The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Citta, the Householder 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).

Biography (3): Citta, the Householder

(Both Anāthapiṇḍika and Citta are termed as gahapati, the English rendering being ‘Householders’. In Myanmar renderings, Anāthapiṇḍika is usually termed as ‘thuthay’ whereas Citta is usually rendered as ‘thukywe’. Both these Myanmar terms are synonymous.)

(a) His Past Aspiration

The future Citta the householder was reborn into a worthy family in the city of Haṃsāvatī, during the time of Buddha Padumuttara. On one occasion, while listening to the Buddha’s discourse, he saw a certain disciple being named by Him as the foremost in expounding the Doctrine. The worthy man aspired to that distinction. After making an extraordinary offering, he expressed his wish that, at some future existence, he would be designated by a Buddha as the foremost disciple in expounding the Doctrine.

In His Existence as The Son of A Hunter

The future Citta was reborn either in the deva realm or the human realm for a hundred thousand world-cycles. During the time of Buddha Kassapa, he was born as a son of a hunter. When he came of age, he took up the vocation of hunter. One rainy day, he went to the forest to hunt, carrying a spear. While searching for games, he saw a bhikkhu with his head covered with his robe of dirt-rags, sitting on a rock platform inside a natural cavern. He thought that must be a bhikkhu meditating. He hurried home and had two pots cooked simultaneously, one in which rice was boiled and the other for meat.

When the rice and the meat had been cooked, he saw two bhikkhus coming to his house for alms-food. He invited them into his house, took their alms-bowls, and requested them to accept his offering of alms-food out of compassion for him. Having had the two bhikkhus seated, he let his family to take care of the offering of alms-food to them while he hurried back to the forest to offer the alms-food to the meditating bhikkhu. He carried the rice and the meat in a pot properly covered with banana leaves. On the way, he gathered various kinds of flowers and wrapped them in some leaves. He went to the bhikkhu in the cavern, filled his alms-bowl with the alms-food and offered it and the flowers to him reverentially.

Then he sat in a suitable place and said to the bhikkhu: “Just as this offering of delicious food and flowers makes me very glad, may I, in the future existences in the course of saṃsāra, be blessed with all kinds of gifts. May flowers of five hues shower down on me!” The bhikkhu saw that the donor was destined to gain sufficient merit leading to attaining of magga-phala and taught him in detail the method of contemplating the thirty-two aspects of parts of the body.

That son of the hunter (the future Citta) lived a life full of good deeds and at his death, he was reborn in the deva realm. There, he was blessed with showers of flowers that rained down on him up to knee-deep.

(b) Discipleship in His Last Existence

The future Citta was reborn in fortunate destinations throughout the world-cycle that intervened the appearance of the two Buddhas, and during the time of Buddha Gotama, he was reborn as the son of the Rich Man in the town of Macchikāsaṇḍa, in the Province of Magadha. At the time of his birth, flowers of five hues rained down over the whole town up to knee-deep. His parents said: “Our son has brought his own name. For he has delighted the mind of the whole town by being blessed with the wondrous floral tribute of five colours. Let us call him ‘Citta’.”

When young Citta came of age, he was married and at the death of his father, he succeeded to the office of the Rich Man of Macchikāsaṇḍa. At that time, the Venerable Mahānāma, one of the Group of Five Ascetics, came to Macchikāsaṇḍa. Citta was full of reverential adoration for Venerable Mahānāma for his serenity. He took the alms-bowl of the Venerable, and invited him to his house for offering of alms-food. After the Venerable had finished his meal, Citta took him to his orchard, had a monastery built for him and requested him to reside there as well as to accept daily alms-food from his house. Venerable Mahānāma consented out of compassion, and seeing that the householder was destined to acquire sufficient merit leading to attainment of magga-phala, he taught a discourse to him extensively on the six internal sense-bases and the six external sensebases, i.e. sense objects. This subject was taught to Citta because he was a person of middling intelligence, majjhuṃ-puggala.

As Citta had, in his past existences, cultivated Insight into the impermanence, woefulness (dukkha) and unsubstantiality of mind and matter which are conditioned phenomena, his present efforts in Insight-meditation led him to the enlightenment stage of Never-Returner (anāgāmin). (It is not mentioned in the scriptures by which method of meditation he attained anāgāmī-phala. However, considering his training, it might be assumed that he attained Path-Knowledge by meditating on the Sense-bases.)

(Incidentally, the difference in the attainments between Citta and Anāthapiṇḍika should be noted here. Anāthapiṇḍika, donor of the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatthi, was a Stream-Enterer who delighted in charity, (dānā-bhirata) whereas Citta, donor of the Ambāṭaka monastery in Macchikāsaṇḍa, was a Never-Returner who delighted in charity as well as in the dhamma, dānā-bhirata, dhamma-bhirata.)

Householder Citta’s Delight in Charity and in The Dhamma

A few instances of Citta’s natural delight in charity and in the Dhamma are mentioned here as recorded in the Citta Saṃyutta.

[The First Isidatta Sutta]

[The Second Isidatta Sutta]

[The Mahakapāṭihāriya Sutta]

[In the above two suttas, Citta the householder had great reverence and admiration for the Venerable Isidatta and the Venerable Mahāka in donating his monastic complex to the two bhikkhus. However, from the point of view of the bhikkhus, the four requisites they had been donated were flawed because they amounted to rewards for their actions;Isidatta for expounding the Dhamma, and Mahāka for displaying miraculous power. Hence, out of regard for the bhikkhu rules of conduct, they left the place for good. (The Commentary and the Sub-Commentary are silent on this point.)]

We have chosen these three suttas, the two Isidatta Suttas and the Mahākapāṭihāriya Sutta as examples of how Citta the householder cherished the Dhamma. (The reader is earnestly advised to go through the suttas in the Citta Saṃyutta, Saḷāyatana Saṃyutta.)

A Brief Story of Venerable Sudhamma

One day, the two Chief Disciples, accompanied by a thousand bhikkhu-disciples, visited the Ambāṭaka monastery. (At that time, the Venerable Sudhamma was the Abbot of the monastery.) Citta the householder, donor of the monastery, made magnificent preparations to honour the visiting Sangha (without consulting the Venerable Sudhamma). The Venerable Sudhamma took exception to it and remarked: “There is one thing missing in this lavish array of offerings and that is sesame cake.” This was an innuendo to belittle Citta, whose family, in the earlier generation, consisted of a seller of sesame cakes.

Citta made a suitably rude response in vulgar language to the sarcastic remark of the Abbot, who was touched to the quick and took the matter to the Buddha. After listening to the Buddha’s admonition, the Abbot, Venerable Sudhamma, made amends to Citta. Then, staying at the Ambāṭaka monastery, and practicing the Dhamma, the Venerable Sudhamma gained Insight and attained arahatship. (This is as mentioned in the Commentary on the Aṅguttara Nikāya. For details refer to the Commentary on the Dhammapada, Book One; and Vinaya Cūḷavagga, 4-Paṭisāraṇīya kamma.)

Citta’s Pilgrimage to The Buddha

(The following account is taken from the Commentary on the Dhammapada.)

When the Venerable Sudhamma attained arahatship, Citta the householder reflected thus: “I have become a Never-Returner. But my stages of Enlightenment from sotāpatti-phala to anāgāmī-phala had been attained without even meeting the Buddha. It behoves me to go and meet Him now.” He had five hundred carts fully laden with provisions, such as sesame, rice, ghee, molasses, honey, clothing, etc. for the long journey to Sāvatthi. He made a public invitation to the populace in Macchikāsaṇḍa that anyone, bhikkhu, bhikkhunī, male lay disciple or female lay disciple, might, if they wished, join him on a pilgrimage to the Buddha and that he would see to every need of the pilgrims. And, in response to his invitation, there were five hundred bhikkhus, five hundred bhikkhunīs, five hundred male lay disciples and five hundred female lay disciples who joined him on the pilgrimage.

The two thousand pilgrims who joined Citta plus the one thousand of his entourage, totalling three thousand, were well provided for the thirty-yojana journey. However, at every yojana of his journey, on the way devas welcomed them with temporary shelter and celestial food, such as gruel, eatables, cooked rice and beverages and every one of the three thousand pilgrims was attended on to his satisfaction.

By travelling a yojana a day, meeting with the devas' hospitality at every stop, the pilgrims reached Sāvatthi after a month. The provisions carried in his five hundred carts were not used. They even had surfeit of provisions which were offered by the devas and human beings along the way, and which they donated to other persons.

On the day when the pilgrims were due to arrive in Sāvatthi, the Buddha said to the Venerable Ānanda: “Ānanda, this evening Citta the householder, accompanied by five hundred lay disciples, will be paying homage to Me.” Ānanda asked: “Venerable Sir, are there miracles to happen then?”

“Yes, Ānanda, there will be miracles.”

“In what manner will they happen, Venerable Sir?”

“Ānanda, when he comes to me, there will rain a thick floral tribute of five hues that will rise to knee-deep over an area of eight karisas [1].”

This dialogue between the Buddha and Venerable Ānanda aroused the curiosity of the citizens of Sāvatthi. People passed on the exciting news of Citta’s arrival, saying: “A person of great past merit by the name of Citta a householder, is coming to town. Miracles are going to happen! He is arriving today! We will not miss the opportunity of seeing such a great person.” With presents ready, they awaited on both sides of the road for the visitor and his friends.

