Wisdom Library Logo

A modern retelling of the Buddha's work and life.

Chapter 25 - Jetavana, The Vihara

ANATHAPINDIKA, the friend of the destitute and the supporter of orphans, having returned home, saw the garden of the heir apparent, Jeta, with its green groves and limpid rivulets, and thought:

"This is the place which will be most suitable as a vihara for the brotherhood of the Blessed One."

And he went to the prince and asked leave to buy the ground. The prince was not inclined to sell the garden, for he valued it highly. He at first refused but said at last,

"If thou canst cover it with gold, then, and for no other price, shalt thou have it."

Anathapindika rejoiced and began to spread his gold; but Jeta said:

"Spare thyself the trouble, for I will not sell."

But Anathapindika insisted. Thus they contended until they resorted to the magistrate.

Meanwhile the people began to talk of the unwonted proceeding, and the prince, hearing more of the details and knowing that Anathapindika was not only very wealthy but also straightforward and sincere, inquired into his plans. On hearing the name of the Buddha, the prince became anxious to share in the foundation and he accepted only one half of the gold, saying:

"Yours is the land, but mine are the trees. I will give the trees as my share of this offering to the Buddha."

Then Anathapindika took the land and Jeta the trees, and they placed them in trust of Sariputta for the Buddha. After the foundations were laid, they began to build the hall which rose loftily in due proportions according to the directions which the Buddha had suggested; and it was beautifully decorated with appropriate carvings. This vihara was called Jetavana, and the friend of the orphans invited the Lord to come to Savatthi and receive the donation. And the Blessed One left Kapilavatthu and came to Savatthi.

While the Blessed One was entering Jetavana, Anathapindika scattered flowers and burned incense, and as a sign of the gift he poured water from a golden dragon decanter, saying,

"This Jetavana vihara I give for the use of the brotherhood throughout the world."

The Blessed One received the gift and replied:

"May all evil influences be overcome; may the offering promote the kingdom of righteousness and be a permanent blessing to mankind in general, to the land of Kosala, and especially also to the giver."

Then the king Pasenadi, hearing that the Lord had come, went in his royal equipage to the Jetavana vihara and saluted the Blessed One with clasped hands, saying:

"Blessed is my unworthy and obscure kingdom that it has met with so great a fortune. For how can calamities and dangers befall it in the presence of the Lord of the world, the Dharmaraja, the King of Truth. Now that I have seen thy sacred countenance, let me partake of the refreshing waters of thy teachings. Worldly profit is fleeting and perishable, but religious profit is eternal and inexhaustible. A worldly man, though a king, is full of trouble, but even a common man who is holy has peace of mind."

Knowing the tendency of the kings heart, weighed down by avarice and love of pleasure, the Buddha seized the opportunity and said:

"Even those who, by their evil karma, have been born in low degree, when they see a virtuous man, feel reverence for him. How much more must an independent king, on account of merits acquired in previous existences, when meeting a Buddha, conceive reverence for him. And now as I briefly expound the law, let the Maharaja listen and weigh my words, and hold fast that which I deliver!

"Our good or evil deeds follow us continually like shadows. That which is most needed is a loving heart! Regard thy people as men do an only son. Do not oppress them, do not destroy them; keep in due check every member of thy body, forsake unrighteous doctrine and walk in the straight path. Exalt not thyself by trampling down others, but comfort and befriend the suffering. Neither ponder on kingly dignity, nor listen to the smooth words of flatterers.

There is no profit in vexing oneself by austerities, but meditate on the Buddha and weigh his righteous law. We are encompassed on all sides by the rocks of birth, old age, disease, and death, and only by considering and practicing the true law can we escape from this sorrow piled mountain. What profit, then, in practicing iniquity?

"All who are wise spurn the pleasures of the body. They loathe lust and seek to promote their spiritual existence. When a tree is burning with fierce flames, how can the birds congregate therein? Truth cannot dwell where passion lives. He who does not know this, though he be a learned man and be praised by others as a sage, is beclouded with ignorance. To him who has this knowledge true wisdom dawns, and he will beware of hankering after pleasure. To acquire this state of mind, wisdom is the one thing needful. To neglect wisdom will lead to failure in life. The teachings of all religions should center here, for without wisdom there is no reason.

"This truth is not for the hermit alone; it concerns every human being, priest and layman alike. There is no distinction between the monk who has taken the vows, and the man of the world living with his family. There are hermits who fall into perdition, and there are humble householders who mount to the rank of rishis. Hankering after pleasure is a danger common to all; it carries away the world. He who is involved in its eddies finds no escape. But wisdom is the handy boat, reflection is the rudder. The slogan of religion calls you to overcome the assaults of Mara, the enemy.

"Since it is impossible to escape the result of our deeds, let us practice good works. Let us guard our thoughts that we do no evil, for as we sow so shall we reap. There are ways from light into darkness and from darkness into light. There are ways, also, from the gloom into deeper darkness, and from the dawn into brighter light. The wise man will use the light he has to receive more light. He will constantly advance in the knowledge of truth.

"Exhibit true superiority by virtuous conduct and the exercise of reason; meditate deeply on the vanity of earthly things, and understand the fickleness of life. Elevate the mind, and seek sincere faith with firm purpose; transgress not the rules of kingly conduct, and let your happiness depend, not upon external things, but upon your own mind. Thus you will lay up a good name for distant ages and will secure the favor of the Tathagata."

The king listened with reverence and remembered all the words of the Buddha in his heart.

first previous index next last

Article published on