The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Story of Candabha Thera 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 8 - Story of Candābha Thera

While dwelling in Jetavana, in Sāvatthi City, the Buddha preached the verse beginning with ‘Candaṃva vimalaṃ suddhaṃ’, etc., in connection with Candābha. The story in detail is:

Former Good Deeds of Candābha.

Long ago, a trader in Vārānasī planned to go to a border country to collect fragrant sandalwood. So he took a lot of garments and ornaments to the border country. There, he camped near the gate of a village and asked the cowherds in the wood: “Boys, is there somebody who works at the foot of the hill?” The cowherds said: “Yes.” He asked again: “What is his name?” When they gave the man’s name, he also asked the names of the man’s wife and children. When they gave their names, he asked further the locality of man’s home. The cowherds gave their answers with honesty.

Acting on the information given by the cowherds, the trader went in a small cart to the house of the forest worker. He stepped down, went into the house and called the housewife by her name. Thinking that the visitor was one of their relatives, the woman quickly came out and gave him a seat. The trader sat down, and mentioning the name of her husband, he asked: “Where is my friend?” She replied: “Sir, your friend has gone to the forest.” Then he asked her about the children, mentioning their names and referring to them as “son” and “daughter”. He gave her garments and ornaments as presents for her husband and children. The housewife served the trader with very good food hospitably. When her husband returned from the forest, she told him about the guest, how he had inquired about their children by name and how he had given her presents for the whole family. The worker became intimate with the trader and dutifully did all that was necessary for the guest.

In The Evening

Then in the evening the trader sat on the bed and asked the forest worker: “What objects do you find abundantly at the foot of the hill while you are wandering there.” The forester said: “I do not find anything extraordinary other than the trees with red branches that are plentiful.” The trader asked him whether he found such trees abundantly and the forester assured him that the trees abounded. “In that case, please show me those trees.” Then, led by the forester, the trader went into the forest, cut down the red sandalwood trees and came back with five hundred cart-loads of sandalwood. He gave the forester his address in Vārāṇasī and said: “I would like you to come to my place. You are always welcome. When you come, I want you to bring only those trees. I want no present other than the trees with red branches.” After speaking warmly out of friendship, the trader returned to Vārāṇasī.

In accordance with the trader’s instruction, the forest worker brought only red sandalwood whenever he went to see the trader. The trader was grateful for his kindness and gave much gold and silver.

The Relic Stupa honoured with Sandalwood

On another occasion, after the Parinibbāna (passing away) of the Buddha Kassapa and the construction of a great relic stupa, the forester came to his friend, the Vārāṇasī trader, with a lot of sandalwood. The trader had the sandalwood pounded, filled the bowl with it and said to his friend: “Come, friend, let us go to the great stupa before the meal is ready. We will honour the stupa and come back.” So saying he took his friend to the stupa and honoured it with an offering of sandalwood powder. His friend, the forest worker, too honoured the stupa by making the shape of a moon with red sandalwood powder on the bell shape part of the shrine.

(This forest worker was the future Thera Candābha. This above act of honouring was his only good deed in the past that contributed to his attainment of the Path and Fruition.)

Brahmin Candābha.

On his death, the forest worker was reborn in the deva-world and after passing his time during the whole interval between the two Buddhas, he was reborn in an affluent brahmin family in Rājagaha in the time of Buddha Gotama. From the navel of the young brahmin there came out white, brilliant light like that of the full moon. So his parents and relatives named him Candābha, master moonlight.

(This emission of the whole bright light like the full-moon was the result of his honour done to Buddha Kassapa stupa with a moon shape made of sandalwood powder.)

The brahmins decided to take the child round and make money by deceiving the people. They made the child sit in a vehicle and wandered about the whole Jambudipa, boasting that those who stroked the youth’s body with their hands would acquire much wealth. Only those who could pay one hundred or one thousand coins were allowed to stroke the child.

In the course or their wanderings, the brahmins came to Savatthi and stayed in a place between the city and the Jetavana monastery. In the morning, five crores of noble, virtuous men gave alms and in the afternoon, they went to Jetavana with scents, flowers, robes, medicines, etc. to hear the Dhamma.

Seeing these people, the brahmin asked them where they were off to. “We are going to hear the Exalted One’s sermon,” answered the noble, virtuous men. Then the brahmin said: “Come friend, what’s the use of going to that Exalted One. There is no power like that of our Brahmin Candabha. Certainly, those who stroke his body will have such and such benefits. Come and see Candābha.”

Candābha taken to The Monastery

The good people said: “What kind of power does the Brahmin Candābha possess? Our teacher the Exalted One is the most powerful being in the world.” Being unable to give a final decision on the issue by themselves, they at last agreed to go to the monastery and see the powers of the Exalted One and of the Brahmin. So they went to the monastery taking the Brahmin Candābha.

Ordination of Candābha

As soon as the Brahmin came near Him, the Buddha resolved to make moonlight from the Brahmin’s navel disappear. The Brahmin became something like a small crow in a basket of charcoal. When the Brahmin was taken away from the Buddha, the light from his navel reappeared and when he was taken back to the Buddha, the light vanished as before. This occurred thrice and Candābha wondered whether the Buddha knew any mantra (spell) that could dispel the light and he asked the Buddha accordingly.

The Buddha said: “Yes, I know it.” The Brahmin requested: “In that case please teach me the mantra.” The Buddha replied that He could not teach it to anyone who was not a monk. Then the Brahmin told his companions: “I will become the greatest man in the whole Jambudipa after learning this mantra. You wait for me in your lodgings in this city. I will learn the mantra within two or three days after ordination.” Having thus cheered up this friends he went back to the Buddha, asked for ordination and become a monk.

Candābha’s Attainment of Arahatship

Then the Buddha taught Thera Candābha contemplation of the thirty-two parts of the body (Dvattimsakara kammatthana). The Thera asked the Buddha what kesa (head-hair), loma (body-hair), etc. meant. The Buddha said: “That contemplation is preliminary (parikamma) to learning the mantra you should recite it.”

The other brahmins came occasionally and asked him if he had learnt the mantra. The Thera answered that he had not and that he was still reciting the preliminary. In this way through the contemplation of the thirty-two parts of the body, Thera Candābha developed concentration, then practised insight-meditation (Vipassanā) and within two or three days he attained arahatship. When the brahmins came and inquired him, he told them clearly and decisively: “Go away! It is now not possible for me to return to worldly life.”

On hearing his words, other monks reported to the Buddha: “Glorious Buddha! This Thera Candābha has falsely claimed to be an arahatship.” The Buddha said: “Monks! Now, my son, the monk Candābha, is an arahat with all his āsavas extinct. He speaks only the truth.”

Then the Buddha uttered the following verse:

Candaṃ va vimalaṃ suddha; vippassannam anāvilm
Nandībhava-parrikkhīṇaṃ, lam ahaṃ brūmi Brāhmaṇaṃ

Monks! The arahat is free from the impurity of five kinds of sensual pleasure; pure, spotless and clear like flying mansion of the moon, free from all defilements and craving for the three kinds of existence. Such an arahat, I call a true Brāhmana as he really and naturally is.

By the end of the Discourse many people attained the Fruition of Sotāpatti etc.

     ——Brāhmana Dhammapada-Commentary——

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