The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990

This page describes Story of Kukkutamitta the Hunter 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 Nineteenth Vassa also at Cāliya Hill. 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 1 - Story of Kukkuṭamitta the Hunter

Prologue: Having travelled to the city of Āḷavī and other places distributing the cool medicinal water of deathlessness among humans and devas, the Buddha spent the nineteenth vassa also at the monastery on Cāliya Hill, doing the same among those beings who were worthy of release.

After spending the nineteenth vassa at Cāliya, the Buddha set out again at the end of the vassa and eventually arrived in Rājagaha and stayed at Veḷuvana, the Bamboo Grove.

Story of The Kukkuṭamitta Hunter

While the Buddha was staying at Veḷuvana, He gave a Dhamma-talk beginning with “Pāṇamhi ce vano nassa,” with reference to the family of Kukkuṭamitta, the hunter. The details of the story are as follows:

The daughter of a wealthy man in Rājagaha, on coming of age, was made by her parents to live in comfort in a splendid chamber on the top floor of a seven-storeyed mansion. She was cared for by a maid-servant provided by her parents. One evening, while she was viewing the street through the window, she saw Kukkuṭamitta, the hunter, who earned his living by killing deer, for which he carried five hundred snares and five hundred stakes. At that time the hunter, who had killed five hundred deer, was in a frontal seat of his cart driven by himself and fully loaded with deer-meat for sale. The girl fell in love with him and after handing her maid some presents, she sent her with these words: “Go, dear maid, give these presents to the hunter and try to get the information about the time of his return.”

The maid-servant went and gave the presents to the hunter and asked: “What time will you go home?” “After selling the meat today,” said the hunter, “I shall go home tomorrow early morning by such a such a gate.” Having got the hunter’s reply, the maid-servant returned and told her mistress about it.

The mistress then packed her clothings, ornaments, gold and silver that she should take with her, and put on dirty garments early that morning, carried a water-jar on her head and left her house as though she were going to the river-side. Reaching the place mentioned in the hunter’s reply, she waited for the hunter’s coming. The hunter came out from the city driving his cart early that morning. The lady then followed the hunter’s cart with alacrity.

On seeing the young lady, the hunter said: “O lady, I do not know whose daughter you are. Please do not follow me.” “You did not ask me to come,” replied the lady, “I came on my own accord. Drive on your cart quietly.” The hunter repeated his words to prevent her from following him. Then the young lady said: “Lord, one should not bar the fortune that has come to oneself.” Only then the naive hunter came to understand without any doubt the reason for her dogged following him, he picked the young lady up on to the cart and drove away.

The parents of the young lady searched for their daughter everywhere and could not find her. At long last they concluded that she must have been dead and held a feast in memory of their daughter (matakabahatta).

Because of her living together with the hunter, the lady gave birth to seven sons and she had them married on their coming of age.

The Spiritual Liberation of The Hunter’s Family

On surveying the world of sentient beings in the early morning one day, the Buddha saw the hunter Kukkuṭamitta together with his seven sons and seven daughters-in-law who came into the view of His supernormal-vision. When He investigated the reason, He discerned the past merit of all these fifteen persons that would lead them to the attainment of sotāpatti-magga. Taking His bowl and robe, the Buddha went alone early that morning to the place where the snares were set up. That day not a single animal happened to be caught. The Buddha then put His footprint near the hunter’s snares and sat down in the shade of the bush in front of him.

Carrying his bow and arrows, Kukkuṭamitta went early to that place and checked the snares, one after another; he found not a single deer caught, and all he saw were the Buddha’s footprints.

Then it occurred to him thus: “Who could have set the animals free from the snares and roamed about?” Having a grudge against the Buddha (even before he saw Him) and while moving about, he saw the Buddha sitting under the bush before him. Thinking: “This than must be the one who had released my ensnared animals. I will kill Him with an arrow,” he bent the bow and pulled the string with all his might.

The Buddha permitted him to bend the bow and pull the string, but He did not permit him to release the arrow. (The Buddha performed a miracle so that the hunter could do the bending of the bow and the pulling of the string but not the shooting.) Not only was he unable to shoot the arrow, he was also helpless in unbending the bow. It appeared that his ribs were going to break, and the saliva flowed from his mouth. Looking very exhausted, he stood like a stone statue

The seven sons went to the father’s house and asked their mother during a conversation with her: “Father is taking so long. What would be the reason for his delay?” When asked by their mother: “Follow your father, dear sons,” they went after their father, each holding his bow and arrows. Seeing their father standing like a stone figure (and seeing the Buddha sitting in the shadow of the bush,) they thought: “This man must be the enemy of our father.” Everyone of them then tried to bend his bow and pull the string. On account of the Buddha’s miraculous power, however, they all stood wearied like lithic figures as their father.

