by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Showers of ‘lotus-leaf’ at the Assembly of the Royal Families contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
The Buddha descended from the Jewelled Walk in the sky, near the city of Kapilavatthu, after subduing the pride and haughtiness of His royal relatives by delivering the discourse on the Buddhavaṃsa and took His seat on the ‘Dhamma Throne’, which was exclusively set up for Him.
All the members of the royal family had by then assembled before the Buddha and seated themselves after becoming calm and collected; then it happened that showers of lotus-leaf rain, pokkharavassa, fell heavily.
As the great rain fell, rushing streams of ruby-coloured rain water were following on the ground. While the rain water wetted those who wished to be soaked, not a drop of rain fell on those who did not want to get wet.
All the members of the royalty were struck with wonder at the sight of this miraculous scene and uttered: “O, a marvellous thing to be cheered by the snapping of the fingers! This is an unprecedented phenomenon, indeed!” On hearing such utterances, the Buddha made this remark: “This is not the first time that ‘pokkharavassa’ rain had fallen at the assembly of the royal relatives. There was an occasion in the past when such a rain had fallen in this manner.” The Buddha then continued to expound the story of Vessantara which was composed in one thousand stanzas.
After hearing the story of Vessantara, all the members of the royalty departed and not a single person extended the invitation, such as: “Please come and receive the alms-food which we shall offer tomorrow,” to the Buddha.
King Suddhodāna thought and took it for granted that “There is no place other than my royal palace for my son, the Buddha, to visit, He is certain to come to my palace.” Being convinced thus, he returned to his palace without extending a specific invitation. At the palace, he ordered arrangements for the preparation of rice-gruel, etc. and temporary accommodation for the twenty thousand arahats headed by the Buddha.
Buddha entering Kapilavatthu for Alms-Round
When the Buddha entered the royal city the next day, in the company of twenty thousand arahats, for alms-round, not a single member of the royal family came forward to greet and welcome Him. There was no one to take His alms bowl and carry for Him.
The moment the Buddha had set foot on the gate-way of Kapilavatthu, He began to reflect on the way in which previous Buddhas went round for alms-food in the capital city of their royal fathers: “Was it characterised by receiving alms exclusively from the selected homes of the rich, the elite, or by going round for alms from door to door, rich or poor alike?” He did it by way of His psychic power which gave the knowledge of the past existences, pubbbenivasa-abhiñña. Thus He came to realize that not a single Buddha in the past had received their alms-food only from the selected homes of rich; none of them had deviated from the practice of going for alms-food from door to door. So He decided to adopt the time honoured traditional practice of collecting alms-food from door to door. He thought: “Only by setting such example by Myself would My disciples emulate My practice and fulfil the duty of a bhikkhu to go for alms-round to each and every house without any breach.”
Having made this decision, He started to go on the alms-round beginning with the first house nearest the city gate, stopping at every house one after another.
(The following is a brief description of the magnificent scene of the Buddha’s visit to the Royal City as mentioned in Majjhimapaññāsa Commentary pg 16-17:
When the Buddha entered the Royal City, the earth quaked with mild intensity. He walked gently, not treading upon even the tiniest insects such as ants and the like. He stepped forth first with the right foot which possessed the major mark of “the level soles of feet like golden footwear (supatitthita lakkhaṇa)”; the delicate soles of His feet, being level and smooth, touched the ground evenly, fully and squarely without collecting the tiniest particles of dirt or dust. As He walked along, the lowlying areas of the earth raised themselves spontaneously to an even level and the mounds lowered to the level of the plain, forming an even surface all over; all the stones and pebbles, stumps and thorns had removed themselves from the route beforehand. He walked at a normal pace, neither too fast nor too slow, His stride neither too long nor too close, without the ankles and knees knocking against each other. Being a person of great concentration, He looked straight forward, limiting the range of vision to within four-hand’s length, looking neither up nor down, nor sideways. He walked with the grace of a Chaddanta (tasks emitting six ray) elephant fully and richly caparisoned.)
When the Buddha was on His round of receiving alms food from door to door in the city, those living in two and three-storey buildings came out on the balconies which rested on lion image supports, to pay homage to the Buddha, uttering: “There comes our good Lord, Prince Siddhattha for receiving alms-food.”
