by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Story of the three rich men in Kosambi 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 Ninth Vassa at Kosambī. 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).
There were three distinguished rich men in Kosambī country before the time of the Fully Self-Enlightened Buddha. They were Ghosaka, Kukkudha, and Pavarika who were boyhood friends. They looked upon five hundred hermits as their teachers (in the absence of a Buddha) and looked after them well. All the hermits used to take up residence at Kosambī during the raining season, which lasted for four months, and retreated to the forests of Himalayas in summer and winter seasons, lasting eight months.
Years rolled by, and one day, the hermits felt exhausted after crossing a vast barren land without water on their way from the Himalayas to Kosambī. They eventually came upon a huge banyan tree and naturally entertained the hope that “from the look of the banyan tree, there should be a guardian deity powerful enough to provide them with water.”
The guardian deity of the banyan tree thought it would be well to fulfil the need of the hermits, and he caused a stream of water, about six inches in volume, to flow from the fork of his tree. When the hermits saw the silvery water, they received it with their cups and quenched their thirst. After quenching their thirst, they began to think that it would be a good thing if the guardian deity could also provide them with food, since they happened to be in the thick of a forest far away from the villages. Whereupon, the guardian deity offered them celestial gruel which was suitable for the hermits.
The hermits thought, since the guardian deity had provided them with food and water, they now had a desire to see him in person. The hermits asked him: “O deva... you are enjoying such pleasure;therefore, we wonder what kind of deeds of merit you had done in your previous existence?”
The deity replied: “I had observed the Eight Precepts for half a day in my previous existence.”
This will be further explained: This guardian deity of the banyan tree was one of the servants of Anāthapiṇḍika in his previous life. It was customary amongst the occupants of the house of Anāthapiṇḍika that everyone should observe the precepts on every holy day. One early morning (of a holy day) a workman was required to go to the place of work to perform his duties. When Anāthapiṇḍika took a list of the recipients of food for that day, he discovered that the work man was the only one who had gone to the forest for work that day. So he allowed the cook to draw food for the evening, just enough for that workman. The cooking woman drew the allotted ration and kept it ready prepared for him. On his return, the cook gave him his share of food which was reserved for him.
When the workman found that the whole house was unusually quiet that day, he enquired about the unusual silence and the empty messing room from the cook. “All the occupants of the house are observing precepts, it being a holy day” was her reply. He asked her again: “Is it true.... mother?” She nodded her head, saying: “Yes, it is.” “Dear mother.... please enquire from the rich man if one could keep precepts for the remaining part of the day.”
The cook obliged him by putting his question to the rich man, who replied: “It tantamount to keeping observance of precepts for half a day but not for a full day ” On hearing the words of the rich man, the work man washed his mouth and made formal vow to observe precepts and went to his place and kept the precept till he fell asleep. He died of exhaustion on the following morning and was reborn as a guardian deity of a huge banyan tree on the fringe of a forest.
On hearing the full account of his previous existence, the hermits asked the deity: “You have said about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.... which we have never heard before. Is it true that a fully Self-Enlightened Buddha has appeared?” When the deity answered in the affirmative, the hermits asked: “Where is that Buddha residing at present?” The deity said: “The Tathāgata has been residing at the Jetavana monastery in the Savatthi country.”
The hermits left, saying: “Dear deity of the banyan tree... we are going to pay homage to the Buddha,” and they arrived at Kosambī en route to Savatthi. The three rich men extended cordial reception to the hermits and invited them to receive food on the following morning. There was a feasting festival on a grand scale on that day.
As soon as they had taken meal, the hermits said as a token of courtesy: “We are going....” Surprised by such words, the rich men asked: “Revered Sirs.... it is quite unusual that you uttered such words when you have stayed only for a day on this occasion, though you usually stayed for one, two, three or four months on the previous occasions; we pray that you enlighten us the reason why you depart so early in the day?” Whereupon, the hermits replied: “Rich men... you have, indeed, said the truth: The Fully Self-Enlightened Buddha has appeared already, and death is a matter of certainty, though we know not how and when? Therefore, we are in great haste to the Buddha.” The rich men asked for permission to go along with the them.
The hermits said a few words of encouragement in response to their request: “You might stay behind and come afterwards as you all are saddled with worldly affairs that restrict your movements. We will go ahead of you.” They left Kosambī and found their way to Savatthi without stopping too long on the way. On their arrival at Savatthi, they went immediately to the Buddha who fed them with sweet Elixir of Dhamma. The hermits attained arahattaship through Path-knowledge acquired by hearing the preaching of the Buddha.
Three Rich Men attained Sotāpanna
The three rich men left Kosambī, each with five hundred carts fully loaded with gifts of all sorts for offering, and arrived at Savatthi eventually. They stayed at a spot in the vicinity of Jetavana monastery and erected temporary charity booths before they went to pay homage to the Buddha. On their arrival at the feet of the Buddha, they sat at suitable places. The Buddha then preached discourses in harmony with their dispositions, with the result that the three of them attained sotāpanna. They made offerings of gifts on a large scale for fifteen days in succession. They cordially requested the Buddha to do them honour by His visit to Kosambī. The Buddha said in response: “Buddhas naturally prefer places of seclusion!”
They enthusiastically replied: “This is understood... Exalted Lord!” and added: “Kindly honour us by Your visit, on receipt of our formal invitation in due time,” and after making three rounds by the right side of the Buddha, they went their way home, building resting centres at every one yojana's distance between Savatthi and Kosambī. On arrival at Kosambī, they publicised the appearance of the Fully Self-Enlightened Buddha, far and wide. Each rich man constructed big monasteries in their own garden lands at great costs, in anticipation of the arrival of the Buddha.
When everything was ready, the three rich men despatched a cordial address of invitation to the Buddha, through a special messenger.
Extraordinary Volitional Efforts of The Three Rich Men of Kosambī
The three rich men invited the Buddha into the city and made offerings of all kinds on a large scale. The Buddha took residence at their monasteries in rotation and received offerings in the same manner. In other words, when the Buddha occupied Gositayama monastery on a certain day, He would receive alms-food from Ghosita’s house on the following day. In the same manner the Buddha received alms-food from Kukkudha and Pavarika, in order of succession.
After a lapse of one month, it dawned on the three rich men:—
“Buddhas have appeared for the purpose of safe guarding sentient beings and promoting their well being; we should see to it that all the citizens should also take shares in meritorious deeds.”
They accordingly afforded opportunity to all the citizens to participate in meritorious deeds, with the result that all the citizens made offerings in their respective streets, quarters or by formation of charitable societies from that time.