Apadana commentary (Atthakatha)

by U Lu Pe Win | 216,848 words

This is the English translation of the commentary on the Apadana (Atthakatha), also known as the Visuddhajana-Vilasini. The Buddhist stories known as apadanas refer to biographies of Buddhas, Buddhist monks and nuns. They are found in the Pali Canon (Khuddaka Nikaya), which is the primary canon of Theravada Buddhism. Alternative titles: Visuddhaja...

Prince Siddhartha Renounces Worldly Life and Becomes Hermit

2.31. The Bodhisat went up to his own palatial mansion with a great deal of glory and beauty and lay himself down on His glorious bed. Then and there, dancing damsels who were properly decorated with all kinds of decorations, who were well trained in the art of dancing and singing, and who had attained their well-proportioned physical form and beauty like divine maidens, brought all kinds of musical instruments, sat down properly round the Bodhisat and made performances in dancing, singing and playing music by way of pleasing and entertaining Him. The Bodhisat, having no pleasure in the dancing, etc., because His mind was detached from depravity (kilesā), went off to sleep very soon. Those ladies also lay themselves down, saying "He, for whom we perform dancing etc., has gone off to sleep;now, why should we strain ourselves?" and after putting away from their hands the musical instruments helter skelter, here and there. Scented oil lamps were burning. The Bodhisat woke up, seated Himself cross-legged on the surface of His bed and saw those ladies who were asleep after scattering about their musical equipment some with saliva flowing down and making their bodies dirty, some grinding their teeth, some snoring, some muttering and talking, some with their mouths open, some with their clothes come off exposing their despicable private parts. The Bodhisat, on seeing the ugly disorder of those ladies, became all the more mentally detached from sensual pleasures. That well-decorated large apartment of the palace of His, which resembled the mansion of Sakka, king of devas, appeared to Him as if it were a cemetery of raw flesh are deposited all kinds of different dead bodies. His three palatial mansions came to look like a burning house. He let off this alarm: "Dangerous indeed, alas! Distressing indeed, alas! His mind inclined towards renunciation excessively.

2.32. The Bodhisat, saying to Himself: "Even now, it is proper for me to make the Great Renunciation", got up from His bed, went near the door, and asked: "Who is he, here?". Channa, who was lying, keeping his head on the threshold replied: "My Lord! It is I, Channa." The Bodhisat said: "I am now desirous of making the Great Renunciation, saddle a horse for me." He replied saying: "Very well, my Lord!", want to the horse-shed, taking along with him horseequipment, saw Kaṇṭthaka saying to himself: "It befits me now to saddle this horse only". As soon as it was being saddled, the horse came to know thus: "This saddling ins exceedingly tight. It is not like the saddling done on other days at the time of going for sport in garden, etc.; it must be that my young lord is desirous of making now the Great Renunciation."Consequently, the horse became gladdened at heart and laughed a great laugh. That neighing noise could have gone spreading over the entire city. However, the divinities suppressed the neighing noise and did not let anyone hear it.

2.33. The Bodhisat also, indeed, immediately after He had sent away Channa, thought that He would then have a look at His son, rose up from his cross-legged seated posture, to the residential apartment of Rāhula's mother, and opened the door of her chamber. In the chamber at that moment, a scented oil-lamp was burning and giving light. The mother of Rāhula asleep on her bed, where were spread an ambana (or ammana) measure of jasmine and double jasmine (sumanamallikā) flowers, etc., placing her hand on her baby-son's head. The Bodhisat placed his foot on the threshold of the door, took a look while still standing and saying to Himself: "If I were to remove the hand of the queen-mother and were to catch hold of my son, the queen will wake up; in this way there will be danger to my going away; only when I have become Buddha, I shall come and see my son", went down from that palatial storey. However, whatever is stated in the Jātaka commentary, namely: "At that time the baby-prince Rāhula was on the seventh day from His birth;" such a statement as that does not exist in the rest of the commentaries. Therefore this alone should be accepted.

