The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Story of King Pukkusati 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 Height Measured by a Brahmin. 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).

(From the Dhatu-vibbanga Sutta, Majjhima Nikāya)

When King Bimbisāra was ruling the city of Rājagaha in the country of Magadha of the Middle Land (Majjhima-desa), the ruler of the city of Takkasīla, on the border of the Middle Land, was King Pukkusāti.

Once, the merchants of Takkasīla went to Rājagaha with goods for sale. They took presents and went to see King Bimbisāra. They offered the presents and stood paying respect to the King, who asked them where they lived and they replied they lived in Takkasīla.

After making further enquiries about the political situation, material welfare and about the city itself, he asked the name of the King. When the merchants replied that their King was Pukkusāti, he asked if their King fulfilled the ten kingly duties. They answered: “Great King, our monarch fulfilled the ten duties. He promotes the welfare of the people through four supporting things (saṃgaha-dhamma) such as sassa-medha, purisa-medha, sammapasa and vacapeyya. He acts like the parent of the people and makes them happy as the parent would do to the child sleeping in his lap.”

(1) Sassa-medha: prudence with regard to crops. In collecting land revenue, only to a tenth of the crops harvested is collected.

(2) Purisa-medha: prudence with regard to men and warriors in service. Prizes are awarded and provisions are distributed half-yearly.

(3) Sammapasa: winning the hearts of the poor. Loans in cash, a thousand or two, are offered to them without interest for three years.

(4) Vācāpeyya: Affectionate talks. Endearing terms, such as ‘young man’, ‘uncle’, etc., are used in addressing people according to their age.

King Bimbisāra still asked another question: “How old is your king?” The merchants answered the age of their king and it so happened that the two monarchs were of the same age.

Then the King said to the merchants: “Friends, your King is righteous. He is equal to me in age. Would you be able to make your King, my friend?” When the answer was in the affirmative, King Bimbisāra exempted the merchants from customs duties, provided them with lodgings and ended the conversation by asking them to see him before their departure from the city.

In accordance with the King’s instructions, the merchants went to see King Bimbisāra on the eve of their departure, the King said: “Friends, have a pleasant journey on your way home. Ask your King, in my name, about his health and tell him, on my behalf, that I desire friendship with him.”

“Very well,” replied the merchants and they returned to Takkasilā. On arrival there, they stowed away their goods properly, and went to see their King after their breakfast. The King asked: “Where have you been, men? I have not seen you for all these days.” The merchants reported the whole matter to their King. Then the King rejoiced, saying: “Excellent, men! Because of you, I have a friend and ally in the Middle Country.”

Later on, the merchants of Rājagaha went to Takkasilā on business. They called on King Pukkusāti with presents. When the King learned that they had come from Rājagaha, the city of his royal friend. he said: “You are the visitors from Rājagaha, the city of my friend and ally, King Bimbisāra.” The merchants replied in the affirmative.

Afterwards the King asked after his friend’s health and made an announcement through the beat of drum: “From today onwards, all the merchants, who have come to my kingdom from the country of my friend King Bimbisāra, on foot or in carts, shall be provided with houses for lodgings and provisions from the royal granary They shall be exempted from taxes. There shall be no molestation whatever to them.” King Bimbisāra did similarly in his Kingdom.

Exchange of Messages between The Two Kings

Then King Bimbisāra sent a message to King Pukkusāti saying:

“Friend, precious stones, such as rubies, pearls, etc. are usually produced in border countries. If you ever find various precious stones that make attractive objects and sensational news, please inform me of them.”

King Pukkusati, on his part, sent a return message reading:

“Friend, the Middle Land is a great region. If attractive and sensational precious stones of different kinds appear there, kindly let me be informed.”

As the days, months and years passed, the two Kings remained staunch friends without seeing each other.

King Pukkusāti’s Gift

While the two Kings were thus committed to sharing the news of their potential treasure, a very special thing worthy to be given as a gift occurred to King Pukkusāti first. The King obtained eight pieces of invaluable, five-coloured muslin. “These are of fine quality,” thought the King, “I shall send them as my gifts to my friend King Bimbisāra.” So he had eight cases made of sandalwood pith, each being the size of a gum lac ball, turned on a lathe: in each case he put a muslin piece and by applying gum-lac, he had the cases made into balls. Each ball was then wrapped with a white cloth and put in a box which was wrapped again with another cloth and sealed. “Give it to my friend King Bimbisāra,” the King asked his ministers and sent the boxes to his royal friend. He also sent a message: “I would like my friend to open the box and see the gifts in the company of his ministers and other officials at the centre of the city.”

The ministers went to Rājagaha and presented the gift. On hearing the message, King Bimbisāra ordered his ministers and officials, through his drummers, to assemble. At the city-centre, the King sat on the jewelled throne under a white royal umbrella. Then he removed the seal and the cloth-covers and opened the box. When he untied the package in the box and saw the gum balls, it occurred to him thus: “Oh, my friend King Pukkusāti sent these gum dices as his gifts, for he must have mistaken me for a gambler, a dice-addict.” Thinking thus, he took a ball, roll it in his hand, guessed its weight and knew definitely that it contained a bundle of muslin.