Queen Yasodharā, mother of Rāhula, thought to herself: “In former days, my glorious Lord used to travel in kingly power and luxury, carried on a golden palanquin but now, it is said, He goes about the city for alms-food with shorn head and beard, in dyed clothes, with bowl in hand. Would it be seemly or would it appear uncomely?” So thinking, she opened the balcony window which rested on the supports of lion images and saw for herself that the main roads and as well as lanes were brilliantly illuminated by the beams of light from Buddha’s body as He was going round majestically, and adorned with thirty-two major characteristics and eighty minor ones, which were peculiar to the Buddhas and the six-hued aura of light surrounding Him. (Pointing her fingers towards the Buddha), she drew the attention of Rāhula and uttered ten ‘Narasiha’ stanzas in praise of the glorious personality of the Buddha from His forehead to His soles.
Ten ‘Narasiha’ Stanzas
(In praise of the beauteous body of the Buddha)
1) Siniddhanīla mudukuñcita keso
His hair is jet black and bright like the colour of a bumble bee with tapering tip curling softly clock-wise; a shining serene forehead resembling a clear rising sun; a delicate, proportionately prominent slender nose like a goad; a lustrous radiant body, the noblest of men, and an extraordinary, exalted individual indeed!
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho
My eyes’ delight, dear Rāhula, there comes the noblest of men and extraordinary person! The soles of His feet are ruby-red and distinguished by the characteristic marks; noble characteristic marks adorn the slender heels and His pair of feet bear impressions of white umbrellas and golden yellow yak-fans. That exalted reverential person receiving alms, surrounded by twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
3) Sakyakumāravaro sukhumālo
lokahitātya gato naravīro
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho
My bosom son, Rāhula, He is a gentle noble prince, a descendant of the unbroken, peerless Sakya lineage, one who has a full handsome body with noble major and minor characteristic marks; one who has been born into this world for the welfare of the three spheres of existence, one whose industry excels that of all others, an extraordinary person and noblest of men. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
4) Āyatayuttasuta saṇḍdhitasoto
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho
My sweet son, Rāhula, possessing a pair of handsome ears of proportionate size, soft eye-lashes like that of a new-born calf, a pair of eyes dark like the onyx, and dark brown eyebrows shaped like the curve of Sakka’s bow. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
5) Punnasasaṅkanibho mukhavanno
devanarāna piyo naranāgo
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho.
My darling Rāhula, the serene face of that exalted bhikkhu resembles a moon in full bloom on the fifteenth day (of the month), who is worthy of deep veneration and true affection by all beings in the three worlds of devas, humans and Brahmās, who may be likened to a great and powerful bull elephant with the elegant gait of an elephant king in must. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
vīsati vīsati setasundanto
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho.
My darling, dear Rāhula, one with a voice, deep, harmonious and exceedingly sweet, a tongue vermillion-red like the colour of the Rosa Sinensis, two rows of clean white teeth, each consisting of twenty, the noblest of men and an extraordinary person. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho
My darling, dear Rāhula, one of truly noble and royal ancestry, before whose feet beings of the three worlds bow in deep reverence, one with firm morality, concentration and tranquil state of mind which is imperturbable, the noblest of men. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
sihahanu migaraja sariro
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho
Dear son, Rāhula, one with a full round neck, shapely like a golden mayo drum, a rounded well-developed jaw resembling the magnificent jaws of a lion king, and as if about to smile, like the twelfth-day waxing moon; a fullchested body like the fore part of a lion, the king of beasts; a radiant skin of the colour of the purest gold, and an unparalleled nobility of appearance; the noblest of men. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho.
My darling, dear Rāhula, having hair of dark shining greenish-black, an even, clear forehead like a plate of gold and like the morning star and a single strand of pure white hair growing, coiled between the eye brows, the noblest of men. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
10) Gacchatiṅ nilapathe viya cando
esa hi tuyha pitā narasīho
My darling, dear Rāhula, just as the chariot of the moon magnificently travels along the triple route through the air, so too the leader of monks, the King of Dhamma walks majestically amidst arahat disciples; the noblest of men. That exalted reverential person, receiving alms in the company of twenty thousand arahats, like the full moon amidst stars and planets, was your father when He was a layman.
Having thus intimated the glory, the grace of the person of the Buddha to her son Rāhula, she approached King Suddhodāna and said: “Your Majesty, O father, your royal son, the Buddha, is reported to be going round for alms-food in the company of twenty thousand arahats.”
