stopped at the monastery to pay respect to the Buddha. The Buddha, seeing the king in his battle gear with his best soldiers, asked him if he was going to war with a neighbouring kingdom. King Pasenadi replied that it was not a kingdom that he was trying to overthrow, but Angulimala, the dreaded murderer. He then added that even though he had selected his best soldiers to accompany him, he did not think that he would be successful in capturing the fierce murderer.
The Buddha then asked the king how he would treat Angulimala if he had given up his murderous ways and taken to the Noble Order. The king replied that he would then honour and worship him as befitting the Noble Ones. The Buddha then asked Angulimala to come forward. A calm and serene, shaven monk walked towards the king. At the sight of Angulimala the king shook with fear. His being with the Buddha and wearing saffron robes did not alter the fact that he was a fearsome killer. The king backed away in terror.
The Buddha then told the king that he had nothing to be afraid of, as Angulimala had given up killing to follow His path. The king then questioned Angulimala about his family and origin. Angulimala answered that he was the son of Bhaggava Gagga and Mantani. The king immediately recalled the day that Angulimala was born and the unusual happening in the night. But confident in the Buddha’s acceptance of the former murderer, the king addressed him as Gagga Mantaniputta so that his association with the past should be forgotten. King Pasenadi offered to provide Mantaniputta (son of Mantani) his patronage and the requisites of a monk. Mantaniputta, however, had decided that he would practise austerities. He already had the three robes that a monk required. He refused the king’s offer. Amazed at the transformation, King Pasenadi then praised the Buddha as follows:
"It is wonderful, Venerable Sir. It is marvellous how the Blessed One subdues the unsubdued, pacifies the unpacified, calms the uncalm. This one whom we could not subdue with punishment and weapons, the Blessed One has subdued without punishment or weapons."
Despite the king’s acceptance of Mantaniputta the townsfolk feared the former killer. When Mantaniputta went on his alms round people ran away in fear. Even though he went on alms round each day, as it was the custom for the Buddha’s monks to do, he hardly ever received alms. The villagers were also in fear that this precedent would result in seasoned criminals joining the Noble Order to escape from their punishment. Reflecting on their concern the Buddha realized that no one but Himself had the capacity to look into a person and view their innate goodness. There could in the future arise a misuse of the Noble Order by evil persons. Agreeing to their request, the Buddha declared that convicted criminals would not be allowed to join the order as a means to escape their punishment or jail term.
Mantaniputta, who practised the Buddha’s teaching ardently, had difficulties attaining his goal. Visions of his former victims pleading for their life, their cries of pain and torment, haunted him. He could not calm his mind or collect his thoughts when he remembered his evil past. He continued striving, and despite the fact that he did not receive alms, he joined the other monks in the daily alms round. On one such day he saw a woman in labour in intense pain, as she was unable to deliver her baby. Full of compassion for her suffering he went back to the Buddha and asked if there was anything that he could do to help the young woman.
The Buddha then declared a stanza of Truth which is now commonly known as the Angulimala Sutta. The Buddha asked him to go to the woman and say the following:
"Since I was with the Noble Birth,
I do not recall that I have ever intentionally
Deprived a living being of his life.
By this Truth may you be well and may your infant be safe."
As instructed Mantaniputta went back to the woman’s home. He then declared the Sutta. The woman’s suffering ceased and she gave birth to a healthy baby. The power of Truth and the resulting miracle spread across the city. Villagers lost their fear of Mantaniputta and started to accept him with compassion. He started to receive food when he went on his alms round.
The Buddha did not usually encourage His disciples to perform miracles or to heal through faith. Why then in this incident did He encourage Mantaniputta to help the woman through the power of Truth? It was because the Buddha knew that Mantaniputta did not receive any alms because the villagers did not have confidence in him. It was also to give Mantaniputta something positive on which to focus his mind so that he could put aside his past and concentrate on disciplining his mind. After this incident people started slowly to regain their confidence in Mantaniputta. He too was able to concentrate without constantly reliving his evil past. His compassion for the woman and his happiness resulting from this deed helped to calm his mind. Shortly thereafter, with diligent practice, Mantaniputta, the former murderer Angulimala, attained Arahanthship.