Their mother then wondered: “What is the matter? My sons were also taking too much time!” With her seven daughters-in-law, she went after them and saw all eight persons: the father and his sons. When she looked around, wondering: “Whom these eight, the father and his sons, were aiming at while so standing?” she saw the Buddha, and with her both arms up she shouted aloud: “Do not destroy my Father, sons!”

Hearing the cry (of his wife), Kukkuṭamitta the hunter thought: “Oh, I am ruined! This man is said to be my father-in-law. Oh, I have done a great misdeed!” The seven sons also thought: “This man is said to be our grandfather! We have done a great mistake!” Thereafter, under the impression that “This man is my father-in-law!” the hunter cultivated loving-kindness (towards the Buddha). So did the seven sons with the notion that “This man is our grandfather!”

Then the mother of these seven sons, the daughter of a wealthy man said: “Discard your bows and do obeisance to my Father.” As He knew the eight men had become soft-minded, the Buddha let them put down their bows. (He now withdrew His miraculous power that He had previously exercised in order to prevent them from laying down their bows.) The eight people then did obeisance to the Buddha, saying: “Kindly forbear our wrong, Exalted Buddha,” and they took their seats at proper places.

When they were thus seated uniformly, to them, a family of sixteen members, the Buddha gave a series of talk: Dāna-kathā, Sīla-kathā, Sagga-kathā, Kāmānaṃ ādīnava-kathā, Nekkhamme-ānisaṃsa-kathā, in this order. At the end of the talk, the fifteen persons,

Kukkuṭamitta the hunter and his seven sons and the seven daughters-in-law, were established in sotāpatti-phala. Having thus helped them realise Fruition, the Buddha entered Rājagaha City for aims-round and returned to the monastery in the afternoon.

The Buddha was then asked by the Thera Ānanda: “Where have you been, Exalted Buddha?” “I have been to the place of Kukkuṭamitta the hunter, my dear son Ānanda,” was the answer. “Have you, Exalted Buddha, made him one who refrained from the wrongdoing of taking life? Have you admonished and emancipated him?” “Yes I have, dear Ānanda,” the Buddha answered. “All of them, with Kukkuṭamitta as the fifteenth member, are now established in unwavering faith, absolutely free from doubts in the Three Gems, and become non-doers of the evil act of killing.”

The monks interrupted them, saying: “Exalted Buddha, there is also the hunter’s wife; was she not there?” “Yes, she was,” answered the Buddha. “Monks, that house-wife has already become a sotāpanna while still living as a girl in her parent’s home.”

Then a discussion took place at a religious meeting (in the Dhammasala, the Dhammahall, where discourses are heard and discussed) as follows:

“Friends, Kukkuṭamitta’s wife (a merchant’s daughter) had attained sotāpatti-phala while being a young woman and living still with her parents. Thereafter she followed the hunter to his home and had seven sons. Asked by her husband to bring the bow, the arrow, the spear, the stake, or the net, she would bring them to him. The hunter on his part would carry those weapons given by his sotāpanna wife and would commit the evil deed of taking life for long, day after day. How is it friends? Do those sotāpanna individuals, the Noble Ones, too commit such a crime?"

The Buddha came to the monk’s meeting and asked: “What was the subject-matter of your discussion, monks, before I came here?” The monks answered: “We were discussing this matter (of Kukkuṭamitta’s wife, the daughter of a merchant).”

Thereupon the Buddha said:

“Monks, the Noble Ones, sotāpannas, never commit such a crime as killing. The hunter’s wife brings him such weapons as bow and arrow because she was mindful of her duty, the duty that the wife must obey her husband’s word. She had no intention to make the hunter go to the forest with the weapons in his hand for the evil act of taking-life; she had not the slightest idea of that sort.

“For example, if there is no sore on the palm of the hand, one who uses that hand for holding poison cannot be harmed by the poison;similarly, to him who does not do any evil because he has no unwholesome intention, no bad result accrue to him though he may have fetched the weapon.”

Having said thus, the Buddha spoke the following verse as a continuation of His utterance:

Pānimhi ce vaṇo nāssa, hareyya paṇinā visaṃ.
Nabbaṇaṃ visam anveti n'atthi pāpaṃ akubbato.

Monks, if there is no sore or injury in the palm of a hand, poison cannot harm it. (Therefore) with that hand without any sore or injury, one should be able to carry the poison safely. Similarly, to him who has not done a wrong thing because he has no unwholesome volition, there arises not the slightest act of wrongdoing (just by bringing a bow and the like).

(As poison cannot hurt the hand free from a boil or a cut, so he who just passes over a weapon, such as a bow and an arrow, does not do evil as he has no wicked intention. That is to say, as no poison can affect the healthy hand, so no [desire for doing] evil can approach his stout heart.)