When the King struck the ball against the foot of the throne, the gum fell off (in layers). He opened the fragrant case gently with his fingernails and on seeing the treasure of muslin, he ordered the other seven cases to be opened. They clearly saw with their eyes that all contained priceless pieces of muslin. When these were spread and measured, they were found to be of beautiful colours and fine touch, each measuring sixteen cubits in length and eight cubits in breadth. On seeing the precious treasure of muslin pieces, people clapped their hands and threw up their turbans. They rejoiced, saying: “Our King and his friend, King Pukkusāti, have never seen each other, yet that King has sent such priceless gifts. It is proper to make such a King a friend.”

King Bimbisāra had each muslin piece appraised and found all of them to be of inestimably high value. He had four of them offered to the Buddha and kept the other four in his palace.

King Bimbisāra’s Gift

Then king Bimbisāra wondered thus: “A return gift should excel the gift received. My friend, King Pukkusāti, has sent me the priceless gift. What kind of gift should I send in return to him?”

Herein it may be asked: “Is there no treasure that is better then the eight pieces of muslin in Rājagaha?” (The answer is:) It was not that there was none indeed. King Bimbisāra was a great king. Therefore, it could not be that there was nothing better than the eight pieces of muslin. Nevertheless, from the time of his attainment of sotāpanna any worldly treasure had been no more delightful to the King’s heart. Only the Three Jewels, in the form of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, were delightful. Therefore, in selecting the most valuable thing as a return gift, the King considered in the following manner:

“In this world, the treasure (ratana) is of two kinds: the living (saviññāṇaka) and the non-living (aviññāṇaka). Of these two, the non-living, such as gold, silver or any other precious thing, is only to adorn the living. Therefore, the living treasure is more praiseworthy.

“Again, the living treasure is of two kinds the human and the animal, The animal, such as elephant, horse or any other creature, is only to work for the human. Therefore the human treasure is more praiseworthy.

“Again, the human treasure is of two kinds: the male and the female. The female, even if she be the wife of a Universal Monarch, is to serve the male. Therefore the male treasure is more praiseworthy.

“Again, the male treasure is of two kinds: the householder (agārika) who strives for his family and the ascetic (anāgārika) who does not strive for his family. The householder, even if he be a Universal Monarch, the top of the former kind, is to pay homage with the fivefold veneration to the newly ordained novice of today. Therefore the ascetic treasure is more praiseworthy.

“Again, the ascetic treasure is of two kinds: the learner (sekkha), a worldling or a man of lower attainments, and the non-learner (asekkha), an arahat. Even if there be a hundred thousand learners, they are not equal to one non-learner, the arahat, in sanctity. Therefore, the non-learner treasure is more praiseworthy.

“Again, the non-learner treasure is of two kinds: the Buddha and the Disciple. Even if there be a hundred thousand Disciples, they are not equal to one Buddha in sanctity Therefore, the Buddha treasure is more praiseworthy.

“Again, the Buddha treasure is of two kinds: the minor or solitary Buddha (Paccekabuddha) and the Omniscient One (Sabbaññū Buddha) or the Perfectly Self-Enlightened One (Sammā sambuddha). Even if there be a hundred thousand of the former type, they are not equal to one Buddha of the latter kind. Therefore, the Omniscient Buddha is more praiseworthy.

“Indeed, in this world of sentient beings, together the world of devas and Brahmās, there is no treasure like the Omniscient Buddha. Therefore, I will send that unique treasure to my friend King Pukkusāti.”

So thinking, King Bimbisāra asked the ministers from Takkasilā whether they had ever seen the Three Jewels viz., the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha in their country. The ministers replied that they had not even heard of them, much less seen them. The King was much pleased because he now had the opportunity to send a present that was not found in Takkasīla.

Then the King thought:

“I can request the Exalted One to go to Takkasilā, the city of my friend King Pukkusāti, for the spiritual uplift of the people. But it is not customary for the Exalted One to pass the night in border countries. So it is impossible for the Exalted One to go there.

“Suppose I can request and send the Venerables Sāriputta, Mahā Moggallāna and other great disciples and arahats. But the fact is, even as soon as I hear of the sojourn of these great theras in border regions, I should send my people, have them brought here by any means possible and serve their physical needs. So it is not possible for the great theras to go there.

“Therefore I will send a message that will serve the same purpose as the visit of the Exalted One and the great theras to Takkasīla would.”

The King then had a gold sheet made, four cubits in length and half a cubit in breadth, neither too thick nor too thin. On the day he was going to write on the sheet, he washed his head early in the morning, bathed, committed himself to the Eight Precepts and after his breakfast, he did not adorn himself with flowers nor use any perfume.

Then taking the vermilion in a golden cup, he closed all the doors of the lower storey and went upstairs and in order to get more light, he opened the lion (figure)-supported window in the east, and sat in the airy chamber, the King wrote on the golden sheet:

“There has arisen in this world the Master, who is the Worthy One (Arahaṃ), the Perfectly Self-Enlightened One (Sammāsambudha) the Possessor of Knowledge and Conduct (Vijjā-caraṇa-sampaññā), the Noble Wayfarer (Sugata), the Knower of the World (Lokavidū), the Peerless of Charioteer and Trainer of men (Anuttaropurisa-damma-sārathi), the Teacher of men and devas (Satthā-devamanussānaṃ), the Enlightened One (Buddha), the Exalted One (Bhagavā).”

