by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Comparable Merits of the Two Meals explained 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).
Then the Buddha proceeded to the Kakudhā river accompanied by a large number of bhikkhus. He entered the river, bathed in it, and drank its water. Back again on the river bank, He went to the mango grove by the river. There, He said to Venerable Cunda (Venerable Ānanda was then at the river bank drying (wringing) the loin cloth in which the Buddha bathed): “Cunda, fold my double-layered robe fourfold and place it on the ground. I am weary. I need to lie down.”
The Venerable Cunda assented respectfully, and placed the folded double-layered robe on the ground and the Buddha lay down on His right side in a noble posture, with His left foot above the right foot, placed slightly beyond it, with mindfulness and clear comprehension, and keeping in mind the time of arising. The Venerable Cunda kept watch there, seated nearby.
When Venerable Ānanda returned to the Buddha, He made the following special remarks about the last meal:
“Ānanda, it may happen that someone may cause unhappiness to Cunda, the goldsmith’s son, by saying: ‘Friend Cunda, the Bhagavā passed away after he had eaten his last meal provided by you. How unfortunate, what a loss to you.’ “Should such a thing happen, Cunda should be solaced thus: ‘Honourable Cunda, the Bhagavā passed away after he had eaten his last meal provided by you. How fortunate, what good gain to you. Honourable Cunda these are the words I heard from the mouth of the Bhagavā himself: ‘There are two offerings of food that surpass all other food offerings, in their benefit, and whose merits compare well as between the two of them. The two offerings are: the food offered to the Tathāgata, after eating which the Tathāgata attains Supreme Perfect Self-Enlightenment, and the food offered to the Tathāgata, after eating which the Tathāgata passes away leaving no trace of the five aggregates, and realizes the Ultimate Peace (anupādisesa-nibbāna). These two offerings of food surpass all other food offerings in their benefit, and whose merits compare well as between the two of them.’ These are the words I heard from the mouth of the Bhagavā himself.’ That being so, the Honourable Cunda, the goldsmith’s son has in store for him: the merit that will ensure him long life, the merit that will ensure him good looks, the merit that will ensure him well being and happiness, the merit that will ensure him large followership, the merit that leads to the deva-world, and the merit that ensures him pre-eminence. Thus should Cunda the goldsmith’s son be solaced.”
In one who gives, merit grows. In one who is self-controlled, enmity cannot gather. One who has Insight Wisdom abandons evil.
One who is endowed with charity, morality, concentration and wisdom, having destroyed attachment, hatred and bewilderment, attains Peace.
One might ask: “At the time the Bhagavā ate Sujāta’s milk-rice, He had not destroyed attachment, hatred and bewilderment whereas at the time He ate Cunda’s food-offering, He was free from attachment, hatred and bewilderment. Thus the offeree’s state of purity being not equal, how could merit in the offering be equal?” The answer is this: the equal factors in both are:
Now to expand this:
After eating Cunda’s tender pork, the Buddha extinguished the re-arising of the five aggregates, which is the “parinibbāna of khandha,” realization of Nibbāna with no aggregates remaining. Thanks to Sujāta’s milk-rice, there arose in the Buddha’s physical system superior corporeality (paṇīta-rūpaṃ). This gave strength to the mental system so that the Dhamma body, comprising the arising of Insight, the arising of magga, and the arising of phala, was able to destroy the defilements without difficulty, thus leading to kilesa-parinibbāna.
Cunda’s food-offering, likewise provided proper sustenance to the Buddha and enabled Him to renounce the five aggregates without difficulty, thus leading to khandhaparinibbāna.
(b) On the day of Enlightenment, the Buddha, after eating the milk-rice offered by Sujātā, had the strength to dwell in the attainment of concentration comprising 2.4 million crores of absorptions (devasikavaḷañjana-samāpatti) which was to become His daily routine. After eating Cunda’s food offering, the Buddha was (in spite of His severe dysentery) also able to keep up the daily routine of dwelling in the attainment of concentration comprising 2.4 million crores of absorptions.
(c) Sujātā offered her milk-rice to the Buddha-to-be thinking him to be the guardian spirit of the great banyan tree (later to be called Mahābodhi tree). But when she knew that it was the Buddha whom she made her offering and that He attained Buddhahood after having her meal of milk-rice and that the Buddha got sustenance for forty-nine days from her food-offering, she was intensely happy. “What a great fortune for me, what a great gain to me!” She contemplated repeatedly, thus increasing her meritorious thoughts of delightful satisfaction and joy. Similarly, when Cunda learnt that his foodoffering was the Buddha’s last meal, after which, He realized the Ultimate Peace after passing away, leaving no remaining aggregates, he was overjoyed. “What a great fortune for me, what a great gain to me!” he contemplated repeatedly, thus increasing his meritorious thoughts of delightful satisfaction and joy.