The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Venerable Ananda’s Questions 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 Venerable Ānanda put a series of questions to which the Buddha answered in detail.

Ānanda: “Venerable Sir, how should we conduct ourselves with regard to women?”

Buddha: “Not seeing them, Ānanda.”

(Hence the best way, the Buddha says, is not to see any woman. That indeed is so. For if a bhikkhu stays with closed doors and windows inside the monastery, and if a woman were to appear at the door, there is no idea in him of attachment to the woman so long as he does not see her. But when he sees her, some thought of desire comes into his mind, the mind is agitated. That is why the Buddha says it is best for a bhikkhu not to see a woman.)

Ānanda: “Venerable Sir, if we should (unavoidably) see them, what should we do?”

Buddha: “Do not speak to them, Ānanda.”

(On going for alms-collection in the mornings, women devotees usually come to offer alms-food. They will have to be seen by bhikkhus. In such a case, the Buddha says:

“Consider the woman as if she were a fierce man with a sharp knife in his hand, who says to you: ‘If you dare speak to me, I will cut off your head’ or as an ogre who says to you: ‘If you speak to me, I will devour you.’ Consider that if you were to speak to the fierce man or to the ogre your life is at stake for the present life only, whereas, if you were to speak to the woman whom you are obliged to see, you are liable to fall to the four miserable states. If a bhikkhu were to enter into conversation with a woman, there occurs familiarity. When there is familiarity, attachment arises. When the bhikkhu’s mind becomes attached to a woman, his morality is spoilt and it leads him to the four miserable states. That is why the Buddha says, “Do not speak to them.”)

Ānanda: “Venerable Sir, if we have occasion to speak to them what should we do?”

Buddha: “Ānanda, consider the woman to be your mother, or sister, etc. (as the case may be) and be mindful.”

(A bhikkhu will, on occasion, be obliged to talk to a woman. She might want to know the day (regarding fasting days), or she might ask to have the precepts administered, or she might request a sermon, or she might like a doctrinal point cleared. On such occasions, it is quite inadvisable for a bhikkhu to remain silent, lest he should be taken as a dumb bhikkhu or a dullard. If perforce, a bhikkhu is obliged to talk to a woman, he should regard her as his own mother, if the woman is of the age of his mother, or as his own sister, if she is of the age of his sister, or as his own daughter, if she is of the age of a daughter to him. Refer to Saḷāyatana Vagga Saṃyutta, 3. Gahapati Vagga; 4. Bhāradvāja Sutta)

Ānanda: “Venerable Sir, after the Bhagavā has passed away, how should we perform, as regards to the remains of the Tathāgata?”

Buddha: “Ānanda, do not trouble yourself about doing honour to the remains of the Tathāgata. I exhort you, Ānanda, devote yourselves to the Noble Practice. Strive in all earnest, without negligence, directing your mind towards Nibbāna. Ānanda, wise nobles, wise brahmins and wise householders are there, in deepest devotion to the Tathāgata, who will see to the task of doing honour to the remains of the Tathāgata.”

Ānanda: “Venerable Sir, in what manner should those wise nobles, wise brahmins and wise householders perform regarding the remains of the Tathāgata?” (by this Ānanda means to say that those wise nobles, etc. would certainly be seeking advice from himself as regards the funeral rites, and so he wants to have a broad suggestion form the Buddha in the matter).

Buddha: “Ānanda, it should be performed as in the case of treating the remains of a Universal Monarch.”

Ānanda: “Venerable Sir, what is the procedure in the case of treating the remains of a Universal Monarch?”

Buddha: “Ānanda, (the procedure is this:) the body of a Universal Monarch, (after his decease) is wrapped up in new cloth, which is made in the province of Kāsi. Over that wrapping there should be a wrapping of carded cottonwool (because cloth made in Kāsi is too fine to absorb oil and only cotton wool can absorb oil). Over the cotton-wool wrapping, there should be another layer of wrapping with new cloth made in Kāsi. Then another layer of wrapping with cotton wool should be made. In this way, the body of the Universal Monarch is wrapped up in five hundred pairs of pieces of cloth in successive layers of cloth and cotton wool. Then it is placed in an oil vat wrought with gold, and covered with a lid wrought with gold. Then it is placed upon a funeral pyre built of various kinds of scented wood and the body of the Universal Monarch is cremated. Then they build a shrine in memory of the Universal Monarch at the junction of four highways. Ānanda, this is the procedure in performing in the case of the remains of a Universal Monarch.”

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