Why the Buddha Suffered

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[4. Slander]

In the fourth enquiry, called slander, we hear about especially great abuse and censuring.

In the past, it seems, the Buddha-to-be was reborn in a Brahminical family, and was very learned, much respected and worshipped. His name at that time was Sutavā, as is recorded in the verses below.01 Having gone forth in the recluses' going-forth, while living on forest roots and fruits in the Himālaya, Himavanta; having snow, it is another name for the Himālaya, the place of snow. In the verses the place is called the Great Wood, but there are several woods so named in the texts, perhaps it was the Wood near to Kapilavatthu, which was on the edge of the Himālayas.02 he spent his time teaching the mantras The brahminical verses collected in the Vedas.03 to many students.

One recluse, Named Bhīma below.04 who had the five deep knowledges and the eight attainments came to stay near him. Having seen him, and being jealous by nature, he slandered that innocent seer saying: “This seer is a deceitful sensualist,” and his pupils also said: “This seer is surely immoral.” They therefore abused and censured him.

Through that unwholesome deed and its result, after undergoing suffering in Niraya hell for many thousands of years, and becoming a Buddha in this his last state, and attaining the highest gains and fame, he became famous and was like the full moon in the sky.

Right there and then the dissatisfied sectarians made Sundarī slander him again, summoning and bribing some drunken scoundrels, and gave the order saying: “After murdering Sundarī, throw her by the rubbish tip near the entrance to Jeta's Wood.” And that they did.

Afterwards the sectarians informed the King saying: “We cannot find Lit: Do not see.05 Sundarī.” The King said: “Search for her.” After retrieving her from the place where she was felled, bringing the bier and showing the King, they said: “Look, dear Sir, at what the ascetic Gotama's disciples have done!”

Then they went round shouting out dispraise about the Gracious One and his Community of monks in the whole town and placed Sundarī on a platform in the charnel ground. The disposal of the body would be taken care of by birds and animals, as in the so-called 'sky-burials' of the Tibetans and the Parsees.06 The King gave the order saying: “Seek for Sundarī's murderer!”

Then after the scoundrels had drunk liquor, they made a commotion and accused each other, saying: “You murdered Sundarī, you murdered her!” The King's men, after arresting the scoundrels, brought Lit: showed.07 them to the King, and he said: “Did you murder Sundarī?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Who gave the order?”

“The sectarians, your majesty.”

The King had the sectarians brought and bound and said: “Go and shout it out, saying: 'In order to bring the Buddha into disrepute we ourselves had Sundarī murdered, the Gracious One and his disciples didn't do it.” And that they did.

All the town-dwellers regained confidence. The King executed the sectarians and the scoundrels and had their bodies thrown aside.

Then the Gracious One's gains and respect grew enormously.

Therefore it is said:

As the brahmin Sutavā I was greatly respected and worshipped,
I taught the mantras to my five hundred students in the Great Wood.

The seer Bhīma – who had five knowledges and great power – came there,
And having seen him coming, I slandered that innocent seer,

Thereupon I said to my pupils: This seer is a sensualist. Lit: one who enjoys sense pleasures.08
And all of the students rejoiced in that unwholesome speech of mine.

Thence all the students as they begged for alms from family to family,
Said to the great body of people: This seer is a sensualist;

Through that deed and through its result these monks numbering five hundred
All received abundant slander at the hands of Sundarikā.