2.34. Thus, the Bodhisat went down from the upper storey of His palace, went near the horse and said: "My dear Kaṇṭhaka! Do not let me pass beyond the night now, I shall become Buddha by depending upon you and send across this world of man together with the world of devas to the immortal peace. Thereafter He jumped up and climbed on to the back of Kaṇṭhaka. The horse, Kaṇṭhaka, was eighteen cubits in length from its neck; in proper proportion to its length, it had its breadth;it was endowed with strength and speed, its colour was all white, resembling a well-washed and polished conch-shell. If it were to neigh or make its hoof-sound, the noise would spread all over the city; therefore, the divinites, by means of their own celestial power, suppressed sufficiently its neighing noise so that no one heard it and every time it made its step, all its steps were made to fall on the palms of their hands. The Bodhisat arrived at the vicinity of the great gate at midnight riding on the of the excellent horse at its centre, while Channa kept on holding the tail of the horse. At that time, however, the king, saying to himself: "My son must not be able to go out after opening the city gate on any and every occasion", made arrangement in such a way that each one of the two leaves of the big citydoor should be opened only by a thousand men. The Bodhisat, however, bore the strength of one thousand crores of elephant, according as the number of elephants is calculated in the matter of being endowed with strength and vigour. According to the calculation in terms of number of men, He bore the strength of ten thousand crores of men. The Bodhisat thought thus: "If the gate would not open, I will go beyond ahead after leaping over the city-wall, which is eighteen cubits in height, pressing down the horse, kaṇṭhaka, with my things, while I am still seated now on its back, along with Channa even, who remains holding its tail." Channa also thought thus:- "If the gate would remain closed, I shall go ahead leaping over the wall, letting my own lord the prince sit on my shoulder, embracing the horse Kaṇṭhaka with my right hand round its belly, keeping it close to the hollow of my hip. The horse kaṇṭhaka also thought thus:- "If the gate would not open. I shall go ahead jumping over the wall lifting up my own lord on my back even as He keeps Himself seated along with Channa, who keeps himself standing by holding my tail". Should the gate remain closed one or other of three individuals would have accomplished according as they had contemplated even. However, the divine being, who was residing at the date, opened it.

2.35 At that very moment, Māra, the Evil One, saying to himself: 'I shall turn back the Bodhisat, came and said, standing in the sky, thus "Do not make the renunciation, my friend! On the seventh day from now the wheel-gem will become apparent to you. You will rule over the four great islands surrounded by two thousand small islands, turn back, my friend!" When asked who he was, Māra replied that he was Vasavatti. The Bodhisat then said: "O Māra! I know the fact that the wheel-gem would become apparent to me; I am not desirous of sovereignty; I shall become Buddha resounding to the ten thousand world-elements". Māra pursued the Bodhisat following Him like a shadow, watching for a chance, saying "From now on, at the time of your pondering over either the thought of sensual pleasures or thought of hatred or thought of oppression, I shall know."

2.36. The Bodhisat also, having rejected regardlessly the sovereignty of world-king which had come into His hands, like a spit of saliva, went out of the city with high honour. Having, come out of the city on the full moon night of the month of Āsāḷha, when the Uttarasāla nakkhatta was in progress, He became desirous of looking back at His city again. At the very moment such a desire as that, however, arose in His mind the great earth turned round, after breaking itself up, like the potter's wheel as if it would say: "O Great Man! You need not yourself turn back to have a look." The Bodhisat stood facing toward the city, looked at the city, showed the place for setting up a shrine to commemorate the turning back of Kaṇṭhaka on that piece of ground, made Kaṇṭhaka to fact towards the road by which it should go and went forward with high honour and with great grace and beauty. It is said that at that time the divine beings held in their hands in front of Him sixty thousand lighted torches sixty from behind, sixty from the right side and sixty from the left side. In addition, other divine beings round the edge of the circumference of universe (cakkavāḷa), held in their hands innumerable lighted torches. Next to these, other divinities, dragons (nāgas), garūda birds, (suppaṇṇa), etc. went in His wake honouring Him with celestial perfumes, garlands, scented powder and incense. The sky was without interval being laden with coral flowers of Pārichattaka and Mandārava as dense clouds in the heavy rainy-season. There occurred signing together of celestial songs. On all sides there arose sounds of eight musical instruments, sixty musical instruments and sixty eight hundred thousand musical instruments. Their sound turned out to be like the waters of the ocean when disturbed by heavy rain-clouds of stormy weather and also like the roaring of the ocean in the womb of the Yugandhara mountain.

2.37. The Bodhisat arrived at the bank of the Anomā river, covering a distance of thirty leagues (yojana), passing over three kingdoms in the course of a single night proceeded with such a grace and beauty as said above. However, why? Was not the horse able to go beyond that destination? it was not that it was not able. Indeed, the horse could roam about orbiting one entire universe which stood on its axis from one extremity to another as if treading upon the bordering rim, come back even before its morning-meal, in order to eat the food procured by itself. At that time, however, there was too great a delay in cutting off the tangle of scented garlands of flowers, drawing away the thoroughly covered body up to the thigh region with perfumes, garlands, etc., sent down by divinities, dragons, (nāga) and garuda birds, (supaṇṇa), etc., who all stood in the sky. That was why the horse went covering a distance of thirty leagues (yojana) only. Then, the Bodhisat stood on the river-bank and asked Channa thus: "What is the name of this river?"The reply was: "It is known as Anomā, your majesty! The bodhisat gave intimation to the horse, touching it with His heel saying: "Our renunciation also will become supreme (anomā)." The horse then jumped up and stood on the thither bank of the river which was eight usabhas wide.

