“One should give up anger. One should abandon pride.
One should overcome all fetters.
Ills never befall him who clings not to mind and body and is passionless.221
When the Elder Anuruddha visited Kapilavatthu with five hundred monks, his sister Rohiṇī did not come to greet him because she was suffering from a skin disease. He told his relatives to summon her, so she came, having covered her face with a cloth. He advised her to undertake to erect an Assembly Hall for the Saṅgha. She sold a valuable necklace to pay for it, and the Elder Anuruddha stayed in Kapilavatthu to supervise the work. When the hall was completed the Buddha was invited, and Rohiṇī swept the hall and set out seats for the Saṅgha. When the meal was finished, the Buddha asked whose the offering was. Rohiṇī was summoned and came reluctantly. The Buddha asked her if she knew why she was suffering from this skin disease. When she replied that she did not, the Buddha told her that it was due to anger, and related a story of the past.
In the distant past, the chief queen of the king of Benares took a dislike to a certain dancing girl. She made a powder from scabs and had it sprinkled on the girl’s bedding and clothes. The girl suffered terribly from skin disease.
Having attributed Rohiṇī’s skin disease to anger and jealousy, the Buddha uttered the above verse. On the conclusion of the verse Rohiṇī attained Stream-winning and her skin disease vanished completely.
When Rohiṇī passed away from that existence, she was reborn in Tāvatiṃsa in a place at the boundary of the realms of four deities. She was so beautiful that they quarrelled over her. They asked Sakka to settle the dispute, but when he saw her, he also desired her, saying that he would die if he could not have her. The other deities agreed to give up the nymph to Sakka, and she become his favourite.
“Whoever checks his uprisen anger as though it were a rolling chariot,
him I call a true charioteer. Others merely hold the reins.”222
A monk, while cutting down a tree with an axe to make a dwelling for himself, accidentally severed the arm of a tree deity’s child. She grew angry and wanted to kill him, but she controlled her anger, reflecting that she would be reborn in hell if she killed a virtuous man, and that other deities would also kill monks in future following her bad example. Instead, she reported the matter to the Buddha, who praised her self-restraint and uttered the above verse. On the conclusion of the verse, the deity was established in Stream-winning. The Buddha pointed out an empty tree at Jetavana near his Perfumed Chamber, and she took up residence there. This occasion was the reason for the laying down of the rule for monks regarding damaging plants.
“Conquer anger by love. Conquer evil by good.
Conquer the stingy by giving. Conquer the liar by truth.”223
Uttarā was the daughter of Puṇṇa, a poor man who worked for hire. While others were enjoying a holiday, Puṇṇa had to work because he was so poor. One day, the Elder Sāriputta, who had just arisen from spending seven days in absorption (nirodha samāpatti), wished to bestow a blessing on Puṇṇa. He went to the field where Puṇṇa was working and stood there gazing at a bush. Puṇṇa cut off a piece to offer tooth-sticks to the elder. Then he took the elder’s water filter and offered him clean water. The elder waited a while until Puṇṇa’s wife had set off from home, then walked into the village for alms. Seeing the elder, she paid homage to him and offered the rice she had brought for her husband. The elder covered his bowl when she had given half, but she asked him to let her give it all. She then returned home to cook more rice for her husband. Arriving late, she told Puṇṇa not to be angry, explaining why she was late. He was pleased. Exhausted from working the whole morning without food, after eating his meal he fell asleep in his wife’s lap. When he woke up, the field that he had ploughed had turned to gold. Thinking that he was hallucinating he rubbed his eyes, and taking some earth, rubbed it on the plough handle. Seeing that it was indeed gold, he filled a basket with the earth and went to the king’s palace. He suggested to the king that the gold should be fetched to the palace. The king appointed Puṇṇa as his chief treasurer and gave him a site to build a house near the palace. When the house was complete, Puṇṇa invited the Buddha for alms, and at the conclusion of the thanksgiving sermon, Puṇṇa, his wife, and Uttarā all gained Stream-winning.
The treasurer of Rājagaha urged Puṇṇa to arrange the marriage of Uttarā to his son, but because he was a heretic, Puṇṇa was reluctant to agree. Eventually he relented and the marriage was arranged. Uttarā was miserable in her new home because she had no opportunity to invite the monks or to offer alms. She sent a message to her father who sent her a large sum of money with a message to hire the services of an expensive prostitute named Sirimā for her husband. Thus during the last fortnight of the Rains Retreat, Uttarā was free to cook food to offer to the monks.
Wondering what she was up to, her husband looked to see her toiling in the kitchen and laughed. Wondering why he laughed, Sirimā looked and saw Uttarā, and grew jealous. She went to the kitchen, and taking a ladle of boiling ghee, advanced towards Uttarā. Seeing her coming, Uttarā radiated metta towards Sirimā, grateful that with her help she had been able to offer alms. When Sirimā threw the boiling ghee on her head, it was as if she had sprinkled cold water. Uttarā’s servants attacked Sirimā, but Uttarā fought them off, and protected her.
