“All tremble at the rod. All fear death.
Comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause to kill.”129
The group of seventeen monks prepared a dwelling. The group of six monks told them, “Go away, we are senior. This is ours.” They junior monks replied, “We saw it and prepared it first.” The group of six monks assaulted them so that they cried out in fear of their lives. On hearing of the incident, the Buddha laid down a training rule ¹ and uttered the above verse.
“All tremble at the rod. Life is dear to all.
Comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause to kill.”130
The group of six monks quarrelled again with the group of seventeen monks and made threatening gestures. On hearing of the incident, the Buddha laid down a training rule ² and uttered the above verse.
“Whoever, seeking his own happiness,
harms with the rod other pleasure-loving beings,
experiences no happiness hereafter.”131
The Gang of Boys
While walking for alms, the Buddha saw a gang of boys beating a snake with sticks. He asked them what they were doing, and why. They said that they were afraid of being bitten. The Buddha told them that if one desires happiness one should not harm other beings. One who harms other beings finds no happiness in future lives.
“Speak not harshly to anyone. Those thus addressed will retort.
Painful, indeed, is vindictive speech. Blows in exchange may bruise you.”133
The Elder Koṇḍadhāna
From the day that he ordained, a monk was followed by a female phantom wherever he went. He didn’t see it, but others did. When they gave alms, they gave an extra portion saying, ‘this is for your friend.’ The reason for this lay in the past:
In the time of the Buddha Kassapa, two monks were close friends. A certain goddess, wishing to test their friendship, created a female form when one of the monks stopped to relieve himself. When the other monk saw her, he accused his friend of breaking his vow of chastity, and refused to have anything more to do with him. The goddess became remorseful and confessed what she had done. The monks made up, but their friendship was never so close again. When the goddess died, she was reborn in Avīci hell, and at the time of Gotama Buddha she was reborn as a man, and went forth. Due to that previous evil kamma, wherever he went, the elder was followed by a female phantom, and was known as Koṇḍadhāna Thera.¹
Some monks urged Anāthapiṇḍika to drive the monk out of his monastery, but he said the Buddha would know about it. The monks said the same to Visākhā, but she gave the same reply. Then they reported the matter to the king, urging him to drive the monk out of his kingdom, lest he should bring reproach on the other monks. The king asked where the elder was staying, and went to make a thorough investigation for himself. Discovering that there was no woman, but just a phantom, the king offered to provide the four requisites for him, as the elder might have difficulty otherwise.
The monks who had reported the matter to the king, were angry, and abused the Elder Kondadhāna, saying “You are immoral, now you are the king’s gigolo.” Until now he had said nothing, but this was just too much, so he retorted with similar abuse.
The monks reported him to the Buddha who summoned him. The Buddha explained the cause in the distant past and told him to be patient, saying it was better to be silent than to retaliate. Since the elder no longer had to walk for alms, or suffer abuse, he was soon able to gain concentration, and became an Arahant. Then the phantom image disappeared.
“As the herdsman drives his cattle to pasture with a staff,
even so do aging and death drive out the lives of beings.”135
The Women Who Observed the Uposatha
In the house of Visākhā, women of varying ages observed the Uposatha. When she asked the eldest why they did so, they replied, “To get to heaven.” The middle-aged women said, “To escape the control of our husbands.” The young married woman replied, “To get children.” The unmarried women replied, “To get husbands while still young.” When Visākhā told the Buddha, he spoke about the brevity of life.
