“If by giving up a lesser happiness, one may see a greater one,
let the wise man give up the lesser happiness
in consideration of the greater happiness.”290
The Famine at Vesāli
At one time, due to drought the crops failed, and the people of Vesāli suffered from a famine. Many poor people died, and their rotting corpses attracted evil spirits. The stench made more people sick. The Licchavīs sent prince Mahāli with the son of the head priest with precious gifts to King Bimbisāra at Rājagaha with a request to send the Buddha. King Bimbisāra, instead of granting their request, said, “You should know what to do.” They approached the Buddha and requested him to come, and he agreed to their request.
Hearing that the Buddha intended to go to Vesāli, King Bimbisāra asked him to wait while he had the road prepared, and having done that, accompanied the Teacher in state to the banks of the Ganges, arriving there in five days, pausing each night in a rest house that had been specially constructed for each day’s journey. Two boats were lashed together, decorated and a message was sent to the Licchavī’s to come and receive the Buddha. King Bimbisāra promised to wait there until the Buddha’s return. As soon as the Buddha set foot on the other bank of the Ganges a great rain storm came up and washed the region clean. Honouring the Buddha even more than King Bimbisāra had done, the Licchavīs escorted him on the three days’ journey to Vesāli and accommodated him in the heart of the city.
The Buddha taught the Ratana Sutta to the Elder Ānanda, and instructed him to circumambulate the city three times accompanied by the Licchavī princes. The elder took water in the Buddha’s stone almsbowl, and standing at the gate of the city, contemplated the Buddha’s incomparable perfections and victory over Māra on the throne of Enlightenment. Then he entered the city, and during the three watches of the night circumambulated the city three times within the walls reciting the Ratana Sutta. The evil spirits fled, breaking down the walls in their rush to escape, and the sick were cured. The people prepared a seat for the Buddha in the city hall, and when the Elder Ānanda returned accompanied by a great multitude of the people who had been cured, the Buddha recited the Ratana Sutta again, and eighty-four thousand beings gained insight into the Dhamma. On seven days the Buddha recited the same sutta, then the Licchavī princes escorted him back to the Ganges. The Nāgas created boats of precious materials and the deities held aloft umbrellas. Thus this miracle of crossing the Ganges was glorious like the occasions of the Twin Miracle and the descent from Tāvatiṃsa. When he reached the other side, King Bimbisāra greeted him and escorted him back to Rājagaha in state.
The following day, when the monks were talking about the great honours paid to the Buddha, he came and related how, in a previous life, as the Brahmin Saṅkha he had paid homage at the cetiya of his son, Susīma, who had been a Solitary Buddha. Thus in this life great honours had been rendered to him.
“He who wishes his own happiness by causing pain to others
is not released from hatred, being himself entangled in the tangles of hatred.”291
The Hen’s Eggs
A fisherman found some turtle’s eggs on the banks of the Aciravatī river. Taking them with him to Sāvatthī he had them cooked in a certain house, and gave one to a girl who lived there. Thereafter, she would eat nothing but eggs. Her mother gave her hen’s eggs, and whenever the hen laid eggs the girl took them to eat. The hen hated the girl, and on her deathbed vowed vengeance. Throughout many lives the two were sworn enemies and ate each other’s offspring. During the time of the Buddha, one was born as the daughter of a family at Sāvatthi, and the other was an ogress. The Buddha reconciled them and their hatred was finally appeased. This story is also told in the Yamaka Vagga, verse 5.
“What should have been done is not done, what should not have been done is done.
Defilements multiply in the conceited and heedless.”292
“Those who diligently practise mindfulness of the body,
who avoid what should not be done, and always do what should be done,
the defilements of those who are mindful and clearly comprehending come to an end.”293
The Bhaddiya Monks
Some monks at the Jātiyā forest in Bhaddiya spent them time in making and designing various kinds of ornamented sandals, neglecting their monastic duties. The Buddha rebuked them and uttered the above verses.
“Having slain mother and father¹ and two warrior kings,
and having destroyed a country together with its chancellor,
a Saint goes ungrieving .”294
The Elder Lakuṇḍakabhaddiya
When many visiting monks arrived, the Buddha pointed out the Elder Lakuṇḍakabhaddiya who was an Arahant and short in stature. In reference to him he uttered the first of the above verses. The monks, wondering what the Buddha was talking about, later realised what he meant and gained Arahantship.
On another occasion the Buddha recited the second verse, also in reference to the same elder.
