Why the Buddha Suffered

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[3. Slander]

In the third enquiry, called slander, we hear about great lies and abuse.

In the past, it seems, the Buddha-to-be, in a little known life, We could also translate as: in an (otherwise) unknown life; probably mentioned as such because this life-story is not recorded in the Jātakas or elsewhere.1 was reborn and became a scoundrel called Munāḷi, and through the power of association with bad people abused the Independent Buddha called Surabhi, saying: “This monk is unvirtuous and wicked.”

Through that unwholesome verbal deed he boiled in the Niraya hell for many thousands of years, and in this his last state, through being successful in the ten perfections, he became the Buddha, and attained the highest gains and fame.

Again the sectarians became insolent saying: “Now what will bring this ascetic Gotama to infamy?” and they sat there pained and depressed.

Then a certain wanderer called Sundarī approached, worshipped them and stood there, but seeing them silent and not speaking anything, she questioned them, saying: “What is my fault?”

“We are being harassed by that ascetic Gotama and you are making no effort, that is your fault.”

“What should I do in this matter?”

“Will you be able to bring the ascetic Gotama into disrepute?”

She said: “I am able, noble ones”, and it is recorded that she was frequently seen in the vicinity and abused and censured the Buddha by saying: “After sleeping alone with the ascetic Gotama in the Fragrant Cottage I am leaving.”

And also the sectarians said: “Look, dear friends, at the ascetic Gotama's deed!” and abused and censured him.

And so this was said:

In a previous life I was a scoundrel known as Munāḷi,
I slandered the innocent Independent Buddha Surabhi;

Through that deed and through its result I long transmigrated through Hell,
For many thousands of years I experienced unpleasant feelings.

Through the remainder of that deed, here in my last existence,
I received much slander myself, at the hands of Sundarikā. See Udāna 4-8 for the Canonical story. We might translate Sundarikā as Little Sundarī, taking -ikā as diminutive, but it is fairly common in verse texts to add the affix to names to meet the requirements of the metre, with no change in meaning or identification intended.2