Friday, 4 December 2015

Be diligent by contemplating the impermanence of this life

Devotees and children, we go to schools, learn something, and find jobs in our lives. In the meantime, some of us get ill and sometimes even die. Death comes to most of us swiftly and we are not ready to face that unexpected death. This story tells us an incident in which someone got the refuge of the Dhamma before he faced his death unexpectedly.

There was a merchant named Mahādhana at the time of the Gautama Supreme Buddha. He buys a large number of valuable clothing called ‘Kusumbharat’ from City Bārānasi to fill 500 carriages and goes on selling them to different cities. This time, he went to sell his goods to the City Sāvatti. Since it was almost dark by the time he and his carriages reached River Achiravati, he thought to cross the river the next morning. Thus he parked all his carriages on the other side of the river in that evening. At that night a huge rain poured down overflowing the river.  It rained seven consecutive days making impossible for him and his carriages to cross the river.  Because of this reason, he could not sell all his goods. Then he thought,  “I came from a long distance. It’s a difficulty to go back with these goods now.  I’ll stay here this rainy season and probably the next winter and summer too. I’ll finish my work and sell these goods first, and then I can leave.”

After the rain stopped, merchant Mahādhana came to City Sāvatti and started to sell his goods. On that day, the Supreme Buddha came to the city for collecting alms.  When He was walking by that merchant’s place the Supreme Buddha saw merchant Mahādhana and made a smile. The Supreme Buddha does not make smiles unless there is something important.  Knowing this fact, Ananda Thero asked the Supreme Buddha:

“Dear Sir, what is the reason for you to smile?”
“Ananda, did you see that merchant Mahādhana?”
“Yes Sir.”
“That merchant doesn’t know when he is going to die. He thinks of living in City Sāvatti this whole year and selling his goods. Ananda, he is going to die in seven more days.”
“Sir, shall I go tell him about this and try to help him?”
“Ananda, go and see if he believes what you would say.”

Ananda Thero then went to merchant Mahādhana collecting alms and asked him,  “Friend, how long are you expecting to live here?”

“Sir, I came from a long distance. It’s difficult for me to go back with all these goods. I am thinking to stay here this whole year and sell all my goods before I leave this city.”

“Devotee, we don’t know what bad things might happen to this life, so isn’t it better to cultivate merits while we live?”
“Oh Sir, are you saying this because I may have to face some crisis?”
“Yes devotee. You only have seven days to live.”

Then merchant Mahādhana started to think,  “These noble Bhikkhus never tell lies. They don’t make others fear or deceive others with lies. This has to be true. If that’s the case, there’s no point for me to continue collecting more money like this. I should observe precepts and donate to collect merits.”

At that evening, he went to Temple Devram and invited the Supreme Buddha and His disciple Sangha for alms at his place. He offered the Supreme Buddha and His disciple Sangha alms for seven days. On the last day, the Supreme Buddha preached,  “Meritorious devotee, a wise person shall do it like this. He would not waste his time thinking that ‘I’ll stay here this amount of time, will do this and that work, and will earn money in this and that way.’ He should also think of the danger that he might face in this life.

The Supreme Buddha then preached this following stanza in a beautiful voice,
‘Idha vassan vasissāmi – idha hēmanta gimhisu
Iti bālō vichintēti – antarāyan na bujjati
I will stay here in the rainy season – and in the winter too
I’ll stay here – this is how an unwise person thinks, without realizing the true danger’


Devotees and children, merchant Mahādhana did realize the meaning of this stanza very well.  He started to contemplate that Dhamma and attained the Sōwān state.  The Dhamma preaching of the Supreme Buddha brought everyone the wellbeing.  The merchant went following the Supreme Buddha to a distance and stopped. He then felt a severe headache. He came back to his place and slept on his bed. It was his last sleep – he died. Then he was born in Thuthisa divine world. He was saved because of the great compassion of the Supreme Buddha! How remarkable the compassion of the Supreme Buddha…!

Based on the story of merchant Mahādhana in Magga Vagga – Dhammapadaya (20.14)
Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero