|Devas as woodland "wee people" ("Midsummer Eve," Edward Robert Hughes, 1909)|
|Deva at Wat Doi Suthep (ChristyB30/flickr)|
Once a multi-millionaire, Anathapindika had now become poor. Nevertheless, he still continued to provide some food for the nuns and monks, even though it was only a modest serving of thin rice gruel.
|Deva, Lantau island, Hong Kong (Joannazaf/flickr)|
This was very inconvenient for the deva. So it tried to think of a way to keep those enlightened ones out of the house. It appeared to a servant and suggested the cessation of alms giving. But the servant paid no attention to these urgings.
- the Buddha, the Enlightened One
- the Dharma, the Teaching
- the Sangha, the Order of noble disciples [those who have attained whether ordained or not].
|Buddha Earth-touching pose, fruit and money offering, Wat Phnom Pagoda, Phnom Phen, Cambodia (jeffreytsangphotography.com/flickr)|
|Even the habitually harmful can do acts of merit|
But these four space rulers did not feel qualified to make a decision where noble ones were concerned, so they sent the homeless deva to Sakka, the king of the devas (of the World of the Thirty-Three as well as the subordinate celestial world of the Four Great Kings).
|Guardian angel (Pietro da Cortona, 1656)|
First, the deva had to retrieve sunken gold; moreover, it had to procure unclaimed buried treasure; finally, it had to persuade Anathapindika's debtors to repay their debts.
Moreover, the Buddha taught this fortunate deva that one who strove for perfection in giving could not be kept from it by anything in the world -- neither bad nor holy devas, nor gods, nor devils, nor threat of death (J 140; J 340).
He wanted to abduct the manifestation of Siri, the Goddess of Fortune, because he thought that fortune would then leave Anathapindika and come to him. He could then force her to do his bidding.
This strange perception was based on the idea that the so-called favors of fate, while a result of previous merit (good karma or store of beneficial deeds), are nevertheless dispensed by deities, who dwell in the beneficiary's house.
|Deva or fairy (anaan)|
Like many ancient Indians, this Brahmin priest had clairvoyant powers. He saw "Fortune" living in a white rooster kept in a golden cage in the palace. He asked the master of the house to give him the rooster to awaken his students in the morning. Without hesitation, generous Anathapindika granted the Brahmin's wish.
Just at that moment, the fairy "Fortune" wandered into a jewel. The Brahmin also requested this as a present and received it. The deva then hid in a staff, a self-defense weapon. After the Brahmin had successfully requested this, the manifestation of Siri settled down on the head of Puññalakkhana ["mark of merit"], Anathapindika's first wife, who was truly the good devi of the house and therefore had the protection of the devas.
When the Brahmin saw this, he recoiled in fright: "I cannot request his wife!" He confessed his greedy intentions, returned the gifts and, deeply ashamed, left the house.
|Stupa burial mound/reliquary (vaishali.web.fc2.com)|
Anathapindika went to the Buddha and told him of this strange encounter which had him perplexed. The Enlightened One explained the connection to him -- how the world is changed through merit (beneficial deeds) and how, for those with right insight through moral purification, everything is attainable, even nirvana (J 284).
|Boudanath shrine (nepalamazing)|
The second is based on an object that had a connection with an enlightened one and had been used in life (such as an almsbowl).
The third is a symbol without a material object. Of these three visible supports for veneration, recollection, and honor the first was not yet a possibility as long as the Buddha was living.
The third possibility would not be appropriate for those unable to content themselves with a mere picture or a symbol. There remained only the second possibility.
|Bodhi tree (exoticindiaart.com)|
Ananda presented the sapling to the king for the ceremonial planting. But King Pasenadi replied, with princely humility, that he served in this life merely as a steward for the office of the king. It would be more appropriate that someone with a closer relationship to the Teaching consecrate the tree. So he presented the shoot to the millionaire Anathapindika, who was standing next to him.