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...

2.46. At that time, indeed a young girl, Sujātā, by name, was born in the house of a house-holder Senāni, in the big Senāni village at Uruvela. When she came of age, she made wish at a Nigrodha banyan tree "If I were to go to a family house of one who is of equal social status and get a son at my first pregnancy, I shall make a bali offering, sacrificing thoroughly a hundred thousand (kahāpana), the following year." That aspiration of hers became accomplished. She, being desirous of making oblation offering of food (bali) on the full moon day of Visākha month, when six years of doing of difficult deeds had been fully done, by the Great Being had let her thousand milch cows roam about in the forest of honey=cane liquorice, earlier even, had let her five hundred milch cows drink their milk, later, had let her two hundred and fifty milch cows drink their milk, in this way she made what was then known as milk confections (khiraparivattana), aiming at such a stage that the milk would become concentrated, sweetened and tasteful, until her eight milch cows drink the milk of the sixteen cows. On the full-moon day of the month of Visākha, that lady, saying to herself: "I shall make oblation (bali) offering early in the morning", had her eight milch cows milked after getting up from her bed when the night had passed into dawn. The suckling calves did not come to the breast-base (or udder) of their mother milch-cows. As soon as new vessels were deposited under the udders, streams of milk flowed down spontaneously. Seeing such a miracle as that, the lady Sujātā received the milk with her own hands, collected the milk in a new vessel, kindled fire with her own hands and began to boil the milk.

2.47. When the milk-rice was being cooked by her, big bubbles rose up and circled about in circumambulation. Not a drop was spilt outside. Not even the smallest amount of smoke rose from the oven. At that time the four divine guardians of the world came and kept watch over the oven. The great brahmā held an umbrella over it. Sakka made the fire burn by bringing fire-brand with him. Divinities in the four great islands and two thousand small surrounding islands brought with them beneficial nutritive essence (ojha), of human and celestial beings by means of their own divine power, in the manner of collecting honey by squeezing the honey comb, bound up in a bee-hive, and poured down into the milk-rice cooking-pot. On other occasions, indeed, the divinities contributed nutritive essence on every morsel (or mouthful). On the day of attainment of perfect Buddhahood and on the day of His great passing away, however, they put the nutritive essence straight into the boiling-pot. On seeing so many astonishing wonders apparent to herself happening there in the course of a single day;even, Sujātā addressed her slave-girl, named Puṇṇā, thus: "Dear Puṇṇā! Today, our divinities are exceedingly pleased. Indeed, I have never seen before, such an astonishing wonder during so long a time. Go quickly and attend to the abode of deva." The slave-girl promised to act up to her words saying: "Very well, my lady", and went toward the foot of the tree all in a hurry.

2.48. The Bodhisat also, indeed, dreamt five great dreams during that night and as He explored and examined them He became self-determined thus: "Undoubtedly, I shall become Buddha today". On the expiry of that night, having done His ablutions, awaiting the time for doing the begging-round, He came and sat down at the foot of that tree, lighting up the entire area with His own rays. Then, indeed, that slave-girl Puṇṇā arrived and saw the Bodhisat seated at the foot of the tree illuminating the east world-element; the entire tree became golden coloured by the rays which radiated from His body. On seeing such a sight, this idea occurred to her: "Today our divinity came down from the tree and I think He is seated to accept with his own hands the offering of bali," and becoming raptured, quickly went back and informed the matter to her lady Sujātā.

