The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Taming of Alavaka the Ogre 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 Fifteenth Vassa at Kapilavatthu. 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).

Part 4 - Taming of Āḷavaka the Ogre

King Āḷavaka, of the city of Āḷavī, was in the habit of pursuing pleasurable hunting in a deer forest once a week, leaving behind all his enjoyment at the palace together with female courtiers and dancers. In order to ward off the dangers of rebels, foes and thieves, to prevent his contemporary rulers from attacking him, he took up a sporting exercise to boost his kingly might.

One day, just before he set out for hunting, he had an agreement made with his military officers: “He, from whose charge a deer escapes, must be responsible for that deer,” and when they got to the forest a deer ran away from the king’s charge.

As he was quick and strong, the King, equipped with a bow, immediately followed the deer on foot for up to three yojanas. These (deer) belonging to eṇī family can run continuously only for three yojanas. Therefore, when the King had covered that distance, he killed the deer that was lying exhausted in a pond, with an arrow. He cut up the animal into two pieces. Though he did not want its flesh, he carried it by means of a pole lest he should be ill-spoken of as “one unable to catch the deer.” On his way back he saw a shady banyan tree in new and old foliage at a place that was neither too near nor too far from the city; he approached the foot of the tree to take some rest.

Now, Āḷavaka the ogre had been granted a boon by Vessavaṇa, the deva king, that whoever came into the vicinity of the banyan tree as far as its shadow fell at noon would be his food. (Herein, it should not be taken that those who came under the tree only at midday should be eaten by him. The fact was that those who came into the vicinity of the tree covered by the shadow of the tree at noon would be eaten, whether they came by day or by night.)

When the ogre saw the King came under his banyan tree, he showed himself in person and wanted to eat the King. [The King gave the two halves of the deer as he wanted the ogre to set him free. But the ogre did not do so, saying: “Since it came into my hand, is it not mine? How could you, Great King, seek your freedom by giving me the deer?” (This part of the story is given only in some versions.)]

Then the King made a promise to the ogre saying: “Set me free! I shall send you each day a man and a pot of cooked rice.” Still the ogre refused to release him, he said: “You might forget about it, being intoxicated with your kingly luxuries. As for me, I cannot eat those who do not come up to my residence nor can I eat those who do not voluntarily give up themselves. How could I live if you were released?” When the King satisfied the ogre by saying: “The day I fail to send you (food), you may devour me.” He regained his freedom from the ogre’s hand and returned to the city of Āḷavī.

While waiting for the King at the make-shift shelter of branches that they had constructed midway, the officers saw the King coming back; they greeted the King and received him saying: “Why did you try so hard to catch the deer, Great King, fearing loss of dignity?” Relating nothing of the incident, the King returned to the city and had his breakfast. Then he summoned the administrative minister of the city and secretly told him (of the promise which he had given to the ogre).

“Have you agreed upon the time, Great King?” asked the minister. “No, I have not,” replied the King. “You have made a mistake, Great King,” said the minister. “Ogres are to have access only to things limited. As you have not put a limit, the whole district is in danger of a disease. Be that as it may, Great King, though you have been wrong, do not worry but enjoy your royal comfort, I shall do what is to be done in this matter.” The minister rose early and went to the prison and made an announcement to the criminals who had been sentenced to death, he said: “Those who wish to survive may come out.”

He took the convict that came out first and had him bathed and fed, he then sent him saying: “Take this pot of rice to the ogre!” As soon as the convict got into the shade of the banyan tree, the ogre assumed a very terrible frame and ate him as though he were biting lotus stalks and stems.

NB: Through the supernatural power of ogres, a human body, including its hair, etc., turns into a lump of butter

Those who escorted the convict and the food for the ogre saw Āḷavaka devouring the man, became frightened and told their intimate friends of the matter. From that time onwards the news that “the King catches thieves and gives them to the ogre”, spread and people abstained from stealing.

At a later time, as there were no new thieves and old ones were all gone, the prisons became empty. Then the minister reported the matter to the King, who had his gold and silver dropped on all the main roads of the city, thinking that somebody might want to pick it up. But nobody touched it even with his foot lest they should be accused of theft.

When the King of Āḷavaka failed to get new recruit of thieves in this way, he discussed it with his ministers, who advised, saying: “We shall make people send one aged person from each household in serial order. An aged person means one who by himself is about to enter the mouth of death.” But the King rejected the advice saying that people would then be terrorized with the thought ‘the King has the heart to send my father to the ogre!’ or ‘He is cruel enough to send my grandfather to the ogre!’ I do not prefer that plan."

Then the ministers presented their alternate idea thus: “In that case Great King, make people send their children who are lying on their backs in their cradles, each day. Such children have no such affection as ‘This is my mother’ or ‘This is my father.’ Upon this the King agreed and let him do so. The minister started executing the plan.

From the city, mothers fled with their children, and pregnant women fled too. After bringing up their children in another country, they brought back their young children to the city.

In this manner the daily feeding of the ogre took place for twelve long years. One day, when the royal servants roamed about the city looking for children, they found not a single child. So they reported to the King: “Leaving aside your son, Prince Āḷavaka, in the palace, there are no children in the city.” The King replied: “As I love my son, so do all these people love their respective sons. But in this world there is none more lovable than one’s own self. Go, men, save my life by giving my son to the ogre!”

At that time, the Queen, mother of Prince Āḷavaka, had her son bathed with scented water and adorned with ornaments. She was sitting with her son wrapped in soft white pieces of cloth and placed him at her bosom to let him sleep. Under the command of the King, the royal servants went there, and while the Queen and sixteen thousand female attendants were crying, they took away the chief nurse and the prince, declaring that the little prince would become food for the ogre.

The Buddha’s Visit to Āḷavī

On that day the Buddha rose early in the morning and engaged in mahā-karuṇā-samāpatti in the Fragrant Chamber inside the Jetavana monastery. And when He surveyed the world by His two-fold Buddha eyes, (consisting in āsayānusaya-ñāṇa and indriya-paropariyattiñāṇa) He saw in His vision three significant things:

(1) the past merit of Prince Āḷavaka that would lead him to anāgāmī-phala,

(2) the past merit of the ogre Āḷavaka that would lead him to sotāpatti-phala, and

(3) the past merit of eighty-four thousand beings that would lead them to the realization of the Eye of the Dhamma (dhamma-cakkhu), the penetration of the Four Truths, at the end of His discourse.

Accordingly, at daybreak He performed His morning duty. Before He could finished His afternoon undertakings, at sunset on that new moon day, He set out on foot alone and unaccompanied, taking His bowl and robe, on a journey of thirty yojanas from Savatthi, and entered the precinct of the ogre’s residence.