King Suddhodāna attaining The First Path (Sotāpatti-magga)
King Suddhodāna was shocked and agitated when he heard what Queen Yasodharā had said and with one hand holding up his nether garment, he rushed out of the palace to see the Buddha and stood in front of Him and made this remark: “Most Exalted One, why do you put us to shame by going round for alms-food? Do you think that enough food for such a large number as twenty thousand arahats cannot be provided by your royal father?” The Buddha said in reply: “Royal father, such a practice of receiving alms from door to door (sapadānacarika) is the precedence set by an unbroken line of we Buddhas.” King Suddhodāna replied in these words: “My son, are we not descents of the Khattiya lineage, great elected rulers in unbroken succession from the beginning of the world-cycles? And all along this line of great Khattiya rulers, there was never one who went around begging for alms.” The Buddha then made this reply: “O Royal father, the lineage of Khattiya rulers is your lineage; my ancestors are the Buddhas, in successive order of the Buddhavaṃsa from Dīpaṅkarā, Koṇḍañña, Maṅgala down to Kassapa. Beginning with Dīpaṅkarā and ending with Kassapa, my preceding elder brethren Buddhas, twenty-four in number, and with all the thousands of Buddhas as many as sands of the Ganges, had always gone to each successive house to receive alms. This very practice of receiving alms from one door to the next had always been our means of livelihood.”
And while stopping on the route for a moment, He uttered the following stanza:
Royal father, a bhikkhu, on receiving alms-food after standing with seemly propriety at the door of each donor, should be mindful of the receipt of the food; he should not receive or seek alms by improper means. He should practice going round for receiving alms in a commendable manner. A bhikkhu, who cultivates this practice unfailingly in such a manner, will live in peace in this life and future life as well.
King Suddhodāna became An Anāgāmin and Mahāpajāpati Gotamī, A Sotāpanna
After his attainment of sotāpanna, King Suddhodāna himself took the alms bowl from the hands of the Buddha and holding it, invited the Buddha and the twenty thousand arahats to his palace where he offered seats of honour which were especially arranged in anticipation. On arrival at the palace, the Buddha uttered the following stanza:
Dhammaṃ care sucaritam
na naṃ ducaritaṃ care
dhammacāri sukham seti
asmiṅ loke paramhi ca.
Royal father, an improper or irregular way of seeking alms-food should be avoided and correct mode of receiving alms should be practised. (Abodes of old maids, eunuchs, liquor-shops, prostitutes, a divorced or widowed woman, a female bhikkhu these places are regarded as not proper places whence to receive alms, agocara-thana, and should be avoided). A bhikkhu who cultivates this practice unfailingly in such a manner will live in peace in this life and future life as well.
Then King Suddhodāna offered various kinds of hard and soft food which were prepared in advance for the Buddha and His twenty thousand arahats.
Recounting The Candakinnari Jātaka
When the food-offering was over, all the courtiers and maids of honour (excepting Rāhula’s mother, Queen Yasodharā) rallied at the feet of Buddha and paid their reverential respects to Him.
Although her female attendants had requested her thus: “Your Majesty, please do come out of the royal chamber and pay homage to the Buddha,” she gave the maids of honour this reply: “If I had ever rendered any special service worthy of gratitude, His Reverence will Himself come to me. Then and then only will I give homage to Him,” and she remained unmoved and sedately stayed in her chamber.
With King Suddhodāna carry His alms-bowl and, accompanied by His two chief Disciples, the Buddha went into the parlour of the Queen. (At that time, forty thousand dancers were waiting upon her, of whom one thousand and ninety were maiden princesses. On being told that the Buddha was on His way to her parlour, she ordered her forty thousand dancers to be dressed in dyed cloth and they did as they were told.
On arrival at the chamber of Queen Yasodharā, the Buddha said: “Let no one utter any word to hinder or restrain Princess Yasodharā while she is paying Me homage to her heart’s content,” and then He took His seat at a place specially prepared for Him in advance.
Queen Yasodharā came quickly into the presence of the Buddha and seizing His pair of insteps with both hands and all her strength she held them close and tightly in her arms. She rested her forehead upon them, alternately left and right, and again and again made obeisance to Him to her heart’s content, with deep, profound esteem and respect.
Whereupon, King Suddhodāna addressed the Buddha:
“Glorious Buddha, noble son, my daughter has worn dyed clothes ever since she heard that you were wearing dyed robes; when she heard that you lived on a single meal, she too subsisted on a single meal. Since she heard that you had given up beds of luxury, she has slept on a couch of flat matted ropes; since she heard that you had given up flowers and scents, she has gone without anointing herself with fragrant paste and not wearing flowers.
