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...

Commentary on the Biography of the thera Raṭṭhapāla

Stanzas starting with Padumuttarassa Bhagavato constitute the biography of the venerable thera Raṭṭhapāla. This venerable thera also, having done devoted deeds of service in former existences, accumulating meritorious deeds conducive towards escape from the rounds of existence, was reborn in a family of vastly wealthy householder, in the city of Hamsavatī, even before the appearance of the Glorious One, Padumuttara. Having come of age, he became established in household life with the lapse of his father and having seen his immeasurably immense wealth that had followed up his lineage shown by his worker in charge of his treasure house of gems, he considered thus: "So much of this heap of wealth, my father, grandfather, great grandfather and so on were not able to go taking along with themselves;however, it is proper, for me to go having taken them along with me, and offered a colossal charity to such needy people as destitutes and travellers, etc. Having approached a hermit who had gained higher knowledge (abhiññā) and being urged by him to become ruler of the divine world, he did meritorious deeds as long as he lived and having passed away thence, he was reborn in the divine-world, abided thee as long as his lifespan lasted, enjoying the bliss of heaven and having passed away thence, was reborn as the only son of a family which was capable of reconstructing the broken-down kingdom in the world of human-beings. On that occasion, the Glorious One Padumutara had arisen in the world, was turning the excellent wheel of dhamma, and making leadable living-beings attain the secure ground of destination reckoned as the big city of nibbāna. Then that son of the family, having reached, in due course, the age of intelligence, went one day together with devotees to the monastery, noticed the Master preaching the truth (dhamma), became clearly pious-minded and sat himself down at the all-round end of the audience.

On that occasion, however, the master placed a bhikkhu at the top position of those who had renounced the world and become monk out of pious faith. having noticed it he became pleasingly pious-minded offered a colossal charity to the Glorious One, surrounded by a hundred thousand bhikkhus for seven days and wished for that ranking position. The Master having seen the condition of accomplishment by him without interruption made his prophesy: "This one will become chief of monks of pious faith during the dispensation of self-enlightened Buddha, Gotama by name, in the time not yet come". Having paid his homage to the master as well as the clergy of bhikkhus, he rose up from his seat and took his departure. Having done meritorious deeds as long as he lived, he passed away thence, wandered round his rounds of rebirths, amongst divine and human beings, and at the time of the Glorious One Phussa, ninety two aeons (kappa) ago, when three sons of the king, the Master's three brothers from a different mother were attending upon the Master and were thus doing meritorious deeds, he performed the duties of their companion (or associate). Having thus accumulated much merit in his rounds of rebirth in excellent existences even, was reborn in the house of the banker Raṭṭhapāla, in the village of Thullakoṭṭhika, in the kingdom of Kuru, at the time of the appearance of this Buddha. His name was Raṭṭhapāla, consequent to his lineage, owing to his having been born in the family capable of reconstructing a broken-down kingdom. Growing up with a large retinue, he, in due course, attained the age of puberty, married properly to an appropriate wife by his parents, managed to get established properly on high reputation and properly enjoyed such prosperity as was similar to celestial bliss.

Then, the Glorious One, wandering about His district rounds, eventually arrived at Thullakoṭṭhika. Having heard about it, the son of the family, Raṭṭhapāla, approached the Master, listened to the truth (dhamma), in the presence of the Master, gained pious faith, became desirous of becoming a monk, underwent fasting by cutting off meal for seven days, made his parents give their approval with painful difficulty, approached the master, asked for monkhood, became a monk in the presence of a certain bhikkhu, under orders of the master, developed spiritual insight (vipassanā), performing his good deeds with wise mental awareness, and attained arahatship.

Having, attained arahatship, he sought the permission of the master, went to Thullakoṭṭhika to see his parents, wandered about for alms-food from door to door successively (sapadāna), there, received stale boiled rice at the residence of his father, ate it as if it were an ambrosia (amata), agreed to the next-day meal on being invited by his father, ate his alms-meal at his father's house on the second day, when the properly dressed and decorated damsels of his former harem approached him and said to him thus: "Young Lord! What like, namely, are those celestial nymphs, because of whom you lead this chaste noble life?" and so on and when they began to do the act of luring him, he upset their intention and uttered these stanzas properlyconnected with impermanence and so on, thus:-

“Behold this image made of mind, the sickly body propped up by itself afflicted with disease and many an intention, where permanent standing does not exist. Look at the physical form made variegated with gem and ear-rings; clad with bone and skin, it looks graceful together with clothings. Feet made red by lac, face besmeared with beauty-powder, are fit for deluded fools not for one who seeks the further shore. Hair cross-plaited with eight braids, eyes smeared with eye-ointment (or eye-paint) are fit for deluded fools but not for him in quest of the further shore of nibbāna. new minds resembling collyrium and decorated putrid body are fit for deluded fools, but not for him who is in quest of the further shore of nibbāna. The hunter set a snare, the net, the giver of ruin for a deer; while the deer-hunter is crying, let us go having eaten our food. The hunter's snare, the net, the giver of destruction to the deer, has been cut off; let us go having eaten our food while the deer hunter is in grief.”

Having uttered these stanzas, he soared up into the sky and sat himself down on the auspicious stone slab in the garden of the deer and antelopes of king korabya. It is said that the father of the thera had bolts (or cross-bars) given as fasteners at the seven door-posts (or gateways), and given instructions to the wrestlers (or porters, malla) thus:- "Do not give the chance of leaving to the thera; remove the yellow garments and let him wear white clothes". That was the reason why the thera went by air, through the sky. Then king Korabya, having heard about the fact that the thera was seated there, approached the latter, had conversation with him saying gladdening words of remembrance and asked thus:- "O Raṭṭhapāla! Here a man in becoming a monk, does so after having reached the state of loss (or destruction) due either to disease, or to old age or to loss of wealth and relatives; to you, however, not in the least even of any loss (or destruction) had ever occurred; why did you become a monk?"Then the thera preached to the king these four terse truths (uddesa dhamma), which he, the thera himself had been in the know, thus: "The world is being brought to an end, it is not constant; the world is without protection, without a protector; the world is without refuge, one would have to go abandoning everything; the world is deficient, discontented and enslaved by craving".

Singing the song in consonance with his preaching, the thera uttered these stanzas:-

“I do see, in the world, men with wealth being deluded do not offer in charity the money they gained. Out of greed they make accumulation of wealth. They exceedingly wish for sensual pleasures still further all the more. A king having conquered the earth after fighting battles, holding sway over earth bounded by oceans, does not seem to be contented (or satisfied) with hither side of the ocean; he would wish for the ocean's other bank also.”

“The king as well as others constituting many men, without casting away craving (taṇhā) approach death. Having become less in quantity, they abandon their body. Indeed, there does not exist contentment over (or satisfaction with) sensual pleasures in the world.”

“Relatives scatter (or dishevel) their hair and mourn over him and also say thus: ‘Oh! Alas! Fortunately we are not dead.’ Carrying him away after having the corpse wrapped up with clothes, brought together in a heap, they thereafter burn him.”

“He is burnt, being pierced by sharp pointed instruments, without his wealth but clothed in a single garment. When being dead, his relatives and friends or else his associates do not become his protective shelter.”

His heirs carry away his wealth; the creature, however, goes according to his own deed; none of his wealth whatsoever follows him being dead; neither does his wealth and kingdom nor his sons and wife. Long life, one does not gain by means of wealth; they cannot do away with old age by means of their assets also;wisemen say this indeed, that life is little, not ever lasting, subject to vicissitudes. Prosperity and adversity are subject to contact by touch; the fool as well as the wise are likewise pervaded. Indeed, a fool lies down as if killed by folly; the wise, however, on being pervaded by touch does not shake (or tremble). Therefore, indeed, wisdom (or knowledge) even is better than wealth, it is by knowledge one achieves accomplishment here. On account of imperfection in (or lack of) knowledge, indeed, in minor and major existences and due to delusion one does evil deeds. having entered the rounds of repeated rebirths (samsāra), successively, one goes towards the womb as well as to another world; one who has little knowledge of that, being credulous, approaches the womb and the other world also. Just as a thief who has been captured at the opening of a break into the house made by himself, the evil deed harasses the doer himself, so also, in the same way, the evil deed harasses, by means of the act done by himself, the creature after death, in the other world. Indeed! Sensual pleasures are variegated, sweet and endearing (or delightful) to the heart (or mind); they stir up the mind with forms of various beauties; having seen dis advantage in the strands of sensual pleasures, O kings! i have become a monk on that account. lads fall but like unto fruits from trees; young and old meet with dissolution of their bodies. O king! Having seen this also, I have become a monk; leafless monkhood even is better. With pious faith i have become a monk; being accomplished in the dispensation of the Conqueror; my monkhood is not barren; I eat my meal without incurring debt. Having observed sensual pleasures from the point of view of burning and gold from the point of weapon, I found painful misery out of coming out of the womb and great danger in hells. Having come to know this disadvantage, I then gained remorse;that I at that time penetrated into tranquillity and attained myself the exhaustion of cankers (āsava). Attended upon my me is the Master, I have done the bidding of Buddha; my heavy burden has been laid down; the connecting kind of existence had been thoroughly cut off. For whatever benefit I have become a monk, after having come out from the household life to the houseless life, that benefit has accordingly been achieved, namely: the elimination of all fetters."

