by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Buddha’s sojourn at the eastern bamboo grove 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 Tenth Vassa at Pālileyyaka Forest. 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’s Arrival at The Eastern Bamboo Grove
At that time, the three Venerables, namely, Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kimila were living in the eastern bamboo grove. When the watchman of the grove saw from a distance the Buddha approaching, he mistook Him for an ordinary monk and tried to block the way saying:
“Monk, do not enter this grove. Three noble clansmen, having a bent for their welfare, reside in this grove. Do not make discomforts to them.”
(Note: Just as a hungry man longs for food, a thirsty man longs for drinking water, a man oppressed by cold longs for heat, a man oppressed by heat longs for cold, or a sad man longs for happiness, even so the Buddha, being weary of the disunited and contentious Kosambī' monks, pondered as to who the virtuous men living there could be. While so doing, there appeared in His vision these three noble clansmen. Wishing to encourage them, He considered thus: “If I do so, this practice would mean a good way to admonish the Kosambī monks forever.” Hence His visit to the eastern bamboo grove, the abode of the said three good ones.
(The grove where the Venerable Anuruddha and others were dwelling was fenced, guarded and conserved by its owners so that the fruit, flowers, gum and wooden buildings in it might be safe from depredation by all sorts of people.
(When the watchman saw from afar the Buddha coming, he thought: “Here in this grove are the three worthy people still living in harmony. Quarrels and disputes tend to arise at any place where another person comes. Such a person might move about, attacking and destroying like a wild bull with sharp horns and such destruction could bring about dissension that make it impossible for two persons to go together along the same road. This visiting big monk might create discord at one time or another and destroy the united and happy stay of the three noble people. He seems impressive, has golden colour and looks like one who is fond of good food. From the time he arrives here, by praising his lay followers, who would offer him good meals, and by doing this and that, he might undermine the mindful monastic life led by the three good men.
(“Besides, there is accommodation only for the three: there are only three lodges, three walks, three day-retreats, three couches and three boards. There is nothing extra. This big monk, a newcomer, has a bulky body; perhaps he could be a recluse of long standing. He might displace the present occupants at an improper time, thereby making them unhappy in every respect.” Thus thinking, he forbade the Buddha’s entry into the grove saying: “Do not disturb their comfort!” as he totally did not want the unhappiness of the worthy personages.
(It may be questioned: Did the watchman try to stop the Master knowing that He was the Buddha or did he do so unknowingly? The answer is: he did so unknowingly. Explanation: When the Buddha went about with the splendour of a Buddha in the company of monks, everybody recognized Him without asking: “Who is this man?” But now as He went to the eastern bamboo grove wishing: “Let nobody know of My being a Buddha,” He covered His rays and other Buddhaglories by means of His supernormal powers as if He had hidden them all under a drapery and He moved along incognito as the big full moon that is covered by clouds, personally taking His bowl and robe. The watchman stopped the Buddha because of his ignorance of the state of an Enlightened One.)
While staying at his day-retreat, Venerable Anuruddha overheard the watchman’s word: “Monk, do not enter this grove!” and thought to himself: “Only we three are dwelling in this grove; there is no other resident here. The watchman was speaking as though he were communicating with a monk. Who could that man be?” He then rose, standing at the door, he looked over the road and saw the Buddha.
On the part of the Buddha, as soon as He caught a glimpse of the Venerable Anuruddha, He emitted the rays of His body. Splendid with the various major and minor marks, the body gave out light that was glorious like a strip of golden cloth spread out. Then it occurred to the Venerable: “Like a man who stretches his hand to grasp by the neck of a cobra with its hood erected, the poor man does not know that it is the Buddha whom he is dealing with, the foremost personality in the world. He speaks as if he were dealing with an insignificant monk.” So he commanded his man saying: “Watchman, do not stop the Buddha! Here comes our Master, the Exalted One!”
