|Introduction Five-Fold Profound Meanings Translator Preface Principle Proper|
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The Buddha’s father, King Suddhodana, was afraid that his son the prince would leave the home-life. When the prince was still quite young, his father told him to marry, and he wed Yasodhara. When he was nineteen, he left home and, as he was about to go, his wife told him she wanted a son. The prince thereupon pointed his finger at her, and she became pregnant. Then he left for the Snow Mountains to meditate for six years, and for six years Rahula, his son, lay in his mother’s womb.
Rahula means “obstacle.” He had plugged up a mousehole for six days in a past life, and so received six years of retribution, suffering in the womb. When he was finally born, he caused a lot of trouble for his mother. King Suddhodana and the whole family were upset. “Well, I never!” they said. “Without a husband, she gives birth to a son. Yasodhara has obviously been running around. She must have a boyfriend.”
“She’s a bad women,” pronounced the entire clan. One servant spoke in her defense. “You’re wrong,” she said. “She is pure. She stays home all day long and doesn’t flirt with men. The child really is the Prince’s.”
No one believed the servant, and they wanted to kill Yasodhara, to beat her to death. Finally, they dug a pit, built a fire in it, and prepared to throw Yasodhara and her baby in. Yasodhara stepped forward and made a vow. “Heaven spirits! Earth spirits! Bear witness! If the child belongs to the Prince, my son and I will not be burned. If I did transgress, we both will burn!” Then she jumped into the pit. What do you think happened? The pit turned into a pool of water, and a golden lotus grew out of it to catch them. Everyone then knew that the child was truly the son of the Buddha.
When the Buddha returned to the palace, Yasodhara took Rahula to meet him. If the child had been illegitimate, she certainly would have feared the Buddha. But she sent the child out to meet him and the Buddha hugged the child.
Rahula sought the true Way and worked hard. Among the great disciples he was foremost in secret practices. He worked everywhere, at all times, but no one knew he was working because he never advertised his cultivation. His work was so secret that he could enter samadhi any place at all, even on the toilet, and no one knew.
Although Rahula was the Buddha’s son, the Buddha doesn’t have only one son; he has Three Kinds of Sons:
- True Sons. One often reads in the sutras, “…headed by the Dharma Prince Manjushri…” The Buddha is the Dharma King, and the Bodhisattvas are the Buddha’s genuine sons.
- Initiate Sons. These are the Arhats who, out of ignorance, hold to the principle of one-sided emptiness and have not attained the principle of the Middle Way.
- Uninitiate Sons. Common men who do not know how to cultivate are upside-down, but they are still the Buddha’s sons, for the Buddha is the great compassionate father of all living beings. The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra speaks of us as poor, lost sons. We should quickly return to our great compassionate father. We all have a share in the Buddha’s family.
This Venerable One’s very strange name means “cow cud.” Far in the distant past, he had insulted a Bhikshu who couldn’t eat hard things and had to slurp his food because his teeth were no good. “You eat like a cow!” said Gavampati. The old Bhikshu happened to be a Pratyeka Buddha, and because of Gavampati’s careless slander, Gavampati was reborn for five hundred lifetimes as a cow and got to know the real bitterness that it involved
Finally he met Shakyamuni Buddha, learned to cultivate, and attained Arhatship. Although he had certified to the fruit, his habits from so many lives remained unchanged, and all day he snorted like a cow chewing its cud. Shakyamuni Buddha was afraid that someone might slander him and reap the same reward, and so he sent the Venerable Gavampati to heaven to live. There he became the foremost of those who receive the offerings of the gods.
We should take care not to speak rashly or to scold others. If you berate others, others will berate you.
Pindola Bharadvaja means “unmoving sharp roots.” To the present day he has not entered Nirvana because he broke a rule.
Although the Arhats around the Buddha had spiritual powers, they were not allowed to display them casually. Once an elder called Jyotiska carved a bowl out of sandalwood, put it on top of a high pole, and said, “Whoever can use his spiritual powers to get the bowl down can have it.” Pindola Bharadvaja couldn’t resist the temptation, and used his powers to get the bowl down.
“Since you’re so greedy for sandalwood bowls that you display your spiritual powers,” said the Buddha, “you will not be allowed to enter Nirvana. Instead, you must stay here and be a field of blessedness for living beings.”