Having thus preached the truth (dhamma) to king Korabya, the thera went back to the presence of the master, even. Subsequently, the master also, seated in the midst of the assembly of nobles (ariya), placed that thera at the topmost position of those who became monks with pious faith.

97-8. Having attained in this manner the chief position, that thera, remembering his former deeds became delighted in mind and uttered a stanza starting with Padumuttarassa Bhagavato, to make manifest his deeds done previously. Varanāgo mayā dinno, excellent elephant has been offered by me, īsādanto, having tusks like axle, setacchattoparobhito, shone white umbrella, sakoppano, together with its caprison, samghāmam, ashram for the clergy, akārayim (I made) having been pleased with piety over the personality of that Glorious One, I offered Him my most excellent and best elephant, the tusks of which resembled the chariot's axle, which was bulky in size, carrier of burden, or worthy of royal sovereign, on the back of which was hoisted a white umbrella that made the animal graceful an shining; and again if questioned what other distinguished feature, the excellent elephant was with its caprison and ornamented trappings;I had a monastery built for the clergy of bhikkhus, headed by Buddha.

99. Catupaññāsasahassāni (fiftyfour thousand), I had fifty four thousand palatial structures built inside that monastery (by me); thus, is the meaning. Mahoghadānam karitvāna (having done the deed of charity like a formidable flood) having offered colossal charity similar to a formidable flood, comprising all ecclesiastical requisites; Mahesino (to the great sage) I handed over as charitable offering to the Sage.

100. Anumodi mahāvīro (the great hero congratulated me) the great Hero with exertion, reckoned as uninterrupted effort in four innumerable periods and a hundred thousand aeons (kappa);Sayambhū (self-dependent) had become and been born all by himself even, the best chief personage, who had gained omniscient knowledge, anumodi (felicitated) made thanksgiving on my offering of monastery; sabbejane bāsayanto (gladdening all people) delighting the entire, endless, immeasurable divine and human-beings; kurumāno (making) rendering contentment; desesi (pointed out) made clear, exposed, analysed, and made manifest the preaching of four noble truths (dhamma); thus, is the meaning.

101. Tam me viyākāsi (He made it manifest to me) He made distinctively clear the vigour of that meritorious deed by me;jalajuttamanāmako (named jalajuttama) sprung up in water is water-born, jalaja (lotus flower) paduma; named Padumuttara; thus, is the meaning. There is such a reading also as: "Jalanuttama nāyako". There they shine by means of their own light; thus, jalana (the shining moon, sun, deva and brahmā) the most excellent of those shiners; thus, the most excellent shiner, jalanuttamo (the most excellent leader of all living beings); thus, the leader (nāyaka) or he led and let arrive at nibbāna living-beings who possess accumulation or merit or requisite qualification; thus, He is leader, (nāyaka); He is the most excellent of shiners as well as a leader; thus, the best leader shiner, Jalanuttamanāyako; bhikkhusamghe nisīditvā (having sat down with the clergy of bhikkhus) seated amidst the clergy of bhikkhus; imāgathā abhāsatha (uttered these stanzas) preached making it manifest; thus, is the meaning. The rest is but clear in meaning.

The Commentary on the biography of the thera Raṭṭhapāla has ended.

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