by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990
This page describes The Buddha’s Twentieth Vassa at Rajagaha 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).
In this way, while fulfilling His five great duties without any interruption, while distributing the doctrinal and medicinal cool water of Deathlessness among gods and humans, the Buddha departed from Sāvatthi and after travelling in the company of monks, reached Rājagaha in the Kingdom of Magadha, and stayed at Veḷuvana to keep the twentieth vassa.
Anibaddha Vassa, etc
Of the Buddha’s forty-five vassas, the first twenty, beginning from his Enlightenment are called Anibaddha or Aniyata Vassas because they were spent not at one and the same place but in various towns or villages, one vassa here, two vassas there, three still at another place and so on. They are also referred to as Pathama or Purima Bodhi-Vassas because they formed the first or former half of the whole series of vassas in which gods and men were led to enlightenment by the Fourfold Magga-Ñāṇa.
The remaining twenty-five vassas are called Nibaddha or Niyata Vassas because they were spent only at one place i.e. Jetavana or Pubbārāma in Sāvatthi in the kingdom of Kosala. They are also known as Dutiya or Pacchima Bodhi-Vassas for they formed the second or latter half of the whole series of vassas in which gods and humans were caused to be enlightened by the Fourfold Magga-Ñāṇa.
(Elaboration: For the twenty years (twenty vassas) of the first Bodhi, the Buddha’s stay was not regular, for He observed vassa in different towns or villages as he pleased. But from the twenty-first vassa, however, He stayed regularly at Jetavana or Pubbārāma, relying upon Sāvatthi as His resort for alms-food.)
(A different exposition in the Aṅguttara Nikāya, however, is as follows:
(From the twenty-first vassa, the Buddha’s use of the two dwellings of Jetavana and Pubbārāma was permanent because the services, rendered by Anāthapiṇḍika, the wealthy merchant and Visākhā, the woman devotee, were great. In fact, the Buddha dwelt constantly at these residences on account of His being grateful to both donors.
(The Buddha journeyed to other places during non-vassa months, but during vassa He stayed alternatively at these two monasteries. The Buddha, whose custom was to pass His times thus, spent a night at Jetavana went on alms-round the next morning in the company of monks; entered Sāvatthi by the south-gate to collect food and went out by the east-gate to Pubbārāma where He spent the day. After spending the night at Pubbārāma, He went on alms-round the next morning in the company of monks, entered Sāvatthi by the east-gate to collect food and went out by the south-gate to Jetavana where He spent the day. In case the Pāli version is needed it may be taken from the Commentaries.)
Appointment of Venerable Ānanda as Permanent Attendant
(Therī-gāthā Commentary, Vol. II) During the twenty years of the First Bodhi, the Buddha had no permanent attendant to serve Him. Sometimes Nāgasamāla Thera was at His service, taking His bowl and robe and following Him wherever He went. Sometimes Nāgita. Thera, sometimes Upavāna Thera, sometimes Sunakkhatta Thera, a Licchavī Prince, sometimes Cunda Thera, a brother of Sāriputta Thera, sometimes Sāgata Thera, sometimes Meghiya Thera served Him, travelling about with Him. They did so but generally not to the Buddha’s satisfaction.
One day, while the Buddha was sitting in His prepared sacred Buddha-seat surrounded by monks in the Fragrant Chamber, He addressed the monks:
“Now, monks, I am old. (At that time he was fifty-five years of age.) When I tell some attendants: ‘Let us go this way’, they leave me and went the other way and some attendants put down my bowl and robe on the ground. Consider and select a permanent attendant for Me.”
The monks were shocked and stirred on hearing this from the Buddha. Then Venerable Sāriputta stood up and saluted the Buddha, saying: “I will serve you, Exalted Buddha.” But the Buddha rejected the Venerable’s offer. Following Venerable Sāriputta, all other Venerables, except Ānanda, led by Venerable Moggallāna, made their offers, one after another, saying: “I will be your attendant, Venerable Sir, I will be your attendant, Venerable sir.” The Buddha rejected their offers too.
The Venerable Ānanda, however, was just sitting and keeping silent there when asked by the other monks: “Friend Ānanda, you too beg the post of the Master’s attendant.” The Venerable replied: “Friends, what kind of a post is it that is secured by begging? Should the Exalted One want me, He Himself will say so.”
Then the Buddha said:
“Monks, Ānanda is not a type of persons who need to be urged. He will serve Me using his own discretion.”
Then the monks asked him again: “Stand up, Ānanda, ask the Master for the post of His attendant.” Venerable Ānanda rose from his seat and said:
(1) if you do not give me good robes received by you;
(2) if you do not give me good food collected by you;
(3) if you do not give me the privilege to sit together with you in the Fragrant Chamber;
(4) if you do not take me to the places you are invited; then (i.e. if you comply with these four wishes of mine) I shall serve you, Exalted Buddha.”
(These four negative boons were begged so that nobody else could disapprovingly say: “With such benefits or gains in view, who would think it is burdensome to serve the Master?”)
Venerable Ānanda continued:
(1) if you go at my request to the places invited (by your male and female devotees);
(2) if I have the permission to let each and every visitor pay homage to you promptly;
(3) if I have the permission to approach you, to ask you, the moment there arises any doubt in me:
(4) if you repeat to me what you have taught in my absence; then (i.e. if you comply with these four wishes of mine) I shall serve you, Exalted Buddha.”
(These four positive boons were begged in order to avoid others' criticism who would say that “in spite of his service rendered day and night to the Exalted One, poor Ānanda was not favoured by the Master even this much”, and in order to be able to perform good deeds and fulfil perfections, so that he would be recognized by devas and humans as the Treasurer of the Dhamma.)
In this way Venerable Ānanda asked for eight boons, four negative and four positive. The Buddha also bestowed these eight boons on Venerable Ānanda. Venerable Ānanda received thus these eight boons and became permanent attendant to the Buddha. The fruit of his perfections fulfilled for the hundred thousand kappas for that post of permanent attendant was realized on that very day.
A Brief Account of Ānanda’s Service
From the day of his appointment as the Buddha’s attendant, he served the Master by giving Him hot and cold water, by providing Him with three kinds of tooth brush, short, long and medium, by massaging Him, by rubbing His back when taking a bath, by sweeping the Fragrant Chamber and so on. Venerable Ānanda roamed about near the Buddha each day, deciding “at this hour the Exalted One must get this thing, this should be done to Him.” At night he encircled around the Fragrant Chamber nine times, holding a big torch to be able to answer the Buddha promptly on being asked by Him, and to remove sloth and drowsiness. This is just a brief account of the Venerable Ānanda’s service rendered to the Buddha. His other services will be mentioned in the Chapter on the Sangha Jewel.