by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Anathapindika, The Rich Man 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 Life Stories of Male Lay Disciples. 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) His Past Aspiration
The future Anāthapiṇḍika was reborn into a wealthy family in the city of Haṃsāvatī, during the time of Buddha Padumuttara. When he was listening a sermon by the Buddha, he saw a lay disciple being named as the foremost lay disciple among those who delight in charity. He had a strong desire to become such a distinguished disciple and after making an extra-ordinary offering to the Buddha, he expressed his aspiration before Him.
(b) His Last Existence as A Rich Man
The future Anāthapiṇḍika was reborn in fortunate destinations for a hundred thousand world-cycles and during the time of Buddha Gotama, he was reborn as the son of Sumana, the Rich Man of Sāvatthi. His name, given by his parents, was Sudattha.
How He came to be known as ‘Anāthapiṇḍika’
Sudattha in time became the head of the family. He earned the reputation of ‘one who gives food to the destitute’ which in Pāli means Anātha (destitutes) + piṇḍika (rice-giver), hence Anāthapiṇḍika. (For more details about this remarkable man refer to Chapter 29. Here, only a brief account will be given as described in the Commentary on the Aṅguttara Nikāya.)
One day, Anāthapiṇḍika went to Rājagaha on a trading trip where he visited his friend the Rich Man of Rājagaha. There, he learned the great news that the Buddha had appeared in the world. He could not wait till the city gates of Rājagaha were open in the next morning to meet the Buddha. Such was his zeal. So he left the city at dawn with the devas helping him to have the gate open for his visit. He met the Buddha, benefitted from a discourse by Him, and was established in the Fruition of Stream Entry-Knowledge. On the next day, he made a great offering to the Buddha and His Sangha and had the Buddha’s consent to visit Sāvatthi. He returned to Sāvatthi. On the way back to Sāvatthi, he made arrangements with his friends of each location by providing them with one lakh of money to build a monastery at interval of one yojana, for the temporary residence of the Buddha and His company of bhikkhus. The distance between Rājagaha and Sāvatthi being forty-five yojanas, therefore, he spent forty-five lakhs on the forty-five temporary transit monasteries. At Sāvatthi, he bought a large park, which was the pleasure garden of Prince Jeta. He paid the sum of money according to the number of gold coins laid out over the entire park, with their rims touching each other. This amounted to eighteen crores. On that piece of land, he built a (golden) monastery costing another eighteen crores. At the formal dedication ceremony of the Jetavana monastery (meaning monastery built on Jeta’s garden), which lasted for three months (some say five months, some even nine months), a lavish feast was provided to guests, both in the mornings and in the daytime. This cost him another additional eighteen crores.
(c) Anāthapiṇḍika The Foremost Giver
The Jetavana monastery alone cost fifty-four crores. The regular donations to the Buddha and His Sangha consisted of the following offerings:
— five hundred bhikkhus were offered with alms-food once during the waxing period of the month and once during the waning period;
— five hundred bhikkhus were offered with rice gruel daily by ‘the ticket system;
— five hundred bhikkhus were offered with rice gruel once during the waxing period of the month and once during the waning period; daily offerings of alms-food were made to:
(a) five hundred bhikkhus who had arrived in Sāvatthi recently and who had not acquainted themselves with the daily route for collecting alms-food;
(b) five hundred bhikkhus who were about to go on a journey;
(c) five hundred bhikkhus who were sick;
(d) five hundred bhikkhus who tended the sick bhikkhus;
— there was always seating place for five hundred bhikkhus at any time at Anāthapiṇḍika’s house.
Hence, on one occasion when the Buddha, while residing at the Jetavana monastery, was acknowledging lay disciples according to their merit, He declared:
“Bhikkhus, among My lay disciples who delight in giving, Sudattha the Householder, also known as Anāthapiṇḍika, is the foremost.”
The Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta, the Favourite Discourse of Anāthapiṇḍika
(Here we shall give a condensed account of the Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta which Anāthapiṇḍika liked very much. A full account of this discourse is contained in Uparipaṇṇāsa.)
During the Buddha’s residence at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatthi, Anāthapiṇḍika the householder was sick, in pain, and gravely ill. Then he called an attendant and said: “O man, go to the Bhagavā and approach Him. Prostrating yourself at His feet and says to Him: ‘Venerable Sir, Anāthapiṇḍika the householder is sick, in pain, and gravely ill. He pays homage with his head at the feet of the Bhagavā.’ (Further,) go to the Venerable Sāriputta, and approach him, prostrating yourself at his feet, and says to him: ‘Venerable Sir, Anāthapiṇḍika the householder is sick, in pain, and gravely ill. He pays homage with his head at the feet of the Venerable.’ And also say thus: ‘Venerable Sir, may the Venerable Sāriputta, out of compassion, come to the house of Anāthapiṇḍika.’ ”
(When Anāthapiṇḍika was in good health, he usually paid a visit to the Buddha at least once a day, and twice or three if he could manage it. But now that he was on his death bed, he was sending an attendant as messenger.)
“Very well, Sir,” replied the attendant to Anāthapiṇḍika, and went to the Buddha. He paid homage to the Buddha, prostrating himself at His feet, and said to Him as instructed by his master. Then it was nearly sundown. He next went to the Venerable Sāriputta, approached him, prostrating himself at his feet, and said to the Venerable as instructed by his master, requesting the Venerable to visit Anāthapiṇḍika. The Venerable Sāriputta signified his acceptance by remaining silent.
Then, the Venerable Sāriputta, re-robing himself, carrying his alms-bowl and great robe, went to the house of Anāthapiṇḍika the householder, accompanied by the Venerable Ānanda as his attendant (in place of another bhikkhu which was the custom). Upon arrival and after taking the seat prepared for him, he asked Anāthapiṇḍika: “Householder, are you feeling well? Are you feeling better? Is your pain decreasing and not increasing? Does it appear to be decreasing and not increasing?”
Anāthapiṇḍika, replied to the Venerable Sāriputta how he was feeling unwell, how he was not feeling any better, how his pain was increasing and not decreasing, and how it appeared to be increasing and not decreasing, by giving four examples.
The Venerable Sāriputta knew that the illness of the householder was not controllable but that it would end only with this death. So he considered it important not to talk about anything but to give a discourse that would be of benefit to him.
(He gave the following discourse in a comprehensive manner: Since there is no possibility of checking an ailment which will end only with the death of the sufferer who, being under the influence of craving, conceit and wrong view, is attached to the six sense-doors, the six sense objects, the six kinds of consciousness, the six kinds of contact, the six kinds of sensation, etc.), He said:
“Householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment, by way of either Craving or Conceit or Wrong view, for the eye, which is corporeality with sensitivity of seeing; then the consciousness which is dependent on the eye (through a subtle fondness nikanti taṇhā for the eye) will not arise in me!’ Householder, you should practise the Threefold Training in this way.”
(Herein, “You should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment to the eye’ is said to exhort the householder to view the eye as impermanent, woeful (dukkha) and unsubstantial. This is so because if one views the eye as impermanent, Conceit cannot have any foothold, i.e. it cannot arise; if one views the eye as woeful (dukkha), Craving, attachment to the eye as ‘my eye’ cannot arise; if one views that eye as unsubstantial, the Wrong View of a personal identity or the ego as ‘my Self’ cannot arise. Hence to be free of the misconceptions through Conceit, Craving and Wrong View, one should repeatedly view the eye as impermanent, woeful (dukkha) and unsubstantial.
The three misconceptions of Conceit, Craving and Wrong View are crude mental states. Even when those misconceptions may disappear, there is a subtle fondness (nikanti) for the eye that tends to persist in one. The Venerable Sāriputta exhorts the householder to have his consciousness to be free of this subtle fondness. The same applies to the other five sense bases, such as ear, nose, etc. and also to sense objects, etc.)
