by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990
This page describes The Buddha’s Eighteenth Vassa at Caliya 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 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 emancipated a large number of deserving people according to their respective dispositions, beginning with the poor man of Āḷavī who searched for his lost bullock, the Buddha observed the eighteenth vassa on a hill near Cāliya, administering the distribution of the cool water of elixir to those who ought to be emancipated.
A Dhamma-talk given to a Weaver’s Daughter
Three years prior to the Buddha’s stay at Jetavana, at the end of the eighteenth vassa, the Buddha went to Āḷavī City and the citizens invited Him and performed a great alms-giving. After finishing the meal, the Buddha gave a Dhamma-talk in appreciation of the people’s alms-giving.
The talk which included such exhortations as follows:
“Dear donors, you men and women! Meditate on death thus: ‘My life is not lasting; death will certainly occur to me. It is certain that I shall die. My life will end in death; life is not permanent, but death is!’
“The benefits of meditation on death are these: On seeing a snake, a man without a stick is frightened, like him, those who have not meditated on death, die making terrible sounds as caused by fear. A man with a stick, however, is not frightened but remains calm at the sight of a snake, for he can overpower the snake and catch it by means of his stick and send it away. In the same way, those, who are accomplished in meditation on death, are not frightened at their last moment (when death is drawing near) but passes away without fear but courageously. Therefore, you should meditate on death (as has been said above).”
While other people were minding their own business after hearing the Buddha’s talk, a sixteen-year old daughter of a weaver gave good heed to it thus: “Oh, the word of Buddhas is indeed wonderful! I should meditate on death!” So she engaged herself in that meditation day and night. From the city of Āḷavī, the Buddha returned to Jetavana. The girl on her part continuously meditated for three full years.
After three years, the Buddha, while sojourning now at Jetavana, surveyed the world of sentient beings one morning and saw that very girl of a weaver in His vision. When He made further investigation as to what might happen to her, He came to know as follows:
“The girl has meditated on death for three long years since she heard My talk on it. Now I shall go to Āḷavī and ask her four questions. When she gives answers to them, I will cheer her on all four answers. Then I will utter the Dhamma-verse beginning with ‘Andhī-bhūto ayaṃ loko.’ At the end of the verse the girl will attain sotāpatti-phala. On account of her, a multitude of people will also benefit.”
Foreseeing thus, the Buddha, in the company of five hundred monks, left Jetavana for Āḷavī and arrived at the monastery, named Aggāḷava.
Hearing the news of the Buddha’s arrival, the people of Āḷavī went, in happy mood, to the Aggāḷava monastery and invited the Sangha with the Buddha as its head.
The weaver’s daughter also learned the Buddha’s arrival and became joyous at the thought: “My spiritual father and teacher, the Buddha of Gotama clan, whose beautiful face may be likened to a full moon, has arrived”, and thought further as follows:
“Three years ago I saw the golden-complexioned Buddha. Now I have another opportunity to view my father Buddha’s body in the brightness of gold and to listen to His sweet and nourishing talk of Dhamma.”
At that time, the girl’s father was about to go to the weaving shed; so he asked his daughter before he went: “Dear, I have fixed some person’s piece of fabric on the loom. It remains unfinished with only about a hand span left unwoven. I will finish it today. Wind the woof quick and bring it to me.”
The girl was now in a dilemma, thinking: “I am desirous of listening to the Exalted One’s teaching. Father has also urgently asked me to do something else. What should I do now? Should I listen to the Exalted One’s discourse first, or should I wind the woof and hand it to father first?” Then she decided thus: “If I fail to send the woof, father would hit me or beat me. Therefore only after winding the woof shall I hear the Dhamma.” So sitting on a small stool she wound the woof.
The citizens of Āḷavī, after serving the Buddha with a meal, were holding the bowls of dedication water to hear the Buddha’s preaching in appreciation of their good deeds. The Buddha, however, kept silent, for He pondered: “For the sake of this girl, a weaver’s daughter, I have travelled this journey of thirty yojanas. The girl has not got a chance to hear Me. Only when she does get a chance to listen to My talk, shall I give a sermon of appreciation."
(N.B. While the Buddha was remaining silent none whosoever in the world of sentient beings dared to ask Him to speak some Dhamma-word.)
The girl wound the woof, put it in a basket, and, on her way to her father, she stood at the edge of the audience. The Buddha too looked at the girl, stretching His neck. From the way of the Buddha’s glance at her she knew, “The Exalted One wants me to go closer to Him, for while sitting amidst such a great assembly He looks at me.”
(Herein it may be asked: “Why did the Buddha stretch His neck and look at her?”
Answer: For it occurred to the Buddha thus: “If she goes to her father without listening to My sermon even at the edge of the assembly, she will die a puthujjana and her destiny on her death will not be safe. But if she goes after coming to Me and listening to My sermon her destiny will be a safe one, she will attain sotāpattiphala and will be reborn in a divine mansion in Tusitā. Besides there would be no escape for her from death on that very day. That was why the Buddha stretched out His neck and looked at the girl.)
After taking the cue from the Buddha, and approaching the Buddha by passing through His six rays of light, she paid homage and stood at a proper place. The following questions and answers between the Buddha and the girl then took place:
Buddha: “Where did you come from, young lady?”
Young lady: “I do not know, Exalted Buddha.”
Buddha: “Where are you going?”
Young lady: “I do not know, Exalted Buddha.”
Buddha: “Do you not know, young lady?”
Young lady: “I do, Exalted Buddha.”
Buddha: “Do you know, young lady?”
Young lady: “I do not, Exalted Buddha.”
In this way the Buddha asked the girl four questions. Realising what was meant by the Buddha, the girl gave her answers in profound significance.
Those people, who did not understand the significance, reproached her, saying: “Behold this girl, friends! In her conversation with the Buddha did she speak at random what she wanted to, which is just nonsense. When asked: ‘Where did you come from?’ she should have answered: ‘I came from my weaving home’, when asked: ‘Where are you going?’ she should have answered: ‘To the weaving work-shop.’
The Buddha, after silencing the people, asked the girl:
(1) “Young lady, when I asked you, ‘Where did you come from?’ why did you say you do not know?”
Then the girl answered: “Exalted Buddha, You knew of course that I came from my weaving home. Indeed, by ‘Where did you come from?’ You mean to say from which existence did I come to this weaver’s existence. I do not know which existence I came from. Hence my answer: ‘I do not know.’ ”
The Buddha then expressed His appreciation for the first time, saying, “Well said, well said! Young lady you have answered the question raised by Me.” He asked another question:
(2) “Young lady, when I asked you ‘Where are you going?’ why did you say you did not know?”
The girl answered: “Exalted Buddha, You knew of course that I am going to the weaving work-shop with the woof basket in my hand. Indeed, by ‘Where are you going?’ You meant to say to which existence I was going from this human existence. To which existence I am going I do not know. Hence my answer: ‘I do not know.’ ”
The Buddha then expressed His appreciation for the second time, saying, “You have answered the question raised by Me.” He asked still another question:
(3) “Young lady, when I asked you ‘Do you not know?’ why did you say you did?” The girl answered: “Exalted Buddha, I know I am bound to die. Hence my answer: ‘I know.’ ”
The Buddha then expressed His appreciation for the third time, saying “You have answered the question raised by Me.” He asked still another question:
(4) “Even then, young lady, when I asked you ‘Do you know?’ why did you say you do not?”
The girl answered: “Exalted Buddha, I do know that I am bound to die. I, however, do not know what time will I die, whether at night, during day time, in the morning, or when. Hence my answer: ‘I do not know.’ ”
The Buddha then expressed His appreciation for the fourth time, saying, “You have answered the questions raised by Me.” Then the Buddha addressed the audience:
“You do not know even this much of the significance in the answers given by this girl. Reproach, that is all you can do. Verily those who lack the eye of wisdom are blind (despite their organic eyes). Only those who have the eye of wisdom are sighted.”
After that the Buddha spoke this Dhamma-verse:
My virtuous audience! This world composed of numerous worldly people, who do not see but feel things by touching them, is like the blind for lack of the eye of wisdom. In this multitude of countless worldly people only a few highly intelligent ones can reflect and discern the nature of the conditioned mind and matter in the light of the three characteristics. Just as the quails that escape from the bird-catcher’s net are of inconsiderable number, even so only a small number of sharp intelligent persons attain the abode of devas and humans and the bliss of Nibbāna.
At the end of the teaching, the weaver’s daughter, was established in the state of sotāpattiphala. The teaching was also beneficial to many people.
The Girl’s Destiny
The girl took the woof-basket and proceeded to her father, who was then dozing while sitting at the loom. When the daughter pushed and moved the basket casually it hit the end of the shuttle and dropped making a sound.
Her father, the weaver woke up from dozing and pulled the shuttle by force of habit. Because of its excessive speedy motion the end of the shuttle struck the girl right in the chest. The girl died on the spot and was reborn in the deva-abode of Tusitā.
When the weaver looked at his daughter, he saw her lying dead with her body stained with blood all over. The weaver was then filled with grief. Thereafter, he came to his senses and thought: “There is no one other than the Buddha who can extinguish my grief.” So thinking he went to the Buddha, most painfully weeping and after relating the story, said: “Exalted Buddha, kindly try to cease my lamentation.”
The Buddha caused some relief to the weaver and said: “Do not be sad, devotee. The volume of the tears that you have shed on the occasions of your daughter’s death in the past saṃsāra of unknown beginning is by far greater than the volume of the waters of the four great oceans.” Having said thus the Buddha delivered a discourse on the beginningless round of births and deaths (anamataggiya saṃsāra).