“Make haste in doing good, restrain your mind from evil,
for the mind of him who is slow in doing good delights in evil.”116
The Brahmin With Only One Garment
A man and his wife had only one under garment each and only one upper garment between them. His wife went to listen to the Dhamma during the day, and the man went at night. While listening to the Buddha, he thought to offer his upper garment, but meanness overcame him. Throughout the night he battled with his thoughts. In the third watch of the night he mastered his meanness, and offered the garment, shouting, “I have conquered! I have conquered! I have conquered!”
King Pasenadi sent a man to ask about it, and hearing the reason, sent him a pair of garments. The man presented them to the Buddha. The king sent two pairs of garments, then four, then eight, then sixteen, but the man presented them all to the Buddha. Then the king sent thirty-two pairs, with a message to keep two pairs for himself. The man presented thirty pairs of garments to the Buddha, and kept two pairs for himself and his wife. Then the king sent two expensive blankets. The man set up one as a canopy in the Buddha’s perfumed chamber, and one at his own house, where the monks took their meals. The next day, when the king visited the Buddha, he saw the canopy and made ‘A Gift of Fours’ to the man: four elephants, four horses, four thousand gold coins, four women, four men, four female slaves, and the income from four villages.
When the monks were talking about the wonderful results of the man’s gift of a single garment, the Buddha explained that had he conquered his meanness in the first watch of the night, he would have received ‘A Gift of Sixteens,’ or had he done so in the middle watch, he would have received ‘A Gift of Eights.’ Saying this, he uttered the verse saying that one should make haste in doing good.
“If a person commits evil, let him not do it repeatedly;
he should not delight in it, for the accumulation of evil is painful.”117
The Elder Seyyasaka
The Venerable Seyyasaka became discontented with the monk’s life. His co-resident, the elder Lā1udāyi, advised him to masturbate to relieve his sexual frustration. Then the Elder Seyyasaka fell into the same offence repeatedly. The Buddha reproved him and uttered the above stanza.
“If a person performs merit, let him do it repeatedly;
he should delight in it: for the accumulation of merit is blissful.”118
The Story of Lājadeva
A devout woman offered almsfood to the Venerable Mahākassapa. After being bitten by a snake, she died and was reborn in Tāvatiṃsa. Wishing to make more merit, she came early in the morning to clean the elder’s hut. When he returned from alms early he saw who had been cleaning his hut, and ordered her to stop coming. She was upset, and stood crying. The Buddha heard her and consoled her, uttering the above verse, and the deity attained Stream-winning.
“Even an evil-doer sees good as long as evil doesn’t ripen;
but when it bears fruit, then he sees the evil result.”119
The Story of Anāthapiṇḍika
The millionaire Anāthapiṇḍika supported the Saṅgha so generously that he used the greater part of his fortune. A guardian deity of his house criticised him for his extravagant almsgiving, and advised him to devote himself more to his business. He banished the deity from his house and continued giving only cheap almsfood. Unable to find anywhere to live, the deity approached Sakka, who advised her to make amends. She recovered some buried treasure, and told some debtors to repay their loans. Anāthapindika became wealthy again, and the deity begged for forgiveness. Anāthapindika took her to the Buddha, who uttered these verses to show the results of both good and evil deeds.
“Do not disregard evil, saying, ‘It will not come to me;’
by the falling of drops even a water-jar is filled;
likewise the fool, gathering little by little, fills himself with evil.”121
The Careless Monk
A certain monk left beds and chairs he had used outside so that they got damaged by the rain and white ants. When admonished by other monks he said it was nothing to worry about. This was reported to the Buddha. The Buddha admonished him and told him not to disregard even a slight wrong. He then laid down a training rule to put away beds and chairs before leaving.¹
“Do not disregard merit, saying, ‘It will not come to me;’
by the falling of drops even a water-jar is filled;
likewise the wise man, gathering little by little, fills himself with good.”122
The Millionaire ‘Catfoot’
On hearing the Buddha’s teaching on the benefits of giving alms and urging others to give, a wise layman invited the Buddha and the Saṅgha for the next day’s meal. He went from door to door urging everyone to give alms according to their means, inviting them to assemble the next day to prepare and offer the meal. At a certain shop, the wealthy owner, thinking that the layman should only offer what he himself could give, contributed a very small amount. Because of this, the wealthy shop-keeper became known as “Catfoot.” The layman kept his frugal offerings to one side. The shop-keeper sent a servant to see what the layman did with his offerings, and the servant reported that the man had put a grain of rice or a bean in each of the pots of food being cooked.
