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Sopāka

1. Sopāka Thera.– He was the son of a very poor woman of Sāvatthi. While in labour his mother fell into a long and deep swoon, and her kinsfolk, thinking her dead, took her to the cemetery and prepared for cremation. However, a spirit prevented the fire from burning with a storm of wind and rain, and they went away. The child was safely born and the mother died. The spirit, in human shape, took the child and put it in the watchman’s hut, feeding it for a time. After that the watchman adopted it, and the child grew up with the watchman’s son, Suppiya (q.v.) He was called Sopāka, (the “waif”) because he was born in the cemetery. When he was seven years old he came under the notice of the Buddha, who visited him in the cemetery. Gladdened by the Buddha’s teaching, he sought his father’s consent and entered the Order. The Buddha gave him, as his subject of meditation, the thought of mettā, and Sopāka, developing insight, soon attained Arahantship.

In the time of Kakusandha Buddha, he was a householder’s son and gave the Buddha some bījapūra-fruits. He also provided three monks with milk-rice daily to the end of his life. In another birth he gave a meal of milk-rice to a Pacceka Buddha (Thag.vs.33; ThagA.i.94 f).

He is perhaps identical with Vibhītakamiñjaya of the Apadāna. Ap.ii.396.

2. Sopāka Thera.– He was born as the child of a cemetery-keeper and was therefore called Sopāka. Others say that he was born in a trader’s family and that Sopāka was merely a name. Four months after birth his father died suddenly and he was adopted by his uncle. When he was only seven years old, his uncle took him to a charnel field because he quarrelled with his cousin, bound his hands, and tied him fast to a corpse, hoping that the jackals would eat him. At midnight the jackals came and the child started crying. The Buddha, seeing Sopāka’s destiny for Arahantship, sent a ray of glory, and, by the Buddha’s power, the boy broke his bonds and stood before the Buddha’s Gandhakuṭi, a Stream-winner (sotāpanna). His mother started seeking for him, and the uncle telling her nothing, she came to the Buddha, thinking “The Buddhas know all, past, present, and future.” When she came, the Buddha, by his psychic-power, made the boy invisible and taught her the Dhamma, saying that sons are no shelter, blood bonds no refuge. As she listened she became a Stream-winner and the boy an Arahant. Then the Buddha revealed the boy’s presence to his mother, and she allowed him to enter the Order. Some time later the Buddha, wishing to confer on him the higher ordination, asked him the questions that came to be known as the “Kumārapañhā” Sopāka answered these, and the Buddha, satisfied, gave him the higher ordination (upasampadā).

Sopāka had been a brahmin in the time of Siddhattha Buddha, expert in the Vedas. He later became an ascetic and lived on a mountain. The Buddha, foreseeing his imminent death, visited him. The brahmin spread for him a seat of flowers. The Buddha taught him on impermanence and left through the air. Thag.vss.480‑6; ThagA.i.477 f; Ap.i.64 f; KhpA.76; see also DhA.iv.176 f.

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