The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Kunda Dhana 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).

(a) Aspiration expressed in The Past

The future Kuṇḍa Dhāna Mahāthera was born into a worthy family in the city of Haṃsāvatī during the time of Buddha Padumuttara. Like all other future Mahātheras, he went to the Buddha’s monastery to listen to His discourse where he saw a bhikkhu being named by the Buddha as the foremost bhikkhu among those who were first to be selected for invitation to offerings of alms-food by the donor. The worthy man’s heart was bent on receiving similar honour under some future Buddha and so he made great offering to the Buddha (for seven days) and on the seventh day, he expressed his aspiration for that honour in future. Buddha Padumuttara saw that the aspiration of his would be fulfilled and made the prognostication accordingly. After which, He returned to the monastery.

Evil Action committed in The Past

The future Kuṇḍa Dhāna passed away from the human existence in which he received the Buddha’s prognostication, after spending a life performing meritorious deeds. He was reborn either in the deva realm or the human realm for a great many world-cycles. During the time of Buddha Kassapa, he became a terrestrial deva.

Buddha Kassapa appeared during the time when the human life span was twenty thousand years, and unlike Buddha Gotama’s time when the human life span was a hundred years and the Pātimokkha was recited in bi-monthly uposatha congregation. The uposatha congregations to recite the Pātimokkha took place only once in six months during the time of Buddha Kassapa.

Two bhikkhu friends, living at different places, went to the uposatha congregation where the Pātimokkha was recited. The terrestrial deva, who was the future Kuṇḍa Dhāna, knew the strong tie of friendship that existed between these two bhikkhus. He wondered if anybody could ruin this friendship and kept waiting for a chance to do so by following the two bhikkhus for some distance.

Misunderstanding caused

Then one of the bhikkhus, leaving his alms-bowl and robe with the other, went off to a place, where water was available, to answer the call of nature. After finishing the personal ablutions, he came out of the bush.

The deva, in the guise of a very beautiful woman, followed close to the bhikkhus, tidying up her dishevelled hair and rearranging her skirt, appearing to have come out of the same bush.

Kuṇḍa Dhāna misunderstood

The bhikkhu companion saw this strange scene from a distance where he was left awaiting, and was very upset. He thought to himself: “I never knew him to be so vile. My affection for him that has lasted so long is now ended. If I had known him to be such a rogue, I would not have extended my friendship to him.” As soon as the former bhikkhu came back to him, he handed back to him his properties, saying: “Now, here are your almsbowl and robe. You know, I will never go the same way with you.”

(From now on we shall refer to the two bhikkhus as the complainant or accuser (codaka) and the accused (cuditaka).)

The accused, who was actually a well-disciplined bhikkhu and had no fault whatsoever, was taken aback by his friend’s harsh words which seemed to smite his heart as if someone were to deal a vicious thrust at it with a sharp spear. He said: “Friend, what do you mean? Never have I committed any breach of the bhikkhu discipline, not even the trivial ones. Yet, you call me a knave. What have you seen me doing?” “If I had seen anything else, I would have ignored it. But this is serious, you came out of the same bush, having spent the time together there with a very attractive woman dressed in fine clothes and decorated.” “No, no, friend! That is not true. Nothing of that sort happened. I have never seen that woman you mention.” But the complainant was quite sure of himself. The accused denied thrice any misdoing. But the complainant had believed in what he had seen. He parted company with the accused there. Each went his own way to the Buddha’s monastery.

The Deity’s Repent

At the congregation hall for the uposatha ceremony, the accused was seen inside it and so the complainant said: “This sīmā is profaned by the presence of a fallen bhikkhu. I cannot join the uposatha ceremony with that wicked bhikkhu.” And he remained outside.

On seeing this, the terrestrial deva was remorseful: “Oh me! I have done a grave mistake.” He must atone for it. So he assumed the form of an elderly lay-disciple and, going near the complainant, said: “Why, Venerable Sir, do you remain outside the sīmā?"The bhikkhu replied, "This sīmā contains a vile bhikkhu. I cannot join the uposatha ceremony together with him. So I keep myself away.” The deva then said: “Do not think so, Venerable Sir. That bhikkhu is of pure morality. The woman you saw was none other than myself. I wanted to test the strength of your mutual affection and to see whether you are moral or not. I accompanied the accused in a woman’s guise for that purpose.”