2.38. the Bodhisat descended from the back of the horse, stood on the surface of the sand which resembled silver petals and addressed Channa thus:- "My dear friend Channa! You go home taking away with you my trinkets as well as my horse Kaṇṭhaka, I shall becoming a monk. The Bodhisat saying: "You cannot be allowed to become a monk, you rather go home," prohibited him three times, entrusted to him His ornaments as well as the horse Kaṇṭhaka and thought thus:- "These hair of mine are not appropriate for a monk; there is no propriety of another individual cutting off the hair of the Bodhisat." Thereafter, saying to Himself: "I shall myself cut my hair off with my sword," He seized the sword with His right hand, caught hold of the crest of his hair together with the hair-knot with His left hand, and cut off His hair. His hair became two-finger lengths in six, curled round from the right and adhering to His head. Throughout His life, the length of His hair was that much only. His beard also was of the same appearance and character. There was, nothing to be done again by way of shaving (away) hair and beard. The Bodhisat caught hold of His hair-knot together with his turban and threw them up into the sky, saying: "If I shall become omniscient Buddha, let them stand in the sky; if not, let them drop down to earth." that hair-knot rose up to a height of a league (yojana) and remained in the sky. Sakka, king of devas looked at them with his divine eyes, received the hair-knot in a bejewelled casket, of the size of a league (yojana) and set up a shrine in the Tāvatimsa heaven, known as Culāmaṇi temple.

Having cut off the crest of this hair scented with excellent perfume, the hero of the Sakya clan threw it up into the sky. the thousand-eyed king of devas accepted it on his head in an excellent bejewelled casket.

2.39. Again, the bodhisat thought: "These kāsi clothes do not go well with my monkhood." Then, the great Brahmā Ghatikāra, who was His old associate at the time of Buddha Kassapa, owing to his not having attained old age during the intervening interval of two buddhas (Buddhantara), and because of having been his friend reflected: "Today, my associate has made the great Renunciation; I shall go to Him taking along with me, the requisites of a monk."

"A set of three robes, and a begging-bowl, a razor, needle and a belt, which together with a water strainer, become those eight which are fittingly proper for a monk."

The great brahmā brought these eight requisites and gave Him. The Bodhisat put on the insignia garments of an arahat, took the guise of the most excellent monk, said to Channa: "Dear Channa! speaking on my behalf, you please inform my parents about my good health", and sent him away. Channa paid homage to the Bodhisat, circumambulated Him and departed. The horse Kaṇṭhaka, however, as soon as it heard the words of the Bodhisat, who was consulting with Channa, thought thus: "I have, now, no opportunity of seeing my lord again" and since it could not bear up its grief as and when it got out of sight of the Bodhisat died of broken heart and was reborn as a young divinity, named Kaṇṭhaka in the Tāvatimsa heavenly mansion. There was a single grief only, first of all, to Channa. However, he became afflicted with second sorrow due to the death of kaṇṭhaka, and went back to his home-city, weeping and lamenting.

The bodhisat, who had now become a monk, spent seven days enjoying the happiness of renunciation in the mango grove known as Aunpiya, which was in that very region. He then went on foot covering in a single day a journey of thirty leagues (yojana) and entered the city of Rājagaha. Having thus entered the city, he went about to get alms-food along a row of houses one after another (sapadāno). Commotion occurred all over the city on account of the good-look of the bodhisat, similar to what happened, when dhanapālaka entered Rājagaha and when the king of Titans (Asura) entered the city of devas. The royal reporters went and informed the king thus:- "Your majesty! Such an individual wanders about the city for alms-food; we do not know whether this individual is a divinity or a human being or a dragon (naga), or a garuda, (supaṇṇa) or so and so." The king saw the Great Man, as he stood on the flat roof of his palace, became astonished and surprised at heart and instructed his men thus: "Oh my men! You all should go and investigate; Should the individual be a non-human, the same will go out of the city and disappear; should the same be a divinity, this one will go up into the sky; should the same be a dragon (naga), this one will go diving into the earth; should the same be a humanbeing, this one will enjoy whatever food had been obtained by begging."

2.41. The Great Man (indeed), having collected mixed meal and on coming to know: "This much is enough for my subsistence", went out of the city by the gate He had entered, took his seat facing Himself eastward in the shade of the Paṇḍava hill and began to take His meal. Thereupon, (he turned sick) with his intestines seeming to turn round and showed signs of coming out through His mouth. Thereafter, although he was harassed by that despicable almsfood because of the fact that he had never seen with his eyes such food in His life-time, He admonished Himself thus: "O Siddhattha! Although you were born in the family, where food and drink have been easily available, and where are eaten three-year-old sweet smelling barley (sāli) rice-meal with all kinds of dishes of best flavour, on your seeing a recluse clad with picked up rag-garment (pamsukūlika), you thought over saying to yourself: 'When, indeed, shall I also become such a one, go about for alms-food and eat? When indeed will that occasion happen to me? and had carried out the renunciation; now, why, namely, do you do this vomitting)?" Having thus admonished himself, He became normal and thoroughly enjoyed His meal."

