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Vanavaccha Thera

1. Vanavaccha Thera.– He was the son of Vacchagotta — a brahmin of Kapilavatthu, and was born in the forest, his mother having longed to see it and having been taken in travail while wandering there. His name was Vaccha; but because of his love for the woods, he was called Vanavaccha. He left the world soon after the Buddha’s Renunciation, and led the ascetic life until he heard of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. Then he joined the Order, and it was in the forest that he strove and won Arahantship. When he returned to Kapilavatthu with the Buddha, his companions asked him why he so loved the forest, and he spoke a verse in praise of forest life (Thag.13).

In the time of Atthadassī Buddha, he was a large turtle ¹ living in the Vinatā. Seeing the Buddha about to cross the river, he took him on his back. Many hundreds of times afterwards he lived as an ascetic in the forest. In the time of Kassapa Buddha he became a dove, and his heart was gladdened by the sight of a monk practicing compassion. Later he was born as a householder in Bārāṇasī and renounced the world. ThagA.i.58 f; Ap.ii.506 f.

¹ The aquatic turtle (kacchapa) sometimes seems to be confused with the land-dwelling tortoise (kumma).

2. Vanavaccha Thera.– The son of a rich brahmin of Rājagaha; he joined the Order, impressed by the majesty of the Buddha’s visit to Bimbisāra. Soon after, he attained Arahantship and, devoted to detachment, dwelt in the woods hence his name. When he went to Rājagaha his kinsmen asked him to live near them, but he said he preferred the lonely life of the forest (Thag.113).

In the time of Vipassī Buddha he was a labourer, and, having committed a crime, while fleeing from justice he saw a Bodhi tree. Pleased with the look of the tree, he gathered masses of asoka flowers and heaped them up round the tree. When his pursuers reached him, he remained as he was, looking at them, with no hatred in his heart. They hurled him into a precipice, and he died with the thought of the Bodhi tree in his heart. Three world-cycles ago he was a king named Santusita (ThagA.i.222). He is perhaps identical with Tambapupphiya Thera of the Apadāna. Ap.i.176.

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