THE LIFE OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
7. The Buddha and the Millionaire
The millionaire Anathapindika was born as Sadaria. As a result of his great generosity, he was given the name Anathapindika which meant “feeder of the helpless”.
Anathapindika wanted to purchase a magnificent park for the Buddha but it belonged to Prince Jeta, who was reluctant to part with it. By covering the grounds of the park with gold coins Anathapindika eventually persuaded the Prince to sell. He then built a monastery in which the Buddha was to spend many rainy seasons and which came to be known as the Jetavana Monastery. The Buddha spent the major part of his life in these quiet surroundings and most of his discourses were delivered there. All in all, the Buddha spent twenty-four rainy seasons at the Jetavana Monastery.
Several of the discourses the Buddha delivered to Anathapindika were intended for lay people. Two of them were on generosity and the Four Kinds of Bliss. In the discourse on generosity, the Buddha advised that the first stage of the Buddhist life is to practice generosity, such as giving alms to monks and building monasteries. More important than being generous though, is taking refuge in the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and observing the Five Precepts, the five rules that help discipline words and deeds. More important again than the observation of the Five Precepts is the regular practice of meditation on loving-kindness (metta-bhavana). But the most meritorious act, said the Buddha, is to develop insight into the fleeting nature of things.
In the discourse telling of the four kinds of bliss a layman can enjoy, the Buddha mentioned the bliss of ownership, the bliss of wealth, the bliss of being debtless and the bliss of blamelessness.
The bliss of ownership means the satisfaction in gaining wealth by honest means and hard work. The bliss of wealth is the satisfaction of enjoying one’s wealth while fulfilling all one’s duties.
The bliss of being debtless is the satisfaction that a layman enjoys whenever he knows that he does not incur a debt, great or small, to anyone.
The bliss of blamelessness is the satisfaction derived by a person whose actions of body, speech and thought do not cause harm to others and are free from any blame.
When Anathapindika first met the Buddha at the Sitavana forest near Rajagaha, his confidence was so strong that an aura glowed from his body. On hearing the Dharma for the first time Anathapindika became a sotapanna (first stage of sainthood).
EXERCISE 7. The Buddha and the Millionaire
1. What was the result of Anathapindika’s great generosity?
2. Why did he build the Jetavana monastery?
3. How many rainy seasons did the Buddha spend in Jetavana?
4. What are the four kinds of bliss a layman can enjoy?
5. What happened to Anathapindika when he first met the Buddha?