“When a fool does evil deeds, he does not see (their evil nature);
by his own deeds a fool is tormented, like one burnt by fire.”136
The Python Ghost
While descending from Vulture’s Peak with the Elder Lakkhaṇa, the Elder Moggallāna saw a 250 mile long ghost in the form of a python, with its body engulfed in flames. When he smiled, the Elder Lakkhaṇa asked him why. The Elder Moggallāna said, “Friend, it is not the right time to ask this question. Wait until we are in the presence of the Teacher.” After they returned from almsround in Rājagaha, the Buddha confirmed that he had seen that same ghost on the night of his Enlightenment. Asked the reason for his plight, he told this story:
The Millionaire Sumaṅgala
In the time of the Buddha Kassapa, Sumaṅgala donated a lavish monastery to the Buddha. On his way to pay his respects one day, he saw a man spattered with mud, and said to himself, “This must be a burglar.” The thief bore a grudge and swore to get even. He burnt his fields seven times, cut off the feet of his cattle seven times, and burnt his house seven times, but was still not satisfied. He befriended the millionaire’s servant to find out what Sumaṅgala was most attached to. Learning that it was the Buddha’s dwelling place he had donated, the thief set fire to it while the Buddha was on almsround. When Sumaṅgala learned of this, he felt no more than a tinge of grief, but set to work at once to have it rebuilt, delighting in his good fortune in being able to spend even more in donating to the Buddha. When the robber heard about this he decided to kill him, but was unable to get an opportunity for seven days, as the millionaire was waiting upon the community of monks and the Buddha. After seven days, Sumaṅgala said to the Buddha, “Seven times my fields have been burnt, seven times my cattle’s feet have been cut off, and seven times my house has been burnt down, and now the Perfumed Chamber has been burnt down. I make over to that man the first fruits of this offering.” When he heard that, the robber felt great remorse, and begged for forgiveness. Sumangala forgave him, and asked him why he had done it. Hearing why, he asked for forgiveness from the robber. The robber asked to be a slave in his house, but Sumaṅgala declined, and let him go his own way. As a result of his evil deed, the robber was born in Avīci hell, and then as the Python ghost on Vulture’s Peak.
“He who harms with the rod the defenceless and innocent,
soon will come to one of these states:”137
“He will be subject to acute pain, disaster, bodily injury,
grievous disease, loss of mind, oppression by the king,
serious accusation, loss of relatives, destruction of wealth,
or fire will destroy his house.
On the dissolution of his body the foolish man will arise in hell.”138-140
The Great Elder Moggallāna
The naked ascetics met and discussed the reason for their decline and the success of the Buddha. They blamed it on the psychic powers of the Elder Moggallāna, who visited heaven and hell, reporting on the results of good and evil deeds. They plotted to kill him, and having collected a thousand gold coins from their supporters, they hired a band of thugs to kill the elder. The thugs surrounded the elder’s dwelling, but he escaped through the keyhole and went his way. For three months they were unable to catch him, but seeing that his past kamma had to give its fruit, the elder made no more attempt to get away. The thugs caught him and tore him limb from limb, pulverising his bones into tiny pieces. However, the elder was not dead yet, and wished to pay his final respects to the Buddha, so he used his psychic powers to reassemble his body, and went to pay homage to the Buddha. After performing miracles, and preaching the Dhamma, he went to attain parinibbāna at the black rock.
When King Ajātasattu heard of the elder’s murder, he sent detectives to catch them. While drinking in a tavern, they argued about who had struck the elder. The detectives caught them, and brought them before the king. They confessed that the naked ascetics had hired them. They were arrested, and all were buried up to their necks. The ground was laid with straw and set on fire. Then the ground was ploughed up.
When the monks discussed the elder’s death, saying that he didn’t deserve to die like that, the Buddha came and told them the following story of the elder’s past life:
The Son Who Killed His Parents
In the distant past he was a youth who looked after his blind and aged parents, doing all the household chores himself. They said to him, “Son, you are wearing yourself out. We will bring you a wife.” He said that he didn’t need a wife, but they made the suggestion repeatedly, and finally brought him a wife.
For only a few days she looked after his parents, but soon was unable to bear the sight of them. She complained that she was unable to stay in the house with them. He paid no attention to her, so she scattered dirt and rice gruel here and there, pretending that they had done it. Eventually, she succeeded in dividing him from his own parents.
He told his parents that he would take them to visit relatives, and drove them in a cart through the forest. In the middle of the forest, he pretended that they were being attacked by robbers, and beat his own parents to death.
Due to that heinous crime, he suffered in hell for many hundreds of thousands of years, and was beaten to death in a hundred successive lives. In his final existence as the Elder Moggallāna he was also beaten to death.
“Neither nakedness, matted locks, covering the body with mud,
fasting, lying on the ground, dusting with soil or ashes,
nor squatting on the heels, can purify a mortal who has not overcome doubt.”141
The Monk With Many Robes
On the death of his wife, a certain householder of Sāvatthi went forth as a monk. He had a cell built for his own use, a fire-room, and a store-room, where he kept many requisites. He had food cooked to his own liking, and used many sets of robes. Other monks, seeing that he had so many requisites, reported this matter to the Buddha, who admonished him. He became angry and, discarding his upper robe, stood in only his lower robe. The Buddha pointed out the futility of outward austerities.
