Two Earthen Pots

There is an incident in the life of Buddha.

One day a young man came to him, very upset.

‘What happened?’ asked the Buddha

The young man said:

‘Sir, yesterday my father died. I have come to you with a special request. Please do something for my dead father. When ordinary priests perform some rites or rituals, he gains access to heaven. Sir, if a great man like you performs any rites or rituals for my father, he will gain not only entry but a permanent residence in heaven. Please sir, do something for my father!’

He was so unbalanced, so emotional. The Buddha knew that any kind of rational argument would have no effect at this stage but he had his own way of explaining things. He asked the young man to go to the market and buy two earthen pots.

The young man happily went and bought them, thinking that this was to prepare for some ritual. The Buddha asked him to fill one with butter and the other with stones and pebbles. He did all this. The Buddha told him to close and seal them properly, and put them both in a nearby pond. He did so and both the pots sank to the bottom. The Buddha now told him to bring a stout stick, strike at them, and break them open. He did so, thinking that now the Buddha would perform a wonderful ritual for his father.

India is a vast and ancient land, full of diversities and extremes. There are people who have attained full enlightenment like the Buddha, and on the other hand, there are people in deep ignorance, immersed in blind faiths, beliefs, and dogmas. One belief is that when a parent dies, the son must take the corpse, put it on the funeral pyre and burn it; when it is half burned, he must take a strong stick, and break open the skull. The belief is that, as the skull is broken on earth, so the gateway of heaven is broken above, and the parent enters heaven.

The young man thought that, as his father was already dead and cremated yesterday, the Buddha was asking him to break open these earthen pots as a substitute. As he did so, the butter escaped from the first and floated to the surface; the pebbles escaped from the second pot and settled at the bottom.

‘Now,’ said the Buddha, ‘this much I have done. Now call all your priests. Let them come here and pray: ‘Oh pebbles, rise to the surface! Oh butter, sink to the bottom!’’

‘Are you joking, sir? How is this possible? It is against the law of nature, sir. The pebbles are heavier than water; they are bound to stay down, they can’t float. Butter is lighter than water, it is bound to float; it cannot go down.’

‘Young man, you know so much about the law of nature, and yet you do not want to understand the law that is applicable to one and all. If your father kept performing actions like pebbles and stones, he was bound to go down. Who can pull him up? If he kept performing actions which are light like butter, he is bound to go up. Who can push him down?’

Our difficulty is that we think that some invisible power will somehow favor us, even though we do nothing to change our own behavior pattern, our own actions. When we understand this eternal law of nature—that the fruits depend on our actions—we will be careful about our actions.

This discourse was given by the Buddha to Mahānāma the Sakyan.

(Pathama Māhānāma sutta)

Brahman-not by birth, but by action

Incidents from the Life of the Buddha: Two Earthen Pots | Brahman-not by birth but by action | No Caste Discrimination | Outer Guise Does Not Make One a Recluse | The True Ascent and Descent | Wholesome Actions Cause Birth in a Happy State | Infinite Forbearance and Compassion of the Buddha | Giving Appropriate Answers and Also Punishment as Necessary | The Buddha: Dispenser of Happiness | The Peacemaker | The Buddha: The Teacher Who Meditates | The Taste of Dhamma |

The Buddha was once living in the forest near Icchhānangala. At that time many well-known and wealthy brahmans were also staying there. Of them, there were two famous brahman teachers named Poskarasāti and Tārukṣa. Each of them had a disciple. Poskarasāti’s disciple was called Vāśisṭa and Tāruksa’s was called Bhāradvāja. A discussion on the topic, “how does one become a brahman?” arose between the two.

Bhāradvāja was of the view, that one is a brahman if one is born to parents whose lineage back to seven generations is pure. By virtue of this, one becomes a brahman. Young Vāśisṭa, on the other hand, said that if one is virtuous and moral, he is a brahman. When the two could not come to a conclusion, they approached the Buddha, introduced themselves to him and requested him to explain whether one is a brahman by birth or by action.

The Blessed One explained to them in detail giving reasons for the differences among all beings. Their birth is their distinctive mark. All species of living beings are different from one another because of their birth. Various kinds of trees, plants and grass are also different from one another. Insects, flies and ants have different distinctive marks. Various kinds of snakes, aquatic creatures, fish and birds have different distinctive marks. Human beings, on the other hand, do not have such distinctive marks. Every limb of the body of a creature or being is different from the limbs of other creatures. But as far as man is concerned all parts of the body of all men are the same.

The differences in men are only external. One who earns his livelihood by keeping cattle is a peasant. One who carries goods is a laborer. Those who eke out their living by any handiwork, craft or art, are called potters, iron-smiths, carpenters, etc., depending on their profession. The one who trades for his livelihood is called a trader. One who steals from others to make a living is called a thief. One who lives by using arms and armaments is called a soldier. One who possesses land and villages is called the King. None amongst them is a brahman.

Then, the Lord said, that no human being becomes a brahman just by virtue of being born to a particular mother. He explained further the qualities, by virtue of which a person becomes a brahman.

He, who does not hoard, who is free of attachment and greed, is fearless having broken all fetters that bind him to the wheel of birth and death, who has driven out anger and craving from the mind, who has broken himself free from all wrong views (62 kinds of wrong views were prevalent in those days), who is fully enlightened, him I call a brahman.

I call him a brahman, one who bears insults and pains without reaction, without being angry i.e. without polluting his mind, whose strength is forgiveness, who is free from anger, who is virtuous, moral, learned, and abstemious, and for whom this is the last birth. I call him a brahman who does not cling to sensual pleasures like the water drops on a lotus leaf, or in whom jealousy, pride, craving, and aversion do not stick, like a mustard seed on the tip of a needle, who has ended sorrow in this life and has thrown off all his burden, who is of deep wisdom, learned, who knows what is the path and what is not the path, is honest, who is neither attached to householders nor to those who have left home for the homeless life, who neither kills any being, nor instigates others to kill, who is peaceful amongst adversaries, without any stick amongst those armed with sticks, a non-hoarder amongst hoarders, who is respectful, and whose words are sweet and true, words that never hurt others, a person so qualified I call a brahman.

Thus, the Blessed One described further the virtues of a brahman. One who doesn’t take anything in this world which is not given to him, who is free from craving for this life or the life beyond, who has realized the ultimate truth, who shows the path to liberation, who is free from sorrow, who is untainted and pure, who is attached neither to sin nor to virtue, whose cravings for all his births have been rooted out, who has forsaken the ignorance that causes the cycle of birth and death, who has become an ascetic giving up all enjoyments, who is unfettered by all worldly and heavenly bonds, and who having discarded the likes and dislikes has become calm and cool and free from defilements, such a universally victorious person do I call a brahman. One who knows the passing away and arising of all beings very well, who is desire less, free from rebirth, who is endowed with wisdom, him I call a brahman. Neither a Deva, nor a Gandharva, nor a man knows his course, who is free from taints, is an arahant, who has nothing before, after or in the middle, who is without any property, who knows his previous births, sees heaven and hell, who is not going to be reborn, all that he had to do has been done, and who is an enlightened sage, him I call a brahman.”