Welcome extended in Unison by The Venerables to The Buddha
Venerable Anuruddha did not welcome the Buddha alone, for he considered: “We three are staying in harmony at present. If I alone were to welcome the Buddha, it would not make our harmonious living. I will bring my friends and do the welcoming only together with them. My friends too adore the Buddha just as I do.” Wishing to meet the Buddha with his two pals, he went to their day retreats and called them. “Come, brethren! Come, brethren! Our Master, the Exalted One, has arrived!” Then the three Venerables extended their welcome to the Buddha in unison, one taking His bowl and robe, another preparing the seat and the third keeping the water, the board and the potsherd ready so that He might wash His feet.
Sitting on the prepared seat, the Buddha did the washing of the feet.
(Herein with his hands red like a newly blossomed Paduma lotus, the Buddha took some crystal-clear water and poured it over his golden coloured insteps. and washed His feet rubbing one with the other.
(It may be asked: Why did the Buddha wash His feet even though His body was free from dust and dirt? The answer is: He washed His feet in order to cool His body as well as to gladden the three Venerables. To make the latter reason more explicit: by thus washing His feet, the Buddha could make the Venerables immensely delighted with the thought: “With the water brought by us, the Master cleanse His feet and thus make use of it.” Hence the Buddha’s washing of His feet despite the fact that His body had no stains whatever.)
After respectfully doing obeisance to the Buddha, the three Venerables took their proper seats. Then asked the Buddha: “How are you, my dear sons, Anuruddha and all? Are you all fit and well? Are you all right with your postures? Are you free from hardship in getting food?”
The Venerable Anuruddha replied: “Exalted One, we are fit and well. We are all right with our postures. It is not hard for us to get food.”
(Herein, of the three Venerables, Anuruddha was the most senior. If honour be shown to Anuruddha, the senior-most Venerable, it follows that honour was shown to the juniors as well. That was why the Buddha addressed Anuruddha by name. Alternatively, in the Pāli Text the name Anuruddha has a plural case-ending literally meaning “My dear sons, Anuruddhas”; in His address the Buddha used [what is known as] the virupekasesa (elliptical) method covering also the remaining two Venerables.)
Again, the Buddha asked: “In living together, do you have harmony and happiness, Anuruddha and all, without dispute, and like milk and water do you mix well, seeing one another with amiable eyes?” “We really have harmony and happiness, knowing no disputes,” Anuruddha answered, “And we mix well like milk and water, seeing one another with eyes of amity.” “How do you manage to do so, Anuruddha?” the Buddha asked further.
This the Venerable Anuruddha explained:
“Exalted One, living in this grove, I consider myself thus: ‘Great indeed is my gain! I have attained a great fortune, for I am sharing this dwelling with these coresidents of such nature! Exalted One, towards these two pals I perform physical acts with mettā (loving-kindness), verbal acts with mettā, and mental acts with mettā, both in their presence as well as in their absence. Exalted One, thinking that ‘If I would practise setting aside my will, but according to theirs,’ do I practise giving priority to their will over my own. Exalted One, though we three are of different bodies, we are, as it were, of the one and the same mentality.”
Thereafter Venerable Nandiya and Venerable Kimila told the Buddha in the same way as the Venerable Anuruddha did.
(Herein with reference to the words said of the performance of physical, verbal and mental acts with mettā, whether in the presence or in the absence of others, the physical and the verbal acts in the others' presence took place while living together; the same two acts in the others' absence took place while living apart; the mental acts, however, happened while living together or while living apart.
(To elaborate: When a fellow monk saw a couch, a board, a wooden article or an earthenware misplaced by another monk, he did not ask insolently: “Who has used this?” Instead he picked it up and restored it [to its proper place] as though he himself had misplaced it. (Moreover), he cleaned any place that needed cleaning. Thus the physical act performed by one was that performed with mettā in the presence of others.
(When one of the co-resident monks went away, either of the remaining monks similarly restored the monastic articles left behind in disorder by the departed monk. He cleaned any place that needed cleaning. The physical act thus performed was that performed with mettā in the absence of others.
