by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Story of Brahmin Saketa and his wife 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 buddha’s Brahmin Parents in His Previous Existence. 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).
On one occasion, after residing in Sāvatthi for the rains retreat, the Buddha set out on a journey, taking into consideration the opportunities that would be provided by it, such as promoting His health, prescribing fresh rules of conduct for the Order of Bhikkhus, taming (through dialogues and discourses) those who deserved to be tamed, discoursing on the Birth Stories of Himself wherever the situation was appropriate. Travelling in stages, the Buddha arrived at Sāketa at evening and entered the Añjana forest (for the night’s stay). On hearing the news of the arrival of the Buddha, the townsfolk of Sāketa thought that it was not proper to go and visit Him at night. They waited till the next morning, then, taking flowers, perfumes and other offerings with them, they approached the Buddha, and making their obeisance, and exchanging courteous words of greeting with Him, and remained there till it was time for Him to go on the daily alms-round.
When it was time for going on the alms-round, the Buddha, in the company of bhikkhus, entered Sāketa. At that time, a wealthy brahmin of Sāketa was leaving the town when he saw the Buddha near the town’s gate. On seeing Him, the brahmin felt an intense filial love for Him and weeping with joy and uttering: “O my son, I have not seen You for such a long time!” he drew near to Him.
Even while the brahmin was drawing near Him, the Buddha said to the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, let Brahmin Sāketa alone: let him do as he pleases.” And as a mother cow would treat her own calf, the Brahmin viewed the Buddha at close range from the front, from the back, and from the left side and from the right side, Then embracing Him, he said: “Oh, my son! my son! so long have I not seen You! so long have You been away!”
(It may be noted here that if the Brahmin were to be restrained from these outpourings of affection, he would not be able to contain the intense feeling and probably die of heart-break.)
Brahmin Sāketa said to the Buddha: “Venerable Sir, I am able to offer food to the Bhagavā and the company of bhikkhus. May the Bhagavā, out of compassion, do me the favour of accepting the offering.” The Buddha indicated His consent by remaining silent. The Brahmin led the way to his place holding the Buddha’s alms-bowl in his hands. He sent word to his wife at home to say: “My son is coming! spread out a suitable place for His stay.” The wife did as she was told by her husband and stood all agog to receive the Buddha. As she saw the Buddha nearing her house, she went to Him, and saying: “My son, it is a long time that I have not seen You”, she fondled the Buddha’s feet and wept with joy. She requested the Buddha to proceed to her home where they (brahmin couple) respectfully offered the Buddha and His company of bhikkhus with food. After He had finished His meal, the Brahmin took the alms-bowl and washed it himself.
The Buddha then discoursed to the brahmin couple in a way fitting to them and at the end of the discourse they became Stream-Enterers, having become ariyas. They requested the Buddha: “May the Bhagavā and his company of bhikkhus, during their sojourn at Sāketa, receive offering of alms-food only at our home.” The Buddha replied: “brahmin couple, it is not the custom for Buddhas to have a permanent place to receive alms-food as you request.” Thereupon, the brahmin couple requested the Buddha: “In that case, Venerable Sir, may the Bhagavā and his company of bhikkhus go for alms (elsewhere) but take the meals at our home only, and go back to the monastery after giving us some talk on the Dhamma.” To this request the Buddha consented as a special favour.
From that time, the Brahmin came to be called by the people as ‘the Buddha’s father’ and the wife of the Brahmin as ‘the Buddha’s mother’. The clan of Brahmin Sāketa also earned the name of ‘the Buddha’s clan’.
Thereupon, the Venerable Ānanda asked the Buddha: “Venerable Sir, I know your parentage (as Queen Mahā Māyā Devī and King Suddhodāna) and yet why is it that the Brahmin Sāketa and his wife are called the Buddha’s parents?” And the Buddha explained: “Ānanda, this brahmin couple had been my parents in the past for five hundred continuous existences; (besides), they had been my elder uncle and elder aunt (i.e., elder brother to the Bodhisatta’s father and elder sister to the Bodhisatta’s mother for five hundred continuous existences; they had also been my younger uncle and younger aunt (i.e., younger brother to the Bodhisatta’s father and younger sister to the Bodhisatta’s mother) for five hundred continuous existences. The brahmin couple call Me their son due to the extraordinary affection that had existed in the past.”
The Buddha then uttered this stanza.
Due to having lived together in previous existences and having done some beneficial thing to each other, there arises love between two persons. It is like the case of the water lily (or any other water plant) that grows in the marsh where mud and water jointly cause its arising.
The Buddha spent His days in Sāketa for as many persons as there were in that town that deserved to gain enlightenment. Then He proceeded His way to Sāvatthi. The brahmin couple further sought guidance from the bhikkhus from whom they got appropriate instructions and in due course attained the three higher maggas after which they realized Nibbāna without any substrata of existence remaining—i.e. anupādissa parinibbāna.
Eighty-four Thousand Beings gained Enlightenment
(On the Occasion of the Funeral of the Brahmin Couple)
When the brahmin couple passed away the brahmin community of Sāketa assembled together with the common objective of paying due respects to one of their members. Similarly, the Stream-Enterers, the Once-Returners and the Never-Returners, all ariyas who had been associates in the practice of the path with the brahmin couple, assembled together with the common objective of paying their respects to one of their members. Those two groups of people placed the remains of the brahmin couple on a bier with gabled roofs, and amidst floral tributes and sprinkling of perfumes about the bier, they carried it out of the town.
The Buddha (as of His daily routine) viewed the sentient world with His Buddha-Eye consisting of knowledge that discerns the natural bent and latent proclivities of individuals (āsayā-nusaya-ñāṇa) and knowledge of the maturity and immaturity of the faculties of beings (indriyaparopariyatti-ñāṇa) for that day and came to know the passing away, in total cessation of the brahmin couple; and seeing that His presence and preaching at the funeral of the deceased ones would lead to the enlightenment of the multitudes attending the funeral, He left Sāvatthi for the cemetery at Sāketa, carrying His alms-bowl and big robe Himself.
On seeing the Buddha, the people said: “The Bhagava has come to attend to the funeral of His father and mother” and paid their obeisance to Him. The townsfolk brought the bier to the cemetery in reverential ceremony. They asked the Buddha: “Venerable Sir, what is the proper way to venerate the brahmin couple who had been ariya laydisiples?”
The Buddha replied in the following stanza revealing the fact that the deceased couple had attained arahatship and that they deserved veneration that was due to arahats:
The arahats who do not harm others are always restrained in their (physical verbal and mental) actions. Having gone to Nibbāna through maggaknowledge, they are free from sorrow. They have realized the four maggas and phalas and attained to the deathless Nibbāna.
(The Commentary to the Dhammapada says that at the end of that stanza a great number of people attained Stream-Entry and higher stages of Path-Knowledge.).
After uttering the above stanza the Buddha delivered the Jarā Sutta that He knew would benefit the audience at that time. (Refer to Sutta Nipāta, 4. Aṭhaka Vagga, Jarā Sutta, the sixth in that vagga or group of discourses.) By the end of the Jarā Sutta, eighty-four thousand beings perceived the Four Truths and became ariyas.
(This is the story of Brahmin Sāketa and his wife.)