“Though gaily decked, if he lives in peace, (with passions) subdued,
(and senses) controlled, certain (of the four Paths), perfectly pure,
laying aside the rod towards living beings,
a priest is he, a recluse is he, a monk is he.”142
Santati the King’s Minister
After suppressing a rebellion, the minister Santati was honoured by King Pasenadi and treated like royalty for seven days. While riding on the king’s elephant he saw the Buddha walking for alms, and bowed his head in respect. The Buddha smiled, and when Ānanda asked him why, he said that today Santati would attain Arahantship after hearing a verse of four stanzas, and would pass away while sitting cross-legged in the sky at a height of seven palm trees. The non-believers who heard this thought that the Buddha would be shown to have lied, while the believers marvelled at the supernatural powers of the Buddha, anticipating the predicted attainment of parinibbāna by Santati the minister.
Having sported in the water for the day, in the evening Santati took his seat in the theatre and straight away the dancing girl came to perform. Because she had fasted for seven days, she fall dead while performing. Overcome with grief, Santati went to the Buddha, who taught him the Dhamma.
“Let there be nothing behind you; leave the future to one side. Do not clutch at what is left in the middle; then you will become a wanderer at peace.” (Sn v 955)
Santati attained Arahantship though finely dressed and adorned with jewels. After paying homage to the Teacher, sitting in the sky he related a story of his distant past, when ninety-one aeons ago he had gone about proclaiming the virtues of the Triple Gem. Then sitting cross-legged in the sky at a height of seven palm trees, he entered jhāna, meditating on the element of fire, and his body was spontaneously cremated. His relics floated down to earth like Jasmine flowers, and the Teacher caught them in a white cloth. He ordered a stūpa to be built over them.
The monks asked whether it was proper to call him a recluse or a priest. The Buddha, uttered the above verse, saying that it was proper to call his son either a recluse or a priest.
“(Rarely) is found in this world one who, restrained by modesty,
avoids reproach, as a thorough-bred horse (avoids) the whip.”143
“Like a thorough-bred horse touched by the whip, even so be strenuous and zealous.
By confidence, by virtue, effort, concentration, investigation of the Dhamma,
being endowed with knowledge and conduct, and constant mindfulness,
get rid of this great suffering.”144
The Loin-cloth Elder
One day, the Elder Ānanda saw a poor youth, whose only possessions were his loin cloth and a pot. He asked him whether life might not be better as a monk. The youth asked who would ordain him, and the elder agreed to do so. The youth hung his loin cloth and pot on the branch of a tree and became a monk. It was not long before he became fat and discontented with the monk’s life. Then he went to the tree where he had hung his loincloth and pot, and admonished himself for being so stupid for wanting to go begging in just a loin-cloth. He was content for a while, then again became discontent, so again he went to the tree. The third time this happened, some monks asked him where he was going. He replied that he was going to see his teacher. This time he gained Arahantship.
When the monks asked him why he didn’t go to see his teacher any longer he replied that formerly he was attached to the world, so he went to his teacher, but now that he had cut off attachment to the world, he no longer need to go.
The monks reported what he had said to the Buddha, who confirmed that it was true, and uttered the above verse.
“Irrigators lead the waters. Fletchers bend the shafts.
Carpenters bend the wood. The virtuous control themselves.”145
While she was expecting, his mother offered choice almsfood to five hundred monks with the Elder Sāriputta. She named him Bliss (sukha) because ever since his conception no one in her house had felt any pain. At the age of seven he wished to become a monk, so his mother asked the elder to ordain him. While going for alms he noticed irrigators, fletchers, and carpenters controlling inanimate things.³ He thought, “Why should I not control my mind?” He turned back from almsround, meditated strenuously, and attained Arahantship. The Buddha commented on the benefits of self-control.
1. Pācittiya 74. Should any bhikkhu, angered and displeased, give a blow to (another) bhikkhu, it is to be confessed.
2. Pācittiya 75. Should any bhikkhu, angered and displeased, raise his hand against (another) bhikkhu, it is to be confessed.