The acceptance, however, was not complete. Many whose family members he had killed never forgave him. They hit him with sticks and stones and Mantaniputta often came back to Jetavana bleeding, in torn robes. He bore the torment with calm for he had finally attained his salvation. His body was subject to the brutal attacks for he had to reap the effects of his evil kamma, but his mind had achieved liberation.
To this day Buddhists all over the world have great confidence in the Angulimala Sutta. It is common practice for the Sutta to be used for a safe and comfortable delivery when Buddhist women are in labour. From this point onwards Mantaniputta’s compassion spread. He led a quiet life, living in forests and glades, practising austerities.
Mantaniputta encourages his enemies and others who have done wrong and describes his transformation and gratitude to the Buddha thus:
"(one)Who once did live in negligence
And then in negligence no more.
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from the clouds.
(One)Who checks the evil deeds he did
By doing wholesome deeds instead
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from the clouds.
The youthful Bhikkhu who devotes
His efforts to the Buddha’s teachings
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from the clouds.
Let my enemies but hear discourses from the Dhamma
Let them be devoted to the Buddha’s Teaching
Let my enemies wait on these good people
Who lead others to accept the Dhamma (Truth).
Let my enemies give ear from time to time
And hear the doctrine as told by men who preach forbearance
Of those who speak as well in praise of kindness
And let them follow up the Teaching with kind deeds.
For surely then they will not wish to harm me
Nor would they think of harming other beings
So those who would protect beings frail or strong
Let them attain the all-surpassing peace.
Conduit-makers guide the water
Fletchers straighten arrows
Carpenters straighten out the timber
But wise men seek to tame themselves.
There are some that tame with beatings
Some with goads and some with whips
But I was tamed by such alone
Who has neither rod nor any weapon.
Harmless is the name I bear
Who was dangerous in the past
The name I bear today is true
I hurt no living beings at all.
And though I once lived as a bandit
With the name of Finger Garland
One whom the great flood swept along
I went for refuge to the Buddha.
And though I once was bloody-handed
With the name of Finger Garland
See the refuge I have found
The bond of being has been cut.
While I did many deeds that lead
To rebirth in the evil realms
Yet their result has reached me now
And so I eat free from death.
They are fools and have no sense
Who give themselves to negligence
But those of wisdom guard diligence
And treat it as their greatest good.
Do not give way to negligence
Nor seek delight in sensual pleasures
But meditate with diligence
So as to reach the perfect bliss.
So welcome to that choice of mind
And let it stand, it was not ill made
Of all the Dhammas known to men
I have come to the very best.
So welcome to that choice of mind
And let it stand, it was not ill made
I have attained the triple knowledge
And done all that the Buddha teaches.
I stayed in forests at the root of a tree
I dwelt in the mountain caves
But no matter where I went
I always had an agitated heart.
But now I rest and rise in happiness
And happily I spend my life
For now I am free of Mara’s snares
Oh! For the pity shown me by the Master.
A Brahmin was I by descent
On both sides high and purely born
Today I am the Master’s son
My teacher is the Dhamma-King.
Free of craving, without grasping
With guarded senses, well restrained
Spawn forth have I the root of misery
The end of all taints have I attained.
The Master has been served by me full well
And all the Buddha’s bidding has been done
The heavy load was finally laid down
What leads to new becoming was cut off.
-- (Therigatha 871-891)
Nanda was the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maha Pajapati Gotami. He was the step-brother of Prince Siddhattha.
Nanda was celebrating three important events on the day that the Buddha visited the palace for His noonday meal. He was celebrating his consecration to the throne, his marriage to Janapada Kalyani, and his housewarming ceremony.
After the meal the Buddha handed His bowl to Nanda and left the palace to return to the monastery. Out of respect for the Buddha, Nanda followed Him with bowl in hand, thinking, "Surely the Lord will take the bowl from me shortly."
The Buddha, however, did not take back the bowl. Nanda, who respected His older brother, the Buddha, followed Him to the monastery. His betrothed, seeing him following the Buddha, ran after him in tears, saying, "Return quickly, O Noble Lord." These affectionate words and his beloved’s tears moved Nanda deeply. But so great was his reverence for the Buddha that he could not hand back the bowl.
On reaching the monastery the Buddha, who saw that Nanda had the potential of reaching Arahanthship, asked him if he would like to be ordained as a monk. Nanda was torn. He wanted to go back to his betrothed. But how could he refuse the Buddha? So great was his respect for his older brother, the Buddha, that he reluctantly agreed.