Now where did the Buddha stay? Did He stay in the ogre’s mansion that was invisible to ordinary people and near the banyan tree? Or did He sit at the foot of the banyan tree? He took His seat in the ogre’s mansion. Explanation: As ogres saw their mansions, so did the Buddha see them. Therefore, He went up to the ogre’s mansion and stood at its gate.

At that time, Āḷavaka was attending a meeting of ogres in the Himavanta. The door keeper of Āḷavaka, the ogre by the name of Gadrabha, approached the Buddha and paid his respects. And a dialogue took place between Gadrabha and Buddha:

Gadrabha: “Glorious Buddha, did you come only at sunset?”

Buddha: “Yes, Gadrabha, I came only at sunset. If it were not a burden to you, I would like to spend the night in Āḷavaka’s mansion.”

Gadrabha: “Glorious Buddha, it is not a burden to me. But that ogre Āḷavaka is violent. He does not show respects even to his parents. Therefore please do not prefer to stay there.”

Buddha: “Gadrabha, I know of Āḷavaka’s violence. There would not be a bit of harm to me. I want to stay for the night there in Āḷavaka’s mansion, if you do not feel my stay burdensome.”

Gadrabha: “Glorious Buddha, Āḷavaka is like an iron pan aglow with fire. He is absolutely ignorant of parents, monks, and brahmins and the Dhamma. Those who come to this place he is able to drive them mad, or burst open their hearts, or to throw them beyond the ocean or beyond the universe by catching hold of their legs.”

Buddha: “Gadrabha, I know all about this. If it were not burdensome to you, I would like to stay in Āḷavaka’s mansion for the night.”

Gadrabha: “Glorious Buddha, it is not burdensome for me. But Āḷavaka might kill me if I were to give you permission without first informing him. Glorious Buddha, let me go to him therefore and tell him of the matter first.”

Buddha: “Gadrabha, tell him as you like.”

Gadrabha: “Glorious Buddha, please consider then whether you should stay here or not.”

Having said thus, Gadrabha paid his respect to the Buddha and departed to the Himavanta. The door of Āḷavaka’s mansion opened by itself. The Buddha entered and took His seat on the divine jewelled throne which Āḷavaka usually sat, on important and auspicious days, enjoying divine luxuries. Being seated, the Buddha emanated golden yellow (pīta) rays.

Beholding the yellow rays, Āḷavaka’s female attendants gathered, did obeisance to the Buddha and sat around Him. The Buddha gave a miscellaneous Dhamma-talk to them, saying: “Ogresses, as you have in the past given alms and observed morality and honoured those who deserved honour, you attain divine luxuries. Now also, do as you have done before. Abide not by jealousy (issā) and stinginess (macchariya)” and so on. Having heard the sweet talk of the Dhamma, they gave a thousand cheers and remained sitting and surrounding the Buddha.

Having arrived at the Himavanta, Gadrabha the ogre told Āḷavaka respectfully: “O Āḷavaka, King of Ogres, who know no suffering! May I draw your attention. Please be informed. The Buddha has come and sat in your mansion.” Then Āḷavaka made a gesture, meaning to say: “Be quiet! (You shut up!) I will go back immediately and do whatever is necessary.”

(Herein Āḷavaka was so strong in improper thinking that he took the Buddha’s stay in his mansion as a disgrace, and out of pride as an ogre, he hushed up the news, thinking: “Let nobody amidst this assembly of ogres hear of it.”)

Then the two noble devas, Sātāgira and Hemavata, agreed between themselves to go visit the Buddha at Jetavana before they went to attend the assembly of devas. Riding different vehicles, they set off by air together with their hosts of retinue.

N.B. Routes existed nowhere in the space for the ogres. They only had to find out their way, avoiding celestial mansions standing there.

Āḷavaka’s mansion, however, was situated on the ground. It was well secure, surrounded by properly fixed walls, doors, turrets and archways. Above the mansion was spread a net made of white brass. The mansion was like a box. It was three yojanas in height, over which there formed an aerial route used by divine ogres.

When the two friends, the divine ogres Sātāgira and Hemavata, happened to come just above the mansion on their way to visit the Buddha, they were unable to proceed. In fact, up to Bhavagga above, nobody can pass over the place where a Buddha is seated.

Therefore, when they thought of the cause for their such inability to go further, they saw the Buddha and descended to the ground like a thrown up stone falls earth-bound. Having did obeisance to the Buddha, they listened to a discourse and circumambulated the Buddha, and asked for His permission to leave: “Glorious Buddha, we have to attend a meeting of divine ogres.” Saying some words in praise of the Three Gems, they headed for the Himavanta, the venue of their meeting.

On seeing the two friends (noble devas), Āḷavaka rose from his place and invited them saying: “Please take your seats here.”

The Fury of Āḷavaka The Ogre

The two friends informed Āḷavaka: “Friend Āḷavaka, in your mansion is the Exalted One still sitting. You are so fortunate! Go, friend Āḷavaka, wait upon the Exalted Buddha!”

(To a faithless person, the pious word connected with faith is unbearable, so is the word connected with morality to an immoral one; the word connected with knowledge to an ignorant one; the word connected with generosity to a miser;and the word connected with wisdom to a fool.)

The words of the two friends encouraging faith with reference to the Buddha was unbearable to Āḷavaka who had no faith. Therefore, on hearing words of praise of the Buddha, the faithless Āḷavaka the ogre became furious. His heart crackled with rage like lumps of salt thrown into fire. He asked in anger: “What kind of man is the so-called Exalted Buddha who sat in my mansion?”

Then the two friends (noble devas) said to Āḷavaka; “Friend Āḷavaka, do not you know of our Master, the Exalted One? (He is a very prominent and noble personage.) Even while in the Tusitā abode of devas, He made five investigations (and they related the biography of the Buddha up to his delivery of the Dhammacakka Sutta. They also told the ogre fully of the thirty-two portents that took place at the time when the Bodhisatta was conceived, and so on.) Friend Āḷavaka, have you not seen those marvellous portents?” they asked. Although he had seen them, but he was carried away by anger, Āḷavaka replied, hiding the truth: “No, I have not.”

The two devas then became unsatisfied and said: “Whether you have seen them or not, what is the use of your seeing or no seeing? Friend, what are you going to do to our Master, the Exalted Buddha? Compared with Him, (a) you are like a calf that has been born today near a bull with his hump swaying; (b) like a baby elephant that has been born today near a bull elephant in musth with his granular secretion flowing from the three parts, namely, the trunk, the tip of the male organ and the ears; (c) an old ugly fox, near a lionking who is graceful with his round back and shoulders and with long bright mane; and (d) like a young crow with its broken wings near a garuḷa-bird king with his body of a hundred and fifty yojanas in size. Go and do what is to be done.” Being furious, the ogre got up from his seat, and standing firmly with his left foot placed on the flat rock of red orpiment, he shouted: “Is your Master, the Buddha, powerful? Or, is it I, who is powerful? You will see now (who is more powerful)!” So shouting he stamped his right foot on the top of Mount Kelasa that was of sixty yojanas. Then just as fiery particles fall off from the glowing iron that has been excessively heated in the blacksmith’s furnace and that is put on the anvil and hammered, even so Mount Kelasa broke up into layers of rock,

Standing on the mountain top, the ogre declared roaringly: “I am Āḷavaka indeed.” The roar overwhelmed the whole Jambudipa.