One is not a brahman or a non-brahman by birth. One is a brahman or a non-brahman by actions. One’s occupation makes one a peasant, and another an artisan. Occupation makes one a trader and another a laborer. Actions make one a thief and another a soldier. Action makes one a beggar and it is action alone which makes one a king. In this way, the wise man who knows the results of kamma, knows this life very well. The world moves on because of kamma (actions), people also move in the cycle of birth and death because of kamma. All beings are tied to their actions like the moving wheels of a chariot tied to the axle. Meditation, living a holy life, abstinence from sensual pleasures and controlling the mind – these make one a brahman. Those who have these qualities are the best brahmans.

Though those two were young, even the elders of the Brahman community frequently discussed the topic.

Here is an incident from the life of the Buddha. Once when the Buddha was living in Anāthapindika’s Jetavana monastery, 500 Brahmans from different places gathered in Srāvastī;. Their topic of discussion was that Gotama does not make a distinction between high and low castes. He teaches Dhamma to people of the lowest caste and makes them respected and revered. We are not able to debate with him on this point.”

One amongst those Brahmans was Ᾱśvalāyana. Though young, he was an expert of the Vedic literature. It is believed that he was the same Ᾱśvalāyana , who later became a scholar in the Upaniṣadic era. Hence the group of Brahmans felt that Ᾱśvalāyana was capable of debating with the Buddha on that topic and helped him get ready. Although he repeatedly said that the Buddha speaks the words of Dhamma, and it is difficult to debate with him, but because of the pressure of those brahmans, Ᾱśvalāyana became ready to debate with the Buddha.

When he met the Buddha, he said that the Brahmans claim that they are the highest caste, others are inferior. They are fair, others are dark, only the Brahmans are pure, and others are not. Brahmans are born of Brahmā, are born of his mouth and they are his true heirs.

To this the Buddha replied, “Ᾱśvalāyana, the brahman women also menstruate, become pregnant, give birth to children and suckle them; so how can we accept that they are born of the mouth of Brahmā?”

Aśvalāyana remained silent. He could not refute.

The Blessed One further said, “If any Brahmā has decreed mankind to be high and low, then why are there only two classes of mankind in the neighboring countries and in other bordering states – noble and slave? There, if one is a noble, he can become a slave and a slave can become a noble.” Aśvalāyana accepted that in these states and countries, this is how things are.

The Buddha then asked him the special quality of the brahmans on account of which they consider themselves to be the heirs of Brahmā.

Aśvalāyana had no answer to give.

The Buddha further said that if a Kṣatriya is cruel, if he is a thief, is immoral, if he speaks harsh words then he will be born in hell after his death. In the same way, the Vaiśya (traders) and the Sūdra(menial workers) will also meet the same fate i.e. they will go to hell if they are like him. Will a Brahmin not be born in hell if he has these characteristics?

Aśvalāyana had no answer to this.

“Similarly, if a man is of good conduct, he will go to heaven on death, whatever be his caste.”

Aśvalāyana remained silent.

The Blessed One said, “Whether one is a brahman or a non-brahman, he can remove his dirt by applying soap on his body and taking a bath in the river. Then why is a brahman special? Similarly, one belonging to any caste can, on coming to me, remove the defilements of his mind and become a Dhammic person. It is not necessary for him to be a brahman. Everyone has the right to be moral and upright. And everyone who becomes moral and upright will get the same results. I call such a meditator a real brahman. Any meditator, regardless of caste, can be rightfully called a brahman if he practices meditation, lives a holy life, controls his sense organs and mind. Such a meditator, I call a superior brahman. One belonging to a so called lower caste can also achieve purity by his wholesome actions and good conduct.”

Aśvalāyana again found no suitable reply to give.

The Buddha further asked, “If a Brahman young man marries a young non-Brahman woman, or if any non-Brahman young man marries a young Brahman woman, then what will you call the child of such a couple? Superior or inferior? A brahman or a sūdra?”

Aśvalāyana remained silent.

The Buddha further said that when a horse mates a donkey the offspring is called neither a horse nor a donkey. Rather, it is called a mule. But what will you call the child of a brahman father and a non-brahman mother? Will he be called a high caste brahman or a low caste sūdra? How will you differentiate?

Man is man. There are no differences. Every one, whether one belongs to the brahman caste or to any other caste, has the right to be moral and upright. All who are moral and upright get the same result.

Unfortunately, thousands of years before the Buddha, the country was ridden with high and low castes and untouchability. There were other bad practices. The sight of a Cāndāla was considered unlucky and an ill-omen. Leave alone his touch, one needed to bathe, if even his shadow fell on him. So, a Cāndāla, had to come clapping or ringing bells from a distance thus intimating the group of people of his coming. Many would wash their eyes with perfumed water, if their eyes fell on a Cāndāla. Often, people would beat a Cāndāla, if his shadow fell on them. Cāndāla would keep their eyes lowered when they entered the village.

It seems that even after the Buddha, Cāndāla would carry corpse and guard the cremation ground. They lived in separate villages and there were separate cremation grounds for burning their dead bodies.

Apart from Cāndāla, there were also others, who were considered to be very low. They were Nesadas i.e. those who made cane/ bamboo baskets, Camārs, i.e. those who made objects from the leather of dead animals and Pukkusas, i.e. sweepers and cleaners who would dispose of human excreta.

The members of the Cāndāla clan were considered outcastes. The Buddha described who truly is an outcaste. “The man who is hot tempered, jealous and hostile, is a sinner, holds wrong view, is a fraud, is cruel, is a tormentor, is a thief, is licentious; one who doesn’t take care of his old parents, troubles others, deceives brahmans, monks or other beggars; utters words that cause harm; hides his immoral acts; praises himself and derides others; who is angry, is a glutton, who is full of ill-desires; is a miser, is wicked; is neither ashamed nor afraid of wrong doings; who calls himself fully liberated without being so; such a man is an outcaste and despicable. One is neither an outcaste by birth nor a brahman by birth. Actions make one an outcaste and another a brahman. A brahman doing unwholesome actions is a Cāndāla.

The Buddha said, “I do not call one a brahman, because he is born to a brahman mother. I call him a brahman, one who possesses nothing and who takes nothing. Not by matted hair, nor by clan or family (caste) nor by birth does one become a brahman, but one who is truthful and righteous, pure and dhammic is a brahman.”

