Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Two Enlightened Buddhist Kings

Dhr. Seven, Ven. Chandananda, Wisdom Quarterly based on G.P. Malalasekera (aimwell.org), Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names (Pukkusati); Bhikkhu Bodhi (audio); Wirajhana-eka (art)
The Buddha teaching in the superior space world of Tusita, Kushan Dynasty carving, Gandhara, Pakistan (wikicommons)
At the time of the Buddha, far to the west, there lived a king in Afghanistan named Pukkusati or Pushkarasarin.
At that time what is now known as Afghanistan and Pakistan were part of India's frontier lands. Gandhara was located on the grand northern main road (Uttarapatha) and was a center of international commerce. It was an important channel of merchandise and communication with ancient Iran and Central Asia.

Pukkusati's story begins much, much earlier when, together with Bahiya of the Bark Cloth, he strove to gain enlightenment under a previous buddha named Kassapa.

A wealthy king in Gandhara in the middle of the sixth century BC, Pukkusati was a contemporary of another more famous Buddhist king to the east, a great patron of the Buddha: King Bimbisara of Magadha.
  • [Along with Dr. Ranajit Pal, Wisdom Quarterly contends that Shakyamuni Buddha ("the Sage of the Shakya clan") was from ancient Afghanistan. The capital was Kapilavastu, part the rich Shakyan people's territorial holdings, on ancient India's northwest frontier. Others in the region -- Gandharas, Kurus, Kambojas, and Bahlikas -- were cognate people, and all had Iranian affinities.[Note 20] According to Dr. T.L. Shah, Gandhara and Kamboja were two neighboring provinces of one empire.[21] Gandhara was often linked politically with the neighboring regions of Kashmir and Kamboja (Wiki).]
Spiritual Quest
Why do good sons and daughters set out from home-life to homelessness? (K8rry/flickr)
The young spiritual seeker had been King of Takkasilā (Taxila, formerly India, now part of Pakistan) when King Bimbisāra ruled Magadha from Rajgir (Rajagaha) -- the site of Vultures Peak, where the Buddha frequently stayed -- having left his home country as Siddhartha the spiritual seeker from the vicinity of Gandhara.
A friendly alliance was established between the two kings by merchants who traveled between the two territories to trade. In time, although they had never met in person, there grew up between them a deep bond of affection. 

King Pukkusāti once sent to King Bimbisāra a gift of eight priceless garments in lacquered caskets. This gift was accepted at a special meeting of the king's entire court. Bimbisāra, who was a stream enterer devoted to the Buddha and therefore not nearly as materialistic as he had once been, wanted to send something precious to Pukkusāti. But what could possibly demonstrate his affection for his friend?

He conceived of an idea. What if he acquainted Pukkusāti with the appearance in the world of the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha? 

Bimbisara had a giant beaten golden plate. It was four cubits long and a span in breadth. Inscribed on it were descriptions of these Three Jewels and of various tenets of the Buddha’s teachings and meditation instructions such as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the 37 Requisites of Enlightenment. 

The plate was placed in the innermost of several nested caskets made of various precious substances. It was taken in procession on the back of the state elephant to the frontier of Bimbisira’s kingdom. Similar honors were paid to it by the chiefs of other territories, through which lay the route to Takkasilā.

In the solitude of his chamber where by nature (owing to practice in past lives) he would resort to meditate in peace, Pukkusāti read the inscription on the plate. He was so filled with boundless joy that he decided to renounce the world. 

Like Prince Siddhartha before him, he cut off his hair, donned the saffron robes of a wandering ascetic, and left the palace alone amid his weeping subjects. He traveled the 192 leagues to the prosperous city of Sāvatthi, passing the gates of Jetavana

Having understood from Bimbisāra’s letter that the Buddha was at Rājagaha, he did not inquire about him in Jetavana. Instead he traveled on 45 leagues more to Rājagaha, only to find that the Buddha was all the time in Sāvatthi. 

It was evening, so he took lodging in the potter Bhaggava’s house. The Buddha, with his psychic eye, saw what was in store for Pukkusāti. So he traveled by foot from Sāvatthi and reached Bhaggava’s house at sundown. Waiting for his opportunity -- since Pukkusāti thought nothing of this young wanderer until he saw how well he meditated through the last watch of the night, far outstripping the king's advanced ability to attain absorption (jhana) -- the Buddha was silent.

Then when the fellow family clan member (kulaputta, M.iii.238; J.iv.180 and DhA.ii.35) Pukkusati was ready to listen and take it in, he taught him the CLASSIFICATION OF THE ELEMENTS.
The wanderer Pukkusāti was already at Bhaggava's house occupying the guest quarters, the potter's shed or workshop. The Buddha asked to be allowed to share it, to which Pukkusāti agreed.
They sat together for some time meditating in silence. Only then did the Buddha teach the Dhātu-vibhaṅga Sutta, and it was only after it that Pukkusāti recognized the Buddha.

He begged pardon for not having paid him due honor; he then requested to have the higher ordination of a Buddhist monk conferred on him. 

The Buddha consented and sent him to procure a requisite alms bowl and robe. But like Bahiya of the Bark Cloth, on the way Pukkusāti was gored to death by a cow. [Cows do this and it frequently happens that they are protecting their young or possessed by some yakkha.]
When this was reported to the Buddha, he explained that Pukkusāti was a non-returner (third stage of enlightenment) who had now been been reborn in the highest Pure Abode (aviha) never more to return (M.iii.237 47).

Commentarial literature
In his comments on the Dhātu-vibhaṅga Sutra, Buddhaghosa gives a long account of Pukkusāti (MA.ii.979 ff. Cp. the story of Tissa, King of Roruva, ThagA.i.199f.)

After his untimely death by cow, Pukkusāti was born in the Pure Abodes where, together with six others, he became fully enlightened right at the moment of his rebirth. (See S.i.35, 60 for the names of the others).
The commentary explains that Pukkhusāti was one of seven monks at the time of the former Buddha Kassapa who decided to abstain from eating until they attained enlightenment. To avoid being disturbed, they moved to the top of a mountain plateau and kicked down the ladder used to climb up.
The senior monk attained the final goal, the second became an non-returner, but the remaining five refused offerings of food from the two who attained, and they died of starvation. They were reborn in the space world known as Tusita, a superior Sense Sphere world.

In this age they became, respectively, Pukkusāti, Kumāra Kassapa, Bahiya Dārucīriya, Dabba Mallaputta, and Sabhiya (Ap.ii.473; DhA.ii.212; UdA.81; but see MA.i.335, where only three are mentioned Pukkusāti, Dārucīriya, and Kassapa).

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