Sirimā came to her senses, and begged forgiveness from Uttarā. She replied that she would forgive her if she begged forgiveness from the Buddha, who was her spiritual father. Sirimā told the Buddha what she had done, and the Buddha asked Uttarā what she had thought when attacked by Sirimā. He praised Uttarā, reciting the above verse.
“One should speak the truth. One should not be angry.
One should give even from a scanty store to him who asks.
By these three ways one may go to the presence of the gods.”224
While visiting the celestial realms, the Elder Moggallāna asked the devas what meritorious acts had led to their rebirth. They mentioned trifling actions done with truthfulness, patience, generosity, and so forth. The Elder Moggallāna asked the Buddha for confirmation and he uttered the above verse in explanation.
“Those sages who are harmless, and are ever restrained in body,
go to the deathless state (nibbāna), whither gone they never grieve.”225
One day, while the Buddha was walking for alms in Sāketa with the monks, an elderly Brahmin paid homage to him and grasped him by the ankles speaking to the Buddha as if he was his own son, upbraiding him for not visiting for so long. He escorted him into the house, where the Brahmin’s wife greeted him as her own son. They invited him to come for alms to their house every day, but the Buddha declined saying that it was not his custom to do that. So they asked that anyone who invited him should be sent to see them. From that time on, whenever the Buddha was invited, he asked the donor to inform the Brahmin and his wife, and they took food from their own house and went wherever the Buddha was invited. If there was no invitation, they offered alms to the Buddha in their own house. Due to hearing the Dhamma frequently, they soon became Non-returners. By the end of the Rains Retreat they attained Arahantship and attained parinibbāna. The people cremated their bodies with great respect and the Buddha attended the funeral. Hearing that the Buddha’s parents had died, a great multitude attended the funeral. When people consoled the Buddha not to grieve, he was not offended, but instead taught the Jarā Sutta beginning with the verse:
“Short indeed is this life; one dies within a hundred years,
but if anyone survives longer than that, he surely dies of decay. (Sn 810)
When the monks were talking about the odd behaviour of the Brahmin and his wife, the Buddha explained that this intimacy was due to their past association throughout many lives as his parents, grand-parents, or other relatives. After their death the monks wished to know in what state they would be reborn. The Buddha explained that they had attained Arahantship at death and uttered the above verse.
“The defilements of those who are ever vigilant,
who discipline themselves day and night,
who are wholly intent on nibbāna, are destroyed.”226
Having worked hard grinding paddy until late at night, Puṇṇā stepped out of the house and saw some monks moving about on the nearby mountain where Dabba the Malla was using his psychic powers to illuminate the path while showing the monks to their quarters. She thought to herself “I cannot sleep as I am too tired, but why can’t the monks sleep? Are they discontented or oppressed by life-long habits?” In the morning, she made a rice cake from the flour, and went to bathe, taking it with her. She met the Buddha on the way and offered the rice cake to him. She reflected, “He will probably just give it to a crow or a dog later while he goes to eat delicious food in some king or prince’s house.” Knowing her thoughts, the Buddha looked at the Elder Ānanda, who prepared a seat with his robe. The Buddha sat there to eat his meal while Puṇṇā stood and watched. After taking his meal, the Buddha said to Puṇṇā, “Why did you show disrespect to my disciples?” She replied that she meant no disrespect, but thought that they might be unable to sleep due to discontent or being oppressed by life-long habits.
The Buddha uttered the above verse to explain to her why the monks slept little at night. On the conclusion of the verse Puṇṇā attained Stream-winning.
“This, Atula, is an old saying; it is not one of today only:
they blame those who are silent,
they blame those who speak too much.
Those speaking little too they blame.
No one avoids blame in this world.”227
Atula, the leader of a group of five hundred lay disciples, wishing to hear the Dhamma, visited the Elder Revata, paid homage and sat down, but the elder remained silent as he was cultivating solitude. Displeased, Atula got up and went to the Elder Sāriputta, telling him what had happened. The Elder Sāriputta discoursed at length on the Abhidhamma. Not able to understand this, and displeased again, Atula went to the Elder Ānanda, who delivered a brief discourse that was simple to understand. Displeased with him too, Atula approached the Buddha, and complained to him. The Buddha said that even kings were blamed by some and praised by others. The great earth itself, the sun and the moon, and even the Fully Enlightened Buddha were blamed by some and praised by others. However, the praise and blame of the foolish was of little account, only the praise and blame of the wise was meaningful. Saying thus he uttered the above verses, on the conclusion of which the five hundred lay disciples gained Stream-winning.
“One should guard against misdeeds (caused by) the body,
and one should be restrained in body.
Giving up evil conduct in body,
one should be of good bodily conduct.”231
The group of six monks walked up and down wearing wooden sandals, and using a staff in each hand, thus creating a great noise. Advising them to be controlled in thought, word and, deed, the Buddha uttered the above verses.