Mv. 18. The Story of Visākhā’s Favors

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Mv. 18. The Story of Visākhā’s Favors

Visākhāvatthu

 

Then, having stayed long enough in Vārāṇasi,

the Awakened One left and travelled to Sāvatthi.

And by successive, gradual wanderings,

he made it to Sāvatthi.

When arrived, he settled at Anāthapiṇdika’s monastery,

in Jeta’s grove.

 

There, Visākhā, Migāra’s mother went to him,

Paid loving respects and sat to the side.

 

The Awakened One

taught,

sparked,

uplifted

and gladdened her

with a discourse on the Way to happiness. [1]

 

After she was

taught,

sparked,

uplifted

and gladdened her

with a discourse on the Way to happiness,

she said to the Blessed one:

 

 

[1. Visākhā’s Meal Offering]

 

[Visākhā]

“Bhante, may the awakened One accept tomorrow’s meal from me,

together with the bhikkhu saṅgha.”

 

The Buddha consented in silence.

 

Seeing the Awakened One’s consent,

she paid loving respects,

walk around him clockwise in padakkhiṇa [2] homage and left.

Meanwhile, by the end of the night,

a great rain storm engulfed the four continents

and diluvial rains started pouring.

 

[2. The Monks’ Bath]

 

Then the Buddha said to the monks:

 

“Just as it is raining here on Jeta’s Grove, monks,

it is raining on all four continents.

Let your bodies be soothed by the rain monks.

This is the last great rainstorm on the four continents.” [3]

 

“Yes Bhante” the monks replied.

 

And they laid their robes down

 following the Buddha’s advice

 and let their bodies soak in the rain.

 

[3. Encountering Naked Monks]

 

Then, Visākhā Migāramātā prepared sumptuous food

and meal and said to her maid:

“Go to the Ārāmā my dear, and announce:

‘It is time Bhante, the food is ready.’

 

[Maid]

“Yes my Lady, her maid reply “

 

And having agreed, she made her way to the Ārāmā

Where she saw the monks,

their robes all laid aside,

being cleansed by the rain, she thought:

 

‘There are no monks in the monastery,

only naked Ājīvakas [4] soaking in the rain.’ [5]

 

Then she returned and announced:

 

[Maid]

‘My good lady, there are no monks in the monastery,

only naked Ājīvakas are soaking in the rain.

 

Then, Visākhā, mother of Migārā,

Being a very clever woman,

a learned woman

a wise woman, she replied:[6]

 

[Visākhā]

“Doubtlessly, the respected monks have laid their robes aside

and are letting their bodies be soothed in the rain,

that is why she thinks there are no monks at the monastery. “

 

Once more, she said to her maid:

 

“Go to the Ārāmā my dear, and announce:

‘It is time Bhante, the food is ready.’

 

[4. Encountering no Monks]

 

With their bodies cooled down and relieved, [7]

the monks put on their robes

and went into their lodgings.

 

Then, not seeing any monks, the young maid thought:

 

[Maid]

‘There are no monks at the monastery, the Ārāmā is empty.’

 

Returning to Visākhā Migāramātā she said:

 

[Maid]

‘There are no monks at the monastery, my lady,

the Ārāmā is empty.’

 

Then, Migārā’s mother, Visākhā,

Being a very clever woman,

a learned woman

a wise woman, she replied:

 

[Visākhā]

“Doubtlessly, the monks have put on their robes

and went into their lodgings after cooling down

and soothing their bodies in the rain.

 

“That is why my girl thinks this.”

 

Once more, she said to her maid:

 

“Go back to the Ārāmā my dear, and announce:

‘It is time Bhante, the food is ready.’

 

[5. Announcing the Meal]

 

At that time, the Awakened One told the monks:

 

[Buddha]

‘Gather your robe and bowl monks

It is time for the meal.’

 

“Yes Bhante” the monks replied.

 

Then, the Awakened One, in the morning,

dressed up, took his robe and bowl,

and just as a strong person could

flex their outstretched arm,

or outstretch their flexed arm;

He disappeared from Jeta’s Grove and

Appeared right on Visākhā’s front steps.