The shop-keeper went to the alms offering the next day with the intention of killing the wise man if he should blame him. However, the wise man thanked all equally and wished them great happiness. The shop-keeper felt ashamed and asked the wise man for forgiveness. Hearing of this, the Buddha praised the benefit of even small gifts.
“As a merchant, with a small escort and great wealth, avoids a perilous route,
as one who loves life avoids poison, even so should one shun evil things.”123
The Wealthy Merchant
A band of robbers tried, but failed, to gain entry to the house of a wealthy merchant. The merchant loaded five hundred carts and invited any monks who wished to accompany him to his destination, promising to provide their needs on the journey. When he stopped for a while at a certain place, the robbers sent a spy to find out when he would set out, and by which route, intending to waylay him. To protect the monks, a friend of the spy warned the merchant, so he changed his plans, then when he heard that the robbers had heard of his new plans, he decided to stay where he was. The monks left the merchant and returned to Sāvatthī, and told the Buddha why they had returned. The Buddha urged the monks to shun even the slightest evil, and they all attained Arahantship.
“If there is no wound on one’s hand, one may carry poison.
Poison does not harm one who has no wound.
There is no evil for him who thinks no evil.”124
The Hunter Kukkutamitta
A rich man’s daughter, who was a Stream-winner, fell in love with a hunter at first sight, and eloped with him. She gave birth to seven sons, and they all grew up and married.
One day, the Buddha saw that the hunter and his relatives were ready to realise the Dhamma. He went to the hunter’s forest, left his footprint by one of the hunter’s nets and went to sit under a tree. Finding his nets empty, and seeing the footprint, the hunter was angry. On finding the Buddha, he drew his bow to shoot him, thinking, “This monk released all of my animals.” Due to the Buddha’s psychic power, he was unable to release the arrow or put down the bow, but stood rooted to the spot. Since he was late returning, his sons came looking for him, and thinking the Buddha must be their father’s enemy, they also drew their bows, and also became rooted to the spot, unable to shoot or to put down their bows.
Then their mother came with her daughters-in-law, and seeing her husband and sons standing there, aiming their bows at the Buddha, she cried out, “Do not shoot my father.” Hearing her pleas, the heart of the hunter softened, thinking, “So, this is my father-in-law” and the sons likewise thought, “This is my grandfather.” They throw aside their bows, and asked for forgiveness. The Buddha taught them the Dhamma, and all fifteen family members attained Stream-winning.
The Buddha continued on his round for alms, and when he returned late, the Venerable Ānanda asked him where he had been. The Buddha related what had happened.
The monks discussed these events, and wondered whether the hunter’s wife had committed an evil deed by giving bows and arrows to her husband to go hunting. The Buddha explained that she was blameless as she just obeyed her husband and had no evil intention to kill any animals.
Story of the Past: Two Bankers
On another occasion, the monks discussed what the hunter’s family had done in a previous life to gain nibbāna in this life, so the Buddha told them. At one time the people constructed a pagoda for the relics of the Buddha Kassapa. When they came to the stage of making the jewelled casket for the relics they needed a huge amount of money. The village banker offered ten million if the people would appoint him as the president of their pagoda building association. Then the city banker offered twenty million. The village banker offered thirty million, but the city banker offered forty million. When the city banker offered eighty million the village banker thought, “I have only ninety million, but the city banker has four hundred million. If I offer ninety million I will be reduced to poverty.” So he offered eighty million, and the services of himself and his wife and children as servants of the pagoda.
The people considered that was better than any amount of money, so they appointed him as their president, and completed the pagoda with the money they had raised. Although granted their freedom by the people, the family passed the remainder of their life in the service of the pagoda. After enjoying celestial bliss until the time of the Buddha Gotama, the wife of the village banker was reborn as the daughter of a millionaire of Sāvatthī, and the banker was reborn as a hunter. Thus due to their long association in the past, the young woman fell in love with the hunter at first sight.
“Through past association, or present advantage;
Affection springs up again, like a lotus in water.” (Jā.ii.235)
Their sons in the previous life were reborn as their sons, and their daughters-in-law were reborn and became their daughters-in-law in the present life again. By the merit of caring for the pagoda, they all attained Stream-winning.
“Whoever harms a harmless person, one pure and guiltless,
upon that very fool the evil recoils like fine dust thrown against the wind.”125
Koka the Hunter
Koka hunted with dogs. On the way to hunt, he met a certain monk, and thought it was a bad omen. The hunter caught nothing the entire day. On his return he met the same monk, so he set his dogs on him. The monk climbed a tree to save himself. The hunter pierced the monk’s feet with his arrows. As the monk was struggling in agony, his upper robe fell on the hunter, covering him. The dogs, thinking that the monk had fallen, tore their own master to pieces.
The monk later approached the Buddha and asked if he had done any wrong to cause the man’s death. The Buddha cleared his doubts and described the evil consequences of harming an innocent person.
“Some are born in a womb; evil-doers (are reborn) in hell;
the virtuous go to heaven; the Arahants attain nibbāna.”126
The Elder Tissa and the Lapidary
For twelve years, the Arahant Venerable Tissa visited the house of a lapidary, whose wife prepared alms for him daily. One day, King Pasenadi sent a precious gem with instructions to polish and pierce it. The lapidary had been handling meat, so the gem was smeared with blood. He put it in a basket and went to wash his hands. A pet heron smelt the blood and swallowed the gem. The lapidary, not finding the gem, asked the elder, who denied taking it. The lapidary suspected the elder so bound him, and beat him - ignoring his wife’s pleas. Blood flowed from the elder’s head, nose, and ears. The heron came to drink the blood. The enraged lapidary kicked the bird hard, killing it. Then the elder revealed what had happened. The lapidary ripped open the heron’s stomach, finding the gem. He begged the elder’s forgiveness. The elder forgave him, saying that it was the result of his own kamma. The lapidary begged him to take alms in his house as usual, but the elder declined, vowing never to enter a house again.
The heron was reborn in the womb of the lapidary’s wife. The elder soon died from his injuries and attained nibbāna. When the lapidary died, he was reborn in hell. When his wife died, she was reborn in heaven. When the monks asked about their destinies, the Buddha said how actions determine rebirth.
“Not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in a mountain cave, is found that place on earth where abiding one may escape from (the consequences) of one’s evil deed.”127
Three Stories of Travellers
Three groups of monks came to visit the Buddha. On their way, one group saw a crow fly into a burning bundle of thatch, and get burnt to death.
A second group came by ship. When the ship was becalmed mid-ocean for several days, lots were drawn and the captain’s beautiful young wife drew the short straw three times in succession. The captain ordered her jewels to be removed and to cast her overboard with a bag of ballast tied to her neck, so that he wouldn’t have to hear her screams as she struggled. Sharks and turtles came at once, and consumed her body.
The third group of seven monks stayed in a cave overnight, but were trapped by a fallen boulder. They suffered severe hunger and thirst for seven days until the boulder could be removed. All of the travellers asked the Buddha the reason for these strange events.
Story of the Past: Burning an Ox
The Buddha related how that crow, as a farmer in a previous birth, being unable to tame an ox, had wrapped it’s body in straw and burnt it to death.
Story of the Past: Drowning a Dog
A dog, who had been her husband in a previous life, followed a woman everywhere. Some youths teased her, and she drove the dog away with sticks and stones, but it kept following her. She filled a vessel with sand, tied it with a rope to the dog’s neck and drowned the dog in a pool.
Story of the Past: Imprisoning an Iguana
The seven monks, born as cowherds in a previous life, had imprisoned an iguana in an anthill. They forgot about it for seven days, but released it and let it go when they remembered. They escaped falling into hell, but suffered from starvation for seven days in each of fourteen successive lives.
The Buddha added that no one is exempt from the consequences of his or her past evil deeds.
“Not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in a mountain cave,
is found that place on earth where abiding one will not be overcome by death.”128
King Suppabuddha Obstructs the Buddha
King Suppabuddha, Princess Yasodharā’s father, hated the Buddha for two reasons: he had renounced his daughter, and having ordained his son, was hostile towards him.¹ King Suppabuddha blocked the way when the Buddha went for alms, and sat in the street drinking strong liquor. Though told repeatedly that the teacher had come, he refused to let him pass, saying that the Buddha was not older than himself. The Buddha turned back with the Saṅgha.
When asked by the Venerable Ānanda, the Buddha predicted that Suppabuddha would be swallowed up by the earth in seven days at the door of his own palace. When told of this by a spy, King Suppabuddha did everything he could to avert it, but died exactly as predicted by the Buddha, and fell into Avīci hell.