“Good is restraint in the eye; good is restraint in the ear;
good is restraint in the nose; good is restraint in the tongue.”360
Five Sense-guarding Monks
Five monks, each of whom guarded one of the sense doors asked the Buddha which was the most difficult to restrain. The Buddha said that they were all difficult to restrain, and that not only now, but in the past too they had not been able to restrain their senses. At their request he related a story from the past to show that they had come to destruction because their senses were not guarded, and then he uttered the above verses, on the conclusion of which the five monks attained Stream-winning.
“He who is controlled in hand, in foot, in speech, and in the highest (i.e., the head);
he who delights in meditation, and is composed; he who is alone, and is contented —
him they call a monk.”362
The Stone Throwing Monk
After bathing in the Aciravatī River, two monks stood on the bank drying off in the sun’s rays, talking. One monk killed a flying goose by hitting it in the eye with a stone. Other monks, standing nearby, seeing this, took the monk to the Buddha. The Buddha, admonished him, saying that in times gone by wise men were scrupulous about the slightest fault. Having said this, he related the Kurudhamma Jātaka (Jā 276).
“The monk who controls his mouth, who speaks wisely, who is not puffed up,
who explains the Dhamma’s meaning, sweet is his speech.”363
The Buddha uttered this verse with reference to Kokālika who reviled the two chief disciples, accusing them of having evil wishes.¹ When the monks were talking about Kokālika, the Buddha came and asked them what they were talking about. On being told, he related the Kacchapa Jātaka to show that not only in this life, but in a previous life too, Kokālika had come to destruction due to not controlling his tongue. At that time he had been a turtle in a lake that was drying up. Two geese offered to carry him to another lake by holding a stick between their beaks while he held on tightly with his mouth. He agreed to this, but on the way some youths looked up and remarked at the sight of a turtle flying through the sky between two geese. The turtle immediately retorted in reply to their remarks, fell to the ground in the courtyard of the king of Benares, and was reborn in hell. The Bodhisatta took the opportunity to teach the garrulous king on the dangers of being too talkative, and the king heeded his advice.
Having approached the Buddha, Kokālika paid homage, and said that the Elders Sāriputta and Moggallāna had evil desires. The Buddha advised him not to say so, as they were well-behaved monks. Kokālika repeated his accusation three times, then paid respects and left. Soon afterwards, boils erupted all over his body, steadily growing to the size of quinces, when they burst. He died from this disease and was reborn in the Lotus Hell. Brahmā Sahampati approached the Buddha during the night and reported that Kokālika had died and had been reborn in the Lotus Hell, due to having hardened his heart against the Elders Sāriputta and Moggallāna.
The following day, the Buddha told the monks about this, and a certain monk asked, “How long is the lifespan in the Lotus Hell?” The Buddha replied that was not easy to measure in terms of so many years, so many thousands of years, or hundreds of thousands of years. The monk asked if it was possible to explain by a simile. The Buddha replied that if there was a wagon-load of sesame seed, and if a man took away a single seed every hundred years, that wagon-load of sesame would be used up before the life-span of the Abudda hell. Twenty times that is the lifespan in the Nirabbuda hell … the Ababa hell … Aṭaṭa hell … Ahaha hell … Kumuda hell … Sogandhika hell … Uppala hell … Puṇḍarika hell, twenty times that is the lifespan in the Paduma (Lotus) hell.
“That monk who dwells in the Dhamma, who delights in the Dhamma,
who meditates on the Dhamma, who well remembers the Dhamma,
does not fall away from the sublime Dhamma.”364
The Elder Dhammārāma
The Elder Dhammārāma, hearing that the Buddha would attain parinibbāna in four months’ time, refrained from associating with other monks and instead meditated with the aim of attaining Arahantship. Thinking that he had no affection for the Teacher, the monks reported his behaviour to the Buddha. When the elder explained his reasons, the Buddha praised him, saying that those who had affection for him should be like Dhammārāma, and honour him by practising sincerely in accordance with the Dhamma. He uttered the above verse and the Elder Dhammārāma attained Arahantship on conclusion of the verse.
“Let him not despise what he has received, nor should he live envying others.
