Maṇimēkhalai

Book XXVIII
[Maṇimēkhalai feeds the Hungry]

There in the city of Vañji she searched for Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ and her mother and companion, and, passing through the outer city into the fort and the various streets occupied by the different classes of citizens, she reached the place where those that travel through the air get down to land.

She still preserved her disguise, and entered the vihāra of the Bauddhas as beautiful as the Aindravihāra at Kāvēripaṭṭiṇam where the residents listened to the exposition of the teachings of the Buddha.

Finding there the father of Kōvalaṉ among the holy ones, she made her obeisance to him in due form and recounted to him how she came into possession of the miraculous bowl, how by means of that she became acquainted with the king of Śāvaham who was ‘ruling the earth’ in great prosperity, how she taught him his previous birth by showing him the Buddha-seat in Maṇipallavam, and how in the course of these transactions the city of Puhār was swallowed up by the sea.

Learning that, on account of this calamity, her mother and the sage Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ had left for Vañji, she journeyed to that city sending the king of Śāvaham back to his kingdom. Arriving at Vañji, she said that, in her new form, she heard the teachings of the various other persuasions from men most competent to expound them. Rejecting them all as not right, she wished to hear [200] the teaching of the Buddha which was superior to them all, and came in search of Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ.

Having said this, she told him that it was her good fortune that brought her to the presence of him who had assumed the holy garb of a Buddhist mendicant. He said in reply:

‘Listen, dear one, having heard of the calamity that befell both your father and mother and the consequent destruction of Madura, I resolved to give up the life of a householder which was but a delusion, since the time had come for me to adopt the life of a Buddhist mendicant.

Feeling convinced that this body and all the wealth that I had acquired through life were alike unstable, I took up this life and resolved to adopt the path of the Dharma.

Having assumed such a life how I happened to come to this city, I shall recount now. Once on a former occasion when the great Cēra king, the ruler of the Kuṭṭuvaṉ, who planted his emblem of the bow on the Himalayas with the ladies of the household entered this grove and remained here in the pleasance for recreation, a few Dharmacāraṇas who, having worshipped the hill Samanoli in the island of Lanka and, passing round in circumambulation, made up their minds to get down to earth as the time for setting the king on the good path had come. Seeing them on this rock, he offered worship to them as a result of previous good deeds, and, washing their feet in due form, offered to them food prepared of “the four kinds and the six flavours.”

Having done this, he praised their condescension and offered them worship with due hospitality along with his whole court. On that occasion these holy ones expounded to him the sufferings of birth and the joys of ceasing to be born, and thus implanted into his mind the Four Truths of the first teacher of the Dharma.

Then the ninth ancestor of [201] Kōvalaṉ, your father, being an intimate friend of the Cēra king had also the benefit of the instruction as a result of the accumulated merit of his good deeds. Distributing among the needy all the ancestral wealth that he inherited and all that he himself had added to it, he erected for the Sugata (Buddha) this Caitya of brilliant white stucco with its turrets reaching to the skies.

Since this was erected in order that those that live in this world might visit it and destroy the evil attaching to them, I came here to offer worship. Hearing from the holy ones here that Kāvēripaṭṭiṇam was likely to be swallowed up by the sea, I made up my mind to stay here alone.

Further your father who had lost his life as a result of evil deeds, would appear as a god as a result of good deeds in his past existence. Enjoying the result of all previous good deeds in that life, he would at the end of this life be born along with his wife in the holy city of Kapila (Kapilavāstu). as he had the benefit of the Buddha’s teaching previously.

Listening to the teaching of the Buddha in that city, he will attain to the end of living. (Nirvāṇa). This I had heard from those who know the past, present and future, and understood the drift of it. I also shall hear that teaching on that day along with your father. Further since you had learnt your past from Tuvadikan, the statuette on the pillar, I had listened to the teaching of Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ expounding the path of good life. He is the cause of good to you, as is also the city of Kāñcī. On the day that he left for Kāñcī, your mother and her companion Sutamatī also left with him.