“When you renounced the world, kindred princes sent messages proposing their honourable intentions to love and cherish and keep her under their tender care, to none of which she even cast a lustful glance. Such wonderful, praiseworthy and extraordinary virtues is my daughter replete with.”
Thus did King Suddhodāna make known to the Buddha the virtues and consistency of Princess Yasodharā’s love for Him.
Whereupon the Buddha responded:
“Royal father, it is not to be wondered that Yasodharā, mother of Rāhula, has maintained her loyalty and dignity now, because apart from the protection given by you, mother of Rāhula is now ripe in wisdom and capable of protecting herself. More admirable still is the fact that mother of Rāhula, Princess Yasodharā in a past existence, had protected herself, when she was roaming all by herself at the foot of Canda mountain, even while still immature in wisdom and without a protector (like your good self).”
Then, after relating the events in the past existence with the story of Canda Kinnarī (Second Jātaka of Pakinnaka Nipata), the Buddha returned to Nigrodha monastery accompanied by the twenty thousand arahats.
Ordination of Prince Nanda
[A few points of interest in connection with Prince Nanda: Prince Siddhattha’s step-mother, Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī, gave birth to Prince Nanda two days after (on the third day after) royal mother, Mahā Māyā, had given birth to Prince Siddhattha. Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī entrusted her own son to the care of nurses and she, herself, took the responsibility of nursing and looking after the Bodhisatta (her nephew) by feeding him with her own milk. Prince Nanda was only two or three days younger and about four finger breadths shorter than Prince Siddhattha in height.]
On the third day of the arrival of the Buddha in the royal city of Kapilavatthu, King Suddhodāna made the five Auspicious Ceremonial rites and rituals to be performed in honour of Prince Nanda:
(1) Ceremony of the uncoiling of the youthful hair-do to make way for another, befitting an heir to the throne (Kesavissajjana Maṅgala).
(2) Ceremony of placing round the forehead of the Prince a gold frontlet bearing the inscription Crown Prince (Paṭṭabandha Maṅgala),
(3) Ceremony of bestowing residential palace to the Crown Prince. (Gharappavesana Maṅgala)
(5) Ceremony of bestowing and erecting the royal white umbrella of the Crown Prince. (Chattussāpana Maṅgala).
On that occasion the Buddha went to the royal palace and after preaching a discourse on the virtues of meritorious deeds, as He wished to get Prince Nanda to be ordained, He purposely gave His bowl to Nanda and left for the monastery.
Because he had exceedingly great respect for the Buddha, his elder brother, Prince Nanda dared not say a word about the bowl which was unexpectedly left in his care, though he had in mind to request: “Exalted elder brother, may you take your bowl.” He had but to follow the Buddha up to the top of the stairs, thinking that he would be relieved of the burden there but the Buddha did not do so.
Holding the bowl, he thus followed the Buddha to the foot of the stairway but He still did not take back the bowl. He had to follow Him, much against his will, thinking and hoping the bowl would be taken back and he eventually reached the open space outside the palace. The Buddha continued on His way without relieving him of the bowl. Prince Nanda, following unwillingly, wished to turn back, but his extreme respect kept him silent, and hoping against hope that the bowl would be taken back at one place or another, had to go along with the Buddha.
At that juncture, female attendants of the Princess Janapadakalyani brought the matter to her notice, saying: “Your Highness, the Buddha has taken away Prince Nanda to keep him separated from you.” (Janapadakalyani was then washing her hair.) She hurried to the door of the balcony, her hair dripping wet and only half-combed, and made an earnest appeal: “Your Highness, may you come back quickly,” which weighed heavily in the mind of Prince Nanda.
