Friday, May 9, 2014

Sivali: good luck and enlightenment

G.P. Malalasekera; Seth Auberon and CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
The great "saint" (enlightened monastic) Ven. Sivali is widely revered in Thailand (WQ)
Sivali amulet charms, Thailand
Venerable Sīvalī was the luckiest enlightened Buddhist monk at the time of the Buddha, the son of Suppavāsā, daughter of the king of Koliya.
For seven years and seven days he resided in his mother's womb, and for seven days she was in labor unable to bring him forth. She finally said to her husband: "Before I die I will make a gift [donation]." She sent a gift from her husband the king to the Buddha, who accepted it and uttered a blessing on her. She immediately gave birth to son, Sīvalī. When her husband returned, she asked him to show hospitality to the Buddha and his ascetic disciples for seven consecutive days.
From the time of his birth, Sīvalī could do anything. Ven. Sāriputra, the Buddha's chief male disciple "foremost in wisdom," talked with him on the day of his birth and ordained him [when he turned 7-years-old in accordance with the "Monastic Code" (Vinaya)] with Suppavāsā's permission.

Golden Sivali traveling
Sīvalī soon became a stream enterer -- the first stage of enlightenment -- in the Tonsure Hall when his first lock of hair was cut, and a once returner (the second stage) with the second lock. Some say that after his ordination, he left home on the same day and lived in a secluded hut, meditating on the delays in his birth thus winning final insight and attaining full enlightenment (arahantship).
In the time of the Buddha Padumuttara he had made the resolve to be preeminent among recipients of gifts, like Sudassana, a disciple of Padumuttara. To this end he gave alms for seven days to the Buddha and his community of disciples [the noble Sangha or "community" of enlightened male and female monastics, and male and female lay disciples].

In the time of the Buddha Vipassī, he was a householder near Bandhumatī. The people competed with the king giving alms to that Buddha and the Monastic Order of that time. When they were in need of molasses, curds, and sweets, Sīvalī gave enough of these for 68,000 monastics. 
In the time of the Buddha Atthadassī, he was a king named Varuna, and when that Buddha passed away into final nirvana, he made great offerings to the Bodhi tree [the treee under which Atthadassi had become enlightened], passing away under it later. Then he was born in the Nimmānaratī world. 
Thirty-four times he was a ruler of men under the name of Subāhu (Thag.vs.60; ThagA.i.135). According to the Apadāna account (Ap.ii.492f) his father in his last birth was the Licchavi Mahāli. 
The Asātarūpa Rebirth Story (Jātaka) gives the reason for the delay in Sīvalī's birth (cf.Ap.ii.494, vs.29f). The story of Sīvalī is also given at the Verses of Uplift (Udana.ii.8) and elsewhere (AA.i.130f.; DhA.iv.192f.; ii.196; J.i.408f). The Verses of Uplift or Inspired Utterances (Udana) follows the DhA. (iv.192f.) very closely. 
Thai dana (Prayudi Hartono)
Both The Verses of Uplift and the Buddhist Birth Tales (Jataka) state that a lay supporter of Maha Moggallāna -- the Buddha's other chief male disciple foremost in psychic powers -- postponed his giving a meal to the Buddha (who requested him to do so) to enable the Buddha to accept Suppavāsā's invitation after the birth of the child. Other accounts omit this. The Verses of Uplift states nothing about Sīvalī's renunciation of the world. The DhA. account of this differs from the others.
Sīvalī was declared by the Buddha the monastic disciple "pre-eminent among recipients of gifts" (A.i.24). It is said (ThagA.i.138; Ap.ii.495; AA.i.139) that when the Buddha visited Khadiravaniya-Revata, he took Sīvalī with him because the road was difficult and alms scarce. Sivali's good karma was such that he was never without alms, offerings, and gifts as a result of his ancient karma.

Deva, "shining one" (WQ)
Sīvalī went into the desolate wilderness of the Himālayas with a great number of others to test his good luck, namely, his ability to always receive alms and provisions no matter where he was. The devas (the "shining ones" normally invisible to us) provided all of them with everything. 
On Gandhamādana a deva named Nāgadatta supported them for seven days on rich meals of milk rice.

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