The Twin Verses
“Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states.
Mind is chief; and they are mind-made.
If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind,
from that, suffering follows, as the wheel follows the hoof of the ox.”1
The Story of Cakkhupāla Thera
A monk named Cakkhupāla determined not to lie down for the entire Rains Retreat. He contracted an eye infection and the doctor told him that he must lie down to take the medicine. He refused to lie down, so the disease got worse. He realised Arahantship, but simultaneously went blind.
As he was pacing up and down, he unintentionally killed many insects. Visiting monks noticed the trampled insects on the elder’s walking meditation path, and told the matter to the Buddha. The Buddha explained that the monk had killed them unintentionally and that he was an Arahant.
The monks then asked the cause of his blindness.
The Buddha related how, in a previous life as a doctor, he had treated a poor woman’s eyes. She promised to become his servant if her eyesight was restored. The treatment worked, but the woman pretended that her eyesight was getting worse. The doctor retaliated by giving her another medicine, which blinded her. Due to that evil action Cakkhupāla became blind.
“Mind is the forerunner of (all good) states.
Mind is chief, and they are mind-made.
If one speaks or acts with a pure mind,
from that, happiness follows,
as one’s own shadow that never leaves.”2
The Story of Maṭṭhakuṇḍali
The only son of a stingy millionaire was on the verge of death because his father was too mean to call a doctor, and tried to treat his son himself. The Buddha saw the dying boy with his Divine Eye, and stood for alms in front of his house. Seeing the Buddha, Maṭṭhakuṇḍali was delighted. Dying with a mind full of faith in the Buddha he was reborn in the celestial realm. After his son’s death, the millionaire was grief-stricken. Every day he went to the cemetery crying for his son.
The deity appeared before his father in a form like his son, and stood weeping. The millionaire saw the youth and asked him why he was crying. The deity replied that he wanted two wheels for his chariot, but could not get them. The millionaire offered to buy him whatever chariot wheels he wanted. The deity said that he wanted the sun and the moon for his chariot wheels. The millionaire told the youth that his wish was folly as it was impossible to obtain the sun and the moon. The deity admonished the millionaire, “You are even more foolish than me in crying for your dead son. At least I can see the sun and the moon, but you cannot even see your dead son.” The millionaire realised that the youth was his own son, and gained some faith in Dhamma. The next day, he offered alms to the Saṅgha and the deity appeared, telling the assembly how he had gained such bliss just by revering the Buddha in his mind.
“‘He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,’
in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.”3
The Story of Tissa Thera
Venerable Tissa, a cousin of the Buddha, did not pay due respect to the senior monks. When they admonished him, he threatened them, and complained to the Buddha. The Buddha urged him to apologise, but Tissa was obstinate. The Buddha related a story to show that Tissa had been just as obstinate in a previous life. He had to ask forgiveness from the senior monks.
“Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world;
through love alone does it cease. This is an eternal law.”5
A Story of Jealousy
A husband had two wives, one barren, the other fertile. Due to jealousy, the barren wife put a drug in her rival’s food and caused two successive abortions. On the third occasion the potion caused the death of both mother and child. The dying woman vowed to take revenge, and fulfilled her resolve. The other too did likewise. Thus both women avenged themselves in the course of two successive births. In their third birth circumstances, however, compelled both to meet the Buddha, who pacified them by advising them not to retaliate.
“The others know not that in this quarrel we perish;
those who realise it, have their quarrels calmed thereby.”6
The Dispute at Kosambī
Two teachers, one teaching Dhamma, the other teaching Vinaya, lived at Kosambī, each teaching a group of monks. One day, the Dhamma teacher forgot to replace the rinsing water in the toilet. The Vinaya teacher reminded the Dhamma teacher that this was a minor offence. The Dhamma teacher acknowledged his offence, explaining that he just forgotten to do it. The Vinaya teacher then said that there was no offence as it was unintentional. So, when it came to the time for confession, the Dhamma teacher didn’t confess any offence. The Vinaya teacher told his pupils that the Dhamma teacher hadn’t confessed his offence. The Dhamma teacher told his pupils that the Vinaya teacher didn’t know what was an offence or what was not an offence, and the pupils quarrelled.
The quarrelsome monks would not listen even to the Buddha, so he left Kosambī and spent the rainy season in the forest. The laity were disappointed and stopped offering alms. The monks made up and asked the Buddha for forgiveness.
“Whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, with senses unrestrained,
in food immoderate, indolent, inactive,
him verily Māra¹ overthrows, as the wind (overthrows) a weak tree.”7
“Whoever lives contemplating “the Impurities”, with senses restrained,
in food moderate, full of faith, full of sustained energy,
him Māra overthrows not, as the wind (does not overthrow) a rocky mountain.”8
The Story of Mahākāḷa and Cūḷakāḷa
Three brothers were merchants. The eldest and youngest fetched goods from the villages around Sāvatthī for their brother to sell. One day, the elder brother saw a crowd of people going to listen to the Dhamma. He told his young brother to look after their goods and went to the Buddha. He gained faith in Dhamma and wanted to become a monk. His brother couldn’t dissuade him, so he ordained too, hoping to make his elder brother return to lay-life later. The elder brother meditated in the cemetery and soon gained Arahantship. The younger monk was ridiculed by his two former wives, who took his robes off him, so he left the Saṅgha. The eight former wives of the elder monk thought they would be able to entice him to disrobe, but he escaped by using his psychic powers.