The monk who envies others does not attain concentration.”365
The Monk Who Kept Bad Company
A certain monk, while on his almsround, met a friend who was a follower of Devadatta. His friend told him that they received lavish offerings, and invited him to stay at the monastery built for Devadatta by King Ajātasattu. He spent a few days enjoying his friend’s hospitality. When he returned to the Veḷuvana monastery the other monks reported the matter to the Buddha. The Buddha called the monk and asked him about his behaviour. The monk replied that though he had stayed there, he had not adopted Devadatta’s heretical views. The Buddha admonished him that though he had not accepted heretical views, others would think that he had, so he should not behave in that way. He should be content with whatever alms he received. The Buddha added that this was not the first time that monk had kept bad company, and related the Mahilāmukha Jātaka. The Buddha uttered the above verses, and many attained Stream-winning.
“He who has no thought of “l” and “mine” whatever towards mind and body,
who does not grieve for what is not his, he is called a monk.”367
The Brahmin Who Gave the First Fruits
A Brahmin was in the habit of donating before he made use of anything himself — at the time of harvesting, threshing, storing, cooking, and serving. One day, he was sitting down for his meal with his back to the door, when the Buddha arrived for alms. The Brahmin’s wife, not wishing to cook again, tried to conceal the Buddha’s arrival from her husband. Going to the door she whispered to the Buddha that there was nothing to give. The Buddha shook his head and remained standing there. The woman laughed loudly, and the Brahmin looked round to see what the reason was. Seeing the Buddha, he scolded his wife, and donated the remainder of the food from his plate to the Buddha, apologising for having consumed half already. The Buddha graciously accepted his offering, saying that even the last spoonful would be suitable. The Brahmin was pleased, and asked “Venerable sir, you call your disciples ‘monks’ — what is the meaning of ‘monk’?” The Buddha uttered the above verse by way of explanation, and the Brahmin and his wife attained the fruit of Non-returning.
“The monk who abides in loving-kindness,
who is pleased with the Buddha’s teaching,
attains to that state of peace and happiness,
the stilling of conditioned things.”368
“Do not let your mind whirl on sensual pleasures.
Do not be careless and swallow a ball of lead.
As you burn cry not ‘This is sorrow’.”371
The Nine Hundred Thieves
In the district of Avantī, Soṇa was the son of Kāḷī, a devout disciple of the Elder Kaccāna. Although from a very wealthy family, he wished to go forth under the elder. The elder turned down his request two times, saying that the monk’s life was hard. On the third time of asking the elder relented and gave Soṇa the Going Forth. In that border region it was difficult to find monks, so it was three years before the elder could assemble the ten monks required for the higher ordination. Wishing to see the Buddha, Soṇa sought permission to visit the teacher at Sāvatthi. The elder agreed, and travelled by stages to the Jetavana monastery. When Soṇa arrived, the Buddha greeted him warmly and arranged a place for him to stay in the Perfumed Chamber. Having spent much of the night meditating on the veranda, Sona finally went to rest in the place arranged for him. In the morning, the Buddha asked him to recite what he had learnt, and Soṇa recited the Book of the Eights from the Gradual Sayings. The Buddha congratulated him on his eloquent recital, saying, “Sādhu” three times, and the deities also applauded. At the same time, 1,200 miles away, Kāḷī heard the deities applauding, and when the deity in her house told her the reason. Kāḷī body was suffused with the five kinds of joy.
The Buddha asked Soṇa if he needed anything. Soṇa took this opportunity to convey the request from his teacher to permit the higher ordination in the border regions with only five monks, at least one of whom was learned in the Vinaya, and the Buddha granted this request. After staying a few more days with the Teacher, Soṇa took his leave and returned to his preceptor.
On his return, Soṇa went for alms with his preceptor to his mother’s house, and Kālī invited Sona to give a public discourse. She arranged for the construction of a pavilion in the monastery, and when all was ready, she went there with her entire household, bar only one maid servant who was left at the mansion, which was protected by seven walls and savage guard dogs.