Having exhorted Anāthapiṇḍika to train himself to be free of attachment to the eye through Conceit, Craving and Wrong View, and also to have no lingering fondness for the eye, the Venerable Sāriputta further exhorted him as follows:
(1) “That beings so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for the ear...p... the nose...p..., the tongue...p... for the mind, the mind-base; (not even a subtle fondness for the mind).’
(2) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for visual objects...p... sounds...p... odours...p... tangible objects...p...mind-objects (not even a subtle fondness for mind-objects).’
(3) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for eye-consciousness...p... ear-consciousness...p... nose consciousness...p... bodyconsciousness...p... mind-consciousness (not even a subtle fondness for mindconsciousness).’
(4) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for eye-contact...p... ear-contact...p... nose-contact...p... tongue-contact...p... bodycontact...p... mind-contact (not even a subtle fondness mind-contact).’
(5) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for sensation arising out of eye-contact...p... sensation arising out of ear-contact...p... sensation arising out of nose-contact...p... sensation arising out of tongue-contact...p... sensation arising out of body-contact...p... sensation arising out of mind-contact
(not even a subtle fondness for sensation arising out of mind-contact).’
(6) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for the Element of solidity...p... the Element of cohesion...p... the Element of heat...p... the Element of motion...p... the Element of Space...p... the Element of consciousness
(not even a subtle fondness for the element of consciousness.)’
(7) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for corporeality...p... sensation...p... perception...p... volitional activities...p... consciousness (not even subtle fondness for consciousness).’
(8) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for the jhāna of infinity of Space...p... the jhāna of infinity of consciousness...p... the jhāna of Nothingness...p...the jhāna of Neither-consciousness-nor-non-consciousness (not even a subtle fondness for the jhāna of Neither-consciousness-nornonconsciousness).’
(9) “That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for the present world; then the consciousness which is dependent on the present world (through a subtle fondness for the present world) will not arise in me.’ Householder, you should practise the Threefold Training in this way.
“That being so, householder, you should practise thus: ‘I will have no attachment for the hereafter; then the consciousness which is dependent on the hereafter (through a subtle fondness for the hereafter) will not arise in me.’ Householder, you should practise the Threefold Training in this way.
(From the first to eight rounds of exposition, the sentient world is being referred to. In the last (ninth) round, ‘the present world’ refers to volitional activities related to dwelling, food and raiment and other possessions; ‘the hereafter’ means all forms of existence beyond the human existence. The Venerable Sāriputta, by mentioning the hereafter, hints that the householder should not crave for grand mansions, gorgeous food and raiment, etc. in any of the celestial world.)
Thus the Venerable Sāriputta give a comprehensive discourse in nine turns (on the same theme). It may be noted that the three roots, Craving, Conceit and Wrong View, are completely eliminated on attainment of arahatta-phala. Of the three, Wrong View is eradicated when Stream-Entry Knowledge in gained. The Venerable Sāriputta repeatedly exhorted Anāthapiṇḍika to practise so that no attachment to anything arises in the mind through any of these misconceptions. This connotes that arahatta-phala should be the goal. This theme he impressed on the householder by nine different factors, viz.: Sense-doors, Sense-objects, Consciousness, Contact, Sensation, Dhātu (Elements), Khandha (aggregates), jhāna of the Non-Material Sphere, and all things knowable (sabba-dhamma). The voidness, the emptiness, the unreality of these phenomena is comprehended when one attains arahatta-phala.
When the discourse had ended, Anāthapiṇḍika, wept bitterly. Then the Venerable Ānanda said to Anāthapiṇḍika: “Householder are you attached to your possessions? Householder, are you wavering about the meritorious deeds?”