2.49. On hearing her words Sujātā became delighted and presented her slave-girl all kinds of ornaments worthy of a daughter saying: "Beginning from now, today, you had better take up the status of my eldest daughter." Since (however) on the day of the attainment of Buddhahood, it was proper to receive a gold bowl worth a hundred thousand, there arose (therefore) in her mind that she would offer her milk-rice in a gold bowl. She had a gold bowl worth a hundred thousand brought out and being desirous of putting in her milk-rice in it she tilted the cooking pot. All the milk-rice moved down like water from the lotus leaf and got deposited in the bowl. It became just filling up a single bowl only. She covered that bowl with another bowl, wrapped it with a piece of white cloth, dressed and decorated herself with all kinds of decorations and ornaments, placed that bowl on her own head, went to the foot of the Nigrodha banyan tree with great pomp, saw the Bodhisat, became abundantly delighted, took Him to be the tree divinity, went bending down and bending down starting from the spot whence she caught sight of Him, took down the bowl from her head, opened it, fetched water, sweet-smelling with scented flowers in a gold ceremonial vessel, went towards and stood near the Bodhisat. The earthen-ware bowl given by the great brahma Ghatikāra, which did not forsake the Bodhisat for so long a time, went out of sight at that moment. Not seeing the earthenware bowl, the Bodhisat stretched out His right hand and accepted the water. Sujātā placed the milk-rice along with the gold bowl into the hand of the Great Man. The Great Personage looked at Sujātā. She carefully noted what was needed to be done and paid her homage saying: "My Lord! To you I make my sacrifice entirely; kindly accept it and do what you like." She departed thence, thoroughly sacrificing 'regardlessly', the gold bowl worth a hundred thousand (kahāpanas) like an old withered leaf saying: "Just as my desired object is achieved, in the same way may yours also become accomplished."

2.50. The Bodhisat indeed, rose up from His seated spot, circumambulated the tree, went to the bank of the river Neranjara, taking the gold bowl along with Him, there was a bathingplace, named Supatiṭṭhita, of numerous hundred thousands of Bodhisats, who, on the day of their perfect enlightenment to become Buddha, went down and had their baths placed the gold bowl on the bank of that bathing place, descended down the well-established ghat, took His bath, put on the lower garment of numerous hundred thousands of Buddhas, known as the symbol of an arahat, sat Himself down facing toward the east, made the milk rice) into forty-nine morsels of the size of a solitary ripe palm-fruit and ate up all the sweet semi-liquid milk-rice. That milk-rice served as His nourishment for forty nine days, when, after becoming Buddha, he was staying at the terrace of the Bodhi tree for seven weeks. For such a long time there was no taking of any other nourishment. There was no bathing, no washing of face (mukha), no bodily ablutions. He passed His time enjoying the bliss of Jhāna and happiness of the attainment of fruition of the path leading to Nibbāna. Having had His meal of milk-rice, however, He held in His hand the gold bowl and saying: "If I shall become Buddha today, let this bowl go upstream; if I shall not become Buddha let it go down-stream, He threw the bowl into the river channel. That bowl, breaking from the side stream, went to the mid-stream of the river, went up-stream along that mid-river even, like a speedy pony, up to a distance of eighty cubits, sank down at a riverwinding, went to the residential mansion of the dragon-king Kāla, struck the bowls, utilised by the three Buddhas making such a creaking jingling sound as "kili, kili" and settled itself downright beneath all the three of them. The dragon king (nāgarajā) Kāla hearing that sound, said to himself "Yesterday one Buddha came into existence; again, today, another Buddha comes into being," rose, reciting words of praise numbering numerous hundreds of words. It is said that the time taken by him when he rises up on to the earth filling the sky area to the extent of one yojana and three gāvutas seemed to him like today or tomorrow.