The Buddha always put a premium on one’s knowledge and conduct, not on his caste.

Come meditators! Let us also be inspired by the pure teachings of the Blessed One, improve our conduct, perform wholesome actions and become brahmans in the true sense of the term!

There was No Caste Discrimination, On Path of the Buddha

Incidents from the Life of the Buddha:Two Earthen Pots | Brahman-not by birth but by action | No Caste Discrimination | Outer Guise Does Not Make One a Recluse | The True Ascent and Descent | Wholesome Actions Cause Birth in a Happy State | Infinite Forbearance and Compassion of the Buddha | Giving Appropriate Answers and Also Punishment as Necessary | The Buddha: Dispenser of Happiness | The Peacemaker | The Buddha: The Teacher Who Meditates | The Taste of Dhamma |

For centuries prior to the Buddha, the country was ridden by the evils of caste and creed. One born in a low caste or doing jobs considered inferior would be considered as a lowly and inferior person.

Professions, jobs and castes had their own and different high and low, superior and inferior categories-

1.Sudra- The low born

2.Caṇḍāla- The corpse burners

3.Bhangi- The sweepers

4.Cammāra- The cobblers These groups were regarded as low castes.

1.Brāhmaṇa

2.Kshatriya- The Warriors

3.Vaiśya- The Traders were considered as Upper castes.

Similarly, Brāhmanas were considered upper and lower, depending on their clans.

Inferior clans:-

1.Kosiya Gotra

2.Bhāradwāja Gotra

Superior clans:-

1.Gotama Gotra

2.Moggalāna Gotra

3.Kaccāna Gotra

4.Vāsiṭṭha Gotra

Handicrafts and artisan skills were also divided in to superior and inferior groups.

Job skills and Handicrafts considered being superior:-

1.Writing skills

2.Printing skills

3.Book-keeping, accountancy

Work considered as inferior:-

1.Making objects with bamboo/ cane

2.Pottery – making earthen pots and utensils

3.Leather craft (making shoes and other things with animal skin)

4.Nāpitas – Barbers (those who cut hair)

Jobs considered to be extremely low and menial were:-

1.The job of lifting and cleaning faces and human waste.

2.Removing and cleaning garbage trash and waste.

Professions regarded as lofty were:-

1.Agriculture

2.Business and trading

3.Cattle rearing.

The Pali Cannons list the following five as the low races and the work done by these clans were considered inferior/ base:-

1.Caṇḍāla kula- burning corpses in the crematorium

2.Nesāda kula- hunting birds and animals

3.Venakula- cleaning lavatories

4.Rathakāra kula- making things with the skin of dead animals

5.Pukkusa kula- removing and cleaning garbage

Similarly people performing the following jobs were also considered inferior:-

1.Nālakāra- basket makers- making baskets etc. with bamboo.

2.Kumbhakāra- Potters- making clay pitchers etc.

3.Pesakāra- Weavers- weaving clothes

4.Cammakāra- Those who made leather articles

5.Nāpita- Barbers- those who cut hair.

The higher castes would consider themselves becoming unclean, if even the shadow of the lowest castes fell on them. If by chance they were touched by such a shadow, they would, out of anger, even beat them up. So the very inferior classes would move around very carefully and hesitantly, whenever they came to the towns; ensuring that their shadows did not fall on anyone.

The Lord Buddha took revolutionary steps amidst such shocking / horrible conditions. He included the lowest of low castes in his Sangha. One who became a part of the Sangha would automatically become venerated. The king revered him and the royal-officials honored him; the business magnates and the bankers revered him; and the Brāhmanas honoured him. In this way the Buddha took a major step to uplift the lower castes.

The Lord Himself did not believe in the caste system. Having joined the Sangha no Bhikkhu was discriminated on the basis of his caste. Bhikkhus, having joined the Sangha, would also go for alms to the homes of all high and low castes. In those days, people were habituated to address the lower castes at times as Candāla and Vasala. If any new Bhikkhu addressed another in a similar fashion, then it was declared an offense as per the Vinaya laid by the Lord.

An incidence from those days: Prakriti, a young sixteen year old untouchable girl was filling water for her family from the wells meant for the untouchables. Poverty stricken, she was attired in dirty and crumpled, torn and old clothes. Ananda, a disciple of the Buddha, was coming towards her. Ananda was also born in a Kshatriya clan. He was fair complexioned and a rich man with an imposing personality. He was also the first cousin of the Lord. It was the season of scorching summer. His throat was parched by thirst. Seeing the girl filling her pitchers by the well, he requested her for a drink of water. The untouchable girl was bewildered. She felt, “Noticeably, though a Bhikkhu, this person is certainly from one of the upper classes. But, he is unaware that I belong to a family of untouchables and this well is meant for the untouchables.” So she informs Ananda, “I am from a lower caste and I cannot give this water meant for the untouchables, to a person of the higher clans.”

Ananda tells the untouchable girl “Sister, I asked you for water, not your caste.”

Persuaded by Bhikkhu Ananda, the bewildered girl hesitantly gave him water. Having rapturously quenched his thirst, the Bhikkhu left from there.

Suddenly a thought came to the mind of the untouchable girl. If this young man of a high caste has taken water from my hands, certainly, he will also agree to make me his better half. She approached Bhikkhu Ananda hastily and presented her proposal. The Bhikkhu immediately declined. She was very disappointed. Then Ananda explained to the untouchable girl, “I do not refuse your proposal because of caste discrimination. I have taken the vow of life-long celibacy [to lead a holy life] and so am incapable of accepting your proposal.” He further told her, “our Great Compassionate One, the Buddha, has given refuge to all human beings. You too, go and seek refuge in the Buddha. The Lord gives refuge to all, even those considered inferior castes by society.

There is no discrimination on caste or creed over there. Having taken refuge in the Buddha, many lower castes have by virtue of Vipassana meditation, become Noble. Those who are today looked down upon, people start respecting and paying homage to them. Go and unhesitatingly seek refuge in the Buddha. There are many Sadhavis [female meditators/nuns] there and Mother Mahāpajāpati will take proper care of you.”

Hearing this, the untouchable girl Prakriti felt happy. She then went and took refuge in the Buddha. She was given Vipassana and in due course became a meditator/nun.

