The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990

This page describes King Pasenadi Kosala’s Alms-giving (asadisa-dana) 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 story of Māra. 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 2 - King Pasenadī Kosala’s Alms-giving (asadisa-dāna)

King Kosala’s Matchless Alms-giving

Once as the Buddha travelled and entered the great Jetavana Monastery in the company of five hundred monks, King Pasenadī Kosala went to the monastery and invited the Buddha to the next day’s āgantuka-dāna (gift for visitors). He prepared the dāna elaborately and made an announcement: “Let the citizens see my dāna!”

Having come and seen the King’s dāna, the citizens became desirous of competing against the King and invited the Buddha for the following day’s alms-giving and made every gift perfect and invited the King, saying: “Let the Great King, our recognized Lord (Sammuti Deva), come and observe our charity.”

Having observed the alms-giving of the citizens, the King thought to himself: “The people have done their dāna that is greater than mine. I will again do another alms-giving that will excel theirs.” The next day he prepared his dāna more elaborately and invited the people to witness it. The people saw the King’s gifts, and in order not to be outdone by him, they organized for the following day a greater aims-giving and sent an invitation to the King. In this way the King could not defeat the citizens nor the citizens the King.

At the sixth grand offering of alms, the people increased their gifts a hundred time, nay, a thousand times, and decided that their offering should be so perfect that nobody could not say that “Such and such a thing is not included in the dāna of the citizens.”

Seeing the people’s offerings, the King became desperate, thinking: “What is the use of my living if I cannot perform better than the people in giving alms?” So he lay down on his couch, finding ways and means to outdo his subjects. Queen Mallikā then went to the King and asked: “Why are you lying down, Great King? Why do your sense faculties such as eyes, look as though they were fading?” “Don’t you know, my dear Queen?” asked the king in return. “No, I do not, Great King,” replied the queen. The King then related the matter to Mallikā.

Matchless Offering organized by Mallikā.

Queen Mallikā then said to the King: “Do not have discursive thoughts, Great King. Where have you learnt that a monarch ruling over land and water is defeated by his subjects. I shall try to organize your charity.”

Having encouraged the King thus, the Queen gave her advice as she was desirous of taking the management of the Matchless Alms-giving (asadisa-dāna) in the following manner: “Have a pavilion, Great King, built with fragrant planks of sāla-kalyāṇī trees for the five hundred monks in the precincts of the golden palace.

The people will stay outside the precincts.

“Have five hundred white umbrellas made; each of five hundred elephants will take hold of one umbrella with its trunk, and stand, sheltering each monk with it.

“Have eight boats made of nīphalaṃ gold. These boats are to be filled with perfumes in the middle of pavilion.

“Between each couple of monks will sit a princess grinding scented wood for perfumes. Another princess will hold a round fan and flap it for each couple of monks. Other princesses will convey ground perfumes and put them in the boats.

“Among these princesses, some will carry branches of blue lotus flowers and stir the perfumes in the boats so that they will be pervaded with the fragrance from the perfumes.

“Certainly, the people have no princesses, no white umbrellas, no elephants. For these reasons the citizens will be defeated.

“Do, Great King, as I now have told you.”

Replying: “Very well, my dear, you have given me good advice,” the King had everything done according to the Queen’s instructions.

While everything was being done accordingly, a tame elephant was yet required for a monk. Then the king asked: “A tamed elephant is wanted, dear Queen. What shall we do?” “Have you no 500 elephants?” “Yes, I have dear. But the rest are all untamed. Like the verambha wind they might turn very wild on seeing monks.” “I have got an idea, Great King, as to where should a young wild elephant be placed to make him hold an umbrella with his trunk.” “Where is the place?” “It is close to the Venerable Aṅgulimāla,” answered the Queen.

The King had all this done as advised by the Queen. The young wild elephant stood there quietly with his tail tucked between its thighs, its ears put down, and eyes closed. The people were amazed to watch the elephant, saying to themselves: “Even such a wild elephant has now become such a docile and quiet animal!”

Having treated the Sangha headed by the Buddha to alms-food, the King showed his respect to Him and said:

“In this pavilion of alms-giving, Exalted Buddha, I offer to you things suitable for monks (kappiya-bhaṇḍā) as well as things unsuitable for them (akappiya-bhaṇḍā).”

