The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Pindola Bharadvaja Mahathera 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 forty-one Arahat-Mahatheras and their Respective Etadagga titles. 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).

Biography (8): Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja Mahāthera

(a) Aspiration expressed in The Past

The future Piṇḍolabhāradvāja was reborn in a family of lions during the lifetime of Buddha Padumuttara and lived, moving about for food at the foot of a mountain. One morning, when the Buddha surveyed the world, He saw the lion having the potentials to attain the Path, the Fruition and Nibbāna. Accordingly, the Buddha made His alms-round in the city of Haṃsavati and in the afternoon, while the lion was in search of food, He entered the lion’s den and was absorbed in nirodha-samāpatti, in sitting posture with his legs crossed, in midair

When the lion came back from his search for food and stood at the entrance of the den, he saw the Buddha’s miraculous sitting in midair and it occurred to him thus: “The man, who has come to my place, is able to sit there. This noble personage must be great and worthy of honour indeed! As he is worth honouring, he is able to sit cross-legged in midair in the cave. His body light also spreads and flashes everywhere. I have never seen such a miracle. This noble individual must be the best of all who ought to be honoured. I too should do honour to Him to the best of my ability.” So thinking, the lion bring all kinds of terrestrial and watery flowers from the forest and spread them on the ground up to the height where the Buddha was sitting. Then he stood right in front of the Buddha, worshipping him. The next day, he discarded the withered flowers and replaced with fresh one to make a similar seat and with it, honoured the Buddha.

In this way, the lion made floral seats for seven days and he took great delight in it. At the same time, he acted as a guard at the entrance of the cave honouring the Buddha thereby. On the seventh day, the Buddha emerged from His nirodha-samāpatti and stood at the cave’s entrance. Then the lion circumambulated Him three times keeping Him to his right and paid homage to Him from the four cardinal points and stood still after stepping back.

The Buddha, having realized that such performance of meritorious acts was efficacious enough for his attainment of the Path and the Fruition, rose into the sky and returned to the monastery.

Life as Son of A Wealthy Merchant

As for the lion, because he was separated from the Buddha, he felt very unhappy and after his death took rebirth in the family of a wealthy (mahā-sāla) merchant in Hamsāvatī City. On coming of age, he went along, one day, with other citizens and while listening to the Buddha’s Teaching, he saw Him declaring a monk, the best among those who spoke boldly on the Path and the Fruition. As in the case of the pervious mahā-theras, the merchant’s son performed mahā-dāna to the Buddha for seven days and aspired after a similar position in future.

Seeing that the man’s wish would be fulfilled, the Buddha predicted to that effect. After receiving the prophecy, the, merchant’s son did good works till his death. When he passed away from that life, he was never reborn in the woeful states for a hundred thousand aeons but, instead, alternatively only in the realms of devas and human beings.

(b) Ascetic Life adopted in His Final Existence

Having reborn thus from the human realm to the deva and vice versa, Pindola was born into the family of a wealthy brahmin, in the city of Rājagaha, during the lifetime of the present Buddha and was named Bhāradvāja.

The Name Piṇḍola Bharadvāja

When Bhāradvāja came of age, he studied the three Vedas and when he had accomplished his studies, he became a teacher, going from place to place and teaching five hundred brahmin youths. As he himself was a teacher, at every feeding-place he personally received the food rather aggressively. As he was somewhat greedy with regard to food, he emphatically looked for food together with his students, asking: “Where is gruel available? Where is rice obtained?” On account of his wandering and longing for food wherever he was, he came to be known as Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja, “Bhāradvāja the seeker of food.”

Survival of The Name even in Monkhood

At a later time, Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja suffered economic misfortune and became poor. One day, the Buddha went to Rājagaha and gave a sermon. After listening to the sermon, the Brahmin developed faith and took ordination as a bhikkhu.

Those who had joined the Buddhist Sangha were generally known by their clan name. Therefore, the bhikkhu should have been know as Bhāradvāja. But he was not, instead he was called Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja. The reason for this was that he carried a pot-like bowl and ate a bowlful of gruel, or a bowlful of cakes and a bowled of rice. Then other monks told the Buddha of the monk’s gluttony.