The bhikkhu said: “O virtuous man, who are you?” “I am a terrestrial deva, Venerable Sir,” and so saying, he prostrated at the bhikkhu's feet. “Kindly excuse me, Venerable Sir. The accused knows nothing about what had happened. So, may the Venerable One go ahead with the uposatha ceremony with a clear conscience.” Then he led the bhikkhus into the uposatha hall. The two bhikkhus performed the uposatha ceremony at the same place, but the complainant did not remain together with the accused in cordial relationship. (The Commentary is silent about the meditation work undertaken by the complainant.) The accused practised meditation for Insight and gradually attained arahatship.

The terrestrial deva suffered the evil consequences of that evil deed during the whole of the buddhantara interval between the arising of Buddha Kassapa and Buddha Gotama through infinite world-cycles. He was reborn in the miserable states of apāya most of the time. When he regained the human existence, he was subjected to all blame for the misdeeds others perpetuated.

(b) Ascetic Life adopted in His Final Existence

The terrestrial deva (having paid dearly for his misdeed) was reborn as a brahmin in Savatthi during the time of Buddha Gotama. His parents named him Dhāna. He learned the three Vedas as a youth but later in life, he became devoted to the Buddha after listening to the Buddha’s discourses and took up bhikkhuhood.

The Result for His Misdeed

From the very day Dhana became a bhikkhu, a fully adorned woman (i.e. an apparition of a woman created as the resultant of his past misdeed) always followed him wherever he went. When he went, the woman went; when he stopped, she stopped. This woman, though not seen by him, was seen by everybody else. (So dreadful is the work of evil-doing.)

When Venerable Dhana went on the daily alms-round, his female lay supporters would say jestingly: “This spoonful is for you, Sir, and this other spoonful is for your female friend who accompanies you, Sir. This made him miserable. Back at the monastery, too, he was an object of ridicule. Sāmaṇeras and young bhikkhus would surround him and jeer at him, saying: “The Venerable Dhāna is a lecher!” From such jeering, he came to be called Kuṇḍa Dhāna or ‘Dhāna the Lecher.’

As these jeerings became more and more frequent, the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna could not bear it any longer and retorted: “You only are lechers, (not me); your preceptors only are lechers, your teachers only are lechers.” Other bhikkhus who heard him say these harsh words reported the matter to the Buddha, who sent for the Venerable and asked him whether the report was true or nor. “That was true, Venerable Sir,” Kuṇḍa Dhāna admitted. “Why did you use such abusive language?”

“I could not bear their jeerings any longer, Venerable Sir,” Venerable Kunda Dhāna explained and he related his story. “Bhikkhu, your past evil deed still needs retribution. (But) do not use such harsh words in future.” And on that occasion, the Buddha uttered the following two stanzas:

Mā 'voca pharusaṃ kañci,
vuttā paṭivadeyyu taṃ;
Dukkhā hi sārambhakathā,
paṭidandā phuseyyu taṃ

(Bhikkhu Dhāna,) do not use harsh words on anyone;those who are thus spoken to will retort. Painful to hear is severe talk, and retribution will come to you (from those co-residents to whom you have used harsh words, just as ashes thrown against the wind will fly back.)

Sace neresi attānaṃ,
kaṃso upahato yathā;
Esa Nibbānapatto 'si,
sārumbho te na vijjati

(Bhikkhu Dhāna,) if you can keep your calm and quiet like a gong whose rim has been broken, you will have attained Nibbāna. Then there will be no vindictiveness in you.

——Dhammapada, Verses 133 & 134——

By the end of the discourse many listeners attained various levels of the Path-Knowledge.

Investigation made by King Pasenadī Kosala

The news of Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna’s regular association with a woman was brought to the attention of King Pasenadī of Kosala by the bhikkhus. The King ordered an investigation while he personally kept watch on the Venerable’s monastery together with a small group of his men.

He saw Venerable Kuṇḍa. Dhāna was stitching a robe and the reputed woman also was seen standing near him. The King was enthralled by this sight. He drew near her. Then that woman was seen going into the monastic dwelling. The King followed her into the dwelling and searched for her everywhere but he could find no one inside. Then he made the correct conclusion that the woman that he saw earlier was not a real human being but only an apparition that appeared due to some kammic effect that belonged to the Venerable.

When the King first entered the monastery, he did not pay respect to Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna. Only after discovering the true fact of the Venerable’s innocence did he make obeisance to him and said: “Venerable Sir, are you well provided by way of daily almsfood?” “Not too bad, Great King,” replied Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna. “Venerable Sir, I know what you mean. Since you have been seen always accompanied by a woman, who would be kindly disposed towards you? But from now on, you need not go on alms-round. I will remain a lay supporter to you and see to the provision of the four requisites. May you uphold the religious practice diligently and well.” From that time onwards, the King made offering of daily alms-food to the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna.

After being free of anxiety about livelihood, being regularly enjoying the support of the King, Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna gained concentration and developing Insight, he attained arahatship. From the time of attaining arahatship the apparition of the woman disappeared.

(c) Etadagga Title achieved

Mahā Subhaddā, the daughter of Anāthapiṇḍika the householder (of Sāvatthi), was obliged to live in the house of a man, in the town of Ugga, who had no confidence in the Buddha. One day, intending that the Buddha show compassion on her, she observed the uposatha precepts and kept her mind free from defilements. Standing at the upper storey of her mansion, she threw out eight handfuls of Jasmine into the air and wished: “May these flowers go straight to the Bhagavā and form themselves into a canopy above Him. May the Bhagavā, out of consideration for this floral tribute, come to my residence tomorrow to receive my offering of alms-food.” The flowers flew straight to the Buddha and formed themselves into a canopy above Him even while He was delivering a sermon.

The Buddha, on seeing the flower canopy offered by Mahā Subhaddā, perceived her wish and decided to receive her food offering. Early the next morning, the Buddha called Venerable Ānanda and said: “Ānanda, we shall go to a distant place to receive alms-food. Include only arahats-bhikkhu, and not worldling in the list of invitees.” Then Venerable Ānanda announced to the bhikkhus: “Friends, the Bhagavā is going to a distant place to receive alms-food today. Let no worldling bhikkhu draw lots to be included as an invitee; only arahats may do so.”

Then the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna said: “Friend, bring me the lots,” and stretched out his hand to make a draw. The Venerable Ānanda thought the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna was still a worldling and informed the matter to the Buddha who said: “Ānanda, let him draw the lots if he wishes.”

Then Ānanda thought: “If the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna were unfit to draw the lots, the Bhagavā would disallow the draw. Now that he has been allowed there must be some reason. I should let him draw.” And as he was retracing his steps to the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna, the latter entered into the fourth jhāna, the basic mental state for supernormal powers and stood in mid-air and then he said to the Venerable Ānanda: “Friend Ānanda, bring me the lots. The Bhagavā knows me. The Bhagavā does not say anything against my drawing the lot first (before other bhikkhus).” (This is a remarkable event concerning the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna.)

When on another occasion, Cūḷa Subhaddā, the younger daughter of Anāthapiṇḍika, invited the Buddha to Sāketa to receive alms-food offering too, the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna made the first draw among the five hundred bhikkhus.

Then again, when the Buddha went to a market town in the country of Sunāparanta, by way of the sky by using His psychic power, the Venerable Kuṇḍa Dhāna was also the first to draw the lots for receiving alms-food offering.

In another occasion, in the assembly of bhikkhus, the Buddha spoke of the Venerable:

Etadaggaṃ bhikkhave mama sāvakānam bhikkhūnaṃ paṭhamaṃ salākaṃ gaṇhantānaṃ yadidaṃ Kuṇḍa Dhāno.”

Bhikkhus, among those of my bhikkhu-disciples who successfully draw lots ahead of all others for alms-food offering, Bhikkhu Kunda Dhāna is the foremost (etadagga).”

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