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Why the Buddha Suffered
In the second enquiry, called slander, we hear about great lies and censure.
In the past, it seems, the Buddha-to-be was born into a low-caste Sudda signifies the fourth and lowest class in the Brahminical system, with Vassa, Brahmin and Khattiya above them. However, they are within the class system, not outside it, like the outcastes.01 family and dwelt as an unknown and failed scoundrel called Munāḷi. Then a powerful and majestic Independent Buddha called Surabhi arrived near to his place on some business or other. After seeing him, he slandered him, saying: “This ascetic is unvirtuous and wicked!” There is some confusion in the commentary here, as this story doesn't fit in with the verse it purportedly explains. The verse says that the Buddha-to-be had accused a disciple of the Buddha Sabbābhibhu called Nanda. On the other hand this story of Munāḷi is told again later in different words to explain the next verse.02
Through that unwholesome deed he underwent suffering in the Naraka hell and so on for countless thousands of years. In his last state of existence, when the sectarians at the very beginning had become famous – during the time of the Gracious One's residence in the Tusita The word means: Satisfied.03 realm – they went round and deceived the whole people by teaching the sixty-two views.
Descending from the Tusita city and being reborn in the Royal Sakyan family he by and by became the Buddha. The sectarians, like glow-worms when the sun arises, lost their gains and respect and they went round bound by hatred towards the Gracious One.
At that time a merchant of Rājagaha The Canonical story is told in Vinaya Cullavagga 5.04 bound a net across the Ganges and while sporting saw a stick of red sandalwood and thought: “In our house there is plenty of sandalwood.” So after preparing a lathe and having a bowl prepared by the wood-turners he hung it from a series of bamboo sticks, had the drum beaten and said: “To those who come and take this bowl out of the sky with their pyschic power I will provide a constant supply of food.”
Then the sectarians, thought: “We are lost now, we are lost now!” but the Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta The founder of the Jainas.05 spoke like this to his assembly, saying: “After approaching the bamboo, I will make as though I will jump into the sky, and you must say: 'Do not show your psychic power for the sake of this miserable bowl,' and after grabbing my body, you must prevent me from jumping”, and after approaching that place they did just that. But the merchant was not convinced and didn't give him the bowl.06
Then Piṇḍolabhāradvāja and Moggallāna, having ascended to the top of a mountain three leagues in extent, while wrapping their robes around to go on alms round, heard that uproar. At that Moggallāna said this to Piṇḍolabhāradvāja: “Go through the sky and take the bowl.” But he said: “Venerable Sir, you were placed in first position for one endowed with psychic power by the Gracious One, surely you should take it.”
But Moggallāna gave the order: “You must take it.” So standing there Piṇḍolabhāradvāja lifted that three-league stone mountain on his foot and covered the whole of the Rājagaha town like a bowl with its lid. Then the town-dwellers seeing the Elder wielding that crystal mountain like a thread shouted out: “Venerable Bhāradvāja, you must save us,” and shook fearfully from head to foot.
Then the Elder put that mountain down from the place he was standing and went through the air with his psychic power and grabbed the bowl – and the town-dwellers made a great uproar.
The Gracious One, sitting in the Bamboo Monastery, having heard that sound, asked Ānanda: “What sound is this?” Ānanda answered: “Venerable Sir, Bhāradvāja has grabbed the bowl and the satisfied town-dwellers have made a sound of acclamation.”
Then the Gracious One, who was free of the censure of others, had that bowl brought, broken and powdered, and had it given to the monks. After it was given he laid down a training rule, saying: “Monks, one should not perform miracles by psychic power, for he who does perform one, there is an offence of wrong-doing.” The rule actually reads: one should not show a miracle of psychic power of a state beyond (ordinary) human beings, monks, to householders, (for) he who does show (one), there is an offence of wrong-doing.07
Because of that the sectarians said: “It seems that a training rule has been laid down for his disciples by the ascetic Gotama that they will not trangress even for the sake of life, but now we will perform a miracle of psychic power,” and there and then they came together and made a great uproar.
Then King Bimbisāra, after hearing that, approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, and sitting on one side, said this to the Gracious One: “The sectarians, Venerable Sir, proclaim: 'We will perform a miracle of psychic power.' ”
“I also, Great King, will perform one.”
“But, Venerable Sir, was not a training rule laid down for his disciples by the Gracious One?”
“Great King, I will question you: for those eating mango fruits and so on in your garden you apply a rule, saying 'There is so much punishment,' but is that applied if you have collected them?”
“There is no punishment for me, Venerable Sir.”
“Even so, Great King, the training rule that was laid down is not for me.”
“Where, Venerable Sir, will the miracle be?”
“Near to Sāvatthī, Great King, at the root of Gaṇḍa's mango tree.”
“Very good, Venerable Sir, we will see it.” However, there is no sign later of King Bimbisāra of Magadha being in Sāvatthī, the capital of the Kingdom of Kosala, at the time of the miracle, and this is probably another sign of the commentator's ignorance of the ancient Indian kingdoms.08
Because of that the sectarians, who had heard: “The miracle, it seems, will be at the root of Gaṇḍa's mango tree,” had the mango trees in every part of the town cut down.
The citizens set up terraced stands, PED, mañcātimañcaṁ (s.v. mañca) says: bed upon bed, i. e. beds placed on top of each other serving as grand stands at a fair or festival.09 scaffolding and so on along the great courtyards, and all of those who dwell in the Rose-Apple Island came together and they stood spread out for twelve leagues in the easterly direction, and assembled as suitable in the other directions.