Pindola Bharadvaja is still in the world, but no one knows where. Whenever people make offerings to the Triple Jewel, however, he comes to receive them, acting as a field of blessedness for beings in the Dharma-ending age.
Kalodayin means “black light.” His skin was black but his body glowed, and his eyes emitted light. One night as he was out walking, a pregnant woman was so startled to see his two bright eyes and black-lit body that she had a miscarriage and died. Because of this the Buddha set up a precept forbidding Shramanas to take walks at night.
Black Light served the Buddha as an attendant and a Dharma Protector. He was the foremost teacher who taught and transformed the greatest number of people, creating over one thousand certified sages.
Maha means “great” and Kapphina means “constellation.” His father and mother prayed to one of the twenty eight constellations in order to have their son. He was foremost in knowledge of astrology.
Vakkula means “good bearing.” He was extremely handsome. In the past, during the time of Vipasyin Buddha, he made offerings of the Indian haritaki fruit to a Pratyeka Buddha, a sage enlightened to conditions. Because of this he received the retribution of long life in every life for ninety-one aeons. Foremost of the disciples in age, he lived to be a hundred and sixty.
In past lives, Vakkula kept the precept against killing so conscientiously that he never killed a single creature, not even grass or trees. Thus he obtained “five kinds of death-free retribution.”
Vakkula was a strange child. He was not born crying like most children, but entered the world smiling. Not only was he smiling, he was sitting upright in full lotus. Seeing this, his mother exclaimed, “He’s a monster!” and threw him on the brazier to burn. After three or four hours, he hadn’t burned; he just sat there in full lotus laughing. Fully convinced that he was a monster, she then tried to boil him. When she took the cover off the pot several hours later, he just smiled back at her. “Oh no!” she cried, and threw him into the ocean. He did not drown, however, because a big fish swam up and swallowed him whole. T
hen a man netted the fist and cut it open. Vakkula stepped out, unharmed by the knife. So the fire didn’t burn him, the water didn’t boil him, the ocean didn’t drown him, the fish didn’t chomp him to death, and the fisherman’s knife didn’t cut him. Because he kept the precept against killing in every life, he obtained these “five kinds of death-free retribution.”
Aniruddha means “not poor.” Long ago, during the time of Pusya Buddha, a famine starved the people and reduced them to eating grass, roots, and leaves. It was the practice of a Pratyeka Buddha who lived at that time to go out begging only once every two weeks. If he received no offerings, he simply didn’t eat.
Once day he went down the mountain to beg and, having received no offerings, was returning with his empty bowl when he was seen by a poor farmer – Aniruddha. The poor farmer addressed the Pratyeka Buddha most respectfully. “Holy Master,” he said, “you received no offerings. Won’t you please accept my lunch? As I am very poor, I can only offer you this cheap grade of rice, but if you want it, you can have it.” Seeing his sincerity, the Pratyeka Buddha accepted. After eating, he ascended into empty space, manifested the eighteen miraculous changes, and left.
Just then the poor farmer saw a rabbit running towards him. The rabbit jumped up on his back, and no matter how the farmer tried to knock, brush, or shake it off, it wouldn’t budge. All alone in the field and terrified, he ran home. When he got there the rabbit had turned into a gold statue. He asked his wife to knock the rabbit off, but she couldn’t move it either. When they broke a gold leg off the rabbit, another would grow back in its place. In this way, the gold statue was never exhausted, and for ninety-one kalpas Aniruddha was “not poor.”
During the time of Shakyamuni Buddha he was the son of the Buddha’s father’s brother, the Red Rice King. He was the Buddha’s first cousin.
Although he wasn’t poor, Aniruddha liked to sleep when the Buddha lectured on the sutras. One day the Buddha scolded him:
Hey! Hey! How can you sleep,
Like an oyster or a clam?
Sleep, sleep for a thousand years,
But you’ll never hear the Buddha’s name!
Hearing this, Aniruddha became extremely vigorous and didn’t sleep for seven days. As a consequence, he went blind. The Buddha took pity on him and taught him how to cultivate the “vajra illuminating bright samadhi.” He immediately obtained the penetration of the Heavenly Eye; he could see the great trichiliocosm as clearly as seeing an apple held in his hand, and was foremost of the disciples in possessing the Heavenly Eye.