By the end of the preaching, many attained sotāpatti-phala and other Fruitions.

The Past Merit of Kukkuṭamitta’s Family

At a later time, in the Dhamma-assembly, the monks were engaged in a conversation among themselves:

“(1) Friends, what was the past merit that caused the attainment of sotāpatti-magga of Kukkuṭamitta, the hunter, who had seven sons and seven daughters-in-law? (2) Why was he born in a hunter’s family?”

Thereupon the Buddha came and asked: “Monks, what are you taking about?” and getting the reply as to what they were talking about, the Buddha related the story of the hunter’s past merit as follows:

“Monks, in times past, when people were holding a discussion on the construction of a huge shrine over Buddha Kassapa’s relics, they deliberated the question as to what should be used for fine earth and what for the liquid matter.

Then they got an idea to use orpiment for fine earth and sesame oil for the liquid matter, and they all agreed to do so. The people had the orpiment powdered and mixed it with sesame oil and used it as cement plaster to hold the bricks together. The bricks that were laid inside the shrine were coated with gold. As for the layer of bricks outside the shrine, they laid bricks of gold. Each brick was worth a hundred thousand.

Selection of President for Enshrinement Ceremony

When the people’s construction of the stupa was completed enough for enshrining the relics, a discussion took place as to ‘who should be selected president,’ for a great deal of money was badly needed when enshrining the relic.

Then a country merchant, thinking: “I shall become president”, donated money amounting to one crore to the enshrinement fund. On seeing the generosity of the country merchant, the people dispraised the town merchant, saying: “This town merchant accumulates wealth like white ants. He is not eligible to become chief of this occasion for constructing such a great relic-shrine. But the country merchant has generously donated ten million and is becoming president.”

On hearing what the people had said, the town merchant gave in charity two crores hoping to become president.

“Only I must be president of the enshrinement ceremony,” thought the country merchant and gave away three crores. In this way the donations made by both parties increased till the town merchant’s contribution became eight crores.

But the country merchant had only nine crores at his place, In the residence of the town merchant, however, there were forty crores. Therefore it occurred to the country merchant thus: “If I gave nine crores the merchant from the town would say that he would donate ten. Then (as I cannot compete with him) the state of my being without wealth will be known to all.” He then said: “I will donate this much of money. I shall also take upon myself servitude to the stupa together with my seven sons, seven daughters-in-law and my wife.” So saying he brought his family members and dedicated them and himself, sixteen persons in all, to the stupa.

“Acquisition of more funds is possible, [that of dedicated human labour is not],” said the people, “This country merchant has given up his seven sons and seven daughters-in-law and wife and himself to the stupa. Let him therefore become president of the enshrinement ceremony.” Thus they all unanimously selected the country merchant as president.

In this way the sixteen family-members became slaves to the stupa. But the people agreed to set them free from servitude. The sixteen-member family however took care of the stupa till the end of their lives, and on their death were reborn in a celestial abode.

The sixteen persons enjoyed the blissful life in that abode during the whole Buddhantara asaṅkhyeyya-kappa (i.e. the period between the lifetime of Buddha Kassapa and that of our

Buddha). When the time of Buddha-Emergence [Buddh’uppāda came as our Buddha (Gotama)] appeared, the housewife to the merchant passed away from the celestial abode and became a merchant’s daughter in Rājagaha. While only a young girl she attained sotāpatti-phala.

(“Adiṭṭha-saccassa pana paṭisandhi nāma bhāriyā,” so says the Commentary.) “The birth of a worldling, who has not discerned the Four Truths is burdensome.” (For he is likely to be reborn into a lowly family despite the fact that, that very life is his last (pacchimabhāvika): for he has not overcome the risk of falling into a lowly state.) Therefore the deva who had been the husband of the merchant’s daughter, on his return to the human world, was reborn in a family of hunters. As soon as she saw the hunter, her former love (taṇhāpema) revived.

That was why the Buddha spoke the following verse:

Pubbe'va sannivāsena, paccuppaññāhitena vā.
Evaṃ taṃ jāyate pemaṃ, uppalaṃ va yathodake.

Because of living together in love in the past and also because of benefiting one another at present, for these two reasons, love of two types, taṇhā-pema and mettā-pema, arose. (How?) just as lotuses and any other aquatic flowers thrive, depending on the two factors of water and mud).

It was only because of her love in the past that she followed the hunter to his house. Their sons, from the celestial abode and took conception in the womb of the merchant’s daughter. The daughters-in-law were reborn in various families, and on coming of age, they all went over to the home of the hunter’s family owing to their affection they had had in their past lives.

As the result of their services rendered together to the relic stupa dedicated to Buddha Kassapa the sixteen members of the hunter’s family attained sotāpatti-phala in this Buddha’s dispensation.

End of story of Kukkuṭamitta the hunter.

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