2.51. The Bodhisat spent the day in the well-blooming Sal forest on the bank of the river and in the evening at the time when flowers fell off from their stalks, proceeded towards the direction of the Bodhi tree by the eight-usabhas-wide road, decorated by divinities, getting roused up like a lion. Dragons, ogres and garudas, etc., honoured Him by offering Him perfumes, flowers, etc. There occurred celestial singing together, etc. The ten thousand world element became one and the same scented smell, one single garland of flowers and one and the same offering of congratulations. At that time, a grass gatherer, named Sotthiya, coming along the path from the opposite direction carrying his collected grass, noticed the characteristic of the Great Man and offered Him eight handfuls of grass. The Bodhisat accepted the offering of grass, ascended the terrace of the Bodhi tree and stood on its south side facing toward the north. At that moment, the southern universe (cakkavāḷa), sank and became as if it was arriving at the Avīci hell below. The northern universe soared up and became as if it reaching the top-most world of Brahmās above. The Bodhisat saying: "Methinks, this spot cannot be the place for the attainment of Buddhahood (sambodhi), went to the west side by way of circumambulating the tree and stood facing the east. As a result of that, the western universe sank and became as if it was reaching the Avīci hell. The eastern universe soared up and became as if it was reaching the topmost world of Brahmās above. It is said that everywhere He stood, the great earth became sinking and soaring like the wheel of a big cart treading upon the extremity of circumferential rim and standing on its nave. The Bodhisat saying: "I think, this spot cannot be the place for the attainment of Buddhahood (Sambodhi), went to the north side by way of circumambulating the tree and stood facing the south. Consequent upon that, the northern universe sank and became as if it was reaching the Avīci hell. The southern universe soared up and became as if it was reaching the topmost world of Brahmās above. The Bodhisat, saying: "I think this spot cannot be the place for the attainment of Buddhahood (sambodhi), went to the east side by way of circumambulating the tree and stood facing west. On the east side of the tree, however, there was the spot for cross-legged seat of all Buddhas. That spot did neither tremble nor shake. The Bodhisat came to know: "This is the unavoidable steady spot of all Buddhas, where the cage of depravity (kilesa) was destroyed", shook those handfuls of grass seizing them at their tips. There and then, there came into existence, a throne-seat fourteen cubits high. Indeed, those handfuls of grass settled themselves in such a manner as to become a suitable seat. As to what manner the grass became a suitable seat, it was and still is impossible for a good expert either to imagine in his mind or make a treatise or put down in writing.

The Bodhisat made the trunk of the Bodhi tree His background, faced towards the east and made His mind firm saying:

"Willingly let only my skin and veins and bones remain; let flesh and blood in my body thoroughly dry up without leaving any trace; I shall not break off this my cross-legged posture until and unless I attain my perfect enlightenment to become full Buddha,"

and sat down cross-legged in adamantine pose in the attitude of not admitting defeat holding out unbroken even with the falling of a hundred thunder-bolts.

2.52. At that time, the evil one Māra, saying to himself: "Prince Siddhattha is desirous of going beyond my influence; now, I shall not allow Him to pass over my power', went to the army of Māra, gave information of the matter, had the shout of Māra made and went out taking along with him the Māra's army. That Māra's army was twelve yojanas in front of māra, twelve yojanas on his right as well as on his left; at his back, his army stood making the border of the universe as its limit; above him his army was nine yojanas high. The resounding noise of his awful army was heard beginning from a distance of a thousand yojanas resembling the earth-rumbling sound. Then, the youthful divinity Māra mounted the elephant named Girimekhala which was a hundred and fifty yojanas in height, created a thousand arms as his hands and carried in them various weapons. For the remaining retinue of Māra also, no two individuals were identical and hold the same weapon. All the members of Māras army were of different complexions, and different varieties of faces and they came armed with different kinds of weapons overwhelming the Bodhisat.

2.53. The divinities of the ten thousand universe (cakkavāḷa) stood reciting the praise of the Great Being. Sakka, the king of devas, stood sounding his most excellent victory conch-shell. It is said that the conch was as big as twenty hundred cubits. Once the conch was sounded sending in his breath it went on making noise for four months before it became silent. The dragon--king Mahākāla stood eulogising the praise of the Bodhisat with hundreds of words. The great Brahmā stood holding a white umbrella. When, however, the Māra's army came close to the terrace of the Bodhi tree, not a single one of them was able to stay on. They all fled in such a direction as they had been facing respectively. The dragon king named Kāla also dived into the earth, went to his flowery nāga mansion, five hundred yojanas in extent, and lay himself down, shutting up his face with his two hands. Sakka, king of devas, also, carried away his excellent conch of victory on his back and stood on the rim of Cakkavāḷa. The great brahmā caught hold of the white umbrella by its extremity and went back to his world of brahmās only. There was not a single divinity, who was able to stay on. The Great Man, however, remained seated all alone.