 

Then the Teacher sat down on a prepared seat

along with the whole saṅgha of monks.

 

Then, Visākhā exclaimed:

 

[Visākhā]

“How amazing, how marvelous!”

Truth-Finders truly are mighty, legendary beings,

Even though it is a knee-deep flood outside,

even waist-deep deluge and not only did they brave it,

not a single bhikkhu’s robe or foot is wet!”

 

Truly happy and joyful,

she then served,

and satisfied,

 with her own hand,

the saṅgha of monks headed by the Buddha.

 

And when the Buddha had finished eating

 and removed his hands from his bowl,

she sat down to the side.

 

[6. Visākha’s Eight Boons]

 

Then asked:

 

[Visākhā]

“Bhante, I would like to ask eight favors from the Awakened One.” [8]

 

[Buddha]

“Visākhā, Truts-Finders are well beyond granting favors.”

 

[Visākhā]

“Bhante, they are allowable favors,

they are blameless.”

 

[Buddha]

“Speak on Visākha.”

 

[Visākhā]

“Bhante, I would like to give to the community,

for as long as I live,

 

(1) Robes for the rains,

(2) Food for those arriving to town,

(3) Food for those leaving town,

(4) Food for the sick,

(5) Food for those nursing the sick,

(6) Medicines for those who are ill,

(7) Steady rations of conjey,

(8) and bathing cloth to the community of nuns. [9]

 

[Buddha]

“What purpose do you see Visākhā,

in asking the Truth-Finder for these eight favors?

 

[1. Offer Robes to Monks]

 

[Visākhā]

“Bhante, just earlier, I told my maid:

‘Go my dear, to the monastery and announce

that it is time, that the meal offering is ready.’

 

“Then she arrived at the monastery and saw

monks, without robes on,

 soothing their bodies in the rain and she thought:

 

“There are no monks at the monastery,

naked ascetics are cooling their bodies in the rain.”

 

She came back and told me:

 

‘My lady, there are no monks at the monastery,

naked ascetics are cooling their bodies in the rain.’

 

“Bhante, nudity is inappropriate, it is gross and distasteful.[10]

 

“This is the purpose which I see in asking this favor

to offer the community,

cloth for the rains,

for as long as I live.”

 

[2. Offer Alms to Arriving Monks]

 

“Bhante,

new monks and nuns arrive to town and go for alms exhausted,

not knowing the streets, not knowing where to go for alms.”

 

“But if they eat my food for new monks arriving into town,

they will gradually become accustomed with the streets,

and they will go for alms comfortably, knowing where to go.”

 

“This is the purpose which I see in asking this favor, Bhante,

to offer the community, food to incoming monks,

for as long as I live.”

 

[3. Offer Alms to Departing Monks]

 

“Bhante, a monk or nun who are going out of town

might miss their caravan while they are looking for food

and they might arrive late,

at an improper time at the residence where they wish to visit,

Or they might set out on the road, tired from the beginning.”

 

“But if they eat my food for those who are departing,

they will not miss their caravan

And they will arrive on time at the residence they wish to visit,

or at least, they will not set out on the road tired.”

 

“This is the purpose which I see in asking this favor, Bhante,

to offer the community, food to departing monks and nuns,

 for as long as I live.”

 

[4. Offer Alms for the Sick]

 

“Bhante, when a monk or a nun is sick,

if they do not get suitable food 

their disease will grow worse

and they might very well pass away.”

 

“But when they eat my food for the sick

Their disease will not grow worse

and they will live.”

 

“This is the purpose which I see in asking this favor, Bhante,

to offer the community, food for monks who are ill,

for as long as I live.

 

[5. Offer Alms for the Nursing Monks]

 

“Bhante, monks and nuns who are nursing the sick,

might seek food for themselves and the sick they are nursing

while the sun passes beyond the zenith

and this would be the end of their meal.”

 

“But when they resort to my food for those who nurse the sick

they will be able to get food on time

and eat before the end of the suitable time.”

 

“This is the purpose which I see in asking this favor, Bhante,

to offer the community, food for monks who nurse the sick,

for as long as I live.”