Nanda, the Bhikkhu, was not happy. He kept thinking of his bride-to-be. Finally, in desperation, he approached his fellow monks and related his troubles to them. Nanda informed them that he intended to give up the holy life and go back to the life of a house- holder.
The news of Nanda’s decision soon reached the Buddha. Approaching Nanda, the Buddha questioned him as to the problem. Nanda informed the Buddha that he was distracted and worried because he had left his beautiful bride on their wedding day. The Buddha, who with His divine eye saw that Nanda, with a little effort, could reach the supreme happiness of enlightenment, thought of a way to keep him in the Holy Life which was in keeping with his present frame of mind.
Using His psychic powers the Buddha transported Nanda to the Tavatimsa Heaven. On the way He showed Nanda a singed female monkey who had lost her ears, nose and tail in a forest fire. Pointing to the celestial nymphs the Buddha asked Nanda who was the fairer, the celestial nymphs or his bride-to-be. Nanda, enticed by the extraordinary beauty of the celestial nymphs, replied that his bride-to-be was like the singed female monkey that they had seen on their way, when compared to the celestial nymphs.
The Buddha, reading his immature mind, then said, "I guarantee that you will possess the celestial nymphs if you persevere and follow my instruction." Nanda, who was totally obsessed with the beauty of the celestial nymphs, childishly agreed.
Nanda then informed his fellow monks of his decision to remain in the Holy order and the reason for his change of mind. Before long everybody knew that Nanda was following the Holy Order in the hope of possessing celestial nymphs. The young monks laughed and teased Nanda, calling him rude names. Their teasing brought Nanda to his senses. Ashamed of his base motives he set his mind towards enlightenment. Shortly after, by practising with diligence, Nanda achieved Arahanthship. Nanda describes his attachment, final deliverance and gratitude as follows:
"Because of unreasoned thinking,
I was addicted to ornament.
I was conceited, vain
And afflicted by desire for sense pleasures.
With (the aid of) the Buddha
Skilled in means, kinsman of the sun
I practised properly,
Plucked out my mind (desire)
-- (Theragatha 157,158)
On realizing the exquisite happiness of Nibbana, Nanda approached the Buddha and thanked Him respectfully by saying, "Lord I release you from your promise of celestial bliss." The Buddha then informed Nanda that He had been released from the promise the moment he had reached the supreme bliss of Nibbana, because the bliss of Nibbana was greater and transcended any celestial bliss.
Devadatta, who was the son of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita, was the cousin of Prince Siddhattha and brother of Princess Yasodhara. He was a playmate of Prince Siddhattha but from a young age displayed signs of cruelty towards animals and jealousy towards the Prince.
As a young prince, Siddhattha had always been everyone’s favourite. He was obedient, kind and considerate. He also excelled in every skill and sport. Devadatta looked on, his heart filled with envy. Why was it that everyone obeyed Siddhattha and listened to Him? Why was He always singled out as the best? Could they not see how great he, Devadatta, was? His mean spirit could not understand that it was his own arrogance, cruel nature, and lack of consideration that turned people away from him.
When Siddhattha became the Buddha, Devadatta watched as Sakyan princes and princesses embraced His Doctrine. He, too, decided to give up his life as a prince and follow the Buddha’s teaching. He entered the order together with his cousins, Ananda and Anuruddha. For a brief period his jealousy and envy were buried as he explored the new teachings with interest. Before long, he reached the first stage of Jhana by developing his keen mind through meditation. Sariputta, seeing his effort and progress, praised him for his diligence.
However, it was only a temporary reprieve. His old anger and envy poured back into his dark heart. Gripped with hatred and jealousy upon seeing the popularity and veneration the Buddha received, he began to form a plot. Seeking the help of King Ajatasattu, a cruel and greedy king, he planned the murder of the Buddha.