2.54. Māra also said to his host: "My dear fellows! There is not another man equal to Siddhattha, son of Suddhodana. We shall not be able to give Him battle face to face; we shall give Him battle at His back." The Great Man looked at His three sides and saw nothing since all the divine beings had fled. Again, on seeing on his north side, said to himself: "Such a big body of troops are making mighty effort in connection with solitary me; in this place, there is no mother of mine, no father, no brother or any other whoever is my relative; however, these ten perfections only have been, for a long time, like my nourishing attendants; therefore, I should strengthen my perfections only, to their highest stage, attack this strong army with my only weapon of perfections and crush the same," and remained seated reflecting upon His perfections.

2.55. Then, indeed Māra, the youthful divinity, saying to himself: "I shall make Siddhattha flee by means of the whirl wind (vātamaṇḍalam), caused the same to arise. At that very moment, winds breaking and bursting the east, etc., rose up, toppled down the tops of hills, which were half a yojana, one yojana, two yojanas and three yojanas high, made the forest of trees, etc., upside down, and reduced the surrounding big and small villages into small pieces and fine powder. Although the wild wind was capable of doing such a damage as that, the same came over to Bodhisatta without any vigour due to the power of merit of the Bodhisatta, and could not make even the fringe of Bodhisatta's robes to shake. Thereafter, Māra made a heavy down pour of rain (mahāvassam), to arise, saying to himself: "I shall kill Him by overwhelming Him with water." On account of Māra's power, higher and higher up above, rain-clouds of such varieties as a hundred heaps, a thousand layers, etc., arose and poured known rain. Because of the force of rain-torrents the earth became extremely eroded forming holes here and there. The mighty rain came over from above the forest trees etc; but was not able to wet the robes of the Great Being even to the extent of a dew drop. Thereafter māra created a shower of rocks (pāsaṇavassam). Blazing and fuming tops of mighty mountains and huge hills came through the sky and as they reached the presence of Bodhisat, they became converted into soft balls of celestial garlands. Later, māra created a shower of attacks. Flaming and fuming single-way carrying and both-ways carrying swords, javelins, razors, etc. went through the sky, reached the Bodhisat and became celestial flowers. Thereafter Māra created a shower of embers (aṅgāravassam). Kimsukacoloured embers came through the sky, became celestial flowers at the feet of the Bodhisat and scattered themselves about. Later, Māra created a shower of hot ashes. Extremely hot, firecoloured hot ashes came through the sky, fell down at the feet of the Bodhisat, after becoming sandal-wood powder. Thereafter Māra created a shower of sand (valukāvassam). Flaming and fuming extremely fine particles of sand came through the sky and fell down at the feet of the Bodhisat after becoming celestial flowers. Subsequently Māra created a shower of mud (kalalavassam). That shower of mud came fuming and flaming through the sky and fell down at the feet of the Bodhisat after becoming celestial ointment. Finally, Māra created darkness (andhakāram), saying to himself "I shall make Siddhattha flee by frightening Him with this."Resembling the darkness made up of four division, it became dangerously dense darkness but it disappeared as if it got dispelled by; the rays of the sun as it reached the Bodhisat.

2.56. In this way, that Māra, not being able to make the Bodhisat flee with these nine showers comprising wind, rain, rock, attacks, embers, hot ashes, sand, mud and darkness showers ordered his own retinue: "Look here my soldiers! You all get up; seize, kill and drive away this prince Siddhattha". Māra himself, seated on the body of the elephant Girimekhala, approached the Bodhisat, taking along with him his circling weapon and said thus: "O Siddhattha! Get up from this pedestal (pallanka) This thing does not arrive here for you. It is for me that this one has come here." The Great Being, on hearing his words, replied: "O Māra! Neither have you fulfilled the ten perfections, neither have you also made the five great sacrifices; neither have you carried out practice for the benefit of relatives, nor the practice for the benefit of the world, nor the practice for the benefit of becoming Buddha; all those deeds, I alone have done fully; therefore this pallaṅka arrives here not for you but for me alone."

