by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Twelve Samsaric Debts of the Buddha 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 Declared the Seven Factors of Non-Decline for Rulers. 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 connection it would seem appropriate to mention briefly the twelve counts of recompense (which might be considered as twelve saṃsāric debts) the Buddha had to meet:
(1) The First Recompense
In His former existence, the Buddha-to-be (Bodhisatta) was a drunkard named Munāḷi. He accosted a Paccekabuddha named Surabhi with a wild accusation: “This man is an immoral person who indulges in sense pleasures in private.”
For that evil verbal action, he was reborn in the realm of continuous suffering (niraya). And in the last existence as the Buddha, He was publicly accused by Sundarī, the wandering female ascetic, as being luscious and having had an affair with her.
(2) The Second Recompense
In a former existence, the Bodhisatta was a disciple, named Nanda, to a Paccekabuddha named Sabbābhibhu. He accused his teacher as a person of loose character.
On account of that evil verbal action, He had to suffer for a hundred thousand years in the Niraya realm. When He was reborn as a human being many times, He was unjustly accused of wrongdoing. In the last existence as the Buddha, He was publicly accused by Ciñjamāna as a wanton person who had caused her pregnancy.
(3) The Third Recompense
The Bodhisatta was once a learned brahmin teacher, who was well versed in the three Vedas, and a person of great esteem. While he was teaching the Vedas in the Mahāvana forest to five hundred pupils, they saw, in the sky, a holy hermit named Bhima coming to the forest by means of psychic powers. (Instead of being inspired) the Bodhisatta told his five hundred pupils that the hermit was a sensuous hypocrite. The pupils, believed in what the teacher had said, spread the teacher’s view of the holy hermit while he (hermit) was going alms-collecting.
These five hundred pupils were reborn as bhikkhu-disciples of the Buddha. Due to their slander against Bhima, as the five hundred pupils of the brahmin teacher in their former life, they were falsely accused of murdering Sundarī, the wandering female ascetic, who was actually the victim of the ascetics. It should be noted that an accusation against the disciples of the Buddha amounted to an accusation against the Buddha Himself.
(4) The Fourth Recompense
In a previous existence, the Bodhisatta murdered his half brother on account of covetousness. He threw the younger brother into a ravine and then crushed him with a boulder.
For that evil deed, the Buddha, in His last existence, became the victim of Devadatta’s plot against His life. But, since a Buddha is not liable to get killed, He suffered from a rock splinter, which was as a result of a huge boulder being dropped from the hillside by Devadatta. His big toe was internally bruised by the rock splinter.
(5) The Fifth Recompense
In one of His former existences, the Bodhisatta was a scamp and when he met a Paccekabuddha on the way, he gave vent to frolicsome tendencies and threw stones at the Paccekabuddha.
For that evil deed, the Buddha once came under attack by a band of archers sent by Devadatta who meant to kill Him.
(6) The Sixth Recompense
When the Bodhisatta was a mahout, he threatened a Paccekabuddha, who was on His alms-collection, with his elephant, as if to trample on Him.
On account of that misdeed, the Buddha was once threatened with a drunken elephant named Nāḷāgīri in Rājagaha which was sent (by Devadatta) to trample on Him.
(7) The Seventh Recompense
In one of His former existences, the Bodhisatta was a monarch. Out of kingly conceit, he executed a prisoner (not considering the kammic consequences) personally by piercing him with a spear.
That evil deed brought him down to the realm of continuous suffering for a great many years. In His last existence, the Buddha had to undergo treatment by His big toe being cut open by Jīvaka, the celebrated physician, to heal it (when it was hit by a splinter caused by Devadatta’s wicked scheme).
(8) The Eighth Recompense
In a former existence, the Bodhisatta was born into a fisherman’s family. He used to take delight in witnessing his relatives hurting and killing the fish. (He did not do the killing himself).
As the result of that evil thought, in His last existence as the Buddha, He often suffered from head-ache. (As for His relatives of that existence, they were reborn as Sakyans who were massacred by Viṭaṭūbha).
(9) The Ninth Recompense
When the Bodhisatta was born as a human being during the time of Buddha Phussa’s Teaching, he railed the bhikkhu-disciples of the Buddha saying: “You may eat only barley, but not rice.”
That vituperation had the consequence. In His last existence, the Buddha having to live on barley meal for the whole of the rains-retreat (vassa) period at the Verañjā brahmin village (where He stayed at the invitation of Brahmin Verañja).
(10) The Tenth Recompense
Once the Bodhisatta was born as a professional boxer when he broke the back of his combatant.
As a consequence of that evil deed, the Buddha, in His last existence, often suffered from back-ache.
(11) The Eleventh Recompense
When the Bodhisatta was a physician in one of his former existences, he purposely administered a drug causing loose bowels to a rich man’s son who grudged him his fee.
On account of that evil deed, the Buddha, in His last existence, was afflicted with a severe dysentery with discharge of blood, prior to His passing away.
(12) The Twelfth Recompense
The Bodhisatta was once born as a brahmin named Jotipala. He made blasphemous remarks about Buddha Kassapa saying: “How is it possible that this shaveling is Perfectly Enlightened? Perfect Enlightenment is a most rare thing.”
That blasphemy had the consequence of delayed Enlightenment for Him. Other Bodhisattas attained Enlightenment in a matter of days or months, whereas Gotama, the Buddha-to-be, had to go through six painful years in his quest for Truth.
These twelve consequences of the past blunders of the Buddha-to-be were related by the Buddha Himself, vide: Khuddaka Nikāya, Therāpadāna Pāli, 39, Avaṭaphala Vagga; 10, Pubbakammapilotika Buddha apādāna.