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Ekasāṭaka

A very poor brahmin who lived in the time of Vipassī Buddha. He was so called because he and his wife had, between them, only one upper garment, worn by whichever of them happened to be going out. The Buddha was in the habit of teaching every seven years. On one such occasion the brahmin listened to the Buddha’s discourse, and being greatly pleased, wishing to make an offering, he gave the Buddha his upper garment after a hard mental struggle as to whether he could afford the gift. Having made the gift, he shouted with joy saying, “I have conquered.” The king of the city, Bandhumā, having heard the shout and learnt the reason, gave to the brahmin various rich gifts, including the sabbaṭṭhaka,¹ all of which the latter presented to the Buddha, keeping, at the king’s special request, a single pair of garments for himself and his wife. The king later made Ekasāṭaka his chaplain (AA.i.92 ff; also ThagA.ii.136).

Ekasāṭaka is given in the Aṅguttaranikāya Commentary (loc. cit.) as a previous birth of the elder Mahā-Kassapa. The Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.iii.1 ff) mentions another brahmin, Cūḷekasāṭaka by name. He is, however, stated as having lived in the time of Gotama Buddha, although the story related is, in most respects, identical with that given above, except that the king in the story of Cūḷekasāṭaka is Pasenadi, king of Kosala. No mention is made of the brahmin being created chief priest (purohita). Moreover, this brahmin received as gift only the sabbacatukka (groups of four) and not the sabaṭṭhaka. More important still, Cūḷekasāṭaka is identified with Mahā Ekasāṭaka, the latter being mentioned as having lived in the time of Vipassī Buddha. Here we evidently have a confusion of legends.

The story of Ekasāṭaka is related in the Milindapañha (pp.115, 291), as one of seven cases in which an act of devotion received its reward in this very life.

¹ All the Eights (sabbaṭṭhaka) seems to have been a gift of various things in groups of eight: eight elephants, eight horses, eight thousand pieces of money, etc. (DhA.iii.3); but see Mil.Trs.ii.147, n.1, where it is spoken of as an office.

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