The Buddha forbade his use of the bag for the bowl. So the poor monk had to keep it upside down under the couch. When he kept it, he pushed it under the couch causing a friction between the brim of the bowl and the rough ground. When he took it out he had to cause the same thing. As time went by, because of the repeated frictions, the bowl which originally was big like an enormous pot became a bowl with the capacity of cooked rice from an ambaṇa measure of uncooked rice. Then the monks reported the matter to the Buddha, who from that time onwards permitted the Venerable to use the bag. Thus the Venerable was like one who adopted monkhood for food, hence he was called Pindola. Because he belonged to the Bhāradvāja clan, he was named Bhāradvāja. Also after becoming a bhikkhu he continued to be called Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja, a two-word name.

At a later time, when he strove to engage in development of sense-faculties (indriyabhāvanā), he attained arahatta-phala and became an arahat.

After his attainment of arahatship, he went from one dwelling place to another, from one monastic compound to another, carrying a curved iron rod (used) as a key and fearlessly roaring a lion’s roar: “Those who have doubt as regards the Path and the Fruition, let them ask me!” (A detailed account of this should be taken from the translation of the Piṇḍolabhāradvāja Sutta, Jarāvagga, Indriya-saṃyutta, in the Mahāvagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya.)

One day, he brought down, by means of his supernatural power, the sandalwood bowl that was hanging in the air from the top bamboo pole which was supported by a series of other poles to the height of sixty cubits by a wealthy merchant of Rājagaha. Surrounded by applauding people, the Venerable went to the Veḷuvana monastery and placed the bowl in the hand of the Buddha. Although, knowing about it, the Buddha asked: “Dear son Bhāradvāja, from where did you get this bowl?” When the Venerable explained, the Master said: “You, dear son, have shown such a thing as Uttarimanussa-dhamma, i.e. the jhāna, magga and phala, that surpass the ten wholesome courses of action belonging to men (kusala-kamma-patha) [just for an unworthy gain]. You, dear son, have done something that should not be done!” Beginning with these words, the Buddha rebuked the Venerable in many ways and set up a rule that forbade performance of miracles. (A detailed account of this may be re-read in the Chapter 33.)

Afterwards, three kinds of talk occurred amidst the bhikkhus with regard to his virtues: (1) “The Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja, known as Satinādiya Mahāthera, as he was in the habit of making bold speeches, on the day of his attainment of arahatship, fearlessly announced: ‘Those who have doubts about the Path and the Fruition, let them ask me!’ ” (2) “He reported his attainment of arahatship to the Buddha whereas other Venerable kept silent.” (3) “The Venerable himself habitually makes daring speeches and causes pleasure in people. He flew up and brought the sandalwood bowl of the Rājagaha merchant.” The bhikkhus told the Buddha of these three virtues put together.

As it was the nature of Buddhas to reproach what should be reproached and to admire what should be admired, the Buddha only selected what was worth admiring, said in praise:

“Monks, by developing his three faculties and by repeatedly reflecting on them, the monk Bhāradvāja declared his arahatship, saying: ‘I know that there is no more rebirth for me, that I have practised the noble practice, that what is to be done has been done and I have nothing else to do concerning the Path!

“What are the three faculties? The faculty of mindfulness (satindriya), the faculty of concentration (samādhindriya), the faculty of wisdom (paññ'indriya), by developing and by repeatedly reflecting on them, he declares his attainment of arahatship, saying: “I know that there is no more rebirth for me, concerning the Path! That I have practiced the noble practice, that what is to be done has been done and that I have nothing else to do in concerning the Path!”

“Monks, in what do these three faculties end? They end in bringing about destruction. Destruction of what? Destruction of rebirth, old age and death. Monks, as he knew full well that he had no more rebirth, old age and death, the monk Bharadvaja speaks of his arahatship: ‘I know that there is no more rebirth for me, that I have practised the noble practice, that what is to be done has been done, and that I have nothing else to do concerning the Path!’ ”

The Buddha said thus in praise of Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja.

It was this very Venerable Mahāthera who gave a sermon to King Udena of Kosambī and established him as a lay devotee in the Triple Gem. (Vide the translation of the Saḷāyatana Vagga of the Saṃyutta Nikāya for a detailed account of it.)

(c) Etadagga Title achieved

While holding a ceremony at a later time, the Buddha declared admiringly of Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja as follows:

Monks, of my disciple bhikkhus, who fearlessly speak like a lion’s roar, the monk Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja is the foremost (etadagga)!”

Thus the Buddha appointed the Venerable Piṇḍola Bhāradvāja as the foremost (etadagga) of being Sīnhanādika, “maker of a lion’s roar.”

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