While Soṇa was preaching the Dhamma to his mother and many others, a band of nine hundred robbers managed to gain entry to Kāḷī mansion by digging a tunnel. Their ring-leader sent one thief to observe the woman, with instructions to kill her if she should return before they had finished. The maid servant came and informed Kāḷī that the thieves were taking the copper coins, but she sent her away saying, “Let the thieves take what they want,” telling her not to disturb her while she was listening to the Dhamma. A second time she came to inform her that they were taking the silver coins, and a third time that they were taking the gold coins, but Kāḷī sent her away telling her not to disturb her again. Hearing from his spies what had happened, the ring-leader was impressed by Kāḷī devotion to the Dhamma. He ordered the robbers to replace all of the stolen property, fearing that they would surely be struck by lightning for robbing such a virtuous woman. They all went to the pavilion and listened to the remainder of the Dhamma talk. They asked for forgiveness from Kāḷī, and asked her aid to obtain the Going Forth from her son. Thus they all became monks, and each having been given a suitable meditation object, went to practise meditation. When they were engaged in meditation, the Buddha projected an image of himself before them and uttered the above verses having considered the temperament of each. On the conclusion of the verses they all attained Arahantship with analytical knowledge.
“As the jasmine creeper sheds its withered flowers,
even so, monks, you should totally cast off lust and hatred.”377
The Jasmine Flowers
Five hundred monks, having taken a meditation object from the Buddha, were practising meditation. One day, observing the falling of some withered jasmine flowers, they were stimulated to practise meditation strenuously. The Buddha projected an image of himself before them and uttered the above verse, on the conclusion of which they all attained Arahantship.
“The monk who is calm in body, calm in speech, calm in mind,
who is well-composed, who has spewed out worldly things,
is truly called a ‘peaceful one’.”378
The Serene Monk
A monk was very calm and quiet and his composure attracted the attention of the other monks. The Buddha, hearing of his exemplary behaviour, advised the monks to emulate him and uttered this verse.
“By self do you censure yourself. By self do you examine yourself.
Self-guarded and mindful, O monk, you will live happily.”379
The Loin-cloth Elder
A monk saw a poor ploughman who had for his only possessions a loin cloth and a plough. He asked him why he didn’t become a monk. The man agreed and, leaving his meagre possessions hanging on a tree, he became a monk. He soon became discontented and thought of disrobing. Then he went to the tree and admonished himself. The other monks, seeing him go back and forth every few days asked where he was going. He replied that he was going to see his teacher. After some time he gained Arahantship so no longer went to the tree. The monks asked him why he no longer went to see his teacher. He replied that since he had severed his connection with the world he no longer need to see his teacher. The monks reported this to the Buddha, who confirmed that he had attained Arahantship, and uttered the above verses.
“Full of joy and contentment in the Buddha’s teaching,
the monk will attain peace, the bliss of stilling conditioned things.”381
The Elder Vakkali’s Story
A youth, obsessed by the physical form of the Buddha, went forth in order to be able to look at him constantly. For some time the Buddha said nothing, but when he realised that Vakkali’s insight had matured, the Buddha admonished him not to keep gazing at him, saying, “He who sees the Dhamma sees me.” When it was time to enter the Rains at Sāvatthī, the Buddha departed, telling the Elder Vakkali to return to Rājagaha. Unable to bear being separated from the Buddha for three months, Vakkali intended to commit suicide by jumping off Vultures’ Peak. The Buddha projected his image before him, and uttered the above verse. Vakkali overcame his grief and felt happy. Then the Buddha spoke again:
“Come Vakkali! I will lift you up, as one pulls an elephant from the mud.
Come Vakkali! I will release you, as Rāhu releases the eclipsed sun.
Come Vakkali! I will release you, as Rāhu releases the eclipsed moon.”
Though not seeing any path by which he could go to the Buddha, Vakkali sprang into the air from the mountain top¹ and attained Arahantship with the supernatural powers. Descending in front of the Buddha and paying homage, Vakkali stood in front of him.
“The monk who, while still young, devotes himself to the Buddha’s Teaching,
illumines this world like the moon freed from a cloud.”382
Sumana Sāmaṇera’s Story
During the time of the Buddha Padumuttara, a certain man, having seen the the Teacher praise a monk as supreme among those possessing the divine eye, offered lavish alms to the Buddha and the Saṅgha for seven days. Having done that he made an earnest wish that he too would be the supreme of those with the divine eye in the time of a future Buddha. The Buddha Padumuttara predicted this would come to pass in the time of Buddha Gotama. When the Buddha Padumuttara attained parinibbāna, the youth set up a circle of lights surrounding the cetiya built the honour his remains.