Once the Buddha was on his alms rounds with his Bhikkhu Sangha on the high way of Rajgir, the capital of Magadha. The city sweeper, Suneet, was at that time cleaning the roads with his broom. Being born in a family of destitutes and considered to be untouchable, the thought arose in his mind, “my shadow should not fall on the Buddha.” So, very hesitantly, he stood aside with folded hands. The Lord read his thoughts. Seeing the sweeper Suneet, a victim of the unforgiving, ruthless society’s twisted ways; the Lord’s heart was filled with compassion. He beckoned him and along with his Bhikkhu Sangha, brought him to the Vihara in Rajgiri’s Venuvana. The Buddha showed him the way to practice Vipassana meditation. Sweeper Suneet was ordained to the Sangha. He started practicing Vipassana in the forests and became an Arahant, a fully liberated one. He truly became a Brāhmana from a sweeper.

Similarly Sopaka, a child born in the Candāla clan, became an orphan at the age of four. Stricken by poverty, his uncle felt he was a burden. At the age of seven, feeling extremely annoyed, his uncle tied him hard to a corpse and left him in the crematorium, to be devoured and eaten by wild animals. The Great Compassionate One saw this incidence. He sent a Bhikkhu to free Sopaka and had him brought to the Vihara. There he was ordained and got his object of meditation. In due course, the child Sopaka, practiced diligently and became an Arahant.

History notes that Baba Saheb Ambedkar took another major step. When he drafted the Constitution of India, he left no scope for the discrimination of high and low castes. A human being is a human being. He created scope for those considered inferior castes to get educated. The lower ranks of the society went for higher studies and even became secretaries in the Government. Who would then call them inferiors? In this way Baba Saheb Ambedkar made a significant contribution by breaking the barrier of caste discrimination.

Unfortunately the system of casteism, superiority, inferiority, and untouchability exists even today to some extent in the villages. It has not been eradicated.

I remember, while living in Burma [Myanmar], I was born and brought up in a severe orthodox family. There I had seen that not only sweepers and cobblers, but also many others were considered as low castes. We were forbidden to even drink the water touched by such people. Baba Saheb brought about a lot of changes to this. But still, society keeps considering the low borns as inferiors and the upper castes as superiors.

Just like the Lord Buddha brought about a major revolution by ordaining the lower castes to the Sangha, so also, Baba Saheb Ambedkar gave them respectability by spreading education. It is a misfortune to the nation, that it has not been eradicated completely.

Now Vipassana has taken another step forward. People of all castes and creeds join Vipassana courses. No one is discriminated as superior or inferior. All stay as equals and practice together. All sit and eat together, reside together. Now the situation is such that, in Vipassana, a large number of people who are called Dalitas, have been trained further and established as Teachers. When now a person of the Dalita class sits on the Dhamma Seat, the person is not a Dalita, but a teacher of Dhamma. Meditators who come for a course, bow to the teacher, irrespective of whether they are a Brāhmana, a Kshatriya, or a Vaiśya.

They pay their respects to the teacher and learn Dhamma from him. There is no scope for caste discrimination in the teachings of the Buddha. The knowledge of Vipassana meditation and practice is the important essence and is available for all. Vipassana is aiding in breaking these barriers in a big way. Let us see, how much this transforms the society as a whole! Only when this misfortune of the society and the country is eradicated, will there be happiness. Only then will there be welfare!

Outer Guise Does Not Make One a Recluse

Incidents from the Life of the Buddha:Two Earthen Pots | Brahman-not by birth but by action | No Caste Discrimination | Outer Guise Does Not Make One a Recluse | The True Ascent and Descent | Wholesome Actions Cause Birth in a Happy State | Infinite Forbearance and Compassion of the Buddha | Giving Appropriate Answers and Also Punishment as Necessary | The Buddha: Dispenser of Happiness | The Peacemaker | The Buddha: The Teacher Who Meditates | The Taste of Dhamma |

Once upon a time the Buddha was dwelling at Pubbarāma in Srāvastī. King Prasenjit also arrived there. After some time some ascetics passed that way. A few of them had matted hair, a few of them were naked and all had their bodies smeared with ash and some were wearing different robes. The king rose from his seat in reverential salutation to them and introduced himself to them. The ascetics gave him their blessings and went away. Then king Prasenjit said to the Buddha –

“Venerable Sir! These ascetics are among those in this world who are either enlightened or are established on the path of enlightenment. The Buddha after observing their condition said” –

“It is not so, His Majesty! A person does not become enlightened or get established on the path of enlightenment merely by changing the guise. One has to strive in the right manner to achieve this. Even if someone finds the right path, yet a wise person has to stay with him for a long time to know whether he is walking on the path in the right way or not. In a short period it is not possible to know about his true conduct. His Majesty! One’s honesty or dishonesty can be judged by his conduct and behavior only. That also is possible only after observing his day-to-day activities for a long period”.

Only a wise person is capable of keeping a watch on his behavior properly and not everyone.

Only in times of adversity, the fortitude of a person’s mind can be known. In the same way, a person’s wisdom is known by discussion with him for a long time.

King Prasenjit was very much impressed with this explanation given by the Buddha and while begging forgiveness with amazement he revealed the truth.

Venerable Sir! all these are our spies. They collect secret information in disguise from within and also information about the activities of the neighboring states and keep me informed. Based on their information, I take necessary action after careful consideration. Venerable Sir! Now, these people will take a bath, wash away their ashes, rub scent on their bodies and after wearing clean clothes will enjoy the five kinds of sensual pleasures.

Hearing this, the Buddha explained –

“A person cannot be known by dress and adornment. One cannot know a person by merely looking at his dress and demeanor. Wicked persons also roam about in this world performing attractive actions with great self-control. They are like counterfeit earrings made of clay and coated with gold. They look outwardly beautiful but they are inwardly impure. So, without knowing thoroughly, never believe anybody. Merely on the basis of his outer dress and guise, only after carefully understanding his conduct, one should believe him”.

A True Recluse

Once the Buddha was dwelling at Aswapur town in Anga state, he addressed the monks and said:

Monks! people take some one as a recluse and when he is asked if he is one he declares himself a recluse. So a man designated as a recluse and who claims to be a recluse has to walk on the path proper to the recluse. It is for that purpose that people offer him robes, alms-food, resting-place and medicine and other useful requisites. Their offerings become fruitful only when his renunciation is pure, his conduct is good and his actions are helpful in the welfare of people.

Monks! how is one not able to practice the way proper to the recluse? So long as a recluse does not abandon his greed, anger, enmity, contempt, cruelty, jealousy, stinginess, deceit and evil wishes he cannot become a proper recluse. These are the stains of a recluse, obstacles on the path of becoming a true recluse. These are grounds for his birth in a state of deprivation. I call this kind of renunciation a two-edged sword which rips the robe of a recluse if it is hidden there.

Any one having such stains cannot be called a recluse even if he wears a robe, even if he smears his body with dirt and dust or with ash or even if he dwells in water or dwells at the root of a tree, or if he wears the bark of a tree, or if he dwells in the open air or if he practices continuous standing or if he keeps a fast and takes food at intervals or if he recites the Vedas or incantations.