2.57. The furious Māra, not being able to bear up the force of anger released his circling weapon towards the Great Man. That weapon became a ceiling of garlanded flowers and stood still over and above Him, who was just reflecting upon the ten perfections. It is said that on other occasions that rajor-bearing circling weapon, when released with anger, went cutting off massively solid stone pillars as if they were top sprouts of bamboo. In this battle of Māra with the Bodhisat, however, when it stood still after becoming a garlanded flower canopy, the remaining retinue of Māra saying to themselves: "Now, Siddhattha will get up from the pedestal, (pallaṅka), and run away, " threw several massively big tops of rocky hills at him. They also reached the state of garlanded flower-halls and fell down on the ground for the Great Man, who was reflecting on the ten perfections. The divinites, who stood on the rim of the face of Cakkavāla, stretched their necks, lifted their heads and looked on saying to each other: "O friends! Ruined, indeed, is the handsome physique of prince Siddhattha; what indeed, is he going to do".

2.58. Thereafter, the Bodhisat, Saying: "The pedestal (pallaṅka), which used to arrive on the day of fully perfect enlightenment of Bodhisats, who had fulfilled their perfections, does arrive for me,"spoke to the standing Māra thus: "O Māra! who is your witness of the fact that you have given charity?" Māra stretched out his hand with his face directed towards his army and replied "So many of these divine-beings are my witnesses. At that moment, the sound brought about by Māra's retinue in making their statements: "I am your witness" was like the rumbling sound of the earth. Then Māra spoke to the Great Man thus: "O Siddhattha! Who is your witness to certify the charity given by you?" The Great Man responded thus: "Now for your charity that was given, your witnesses are animate; in this pace, however, I have not a single living witness, namely to cite; for the time being, leave alone the charity given by me in my other remaining existences; when, however, I stood in the existence of Vessantara, and offered charity then, this solid earth, lifeless though it is, constitutes any witness". So saying, He brought out His right hand from within the enclosure of His robes and stretched it but towards the great earth saying: "Are you my witness or not of the fact that when I stood in the existence of Vessantara, I gave a colossal charity seven hundred categories of seven hundred gifts?". The great earth resounded saying: "I was then your witness" with a hundred rumbles a thousand rumbles and a hundred thousand rumbles or crying aloud as if scattering away the army of Māra.

2.59. Thereafter, while the Great Man was meditating upon the charity of Vessantara as: "Siddhattha! The colossal charity given by you is the most excellent offering", the elephant Girimekhala, as big as one hundred and fifty yojanas fell on its knees on the ground. The retinue of Māra fled in all the four directions and four intermediate points of compass. There was no such thing as two of them going by one and the same route. Casting off their headdresses as well as clothes in which they were dressed they all fled in the direction toward which they were individually facing. Thereafter, the congregation of celestial beings, on seeing the army of Māra has occurred; the victory of Prince Siddhattha has come about; we shall do honour to His victory". So saying, divinities announced to their fellow divinities, dragons to their fellow dragons, the garudas to their fellow garudas, brahmās to their fellow brahmās and they all came over to the presence of the Great Man on the Bodhi-pallanka, holding in their hands perfumes, flower-garlands, etc.