Four Great Roars

There have been four great roars which were heard by all Jambūdīpa (1) The roar: "I have won! I have won!", made by the Ogre General, Puṇṇaka, when he beat King Dhanañcaya Korabya in the game of dice as told in the Vidhūra Jātaka; (2) the roar: “I will eat up all wicked monks, wicked nuns, wicked male lay devotees and female lay devotees and unrighteous men,” made by Visukamma in the guise of a big black dog under the command of Sakka, the King of Gods, when the dispensation of Buddha Kassapa deteriorated; (3) the roar: “King Kusa, the Sihssara, whose voice is bold and penetrating like that of a lion king, am I!” made by the Bodhisatta Kusa, after going out of the city with Princess Pabhāvatī on the back of his elephant, when the seven kings, desirous of winning the princess’s hand in marriage, besieged his city; and (4) the present one: “I am Alavaka indeed!” made by the ogre standing on Mount Kelasa. When those shouts were made it seemed that they appeared before each and every town-gate and village-gate throughout the whole Jambūdīpa.

Because of Alavaka’s power, the Himavanta, three thousand yojanas in vastness, trembled.

Thereafter, the ogres attacked the Buddha with the nine kinds of missiles (in the way mentioned in the section on the Vanquishing Vasavaī Devaputta Māra, Chapter 7). Despite his attack with such missiles, Āḷavaka was unable to make the Buddha flee. Consequently, he marched towards the Buddha, leading a frightening army composed of four divisions: elephants, horses, chariots and foot-soldiers, and mixed up with various forms of ghosts armed with weapons.

The ghosts made all sorts of guises and threats and, shouting: “Seize him! Kill him!” they appeared as though they were coming overpoweringly from the sky above the Buddha. But they dared not go near to the Buddha, like flies which dare not approach a solid piece of hot glowing iron.

Although they dared not go near, they did not retreat in a short time, unlike Māra and his enormous army turned back immediately after being defeated on the verge of the Bodhisatta’s Enlightenment at Mahābodhi tree. Instead, they, Āḷavaka and his ghosts, spent half the night doing disturbances.

The Last Attack with The Weapon of White Divine Cloak

Having failed in his attempt to frighten the Buddha by displaying various terrible objects thus for half the night, he conceived an idea: “It were well if I would fling the weapon of white divine cloak that is invincible!”

The Four Great Weapons

There are four most powerful weapons in the world. They are:

(1) Sakka’s weapon of thunderbolt,
(2) Vessavaṇa’s weapon of iron club,
(3) Yama’s weapon of side glance, and
(4) Āḷavaka’s weapon of white divine cloak.


(1) If Sakka, in his fury, were to discharge his weapon of thunderbolt towards Mount Meru, it would pierce the mountain, which is 168,000 yojanas in height, making a hollow right through it, and come out from the bottom.

(2) Vessavana’s weapon of iron club, when hauled by him in anger, as in his earlier days (when he was still a puthujjana), would chop off the heads of thousands of yakkhas and, after returning, would lie in its original position.

(3) When an angry Yāma, the King of Hell, glances side ways, thousands of kumbhaṇḍas are destroyed making a hissing sound like sesame seeds when thrown into the red-hot iron pan.

(4) If Āḷavaka the ogre, flying into a rage, were to throw up his weapon of white divine cloak into the sky, there would be a drought for twelve years. If it were thrown upon the earth, all the trees and plants and others things would dry up, and the land would be deprived of vegetation for twelve years. If it were thrown into the ocean, all the waters in it would be dried up, like drops of water would in a red-hot pot. A Meru-like mountain, when flung at by it, would fall, breaking up into fragments.

With that idea Āḷavaka took off his white divine cloak, so powerful a weapon, and while standing, he was poised to cast it.

At that time, all the devas, most of whom belonging to the ten thousand universes, assembled quickly, for they had decided: “Today the Exalted One will tame the violent ogre, Āḷavaka. At that taming place, shall we listen to the Buddha’s Teaching.” Apart from those willing to listen to the Teaching, the devas, who wished to watch the fight, also gathered there. In this way the entire vault of heaven was full of celestial beings.

Then Āḷavaka, rising up and up, around the Buddha and roaming about, hurled his weapon of white divine cloak towards the Buddha. Making a terrible sound in the sky, like the weapon of thunder, and emitting smoke all over and burning with flames, the cloak flew towards the Buddha but on coming near Him, it turned into a foot-towel and dropped at His feet, destroying the ogre’s pride.

On seeing this, Āḷavaka became powerless, he felt he had utterly lost his pride like a bull with its horns broken or like a poisonous cobra with its fangs taken out. He then reflected: “The weapon of white cloak has failed to overcome the Monk Gotama. Why?” Then he made a guess: “The Monk Gotama abides with loving-kindness. This must be the reason. Now I will deprive him of loving-kindness through an annoying speech.”

So he said:

“O Monk Gotama, without my permission why did you enter my mansion and take the seat amidst female attendants like a householder? Is it not improper for a monk to enjoy what is not given and to mix with females. Therefore, if you abide by the rules of a monk (O Gotama, get out of my mansion at once!)”

(With reference to Āḷavaka’s speech, only the essential portion mentioned in the brackets was recited as the text in the Buddhist Councils; the rest is taken fully from the Commentary.)

The Buddha then accepted the ogre’s order and went outside the mansion, giving a very pleasant reply: “Very well, Friend Āḷavaka.” (A hostile man cannot be calmed by hostility. That is true! Just a piece of the bear’s gall put into the nostril of a wild furious dog will make it worse, even so a rude ferocious person, when retaliated with rudeness and ferocity, will become more violent. In fact, such a man should be tamed with gentleness. This natural phenomenon, the Buddha understood thoroughly. Hence His mild word and yielding action.)

Then the ogre thought: “Very easy to obey indeed is the Monk Gotama. He went out at my command, given but once. Without a cause I have fought against him for the whole night, the Monk Gotama who is so docile to go out. Āḷavaka’s heart began to be softened thus. He continued to ponder: “But I am not certain yet whether His going out was caused by His obedience or by His anger. Now I will make an enquiry.” So he asked the Buddha again: “Get in, Monk Gotama!”

The Buddha, in order to make the ogre’s mind flexible and to feel certain of his docility, said again pleasingly: “Very well, Friend Āḷavaka,” and entered the mansion.