He will be a true recluse only if he is free from the stains enumerated above. He will have to constantly walk on the path of purification. Then only he will live the life of a true recluse.

Only when some one gives up the above defilements, he becomes a true recluse. For eradicating these defilements, one should constantly practice the path of mind purification and after getting rid of the defilements, live a life of a true recluse.

Monks! how is one able to practice the way proper to the recluse?

When a recluse abandons his wrong view, when he drives out anger, greed, enmity etc and becomes free from these defilements, then only he is considered able to practice the way proper to the recluse. Then only he can consider himself pure and liberated. Gladness arises in the mind of such a recluse who has attained freedom from all such mental defilements. Rapture follows gladness. The body of such a person becomes tranquil, one whose body is tranquil feels pleasure and one who feels pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated. He then abides pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving kindness. In the same way he abides pervading second, third and fourth quarter, above, below, around and everywhere with a mind imbued with unbounded loving- kindness without hostility and without ill will, imbued with unbounded compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. He makes every one happy and helps every one to derive benefit. In this way his life of a monk becomes meaningful.

Suppose, monks! there were a pond with clear, cool and potable water with beautiful and delightful banks and a man from the east, scorched and exhausted by hot weather, goes to the pond, quenches his thirst and gets relief from the heat, similarly men come there from the west, from the south and from the north and quench their thirst and get relief from the heat. In the same way, monks, if any one from a Kshatriya family goes forth from the home life into homeless life, receives the Dhamma taught by the Tathāgata, enjoys peace by practicing four Brahmavihāras such as loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetc joy and equanimity, such a monk is established on the right path. In the same way persons from a Brahmin family, from a Vaisya family and from a sudra family go forth from the home life into homeless life, practice the Dhamma taught by the Tathāgata i.e. practice Vipassana meditation and develop loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, they become true recluses. They become free from all taints, all mental defilements and by realising for themselves with direct knowledge here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom.

Destruction of taints actually makes one a true recluse. He might have come from any family or clan. That does not become an obstacle in the path of his becoming a recluse.

Come, meditators, let us walk step by step on the path of Dhamma, be free from mental defilements and attain our true welfare and happiness.

The True Ascent and Descent

A belief prevalent in the society of those times was that in order to get deliverance from the results of evil deeds and defilements one had to undergo physical suffering and bodily pains. It was believed that by undergoing such practices, one can take birth in higher abodes after one’s death.

It was assumed that owing to the results of misdeeds committed in the past we have to face many kinds of physical suffering, and if we have the ability to face such suffering in the present life, why not go through it now. Thinking that they will be released from going through the painful results of the misdeeds committed by them in their past lives and they would take birth in higher abodes after their death if they experienced such afflictions for a long time in this life itself, they kept the body hungry by fasting for long periods and punished the body in several ways.

In the times of the Buddha, people slept on a bed of thorns, fasted for long periods, slept in the open Sun devoid of any shadow in the summer season, and shivered with cold during the winter nights without proper clothing. They did all this so that they do not have to go through these travails in the future.

Apart from punishing the body, many other rites and rituals were also prevalent. Some people believed that worshiping the fire would lead to advancement, and save them from decadence. The fire was worshiped on special occasions to save oneself from falling down in the wrong states. The place was plastered with wet cow dung, green Kusha grass was laid over it, and after taking bath and wearing new silk clothes, they slept through the night on the ground between the fireplace and the house. Three times during the night, they saluted the fire with folded hands and prayed for only advancement and not decline; to only advance to higher states and not go to lower states in future lives. While performing this ritual they poured a lot of ghee, oil, butter, etc. in the fire as libation. At the end of the night, delicious food was served to the Brahmins and they believed that this would lead only to advancement and not to decline in the future.

The Buddha, however, explained that it is impossible to attain freedom from falling down in bad states merely be performing rites and rituals. Therefore, he taught how to practice the pure Dhamma for attainment of higher states – A noble disciple thinks in this way – killing living beings, stealing, speaking lies, engaging in backbiting, talking nonsense, uttering rude and harsh language, having greed and hatred, and performing false rites and rituals, etc. lead only to bad consequences in the present and future life. These misdeeds only spoil one’s future. Thus, he abandons all these misdeeds and lives a life of pure Dhamma and improves both his present and future life. By conducting himself in this way, he only attains higher states and saves himself from falling in the lower states.

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Similarly, one more ritual was prevalent. Rising early in the morning and touching the Earth while sitting on the cot, touching wet cow dung, touching green grass, tending to the fire, saluting the morning Sun with folded hands, getting down in the water three times a day, etc. A belief was in vogue that the mind gets purified and becomes more refined by performing these acts.

The Buddha explained that as long as a person is engaged in these three impurities committed by the body, he remains far away from the attainment of purity of mind as these are impure physical actions:

If he is engaged in harming living beings, he is cruel with beings, kills beings, is greedy, and blood thirsty. (2) He steals things that belong to others, whether in a village or a forest. (3) He commits sexual misconduct with women; whether belonging to the household of his mother, father, brother, sister, or relative; regardless of whether it is a married woman or a professional dancer.

All these come under physical impurities.

Similarly, there are four impurities of vocal actions:- (1) Speaking lies. When asked to give testimony and told to speak the truth and explain correctly, whether in a meeting, a council, a neighborhood, a village court or a royal court; he says he knows when he does not, he says he doesn’t know when he does; he claims to have seen when he has not, he claims to have not seen when he has. He speaks lies for the sake of an object, belonging to himself or others. (2) Backbiting, (3) Speaking harsh words, and (4) Speaking nonsense.

All these come under vocal impurities.

In the same way, there are three impurities of mental actions:- (1) Being greedy mentally. He wants to obtain wealth and property belonging to others – he plans ways to make it his own. (2) Mentally filled with animosity. He has wicked intentions. He has malicious thoughts about beings – that they be tied and bound, ruined, killed and wiped out. (3) Having false and wrong beliefs. He is unable to comprehend the truth and claims that generosity does not bear any fruits; there is no offering and no oblation, good and bad deeds do not bear any fruits; there exists neither the human world nor the divine world, there exists neither mother nor father; he is unable to believe that he has caused his own birth; there is neither any ascetic nor any Brahmin, neither any right knowledge nor anyone practicing the right path. He projects a false image that he has himself traveled to the divine world and witnessed the truth.

All these come under mental impurities, mental defilements.

In reality, true purity is experienced when a person stays away from unwholesome deeds and embraces wholesome deeds. Then he masters his ability to reach higher states of existence. Such people only rise and improve. There is no falling down or decadence for them.

