The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Mendaka, 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 life Stories of Rich Men with Inexhaustible Resources. 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 (2): Meṇḍaka, the Householder

His Past Aspiration

The future Meṇḍaka was a nephew of Aparājita the householder, who lived in the days of Buddha Vipassī, ninety-one world-cycles previous to the present world-cycle. His name also was Aparājita. His uncle Aparājita started construction of a brick monastery as a private chamber for the Buddha. Then, Aparājita, Junior, went to his Uncle Aparājita and asked that he be allowed as co-builder of the monastery. The uncle would not accept the idea, for he did not want to share the merit with anyone. Aparājita, Junior, then thought of building a portico in front of his uncle’s main building. He put up the portico with timber. The post for the building were each finished in silver, in gold, in rubies, and in the seven kinds of precious stones. Likewise, the beams, rafters, roof-trusses, purlim, trellis-work, door-leaves and roofing tiles were finished in gold and silver and precious stones. He planned the portico to be used by the Buddha.

On the top of the portico were pinnacles made with gold sheet roofing and coral. (1) The centre portico was occupied by an assembly hall with a raised platform for the Buddha which had a floor frame and legs of solid gold. (2) The base of the legs were sculpted in the form of golden goats. (3) The leg-rest had, at its base, a pair of golden goats. (4) And there were also six golden goats placed around the assembly hall. (5) The flooring for the seating of the orator was woven with cotton thread at the base, golden thread in the middle, and finished with beads of pearl. (6) The back of the orator’s seat was of solid sandalwood. When the construction of the portico and all the appointments in it were finished to the satisfaction of the donor (Aparājita, Junior) a four month long ceremony, marking the donation was held, where the Buddha and 6.8 million bhikkhus were offered with almsfood. On the last day, sets of three robes were donated to the Sangha. The junior-most bhikkhu received robes worth a hundred thousand ticals. (The Sinhalese version says a thousand ticals.)

In His Past Existence as The Rich Man of Bārāṇasī.

Having performed those meritorious deeds during the time of Buddha Vipassī, the future Meṇḍaka was reborn in the present world-cycle as a rich man’s son in Bārāṇasī. He succeeded to his father’s estate as the ‘Rich Man of Inexhaustible Resources’. One day, as he was going before the King at his audience, he discoursed astronomical readings with the King’s Chief Counsellor. He asked the Purohita:

“How is it, Teacher, have you been studying the planets (recently)?”

“Of course, I have, what other pursuit do I have than a constant study of the planets?”

“If so, what do the planets presage about the general populace?”

“Some catastrophes is going to happen.”

“What sort of catastrophes?”

“There will be famine.”

“When is it going to happen?”

“Three years hence.”

The ‘Rich Man of Inexhaustible Resources’ then expanded his cultivation. He invested all his wealth in rice grains which he stored in 1250 storehouses. The excess of his collection of rice were put in big jars, and then the excess were buried in the ground. The last portion of the excess were mixed with mud which was plastered onto the walls of his house. (A remarkably prudent way of forestalling famine).

When the famine broke out (as predicted by the Purohita), the Rich Man’s household subsisted for some time on the hoarded grains of rice. When the granaries and the storage in big jars were exhausted, the Rich Man was perforce to send away his servants to go into the forest at the end of the mountains and find things to eat for their survival until such time as things became normal, in which case, they might or might not choose to come back to him as they wished. They wailed and after seven days depending on their master, were obliged to leave.

There was only one servant, named Puṇṇa, who personally attended on the members of the Rich Man’s family, comprising the Rich Man and his wife, their son, and their daughter-in-law. The five members of the household next subsisted on the rice grains which were buried in the ground. When that store was used up, they scraped off the mud plastered in the walls of the house, salvaged the few grains from it and managed to survive. But, the famine raged on. At last, the only source of seed grain was extracted from the base of the walls where the mud plaster held a few precious grains. The mud yield half measure of rice grain, which, when the husks were pounded off, a quarter measure of eatable grains was obtained. Being afraid of robbers who might loot whatever eatable available at their house, the family prudently hid the last meagre store of the grains in the ground, carefully shut up in a small pot.

One day, the Rich Man who had come home from attending on the King said to his wife: “Dear wife, I feel hungry. Is there anything to eat?” The wife did not say: “No,” but answered: “My lord, we have a quarter measure of rice grain, (the last we have).”

“Where it it?”

“I have hidden it in the ground for fear of thieves.”

“If so, cook that little rice.”

“My lord, if I were to cook it into rice it would provide us a meal. If I were to make gruel, it would provide us with two meals. What shall I do with it?”