In this way, the ogre tested the Buddha by his repeated orders to know for sure whether the latter was really obedient, for the second time and the third he said: “Go in,” and then “Come out”. The Buddha followed the ogre’s orders so that he might become more and more soft-minded. (So great was the Buddha’s compassion indeed!) If the Buddha were to disobey the ogre, who was violent by nature, his rough heart would become more and more boisterous and be unable to receive the Dhamma. To cite a worldly simile, just as a little son, naughty and crying, is helped to become good by giving him something that he wants and by doing something that he likes, even so the Buddha (who was the great mother to the three worlds), acted according to his command in order to make Āḷavaka the ogre (the little wild and rough son) who was crying out of anger, which is a mental defilement, docile.

Another simile: just as a wet nurse, with a gift and persuasion, suckles a naughty baby, who refuses to take milk, even so the Buddha (the great wet nurse to the three worlds) followed whatever the ogre had to say, thereby fulfilling the latter’s desire by way of persuasion in order to feed the ogre (the naughty baby) on the sweet milk of the supramundane Dhamma.

Still another simile: just as a man, desirous of filling a glass jar with catumadhu (food or medicine containing four ingredients), cleanses the inside of the jar, even so the Buddha, desirous of filling the jar-like heart of the ogre with the catumadhu-like supramundane Dhamma, was to clear the ogre’s heart of the dirt-like anger. He therefore obeyed the ogre three times by going out of the mansion and getting into it as He had been ordered by him. (His obedience was not due to fear.)

Thereafter the ogre entertained a wicked desire thus: “The Monk is really docile. When ordered, but once, ‘Go in’ and He went in; when ordered but once, ‘Come out!’ and He came out. In this way (ordering Him to go in and to come out) I will make Him weary during the whole night. Having made Him weary thus will I throw Him to the other side of the Ganga by holding His two legs.” Accordingly, he asked the Buddha for the fourth time, “Come out, O Monk Gotama!”

Then the Buddha knew the ogre’s wicked intention. He also foresaw what the ogre would do if He said something to him: Āḷavaka would think of asking some questions to the Buddha, and that would create a golden opportunity for the Buddha to preach.

Therefore He replied: “I know the vicious plan that is in your mind. So I will not get out. Do whatever you like.”

Prior to Āḷavaka’s encounter with the Buddha, in former times too, when hermits and wondering ascetics, endowed with higher psychic powers came by air, they visited the mansion out of curiosity to find out whether it was a golden, or a silver, or a ruby one. To these visitors, the ogre put questions. If they were unable to give him the answers, he would do harm by driving them mad or by ripping their hearts, or by throwing them by the legs to the other shore of the Ganga.

The following is how ogres do harm: They make a man mad in two ways: (1) by showing him their horrible looks and (2) by gripping and crushing his heart. Knowing that the first way would not effect madness to hermits and wandering ascetics, Āḷavaka did not employ the first method; instead he reduced his body to a delicate frame by his own supernormal power and entered the persons of these (powerful) ascetics and crumpled their hearts with his grip. Then their mental process could not remain stable and they became out of their senses. He also burst open the hearts of these ascetics who went mad thus. As they could not answer his questions, he would tell them not to come again and would fling them by the two legs to the other side of the Ganga.

So Āḷavaka recalled the questions he had asked on previous occasions and thought: “Now I will ask the Monk Gotama in this manner and, then, if He fails to give me satisfactory answers, I will make Him mad, burst open His heart and fling Him by the legs to beyond the Gaṅgā. Thus will I torment Him.”

So he said rudely:

“O Great Monk Gotama, I am going to ask You some questions. If You cannot answer them thoroughly I will make You mad, or cause Your heart to burst, or hold You by Your legs and throw You across the river.”

(From where did Alavaka’s questions come down? Answer: His parents had learnt the questions numbering eight, together with their answers from Buddha Kassapa, whom they worshipped. The parents taught him all the questions and answers when he was young.

(As time went by Āḷavaka forgot the answers. He then had the questions put down in orpiment on gold plates, lest they should get lost, and he kept the plates stuck at the entrance of the mansion. In this way, Āḷavaka’s questions had their source in a Buddha, and they were the ones which only Buddhas could answer as they (belonged to the sphere of Buddhas, Buddhavisaya.)

On hearing the ogre’s words, the Buddha wished to show the unique power of Buddhas; unique in the sense that it was not shared by any in the world, for, nobody could do any harm to the four things in Their possession; the gains accrued to Them, Their life, Their Omniscience, and Their physical rays. So the Buddha said:

“Friend ogre, all over the dual worlds, the world of divine beings, such as devas, māras and Brahmās, and the world of human beings, such as monks, brahmins, princes and commoners, I see none who could cause Me madness, (or) who could explode My heart, (or) who could fling Me over the river.”

(After barring the cruel intent of the ogre, the Buddha added in order to make him ask:)

“Friend ogre, in spite of that, you may put whatever questions you like?” Thus the Buddha extended His invitation, the kind that Omniscient Buddhas adopt.

(Herein there are two kinds of invitation: one made by Omniscient Buddhas and Bodhisattas, and the other made by other individuals. Omniscient Buddhas and Bodhisattas invite questions with full self-confidence: “Ask whatever you like. I will answer your questions, leaving nothing unanswered.” Other individuals do so but with less confidence: “Ask, friend. On hearing your question, I will answer if I know.”)

Alavaka’s Questions and The Buddha’s Answers

When the Buddha made the kind of invitation usually adopted by Omniscient Buddhas thus, Alavaka put his questions in verse as follows:

Kiṃ su'dha vittaṃ purisassa seṭṭhaṃ?
Kiṃ su suciṇṇaṃ sukhaṃ āvahati?
Kiṃ su have sādutaraṃ rasānaṃ?
Kathaṃ jīviṃ jīvitaṃ ahu seṭṭhaṃ?

(O Monk, Gotama by clan!) What is the most praiseworthy property of men in this world? What, when practised continuously for days can convey the threefold happiness of devas, humans and Nibbāna? Of all enjoyable tastes, what indeed is by far the best for living beings? How is one’s life, the most praiseworthy among living beings, as sweetly declared by numerous men of virtue such as Buddhas and others?

In this manner the first question, “What is the most praiseworthy property of men in this world?” is asked by using the term which is of leading nature. Such a way of speaking is called ukaṭṭha method. Therefore it is to be noted that the term ‘men’ here represents both male and female. The question means “What is the best thing of all men and women?” By this verse the following four questions are meant:

(1) What is the best property in the world?
(2) What, when practised day by day, can lead to the three blissful states of human, divine and Nibbānic?
(3) What is the sweetest of all tastes?
(4) By what is living the best?

