Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Story of the Wealthy Man, Anathapindika (Story Demonstrating the Attributes of the Buddha)

It was the time when the Buddha was spending His second rain-retreat period at the city of Rajagaha that the rich man from Savatthi, Anathapindika went to his brother-in-law Visala of Rajagaha, to sell his locally produced goods, loaded in five-hundred carts.  At a distance of about one yojana before arriving at Rajagaha, Anathapindika sent a message about his arrival in advance as usual to his brother-in-law.

At that time Visala could not welcome his brother-in-law as usual because he was engaged in the preparation of alms-food to be offered to the Buddha and His disciples.

Also Anathapindika, expecting the welcoming of Visala, continued his journey.  Only when he reached Rajagaha, he discovered that Visala was very busy indeed.

When Anathapindika asked Visala why he was so busy, Visala explained to him that he was busy not because of the preparations for a wedding reception nor for preparations of a feast to the King but for the offerings of alms-food to the Buddha and His disciples.

No sooner had he heard the word “Buddha” unexpectedly, Anathapindika was relieved of his tiredness and became extremely delighted.  He was so overwhelmed with delight that he asked Visala up to three times if he had uttered the word “Buddha” and Visala replied that he did so.

Then Anathapindaka told Visala that it was very difficult in this world even to hear the word “Buddha” and requested to let him see the Buddha just now.  Visala told him to visit the Buddha the next day as it was too late already.  His desire to pay homage to the Buddha was so strong that Anapindika forgot everything even to have dinner and to do business.  He went up the seven-storeyed pinnacled hall and laid down on his bed, muttering “The Buddha, The Buddha”.  He could not fall into deep sleep; he remained half-asleep and half-awake.  Whenever he was awake, he thought of the Buddha. It was still dark. As he reflected on the virtues of the Buddha repeatedly, his mind became calm, concentrated and saturated with joy and the rays of light emanated from his body.  Due to these rays of light, he thought that it was dawn and got up three times.  When he woke up for the third time, he saw all the doors of the house were open. So he came down to the ground floor, went out of the house and walked along the main road.  When he reached Sivaka, the city gate, he found that it was already open.  He went out of the gate and stepped into the cemetery.  Rajagaha was a densely populated city.  According to the custom of those days dead bodies were left unburied in the cemetery.  When Anathapindika stumbled over the corpses, he got frightened and the light emanating from his body disappeared.  The whole place became pitch-dark.  The foul smell of the corpses made him more and more frightened and disgusted. Having goose-flesh, Anathapindika wanted to return home. Then the guardian deva of Sivaka cementary encouraged him saying, “Dear friend, the value of one lakh elephants, one lakh horses, one lakh chariots, and one lakh damsels is not as valuable as one-sixteenth of a step of a man who goes to the Buddha to pay homage to Him.  Go on, my friend. It’s of great benefit”.

When Anathapindika heard these words, he was encouraged, thinking that he had some companions.  Fear and dread abated and he again reflected on the virtues of the Buddha.  On account of this, the darkness disappeared and light rays reappeared.  So he went on, and then he saw the corpses and heard the sounds of howling dogs, he felt frightened again.  As soon as he felt frightened, the rays of light disappeared and it became dark again.

So, he thought of going back again. At every time he thought of going home, he heard the encouraging words of deva Sivaka.  And so he went on and on. Finally, at early dawn he reached Sitavana grove where the Buddha recited.  The Buddha was walking up and down mediating in the open air. When the Buddha saw Anathapindika coming, He sat at a suitable place.

At that time, suddenly a strange idea was flashed upon by Anathapindika.  He pondered, “I am mostly known as Anathapindika because I give food to the destitutes.  If He is a true Buddha, He will greet me by calling me by my own name”.  When he approached the Buddha, the Buddha greeted him with calm and clear voice; “Come, Sudatta”. Anathapindika felt pleased and happy.  Then he listened to the discourse given by the Buddha.  At the end of the discourse, he became a Stream-winner.

He invited the Buddha and His disciples to come to Savatthi. When he knew that the Buddha accepted his invitation, he went back to Savatthi and built the splendid monastery known as Jetavana monastery at a great cost.  He donated the monastery to the Buddha and became a lay disciple of the Buddha, and a well-known patron of the Buddha Sasana.
All these marvelous events began with Anathapindika’s deeply reflecting on the virtues of the Buddha.

The above mentioned story provides some examples of the Attributes of the Buddha.  Paying homage to the Buddha, reflecting on the virtues of the Buddha, paying mental devotion to the Buddha who is endowed with major marks and minor marks of a Great Man, etc., are called Buddhanussati Bhavana.  If a person steadfastly concentrates his mind on Buddhanussati Bhavana (It is also a kind of Samatha Bhavana like Anapana), he will be overwhelmed with delightful satisfaction.  Owing to the reflection on the virtues of the Buddha, he will be free from the hindrances such as greed (Lobha), anger (Dosa), etc., and will feel happy bodily and mentally.  His mind will be active and pure. If he keeps on contemplating on the arising and perishing of his delightful satisfaction stage by stage or on the arising and perishing nature of mind and matter, he will attain Nibbana.

Source : By Ye" Thu Aung (Buddhism for Beginners)