Things offered in this Matchless Dāna in a single day cost fourteen crores. Priceless were the four things offered to the Buddha, namely, (1) the white umbrella, (2) the throne for seat, (3) the stand to place the bowl on and (4) the wooden board to stand on after washing His feet. It was impossible to repeat such a grand offering to the Buddha. Therefore the alms-giving performed by King Kosala became famous in the religion as asadisa-dāna, the “Matchless Gift.”

Indeed, such an Asadisa Dāna should take place but once to every Buddha. And that asadisa-dāna which happened just once to each Buddha was organized by a wise woman.

Ministers Juṇha and Kāla

King Pasenadī Kosala had two ministers: Juṇha and Kāla. Between them, Kāla considered:

“Oh, a loss has indeed occurred to the King’s palace? The treasures amounting to many crores have come to nothing in a single day. Having taken the King’s gifts, these monks will return to their place and abandon themselves to slumber. Oh, the palace has come to ruin in unprecedented proportions!”

On the contrary, Juṇha thought like this:

“Oh, the King has properly and successfully given alms? True, one who is not established in kingship (he who is not a monarch) cannot give such alms. There is no alms-giver who does not share his merit with all other beings. I rejoice at the King’s excellent asadisa-dāna and say: Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!”

Reflecting thus the minister Juṇha appreciated and took delight. When the Buddha had finished His partaking of food, King Pasenadī Kosala made himself ready to hear the sermon by holding a cup to pour the water of dedication, the sermon to he given by the Buddha in approval of the King’s dāna.

The Buddha reflected as follows:

“The King has indeed done at great sacrifice as though he let a great flood roll down waves after waves. Could he succeed in gladdening the hearts of the people or could he not?”

Then He came to know the reactions in the minds of the two ministers and came to know further thus: “If I were to give a detailed sermon that goes well with the King’s dāna, the ministers Kāḷa’s head will he split into seven pieces but the other minister, Juṇha, will be established in sotāpatti-magga. Taking pity on Kāḷa, the Buddha delivered only a fourfooted verse (catuppadika) despite such a great alms-giving performed by the King; then He rose from His seat and left for the monastery.

Venerable Angulimāla’s Courage

On their arrival back at the monastery, the monks asked the Venerable Aṅgulamāla: “When you saw the wild elephant holding the umbrella over you, friend, were you not afraid?” Getting the answer in the negative, the monks drew near to the Buddha and complained with contempt, “The Venerable Aṅgulimāla, Exalted Buddha, professes to be an arahat.”

“Monks,” addressed the Buddha, “Aṅgulamāla was not afraid indeed. Ascetics like my dear sons who are highly noble amidst arahats have no fear.”

And the Buddha added the following verse as contained in the Brāhmana-vagga (of the Dhammapada):

Usabhaṃ pararaṃ vīraṃ, mahesiṃ vijitavinaṃ.
Anejaṃ nhātakaṃ buddhaṃ, tam ahaṃ brūmi brahmaṇaṃ

(Monks!) The arahat with his āsavas destroyed, who is courageous as he knows no trembling like a bull-king, who possesses noble energy, who has sought and acquired the aggregate of virtues, who has triumphed over the three evils, namely, Māra as deity, Māra as moral defilement, and Māra as conditioning factors, who has quenched all craving for existences, who has washed away his mental dirt with the clear water of the Path and who has realized the Four Truths, him I declare an ultimate Brāhmana as he really is. Destinies of The Two Ministers

King Pasenadī Kosala was unhappy and thought to himself as follows: “The Exalted One has risen from His seat and left without giving me a sermon that would befit the occasion though I have performed a great dāna to the assembly of such greatness. Instead, He has merely uttered a verse. Perhaps, I have not done what is agreeable to Him, I must have done what is not agreeable. Perhaps, I have not given suitable things, I must have given unsuitable things. Perhaps the Buddha is averse to me. The alms-giving performed by me is known as Asadisa Dāna. The Buddha should have therefore delivered some discourse appropriate to this kind of gift.”

Thinking thus he went to the monastery, paid obeisance to the Buddha and said:

“Exalted Buddha, have I not done right dāna, or have I not given things good for the dāna or have I given things that are not good?”

When the Buddha replied:“Why do you ask me like this, Great King?” The King said: “You delivered no sermon in accord with my asadisa-dāna.”