More than this, listen beautiful one, Kāñcī of golden battlements has lost all her beauty since the country dependent thereon had been suffering from a severe famine owing to a failure of rain. Even the holy mendicant ones there had none to give them alms, and [202] have arrived here. You carry the balm for hunger, and therefore you should appear in that country, and like seasonal rain, you must revive the languishing country and its inhabitants.’

Thus concluded the holy one. Maṇimēkhalai with a profound obeisance to him, rose into the air with the bowl in her hand to the west of the city, and moving along the north, reached the city of Kāñcī, which looked like the city of Indra himself descended to the earth, and which, losing its fertility, looked poor like the thus impoverished city of heaven itself.

With a melting heart for the sufferings of the city, she flew round the city in circumambulation, and, descending in the middle of it, worshipped the Caitya which was erected for the Bodhi tree and the Buddha himself, the former of which was made of gold, both stem and branches, and of emerald leaves.

She passed on to the south-west into a grove full of flowering trees. The chief of the palace guard went to the king and intimated to him that the daughter of Kōvalaṉ, the eminently holy and the unparalleled one in the whole of Jambudvīpa, had arrived at the city, and, with the inexhaustible food-providing bowl in her hand, was just then in the Dharmadā Vana.

Her appearance being quite as welcome as that of welcome rain, the king with his assemblies of ministers, feeling gratified that what the statuette on the pillar had said had already turned true, offering worship and praising her, bowed to her from a distance and went to the grove where she was. Addressing her, he said:

‘Either because my rule had deflected from the path of righteousness, or because of errors in the performance of austerities by those whose duty it was to do them, or because of women falling away from the path of chastity, the whole of my country suffers from want of rain. Not knowing how it came about, I was [203] in great perplexity when a goddess appeared before me and said:–

“Give up grief. As a result of your good deeds in the past, there will appear a damsel with a begging bowl in her hand. Fed from that inexhaustible bowl the whole living world will revive. As a result of her grace, rains will pour in plenty at the command of Indra, and many other miracles will take place in this town. Even when rains fail, the country will still have an abundance of water. In the great streets, construct tanks and plant gardens, so that they may appear with the tanks constructed of old, as if the great Maṇipallavam itself had come here.”

So saying she disappeared.’

He pointed out to Maṇimēkhalai where exactly he actually carried out the instructions of the goddess. Maṇimēkhalai entered the grove, and, pleased with its appointments and appearance, she had constructed a Buddha seat just like that which she saw in Maṇipallavam. She also had a temple constructed for Tīva-tilakai and the goddess Maṇimēkhalā, and arranged for the celebration of recurring festivals through the king.

Having arranged for all these, she performed the actual worship, and placing the begging bowl on the Buddha-seat, she invited all living beings suffering from hunger to come in. Then there came crowds of people speaking ‘the eighteen languages’; the blind, the deaf, the maimed, the helpless, the dumb, the diseased, those engaged in the performance of penance, those suffering from hunger, those suffering from extreme poverty, these and many hundreds of thousands of animals, all came crowding in.

To all of them, she supplied food so inexhaustibly that it was only the hands of those that received it that felt exhausted. They all returned after satisfying, to the full, their hunger, praising the young lady, who appeared as if through the result of having fed [204] a very holy person in a previous existence, and thereby brought prosperity to the land, as an abundance of water, good land, timely rain, change of seasons, the necessary instruments of cultivation, seeds sown properly and yield returning in plenty, would.

At this time, there came to the grove Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ with her mother and her companion Sutamatī. She prostrated before them, and, washing their feet, saw them seated suitably to their holiness, and provided them with delicious food and drink. She served to them afterwards betel and camphor, and prayed that what she long desired may turn fruitful and true. So saying, she discarded her disguise and made a profound obeisance again.