Then the Buddha, desirous of answering in the same way as Kassapa Buddha did, uttered the following answers in verse:

Saddh'īdha vittaṃ purissasa seṭṭham
Dhammo suciṇṇo sukhaṃ āvahati.
Saccam have sādutaram rasānam,
Paññājīvim jīvitaṃ āhu seṭṭham

(O friend ogre by the peculiar name of Āḷavaka!) In this world the most praiseworthy property of every man and woman is faith (saddhā), mundane as well as supramundane.

The ten wholesome acts or the three good works of charity, morality and meditation, which practised day and night continuously, can convey the threefold bliss (sukha) of devas, humans and Nibbāna.

Of all enjoyable tastes, the truth (sacca) significant of Nibbāna, which is the reality in its ultimate sense (paramattha-sacca) or the truthful speech of oral auspiciousness (vaci-mangata) achieved by refraining from falsehood (viratisacca) indeed is by far the best for all beings.

Men of virtue, such as Buddhas and others, declare that the life of a being who lives, following the right course of conduct continuously, is the most praiseworthy.

[(1) Herein the meaning, at moderate length should be taken thus: Just as various mundane properties, such as gold, silver, etc., though their usefulness bring about both physical happiness (kāyika-sukha) and mental happiness (cetasika-sukha), just as they prevent one from thirst, hunger and other forms of suffering, just as they effect the cessation of poverty, just as they form the cause for gaining pearls, rubies, etc., just as they attract admiration (the state of one’s being admired) from others, even so, the two kinds of faith (saddhā), mundane and supra-mundane, bring about both secular happiness and spiritual happiness; even so, faith being the leading virtue of those who take the right course of conduct, prevents one from suffering in saṃsāra, such as rebirth, old age, and so on; even so, it effects the cessation of poverty of virtues; even so it forms the cause for winning the Dhamma-Jewel such as the seven Constituents of Wisdom (Bojjhaṅga) which are Sati-sambojjhanga and others.

Saddho sīlena sampanno, yaso bhogasamappito,
Yam yaṃ padesaṃ bhajati, tattha tatth'eva pūjito

(He who possesses faith (saddhā), and morality (sīla), who also has retinue and wealth is honoured wherever he goes. As the Buddha preaches thus (in the story of Cittagahapati, 21 Pakinnaka-vagga of the Dhammapada), a faithful individual is honoured (or praised) by all human and divine beings. Therefore, the two kinds of faiths, mundane and supramundane, are said by the Buddha to be one’s property.

(This property of faith is the cause of the threefold unique happiness of devas, humans and Nibbāna. Moreover, it is the cause of gaining such secular treasures as gold, silver and the like. This is true: Only he who is faithful and performs almsgiving can acquire secular treasures. The property of one without faith is just fruitless. Therefore, the property of faith is said to be the most praiseworthy possession.)

(2) When the ten wholesome works (alternately, the three acts of charity (dāna), morality (sīla) and meditation (bhāvanā) are performed day after day, they bring human happiness to the performer, as they did to Sona, Ratthapala and other sons of wealthy persons; they bring divine happiness to the performer, as they did to Sakka, King of Devas, and others; they bring the bliss of Nibbāna to him as they did bring to Prince Mahāpaduma and others.

(3) Something to be licked and enjoyed is called taste. Various tastes, such as the taste of roots, the taste of stems, etc., and the other parts of a plant contribute to the development of one’s body. (But) they can convey only secular happiness. The taste of the truth caused by refraining from falsehood (virati-sacca) and that of the verbal truth (vacī-sacca) contribute to one’s mental development through tranquillity (samatha), and (vipassanā) meditation and other meditative practices. They lead to spiritual happiness. Arahatship called Vimutti-rasa, the taste of Emancipation, as developed through the taste of the Nibbānic Peace, the Truth in its ultimate sense (paramattha-sacca), is sweet and delicious. Therefore, these three tastes of Paramattha-sacca, virati-sacca and vacī-sacca are the best of all tastes.

(4) An individual, who lacks both eyes, namely, the eye of intelligence in mundane development and the eye of intelligence in supra-mundane development, is called Andha-puggala (an individual whose both eyes are blind). One having only the eye of intelligence in mundane development and lacks the eye of intelligence in the Dhamma, is called Eka-cakkhu (one eyed), one who has both eyes of intelligence is designated Dvi-cakkhu-puggala (an individual whose both eyes see).

Of these three kinds of individuals, a two-eyed lay devotee lives by doing his domestic task, by taking refuge in the Triple Gem, by keeping the precepts, by fasting and by fulfilling other human social duties only through wisdom. A monk lives by accomplishing his ascetic undertakings, such as sīla-visuddhi, (purification of morality), citta-visuddhi (purification of mind) and others, through wisdom. “Only the life of one who abides by wisdom is praiseworthy”, the Noble Ones, such as Buddhas, etc., declared. (They do not say that the life of one who lives just by respiration is praiseworthy.) Thus should the meaning at moderate length be noted.]

On hearing the Buddha’s answer to his four questions, Āḷavaka the ogre became very glad, and being desirous of asking the remaining four, he uttered the following verses:

Kathaṃ su tarati oghaṃ, kathaṃ su tarati aṇṇavaṃ.
Kathaṃ su dukkham acceti, kathaṃ su parisujjhati.

(Exalted Buddha) how, or by what does one cross over the four rough whirlpools? How, or by what does one cross over the ocean of saṃsāra? How or by what does one overcome the round of suffering? How or by what does one cleanse oneself of mental impurities?

When the ogre had questioned thus, the Buddha uttered the following verse as He wished to answer as before:

Saddhāya tarati oghaṃ, appamādena aṇṇavaṃ.
Viriyena dukkham acceti, Paññāya parisujjhati.

(O Friend by the peculiar name of Āḷavaka) By faith (saddhā) one crosses over the four rough whirlpools, by (appamāda), which is repeated performance of the ten wholesome acts, one crosses over the ocean of saṃsāra;by energy (vīriya) one overcomes the round of suffering; by wisdom (paññā) one cleanses oneself of mental impurities.

(Herein, he, who crosses over the four whirlpools, can also cross over the ocean of saṃsāra, can overcome the round of suffering and be aloof from moral impurities; but (1) he who lacks saddhā, as he does not believe in the worthy practice of crossing over the four whirlpools, cannot engage in meditation which is crossing. Therefore, he cannot go beyond them. (2) He who neglects by indulging in five sensual pleasures, as he holds fast to these very pleasures, cannot get beyond the ocean of saṃsāra. (3) He who is not energetic but indolent, by mixing himself with unwholesome things, lives miserably. (4) A fool, as he does not know the good path of practise leading to the purification of moral impurities, cannot be away from such mental defilements. Hence the Buddha’s answer revealing saddhā as opposed to asaddhiya (faithlessness), appamāda as opposed to pamāda (negligence), vīriya as opposed to kosajja (indolence) and paññā as opposed to moha (ignorance).

Again in this answering verse of four-feet; faith or the faculty of saddhā is the fundamental cause of the four factors of the streams-winning (sotāpattiyaṅga), namely, (a) sappurisa-saṃseva, association with the virtuous, (b) saddhammasavana, listening to the law of the virtuous, (c) yoniso-manasikara, proper contemplation, and (d) dhammānudhamma-paṭipatti, engagement in Tranquillity and Insight meditation in accordance with the ninefold supra-mundane Dhamma. Only the possession of saddhā leads to the development of the four factors of the stream-winning factors, and only the development of these four factors leads to sotāpatti, the winning of the stream. Hence by the first answer in the verse reading “Saddhaya tarati ogham—— By faith one crosses over the four whirlpools of rough waters”, the sotāpatti-magga, which is the crossing over of ditth'ogha, the whirlpool of wrong beliefs, as well as the noble sotāpanna, the Stream-Winner, are meant.

(The noble sotāpanna, as he has diligence, equivalent to the repeated acts of merit, accomplishes the second Path and is to be reborn but once in the human world; he crosses over the ocean of saṃsāra, (the feat which has not been performed yet by sotāpatti-magga) and which has its source in bhav'ogha, the whirlpool of becoming. Hence by the second answer in the verse reading “appamādena annavam—— by diligence one crosses over the ocean of saṃsāra”, the sakadāgāmīmagga, which is the crossing over of bhav'ogha, the whirlpool of becoming, as well as the noble individual sakadāgāmin, the Once-Returner, are meant.

(The noble sakadāgāmin accomplishes the third Path by energy and overcomes the lust-related suffering, which has its source in kam'ogha, the whirlpool of sensual pleasures, (the feat which has not been performed yet by sakadāgāmī-magga). Hence the third answer in the verse reading “viriyena dukkham acceti——by energy one overcomes the round of suffering”, the anāgāmī-magga, which is the crossing over of kāmo'ogha, the whirlpool of sensual pleasures, as well as the noble individual anāgāmin the Never-Returner, are meant.

(The noble anāgāmin, as he is free from the mire of sensuality, accomplishes the fourth Path through the pristine pure Insight Wisdom and abandons the extreme impurities of avijjā (ignorance), (which has not been eradicated yet by anāgāmīmagga). Hence the fourth answer in the verse reading “paññāya parisujjhati——by wisdom one cleanses oneself of mental impurities”, the arahatta-magga, the crossing over of avijj'ogha, the whirlpool of ignorance, as well as the arahat are meant.)

At the end of the verse, in answer that was taught with arahatship as its apex, was Āḷavaka, the ogre, being established in the fruition of sotāpatti.

Āḷavaka’s Further Questions after His Attainment of Sotāpatti

Now that Āḷavaka, the ogre, had been impressed by the word Paññā (wisdom), that is contained in the fourth answer of the verse, “pannāya parisujjhati—— By wisdom is one is cleansed of one s mental impurities”, uttered by the Buddha, he (as he was typically a noble sotāpanna), became desirous of asking further questions, a mixture of mundane and supramundane problems, by his intelligence and uttered the following six lines:

Kathaṃ su labhate paññāṃ?
Kathaṃ su vindate dhanaṃ?
Kathaṃ su kittiṃ pappoti?

Kathaṃ mittāni ganthati?
Asmā lokā paraṃ lokaṃ
kathaṃ pecca na socati?

(Exalted Buddha!) How is the twofold wisdom, mundane and supramundane, gained? How is the twofold wealth, mundane and supra-mundane, attained? How is fame achieved? How are friends associated? By what, one does not grieve on passing away from this world to the next?

(By this verse Alavaka) the ogre meant to ask on the problems concerning these five:

(1) The means to get wisdom,
(2) The means to get wealth,
(3) The means to get fame,
(4) The means to get friends, and
(5) The means to get away from sorrow in the next life.

(Being desirous of teaching Āḷavaka properly that there were four things contributing to the acquisition of the twofold wisdom, mundane and supra-mundane, (being desirous of answering the first question), the Buddha delivered the following verse:

Saddahāno arahataṃ, dhammaṃ nibbānapattiyā;
sussūsaṃ labhate paññāṃ, appamatto vicakkhaṇo

(Friend by the peculiar name of Alavaka!) He who has deep faith in the ten wholesome acts and the thirty-seven constituents of Enlightenment that contribute to the attainment of Nibbāna taught by Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and arahats; who respectfully pays attention to the wise;who is mindful and earnest; and who reflects thoroughly on the two speeches, one well-spoken (subhāsita) and the other ill-spoken (asubhāsita), acquires the twofold wisdom, mundane and supra-mundane.

(By this answer the Buddha meant to say that:

(1) saddhā, faith,
(2) sussūsā, attention,
(3) appamāda, mindfulness, and
(4) vicakkhaṇā, reflection are the means to have wisdom.

(To make the meaning more explicit: Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and arahats realize Nibbāna through the ten wholesome acts at the beginning and through the thirtyseven constituents of Enlightenment later on. Therefore, these ten wholesome acts and the thirty-seven constituents of Enlightenment are to be designated as the means to Nibbāna. Only he, who has profound faith (saddhā), can posses both mundane and supra-mundane wisdom.

(The possession of wisdom, however, is not possible just by faith. Only when the faithful individual develops sussūsā by approaching the wise, serving them, by listening to their pious words, can he win these two kinds of wisdom. (That is to say, having faith that leads to Nibbāna, he must go to his preceptor (upajjahāya) and fulfils his duties towards them. When the preceptor, being pleased with his fulfilment of duties, teach him, he must listen carefully. His approach to his preceptors, his service towards him, his listening to his word–all these briefly make up the term sussūsā, respectful obedience. Only one who possesses sussūsā, can realize mundane wisdom as well as supra-mundane.

(Only when the faithful and respectful listener further develops, appamāda (mindfulness), and vicakkhaṇā, (reflection) on subhāsita (well-spoken speech), and, dubbhāsita, (ill-spoken speech), can he realize the twofold wisdom. He, who lacks these four, viz., saddhā, sussūsā, appamāda and vicakkhaṇā, cannot.

(With regard to the interrelation between these four and the supra-mundane wisdom, (1) by saddhā, a man takes up the practice which lead to wisdom; (2) by sussūsā, he listens respectfully to the Dhamma which lead to paññā; (3) by appamāda, he does not forget what he has learnt; (4) by vicakkhaṇā, he considers deeply what he has learnt so that it may remain intact and without distortion and widens one’s knowledge and wisdom. Or (2) by sussūsā, a man respectfully listens to the Dhamma which lead to wisdom; (3) by appamāda, he bears in mind what he has learnt so that it may not be forgotten, (4) by vicakkhaṇā, one ponders the profound significance of what he has borne in mind. The repeated practice of these four brings to one the ultimate reality of Nibbāna by causing arahatship. In this manner, the development of the supra-mundane wisdom of the Path and that of the Fruition is to be noted.)