Thus the King first wrote some high attributes of the Buddha. Then he described how the Bodhisatta practised the Ten Perfections (pāramīs); how, after his demise in the Tusitā deva-world, he took conception in the womb of his mother; how, at that time, there appeared thirty-two great signs that seemed to open the whole world freely; how the miracles attended his conception; how he practised asceticism and strived for Enlightenment; how, sitting on the Aparājita Throne, he attained Omniscience, and how he acquired extra-ordinary supernormal powers that made the whole world open to him. Finally, King Bimbisāra wrote that in the living world of devas and Brahmās there was no ratana other than the Buddha-ratana which possessed such great attributes.

The King again described some other attributes of the Buddha in the following verse:

Yaṃ kiñci vittaṃ idhahuraṃ
saggesu vā yaṃ ratanaṃ paṇitaṃ
na no samaṃ atthi Tathāgatena;
idam'pi Buddhe ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ
etena saccena suvatthi hotu

Then willing to extol the Dhamma-ratana, the King wrote its six attributes, namely, “The doctrine of the Buddha is well proclaimed (svākkhāta), leading to results discernible in this very life (sandiṭṭhika), beneficial instantly (akālika), invites beings to ‘come and see’ (ehipassika), worthy to be embraced (opaneyyika), and worthy to be experienced by the wise individually (paccattam-vedittabbo vinnuhi). The King also mentioned special attributes such as the thirty-seven constituents of Enlightenment (Bodhipakkhiya Dhamma), such as the four foundations of mindfulness (satipatthana), the four right efforts (sammappadhana), the four paths to supernormal power (iddhi-pada), the five faculties (indriya), the five strengths (bala), the seven factors of Enlightenment (bojjhaṅga) and the eightfold Path (magganga).

Then the King described the attributes of the Dhamma partly as follows:

Yaṃ buddhaseṭṭho parivannayī suciṃ
samādhim anantarikaññam āhu;
Samādhinā tena samo na vijjati;
idam'pi dhamme ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ
etena saccena suvatthi hotu

Then the King willing to extol the Sangha-ratana wrote its nine attributes, of which the first four being that “The Disciples of the Buddha possess good conduct (suppaṭipaññātā), upright conduct (ujupaṭipaññāta), conduct leading to Nibbāna (ñāya-paṭipaññāta), conduct leading to their being worthy of veneration (sāmici-paṭippaññātā); by possessing which (as the cause): they are worthy of offering brought from afar (āhuneyya), worthy of offering meant for guests (pahuneyya), worthy of proper offering (dakkhineyya), worthy of veneration (añjali-karaṇīya), and being the best field for beings to sow the seeds of good deeds (anuttara-puññakkhetta lokassa).

The King continued his writing:

“Clansmen, who are of good birth and good conduct, hear the words of the Exalted One and renounce the world to become monks. Some do so, giving up the pleasures of a king, some the pleasures of a crown-prince, some the post of a supreme commander, and so on. Having become monks, they lead the noble way of life.”

After this foreword, with regard to the noble way of life, the King wrote something about lower morality (cūla-sīla), medium morality (majjhima-sīla), higher morality (mahā-sīla), etc., as contained in the Brahmajala Sutta. He also wrote, in part, on the restraint of the six senses, cultivation of mindfulness with intelligence (satisampajañña), contentment with the four requisites of life, the nine kinds of dwellings suitable for meditation, the overcoming of five hindrances (nivarana), making preparations with certain devices (kasiṇa) for mind-training, development of jhāna and supernormal powers, thirty-eight kinds of meditation, etc., all leading up to the attainment of arahatship.

After describing in detail the sixteen kinds of mindfulness on breathing (anapanassati) for meditation, the King glorified the Buddha’s Disciples in the Sangha:

Ye puggalā aṭṭhasataṃ pasaṭṭhā
cattari etāni yugāni honti;
te dakkhiṇeyya sugatassa sāvakā
etesu dinnāni mahāpphalāni;
idampi Sanghe ratanaṃ paṇītaṃ
etena saccena suvatthi hotu

The King then added:

“The Teaching of the Exalted One with its threefold training (sikkhā) is beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful in the end. It is the teaching that will also certainly lead to liberation from saṃsāra;Friend Pukkusati, I would like to urge you to renounce the world and become a monk if you can.”

King Bimbisāra then rolled the gold sheet, wrapped it in a piece of very fine cloth and put it in a sandalwood case; the sandalwood case was then placed in a gold case, the gold case in a silver case, the silver case in a ruby case, the ruby case in a coral case, the coral case in a carbuncle case, the carbuncle case in a spotted ruby (masāragalla) case, the spotted-ruby case in a crystal case, the crystal case in an ivory case, the ivory case in a tenjewelled case, the ten-jewelled case in a bamboo-strip case and the bamboo-strip case again in a sandalwood box, then again the sandalwood box was placed in a gold box, silver box, ruby box, coral box, carbuncle box, spotted-ruby box, crystal box, ivory box, the ten jewelled box and a bamboo-strip box successively, one box in the other as before.

Then the bamboo-strip box was put in a sandalwood casket, the sandalwood casket in a gold casket, then as before in a silver casket, ruby casket, coral casket, carbuncle casket, spotted ruby casket, crystal casket, ivory casket, ten-jewelled casket and lacquer casket successively.