“Well awake the disciples of Gotama ever arise —
they who by day and night always contemplate the Buddha.”296
The Wood-cutter’s Son
Two boys in Rājagaha were friends. One was the son of a believer, while the other was the son of non-believers. Whenever they played ball, the believer’s son recited “Homage to the Buddha” and won the game every time. The other boy noticed this, and also learnt to recite “Namo Buddhassa.” One day, his father, who was a wood-cutter, set off to the forest with his ox-cart, taking his son with him. At the end of the day the man released his oxen in a pleasant grove where there was water and grass, and took a rest. The oxen followed a herd of cows back into the city, so the man left his son and set off in pursuit of his oxen. By the time he had found his oxen, the city gate was locked, and he was unable to fetch his ox-cart where his son was still waiting. As night fell, the boy fell asleep. That place was near a burning ground haunted by goblins. Two of them spotted the youth — one was a believer and one was a non-believer. The goblin who was a non-believer decided to eat the boy in spite of the warnings of the other. When the goblin pulled the boy’s feet, he awoke and recited “Namo Buddhassa.” The goblin leapt back, and afraid of what might happen, the goblin who was a believer stood guard over the boy, while the other stole a golden bowl from the king’s palace, inscribed some words on it, and placed it in the cart. In the morning, the theft was discovered and the boy was arrested and questioned. He replied that his parents had brought him food during the night, and he had gone back to sleep. That was all he knew. The boy’s parents told the king their story, and the king took all three to the Buddha who told the king all that had happened.
The king asked if meditation on the Buddha alone was a protection, and the Buddha replied with the above verses, explaining that all of these six kinds of meditation were beneficial.
On the conclusion of the discourse the boy and his parents all attained Stream-winning. Later they went forth and attained Arahantship.
“Difficult is renunciation, difficult is it to delight therein.
Difficult and painful is household life.
Painful is association with those who are incompatible.
Ill befalls a wayfarer (in saṃsāra).
Therefore be not a wayfarer, be not a pursuer of ill.”302
The Vajjian Prince
A Vajjian prince became a monk and was meditating alone in a forest near Vesāli. At night he heard the festive music in the city and became discontented with his solitary life. Comparing himself to a log cast away in the forest, he thought that no one was as unfortunate as himself. A tree-deity admonished him in verse, that those in hell envied those in heaven, and that householders envied recluses who live alone in the forest. In the morning, the monk went to the Buddha and related what had happened. Thereupon the Buddha uttered the above verse on the difficulties of household life, and the monk attained Arahantship.
“He who is full of confidence and virtue, possessed of fame and wealth,
he is honoured everywhere, in whatever land he sojourns.”303
Citta the Householder
A devout follower was greatly honoured when he visited the Buddha. The Elder Ānanda inquired of the Buddha whether he would have received the same honours if he had visited some other religious teacher. Thereupon the Buddha uttered this verse. The full story is told in the Bala Vagga, verse 74.
“Even from afar like the Himalaya mountain the good reveal themselves.
The wicked, though near, are invisible like arrows shot by night.”304
Cūḷa Subhaddā’s Story
When they were students, the householders Ugga and Anāthapiṇḍika studied under the same teacher and became close friends. They agreed that when they had their own children they would arrange a marriage between their families. One day, the millionaire Ugga came to Sāvatthī with five hundred carts laden with good for trade. When he arrived, Anāthapiṇḍika offered him hospitality and instructed his daughter Cūḷa Subhaddā to attend to all of his needs. Delighted with her gracious conduct he reminded Anāthapiṇḍika of their agreement and asked him to give her hand to his own son in marriage. Knowing that his friend Ugga was a non-believer, Anāthapiṇḍika consulted the Buddha. Considering whether Ugga had the potential for gaining confidence in the Dhamma, the Buddha gave his blessing, and Anāthapiṇḍika agreed to the marriage. He admonished his daughter on the ten duties of a faithful daughter-in-law, and sent his daughter with Ugga, bearing lavish gifts, and accompanied by eight laymen who were to protect her good name.
In her honour, alms was offered to the naked ascetics, but though requested by her father-in-law to wait on them, she was too modesty to do so. Her father-in-law was deeply offended, and asked for her to be thrown out of the house. She summoned the laymen and protested her innocence. When she told her mother-in-law how the Buddha and his disciples were impervious to the eight worldly vicissitudes¹ she requested her to invite them to a meal on the following day. Cūḷa Subhaddā went to her room and made an earnest wish, casting eight handfuls of jasmine flowers, and inviting the Buddha for alms the following day. The flowers flew to Sāvatthī of their own accord and arranged themselves in a canopy over the Buddha’s head as he preached to the fourfold assembly.
Meanwhile, back in Sāvatthī, after listening to the sermon by the Buddha, Anāthapiṇḍika invited him for the meal on the following day. The Buddha remarked that he had already accepted an invitation from his daughter Cūḷa Subhaddā who had just been given in marriage. Anāthapiṇḍika expressed his surprise as she was living far away. Thereupon the Buddha uttered the above verse, and many gained Stream-winning on hearing the verse.
Sakka the king of the gods ordered the deities to make five hundred dwellings with peaked roofs. The following day, the Buddha selected five hundred Arahants, and each seated in a dwelling, they went to Ugga. Cūḷa Subhaddā asked her father-in-law where to wait to greet the Buddha. Seeing him arrive in great splendour, Ugga paid homage and invited him into his house, offering lavish alms for seven days. The Buddha instructed the Arahant Anuruddha to remain behind, and thus Ugga became a city of faithful followers.
“He who sits alone, rests alone, walks alone, resolute,
who in solitude controls himself, will find delight in the forest.”305
The Elder Who Lived Alone
Praising the solitary life led by a certain monk, the Buddha uttered the above verse.