 

[6. Offer Medicine]

 

“Bhante, if monks and nuns who are sick

do not receive proper medicines,

their disease will grow much worse

and they might even pass away.”

 

“But when they use my medicines for the sick,

they disease will not grow worse

and they will live.”

 

“This is the purpose which I see in asking this favor Bhante

to offer the community, medicines for monks who are ill,

for as long as I live.”

 

[7. Offer Conjey]

 

“Bhante, at Andhakavinda, the Awakened One

calling in mind ten benefits in conjey,

made conjey allowable.”

 

“Therefore, calling these benefits to mind, Bhante,

I wish to offer the community, steady supply of conjey,

for as long as I live.”

 

 

[8. Offer Bathing Cloths]

 

“Once Bhante, at the Aciravati river,

some nuns were bathing and washing naked

together with other women of less fortunate families.”

 

“Those women then made fun of the nuns saying:

 

‘Why are you good ladies, living the celibate spiritual life so young?

should you not be enjoying the pleasures of life [while you can]?

When you are old, then you can live the celibate life!

Then you will experience the meaning of both?’”

 

“Mocked in such a way by these women of less fortunate positions,

the nuns became low in spirits.”

 

“Bhante, nudity is inappropriate for women,

it is gross and distasteful.”

 

“This is the purpose which I see for asking this favor, Bhante,

In wishing to offer the community of nuns, robes for bathing,

for as long as I live.”

 

[What Advantage]

 

[Buddha]

“But what advantage do you see for yourself, Visākhā ,

in asking these eight favors from the Truth-finders?”

 

[Visākhā]

“Bhante, every time the monsoon season will come to an end,

Monks and nuns will go to the Awakened One and ask:

 

“Bhante, this or that monk or nun passed away

where have they gone to,

what was their level of liberation?” [11]

 

“To this, the Awakened One will surely reply:

 

‘The fruition of stream-entry,

The fruition of once-return,

The fruition of non-return,

and Complete awakening.’”

 

“Shortly after, I will come to the Awakened One and ask:

 

‘Did these respected masters come to Sāvatthi in the past?’

 

“It may very well be that the Bhagavan will reply:

 

‘These monks and nuns have come to Sāvatthi in the past’

 

“I will conclude:

 

‘Undoubtedly,

these respected masters surely have received and made used of

(1) my robes for the rains,

(2) my food for incoming monks,

(3) my food for departing monks,

(4) my food for sick monks,

(5) my food for those nursing the sick monks,

(6) my medicines for ill monks,

(7) my constant supply of conjey,

[(8) and my bathing robes for the community of nuns.] [12]

 

[Natural Samādhi]

 

“When I will call this to mind,

gladness will arise in me

From that gladness,

joy will come to me,

With a joyful mind,

my body will become calm,

Calm in body,

I will experience bliss,

from this bliss,

my mind will become collected and harmonious.“ [13]

 

“These will be for the development of my mental faculties,

the development of my mental strengths,

the development of the seven supports of awakening.” [14]

 

“Having those advantages in mind Bhante,

I am asking the Truth-Finder about these eight favors.”

 

[Buddha]

“Very good Visākhā, very good.”

 

“It is good that you ask the Truth-Finder

about these eight favors

having those advantages in mind.”

 

“I allow you these eight requests Visākhā.” [15]

 

Further, the Awakened One rejoiced Visākhā,

Migāra’s mother,

with these verses.

 

“When she gives food and beverages with an uplifted mind,

The woman follower of the Happy One demonstrates her virtue.

Giving her offering, she overcomes selfishness,

Heavenly, shattering despair and bringing happiness.“ [16]

 

She gains a divine lifespan.

She walks upon the stainless, spotless path,

Longing to do good deeds, she lives in bliss, untroubled,

In a divine body, she rejoices for a very long time. [17]

 

 

Then, Visākhā, Migāra’s mother,

overjoyed by these verses,

stood from her seat and departed.