Then after having the lacquer casket wrapped up in a piece of fine cloth, and the royal seal stamped, the King ordered his ministers:

“Decorate the streets in my domain, each street being eight usabhas in width, the two portions being two usabhas in width on either side to be just patched up but the middle portion measuring four usabhas[1] in width is to be decorated with royal accessories.”

Then the King had a seat placed on a fully ornamented royal elephant, had a white umbrella over it, had the roads of the capital sprinkled with water and thoroughly swept. Flags, banners, and streamers were to be hoisted. On either side of each roads was to be decorated with plantain trees, water-filled pots, various performers and fragrant flowers.

Messengers were sent to provincial and city governors with instructions saying:

“You should honour the royal present when it passed through places under your rule.”

Splendidly adorned with full regalia, and accompanied by his ministers, the King himself set off, carrying the sacred present to the border with great pomp and ceremony amid the boisterous playing of all kinds of music.

He privately told his envoy who was in charge of the scared present:

“Men, I want my royal friend to receive it not in the presence of his queens but on the upper terrace of the mansion.”

The King worshipped the sacred present most respectfully, regarding its journey as the visit of the Buddha Himself to the border country. Then he returned to Rājagaha City.

The provincial and city governors also improved the road in the same way and passed on the scared present from one place to another.

Reception by King Pukkasāti

King Pukkasāti, too, had the road from the border refurbished, had the capital beautifully decorated and received the sacred present magnificently.

The sacred present reached Takkasilā surprisingly on an uposatha day. The minister, who brought the present, transmitted to the King about the message that King Bimbisāra had verbally given him.

Having heard the message, King Pukkasāti made the necessary arrangements for the comfort of the visitors and took the present by himself and went up to the upper terrace of the mansion. He posted guards at the door to prevent anyone from entering the mansion, opened the window, placed the holy present on a high place and took a lower seat for himself. Then he removed the royal seal and the outer covering of cloth and on opening the containers one by one beginning with the lacquer casket he saw the innermost sandalwood casket and rightly concluded: “The way in which the present is packed is different from the way in which earthly treasures are packed. Surely it must be a ratana that has appeared in the Middle Land and that deserves our attention.”

Then the King opened the fragrant casket, removed the royal seal and holding the very fine cloth by both edges, he unwrapped it gently and saw the golden scroll. He was struck with wonder at the fine script of the writer——the beautiful, well-shaped letters and lines that made up his hand-writing. The King read every letter of the message.

As he read the attributes of the Buddha, beginning with “There has arisen the Exalted One in this world,” he became very much ecstatic with the hair from ninety-nine thousand pores standing straight on end. He was unconscious even of his standing or sitting posture. He was deeply gratified when he thought of the opportunity that he had, thanks to his friend King Bimbisāra for the opportunity to hear the message about the Buddha-ratana that was so hard to hear despite the passage of millions of kappas.

Being unable to read further, King Pukkusāti sat in a contemplative mood till his ecstasy faded away. Then he read the attributes of the Dhamma beginning with svākkhāta. Again he became ecstatic as before. Having remained in a contemplative mood till his ecstasy faded away, he then read the attributes of the Sangha beginning with suppaṭipaññā and there arose a great ecstasy in him as before.

King Pukkusāti’s Attainment of Jhāna and Monkhood

Then the King read the last section in the gold scroll which described the mindfulness of breathing in meditation. He engaged in meditation according to the instructions in the scroll and gained the rūpāvacāra jhāna fully. He spent his time enjoying the bliss of jhāna without anyone other than a young attendant who was allowed to see him. In this way, half a month (fifteen days) had elapsed.

The people of the city assembled in the courtyard of the palace and clamoured for the appearance of the King, saying:

“The King has completely stopped reviewing the troops or seeing the dancers since the day he received the royal present. He has also ceased to give royal decisions. We want the King to show anyone he likes the royal present sent by his friend, King Bimbisāra. It is a tendency of some kings to try to annex a country by alluring the ruler with royal presents. What is our King doing now?”

When the King heard their outcry, he wondered whether he should work for the welfare of the country or follow the Teaching of the Buddha. Then he thought: “No mathematician can count the number of lifetimes that I have spent as a ruler of a country. Therefore, I will only practise the Teaching of the Exalted One.” So thinking, he took the sword that was near the bed, cut off his hair, opened the window and threw down the hair-knot with the ruby-headdress into the midst of the assembly, saying: “Men! Take my hair-knot and let it act as a king.”

The people received the hair-knot together with its ornamental ruby headdress and cried, lamenting: “O Great King! Are the kings who receive presents from their royal friends all like you?” The beard of King Pukkusāti was two finger-breadth long like that of the Bodhisatta on the eve of his renunciation.

Then the King sent his young attendant to the market to buy and bring two dyed robes and an earthen bowl. Then saying: “I dedicate my monkhood to the Exalted Ones who are worthy of honour in this world,” he donned one robe as the lower garment, put on the other as the upper garment and, with the alms-bowl hanging over his left shoulder and a staff in one hand, he paced twice or thrice outside the mansion to see whether he looked well and proper as a monk. He was pleased to find that he did. He then opened the main door and stepped down from the mansion.

The dancers and others who were waiting at the three successive doors saw the monk Pukkasāti coming down but they did not recognize the King. They thought that a

Paccekabuddha had come to preach to their King. It was only when they got on to the top of the mansion and thoroughly examined the seat of the King that they knew of the King’s departure and they cried all at once, like people in a sinking boat in the middle of the sea.