(Living together with other Venerables, one spoke with them sweet and delightful words, appealing words, words worthy of lifelong remembrance, words of the Dhamma; one gave an audible talk on the Dhamma, discussed the Dhamma, and put questions and gave answers to them. Any of these varied verbal acts and others of his, was that performed with mettā in the presence of others.
(When the others left for another place, the remaining monk [Venerable Anuruddha, for instance] extolled their virtues saying: “My dear friend Venerable Nandiya [or Venerable Kimila] is endowed with such moral virtues and practical virtues.” His verbal act of this kind was that performed with mettā in the absence of others.
(“May my friend Venerable Nandiya [or Venerable Kimila] be free from harm! May he be free from hatred and ill-will that are perverse and destructive! May he be happy both physically and mentally!” Such mental act of focusing his thoughts of goodwill on others in their presence as well as in their absence was that performed with mettā on both occasions.
(How did each of the three Venerables put aside his idea and act in accordance with that of the others? Suppose one’s bowl should show wear, another’s robe should get dirty and the third’s meditation cell was littered and needed tidying, while these three things should happen simultaneously, if the owner of the bowl said first: “My bowl has been worn; I have to make a new bowl by baking,” then the others would not say: “My robe is dirty and I have to wash it” or “I have to remove the litter from my meditation cell.” Instead, they would enter the forest and the other two would lend a hand in baking the bowl. Only after finishing the task of baking would they wash the robe or tidy the cell. If the second monk said first: “I have to wash my robe” or the third said first: “I have to remove the litter,” the others would similarly attend to it and only after getting it done would they turn to their own business. This was the way how one fulfilled the others' wishes, leaving aside one’s own.)
Having thus asked about the value of unity (sāmaggī-rasa) of the three persons and having known thus of the full value of their unity, the Buddha desired again to question on the signs of their mindfulness (appamāda-lakkhaṇa) and asked: “Anuruddha and all, how is it; do you abide having a bent for Nibbāna by putting great efforts without negligence?” “Exalted One,” answered Venerable Anuruddha, “we do indeed abide having a bent for Nibbāna by putting great efforts without negligence.” Again the Buddha asked: “How do you abide having a bent for Nibbāna by putting great efforts without negligence?”
The Venerable Anuruddha replied:
“Exalted One, one of us residents in this grove, after coming back before others from the alms-round in the village, prepares seats, keeps the water and board ready for washing the feet and places the potsherds for rubbing them with; he sets the vessel ready for putting the first portions of food; he fetches the water for drinking and the water for other purposes.
“The monk, who returns later from the alms-round in the village, partakes of the remaining food, in case he desires. If he does not, he disposes of it at a place where there is no green grass or plant; or he throws it into the water that has no small creatures; he folds up the seat; he restores the water, the board and potsherds to their proper places; he does so with regard to the vessel after washing it; he stows away the water pot for drinking and that for other purposes: he sweeps the mess-room.
“If he finds any water pot empty, whether for drinking, or for general use or for the bath-room, he fills it. If it is heavy, he calls another monk by giving him a signal with his hand and the two carry it with their joined hands. Exalted One, we do not utter a word for the purpose of carrying the water pot. Exalted One, once in every five days we pass the time fruitfully by discussing the Dhamma throughout the night.
“Exalted One, in the aforesaid manner do we abide having a bent for Nibbāna by putting great efforts without negligence.”
(Herein, an adorable and remarkable thing was that these Venerables did not go together on alms-round; as they delighted phala-samāpatti, they rose, did early ablution, fulfilled their duties, retired to their respective meditation cells and engaged in phala-samāpatti for a certain resolved period.
(Of the three Venerables, the one, who had engaged phala-samāpatti for the resolved period before others, went out ahead of them for alms. On his return, he came to know that “Those two are late; I have come back early,” he then covered his bowl, prepared the seat and did other things. If he had food in his bowl just enough for himself, he simply sat down and ate it. If the food was more than enough, he put the first portion into the vessel, covered it and ate his portion. Having eaten, he washed the bowl, dried it, put it into its bag and, taking his bowl and robe, he went to his day-retreat.