The Buddha went on without taking the bowl from Prince Nanda, and on arrival at the monastery, He asked Nanda: “Would you like to receive ordination and become a bhikkhu? Out of fear and respect, he could not express his unwillingness: ‘No, I cannot,’ but had to give his assent, saying: ‘Very well, Exalted brother, I will receive ordination.’ ”
Initiation of Rāhula to Novicehood
Seven days after this event, the Buddha, accompanied by twenty thousand arahats, visited His Royal father’s palace to partake of meal. Queen Yasodharā had her son, Rāhula, aged seven, tastefully dressed and confided to him: “My darling son, look at that gracious bhikkhu, attended by twenty thousand bhikkhus, with a golden appearance and a body as graceful as that of a Brahmā, He is your father. Before His renunciation, and becoming a bhikkhu, there used to be four golden pots, namely, Sangha, Ela, Uppla, Pundharika, which had disappeared simultaneously with His renunciation. So approach your father and ask for inheritance, saying: ‘Venerable father, I am a young Prince and I will, in due course, be crowned as a Universal Monarch of the Four islands and, as such, I am in need of wealth and treasures befitting such a king. I pray that those four golden pots may be given to me as inheritance, in keeping with the tradition of a son always inheriting such a gift from his father.’ ” She then sent the young prince to the Buddha.
When Prince Rāhula came close to the Buddha, he felt the warmth of affectionate love of a father. Overwhelmed with joyousness, he addressed: “Exalted Bhikkhu father, the sphere of your protection is, indeed, so peaceful, calm and comfortable,” and after a moment of sweet childish chatter, remained seated close to the Buddha. After finishing the meal, the Buddha gave a discourse on the merits of provision of alms-food and left the palace for Nigrodha Monastery, in the company of twenty thousand arahats.
Prince Rāhula immediately went along behind the Buddha, making the request: “Exalted Bhikkhu father, may you give me my heirloom,” and repeating it all along the way to the monastery. The Buddha did not say a word to ask him, such as: “Beloved son, go back home.” and none of the King’s personnel dared hinder him (as it was a matter of a son following his father). In this way, Prince Rāhula arrived at the monastery together with the Buddha, asking for inheritance all the way.
On arrival at the monastery, the Buddha thought it over: “Prince Rāhula wants to inherit his father’s property. The worldly wealth and property simply leads to suffering as they are the cause of sufferings of the round of rebirths. I shall give the royal son Rāhula the inheritance of seven supramundane treasures of the ariyas, namely, faith (saddhā), morality (sīla), sense of shame (hirī), dread of consequences of wrong deeds (ottappa), knowledge (suta), liberality (cāga) and wisdom (paññā) which I have won by vanquishing the five internal and external enemy forces of the Māra. I shall make the royal son, Rāhula, become the owner of these supramundane inheritance.” So deciding, the Buddha bade the Venerable Sāriputta to Him and said: “Sāriputta, Prince Rāhula has come to ask for his heirloom from Me. Make arrangements for the initiation of Rāhula as a novice.”
In his Kokhan Pyo (Sacred verses in nine sections) Venerable Mahā Ratthasara illustrated these seven supramundane treasures of the ariyas, side by side with corresponding worldly properties:
(1) Sense of shame (hirī)——silver
(2) Dread of consequences of wrong deeds (ottappa)——gold
(3) Knowledge (suta)——coral
(4) Faith (saddhā)——emerald
(5) Morality (sīla)——pearl
(6) Liberality (cāga)——precious stone
(7) Wisdom (paññā)——diamond
In compliance with the expressed instruction of the Buddha, the Venerable Sāriputta took the role of the preceptor (upajjhāya), whereas the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna acted as instructor (pabajjhācariya) attending to shaving of the head, offering of robes and administering the Three Refuges, while the Venerable Mahā Kassapa served as his advisor (ovādācariya). Thus, Prince Rāhula was given admission to noviciateship and became a novice (sāmaṇera). Although the three mahātheras took individual roles in the procedure for the admission, the preceptor (upajjhāya) is the dominant figure in bringing about the going forth of Prince Rāhula; the functions undertaken by pabajjhacariya and ovādācariya are the bounden duties of the preceptor (upajjhāya);they are merely functioning as his deputies. Therefore Pāli Text says: “Atha kho Āyasama Sariputto Rahulam Kumaraṃ pabbājesi” meaning “Then the Venerable Sāriputta brought about Prince Rāhula’s admission to noviciateship, as if he attended to all the various tasks necessary for the ceremony.”
A Rule of Training prescribed by The Buddha at The Request of King Suddhodāna
King Suddhodāna was greatly disturbed and suffered intense mental and physical agony when he heard of the news that “Prince Rāhula has been initiated as a novice.” (A note of explanation is required here for clarification: Just as the court astrologers had made confident predictions that, “This prince is destined to become a Universal Monarch” after the birth of prince Siddhattha, so also they made the identical predictions on subsequent occasions when birthday celebrations were held in honour of Prince Nanda and Prince Rāhula.)