“Dear wife, this is our only and last source of food. Let us eat to the full and face death. Cook it into rice.”

The Rich Man’s wife obediently cooked the rice, and making five portions of the cooked rice, placed one in front of her husband. At that moment, a Paccekabuddha, who had just risen from dwelling in the attainment of Cessation at the Gandamādāna mountain, reviewed the world with His divine power of sight and saw that the Southern Island Continent was reeling under a grave and prolonged famine.

(An arahat, or a Paccekabuddha in this case, does not feel hunger during the (seven-day) dwelling in the attainment of Cessation. On rising from that state, the pang of hunger is felt inside the stomach. So the Paccekabuddha reviews the world, as is the natural thing, for a prospect of getting alms-food. A donor of some gift to a Paccekabuddha at that time (on that day) is usually rewarded by his or her own merit. If he were to wish for the post of Commander-in-Chief, he would get it.)

The Paccekabuddha knew that the Rich Man of Bārāṇasī had a quarter measure of rice grain which had been cooked to provide a meal for five persons. He also knew that the five persons in the rich man’s household had sufficient conviction in the law of kamma to offer him the cooked rice. So he took His alms-bowl and great robe and stood at the Rich Man’s door.

The Rich Man was intensely glad to see the Paccekabuddha who had come to his door for alms-food. He thought to himself: “In the past I had failed to make offering to almsseekers, as the result of which I am falling under this catastrophe. If I were to eat my portion of rice I would live for one day. If I were to offer it to this Venerable One, it would lead to my welfare for millions of world-cycles.” Thinking thus, he had the ricevessel in front of him withdrawn, and, approaching the Paccekabuddha, and making obeisance to Him with fivefold contact, he invited Him to the house. After showing Him the seat, he washed the Paccekabuddha’s feet, and wiped off the water. Then, letting the Paccekabuddha sit on a raised platform with golden legs; he put his rice into the Paccekabuddha’s alms-bowl.

The Paccekabuddha closed the lid of His alms-bowl when the donor’s vessel was left with half of its contents. But the donor said: “Venerable Sir, this rice is just one-fifth of a quarter measure of rice grain and can serve as only one meal for a person. It cannot be divided into two for two persons. Do not consider my welfare for this present world but consider my welfare in the hereafter. I wish to offer the whole lot to your reverence.” Then he aspired thus: “Venerable Sir, may I never, in my faring in saṃsāra, meet with famine like this. From now on, may I be the provider of food and seed grains to all the population of the Southern Island Continent. May I be free from manual labour to earn my bread. May I have 1250 store-houses for storing rice grain, in which superior red rice grains falling from the sky, get filled up the moment I look up skyward as I sit there with my head washed.

“In all my future existences, may I have my present wife as my wife, my present son as my son, my present daughter-in-law as my daughter-in-law, and my present servant as my servant.”

The Deep Conviction of The Other Members of The Householder

The wife of the rich man thought to herself: “I cannot eat when my husband starves,” and offered her share of the rice to the Paccekabuddha. She made her wish thus: “Venerable Sir, may I never, in my faring in saṃsāra, meet with starvation. May I have a vessel of cooked rice which never gets depleted however much is taken from it by the populace of the Southern Island Continent, while I sit distributing the rice. In all my future existences, may I have my present husband as my husband, my present son as my son, and my present daughter-in-law as my daughter-in-law, and my present servant as my servant.”

The Rich Man’s son also offered his share of the rice to the Paccekabuddha, and made his wish: “May I never, in my faring in saṃsāra, meet with starvation. May I have a bag of silver coins containing a thousand pieces out of which I may distribute the silver to everyone in the Southern Island Continent, and may the bag remain as full as ever. In all my future existences, may my present parents be my parents, may my wife be my wife, and may our present servant be our servant.”

The Rich Man’s daughter-in-law also offered her share of the rice to the Paccekabuddha and made her wish thus: “May I never, in my faring in saṃsāra, meet with starvation. May I have a basket of rice grain, out of which I may distribute the rice to all the populace of the Southern Island Continent, and may that basket never get depleted. In all my future existences, may my present parents-in-law be my parents-in-law, may my present husband be my husband, and may our present servant be our servant.”

The servant Puṇṇa also offered his share of the rice to the Paccekabuddha and made his wish thus:

“May I never, in my faring in saṃsāra, meet with starvation. In all my future existences, may all the present members of my master’s family be my master. When I plough a field, may there appear three extra furrows on the left and three extra furrows on the right of the main furrow in the middle, thereby accomplishing my work sevenfold, making a seed bed for sowing four baskets of seed grains.”