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Many types of such blind beliefs were prevalent. Some people thought thus in accordance to my deeds, I will have to live the life of a dog in the future, so why not live the distressed life of a dog now itself. Hence, they adopted the living style of a dog and lived the life of a dog. They accepted only the food thrown on the Earth, stayed naked, sat curled like a dog, slept in the same manner, etc.

In the same way, some thought thus since I have the ability to cope with a distressed life now and in future I have to live as an animal, why not live the life of a cow in this life itself. Let me cope with this in the present itself so that after my death, I am saved from living such a hard life. In this way I will not be required to fall down to the lower existence but only ascend to higher states of living. Thinking thus, they used to live like a cow in their day to day lives. They suffered through various afflictions for this.

How awkward and tactless is this thinking! He does not understand that while he is going through the suffering in the present, he will have to suffer more than this in his future lives.

The Buddha explained while observing the future of such people that such path only leads to lower states of existence. One actually has to take birth as a dog or a cow in future lives and go through more suffering and painful experiences.

If a person of such false belief thinks that by living a life of lower existence filled with suffering in the present, he will attain life in higher divine abodes or to more sublime existence then it is a great mistake. When such people heard and understood the explanation given by the Buddha, they began to lament that their present life up till now has gone waste and in the future also they have to live the lives of lower existence. They requested the Buddha to teach them the right Dhamma. The Buddha then explained –

I have myself known and experienced these four types of deeds:- (1) In this present life, if some action is unwholesome then its consequence is also unwholesome. (2) If some action is wholesome then its consequence is also wholesome. (3) If some action is partly unwholesome and partly wholesome then the consequences are also mixed. (4) If an action cannot be classified as either unwholesome or wholesome, then the consequence can also not be classified as unwholesome or wholesome. This fourth type of action is only helpful in dissipation of the deeds and thereby their consequences.

Which action is unwholesome and bears unwholesome fruits? When somebody inflicts pain on others – through physical action, vocal action or mental action – then after his death, he appears in an existence filled with suffering and he has to experience pain and tormenting touch of red hot iron etc. He has to experience such agonies of hell.

In the same way, when any person does wholesome action through his mind, body or speech, acts to provide happiness to others, remains suffused with thoughts of the welfare of others, makes others happy by uttering soothing words without malice, he experiences peace and happiness in this world and after passing away experiences happy and peaceful sensations devoid of hatred in the higher abodes of existence also.

In the same way, when someone engages himself in mixed actions filled with hatred and devoid of hatred then he experiences both types of sensations in the present life as well as in future lives.

Similarly, a person doing deeds which are neither unwholesome nor wholesome attains freedom from all types of consequences of actions there is no rebirth for him.

The Dhamma teaching expounded by the Buddha helped people to abandon their resolutions based on false beliefs and to walk on the path of Dhamma. They attained the state of total freedom from suffering by practicing the path of Dhamma.

Come, Students! Let us also get rid of false beliefs and false rites and rituals, and live the true Dhamma life and attain happiness and welfare.

Wholesome Actions Cause Birth In a Happy State

Incidents from the Life of the Buddha: Two Earthen Pots | Brahman-not by birth but by action | No Caste Discrimination | Outer Guise Does Not Make One a Recluse | The True Ascent and Descent | Wholesome Actions Cause Birth in a Happy State | Infinite Forbearance and Compassion of the Buddha | Giving Appropriate Answers and Also Punishment as Necessary | The Buddha: Dispenser of Happiness | The Peacemaker | The Buddha: The Teacher Who Meditates | The Taste of Dhamma |

The headman of a village said to the Buddha that people in order to be born in a happy state perform many rites and rituals, wear various kinds of dresses and adornments, garlands, use fragrance and ointments, worship the fire in many ways, perform other rituals and think that they have done all that were to be done. There are some who, after practicing a low form of occult practices, interact with some spirits and claim to take people to heaven with their help. Venerable Sir! You are omniscient. Kindly do something so that all beings of the world after their death are born in a happy state in heaven.

The Buddha asked him a counter question. “If some body kills, steals, commits adultery, tells a lie, indulges in back biting, speaks harshly, is talkative, is greedy, is of low mentality and has false views, do you think he deserves to go to heaven? Is he fit to go there? Or, if after his death, many people assemble there and pray with folded hands for him to attain a good destiny, take birth in the heaven then by this act, can he really be born in heaven? No, no action performed after one’s death, can deliver him. This is impossible.”

Let us understand it by an example. Let one drop a huge piece of stone in a big lake which sinks under its own weight. Can this stone float on the water even if a great assembly of people pray to it, make a vow to propitiate it, or worship it or by performing any other ritual?

Let us take another example. If a person breaks a pot filled with butter and oil in the water, the butter and oil contained in it start floating on the water. If he breaks another pot filled with stones and pebbles in the water, the stones and pebbles get submerged in the water under their own weight. Then, if he prays, performs rites and rituals, and makes a request, “Oh butter! may you go down, may you go down. Oh stones and pebbles! may you come up, may you come up.” Will this really happen? Do this and see for yourself.

Oh, Headman! In the same way, when one abstains from killing living beings, abstains from stealing, abstains from committing sexual misconduct, abstains from speaking lies and abstains from committing other evil deeds, and lives a life of true Dhamma, then after death, he is sure to go only to the higher abodes. He will attain higher states. Nobody’s curse can send him down to the woeful states of hell. His good actions will only lead him to higher realms. No one can stop him from moving towards higher abodes. This is an unbreakable law of nature.

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Similarly, on another occasion, the Buddha was asked if he has the same feeling of compassion for everybody. If so, why is it that some reap great benefit, some reap less benefit, and some remain devoid of Dhamma benefit? Why so? Why doesn’t his compassion enable everybody to have the same amount of benefit?”

The Buddha explained this by giving the example of a farmer who has three types of land – (1) Very fertile, (2) not so fertile and (3) completely barren wasteland. In this situation, first of all he sows seeds in the fertile land, thereafter in the less fertile land, and lastly in the barren wasteland. The seed is the same and it is sown with the same effort and care. But the harvest is not the same. In the same way, three types of people come to me to learn Dhamma. In the first type are serious students, who are like the very fertile land. The seeds sown in them will soon bear fruit, because they start practicing Dhamma with complete devotion and determination. Ordinary householders, both male and female, constitute the second type. They also learn Dhamma while performing their day to day worldly activities. They do possess devotion and determination, but at the same time they also face hurdles of worldly life. Still, they work for their own welfare by walking on the path of Dhamma. Thirdly, there are some people who are like barren land. Although I instruct them in the same manner as I do others, they are not able to practice the Dhamma in the right way because they are involved in their own rites and rituals and believe in different philosophies. They are benefited to the extent they learn, understand and practice Dhamma. Some people go away after listening to the Dhamma. They do not practice it at all. As a result, they remain totally deprived of Dhamma. But my compassion always remains the same for all of them.

The Buddha explained it by giving another example. Suppose someone has three pitchers, one without a hole, the second with a small hole, and the third with a big one. He first fills water in the pitcher with no hole, which is used by him for the whole day. Then he fills the second pitcher knowing that it may not last for the whole day, but can still provide water for some time. He fills water in the third pitcher with the intention that whatever water is filled is used immediately for bathing or washing clothes and utensils.

Very serious meditators are like the first pitcher. Ordinary householders, both male and female, who practice Dhamma in spite of hurdles are like the second pitcher. People entangled in various rites and rituals are like the water filled in the third pitcher. Whatever Dhamma they learn and practice, they are benefited to that extent although I shower my compassion equally on all.

Meditators! Come on! Let us also learn from these examples given by the Buddha and become a fertile land of Dhamma, observe five precepts of virtue scrupulously with faith and devotion. With strong morality let us strengthen our right concentration and with the help of right concentration let us develop experiential wisdom of impermanence from deep within, and ensure our progress in the right direction by doing good deeds. In this lie our good and well- being.

Infinite Forbearance and Compassion of the Buddha

Incidents from the Life of the Buddha: Two Earthen Pots | Brahman-not by birth but by action | No Caste Discrimination | Outer Guise Does Not Make One a Recluse | The True Ascent and Descent | Wholesome Actions Cause Birth in a Happy State | Infinite Forbearance and Compassion of the Buddha | Giving Appropriate Answers and Also Punishment as Necessary | The Buddha: Dispenser of Happiness | The Peacemaker | The Buddha: The Teacher Who Meditates | The Taste of Dhamma |

The forbearance of the Buddha was like a Himalayan peak, which may face any number of storms and squalls, but always remains unshakable. His loving kindness and compassion were like an unfathomable ocean from which any quantity of water may be taken, without causing any deficiency in it. The Buddha faced many storms of blame and abuse during his lifetime, but his forbearance remained firm with no reduction in the boundless loving kindness towards these slanderers.

Reproach by citizens of Magadha

Seeing the Buddha’s monks, many citizens, reproached him by uttering such words…

“This Śramana is making the land of Magadh childless. He is making women widows.  He is engaged in destroying the clan. He has just converted thousands of Jatil ascetics to be his disciples. After that, he took one thousand two hundred and fifty Parivrājakas into his fold. Now, even the sons of renowned families of Magadh are accepting his teachings.”

They also made such sarcastic remarks to the monks…

“This Maha-Shraman Gautam has arrived in Girivraj (Rajgriha) of Magadha.  He has already made so many people his pupils. Who knows how many more will fall into his trap?”

When the Buddha heard such remarks from his monks, he said…

“Monks! You will not hear such sarcastic remarks for long. People will do so for a week, but afterwards, of their own accord, they will become quiet.

Reproach by Supriya Parivrājaka

The Buddha was once going from Rajgiri to Nalanda accompanied by some monks.  At that time, Supriya Parivrajak and his disciple Brahmadatta Mānava, were also following him.  All along the way, Supriya Parivrajak continued to speak in dispraise of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha but his disciple Brahmadatta Mānava kept on praising the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha in various ways. At night, everyone stayed at the same place and throughout the whole night, both the teacher and disciple continued slandering and praising the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha in the same manner. Throughout the night, the disciples of the Buddha listened to their discussion without intervening.  The Buddha appreciated it and said that one should never be happy when praised by others nor be agitated when reproached by others.

Reproach by Nigrodh Parivrājaka

While reproaching the Buddha, he said…

“Śramana Gautam has lost his sense by practicing meditation in the cell. His wisdom has degenerated. He will not be able to answer any of my questions”.

But when he actually met the Buddha and observed his peace and wisdom, he bowed his head.

Reproach by Akroshaka Brahmin

Fuming with rage he approached the Buddha and began to abuse him.

Hearing this, the Buddha said…

This type of abuse is like offering each other delicacies. I do not join you in this work. You have presented me with these gifts of abuse but this gift remains with you. I have neither accepted them nor have I presented any gifts of abuse to you in return. Your gifts remained with you alone.”

In spite of being ill-tempered, Akroshaka Bhardwaja was very wise.  He immediately recognized that, day and night we keep on giving gifts of abuse to each other, yet here is a person, who does not accept such gifts. Instead, he keeps silent and, with forbearance, remains absolutely calm and peaceful. Seeing and understanding this, he became a devout disciple of the Buddha.

Reproach by Aggika Bhardwaja

While going from house to house seeking alms, the Buddha reached the house of Aggika Bhardwaja. On seeing him Aggika Bhardwaja, showed his contempt by yelling at him…

“You shaven head, stop there! You Śramana, stop there! You outcaste, stop there!” He did not want that the inauspicious shadow of any Vrishala (person belonging to the lowest caste) to fall on his house.

On hearing this, the Buddha explained to him who is an outcaste and what makes one an outcaste.  After hearing this explanation from the compassionate Buddha and understanding the meaning of it, Brahmin Bhardwaja became his faithful disciple. 

Reproach by Māganiya Parivrājaka

When he saw the seat used by the Buddha, Māganiya Parivrājaka remarked…

“Oh, It is very inauspicious that I saw this seat on which the Buddha sat because Śramana Gautam is the killer of fetus). Even in the face of such harsh words of abuse, the Buddha remained steady and unmoved.

Reproach by Singha Senapati

Once Singha Senapati cast aspersions on the Buddha saying that he did not possess any supernatural power. The Buddha explained that his teachings are not for exhibiting supernatural powers, but for complete liberation from suffering. By listening and properly understanding this, he became a devoted disciple of the Buddha.

Reproach by Ciñcā Maavika

Disguised as a pregnant woman, Ciñcā approached the Buddha in an assembly and began to reproach him.

“Listen to me, you great recluse, if you are not able to arrange for the birth of your child in my womb, ask any of your rich disciples to help.”

On hearing this false accusation, the Buddha said calmly…

“Sister, the truth or untruth of your statement is known to both of us.”  Even after hearing this, Ciñcā kept on repeating her false accusation again and again. But observing no effect of her accusations on the Buddha, she was confused and the strings with which she had tied the piece of wood on her stomach became loose and fell down revealing the truth.  The people present there reviled Ciñcā. But the Buddha remained calm and unruffled

Reproach by Sundari Parivrajika –

When the Buddha could not be defamed in any manner then his enemies played one more trick on him.  They took Sundari Parivrajika to Jetavan and killed her in a secluded place. Then they carried her corpse in the city saying that the monks of the Buddha are not only immoral but also murderers.  On this the Buddha instructed his monks to remain calm and said that this false allegation would not last for more than a week. It was exactly so as the Buddha had said. The monks maintained their calm and with the passage of time the truth came out.

