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Vanavāsī

1. Vanavāsī (Vanavāsika) Tissa.– A monk. In his previous birth he was the brahmin Mahāsena (q.v.) During pregnancy his mother invited Sāriputta with five hundred monks, to her house, and fed them on milk-rice. She herself put on yellow robes and ate of the rice left by the monks. On the day of his naming, he presented Sāriputta with his blanket. He was called Tissa after Sāriputta, whose personal name was Upatissa. At the age of seven Tissa joined the Order and his parents held a festival lasting for seven days, distributing porridge and honey to the monks. On the eighth day, when Tissa went for alms in Sāvatthi, he received one thousand bowls of alms and one thousand pieces of cloth, all of which he gave to the monks. This earned for him the name of Piṇḍapātadāyaka. One day, in the cold season, he saw monks warming themselves before fires and, discovering that they had no blankets, he, accompanied by one thousand monks, went into the city. Wherever he went people gave him blankets; one shopkeeper had hidden two of his very costly blankets, but on seeing Tissa he gave them willingly. Tissa thus got one thousand blankets and was thereafter called Kambaladāyaka.

Having discovered that, at Jetavana, his young relations came too often to see him, he obtained a formula of meditation and went into the forest to a distance of twenty leagues from Sāvatthi. At the request of the inhabitants of the village nearby, he spent the rainy season in the forest hermitage, going into the village for alms. There, at the end of two months, he attained Arahantship. Because he was so devoted to the forest, he was given the name of Vanavāsī. At the end of the Rains Retreat (vassa), all the Buddha’s chief disciples, with a retinue of forty thousand monks, visited Tissa in his hermitage, arriving there in the evening. The villagers, recognising Sāriputta, asked him to teach the Dhamma, saying that Tissa, their teacher, knew only two sentences — “May you be happy, may you obtain release from suffering!” — which sentences he repeated whenever anyone made him a gift. Thereupon Sāriputta asked him to explain the meaning of the two sentences, and the novice taught until sunrise, summarizing the whole of the Buddha’s teaching “even as a thunderstorm rains incessantly upon the four great continents.”

At the end of the discourse Tissa’s supporters were divided into two camps, some were offended that he should not have taught them before, while others marvelled at his saintliness and skill. The Buddha, aware of this disagreement, went himself to the village. The villagers gave alms to the Buddha and the monks, and, in returning thanks, the Buddha told them how fortunate they were that, owing to Tissa, they had been able to see himself and his chief disciples. They were then all satisfied.

On the way back to Sāvatthi, Tissa walked beside the Buddha and pointed out to him the various beautiful spots. The Buddha taught the Upasāḷaka Jātaka to show that there was no spot on earth where men had not at some time died. In answer to a question of the Buddha, Tissa said that he never felt afraid of the animals in the forest, but only a greater love for the forest at the sound of their voices. He then recited fifty stanzas in praise of life in the wilds. Arrived at the outskirts of the forest, he took leave of the Buddha and Sāriputta and returned to live in his forest hermitage. DhA.ii.84‑102. The visit of Buddha is also reported at DA.i.240 and MA.i.357, though the details are the different. There the Buddha is accompanied by Sāriputta and the chief disciples and twenty thousand Arahants.

2. Vanavāsī Thera.– The Theragāthā Commentary (Thag.A.i.440) mentions a Vanavāsī Thera as the teacher of Tekicchakārī. This is probably not a proper name but only a descriptive epithet.

3. Vanavāsī Mahātissa.– A monk, probably distinct from Vanavāsī Tissa — see Vanavāsī (1). On the day that Alindakavāsī Mahāphussadeva Thera attained Arahantship, the devas stood by him, illuminating all the forest. Mahātissa saw the light, and the next day asked Phussadeva the reason for it, but his question was evaded. SA.iii.154 f.

Vanavāsī Nikāya.– See Araññavāsī Nikāya.

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