(When a second monk came to the mess-room, he perceived: “One has gone ahead of me; the other is later than me.” If he saw enough food in his bowl, he simply sat down and ate it. If the food was less than enough, he took some (left behind by the first monk) from the vessel. If the food in his bowl was more, he first put the surplus portion into the vessel and ate his meal just to sustain himself and, like the earlier monk, went to his day-retreat.
(When the third one came to the mess-room, he understood: “The other two have come and gone before me, I am the last.” And he partook of his meal in the manner of the second one, after finishing his meal, he washed the bowl, dried it and put it into its bag and stowed the seat away. He threw away the remaining water from the drinking water pot and also that from the pot for general use and kept the pots upside down. Should there be any leftover food in the vessel, he discarded it on the ground where there was no green grass or into the water free from tiny living creatures and washed the bowl and stowed it away. After sweeping the mess-room, he removed the dust and kept the broom at a place free from termites and, taking the bowl with him, he retired to his day-retreat. Such was the daily routine of the Venerables at the mess hall outside the dwelling in the forest.
(Fetching water for drinking and for general purpose was a duty done in the dwelling place. If one of the three noble Venerables saw some water pot empty, he carried the pot to the pond, washed it both inside and out, filled it with water through a filter, and (if the pot proved too heavy for him) he placed it near the pond and called another person by gesture. In seeking a helping hand, he never made a sound mentioning or without mentioning that person’s name.
(Because if he were to cry for help by mentioning somebody else’s name, it would be a disturbance to the meditation of the monk concerned. That was why he never cried out the name. Should he make a sound calling somebody without mentioning his name, both monks would come out from their meditation cells, vying each other to get to the caller first. In that case, since it was a job that could be done only by two, the third one would find himself unwanted and his meditation engagement would only be unnecessarily interrupted. For this reason the caller did not make a sound even without mentioning the name.
(If he were not to make a sound, how did he try to get a helper? After filling the pot through a filter, he approached the day-retreat of another monk, making no sound of his footsteps; seeing him he called him by a hand gesture, that attracted him. Thereafter the two monks joined their hands, carried the pot together and kept the water for drinking or for general use.
(With reference to the words, “once in every five days we would pass the time fruitfully by discussing the Dhamma throughout the night”, the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth of the bright or the dark fortnight, these three days served as the three occasions on which the Dhamma was usually heard. Without disrupting these three days of Dhamma talks, once in every five days, did both Venerables, Nandiya and Kimila, bathe not long after noon, and went to the Venerable Anuruddha. At his place they met and made questions and answers on any of the three Piṭakas. While they were thus doing, the day just dawned.
(Thus far did the Venerable Anuruddha, who was asked by the Buddha as to the signs of mindfulness, reply that they were not negligent even on the occasions that normally cause negligence (to others). Explanation: For other monks, the time of their going alms-round, leaving the dwelling for alms, adjusting the lower garment, putting on the upper robe, making a round, preaching the Dhamma, expressing their appreciation [of alms-giving], partaking of alms-food on return from the town or the village, washing the bowl, putting the bowl into the bag, and stowing away the bowl and robe, these were the (eleven) occasions on which they prolonged their talks that had nothing to do with mindfulness and thereby they became negligent of their meditation duties. The Venerable Anuruddha, therefore, meant to say: “As for us, even on these occasions which cause others to indulge in loose talks as opposed to meditation, never have we done such a thing as prolongation of speech that is opposed to meditation and that is outside meditation (though we may be physically free from engagement as practical meditation (vihāra-samāpatti) was uncalled for on these occasions.),” he thereby explained the signs of their mindfulness at its height even at times when others were negligent.
(By these words, he further meant to indicate that there were no negligence at all on their part by not being absorbed in practical meditation on the occasions other than the aforesaid eleven.)
End of the Buddha’s sojourn at the eastern bamboo grove.