2.42. The royal reporters, after Having seen that incident, went over and informed the king. On hearing the messengers' report, the king left the city speedily, went to the presence of the Bodhisat, became pleased with his posture (even) and offered his entire sovereignty to the Bodhisat. The bodhisat said: "O great king! I have no desire for material (vatthu) comfort and sensual (kilesa) pleasures: I have made the renunciation aspiring to my paramount and perfect enlightenment." The king could not win over His heart in spite of his repeated request in many ways and therefore, drew his promise: "Sure and certain, you will become Buddha; you should come, first of all, to my dominion when you have become Buddha." Here, this is in brief. In extension, however, the matter should be comprehended by looking at this Pabbajjāsutta which begins: "I shall announce the renunciation and becoming of a monk as made by the Possessor of spiritual eye (cakkhumā)", together with its commentary.

2.43. The Bodhisat also, indeed, having given His promise to the king, wandered about Himself, approached Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka, son of Rāma, attained the graded heights of effective meditation (samāpatti), did not, however, harbour that achievement of samāpatti saying to Himself: "This is not the path towards Buddhahood, but being desirous of making the great effort (mahāpadhāna), to exhibit His own vigour and energy to the world together with the abode of devas, went to Uruvela and saying to Himself: "This piece of land is indeed delightful," took up His residence even there and made His great effort (mahāpadhāna). Those members of the group of five (pañcavaggi), headed by Koṇḍañña (also, indeed), wandering about for alms-food all over villages, districts and royal cities reached the presence of the Bodhisat. Then, they became close neighbours of the Bodhisat attending upon Him fulfilling such duties as sweeping clean of the monastic compound, etc., serving Him, who kept on making a great effort, (mahāpadhāna), for six years, saying to themselves: "He will become Buddha now! He will become Buddha presently! " Indeed, the Bodhisat spent His days;(on a daily subsistence of) a solitary grain of sesame or rice etc. saying to Himself: "I shall do the difficult deed;(dukkara), to its extreme limits. He cut off all nourishment. The divinities threw in their lot by sending divine nourishment into His system through the hair-holes (or pores) on His body.

2.44. Then on account of lack of the nourishment and of the excessively painful plight He was in, His body golden complexion also became dark in colour. All the thirtytwo major marks of a great personage became covered up. On one occasion also, while He was entranced in the respiration meditation, He became unconscious, being oppressed by severe pain and fell down at the extremity of the cloister. Thereupon, some divinities spoke about Him thus: "The monk Gotama is dead". Others remarked: "This one is only abiding at arahatship. In that event, such divinities as were under the impression that He was dead, went and informed the great king, Suddhodana, thus: "Your son is dead". The king reacted: "Did my son die after becoming Buddha or without being so?" Their reply was: "He was not about to become Buddha; He died falling down on the ground where He was making great effort (padhāna). On hearing this, the king remarked: "I do not believe your story; there is no such thing as the death of my son without His having attained Bodhi and becoming Buddha." So saying, he rejected the news. Why was it (however) that the king did not believe the news? Because he had seen the miracles on the day He was made to pay homage to the hermit, Kāladevala as well as at the foot of the Eugenia tree.

2.45 Again, when the Bodhisat stood up after regaining consciousness, those very divinities went and informed king Suddhodana: "Great king! Your son is without any ailment." The king told them: "I know that my son did not die." While the Great Being was still making great effort, doing difficult deeds for six solid years there was in;the sky (a phenomenon) similar to (that at) the time of making knotty things. Saying to Himself: "This difficult deed is not the path that leads to Buddhahood," the Bodhisat went about in villages, big and small, for alms to bring back substantial food and brought back His meal. Thereupon, His thirty two characteristics of great personage became evident. His body also became golden in colour. The group of five bhikkhus, making this remark: "This one was not able to properly penetrate and attain omniscience in spite of His doing difficult deeds for six years; now, since He is wandering about for alms-food in villages big and small, will He be able to attain omniscience? This One, is now living in abundance and has forsaken His strenuous effort; for us there is discriminating thought from this One like unto representation of a drop of dew, for one who is desirous of washing his head; what is the use of this One to us?", abandoned the great personage, took their own begging bow and robes respectively, went away on a long journey of eighteen leagues (yojana), and entered Isipatana.

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