As soon as the monk Pukkusāti stepped on the ground, all the citizens and soldiers surrounded him and wept bitterly.

The ministers said to Pukkasāti:

“Great King! The kings in the Middle Land are very crafty. You should go only after sending emissaries and making inquiries to know definitely whether or not the Buddha-ratana has really appeared in the world. For the time being, you should return to the palace.”

But monk Pukkusāti went off, saying: “Friends, I have implicit faith in my friend, King Bimbisāra. My friend, King Bimbisāra, has never spoken to me ambiguously. You stay behind.” The ministers and the people, however followed the King persistently.

Pukkusāti the clansman then made a mark on the ground with his staff and asked the people: “Whose country is this?” They replied: “Great King, it is your country.” Then the monk said: “He who destroys this mark should be punished by the authority of the king.” In the Mahājanaka Jātaka, the Queen Sīvalidevī dared not erase the line drawn on the ground by the Bodhisatta, King Mahā Janaka. So rolling on the ground, she artfully made the line disappear and followed the King. The people too followed through the outlet made by the Queen. But in the case of the line drawn by King Pukkusāti, the people dared not destroy it and they were left rolling and weeping with their head turned towards the line.

Pukkusāti The Clansman

Pukkusāti the clansman went off alone without taking even a servant or a slave to offer him a tooth-stick or water for washing face on the journey. He travelled by himself, mindful of the fact that “My Teacher, the Exalted Ones, renounced the world (as a Bodhisatta) and went off alone to become a monk.” Bent on following the example of the Buddha as far as possible and remembering that the Buddha never used a vehicle, he did not wear even a single-layered slipper or use even an umbrella made of leaves. The people climbed the trees, city-walls, small turrets or scaffolds on the walls or inside of fortifications, etc and watched their King setting out alone.

Pukkusāti the clansman thought: “I will have to go a long journey. I cannot fare to the end of my journey all by myself.” So he followed a caravan. As he had to travel by foot on a very rough terrain under the burning sun, the soles of his very tender feet cracked with sores and eruptions, causing great pain and suffering. When the caravan set up a tent made up of branches and leaves and took rest, Pukkusāti stepped off the main road and sat at the foot of a tree. There was no one to massage him or attend to his physical needs. He entered upon the fourth jhāna by engaging in breathing meditation, dispelled his weariness and passed the time in jhānic bliss.

The next morning, he cleaned his body and again followed the caravan. When it was time for his morning meal, the merchants took his alms-bowl and offered him food. Sometimes the food was not well-cooked: sometimes too soft, sometimes too rough with sand and pebbles, sometimes too salty, and sometimes it had too little salt. The monk did not bother whether the food was soft or hard, rough or tender, salty or having little salt, but only thought of the place it entered, and ate it as if it were celestial food.

In this way, he came to Sāvatthi, having covered a distance of one hundred and ninetytwo yojanas. Although the caravan passed the Jetavana monastery in the city, it never occurred to him to ask where the Buddha resided. This was due to (1) his reverence for the Buddha and (2) the message of King Bimbisāra.

(1) Throughout his journey, Pukkusāti concentrated his mind on the Buddha without thinking of anything else. Having arrived near Jetavana with deep reverence for the Buddha, he did not even wonder whether the Buddha lived there and so. The question to ask about Master never occurred to him.

(2) The message of King Bimbisāra said that “The Exalted. One appears in this world” and so it led Pukkusāti to believe that the Buddha lived in Rājagaha. So, although he passed by the Jetavana monastery, he did not ask about the residence of the Master and continuing his journey, he came to Rājagaha, forty-five yojanas from Savatthi.

On reaching Rājagaha, just after sunset, Pukkusāti found many monasteries and as he concluded from King Bimbisāra’s message that the Buddha was in Rājagaha, he asked the people where the Buddha lived. The people asked him from where he came and on hearing that he came from the north, they said: “Venerable Sir, you have over journeyed. The Exalted One lives in Sāvatthi, forty-five yojanas distant from Rājagaha on the way by which you have come.” The monk thought: “Now, it is too late. I cannot go to the Exalted One today. I will spend the night here and see the Exalted One tomorrow.” He asked the people about the place where the ascetics who came to Rājagaha after sunset put up. The people pointed to a potter’s small hut as the rest-house for visiting monks. With the permission of the potter, the monk entered the hut and sat there to spend the night.

Arrival of The Buddha

At dawn on that day the Buddha surveyed the world of living beings and on seeing Pukkusāti, the Buddha thought:

“This man of good family read the message sent by his friend King Bimbisāra and after completely renouncing his one hundred yojana-wide domain of Takkasīla, he became a monk out of reverence for Me. Today he will reach Rājagaha after travelling 192 yojanas and another forty-five yojanas beyond Sāvatthi.

“If I do not go to him, he will pass the night and die hopelessly without attaining the lower three Fruitions. If I go to him he will realize the three lower Fruitions of the Noble Path and become liberated. I have developed and practised Perfections for aeons out of compassion for worthy beings. I will now go and see him for his spiritual uplift.”