After answering the first question thus, did the Exalted One, being desirous of answering now the second, third and fourth questions, uttered the following verse:

Patirūpa-kārī dhuravā, uṭṭhātā vindate dhanaṃ;
saccaena kittiṃ pappoti, dadaṃ mittāni ganthati

(Friend ogre by the peculiar name of Alavaka!) He, who performs these two things leading to both worldly and spiritual wealth in harmony with the place and time; who, by mental energy, does not abandon his duty, and who is physically energetic as well, certainly occupies the two-fold wealth (By the first half of the verse does the Buddha answer that the two-fold wealth can be attained through three factors: following the practice in harmony with the place and time, leading to wealth, having mental energy and having physical energy.) By auspicious truthful speech does one attain good reputation that “This man is the speaker of truth”, [or] by the attainment of ultimate reality of Nibbāna does he reach fame, people would say: “He is a Buddha,” “He is a Paccekabuddha,” or “He is a noble disciple of the Buddha.” (By this third foot of the verse, the third question is answered.) He who without stinginess but wholeheartedly gives somebody what he or she wants, makes friends. (By this fourth foot, the fourth question is answered.)

(Herein, the way the worldly wealth is attained through suitable practice, mental energy and physical energy may be noted from the (well-known) Cūḷa-seṭṭhi Jātaka which tells of a man who becomes rich having two hundred thousand within four months by making a dead rat as his capital.

(With reference to the attainment of spiritual wealth, it should be understood from the story of Mahā Tissa Thera. Explanation: The aged elder Mahā Tissa of Ceylon, once, decided to live only by the three postures of sitting, standing and walking, and he actually did so, fulfilling his duties. Whenever he felt slothful and drowsy, he soaked a head-pad made of straw [normally used as a cushion to things carried on the head] with water, put it on his head and went into the water of throat-depth to remove his sloth and drowsiness (thina-middha). After twelve years, he attained arahatship)

Having answered thus the first four questions in the way in which the worldly and spiritual things for the lay man and the monk are mixed, the Buddha now wished to answer the fifth question. Accordingly He uttered the following verse:

Yass'ete caturo dhammā, saddhassa gharaṃ esino.
Saccaṃ dhammo dhīti cāgo, sa ve pecca n socati.

He who is faithful and seeking the benefit of one’s home, in whom exist four things, namely, sacca (truthfulness), dhamma (wisdom), dhīti (physical and mental energy), cāga (generosity), indeed does not worry on his departure to the next existence.

After answering the fifth question thus, the Buddha wished to urge the ogre, Alavaka, and uttered this verse:

Iṅgha aññe 'pi pucchassu,
puthū samāṇa brāhmaṇe.
Yadi saccā damā cāgā,
khantyā bhiyyo'dha vijjati

(Friend ogre by the peculiar name of Āḷavaka!) In this world, if there were any virtue better than sacca (the twofold truthfulness) for the attainment of good reputation, if there were any virtue that is better than dāma (taming) through prudence which is part of wise obedience for the attainment of worldly and spiritual wisdom, if there were any virtue that is better than cāga (giving) for the making of friends, if there is any virtue better than forbearance (khantī) in the form of physical and mental energy for the making of worldly and spiritual wealth, if there is any virtue better than these four, namely, sacca, dāma, cāga and khantī, for the elimination of grief hereafter, or if you think there were any virtues better than these, I pray you, for your satisfaction ask many others, those monks and brahmins, such as Purāṇa Kassapa, etc., who falsely claim that they are Omniscient Buddhas.

When the Buddha uttered thus, the ogre Āḷavaka said to the Buddha in verse, the first half of which explains that He had already removed his doubt (through his attainment of the Path Knowledge), the doubt as to whether he should ask Purāṇa Kassapa etc. and the second half explains the reason for his having no intention to ask:

Kathaṃ nu dāni puccheyyaṃ.
puthū samana-brāhmaṇe.
Yo'ham ajja pajānāmi,
yo attho samparāyiko

(Exalted Buddha!) Now that I (Your disciple, Āḷavaka by name,) have cut off all doubts by means of the sword of the sotāpatti-magga-ñāṇa, why should I ask many monks and brahmins who unrighteously claim that they are Omniscient Buddhas. (Indeed I should not ask them as I have been free from that endangering defilement of doubt, vicikicchā,). As You have instructed me, I, who is Your disciple, Āḷavaka by name, come to know personally and clearly, on this day, all that instruction of Yours, regarding the attainment of wisdom, the attainment of wealth, the attainment of fame and the making of friends, and regarding the virtues that lead not to grief hereafter. (Therefore, I need not ask other persons for my satisfaction.)

Now the ogre Āḷavaka uttered again the following verse in the order to show that the knowledge he had acquired had its source in the Buddha:

Atthāya vata me Buddho
vāsāy'āḷavim āgāmā.
Yo'haṃ ajja pajānāmi,
yattha dinnaṃ Mahāppahalaṃ

The Exalted One, Lord of the world and Omniscient Buddha, has out of compassion come to the city of Alavi to spend the whole vassa period for the development of my, worldly and spiritual welfare. The gift faithfully given by the Omniscient Buddha is of great fruits ranging from the bliss of devas and humans to the bliss of Nibbāna. That Omniscient Buddha, who deserves the best gift, I have come to know now thoroughly.

Having told in verse that he had now acquired the means to develop his welfare, Alavaka now uttered again this verse in order to express his wish properly to do for the welfare of others:

So aham vicrissāmi,
gāmā gāmaṃ purā puraṃ
Namassamāno sambuddhaṃ,
Dhammassa ca sudhammataṃ

(Exalted Buddha whose sun of glory shines bright,) That I, your disciple Āḷavaka, (from today onwards the day I met with the Master,) with my joined hands raised to my head in adoration, will wander from one celestial abode to another, from one celestial city to another, proclaiming aloud the countless attributes of the Buddha, the Chief of the three worlds, and the attribute of the Dhamma of the ten constituents, namely, the (four) maggas, the (four) phalas, Nibbāna and the entire collection of your Teachings, containing the good means of emancipation from the round of suffering (and the attributes of the Sangha, the eight classes of its members, the Noble Ones who carefully follow the various admirable practices of the threefold Training).

It was the time when the following four events simultaneously took place:

(1) The end of Āḷavaka’s verse;
(2) The coming of the daybreak;
(3) The reception of Āḷavaka’s verse with wild acclaim; and
(4) The sending of Prince Āḷavaka by his royal servants to the ogre’s mansion.

When the king’s men [from the city of Āḷavī] heard the tumultuous acclaim, they thought to themselves: “Such a roar could not have occurred about any personages other than the Exalted One. Could it be that the Exalted One has come?” On seeing the body-rays from the Buddha, they no longer remained outside the mansion but entered it without fear. There, in the ogre’s mansion, did they encounter the Buddha seated and the ogre Āḷavaka standing with his joined hands in adoration.