“Whoever, unstainless, without self control and truthfulness,
should don the yellow robe, is not worthy of it.”9
The Story of Devadatta
A group of people voted to present a costly robe to Venerable Devadatta, in preference to Venerable Sāriputta. Some devout followers, seeing him wearing it, remarked that he was not worthy of it. The Buddha explained that Devadatta had done likewise in a previous life and explained who was worthy of wearing the robe of the Buddhas.
“In the unreal they imagine the real, in the real they see the unreal —
they who entertain (such) wrong thoughts never realise the essence.”11
The Story of Venerable Sāriputta
Venerable Sāriputta and Moggallāna could not persuade Sañcaya, their former teacher, to meet the Buddha. The Buddha explained that different results were inevitable for those who think rightly and those who think wrongly.
“Even as rain penetrates as ill-thatched house,
so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind.”13
The Story of Prince Nanda
While at Kapilavatthu, the Buddha and the Saṅgha were invited for the pre-nuptial wedding feast of the Buddha’s step-brother, Prince Nanda. After the meal, the Buddha left his almsbowl in the hands of Prince Nanda, and returned to the monastery. The young prince was obliged to follow him all the way back to the monastery to return the almsbowl. The Buddha asked Nanda if he would go forth as a monk. Out of respect for the teacher, Nanda was obliged to say yes. So he was ordained. As he was constantly thinking of his fiancée, Nanda was very dissatisfied. The Buddha used his psychic powers to take him to the Tāvatiṃsa heaven, where he showed him the celestial nymphs. The Buddha promised Nanda that he could get these nymphs if he meditated well.
Nanda no longer thought about his fiancée, but meditated diligently in the hope of acquiring the celestial nymphs. The other monks teased him about this, and called him a “paid labourer.” Being a prince of noble lineage, Nanda’s sense of shame was piqued by being compared to a hired labourer. He strove hard in his meditation and soon attained Arahantship.
The Buddha compared his former lustful state of mind to an ill-thatched house and his newly acquired mental purity to a well-thatched house.
“Here he grieves, hereafter he grieves.
In both states the evil-doer grieves.
He grieves, he is tormented,
perceiving the impurity of his own deeds.”15
Cunda the Pork-butcher
Cunda, who lived near the Bamboo grove monastery at Rājagaha, killed pigs mercilessly throughout his life, skinning them alive. In the final week of his life, he went mad and crawled on the floor squealing like a pig. His wife shuttered all the doors and windows, but his cries still disturbed the neighbours day and night. After his death he was reborn in hell.
“Here he rejoices, hereafter he rejoices.
In both states the doer of good rejoices.
He rejoices, he exults
perceiving the purity of his own deeds.”16
Dhammika the Devout Lay Supporter
Dhammika gave alms generously throughout his life, and urged others to give. The monks came to his house to recite the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta as he lay on his death-bed. Dhammika saw celestial beings come to invite him, each to their own realm, and, not wishing to interrupt the recitation, he told them to wait. The monks thought he was speaking to them, so they stopped reciting and returned to the monastery. His children were upset until Dhammika was able to explain what had happened. After a peaceful death, he was reborn in Tusita.
“Here he laments, hereafter he laments.
In both states the evil-doer laments.
‘I have done evil,’ he laments.
He laments again, having gone to a woeful state.”17
The Story of Devadatta
Six Sakyan princes went forth as monks together: Bhaddiya, Anuruddha, Ānanda, Bhagu, Kimilo, and Devadatta, and so did their barber, Upāli. Devadatta made good progress in meditation at first, and gained some mystic powers, but he did not become famous like the other five Sakyan princes. He used his mystic powers to impress Prince Ajātasattu, the son of King Bimbisāra of Rājagaha, and thus came to receive lavish offerings, and became highly conceited.
When the Buddha was getting old, Devadatta asked him to retire and appoint him as the leader of the Saṅgha. The Buddha replied, “I would not appoint even Sāriputta or Moggallāna, let alone to a piece of phlegm like you.” Devadatta hated the Buddha for this, and made several unsuccessful attempts to kill him. Before he died he repented and wished to see the Buddha, but while being carried to see the Buddha, he was swallowed up by the earth, and was reborn in hell.
“Here he is happy, hereafter he is happy.
In both states the well-doer is happy.
‘Good have I done’ (thinking thus), he is happy.
Furthermore, he is happy, having gone to a blissful state.”18
Sumanā, the Daughter of Anāthapiṇḍika
Before she passed away, Sumanā, the youngest daughter of Anāthapiṇḍika, addressed her father as “younger brother.” He was upset to think that his daughter was speaking incoherently at the time of her death. He told the Buddha, who explained that she had attained the stage of a Once-returner while Anāthapiṇḍika was only a Stream-winner.
“Though much he recites the Sacred Texts, but acts not accordingly,
that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts others’ kine.
He has no share in the fruits of the Holy Life.”19
“Though little he recites the Sacred Texts,
but acts in accordance with the teaching,
forsaking lust, hatred and ignorance,
truly knowing, with mind well freed,
clinging to naught here and hereafter,
he shares the fruits of the Holy Life.”20
The Story of Two Companion Monks
Of the two companions, one was a ordinary person, but learned, the other was an Arahant though he knew only a little about the teachings. The learned monk did not practise meditation, but his companion realised nibbāna. Being conceited, the learned monk intended to embarrass the other by asking some questions in the presence of the Buddha. Knowing his ulterior motive, the Buddha asked some practical questions about the Dhamma. The Arahant answered them all from his personal experience, but the learned monk could not, as he had not attained anything. The Buddha praised the Arahant who had practised and understood the Dhamma well.