When, however, they had gone thus,

"Indeed, this is the victory of Buddha, possessor of auspicious glory; this is also the defeat of Māra, the Evil One. At that time, the gladdened congregation of divinities announced the victory of the Great Sage at the terrace of the Bodhi tree. The gladdened crowds of dragons (nāgas), also then announced the victory of the Great Sage at the terrace of the Bodhi tree: This, indeed, is the victory of the glorious Buddha' this also is the defeat of Māra, the Evil One. The gladdened group of garudas also, at that time, announced the victory of the Great Sage at the terrace of the Bodhitree "This indeed, is the victory of the Glorious Buddha; this also is the defeat of Māra, the Evil One". The gladdened group of Brahmās also; at that time announced the victory of the Great Sage at the terrace of the Bodhi tree: "This indeed is the victory of the Glorious Buddha; this also is the defeat of Māra."

The rest of the divinities in the ten thousand cakkavaḷās stood reciting different kinds of praises and doing honour by offering Him garlands of flowers, perfumes and unguents. In this way, the Great Man destroyed the army of Māra while the sun was still shining. He then pondered over His previous existences in the First watch of the night, cleansed His divine eyes in the middle watch of the night and made Himself attain the knowledge of dependent origination, (paṭiccasamuppāda) in the last watch of the night. Then, when he was meditating upon the twelvefold mode of causes in direct and reverse order, in the manner of revolving forward and backward the ten thousand world elements, (lokadhātu), which has water as its limit all-round, quaked twelve times.

2.60. When, however, the Great Man penetrated into omniscient knowledge at the time of sun-rise making the ten thousand world elements, (lokadhātu), sound the entire ten thousand world-elements became well-decorated. Flags and festoons hoisted at the rim of the east entrance (or face) of the cakkavāḷa struck the rim of the west entrance (or face) of the cakkavāḷa. So also the flag standards hoisted at the rim of the west entrance;(or face) of the Cakkavāṇa struck the rim of the east entrance (or face) of the Cakkavāḷa; the flags standards hoisted on the rim of the south face of the Cakkavāḷa struck the rim of the north face of the Cakkavāḷa; the flags standards hoisted on the rim of the north face of the Cakkavāḷa struck the rim of the south face of the Cakkavāla. The flags standards hoisted on the surface of the earth stood catching hold of the Brahmā world; the flags standards bound in the Bramā world; established themselves on the surface of the earth. In the ten thousand universes (cakkavālas), flower-bearing trees bore flowers and fruit-bearing trees became beneficial by bearing clusters of fruits. On the trunks of trees trunk-lotuses bloomed and in branches branch-lotuses, while amongst climbers creeperlotuses bloomed; whereas in the sky, there bloomed hanging-lotuses; surfaces of solid stones broke up, became a hundred layers one above the other, and there rose up daṇḍakapadumanplants. The ten thousand world-element revolved and became thoroughly mixed up with flowers, resembling a released ball of garlanded flowers as well as;(like a well-spread flowersheet. The intervening hells (lokantaraniraya), which lie in-between the universes (cakkavāla), which are eight thousand yojanas in extent, and which were ever dark and never could be lighted even by the shining light of seven suns, became at that time unitedly lighted. The mighty ocean, which was eighty four thousand yojanas deep became one of fresh water. Rivers ceased to flow. Congenitally blind people saw visible objects. The born-dumb people heard sounds. Those who were born lame went about on foot instead of crawling by means of a chair. Fastened fetters, bound chains, etc., became cut off and fell down.

2.61. The Great Man, being honoured thus with immeasurable wealth of glory, penetrated into omniscient knowledge, while numerous kinds of wonderful phenomena were prominently presenting themselves, and uttered such a joyous utterance as was never omitted by all Buddhas:

"Because repeated rebirth is miserable, I had myself been running about in the rounds of many a birth, seeking to find the architect of the house. O builder of the house! you are now dis- covered; you shall not build a house again. All your rafters are broken; the peak of the house had been destroyed; the mind had gone beyond Samkhāra, things worldly; I have attained the stage of destruction of all craving desire".

2.62. Thus, is what happened began from Tusita heavenly mansion to this attainment of omniscience at the terrace of the Bodhi tree. So much of the incident should be understood (or) known by the name of unremote preface.

The discourse on the unremote preface is over.

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