“Venerable Sir,” replied Anāthapiṇḍika, “I am not attached to my possessions. Nor am I wavering. I have indeed, for a long time, attended upon the Bhagavā. I have also attended upon the bhikkhus who are worthy of respect. But, I have never heard such words of the Dhamma before.”
“Householder, the laity who wear white cloths cannot understand clearly this word of the Dhamma. (For lay persons it is not easy to follow the exhortation to break away from the dear ones, such as wife and children, and various other possessions, such as valued attendants, fertile fields, etc..) Householder, this word of the Dhamma can be understood only by bhikkhus. (Only bhikkhu can appreciate such admonition.)”
“Venerable Sāriputta, I beg of you. Let this word of the Dhamma be made clear to the laity who wear white cloths. Venerable Sir, there are many worthy men whose understanding is not clouded by the dust of defilements. For them, it is a great loss in not being able to see the Supramundane for not having heard the Dhamma. There are likely to be people who will be able to fully understand the Dhamma and attain arahatship, only if you expound the Dhamma to them.”
(“I have never heard such words of the Dhamma before.” These words spoken by Anāthapiṇḍika needs to be explained. It is not that the householder was never before admonished by the Buddha using words of the same profound meaning. But the Doctrine leading to arahatta-phala expounded by means of such a comprehensive arrangement involving nine different turns (or rounds), such as the six sense-doors, the six sense objects, the six kinds of Consciousness, the six Elements, the Aggregates, the four jhānas of the Non-Material Sphere, the present world and the hereafter, through all manner of knowing them, i.e. seeing, hearing, attaining, cognizing, has never been discoursed to him before.
To explain in another way: Charity and the delight in giving is the hallmark of Anāthapiṇḍika’s character. Never would he pay a visit to the Buddha or to bhikkhus worthy of respect empty-handed: in the mornings, he would take gruel and eatables to them, in the afternoons, ghee, honey or molasses, etc. Even on some rare occasions when he had no offering to make to them, he would take his attendants along, carrying fine sand with them, which he let them spread about the monastic compound. At the monastery, he would make his offering, observe the precepts, and then go home. His noble behaviour was reputed to be one worthy of a Buddhato-be. The Buddha, during the twenty-four years of association with Anāthapiṇḍika, mostly praised him for his charity: “I had practised charity over four incalculable period and a hundred thousand world-cycles. You are following my footsteps.” Great disciples, like the Venerable Sāriputta, usually discoursed to Anāthapiṇḍika on the benefits of giving in charity. That is why the Venerable Ānanda said to him: “Householder, the laity who wear white clothes cannot understand clearly this word of the Dhamma” with reference to the present discourse by the Venerable Sāriputta.
This should not be taken to mean that the Buddha never discoursed to Anāthapiṇḍika on the cultivating of Insight, leading to Path-Knowledge and its Fruition. In fact, the householder had heard the need for Insight-development. Only that he had never listened to such an elaborate discussion running to nine turns (round) as in the present discourse. As the Sub-Commentary on Anāthathapiṇḍikovāda Sutta has pointed out: “As a matter of fact, the Bhagavā had discoursed to him (Anāthapiṇḍika) on the subject of Insight development as the straight course to the attainment of the Ariya Path.”)
Anāthapiṇḍika was reborn in The Tusitā Deva Realm
Then, around the middle watch of the night, Deva Anāthapiṇḍika approached the Buddha, made obeisance to Him in verse:
(Herein, before mentioning the verses, the reason for Deva Anāthapiṇḍika’s visit to the Buddha should be noted. Being reborn in the Tusitā Deva realm, Anāthapiṇḍika found out, was a great thing full of sense pleasure. His body, three gāvutas long, was shining like a mass of gold. His mansion, pleasure gardens, the Wish Tree where he could get anything by mere wishing, etc. were indeed alluring. He reviewed his past existence and saw that his devotion to the Triple Gem had been the causes of this resplendent fresh existence. He considered his new deva life. It was full of ease and comfort which could easily make him drowned in sense pleasures and forgetting the Good Doctrine. “I must now go to the human world and sing in praise of the Jetavana monastery (my past deed of merit), the Sangha, the Buddha, the Ariya Path, and Venerable Sāriputta. Only on returning from the human world will I start enjoying this fleshly acquired life,” thus he decided.)
Four Stanzas address to The Buddha
1. “(Venerable Sir,) this Jetavana monastery as the resort by day and by night, of the Sangha (Comprising bhikkhus who are arahats as well as those training themselves for arahatship.) It is the residence of the Bhagavā, King of the Dhamma. (That is why) it is source of delight to me.
(The Jetavana monastery was a monastic complex comprising the Buddha’s Private (Scented) chamber, the square Pinnacled monastery, a number of monastic dwellings with exquisite ornate designs with fruit trees, flowering trees and shrubbery and restful seats. It was a religious premise of rare elegance, a visitor’s delight. However, the real attraction of the Jetavana monastery lay in its residents, the taint-free ariyas such as the Buddha and His noble disciples. And it was that spiritual beauty of the place rather than the sensual attraction that appealed to an ariya like Anāthapiṇḍika.)
2. “It is through action (i.e. volitional activities associated with magga), Knowledge (i.e. Right View and Right Thinking), Dhamma (i.e. Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration), and virtuous living based on morality (i.e. Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood) that beings are purified. They are not purified through lineage or wealth.
(In this stanza, Anāthapiṇḍika extols the Ariya Path of eight constituents.)
3. “That being so, the wise person, discerning his own welfare (culminating in Nibbāna), should contemplate, with right perception, the impermanence, the woefulness and the unsubstantiality of five aggregates (i.e. this body) which are the object of Clinging, Contemplating, thus, that person is purified through realizing the Four Ariya Truths.
(This body, the mind-body complex which one clings to as oneself, when brought to its ultimate analysis by means of Insight-development, reveals its true nature. As Insight fully develops into Path-Knowledge, the Truth of dukkha or woefulness of repeated existences, is seen through by the full understanding of phenomena. The Truth of the Origin of dukkha is seen through and discarded. The Truth of the Cessation of dukkha is realized by direct experience. The Truth of the Path is penetratingly understood by developing it. Then the yogi is free from of the defilements and purity is achieved. In this stanza, Anāthapiṇḍika extolled the development of Insight and the realization of the Path-Knowledge.)
4. “A certain bhikkhu reaches the other shore (that is Nibbāna). In this respect, he is equal to Sāriputta. But Sāriputta, with his knowledge, morality and calm (pacification of āsava), paññā, sīla, upasama, is the noblest among those bhikkhus who reach the other shore (that is Nibbāna).”
(In this stanza, Anāthapiṇḍika extols the virtues of Venerable Sāriputta.) Deva Anāthapiṇḍika addressed these four stanzas to the Buddha. The Buddha listened to them without making any interruption, thus showing His approval. Then Deva Anāthapiṇḍika gladly thinking: “The Teacher is pleased with these words, of mine,” made obeisance to Buddha and vanished there and then.
Then, when the night passed and morning came, the Buddha addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus, last night, about the middle watch of the night, a certain deva approached Me, made obeisance to Me, and stood in a suitable place. Then he addressed to Me with these stanzas.” The Buddha recited to the bhikkhus the verses spoken by Deva Anāthapiṇḍika.
(Here, the Buddha did not mention the name of Anāthapiṇḍika because he wanted the intuition of Ānanda to be brought to the fore.)
Accordingly, as soon as the Buddha had spoken, the Venerable Ānanda, without hesitating a moment, said: “Venerable Sir, that deva must have been Deva Anāthapiṇḍika. Venerable Sir, Anāthapiṇḍika the householder had much devotion to the Venerable Sāriputta.”
“Well said, Ānanda, well said, Ānanda, you do have the right intuition. Ānanda, that deva is indeed Deva Anāthapiṇḍika,” thus said the Buddha.