 

Afterwards, because of this, the Awakened One told the monks:

 

“Monks, I allow robes for the rains,

food for incoming monks,

food for departing monks,

food for sick monks,

food for those nursing the sick monks,

medicines for ill monks,

a steady supply on conjey

and bathing robes for the community of nuns.

 

[1] dhammiyā kathāya sandassesi samādapesi samuttejesi sampahaṃsesi.

[2] Padakkhiṇaṃ, Pradakshina, in Hinduism and Buddhism, the rite of circumambulating in a clockwise direction an image, relic, shrine, or other sacred object. The worshiper, by beginning in the east and keeping the sacred object on his right-hand side, proceeds to the south, thus moving in the direction followed daily by the course of the sun. Pilgrimages sometimes consist of circumambulating an entire town, such as the sacred city of Varanasi (Benares), a 36-mile (58-km) journey, or the Ganges River from source to sea and back, a trip that when undertaken on foot requires several years. (Britannica)

[3] Ovassāpetha, bhikkhave, kāyaṃ. Ayaṃ pacchimako cātuddīpiko mahāmegho”ti.

[4] archive.org: Bhagavati Sutra

Ājīvika (आजीविक) refers to followers of Gośālaka, a former disciple of Mahāvīra who later separated, according to the Bhagavatīsūtra , book 8 chapter 5.—Accordingly, “[…] The Ājīvika way of reasoning is as follows: Every living organism lives on by eating some form of life. So they beat, cut, pierce, scissor, peel, even kill others to acquire food”.

[5] addasa bhikkhū nikkhittacīvare kāyaṃ ovassāpente, disvāna— “natthi ārāme bhikkhū, ājīvakā kāyaṃ ovassāpentī”ti—

[6] paṇḍitāya

viyattāya

medhāviniyā etadahosi—

[7] kalla1 & kalya 1. well, healthy, sound Vin.i.291. 2. clever, able, dexterous Mil.48 Mil.87. 3. ready, prepared. 4. fit proper, righ

[8] “aṭṭhāhaṃ, bhante, bhagavantaṃ varāni yācāmī”ti.

[9] “Icchāmahaṃ, bhante, saṃghassa yāvajīvaṃ vassikasāṭikaṃ dātuṃ,āgantukabhattaṃ dātuṃ, gamikabhattaṃ dātuṃ, gilānabhattaṃ dātuṃ, gilānupaṭṭhākabhattaṃ dātuṃ, gilānabhesajjaṃ dātuṃ, dhuvayāguṃ dātuṃ, bhikkhunisaṃghassa udakasāṭikaṃ dātun”ti. “

[10] Asuci, bhante, naggiyaṃ jegucchaṃ paṭikūlaṃ.

[11] tassa kā gati ko abhisamparāyo’ti?

[12] In the pāḷi text here, strangely, the bathing robes for nuns are not mentioned. as in the previous enumeration which would seem to imply that nuns would not be considered worthy or even capable of bearing similar wisdom as men in regard to the four levels of Ariyas, awakened people, when the Buddha explicitly confirmed to Ānanda that women were capable of such liberation and wisdom (AN VIII 51 Gotamī sutta). Yet another dubious mark of gender denigration which is probably imported from cultural biases.

[13] Tassā me tadanussarantiyā pāmujjaṃ jāyissati, pamuditāya pīti jāyissati, pītimanāya kāyo passambhissati, passaddhakāyā sukhaṃ vediyissāmi, sukhiniyā cittaṃ samādhiyissati.

[14] Sā me bhavissati indriyabhāvanā balabhāvanā bojjhaṅgabhāvanā.

[15] anujānāti: gives permission; grants, allows; grants leave; excuses; advises; prescribes

[16] “Yā annapānaṃ dadatippamoditā, Sīlūpapannā sugatassa sāvikā; Dadāti dānaṃ abhibhuyya maccharaṃ, Sovaggikaṃ sokanudaṃ sukhāvahaṃ.

[17] Dibbaṃ sā labhate āyuṃ  Āgamma maggaṃ virajaṃ anaṅgaṇaṃ; Sāpuññakāmāsukhinīanāmayā, Saggamhikāyamhiciraṃpamodatī”ti.

This is a gift of Dhamma

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