After seeing thus, the king’s men bravely handed the little Prince Āḷavaka over to the Ogre Āḷavaka, saying: “O Great Ogre, we have brought this Prince Āḷavaka to give you in sacrifice. Now you may bite him or eat him if you wish. Do as you please.” As Āḷavaka had already become a noble sotāpanna at that time and (especially) as he was told to be so in front of the Buddha, he felt greatly ashamed.

Then Āḷavaka tenderly took over the little prince with his two hands and offered him to the Buddha, saying:

“Exalted Buddha, I offer this royal child to you. I give you the boy in charity. Buddhas are kind and protective to the sentient beings for their welfare. Exalted Buddha, please receive him, this Prince Āḷavaka, for his welfare and happiness.”

He also uttered this verse:

Imaṃ kumāraṃ satapuññalakkhaṇaṃ.
sabba'ṅgupetaṃ paripuṇṇavyañjanaṃ.
Udaggttcitto sumano dadāmi te
paṭiggaha lokahitāya cakkhuma

Exalted Buddha of the fivefold eye! Being elated and happy, I, (Āḷavaka by name,) faithfully give you the prince named Āḷavaka, who possesses more than a hundred marks owing to his past meritorious deeds, who also has all big and small limbs and a developed physical appearance. Buddhas look after the sentient beings for their benefits. Kindly accept the prince for his own welfare.

The Buddha accepted the little Prince Āḷavaka with his hands. While He was thus accepting, in order to give His blessing for the benefit of long life and good health of the ogre and the prince, the Buddha uttered [three] verses, each omitting a foot (to be filled up by somebody else). That blank in each verse was filled up three times as the fourth foot by the ogre in order to establish the little prince in the Three Refuges. The incomplete verses which were uttered by the Buddha and completed by the ogre are as follows:

(1) Buddha: Dīghāyuko hotu ayaṃ kumāro, tuvañ ca yakkha sukhito bhavāhi. Avyādhitā lokahitāya tiṭṭhtha,

Yakkha: ayaṃ kumāro saraṇam upeti Buddhaṃ.

(2) Buddha: Dīghāyuko horn ayaṃ kumāro tuvañ ca yakkhaṃ sukhito bhavāhi. Avyādhita lokahitāya tiṭṭhatha,

Yakkha: ayaṃ kumāro saraṇam upeti Dhammaṃ.

(3) Buddha: Dīghayuko hotu ayaṃ kumāro tuvañ ca yakkha sukhito bhabvāhi Avyādhitā lokahitāya tiṭṭhatha,

Yakkha: ayaṃ kumāro saraṇam upeti Sanghaṃ.

(1) Buddha: May this Prince Āḷavaka live long! Ogre Āḷavaka, may you also have physical and mental happiness! May you both remain long, being free from the ninety-six diseases, for the welfare of many!

Yakkha: (Exalted Buddha!) This Prince Āḷavaka takes refuge in the Exalted One, Lord of the world, and Omniscient Buddha.

(2) Buddha: May this Prince Āḷavaka live long! Ogre Āḷavaka, may you also have physical and mental happiness! May you both remain long, being free from the ninety-six diseases, for the welfare of many!

Yakkha: (Exalted Buddha!) This Prince Āḷavaka takes refuge in the Dhamma consisting of the ten features, such as the four Paths, four Fruitions, Nibbāna and the entire body of Teaching.

(3) Buddha: May this Prince Āḷavaka live long! Ogre Āḷavaka, may you also have physical and mental happiness! May you both remain long, being free from the ninety-six diseases, for the welfare of many!

Yakkha: (Exalted Buddha!) This Prince Āḷavaka takes refuge in the Sangha of the Noble Ones in the ultimate sense of the word (Paramattha Ariya).

Then the Buddha entrusted the little prince to the king’s officers, ordering: “Bring up this royal child and return him to me!”

Naming of The Prince: Hatthaka Āḷavaka

The original name of the prince was Āḷavaka. As has been said, the day the ogre was tamed, the prince was passed from the hands of the royal officers to the ogre’s hands, from the ogre’s hands to the Buddha’s hands, from the Buddha’s hands back to the hands of the officers. Hence he was named Hatthaka-Āḷavaka (or Hatthakā-Āḷavaka——Āḷavaka who has been handed from person to person).

When the officers returned, carrying the little prince, they were seen by farmers and foresters and other people, who asked timidly: “How is it? Is it that the ogre does not want to devour the prince because he is too small?” “Friends, do not be afraid,” replied the officers, “The Exalted One has made him free from danger,” and they related the whole story to them.

Then the entire city of Āḷavī cheered, shouting: “Sādhu! Sādhu!”. The people happened to have faced in the direction where the ogre Āḷavaka was in just one roaring: “The Exalted One has caused safety! The Exalted One has caused safety!” When it was time for the Buddha to go to town for alms-food, the ogre went along, carrying the Buddha’s bowl and robe, half the way down to see Buddha off, he returned to his mansion.

Mass Conversion (Dhammābhisamaya)

After the Buddha went on alms-round in the city of Āḷavī and when He had finished His meal, He sat on the splendid seat which was prepared under a tree in quietude at the city gate. Then came King Āḷavaka with his hosts of ministers, troops and were joined by the citizens of Āḷavi who did obeisance to the Buddha and sat down around him and asked: “Exalted Buddha, how could you tame such a wild and cruel ogre?”

The Buddha then delivered the aforesaid Āḷavaka Sutta in twelve verses in which He started His narration with the attack made by the ogre and went on relating in detail: “In this manner did he rain nine kinds of weapons, in this manner did he exhibit horrible things, in this manner did he put questions to me, in this manner did I answer his questions.” By the end of the discourse eighty-four thousand sentient beings realized the Four Truths and found emancipation.

Regular Offerings made to The Ogre

Now King Āḷavaka and the citizens of Āḷavi built a shrine for the ogre Āḷavaka, near the (original) shrine of Vessavana Deva King. And they regularly made to the ogre, offerings worthy of divine beings (devatabali) such as flowers, perfumes, etc.

When the little prince grew up into an intelligent youth, they sent him to the Buddha with these words: “You, Prince, have secured a new lease of life because of the Exalted One. Go and serve the Master. Serve the Order of Monks as well!” The Prince approached the Buddha and the monks and rendered his service to them, practised the Dhamma and was established in the anāgāmī-phala. He also learned all the teachings of the Three Piṭakas and acquired the retinue of five hundred lay devotees of the Buddha. At a later time the Buddha held a convocation where the devout lay man and Anāgāmin Prince Hathaway Lavaca was placed foremost among those who lavishly showered upon their audience the four Sanghavatthus.

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