So early in the morning the Buddha cleaned his body and entered Sāvatthi with the monks on the round for alms. In the afternoon, he left the city, rested for a while in the Fragrant Chamber and thought:

“This man of good family has done out of reverence for Me which is hard for many other people to do. Having renounced the one hundred yojana vast domain of Takkasilā, he set out alone without even a young servant to give him water for washing his face.” The Buddha thought of this austerity of the monk and without calling the Mahātheras Sāriputta or Moggallāna or any other disciples, He left Sāvatthi, taking His alms-bowl and robe by Himself.

The Buddha did not fly in the air or shorten the journey but went on foot as He knew that, out of reverence for Him, the monk did not travel by elephant, horse chariot or a golden palanquin but went barefooted without a slipper or a leaf-umbrella.

With a Buddha’s splendour of all the great marks and six body-rays, etc. shrouded like the cloud-covered moon, the Buddha travelled incognito for the whole afternoon (i.e., about six hours) and covering a distance of forty-five yojanas, He arrived near a potter’s hut at sunset, just after the monk Pukkusāti had entered the hut. The Buddha arrived with His glory covered in order to enable the monk to have complete rest. One, who is tired and weary, cannot absorb the Dhamma.

When the Buddha arrived near the potter’s hut, He did not enter it impolitely as the Omniscient Buddha but stood at the entrance and asked for the monk’s permission to stay there. Pukkusāti mistook the Buddha for an ordinary monk and gave his permission willingly, saying: “My friend, this hut is quiet. It is not small. You may stay here comfortably as you please.”

(How could the monk Pukkusāti, who had renounced the one hundred yojana-vast kingdom of Takkasilā, be reluctant to share his accommodation in a deserted hut with a fellow-monk? He was not reluctant at all. Yet some vain and foolish monks (mogha purisa) are very miserly and possessive with regard to their abode (āvāsamacchariya) and try to deny accommodation to fellow-monks.)


The Buddha, who was very tender and delicate, left the Fragrant Chamber which was like a celestial mansion and entered the potter’s hut which was very filthy and loathsome with ashes, broken pots, grass straws and droppings of chickens and pigs. Here, amidst this collection of garbage, the Buddha made a bed of grass, spread the robe of rags and sat totally unperturbed as though He were in the Chamber that was fragrant with celestial scents.

Thus, as the two men of Khattiya families, who were credited with past good deeds, who renounced royal pleasures to become monks, who had golden complexions, who had attained transcendent states, the Buddha and Pukkusāti both sat in the potter’s hut, making the hut very splendid like the crystal cave where the two lion-kings dwelt.

The Buddha never thought: “I am very delicate and yet I have travelled strenuously fortyfive yojanas the whole afternoon (in six hours). I will now lie down on my right side to get over my weariness for a moment.” Without having any such thought, the Buddha entered upon the fourth jhāna of Fruition (phala-samāpatti) while sitting.

Nor did the monk Pukkusāti think of lying down for a moment to overcome his weariness from the bare-footed journey of one hundred and ninety-two yojanas. He too entered upon the fourth jhāna induced by breathing while sitting.

(Herein the object of the Buddha’s visit was to teach Pukkusāti and why did he enter upon the fourth jhāna instead of teaching the monk? The Buddha did not teach at once because, at that time, the monk was still tired and weary. He would not be able to appreciate the Teaching. So the Buddha waited to let his weariness pass away.

(Other teachers say that Rājagaha was a populous royal city with the air ringing with the ten kinds of sound, that the Buddha deferred preaching till midnight when the city would become quiet. This view is not acceptable, for certainly the Buddha could supernormally dispel even the sound travelling as far as the Brahmā-world.

In other words, He could make that sound inaudible to the monk. In fact, the Buddha waited till the monk’s recovery from his weariness.)

The Buddha left Savatthi at noon, travelled on foot to Rājagaha which was forty-five yojanas away, reached the potter’s hut at sunset, entered the hut with the permission of the monk and became absorbed in phala-samāpatti for six hours. Arising from the jhāna at midnight, He opened both of eyes, which were endowed with five kinds of sensitivity, like opening the window of a golden mansion. Then He saw the monk Pukkusāti sitting absorbed in the fourth jhāna (induced by breathing) like a golden statue, without any movement of the hands, legs or head, grave and imperturbable like a firmly established door-post. The Buddha thought that the monk’s posture was quite impressive and decided to start the conversation.

Of the four postures, viz., walking, standing, lying down and sitting, the first three lack dignity The hands, the legs and the head of a walking monk shake. The standing monk’s body is stiff The one lying down is also unpleasant. In fact, only the sitting posture of the monk, who, after having swept his retreat in the afternoon, spread his leather sheet, cleaned his hands and feet, sits cross-legged is dignified. The monk Pukkusāti sat cross-legged in the fourth jhāna that was induced by breathing practice. This pleased the Buddha.

(The Buddha know that Pukkusāti became a monk out of reverence for Him. Yet, He decided to ask him because if He did not do so, there would be no conversation and no conversation would mean no preaching. So, He started the conversation in order to pave the way for preaching).

The Buddha asked the monk to whom he dedicated his monastic life, who was his teacher and whose teaching he liked. The monk answered that he dedicated his life to the Buddha and so on.

Again, the Buddha asked him where the Worthy One, the Supremely Enlightened One lived. The monk Pukkusāti replied: “My friend, there is a city called Savatthi in the north country. The Worthy One, the Supremely Enlightened One, now lives in that city.” When the Buddha asked him whether he had ever seen the Buddha, and if he were to see Him now would he recognize Him. Pukkusāti’s reply was that he had not seen Him and that he would not know Him if he were to see Him now.

