The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990

This page describes Story of A Male Lay Devotee 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 Seventeenth Vassa at Veḷuvana. 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).

Having spent the seventeenth vassa at Veḷuvana in Rājagaha and converted those devas, humans and Brahmās worthy of conversion through various discourses, including the Vijaya Sutta as has been said above, the Buddha set out on a journey when the vassa was over and eventually arrived in Sāvatthi and took up residence at Jetavana.

Then one day, while staying in the fragrant Chamber of Jetavana, He surveyed the world of beings at daybreak and saw a poor man of Āḷavī City. Knowing of the past merit that would lead him to the attainment of Sotāpatti Path and Fruition, the Buddha went to Aḷavī in the company of five hundred monks. The citizens of Āḷavī, as they had been the Buddha’s typical followers, possessing right belief, respectfully invited the monks headed by the Buddha to a feast.

When the poor man learned the arrival of the Buddha, he felt happy thinking: “I will have a chance to listen to a sermon in His presence.” Then an incident took place on the day the Buddha was about to enter the city. A bullock, belonging to the poor man, ran away as the rope tied to it became broken.

The poor man then thought: “What shall I do? Shall I first search the bullock or hear the sermon?” And he decided to search for the bullock first and listen to the Buddha’s sermon later, without worry. So he left home in search of the lost bullock.

The Āḷavī citizens offered seats to the Sangha led by the Buddha and served them with food and made arrangements for the Buddha’s discourse in appreciation of the meal. “For the poor man, I have taken this journey of thirty yojanas,” reflected the Buddha, “he has now entered the forest to look for the lost bullock. I shall give a Dhamma-talk only when he comes.” With that idea He remained silent.

It was late in the morning when the poor man found his bullock and put it into the herd. Then he thought: “At this hour I have no chance to give my service in any form. Yet, I will just pay my respects to the Buddha.” Though he was severely oppressed by hunger, he did not think of going home but rushed to the Buddha, did obeisance to Him and stood at an appropriate place.

When the man was standing thus, the Buddha asked the head worker at the alms-giving function: “Donor, is there any surplus food after feeding the Sangha?” “Yes, Exalted Buddha,” answered the head worker, “there is a full meal.” The Buddha then ordered him to feed the poor man.

The head worker let the man sit at the very place where the Buddha requested and served him well with gruel, hard and soft food. Having eaten with relish, the man washed his mouth thoroughly.

(Nowhere else in the three Piṭakas is the Buddha found to have Himself asked somebody to feed a householder.)

After eating the food with relish to his satisfaction, the poor man’s mind became calm with one-pointedness. Then the Buddha preached to him in serial order: dāna-kathā, (talk on generosity), sīla-kathā (talk on morality), sagga-kathā (talk on celestial abodes), kammānaṃādinava-kathā (talk on the faults of sensual pleasures), nekkhammeanisamsakathā (talk on the advantages of renunciation) and finally taught the Four Truths. At the end of the teaching in appreciation of the alms-giving, the Buddha rose and departed. The people saw Him to the monastery and came back to Alavi.

While the monks were going along with their Master, they sarcastically talked among themselves:

“Friends, look at the way the Master did. Absolutely nowhere else did He ask to arrange for feeding a lay individual. But today, just on seeing a poor man, He Himself had verbally managed to get the gruel and other foods set for him.” The Buddha turned back and asked what they were talking about. When He knew what it was about, the Buddha said: “Yes, you are right! Monks, I took this tedious journey of thirty yojanas just because I saw his past merit potential enough to lead him, the poor lay devotee, to the Path and Fruition of Sotāpatti. He was very hungry. Since daybreak, he had been searching for his lost bullock by roaming about the forest region. lf I had taught him (without feeding him), he would not have been able to penetrate My Teaching because of his suffering from hunger. Having thus reflected, I did in this manner. There is no ailment like hunger.”

Then He uttered the following verse:

Jighacchā paramā rogā, saṅkhāraparamā dukhā.
Etaṃ ñatvā yathābhūtaṃ, nibbānaṃ paramaṃ sukhaṃ.

O my dear sons, monks! Hunger surpasses all oppressing and hurting ailments. (Among all ailments, hunger is the severest.) This is true! By giving treatment but once, other ailments might be completely cured. Or they are allayed for days, for months or for years. The ailment of hunger, however, cannot be quenched by eating once. The treatment of it consists in feeding day after day. Therefore, it means that of all ailments hunger is the worst.) The conditioning factors of the five aggregates surpass all suffering. (As long as these factors exist, suffering will not come to an end. Therefore, it means that of all suffering the conditioning factors of the five aggregates are the worst).

The unconditioned element, the ultimate Nibbāna, is the highest happiness. (Happiness that is felt (vedayita-sukha) and liked by the worldly people is enjoyable only when it exists. When it reaches the moment of destruction (when it is destroyed and gone) there is neither comfort nor enjoyment. Never has the peace of Nibbāna, a destructive nature but it remains peaceful forever; hence its being the best of all happiness.)

Knowing this as it really is, the wise man realizes the happiness of Nibbāna. By the end of the Discourse numerous beings attained sotāpatti-phala and other Fruitions.

End of story of a male lay devotee.

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