Having been reborn in celestial realms for a long time, he was in due course reborn as a poor worker call Annabhāra (food-carrier) who worked for a generous millionaire named Sumana. One day, Annabhāra came into the divine eye of a Solitary Buddha named Upariṭṭha who, wishing to bestow a blessing on Annabhāra, took his almsbowl and went to stand in front of him. Annabhāra asked him to wait, and going quickly to his house brought the food that his wife had prepared for himself. Offering that as alms to the Solitary Buddha he made an earnest wish never again to hear the word “natthi” — “there isn’t any.” The deities applauded his offering and the deity who dwelt in the parasol of the wealthy donor Sumana also applauded. Hearing this applause for the first time, Sumana wondered what the reason was. The deity told him that the applause was not for him but for the alms offered by Annabhāra, one of his workers. Sumana asked Annabhāra to share half of his merit for a thousand gold pieces. Annabhāra went to ask the advice of the Solitary Buddha who told him that by sharing the merit it would be doubled, as a torch-light shared with a hundred other households would only increase the amount of light available to all. Annabhāra accepted the offer of Sumana, who told him to build a house for himself with the money he had received and to take whatever else he needed from his stores. Thus did Annabhāra become a friend of the wealthy donor Sumana.
In due course, Annabhāra was reborn as a cousin of Siddhattha Gotama in the family of Amitodana¹ the Sakyan at Kapilavatthu, and was named Anuruddha. While playing with his friends he repeatedly sent word to his mother to send cakes until at last she decided it was time that he learnt a lesson, so sent back an empty bowl with the message “there isn’t any cake.” Due to the vow made in his previous life, the deities filled the bowl with celestial cakes. When Anuruddha returned he asked his mother if she really loved him as she had never before sent such delicious cakes. From then on, whenever Anuruddha asked for cakes, his mother sent an empty bowl and the deities filled it with celestial cakes.
When Anuruddha came of age, his elder brother Mahānāma suggested that one of them should go forth as a monk as no one from their family had yet gone forth. Anuruddha thought he would not be able to endure the hard life of a monk, so his brother explained to him the duties of farming. Since Anuruddha had been spoiled so much, he didn’t even know where food came from. While his friend Kimila thought it came from the granary, and his friend Bhaddiya thought it came from the cooking pot, Anuruddha thought it came from a golden bowl, as he had never even seen food prepared. Thus, when Mahānāma had explained all the duties of farming, Anuruddha decided that he should go forth and let his brother Mahānāma remain to look after the family’s land. Thus Anuruddha, Kimila, and Bhaddiya, the three royal princes and good friends from childhood, went forth together in the dispensation of the Buddha Gotama.² In due course, Anuruddha gained Arahantship with the threefold knowledge. He remembered his previous life when he had given alms to the Solitary Buddha Upariṭṭha. He wondered what had happened to his friend of that time, the wealthy donor Sumana. Reflecting on that he realised that Sumana had been reborn in the market town of Muṇḍa in the Viñjhā forest as Cūḷa Sumana, the younger son of a lay disciple named Mahāmuṇḍa. Since the Rainy season was near, Anuruddha travelled there through the air using his supernormal powers and alighted at the gate of the town. Seeing the Elder Anuruddha putting on his robe, the lay disciple sent his elder son to fetch the elder’ almsbowl and himself prepared a seat for him. Throughout the three months of the Rains, the lay disciple waited devotedly upon the elder, and when the time came for the Pavāraṇā festival, he offered sugar lumps, oil, husked rice, etc. The elder refused, and when asked why, said that he had no novice to attend him. When the lay disciple offered Mahā Sumana as his novice, the elder again refused saying he had no need for Mahā Sumana. Then the lay disciple asked the elder to admit Cūḷa Sumana to the Saṅgha, and the elder consented. While Sumana’s head was being shaved he attained Arahantship. Having stayed there a further fortnight, the elder took leave and departed with the novice, returning to his forest hut in the Himalayas.
One day when the elder was troubled by indigestion, the novice fetched water from the Anotatta lake. When the elder and the novice visited the Buddha, some of the monks treated the novice like a child. Wishing to show the boy’s powers, the Buddha told the Elder Ānanda to ask the novices to fetch some water from the Anotatta lake to fill a water jar. Only Sumana was able to do this. Praising Sumana for his supernormal powers, the Buddha uttered the above verse.