(Herein everyone knew the Buddha from His glory. This is not surprising. But it is hard for people to know the Buddha who went incognito as an ordinary monk on the round for alms; with His glory hidden. So the monk Pukkusāti answered honestly that he would not know the Buddha. He did not know, although he stayed in the same hut with the Buddha.)

Knowing that the monk’s weariness had vanished, the Buddha decided to preach to him “who had dedicated his monkhood to Me,” the Buddha said: “Monk! I will teach you. Listen to My Teaching. Bear it well in mind. I will teach you the Dhamma thoroughly.” (Up to that time, the monk Pukkusāti still did not know that his companion was the Buddha.)

Pukkusāti had renounced his kingdom after reading the message of his friend King

Bimbisāra and had become a monk in the hope of hearing the sweet Dhamma of the Buddha. He had made such a long journey without meeting anyone who would care to teach him. So why should he refuse to welcome respectfully the teaching of his companion? Like a thirsty man, he was very anxious to drink the water of the Dhamma. So he gladly agreed to listen to the teaching respectfully.

Then the Buddha gave the summary or contents of the Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta as follows:

“Monk! A person or a being has six elements, six sense organs, eighteen modes of thought, four kinds of support. He, who exists on these four supports, is free from the current of conceit born of ego-illusion. When such current of conceit is absent in a monk, he is said to be one whose āsava or defilements are gone. (1) He should be mindful of the Vipassanā (Insight) Knowledge, (2) He should speak the truth, (3) He should strive to repudiate moral defilements, (4) He should practise the Dhamma only for the extinction of defilements.” (These are the contents in brief of the Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta.)

After thus stating these fundamentals of the Dhamma, the Buddha explained them one by one in detail. (Reference: Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta of the Majjhima-Nikāya.)

Pukkusāti’s Attainment of Anāgāmī State

When the Buddha explained the first dhamma, viz., mindfulness of Vipassanā Knowledge, the Buddha led the teaching up to arahatship and Pukkusāti attained the three lower Fruitions on the basis of his good deeds in the past and became an ariya (Noble One) in the anāgāmī state.

For example, while a king is eating food of various tastes in a golden bowl, he takes such amount of cooked rice as would suit the size of his mouth. When the young prince sitting on his lap shows the desire to eat, the king may put in his mouth the lump of rice that he has taken for his own consumption. The child will eat only such quantity of rice as would be in accord with the size of his mouth. As for the remaining rice, the king may eat it himself or put it back into the golden bowl. In the same way, the Buddha, the Lord of the Dhamma, gave a discourse leading to arahatship, a discourse in accord with the his own intellectual power and on the basis of his former good deeds, the monk Pukkusāti could consume three fourths of the Dhamma food, that is, the Path and became an anāgāmī-ariya. Pukkusāti had no doubt about the Dhamma before he attained anāgāmī-phala and when he was following the Buddha’s talk on aggregates, sense-organs, elements or mental impressions, etc. But he wondered whether the highly distinguished man who looked like an ordinary man and who was teaching him might be the Buddha because he had heard that the Buddhas made it a practice to go about incognito in some places. However, when he attained the Fruition of Anāgāmī, he had absolutely no doubt that the teacher was the Buddha.

Before he recognized the Buddha, he had addressed Him as “My friend!” He did not as yet apologize to the Buddha for his mistake because the Buddha was still delivering the discourse according to the series of the fundamentals, and the monk did not have the opportunity to offer his apology.

Pukkusāti’s Request for Ordination

At the end of the discourse there followed a dialogue between the Buddha and the monk Pukkusāti:

Pukkusāti: “The Exalted One, the Teacher of devas and humans, has come here out of great compassion for me! The Buddha who preaches the good Dhamma has come here out of great compassion for me! The Exalted One who understands all the Dhamma thoroughly come here out of great compassion for me.” (Saying thus joyously, he rose and put his head against the feel of the Buddha, and he added) “Glorious Buddha! Because of my foolishness, I have made a mistake. I thought that I should call you ‘my friend’, (and I have called you so erroneously.) Glorious Buddha! Kindly forgive me for the offence against which I should guard myself in future.”

Buddha: “Monk! Verily because of your foolishness, you have made a mistake. You thought that I should be called ‘friend’ (and you have called me so erroneously.) Monk! I forgive you for the offence because you admit your offence and make amends for it accordingly. Later you guard yourself against it. Such atonement and such self-restraint contribute to the welfare of those who are committed to My Teaching.”

Pukkusāti: “Glorious Buddha, may I receive ordination in your presence.”

Buddha: “Have you got your (own) bowl and robe?”

Pukkusāti: “No, Glorious Buddha, I have not.”

Buddha: “Monk! the Buddhas do not ordain those who do not have alms-bowls and robes.”

The Venerable Pukkusāti was very much pleased with the Buddha’s Teaching. He expressed his appreciation, rose from his seat, paid respect to the Buddha and went away to search for the alms-bowl and robe.

(N.B. Why did not Pukkusati receive the aims-bowl and robes that appeared supernormally for the monks whom the Buddha ordained, simply by saying “Come, Bhikkhu!” It is said that he did not receive them because he had never donated the eight requisites of a monk in a previous life. (This explanation was not acceptable to the commentator). Certainly, as a man who had given alms and who had great aspirations, he could not be one who had never donated the eight requisites of a monk. In reality the bowls and robes created of supernormal power are meant only for the monks who was in their last existence. Pukkusāti was still subject to rebirth. So he could not have such supernormal requisites.