Sariputta was struck with a fist –

It was well known that Sariputta could not be made angry by whatever was done to him.  When this was heard by an adversary Brahmin, in order to test his forbearance he gave a blow with is fist with full strength on the back of Sariputta. At this, Sariputta was not angry at all. The Brahmin realized that he actually possessed great forbearance.  Observing this, he sat at his feet with utmost humility and requested Sariputta to come to his house and accept the alms given by him.

Sariputta accepted the invitation and did accordingly.  People were amazed to see that instead of being angry with a person who had assaulted him, Sariputta acceded to his request and went to his house to receive alms with a mind filled with compassion.

Reproach by Ambaha Māava –

Ambaha Māava went to the place where the Buddha was residing and reproached him with these words, “Gautam Buddha and his monks are not virtuous.” Reproaching the whole Shakya clan, he said, “They are of fierce and impetuous nature.  They neither respect the Brahmans nor revere them. Therefore, they are sinners.” Thereafter, the Buddha explained to him very calmly who should be respected and who actually should be called sinners. Hearing this, Ambattha became quiet and humble.

Reproach by Māganiya –

Māganiya, the daughter of Māgandiya was very beautiful. His father was looking for a very handsome bridegroom for her. When he saw the Buddha he was very much impressed by his incomparable beauty. He saw a suitable bridegroom in him for his daughter.  He called his wife there along with his daughter. Brahmin Māgandiya proposed that the Buddha should marry his daughter. The Buddha rejected it outright. When the Brahmin praised her beauty, the Buddha said – “How can I accept her as a wife? I cannot even touch her with my foot.” Thereafter, he explained the fact of attaining supreme Enlightenment.  On hearing this, both Māgandiya and his wife took refuge in the Buddha and afterwards attained a state of full liberation.

 Rejected by the Buddha, Magandiayaa’s heart was immensely hurt. Later because of her great beauty, she was married to King Udayan of Kosambi. She became the queen. But she could not forget the insult caused by the Buddha. Once, Gautam the Buddha, along with Ananda came to that town.  When she saw them, she ordered her servants and workers to follow the Buddha and revile him with such abuses – “Śraman Gautam, you are a thief, a fool, an impudent, a camel. an ox, a donkey, an animal, a creature bound for hell! You are not to attain a happy birth. Only an awful state awaits you!”

They began to insult the Buddha with such derogatory remarks. Then Venerable Ananda suggested to the Buddha – “Bhante, these uncivilized citizens are calling you names.  So, why should we not move to another town?” The Buddha replied – “In case, the people of that town also start calling us names, then where shall we go?”

The Buddha further explained – Anand, I am like an elephant fighting a battle. Just as the elephant has to bear arrows coming from all four directions, in the same way, it is my duty to tolerate abusive words uttered by many immoral people. As the praise is, so is the reproach. To remain equanimous in both the situations is the real Dhamma.

In his life time the Buddha was reproached in various ways on several occasions.  But he was the ‘Buddha’. How could he become perturbed by these reproaches! His forbearance was unshakeable like the peak of the Himalayas. Only loving kindness flowed from his heart towards the people who criticized him. His loving kindness was like an unfathomable ocean.

Criticism came mostly from those people, who could not bear his fame and who did not like the spread of his teachings. Their intention was to defame the Buddha in whatever manner they could, so that his teachings could not spread further.

Apart from all these people Devadatta also vehemently criticized the Buddha because he was eager to occupy the prestigious place of the Buddha.  But the Buddha had only loving kindness for him. Once he persuaded five hundred monks from the Sangha by spreading false rumors about the Buddha and his teachings and establishing his false supremacy.  He desired to establish a new Sangha by causing a schism in the Sangha but he could not succeed in his wicked design.

Then he thought that the king of the country was a great devotee of the Buddha. So long as he was alive in spite of his umpteen efforts, the name and fame of the Buddha would not suffer.  So, a wicked thought arose in his mind to overpower prince Ajatsatru and fulfill his wishes through him.

He did this. By exhibiting some miracles, he impressed Ajatsatru. Then he explained to him that “Your father Bimbisar will continue to live for long. As long as he is alive you cannot become a king and you cannot enjoy royal power. Therefore, kill him and usurp his throne.”

Ajatsatru was provoked to kill the king Bimbisar, his own father. But he failed in his attempt.  The king felt compassionate for his son knowing that he had a burning desire to sit on the throne. So, he willingly relinquished the throne and made him the king of the country.

Devadatta was not satisfied even with this, because the public had absolute faith in Bimbisar although he was no longer a king. Although Ajatsatru could not kill him he got him locked up in jail in some conspiracy and killed him by keeping him hungry.

Devadatta was delighted. Why should I fear now when my disciple has become the king? So he made several attempts to kill the Buddha, but he failed every time. The Buddha remained immovable like the Himalayas towards his misdeeds. His loving-kindness towards him remained deep and profound.

 These incidents are the shining examples of the two qualities of the Buddha.

Once Devadatta, with the help of the servants made the fierce elephant Nalagiri drink wine. He was trumpeting fiercely. Nalagiri was then left alone on the way the Buddha was going for begging alms. The accompanying monks requested him to take shelter in a nearby house but the Buddha remained absolutely unperturbed.  The trumpeting elephant kept on coming near him. The Buddha showered compassion on him. As a result, not only his anger subsided but also he came near the Buddha, knelt down and began to salute him respectfully. The Buddha caressed his trunk with his hand with infinite loving–kindness, filling Nalagiri’s heart with joy and ecstasy.  On his way back, he did not turn his back, but returned looking at the face of the Buddha.

Such was the steadfast forbearance of the Buddha and such was his profound loving kindness!

We should learn lesson and draw inspiration from the above incidents in the life of the Buddha. If one criticizes us and if there is truth in it then we should rectify ourselves immediately. Otherwise we should remain unshaken even if there is severe criticism and feel boundless loving kindness for the critics.

The Dhamma teachers of today and tomorrow should bear in mind that if a Devadatta does some mischief to retain his position or to get the position he has not got they should not become disturbed but they should remain unshaken. Meditators also should remain undisturbed. Neither should they be frightened by the state power nor should they go astray becoming influenced by some rich person. Let them have forbearance and patience and let them have loving kindness for him.

This is the message of the Dhamma. This is to be done. In this lies the happiness of all!  In this lies the welfare of all!!

 

 

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