by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Andha 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 Fourteenth Vassa at Savatthi. 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 grove was widely known as Andhavana in the times of the two Buddhas, viz., Buddha Kassapa and our Buddha. Explanation: The body relics of the Buddhas who are of short span of life do not become one mass. In accordance with their resolution, they are disintegrated. Therefore, our Buddha (who was of short life span) considered thus: “I shall not exist long. As My life span is short, only a small number of beings will be able to see Me. There are far more beings who have no chance to do so. They will carry My relics to different places to worship and attain celestial abodes.” Consequently, He resolved immediately before His Parinibbāna: “May My body relics be disintegrated!” (Hence the breaking up of the relics of our Buddha.)
The body relics of the long-lived Buddhas, however, remain as a mass like solid gold. As Buddha Kassapa (who appeared at a time when the people’s life span was twenty thousand years) was long lived, His relic remained, taking a solid form. Then the people discussed among themselves: “The relic remains as a solid form. It cannot be broken up. What shall we do with it?” After discussions, they agreed on constructing a solid cetiya (which was the only monument). They decided unanimously that its size should be one yojana in height as well as in circumference. When they discussed the bricks and cement, they made decisions to lay bricks of gold. Each costing a hundred thousand on the outer side, while bricks of gold, each costing fifty thousand, on the inner side. For cement, realgar and orpiment powder and oil for the liquid matter were used. There must be four gates, of which (1) one was the king’s undertaking, (2) another, Prince Pathavindhara’s, (3) still another, the undertaking of the officials led by the general, (4) the final one being that of the people led by the chief merchant.
Of these four groups, the first three were men of wealth; so they took their own gold and started their work at their respective gates.
But there was delay in the work assigned to the last group as its members had no sufficient wealth. Then a lay devotee who was well-versed in the three Piṭakas and who was an anāgāmin, named Yasorata, knowing the delay, prepared five hundred carts and went round the country, crying out to the citizens and urging them to participate in the act of merit.
“O people, countrymen! Buddha Kassapa has now attained Parinibbāna after existing like a great golden mountain for twenty thousand years. The great jewelled cetiya, one yojana in measurement, to house the only body relic of that Buddha, is under construction. Please contribute whatever material you can afford whether gold, silver, gems of seven kinds, realgar or orpiment.”
The people gave in charity gold, silver and other materials as much as they could. Those, who could not afford, participated in the act of merit by giving rice, oil and the like.
The anāgāmī lay devotee, Yasorata, had rice, oil, pulses, etc., sent as provisions for the workers. He bought gold with the remaining things on the barter system and had it sent. In this way, roaming all over the Jambudipa, he received donations and had them handed over.
When the construction was done, executive elders from the work site of the cetiya gave a letter to him saying: “The construction of the cetiya has been finished. Please, master, come and pay homage to it!” Yasorata had also sent a letter with the message reading: “I have urged and made the whole Jambudipa established in the meritorious act. Try to complete the cetiya-monument by using whatever is available.” The two letters crossed midway. But the letter from the worksite reached him earlier.
Having read the letter, Yasorata thought: “I would pay homage to the cetiya” and set alone. On the way, five hundred robbers were terrorizing in a forest grove. Some of them saw the devotee and told others: “This elderly man had collected gold and silver from the entire Jambudipa. Pots of gold have come now rolling on and on,” and they seized him.
Anāgāmin Yasorata’s Fate
Then Yasorata asked: “Young, men, why did you seize me?” The robbers replied: "You have collected all the gold and silver from the entire Jambudipa. You must give us a little each out of that gold and silver.”
“Do you know, young men, that Buddha Kassapa has attained Parinibbāna? A great cetiya of one yojana in size for enshrining the body relic of that Buddha is being built. For that great edifice, I have tried to get the people involved in the act of merit, but not for me. And whatever I receive, I send to the work site from the place of donation. I have nothing, not a single thing that is worthy, other than the clothes on my body.” Then some robbers said: “What the gentleman told us is true. So let us set him free.” But others asserted: “This man is honoured by the king as well as by the ministers. On seeing any of us in a street at towncentre, he would disclose the matter to them and bring misfortune to us,” thus they spoke, representing those who did not want to free him.
Yasorata, the anāgāmī lay devotee, assured them saying: “Young men, I will not create trouble for you.” (He said so out of compassion for the robbers, but not because he had attachment for his life.) Then a dispute arose among the robbers, one group willing to continue his detention and the other willing to let him go. Finally, the former group won more votes and Yasorata was slain.
At that very moment, as they had committed a grave crime to the extent of slaying a highly virtuous man, an anāgāmin, the eyes of the robbers suddenly went blind, as the flame of an oil lamp is extinguished. When the five hundred robbers moved about touching this and that with their hands and each wailing: “Where are my eyes, men, where are my eyes?” some (who had relatives) were taken by their relatives to their respective homes. Others who had no kinsfolk had to live there miserably in leaf-roofed huts under the trees in the forest.
People, who came to the forest, took pity on the blind robbers and gave rice, meal packets and other kinds of food to them (as much as they could). Those who went there for gathering vegetables were asked on their return: “Friends, where have you been?” and they answered: “We have been to the ‘Forest of the blind’ (Andhavana).”
In this way, the forest came to be known, far and wide, as Andhavana during the dispensations of the two Buddhas. What was peculiar about it was its location near a deserted district during the Buddha Kassapa’s ministry. During the ministry of our Buddha, however, it stood at the back of the Jetavana monastery, near the city of Sāvatthi, like a meditation centre where clansmen, wanting the calm of the five sense objects stay.