(The Buddha did not seek the bowl and robe for Pukkusāti’s ordination because He had no opportunity to ordain him. The death of Pukkusāti was imminent and he was like a Brahmā to the potter’s hut for temporary residence. So the Buddha did not seek the bowl and robe for him.)

Pukkusati went off in search of bowl and robe just after dawn. Dawn came all at once with the end of the Buddha’s discourse and the emission of the Buddha’s six body-rays.

The Buddha emitted the six hued rays as soon as His preaching was over. The whole hut was brightly illuminated. The six hued rays spread out in groups, as if enveloping all the quarters with gold garments or making all places bright with multi-coloured flowers. The Buddha resolved Himself to become visible to the people of the city and when the people saw the Buddha, they spread the news of His presence in the hut and the matter was reported to King Bimbisāra.

King Bimbisāra’s Visit and Honour

When King Bimbisāra heard the report, he went to the potter’s hut and after paying respect, he asked the Buddha when He had arrived. The Buddha replied that He had arrived at sunset, the previous day. The King again asked about the object of His visit.

Then the Buddha said:

“Great King, your bosom friend, King Pukkusāti, read your message and after renouncing the world to become a monk, he made the journey out of regard for Me but having travelled forty-five yojanas unnecessarily beyond Sāvatthi, he entered the potter’s hut and stayed here.

“For his spiritual welfare I have come here on foot and preached to him. Pukkusāti has now attained the Fruitions of the three lower Paths and is an anāgāmī-ariya.”

On hearing this, the King was surprised and asked the Buddha where his friend King Pukkusāti was. The Buddha replied that he had gone out to get alms-bowl and robe for his ordination. King Bimbisāra immediately rushed out in the direction in which his friend had gone out for aims-bowl and robe. The Buddha returned to the Fragrant Chamber in the Jetavana monastery.

Pukkusāti’s Death and Rebirth in Brahmā World

In his search for alms-bowl and robe, Pukkusāti did not go to his royal friend, King Bimbisāra, or to the merchants who had come from Takkasīla. He considered it unethical for him to search for them here and there, discriminating between the good and the bad like fowls. He decided to seek the real rags, not in big cities but in the fords, cemeteries, garbage heaps or narrow streets. So he tried to find really torn pieces of cloths in the garbage heap in the back-lanes.

While Pukkusāti was trying to do so, a mentally deranged cow (his enemy in a previous life) rushed towards him and gored him with her horns. Weak and extremely oppressed by hunger, Pukkusāti lost his life as he was hurled into the air. When he fell to the ground, he lay on the garbage heap like a golden statues. After his death he was reborn in the Avihā Brahmā Abode and before long he become a Brahmā arahat after attaining arahatship.

According to the Sagāthavagga Saṃyutta (the tenth sutta of the Aditta Vagga and the fourth Sutta of the Nānatitthiya Vagga) there were seven people who attained arahatship soon after their spontaneous (upapatti) rebirth in the Aviha Brahmā abode. They were: (1) Upaka, (2) Palaganda, (3) Pukkusāti, (4) Bhaddiya, (5) Khanda Deva, (6) Bahuraggi and (7) Singiya.

King Bimbisāra thought: “My friend King Pukkusāti renounced his kingdom merely after reading my message and had made such a long and arduous journey. He had done what is hard for ordinary people to do. I will honour my friend in the way the monks are honoured.” He sent his men to all the environs of the city to search for King Pukkusāti. The men found the King lying dead face down like a golden statue on the garbage heap. So they returned and reported to King Bimbisāra.

King Bimbisāra went there and mourned over his friend, saying: “We did not have the opportunity to honour our great friend while he was alive. Now he had died without anyone to help him.” The King had the corpse carried on a small couch, put in a proper place and not knowing how to honour a dead monk, he sent for the bathers, clothed the body in clean white garments and ornamented like a king

Then the corpse was placed on a palanquin and honoured with all kinds of music and fragrant flowers, taken to the outskirts of the city and cremated with fragrant fire-wood. The bones were then collected and enshrined in a cetiya.

Later on, many monks in Sāvatthi went to see the Buddha. They paid respect to the Master and sitting in a proper place they said: “Glorious Buddha, You have briefly preached the Dhamma to Pukkusāti. That man is now dead. What is his destination? What is his future life?”

Then the Buddha replied: “Monks, Pukkusāti was a wise man. He practised Vipassanā (Insight) meditation that accords with the transcendent Dhamma. He did not give Me any trouble on account of the Dhamma. Due to the extinction of the five fetters that lead to the lower sensual worlds, he will be reborn in the Avihā Brahmā-world and will attain in that very Suddhāvāsa Brahmā-world (Avihā being one of its five abodes). There is no possibility of his return to the lower sensual worlds from that Avihā abode.”

Footnotes and references:


1 usabha = 20 yaṭṭhis, 1 yaṭṭhi = 7 ratanaṃ,
1 ratanaṃ = 2 vadatthi, 1 vadatthi = 12 ahgulaṃ
1 aṅgulaṃ = 1 inch. Hence 1 usabha = 280 ft (Childers)

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: