by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Biographies of Ankura Deva and Indaka Deva 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 page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Sixth Vassa at Mount Makula. 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).
Indaka Deva, who arrived after Santusita Deva, was seated on the right side close to the seat of Buddha, and Ankura sat on the left side in close proximity to Him. Ankura Deva was obliged to make room for more powerful devas and Brahmās every time they arrived until he was at a place twelve yojanas away from the Buddha. But Indaka could retain his status quo.
Biography of Ankura Deva
The genesis of his biography may be traced back to a dark period (that followed the extinction of Buddha Kassapa’s sāsana). He was the youngest of the eleven children of Prince Upasagara and Princess Devagabbha. Prince Upasagara was the son of King Mahā
Sagara of Uttaramadhuraj country, and Princess Devagabbha was the daughter of Mahākansa, ruler of Asitanjana, a province of Uttarapatha country. His eldest brother was Vasudeva and eldest sister was Ujanadevi.
When he came of age, his elder brothers made him the ruler of a town with a grant to receive revenues of that town. This being his share of the spoils of victory after his elder brothers made a conquest of the whole of Jabudipa with their political power. But he, in turn, surrendered the town to the eldest sister, Princess Ujana. He simply asked for exemption from taxation on merchandise involved in his private trading within the borders of their provinces. He led the life of a free trader. He was happy and contented with his lot. Once, he was put into a great difficulty through shortage of provisions during his journey across a desert. There was a guardian deity of a banyan tree, who had the power to produce every necessary thing one could desire with only just a gesture of his right hand. He was a grateful deity and he fulfilled the needs of the prince and his people by producing their needs by (a show of the finger) pointing with his right hand, in repayment of his debt of gratitude towards the prince in a previous existence. The Prince, out of curiosity, asked him about his mysterious power and he replied: “I was a poor tailor living near the house of a rich man, Asahya, in the town of Roruva. Once the rich man gave a great alms-giving to the needy and I gladly assisted the poor who came my way by pointing my hand towards the direction of the charity pavilion of the rich man. I am thus enjoying the fruit of my voluntary labour! Thus, all things necessary for human use such as food, clothing flow copiously, as desired, from my right hand.”
In emulation of the guardian deity of the banyan tree, Prince Ankura, on arrival back to the country of Dvaravati, as a great alms-giving, donated alms to everyone in the whole of Jabudipa (ten thousand yojanas in extent). Such an act of charity bore an adverse affect on the machinery of taxation. It, indeed, paralysed the system of tax levying or any description and his elder brothers had to advise him to do charity with a sense of proportion. He shifted to the city of Dakkhinapattha in Damittha country to resume his acts of charity along a stretch of land measuring 12 yojanas, by the side of the ocean. All along that stretch, he had a row of pots of alms-food resting on tripods and almost touching one another. He lived to be ten thousand years, giving charity all the while and passed away. He was reborn in the celestial plane of Tāvatiṃsa bearing the same name, Ankura.
Although Ankura had given much for such a long time, he did not get much in return, and this is because his recipients were destitute of virtue existing during a dark period void of the sāsana, just like a farmer who had sown his seeds on barren ground. (This is a brief sketch of the life of Ankura. For full particulars, please refer to Burmese translation of Peta Vatthu Pāli Text: 2—Ubbari Vagga: 9 Ankura Peta Vatthu.)
Biography of Indaka Deva
It was during the time of our Buddha Gotama and while Ankura Deva was enjoying the life of a celestial deva in Tāvatiṃsa, a young man by the name of Indaka offered, out of faith and devotion, a ladleful of rice to the Venerable Anuruddha who was on his round of receiving food.
After his demise, he was reborn as a powerful deva in Tāvatiṃsa, endowed with the ten privileges of celestial beings in reward for his meritorious deed done during the sāsana of Buddha Gotama, like a farmer who had sown his seeds in a fertile field. He was known by the same name, Indaka. The ten privileges of celestial beings are: (1) celestial objects of sight, (2) of hearing, (3) of odour, (4) of taste, (5) of touch, (6) longevity, (7) abundance of attendants or companions, (8) good appearance, (9) wealth or prosperity, (10) supremacy.
Ankura Deva had to make room for more powerful devas and Brahmās attending the Great festival of Abhidhamma, he was pushed back right up to 12 yojanas from the Buddha, whereas Indaka Deva could retain his seat without having to make room for any other celestial beings.
When the Buddha saw the difference of status of Ankura Deva and that of Indaka Deva, He thought it would be a good thing to bring out, for the sake of edification of beings, the differences in the benefit accrued from deeds of merit done during the flourishing sāsana of Fully Self-Enlightened Buddhas and that from deeds of merit done during the dark period void of the sāsana. The Buddha, therefore, asked Ankura: “Ankura.... How is it that you have to stay 12 yojanas away from Me, though you had made offerings of food produced from a line of pots on tripods laid across a stretch of land 12 yojanas in extent for ten thousand years?”
O Ankura lay devotee.... why do you have to move back and make room for powerful devas and Brahmās on their arrival at this Great Abhidhamma Festival, although you have to your credit merits for offering food produced from a line of pots laid across a stretch of land 12 yojanas in extent, for ten thousand years? Now you are 12 yojanas far away from Me. Come now and stay in My presence!
Buddha’s utterance of this interrogative stanza reached the earth and was heard by those in the world of men. (vide Dhammapada Commentary)
Ankura Deva’s reply to Buddha’s question constitutes one and a half stanzas (6 padas) and the supplementary verse by Mahāthera Sangitikaraka constitutes half a stanza (2 padas or two lines) amounting to two stanzas, and these were systematically recorded in the proceedings of the Buddhist Council in Pāli as follow:
Having been questioned by the Buddha who had practised two types of meditation conducive to mental and physical composure, Ankura Deva, who had done meritorious deeds during a long dark period which was void of sāsana respectfully made a reply, as follows:
“Most Exalted Buddha.... there is a kind of deed of merit done assiduously during a dark period void of the sāsana when there was not a single virtuous person deserving of offering of alms. How could my meritorious deed done for a long time during the dark period void of sāsana help me stand in good stead!!!
Although Indaka Deva, who is in your presence, had offered just a ladleful of rice to the Venerable Anuruddha, with faith and devotion, he has received a reward that surpasses mine like a silvery moon that out-shines a multitude of stars; and for the same reason, he has the good fortune to enjoy the ten privileges of devas which are superior to those like us who had done meritorious deeds during the dark period void of the sāsana!”
Whereupon, the Buddha asked Indaka Deva: “Indaka.... you have been sitting on my right side without making any move? Why you don't have to make room for powerful devas as and when they arrive, now and again?” This is Indaka’s reply: “Most Exalted Buddha, my case may be likened to that of a farmer who had sown a small amount of seeds in a fertile plot, and by the same analogy, I had the good fortune to have a recipient worthy of offering,” and he went ahead to utter four stanzas in praise of qualities and qualifications (attributes) of recipients of gifts:—
Tatheva dānam bahukam
na phlam vipulam hoti
napi toseti dāyakam.
Although a great amount of seeds is sown in a plot on a hillock which is rocky, salty, caustic, barren and broken, the yield would be negligible and disappointing to the farmer.
By the same analogy, notwithstanding the vastness of offering made to a recipient, who is destitute of virtue during a dark period which is void of the sāsana, the benefit accrued therefrom would be negligible and disappointing to the donor.
Most Exalted Buddha..... just as the yield of products pleases a farmer who works hard in sowing seeds in a fertile field (of first class soil) that receives a regular shower of rain every fifteen days; or (of medium class soil) that receives regular showers every ten days, (a third class soil) that receives regular shower of rain every five days.
So also, reward accrued from a meritorious deed of offering gifts to ariyapuggalas, who are virtuous and self-composed, will turn out to be great and prosperous, as in the case of the yield of the seeds grown in a fertile field.
Thus lndaka had drawn a distinction between deeds of merit done in favour of two different kinds of recipients at two different periods by way of four stanzas. Whereupon, the Buddha said: “Ankura.... it is only right and proper that one makes a choice of both the gift and the recipient. A fitting reward could only be materialized by the choice of type of gifts and the type of recipient, just as good seeds are sown in fertile soil. Of course, you could not make offerings in the manner just described since you happened to be born in a wrong period when there was no sāsana, opposed to the right period when there is sāsana. Wherefore, your meritorious deeds were not as fruitful as those of Indaka.” The following four stanzas were uttered by the Buddha for the sake of clarification:
O Ankura Deva.... offerings made to persons of virtue with faith and generosity bring about abundance of reward. Choice of recipients should be made before offerings are made. Offerings of gifts to the selected persons with faith and generosity invariably lead the donor to the world of devas.
Choice of both gift and recipient has been highly praised by a succession of Buddhas. There are virtuous persons with longevity in this world. Gifts dedicated to such persons of virtue with faith and generosity will invariably bring about wealth and happiness to the donors while in the worlds of men and deva before his attainment to the Final Goal of Nibbāna, as in the case of sowing the choicest seeds of five kinds, bijagam.
The Buddha went on to preach four more Stanzas that lead to Nibbāna through the avenues of Path and Fruition stages:
There have been instances where potential seeds ‘bijagam’ have been thrown on the fields full of grass and weeds. In the same way, gifts have been offered to devas and humans who are destitute of virtue and full of passion (rāga). Therefore, offering of gifts should be made to the ariya-puggalas who are void of passion (rāga), with a view to enjoy worldly life in the planes of devas and humans before attainment to the Final Goal of Nibbāna.
dosadosā ayam pajā
tasamā hi vītadosesu
dinnaṃ hoti mahāpphalaṃ.
Just as there are arable lands full of grass and weeds, so there are devas and humans who are destitute of virtue and full of anger. Wherefore, one should see to it that gifts are offered to those who are free from malice, so that one may enjoy the worldly life of devas and humans before attainment to the final goal of Nibbāna.
mohadosā ayaṃ pajā
tasmā hi vītamohesu
dinnaṃ hoti mahāpphalaṃ.
Just as the arable lands are naturally full of grass and shrubs, so devas and humans are full of delusion. So gifts should be offered only to the ariyapuggalas, who are devoid of delusion, so that one may enjoy the worldly life in the planes of devas and humans before attainment to the final Goal of Nibbāna.
Icchādosā ayaṃ pajā
tasmā hi vīgaticchesu
dinnaṃ hoti mahāpphalaṃ.
Just as arable lands are naturally full of grass and shrubs, so devas and humans are naturally imbued with five kinds of desire for pleasures of the five senses. Wherefore, gifts should be offered to the ariya-puggalas who are void of iccha. Such an act of merit invariably brings about a pleasant life in the planes of devas and humans and even to attainment of the final Goal of Nibbāna.
At the conclusion of the discourse, Ankura Deva and Indaka Deva attained the fruition state of sotāpatti; the discourse was of great benefit to all devas and Brahmās, as well. Thus ended the biographies of Ankura Deva and Indaka Deva.
Footnotes and references:
Bijagam means bīja or germ, five in number, namely, root, aggregation, germ, fruit, seed; each of these is able to grow when separated from the tree.