The Buddha stated:

“You have given right things, Great King. Yes, the gift you have given is known as ‘Asadisa Dāna’. This kind of gift happened to each Buddha but once. It is not easy to repeat it.”

Then the King asked: “Why then, Exalted Buddha, did you not preach to us in accord with the greatness of the gift?” “Because the audience was not pure.” “What was the defect of the audience, Exalted Buddha?”

The Buddha then told the King of the reactions of the two ministers and explained that He did not preached elaborately out of compassion for Kāḷa. The King then asked Kāḷa whether it was true.

When Kāḷa answered in the affirmative, the King banished him from the Kingdom, saying:

“As I gave, with my family, our properties without taking a coin from you, what trouble did you suffer? You, Kāḷa, get out! But the wealth I have given you remains yours. (I will not take it back.) But you must leave the country on this day!”

Then the King summoned the other minister, Junha, and asked him whether it was true that he had favourably reacted, and on receiving the positive answer, the King said to Junha:

“Well done, uncle, well done! I adore you, uncle. Take over my retinue and give dāna for seven days the way I have done.”

So saying, the King handed over his kingship to Junha for seven days, after which, he addressed the Buddha: “Look at what the fool has done, Exalted Buddha. He is the one who stood against my dāna given in such a manner!” “Yes, Great King,” said the Buddha, “the fools are those who do not approve of another’s act of charity but condemn it and finally landed in a woeful abode. The wise, however, rejoice in other’s dāna and finally attained happy states.”

And the Buddha uttered the following verse:

Na ve kadariyā devalokaṃ vajanti
bālā have nappasaṃsanti dānaṃ
Dhīro ca dānaṃ amumodamāno
ten'eva so hoti sukhī parattha
.

(Great King!) Indeed those who are hard and stingy do not attain celestial abodes. The fools, who are ignorant of the present world and the future, indeed do not admire dāna and are not happy about it. Only the far-sighted man of wisdom is able to rejoice in dāna. For, that very reason of his rejoicing, upon his death, he enjoys divine bliss.

At the end of the Teaching, the minister Junha became a noble sotāpanna. Enjoying the King’s favour, he performed charitable acts for seven days in the manner of the King

End of King Kosala’s Asadisa Dāna.

Sivi and Āditta Jātakas related with Reference to King Kosala’s Matchless Dāna

When the Buddha spoke the verse beginning with “Na ve kadariya devalokaṃ vajanti”, King Pasenadī Kosala was so pleased that he offered the Buddha an outer robe made in Sivi country and worth one hundred thousand coins. Thereafter, he entered the city.

The next day, at the assembly, the monks talked about the King’s generosity; “Friends, King Kosala was not satisfied even with his matchless Dāna that had just been given; so, after the Exalted One had preached the Dhamma, he offered him again the Sivi-made outer robe worth one hundred thousand. The King is so much insatiable in his thirst for almsgiving.”

Then the Buddha came and asked what they were talking about and on hearing what was being discussed, He said:

“It is easy, monks, to give away one’s external belongings. The good wise Bodhisattas of old gave away daily their wealth to the value of six hundred thousand, making it unnecessary for the whole populace of the Jambudīpa to work with their ploughs. Yet they were not satisfied with giving such external things (bāhira-dāna). They believed unwaveringly that ‘he who gives what he is very fond of can enjoy the special benefit which he is so fond of.’ With this belief, they gave away even their pairs of eyes to those who came into their presence and asked for.”

At the request of the monks, the Buddha related the Sivi Jātaka, an event of the past (as contained in the Visati Nipāta).

One day, after King Kosala’s Matchless Alms-giving, the monks at the assembly discussed among themselves: “Friends, only with discrimination did King Kosala give the Matchless Dāna to the Order of noble monks headed by the Exalted One, as he knows by himself that they form the fertile soil for sowing the seeds of meritorious deeds.”

The Buddha joined them and knowing what they were talking about, He said:

“Monks, it is no wonder that after careful selection, King Kosala has sown the seeds of unique alms-giving in the supreme field of my dispensation. Learned and virtuous Bodhisattas of past also performed great dānas only after discriminating the recipients very carefully.”

Then at the request of the monks, the Buddha narrated the Āditta Jātaka (of the Atthaka Nipāta.)

(The Sivi Jātaka and the Āditta Jātaka in detail may be taken from the five hundred and fifty Birth Stories of the Buddha in prose.)

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: