The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Uggata, 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 (7): Uggata, the Householder

(a) His Past Aspiration

The future Uggata was reborn into a worthy family in the city of Haṃsavatī, during the time of Buddha Padumuttara. On one occasion, he was listening to a sermon by the Buddha when he saw a lay disciple being named as the foremost in attending on the Sangha without discrimination. He emulated that man. As such, he made an extraordinary offering to the Buddha and His Sangha and after that, he aspired to the same distinction in front of the Buddha who prophesied that his aspiration would be fulfilled.

(b) His Last Existence as Uggata The Householder

The future Uggata was reborn in fortunate destinations for a hundred thousand worldcycles before being reborn into a rich man’s family in Hatthigama, during the time of Buddha Gotama. He was named Uggata. When he came of age, he inherited his father’s estate.

At the time when the Buddha, after a tour of the country in the company of many bhikkhus, arrived at Hatthigama and was sojourning in the Nāgavana Park, Uggata was then indulging himself in a drinking spree, in the company of dancing girls, for seven days at the Nāgavana Park too. When he saw the Buddha, he was overwhelmed with shame and when he was before the presence of the Buddha, he became sober suddenly. He made obeisance to the Buddha and sat in a suitable place. Then the Buddha preached to him a discourse, at the end of which, he was established in the three lower maggas and phalas, (i.e. he became an anāgāmin).

From that moment, he released the dancing girls from his service and devoted himself to charity. Devas would come to him at the middle watch of the night and report to him as to the conduct of various bhikkhus. They would say: “Householder, such and such bhikkhu is endowed with the Three Knowledges; such and such bhikkhu is endowed with the six kinds of supernormal powers; such and such bhikkhu has morality;such and such bhikkhu has no morality, etc.” Uggata disregarded the failings of the bhikkhus who lacked in morality as his devotion to the Sangha remained steadfast was on account of the bhikkhus of good morality (An example worth following). In making gifts (therefore), he never discriminated between the good and the bad bhikkhu, (his devotion being directed to the Sangha as a whole.) When he went before the Buddha, he never mentioned about the bad bhikkhus but always extolled the virtues of the good.

(c) Uggata The Householder was named The Foremost Lay Disciple

Therefore, on one occasion, during His residence at the Jetavana monastery, prominent lay disciples were mentioned for their respective merits, the Buddha declared:

Bhikkhus, among My lay disciples who devotedly attend on the Sangha without discrimination, Uggata the householder of Hatthigāma is the foremost.”

(Incidentally, the householder Uggata’s native place, Hatthigama, lay in the Country of the Vajjīs.)

Both Householders Uggata and Ugga of Vesālī, have eight marvellous qualities each.

(A brief description of these qualities is given here. For a full account the reader is directed to the Aṅguttara Nikāya, Book Three, Aṭṭhaka Nipāta, Paṭhama Paṇṇasaska, 3-Gahapati Vagga, the first two suttas.)

The Eight Marvellous Qualities of Ugga of Vesālī

At one time, when the Buddha was staying at the Kūṭāgārasālā monastery in the Mahāvana Forest, near Vesālī, He said to the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, note that Ugga the householder of Vesālī, has eight marvellous qualities.” He then retired to His private chamber.

Later, a bhikkhu went to the house of Ugga and sat at a place prepared for the Sangha (five hundred seats being made available for the Sangha at all times,). Ugga greeted him, paid his respects to the bhikkhu, and sat in a suitable place. To Ugga, the bhikkhu said:

“Householder, the Bhagavā said that you are endowed with eight marvellous qualities. What are these eight qualities?”

Ugga replied: “Venerable Sir, I am not sure which eight qualities the Bhagavā sees in me that He calls marvellous. As a matter of fact, I have eight qualities that are most extraordinary. May your reverence listen to them and consider well.”

“Very well, householder,” the bhikkhu said. And Ugga told his story:

(1) “Venerable Sir, from the moment I cast my eyes on the Buddha, I had explicit faith in Him as the Buddha, with no vacillation. So, Venerable Sir, my confidence in the Buddha at first sight is the first extraordinary thing about me.

(2) “Venerable Sir, I approached the Buddha with pure conviction. The Bhagavā discoursed to me in a step-by-step exposition on (i) the merits of giving charity, (ii) the virtue of morality, (iii) the description about the celestial world, the world of devas, (iv) the practice of the Ariya Path leading to Magga-Phala-Nibbāna. That made my mind receptive, malleable, free of hindrances, elated and clear. The Bhagava, knowing this, expounded to me the exalted Dhamma, the Four Ariya Truth of Dukkha, the Origin of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Way leading to the Cessation of Dukkha. Consequently, I gained the Eye of the Dhamma and attained the anāgāmīphala. From the time I became an anāgāmī ariya, I took the lifelong vow of the Supramundane Refuge and observed the Five Precepts with the pure life of chastity (brahmā-cariya) as one of the routine precepts. (This is the ordinary Five Precepts with abstinence as a vow in lieu of the vow of wrongful sexual conduct.) This is the second extraordinary thing about me.

(3) “Venerable Sir, I had four teenage wives. When I returned home on the day I became an anāgāmī ariya, I called the four wives and said to them: ‘Dear sisters, I have taken the vow of chastity for life. You may continue staying in my house, enjoying my wealth and practising charity, or you may return to your parents' house, taking sufficient riches with you for a comfortable life. Or, if any one of you wishes to remarry, just tell me who is going to be your new bridegroom. Each of you are free to exercise these options.’ Thereupon, my first wife expressed her wish to remarry and she named the bridegroom. I then let that man come to me, and holding my first wife in my left hand, and the libation jug in my fight hand, I offered my wife to that man and sanctified their marriage. In relinquishing my first wife, who was still very young, to another man, I felt nothing in my mind. Venerable Sir, my detachment in giving up my first wife to another man is the third extraordinary thing about me.

(4) “Venerable Sir, whatever possessions I have in my house, I deem them to be assigned to the virtuous ones with morality. I hold back nothing from the Sangha. It is as though they are already in the possession of the Sangha as a body. Venerable Sir, this liberality towards the Sangha, in considering all my possessions as being assigned to the virtuous bhikkhus, is the fourth extraordinary thing about me.

(5) “Venerable Sir, whenever I attend to a bhikkhu, I do so reverently and personally, but never irreverently, Venerable Sir, reverentially attending to bhikkhus is the fifth extraordinary thing about me.

(6) “Venerable Sir, if that bhikkhu preaches me a discourse, I listen reverentially, but never irreverently. If that bhikkhu does not preach me a discourse, I will preach a discourse to him. Venerable Sir, my listening reverentially to a discourse by a bhikkhu, and my preaching a discourse to the bhikkhu who does not preach to me is the sixth extraordinary thing about myself.

(7) “Venerable Sir, devas often come to me, saying: ‘Householder, the Bhagavā expounds the Dhamma which is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent in the end.’ I would say to those devas: ‘O devas, whether you say so or not, the Bhagavā expounds the Dhamma which is indeed excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent in the end.’ I do not think the devas' coming to me to say those words is extraordinary. I do not feel exhilarated by their coming to me and for the experience of conversing with them. Venerable Sir, my indifference to the coming of devas to me and the experience of conversing with them is the seventh extraordinary thing about me.

(8) “Venerable Sir, I do not see any of the five fetters that tend to rebirth in the lower (i.e. sensuous) realms of existence that have not been discarded in me. (This shows his attainment of anāgāmī-magga.) Venerable Sir, my having attained anāgāmī-magga is the eighth extraordinary thing about me.

“Venerable Sir, I know I have these eight extraordinary qualities. But I am not sure which eight qualities the Bhagava sees in me that He calls marvellous.”

Thereafter, the bhikkhu, having received alms-food from Ugga the householder, departed. He took his meal and then went to the Buddha, made obeisance to Him, and sat in a suitable place. Sitting thus, he related to the Buddha the full details of the conversation that took place between him and Ugga the householder.

The Buddha said: “Good, good, bhikkhu. Anyone who could answer your questions well, should be given these very answers that Ugga the householder did. Bhikkhu, I say that Ugga the householder is endowed with those eight extraordinary qualities that are marvellous. Bhikkhus, note that Ugga the householder has these very eight marvellous qualities that he told you.”

The Eight Marvellous Qualities of Uggata of Hatthigāma

At one time, when the Buddha was sojourning at Hatthigāma, in the country of the Vajjians, He said to the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, note that Uggata the householder of Hatthigāma has eight marvellous qualities.” After saying this brief statement, the Buddha went into the monastery.

Thereafter, a bhikkhu visited Uggata the householder’s residence in the morning and put forwards the same questions as those asked by the previous bhikkhu to Ugga of Vesālī.

Uggata the householder gave his reply as follows:

(1) “Venerable Sir, while I was indulging myself in sensuous pleasures in my own Nāgavana Park, I saw the Buddha from a distance. As soon as I cast my eyes on the Buddha, I had explicit faith in Him as the Buddha, and was deeply devoted to him. I became suddenly sober after my drunken bout. Venerable Sir, my explicit faith in and devotion to the Buddha at first sight and my recovering sobriety at that moment is the first extraordinary thing about me.

(2) “Venerable Sir, I approached the Buddha with a pure conviction. The Bhagava discoursed to me in a (most appropriate) step-by-step exposition on: (1) the merits of giving in charity, (2) the virtue of morality, (3) the description about the world of devas, (4) the practice of the Ariya Path. That made my mind receptive, malleable, free of hindrances, elated and clear. The Bhagavā, knowing this, expounded to me the exalted Dhamma, the Four Ariya Truths of Dukkha, the Origin of Dukkha, the cessation of Dukkha, and the way leading to the cessation of Dukkha. Consequently, I gained the Eye of the Dhamma, and attained the anāgāmī-phala. From the time I became an anāgāmī-ariya, I took the life-long vow of the Supramundane Refuge, together with the observance of the Five Precepts with abstinence (Brahmacariya) as one of them. Venerable Sir, my attainment of anāgāmī-phala after my first meeting with the Buddha, my subsequent taking up the Supramundane Refuge with the Five Precepts with the vow of abstinence, is the second extraordinary thing about me.

(3) “Venerable Sir, I had four teenage wives. When I returned home on the day I became an anāgāmī-ariya, I called up my four wives and said to them: ‘Dear sisters, I have taken the vow of chastity for life. You may continue staying in my house, enjoying my wealth and practising charity, or you may return to your parents' house, taking sufficient riches with you for a comfortable life. Or, if anyone of you wishes to remarry, just tell me who is going to be your new bridegroom. Each of you are free to exercise those options.’ Thereupon, my first wife expressed her wish to remarry and she named the bridegroom. I then let that man come up to me, and, holding my first wife in my left hand, and the libation jug in my right hand, I offered my wife to that man and sanctified their marriage. In relinquishing my first wife, who was still very young, to another man, I felt nothing in my mind. Venerable Sir, my detachment in giving up my first wife to another man is the third extraordinary thing about me.

(4) “Venerable Sir, whatever possessions I have in my house, I consider them to be assigned to the virtuous bhikkhus. I hold back nothing from the Sangha. Venerable Sir, this liberality towards the Sangha, in considering all my possessions as being assigned to the virtuous bhikkhus, is the fourth extraordinary thing about me.

(5) “Venerable Sir, whenever I attend to a bhikkhu, I do so reverently and personally, but never irreverently. If that bhikkhu preaches me a discourse, I listen reverentially, but never irreverently. If that bhikkhu does not preach me a discourse, I preach a discourse to him. Venerable Sir, my reverentially attending to bhikkhus, reverentially listening to their discourses, and my preaching a discourse to the bhikkhu who does not preach to me is the fifth extraordinary thing about me.

(6) “Venerable Sir, whenever I invite the Sangha to my residence, devas would come to me and say: ‘Householder such and such bhikkhu is emancipated both ways from corporeal body (rūpa-kāya) and mental body (nāma-kāya), i.e. Ubhatobhāga Vimutta; such and such bhikkhu has attained emancipation through full knowledge, Insight (paññā vimutta); such and such bhikkhu is one who has realized Nibbāna through nāmakāya (kāyasakkhi);such and such bhikkhu has attained to the three higher magga and phala through Right View (diṭṭhippatta); such and such bhikkhu is emancipated through faith (saddhāvimutta); such and such bhikkhu is one who follows faith, saddhānusarī; such and such bhikkhu is one who pursues Dhamma, dhammānusārī; such and such bhikkhu has morality, and is virtuous; such and such bhikkhu lacks morality and is vile.’ I do not think the devas' coming to me to say these words is extraordinary. When I attend to the Sangha, it never occurred to me that such and such bhikkhu lacks morality, and so I will make only scant offering to him, or that such and such bhikkhu is virtuous and so I will make much offering to him. I make offerings both to the virtuous bhikkhus and the vile bhikkhus in the same (reverential) spirit. Venerable Sir, my indiscriminate offering and attendance on both the virtuous and the vile bhikkhus is the sixth extraordinary thing about me.

(7) “Venerable Sir, devas often come to me, saying: ‘Householder, the Bhagavā expounds the Dhamma which is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent at the end.’ And I would say to these devas: ‘O devas, whether you say so or not, the Bhagavā expounds the Dhamma which is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent in the end.’ I do not think that the devas coming to me to say those words is extraordinary. Venerable Sir, my indifference to the coming of devas to me and the experience of conversing with them is the seventh extraordinary thing about to me.

(8) “Venerable Sir, in the event of my predeceasing the Bhagavā, the Bhagavā’s remarks about me such as: ‘Uggata the householder of Hatthigāma has no fetters in him that tend to rebirth in the sensuous realm’ will not be anything extraordinary. (This shows that he is an anāgāmī-ariya.) Venerable Sir, the fact that there is no fetter in me that tend to rebirth in the sensuous realm is the eighth extraordinary thing about me.

“Venerable Sir, I know I have these eight extraordinary qualities. But I am not sure which eight qualities the Bhagavā sees in me that he calls marvellous.”

(Further events are exactly the same as in the previous case. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya both the above two householders are called ‘Ugga’. Here we are leaning on the Etadagga Pāli in calling the householder of Hatthigāma, Uggata, in contradistinction to Ugga the householder of Vesāli. Since the noble and rare attributes of these two Householders inspire devotion, these notes are somewhat more than summarized statements.)

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