While entertaining high hopes of seeing the grace and glory of his son, Prince Siddhattha, as a Universal Monarch, King Suddhodāna witnessed only the Bodhisatta Prince Siddhattha renouncing the world and becoming a bhikkhu, greatly to his disappointment and he had suffered great mental and physical distress for the first time.
Again after he had braced himself thus: “Only when my younger son, Nanda, becomes a Universal Monarch shall I see his grace and glory,” Prince Nanda was ordained as a bhikkhu by the Buddha. He had suffered extreme weariness of heart and mind for the second time.
He had, however, observed great patience on these two previous occasions by consoling himself: “My last hope is to witness with full satisfaction the grace and glory of my grandson when he becomes a Universal Monarch.” He had set his mind on this. Now that Rāhula had been made a novice by the Buddha, it occurred to him: “Now the continuity of the dynasty of the Sakya Monarch had been severed. Wherefore can there be the glory and grace of a Universal Monarch?” King Suddhodāna naturally suffered a misery more intense than ever before. (This is because the King was still at the stage of sakadāgāmī ariya who had yet to eradicate the defilement of anger (dosa), hence his extreme sadness.)
The pressing mental and physical agony grew beyond his power of endurance, so much so that he went to the Buddha and after paying homage and taking a seat at an appropriate place, he addressed the Buddha: “Most Glorious Buddha, my royal son, I would like to request a favour from you.” Whereupon, Buddha responded: “O Royal father of Gotama clan, Fully Enlightened Buddhas are past the stage of granting favours.”
(N.B. Granting of favours and giving rewards is not the business of recluses who themselves live on food received from generous donors, as such, if someone make requests for favour from them, it is not befitting for them to say off-hand: “Ask for any favour you wish.” It is also not the practice of Buddhas.)
Whereupon the King said: “I will only make a request which is fit and proper as well as faultless.” Only then did the Buddha allow him to make the request, saying: “Royal father of Gotami clan, you may ask for any favour you wish.”
“Most Revered son, when you first renounced the world I had suffered infinite sorrow and I suffered with the same intensity when my son, Prince Nanda, received ordination, and lastly, when Rāhula, my grandson, was made a novice, my misery was immeasurable.
“Most Exalted son, the love of parents and grand-parents for their sons and grandchildren penetrates from the delicate film of outer skin through the thick inner skin, sinews, nerves and bones and even up to the marrow.”
When King Suddhodāna left the monastery after hearing a sermon, the Buddha, in consideration of King Suddhodāna’s request, made a proclamation of a training rule at the assembly of the Sangha.
“Na bhikkhave ananunnāto mātāpitūhi putto pabbājetabbo; yo pabbājeyya āpatti dukkaṭassa.—Bhikkhus, a child who has not the consent of both his parents should not be given initiation nor ordination. Whoever should let such a person receive admission or ordination, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”
King Suddhodāna attained The Anāgāmī-phala
On a certain day after this incident, when Buddha went to the royal palace for meals in the company of twenty thousand arahats, King Suddhodāna served Him and His arahats with gruel and sweet-meats before the main meal. And during the interim period, the King enthusiastically recounted his experience with the devas thus: “Most Glorious son, when you were engaged arduously in austerity practices, certain devas appeared in the sky and told me: ‘Your son, Prince Siddhattha, has died for not having sufficient food.’” Whereupon, the Buddha asked the King: “Royal father, did you believe the words of the devas then?” The King replied: “No, I did not. I rejected the words of these devas in the sky by saying: ‘It is impossible for my son to enter Nibbāna until and unless he attains Omniscience on that pleasant plain under the Mahābodhi tree.’”
Then the Buddha said: “My royal father (not only in this life), in a previous existence, you were the chieftain of Mahā Dhammapala village, you had also rejected the words of a far-famed teacher, Disapamokkha, who told you: ‘Your son, the young Dhammapala is dead. These are the bones of your son,’ exhibiting the bones of a goat as evidence. You had then refuted him by saying: ‘In our Dhammapala clan, there is none who dies while still young.’ You did not believe him at all. Now at the last lap of your transient existence, why should you believe the words of the devas? You certainly would not.” Then at the request of His royal father, the Buddha delivered extensively the discourse on Mahā Dhammapala Jātaka (Dasaka Nipata--the ninth Jātaka).
