The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Story of The Dana given by Darubhandaka 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 on Pāramitā. 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).

The Story of The Dāna given by Dārubhaṇḍaka

Prologue: An example of the first type, Dukkara-dāna, may be found in the story of dāna given by Dārubhaṇḍaka Tissa. This story is given in the commentary to the 28th vagga of Ekadhammajhāna, Ekakanipata of the Aṅguttara Nikāya.

There was a poor man who lived in Mahāgāma of Sri Lanka, and who earned his living by selling firewood. His name was Tissa, but because his livelihood was selling firewood, he was known as Darubhaṇḍaka Tissa (Tissa who has only firewood as property).

One day he had a talk with his wife: “Our life is so humble, wretched, lowly, although the Buddha had taught the benefits of nibaddha-dāna, the observance of the duty of regular giving, we cannot afford to cultivate the practice. But we could do one thing; we could start giving alms-food regularly, twice a month, and when we could afford more, we will try for the higher offering of food by tickets[1] (salākabhatta).” His wife was agreeable to his proposal and they started giving whatever they could afford as alms-food the next morning. That was a very prosperous time for the bhikkhus who were receiving plenty of good food. Certain young bhikkhus and sāmaṇeras accepted the poor alms-food offered by the Darubhaṇḍaka’s family, but threw it away in their presence. The housewife reported to her husband: “They threw away our alms-food,” but she never had an unpleasant thought over the incident.

Then Darubhaṇḍaka had a discussion with his wife: “We are so poor, we cannot offer alms-food that would please the Noble Ones. What should we do to satisfy them.” “Those who have children are not poor,” said his wife in order to give him solace and encouragement and advised him to hire out the services of their daughter to a household, and with the money so acquired, to buy a milch cow. Darubhaṇḍaka accepted his wife’s advice. He obtained twelve pieces of money with which he bought a cow. Because of the purity of their wholesome volition, the cow yielded large quantities of milk.

The milk, they got in the evening, was made into cheese and butter. The milk, they got in the morning, was used by the wife in the preparation of milk porridge, which together with the cheese and butter, they offered to the Sangha. In this manner, they were able to make offerings of alms-food which was well accepted by the Sangha. From that time onwards the salākabhatta of Darubhaṇḍaka was available only to the Noble Ones of high attainments.

One day, Darubhaṇḍaka said to his wife: “Thanks to our daughter, we are saved from humiliation. We have reached a position in which the Noble Ones accepted our alms-food with great satisfaction. Now, do not miss out on the regular duty of offering alms-food during my absence. I shall find some kind of employment and I shall come back after redeeming our daughter from her bondage.” Then he went to work for six months in a sugar mill where he managed to save twelve pieces of money, with which, to redeem his daughter.

Setting out for home early one morning, he saw ahead of him the Venerable Tissa on his way to worship at the Pagoda at Mahāgāma. This bhikkhu was one who cultivated the austere practice of piṇḍindāpāta, that is, he partakes only alms food, which is offered to him when going on alms round. Dārubhaṇḍaka walked fast to catch up with the bhikkhu and strolled along with him, listening to his talk of the Dhamma. Approaching a village, Darubhaṇḍaka saw a man coming out with a packet of cooked rice in his hand. He offered the man one piece of money to sell him the packet of meal.

The man, realising that there must be some special reason for offering one piece of money for the food packet when it was not worth the sixteenth part of it, refused to sell it for one piece of money. Darubhaṇḍaka increased his offer to two, then three pieces of money and so on until he had offered all the money he possessed. But the man still declined the offer (thinking Darubhaṇḍaka had still more money with him).

Finally, Darubhaṇḍaka explained to the man: “I have no money with me other than these twelve pieces. I would have given you more if I had. I am buying this meal packet not for myself but, wishing to offer alms-food, I have requested a bhikkhu to wait for me under the shade of that tree. The food is to be offered to that bhikkhu. Do sell me the packet of food for this twelve pieces of money. You will also gain merit by doing so.”'

The man finally agreed to sell his food-packet and Darubhaṇḍaka took it with great happiness to the waiting bhikkhu. Taking the bowl from the bhikkhu, Dārubhanṇḍaka put the cooked rice from the packet into it. But the Venerable Tissa accepted only half of the meal. Darubhaṇḍaka made an earnest request to the bhikkhu: “Venerable Sir, this meal is sufficient for only one person. I will not eat any of it. I bought the food intending it only for you. Out of compassion for me, may the Venerable One accept all the food.” Upon this, the Venerable permitted him to offer all the food in the packet.

After the Venerable had finished the meal, they continued the journey together and he asked Dārubhaṇḍaka about himself. Darubhaṇḍaka told everything about himself very frankly to the Venerable. The Venerable was struck with awe by the intense piety of Darubhaṇḍaka and he thought to himself: “This man has made a dukkara-dāna, an offering which is difficult to make. Having partaken of the meal offered by him, under difficult circumstances, I am greatly indebted to him and I should show my gratitude in return. If I can find a suitable place, I shall strive hard to attain arahatship in one sitting. Let all my skin, flesh and blood dry up. I will not stir from this position until I attain the goal.” As they reached Mahāgāma, they went on their separate ways.

On arriving at the Tissa Mahāvihāra Monastery, the Venerable Tissa was allotted a room for himself, where he made his great effort, determined not to stir from the place until he had eradicated all defilements and become an arahat. Not even getting up to go on the alms round, he steadfastly worked on until at the dawn of the seventh day, he became an Arahat fully accomplished in the four branches of Analytical Knowledge (Patisambhidā). Then he thought to himself thus: “My body is greatly enfeebled. I wonder whether I could live longer.” He realised, through exercise of his psychic powers, that the phenomenon of nāma-rūpa, which constituted his living body, would not continue much longer. Putting everything in order in his dwelling place and taking his bowl and great robes, he went to the Assembly Hall at the centre of the monastery and sounded the drum to assemble all the bhikkhus.

When all the bhikkhus had gathered together, the head thera enquired who had called for the assembly. The Venerable Tissa, who had cultivated the austere practice of taking only alms food, replied: “I have sounded the drum, Venerable Sir.” “And why have you done so?” “I have no other purpose, but if any member of the Sangha has doubts about the attainments of the Path and Fruition, I wish them to ask me about them.”

The head thera told him there were no questions. He then asked the Venerable Tissa why he had persevered so arduously sacrificing even his life for the attainment. He related all that had happened and informed him that he would pass away the same day. Then he said: “May the catafalque, on which my corpse would be supported, remains immoveable until my alms-food donor, Dārubhaṇḍaka, comes and lifts it with his own hands.” And he passed away that very day.

Then King Kākavannatissa came and ordered his men to put the body on the catafalque and take it to the funeral pyre at the cremating grounds, but they were not able to move it. Finding out the reason for this, the King sent for Dārubhaṇḍaka, had him dressed in fine clothes and asked him to lift up the catafalque.

The text gives an elaborate account of how Darubhaṇḍaka lifted the catafalque with the body on it easily over his head and how, as he did so, the catafalque rose in the air and travelled by itself to the funeral pyre.

Epilogue: Dārubhaṇḍaka’s dāna involving the sacrifice ungrudgingly of twelve pieces of money which were needed for redeeming his own daughter from servitude and which had taken six whole months to earn is indeed a very difficult one to give and thus is known as Dukkara-dāna.

Footnotes and references:


According to I.B.Horner (Book of the Discipline), food tickets were issued at times when food was scarce. But the story of Dārubbanḍaka suggests that the same is adopted also when food is abundant as a higher form of dāna.

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