(Puṇṇa could have wished for and become Commander-in-Chief if he so aspired to it. However, his personal ties with the Rich Man’s family were so strong that he wished that in all his future existences his present masters be his masters.)

When the five donors had made their respective wishes the Paccekabuddha said:

“May your wishes be fulfilled quickly. May all your aspirations come to full realisation like the full moon.

“May your wishes be fulfilled in every respect. May all your aspirations come to full realisation like the wish-giving gem.”

Having expressed His appreciation of the offerings, He made a wish that His donors, for enhancement of their convictions, see Him and His further actions, then He rose into the air and to the Gandamādāna mountain, and shared the alms-food He had collected with the five hundred Paccekabuddhas. The rice that was meant for the consumption of five persons were offered and satisfied the five hundred Paccekabuddhas, thanks to the supernormal powers of the original offeree. This was witnessed by the five donors whose devotion increased by leaps and bounds.

The Result was experienced The Same Day

The remarkable thing now happened. At noon, the Rich Man’s wife washed her cooking pot and put the lid on it. The Rich Man who was under the pang of hunger dozed off. When he woke up in the evening, he said to his wife: “Dear wife, I am starving. See if you could scrape out some bits of cooked rice from the pot.” The wife was certain that not a tiny bit of cooked rice clung to the pot which she had washed clean. But she did not say so; instead, she thought of opening the lid of the pot first before reporting to her husband.

As soon as she removed the lid of the rice pot, she found the rice pot was filled with finely cooked rice, like a cluster of jasmine buds, that filled the pot to its brim and even causing the lid to rise. With joyous astonishment she breathlessly reported the strange phenomenon to her husband: “Look, my Lord, I had washed the rice pot clean and covered its lid. But now it is brimful with cooked rice, like a cluster of jasmine buds. Meritorious deeds are indeed worthwhile doing! Alms-giving is indeed worthwhile doing! Now, my lord, get up and eat it in joy.”

The Rich Man’s wife first served the rice to her husband and her son. When they had finished eating, she and her daughter-in-law ate it. Then she gave it to their servant Puṇṇa. The rice pot did not get decreased any further than the first spoonful taken out. On that very day, all the granaries and jars were filled with rice grain again. The Rich Man announced to all the citizens of Bārāṇasī that his house had sufficient rice grain and cooked rice for anyone to come and take them. And the people came and took them joyfully. The populace of the Southern Island Continent were saved from famine on account of the Rich Man.

His Last Existence as Meṇḍaka The Rich Man

After passing away from that existence, he was reborn in the deva realm. From then onwards, he fared in the deva-world or the human world until the time of Buddha Gotama when he was born into the family of a rich man in Bhaddiya. He married the daughter of another rich man.

How The Name Meṇḍaka was given to Him

As the result of his having donated statues of golden goats to Buddha Vipassī, the rich man’s compound behind the house, about eight karisas in area, was tightly occupied by solid gold statues of the goat which rose up from the ground. The mouths of the statues of the goat were adorned with small cotton balls the size of marbles in five colours. By removing these ornamental stoppers at the mouth, one could take out from the goat any article one wished, such as clothes or gold or silver, etc. A single goat statue could yield all the needs of the whole population of the Southern Island Continent such as ghee, oil, honey, molasses, clothing, gold, silver, etc. As possessor of these miraculous goat statues, the rich man came to be called Meṇḍaka, "Owner of the Golden Goat".

Their son was the son in their previous existence (That son was Dhanañcaya who became the father of Visākhā). Their daughter-in-law was the daughter-in-law in their previous existence. (The wife of Meṇḍaka was named Candapadumā, the daughter-in-law, wife of Dhanañcaya, was named Sumanadevī, their servant was named Puṇṇa.)

(Reference may be made to the Chapter on the lives of Female Lay Disciples, on Visākhā, concerning the details about the Meṇḍaka’s household up to the point where Meṇḍaka gained Stream-Entry.)

It is important to note here that Meṇḍaka the Rich Man, after attaining Stream-Entry, consequent to his listening a discourse by the Buddha, told the Buddha how he had been dissuaded by the ascetics of other faiths from visiting Him, and how they denigrated Him.

Thereupon the Buddha said:

“Rich Man, it is the nature of people not to see their own faults but to fabricate other peoples faults and spread them about like a winnower winnowing chaff.”

Further, the Buddha spoke this verse:

“(Householder), it is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one’s own. Like the winnower winnowing chaff in the wind, one spreads the faults of others but hides his own faults like a crafty fowler covers himself.”

——Dhammapada, verse 252——

By the end of this discourse a large multitude of people gained Enlightenment at the various levels.

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