When the Āsāḷha Full Moon day arrived, the Gracious One, after completing his duties in the morning, approached that place and sat down. At that time the gardener, Gaṇḍa by name, after seeing a fully ripe mango fruit in a red ants' nest, thought: “If I give this to the King I will receive the value in money, but if I offer it to the Gracious One I will be successful in this world and the next!” So he offered it to the Gracious One.
After accepting it the Gracious One ordered the Elder Ānanda: “Have this fruit crushed and please give me a drink.” And so the Elder did. After drinking the mango juice and giving the mango seed to the gardener, he said: “Plant this.” He removed the sand and planted it and the Elder Ānanda sprinkled it with his water-jug. At that time a mango sprout arose and as the multitude was watching it was seen to be heavy with branches, aerial-roots, flowers, fruits and fresh leaves. They ate the mango fruits which had fallen but even all those who dwelt in the Rose-Apple Island were unable to finish them all off.
Then the Gracious One made a Jewelled Walk from the easterly universe to the westerly universe, and on the top of Mount Meru in this universe countless assemblies cried out their Lion's Roar, and all is as it is recorded in the Commentary on the Dhammapada. The reference is to the commentary on verse 176, which tells this story and the story of Ciñcā which follows.10 He performed a great miracle of psychic power, This was the so-called Double-Miracle (Yamakapaṭihāra), in which he produced water and fire from his body for a period of sixteen days, meanwhile also preaching the Dhamma.11 crushed the sectarians, and converted them.
At the end of the miracle, because it was the practice of Buddhas in former times, he went to the realm of the Thirty-Three and undertook the Rains Retreat there, and taught the Abstract Teaching continually for three months helping countless gods with his former Mother at their head attain the Path of Stream-Entry and so on.
On completion of the Rains Retreat he descended from the gods, and surrounded by crowds of gods and deities he descended to the gate of the city of Saṅkassa seeking the welfare of the world. Then the Gracious One's gains and respect flowed in from all over the Rose-Apple Island, like the five great rivers. The Gaṅgā, the Yamunā, the Aciravatī, the Sarabhū, and the Mahī (see http://goo.gl/o40B0 for a map).12
However, the sectarians, having lost their gains and respect, pained and depressed, sat down with hunched shoulders and fallen faces. Then the female lay follower, the maiden known as Ciñcā seeing them sitting there like that asked: “Venerable Sirs, why are you sitting there pained and depressed?”
“But, Sister, are you not bothered?”
“Why, venerable Sirs?”
“Sister, from the time the ascetic Gotama arose our gains and respect have been destroyed, and the town-dwellers have no more regard for us.”
“What can I do about this?”
“It behoves you to bring the ascetic Gotama into disrepute.”
Saying: “That is my duty,” she endeavoured therein, and after going to the Jeta's Wood monastery at the wrong time Technically it means after noon and before dawn, but in this context probably means in the evening.13 she stayed at the nearby sectarians' nunnery. But in the morning, when the town-dwellers had taken incense and so on, as they were going along for the purpose of worshipping the Gracious One, she made like she was departing from Jeta's Wood.
On being asked: “Where did you sleep?” Lit: where did you lie?14 she said to them: “What is my sleeping place to you?” and departed. But by and by when she was asked while leaving she said: “Having slept alone with the ascetic Gotama in the Fragrant Cottage, I am departing.” The foolish worldy folk believed it, but the wise – Stream-Enterers and so forth – did not believe it.
One day, after binding a circle of wood to her stomach, putting on a scarlet cloth, and going with the assembly together with the King to listen to the Teaching, while sitting there she said this to the Gracious One: “Dear ascetic, you teach the Doctrine, why do you not seek garlic, chilli and so on for me on account of your son who is in my womb?”
“Whether that is true or false, Sister, you know, and so do I.”
She said: “The two of us know the truth about our sexual association, but no one else knows.”
At that moment Sakka's stone throne was seen to radiate heat. Sakka considered and after understanding the reason gave an order to two of the gods: “Make for one of yourselves the form of a mouse and cut through the bonds holding her circle of wood, and the other should produce a whirlwind and lift up her dress.” They went and did just that.
The circle of wood while falling cut off her toes. All the worldlings in the Doctrinal Hall, having gathered round, said: “Hey, you wicked villain, to such a one as the Lord of the Three Worlds you have made such a slanderous remark!” and after rising up each of them gave her a blow with their fists, and drove her from the hall, and as she passed out of sight the earth opened up. Lit: presented an opening.15
At that moment the flames of Avīci hell rose up and clothed with the scarlet blanket given by her family she fell into Avīci.
And the Gracious One's gains and respect greatly increased.
Therefore it is said:
There was a disciple of Buddha Identified as a Paccekabuddha in DPPN, though neither the text nor the commentary says as much; he is not mentioned elsewhere.16 Sabbābhibhu named Nanda,
Through slandering him I transmigrated through Hell for a long time, Cf. the story of the Bodhisattva in his life as Abhiya in Mahāvastu, p. 35 ff., who is jealous by nature and slanders a disciple of the Buddha Sarvābhibhū named Nanda. There it is related he realises his mistake and apologises both to the Buddha and his disciple, and aspires to Buddhahood, which is then confirmed.17
For ten thousand long years I transmigrated through Niraya hell,
When I received an existence as man, I received much slander,
Through the remainder of that deed the brahmin maiden named Ciñcā
Slandered me with lies at the head of an assembly of people.
Why the Buddha Suffered Home PageNext Section
last updated: February 2012