WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

221

 

 


 

 

Ī 41. The Death of Moggallāna[1]

Translated from the Dhammapada, and from Buddhaghosa's commentary on stanza 137

137. 

"Who striketh him that striketh not,
And harmeth him that harmeth not,
Shall quickly punishment incur,
Some one among a list of ten.

138. 

"Or cruel pain, or drear old age
And failure of the vital powers,
Or some severe and dread disease,
Or madness him shall overtake.

139. 

"Or from the king calamity,
Or calumny shall be his lot;
Or he shall see his kinsfolk die,
Or all his wealth shall disappear.

140. 

"Or conflagrations shall arise
And all his houses sweep away;
And when his frame dissolves in death,
In hell the fool shall be reborn."

"[222] Who striketh him." This doctrinal instruction was given by The Teacher while dwelling at Bamboo Grove; and it was concerning the elder, Moggallāna the Great.

For on a certain occasion those who were members of other sects held a meeting, and took counsel as follows:

"Brethren, do you know the reason why the alms and the honor given to the monk Gotama have increased?"

"No: we do not. Do you?"

"Yes, truly: we know. It is solely due to Moggallāna the Great. For he goes to heaven and questions the deities concerning their previous karma, and then he returns and tells it to men: 'It is by having done thus and so that they now enjoy so great glory.' Also, he asks those who have been born in hell concerning their karma, and returning, he tells it to men: 'It is by having done such and such evil deeds that they now experience so great misery.' And the people, when they have heard him, shower alms and attentions upon him. If we can only kill him, the alms and the honor that now go to him will be ours."

The suggestion met with universal favor, and it was unanimously agreed that in some way or other he should be killed. Then they stirred up their supporters and obtained from them a thousand pieces of money, and summoning some red-handed highwaymen, they said,

"An elder, called Moggallāna the Great, is dwelling at Black Rock. Go thither and kill him." And they gave them the money.

The highwaymen greedily took the money, and went and surrounded the elder's house in order to kill him. The elder, perceiving that he was surrounded, got out through the key-hole and escaped. Having failed that day to find the elder, they came again on another day and surrounded him again. Then the elder pierced the peaked roof and sprang into the sky. In this manner, neither during the fore part nor during the middle of the month, were they able to capture the elder. But when it drew towards the latter part of the month, the elder found himself held back by his previous karma, and could not flee. Then the highwaymen [223] captured him, and broke his bones into bits of the size of rice-grains.[2] And when they supposed he was dead, they threw him into a thicket, and departed.

But the elder thought, "I will see The Teacher before I pass into Nirvana." And swathing himself about with meditation, as with a bandage, and thus stiffening his body, he went to The Teacher by way of the air. And having done obeisance, he said:

"Reverend Sir, I am about to pass into Nirvana."

"You are about to pass into Nirvana, Moggallāna?"

"Yes, Reverend Sir."

"From where?"

"From Black Rock."

"In that case, Moggallāna, recite to me the Doctrine, before you go: for I have no other such disciple as you."

"I will do so, Reverend Sir." And having done obeisance to The Teacher, he sprang into the sky. And when he had performed various miracles, such as the elder Sāriputta did on the day he passed into Nirvana, he recited the Doctrine. And having done obeisance to The Teacher, he went to the forest of Black Rock and passed into Nirvana.

Now the report that the elder had been murdered by highwaymen spread over all the continent of India, and king Ajātasattu dispatched spies to hunt for them. And as the highwaymen happened to be drinking together in a tavern, one of them struck his comrade, and threw filth into his hand.

"How now, you ill-mannered dog!" said the other, threateningly; "Why did you throw filth into my hand?"

"And why, you rascally highwayman, did you give the first blow to Moggallāna the Great?"

"And how do you know I hit him?"

While they were thus quarreling, the spies heard and arrested them, and informed the king. And the king had the highwaymen summoned into his presence and said to them:

"Did you kill the elder?"

"Yes, sire."

[224]"Who instigated you?"

"The naked ascetics, sire."

Then the king seized five hundred naked ascetics, and buried them together with five hundred highwaymen up to their navels in pits dug in the royal court. Then he covered them with straw, and set fire; and after thus burning them, he took iron plows and plowed them into bits.

In the lecture-hall the priests raised a discussion, saying,

"Moggallāna the Great met with a death unworthy of him."

Then came The Teacher, and inquired,

"Priests, what is the subject of your present discussion?" And they told him.

"Priests, the death of Moggallāna the Great was unsuited to his present existence, but suited to his karma of a previous existence."

"Reverend Sir, what was this karma of his?"

And he told the whole story, as follows:

 

There was once upon a time at Benares a certain high-caste youth who took care of his father and his mother, himself grinding and cooking their food, and performing all the other work of the house. And they said to him,

"Child, you are tiring yourself out with trying single-handed to do the work of the house in addition to your work in the forest. We will get you a wife."

"Mother, father! I do not need anything of that sort. As long as you live, I will take care of you with my own hands."

But in spite of his repeated refusals, they insisted, and got him a wife. The girl waited on the old people for a few days, but finally got so that she could not bear the sight of them, and angrily said to her husband:

"It is impossible to stay in the same house with your parents."

But when she found that he would not listen to her, she chose a time when he was out of the house to scatter the floor over with rubbish and the scum of rice-gruel. And on his [225] coming home and asking her, "What means all this?" she said,

"It is the work of these blind old people. They do nothing but make the house dirty. It is impossible to get on with them."

And so, as the result of her incessant talk, this great soul, although he had fulfilled the perfections, broke with his parents, and said to her,

"Very well! I know what to do with them."

Then he fed them, and said,

"Mother, father! Your relatives are expecting you in such and such a place. We will go to meet them."

Then placing them in a cart, he went along with them until he had come to the heart of the forest. On arriving there, he put the reins into the hands of his father, and said,

"Father, take the reins: the oxen will follow the track. I will get down on the ground, for there are highwaymen hereabouts."

And going off a little way, he altered the tones of his voice and uttered a cry like highwaymen when they make an attack. And while his mother and father, who heard the cry and supposed it came from robbers, were calling out, "Child, you are young: leave us, and save yourself!" he pounded them, and slew them, all the time uttering the robber yell. Then leaving their bodies in the forest, he returned home.

 

When The Teacher had related this by-gone occurrence, he continued and said,

"Priests, the fruit of this one deed of Moggallāna's was torment in hell for many hundreds of thousands of years, and death by pounding, in a hundred existences, as suited the nature of his crime. Moggallāna's death is, therefore, suited to his karma. Also the five hundred highwaymen, and the five hundred heretics, have met with a suitable death for doing harm to my innocent son. For they who harm innocent persons are liable to calamities and misfortunes of ten different sorts."

Having thus shown the connection, he taught them the Doctrine by means of the stanzas: --

[226]

"Who striketh him that striketh not,
And harmeth him that harmeth not,
Shall quickly punishment incur,
Some one among a list of ten.

"Or cruel pain, or drear old age
And failure of the vital powers,
Or some severe and dread disease,
Or madness him shall overtake.

"Or from the king calamity,
Or calumny, shall be his lot;
Or he shall see his kinsfolk die,
Or all his wealth shall disappear.

"Or conflagrations shall arise
And all his houses sweep away;
And when his frame dissolves in death,
In hell the fool shall be reborn."


[1]Anguttara-Nikāya, i.14.1.: "O priests, the chief of my disciples who possess magical power is Moggallāna the Great."

[2]See the Straw-Bolster torture as described on page 440 {p. 439}.

 


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