At the first attempt to kill the Buddha, Devadatta’s plan was foiled. The large rock he rolled down the mountain at Gijjhakuta bounced off another rock. A sliver detached and struck the sacred foot of the Buddha. The wound was deep and painful but not fatal. Devadatta plotted again. Feeding alcohol to the enraged king elephant Nalagiri, he let it loose on the path towards the Buddha. But the Buddha with His grace calmed the enraged elephant. Unable to bear his defeat, Devadatta sought to cause disharmony among the monks. He requested that the Buddha change the rules for the monks to include the following:
1. Monks should only live in the forest (as opposed to living in monasteries)
2. Monks should only eat food that they received through begging (as opposed to food eaten on invitation by laymen)
3. Monks should only wear robes that were made from cloths that were used to wrap dead bodies - pansukula (as opposed to robes given as gifts by laymen)
4. Monks should live at the foot of trees (as opposed to living in caves in forests)
5. Monks should not eat fish or meat
The compassionate Buddha, who saw that the above rules would cause unnecessary hardship to His monks while not adding any value to their reaching of enlightenment, refused. Instead, He said that any monk who wished to do so could adopt the above practice of austerities. This caused disharmony among the Sangha as some inexperienced monks, thinking that the only way to enlightenment was by the practice of austerities, left the Buddha and joined an order founded by Devadatta. With the start of these evil actions Devadatta lost the psychic powers and Jhana that he had developed.
To understand fully the deep envy and hatred that Devadatta had towards the Buddha, we must look back in history to their first encounter. In the Seri Vanija Jataka, the Buddha revealed that many lifetimes before, Devadatta and He were both born as travelling merchants. Devadatta, who was an unscrupulous merchant, was travelling selling his wares when he was accosted by a poor peasant woman who did not have any money but needed merchandise. However, she had in her kitchen a large pot which was old and discoloured. Asking her granddaughter to bring forth the pot, she handed it to Devadatta and asked him to value it and give them merchandise in exchange for its value. On receiving the heavy pot, Devadatta realized that this was no ordinary vessel. It was a pot of gold, the value of which was greater than all the merchandise he carried in his cart. He also realized that neither the old lady nor her grand-daughter was aware of its value. Pretending that it was a valueless old pot he handed it back and ridiculed them for suggesting such a trade. His plan was to come back later and offer them a small amount of money, far less than the true value of the pot, and make it out to be an act of compassion that he had performed to help them.
Shortly after, our Bodhisatta visited the same hut to sell His merchandise. The old woman once again brought out the discoloured old pot and requested a trade for the merchandise that she needed. The Bodhisatta, realizing the value of the pot, informed the old woman that this was a golden vessel, the value of which exceeded all his merchandise. He then offered all his wares in exchange for the pot. The grateful old woman thanked the Bodhisatta for His honesty and informed Him of the ridicule to which they had been subject by the former merchant. She then handed the pot over to him.
Devadatta, however, was not finished with the poor woman. He came back hoping to trick her into giving him the pot for almost nothing. When he found out that the Bodhisatta had traded for the pot, his anger and envy were all-consuming. Raging after the Bodhisatta, he vowed enmity and revenge. Such deep anger and hatred is extremely dangerous. Devadatta carried his jealousy and anger towards the Buddha through many births. Many Jataka stories that the Buddha dispensed illustrate Devadatta’s hatred and schemes to hurt the Bodhisatta. Unable to accomplish his goal, Devadatta’s envy and hatred grew with each succeeding encounter with the Bodhisatta. This extreme hatred and past conditioning that had begun many years ago were carried through samsara and manifested in Devadatta’s evil actions towards the Buddha.
As he approached the time of his death, Devadatta repented and regretted his actions. He reflected on the impermanence of life and his oncoming death. A pang of fear gripped his heart. Why had he not heeded the teachings when he had the opportunity? How had he veered so far from the Truth?
Stumbling to his feet, he walked toward Jetavana to beg forgiveness of the Buddha for the grave wrongs he had committed. But it was not to be. Red-hot flames engulfed his mind and body. Gasping for breath, Devadatta died in torment before he reached the Buddha, and was reborn in the Avichi hell.
Despite the evil acts performed by Devadatta, the Buddha predicted that his good kamma performed in the early years as a monk would eventually bear fruit. He said that in the distant future Devadatta would be a Pacceka Buddha by the name of Satthissara.
Even though Devadatta was not one of the great disciples of the Buddha his story is worthy of note. It clearly illustrates that you are your own saviour. Even the Buddha, who must have had great compassion for his cousin, could not save him. That was something that Devadatta himself had to do. His story also illustrates the fact that there is hope for all. Even the extremely long lifespans in the lower worlds come to an end. Devadatta will one day reap the benefits of his good actions by becoming a Pacceka Buddha.