After delivering the Jātaka discourse, the Buddha continued to expound the main Dhamma points of the Four Noble Truths (Catusacca Dhamma kathā). At the conclusion of this exposition, King Suddhodāna was firmly established as an anāgāmin.
Pajāpati Gotamī offered A Set of Robes to The Buddha
As stated above, the day after the arrival of the Buddha and His arahats at Kapilavatthu, King Suddhodāna, after having expressed his reasons for the intolerable displeasure and disapproval to the Buddha and His arahats in the middle of their round for alms-food, invited them to the royal palace.
When Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī witnessed the grace and splendour of the physical appearance of the Buddha on the latter’s arrival at the royal palace, she could not help thinking: “How exceedingly comely is my son’s appearance!” and her mind was filled with the powerful feelings of exceeding joy.
Then again, she continued considering:
“For fully twenty-nine years when He was a layman, it was I who was solely responsible for my son’s wellbeing, regarding His food, clothing and residence, even to the extent of peeling off the skin of the banana for him. Now that he has blossomed forth as a Fully-Enlightened Buddha, it is right and proper that I weave a set of robes myself to offer Him.”
She had a weaving house set up in the precincts of the royal palace, and bought fine quality cotton from the market. The work of ginning and spinning cotton into fine threads was undertaken by herself. She summoned expert weavers to the palace and asked them to weave a cloth for a set of robes, providing them with delicious soft and hard food from her own table, and paid them handsome rewards. She visited the place of work, in the company of her maids of honour and personally took part in the weaving of the cloth for the robes as and when opportunity presented.
When the fine cloth had been woven and the weavers were given suitable rewards, she placed the cloth in a casket of sweet scents so that it might be infused with the sweet fragrance and when every thing was set, she approached the King and said:
“Your Majesty, I wish to offer this newly woven fine cloth for a set of robes to the Exalted son personally in the monastery.”
King Suddhodāna caused the road-way between the palace and the monastery to be kept clean; every street was swept, pots filled with water were placed along the road which was lined with decorative pennants and streamers. From the palace gate to the Nigrodha monastery the whole route was strewn with flowers.
With great pomp and ceremony, Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī, bedecked with ornaments and in full ceremonial dress, proceeded to the monastery in the company of her maids of honour, carrying on her head the fragrant casket containing the piece of cloth for making robes and on arrival addressed the Buddha:
“Most Exalted Glorious son, I, your step-mother, intending it for you, have myself ginned and spun and woven a cloth for a set of robes. I pray that you accept, this piece of cloth which I have woven and offered to you, out of compassion and sympathetic regard for me.”
(The detailed story of the royal step-mother weaving the cloth for a set of robes and offering it to the Buddha is provided in 12-Dakkhinavibanga, 4-Vibanga Magga, Uparipaṇṇāsa, Burmese translation.)
Special note: Dakkhina Vibanga Sutta commentary states: “The Buddha’s stepmother had a mind for the offering of robes to the Buddha during His first visit to Kapilavatthu, etc.” In the Pāli text it is mentioned that the Buddha advised her to offer it to the Sangha (instead of to the individual) so that she may gain exceedingly greater merit. Then the Venerable Ānanda supplicated on her behalf to accept the offer of the robes for himself in consideration of the mutual beneficent services rendered.
Here arises a point that deserves to be taken into account. The Venerable Ānanda was not yet a bhikkhu during the Buddha’s first visit to Kapilavatthu. He was ordained only on arrival at Anupiya mango grove, in Malla country, on the return journey from Kapilavatthu. Jātaka commentaries also only mention the fact that the Buddha returned from Kapilavatthu after establishing King Suddhodāna in the three lower Fruition stages.
Therefore, in order to reconcile this discrepancy, it would be appropriate to take it that Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī conceived the idea of weaving the cloth for a set of robes for the Buddha and went about translating her idea into action during the Buddha’s first visit, and that she made the offering with great pomp and ceremony only on the His next visit to Kapilavatthu.
Footnotes and references:
(F.N: by the author——Pokkharavassa means, according to sub-sub-commentary, rain which has the colour of lotus-leaf. Other teachers have explained it as rain which falls from the mass of rainclouds which, at the beginning the size of the lotus leaf appearing in the middle of the sky, builds up into thousands of layers and then comes down as torrential rain. (Vinaya Saratha Dipani Tika, p 245)
Events leading to the Venerable Nanda’s attainment of arahatship will be related when we come to the section on “The Jewel of the Sangha.”