When the pilgrim party arrived near the Jetavana monastery, the five hundred bhikkhus of the party went first. Citta told the five hundred female lay disciples to stay behind, and follow later and went to the Buddha accompanied by five hundred male lay disciples. (It should be noted that disciples paying homage to the Buddha were not an unruly crowd but well-disciplined; whether sitting or standing, they left a passageway for the Buddha to go to His raised platform, and they would remain motionless and silent on either side of the aisle.)

Citta then approached the aisle between a huge gathering of devotees. Whichever direction the ariya disciple, who had been established in the Fruition of the three lower Paths glanced, the people murmured: “That is Citta the householder!” He became a thrilling object in that big gathering. Citta drew close to the Buddha and he was enveloped by the six Buddha-rays. He stroke the Buddha’s ankles with great reverence and vigour and then the floral tribute of five colours, described earlier, rained. People cheered enthusiastically loud and long.

Citta spent one whole month in close attendance on the Buddha. During that time, he made a special request to the Buddha and His Sangha not to go out for alms-food but to accept his offerings at the monastery. All the pilgrims that had accompanied him also were taken care of in every aspect. In his month-long stay at the Jetavana monastery, none of his original provisions were used to feed everyone, for devas and humans made all sorts of gifts to Citta.

At the end of one month, Citta made obeisance to the Buddha and said: “Venerable Sir, I came with the intention of making offerings of my own property to the Bhagavā. I spent one month on the way and another month here in the Jetavana monastery. Still I have had no opportunity to offer my own property for I have been blessed with all sorts of gilts from devas and humans. It would seem that even if I were to stay here a year, I still may not have the chance to make offerings of my own property. It is my wish to deposit all my property I have brought here in this monastery for the benefit of the Sangha. May the Bhagavā be pleased to show me the place to do so.”

The Buddha asked Venerable Ānanda to find a suitable place for Citta to off-load the five-hundred cart-loads of provisions and were then offered to the Sangha. Then Citta returned to Macchikāsaṇḍa with the five hundred empty carts, people and devas, seeing the empty carts, remarked in mild rebuke: “O Citta, had you done such deeds in the past as would lead to your going about with empty cans?” Then they loaded his empty carts to the full with seven kinds of treasures. Citta also received sufficient gifts of all kinds, with which he catered to the needs of the pilgrims till he reached Macchikāsaṇḍa in ease and comfort.

The Venerable Ānanda paid his obeisance to the Buddha and said:

“Venerable Sir, Citta the householder took one month coming to Sāvatthi, and spent another month at the Jetavana monastery. During this period, he had made great offerings with gifts received from devas and humans. He had emptied his five hundred carts of all provisions which he had brought, and was returning home with empty carts. However, people and devas who saw the empty carts said in mild rebuke: ‘Citta, you had done such deeds in the past as would lead to your going about with empty carts?’ And they are said to have filled Citta’s five hundred carts with seven kinds of treasures. And Citta is said to get home comfortably, looking after the needs of his companions with gifts received from devas and humans.

"Venerable Sir, may I be allowed to ask a question: Does Citta meet with such abundance of honour and tribute only because he was on a pilgrimage to the Buddha? Would he meet the same kind of honour and tribute if he were to go elsewhere?”

The Buddha said to the Venerable Ānanda: “Ānanda, Citta the householder will receive the same kind of honour and tributes whether he comes to Me or goes elsewhere. This is indeed so, Ānanda, because Citta the householder had been one who had firm conviction about kamma and its consequences, both in the mundane aspect and the supramundane aspect. Further, he had been fully convinced about the supramundane benefits that the Triple Gem are capable of. For a person of such nature, honour and tribute lines his path wherever he goes.”

The Buddha further uttered this verse (translation in prose):

“(Ānanda,) the ariya disciple who is endowed with conviction (regarding the mundane and the supramundane aspects) of one’s own actions and morality, and is possessed of following and wealth, is held in reverence (by men and devas) wherever he goes.”

——(Dh, V 303)——

By the end of the discourse many hearers attained Path-Knowledge, such as Stream-Entry, etc.

(c) Citta designated as The Foremost Lay Disciple.

From that time onwards, Citta the householder went about accompanied by five hundred ariya lay disciples.

On one occasion, when the Buddha was naming distinguished lay disciples according to their merit, He declared, (with reference to the discourses made by Citta as recorded in the Citta vagga of Saḷāyatana saṃyutta:

Bhikkhus, among My lay disciples who are exponents of the Dhamma, Citta the Householder, is the foremost.”

(The proficiency of Citta in expounding the Dhamma may be gleaned from Saḷyatana vagga Saṃyutta, 7-Citta saṃyutta, 1-Saṃyojana Saṃyutta, and 5-Paṭhāna kāmabhū Sutta).

[The Gilānadassana Sutta]

Footnotes and references:


karisa: a measure of land equivalent to 1.75 acres.

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