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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas


[198] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who are able to conjure up bodies by way of higher mental power is Culla-panthako[1].

[199] At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who are evolvers of mind is Culla-panthako.

Culla-panthako and Maha-Panthaka

DPPN: He was the younger son of the daughter of a rich merchant of Rajagaha, who developed intimacy with a slave and fled with him when her misconduct was discovered. She wished to return to her parents for the birth of her first child, but her husband always postponed the visit until, in the end, she started to go without his knowledge. He followed her, but the child was born by the wayside, and therefore they called him Panthaka [>Path, Road, Roadway]. The same thing occurred at the birth of the second child, and he also received the name of Panthaka, he being Culapanthaka and his brother Mahapanthaka. When the boys grew up they were taken to Rajagaha where their grandparents took charge of them. Mahapanthaka often accompanied his grandfather to hear the Buddha preach, and he yearned to become amonk. He easily obtained permission and entered the Order, in due course becoming an arahant. With the consent of his grandparents, he ordained Culapanthaka, but the latter proved to be a dullard, and in the course of four months was unable to learn a single stanza. It is said that in the time of Kassapa Buddha Culapanthaka was a clever monk, who once laughed to scorn a dull colleague who was trying to learn apassage by heart.

When Mahapanthaka discovered his brother's stupidity, he asked him to leave the Order, but Culapanthaka so loved the Buddha's teaching that he did not wish to return to the lay-life. One day Jivaka Komarabhacca, wishing to give alms to the Buddha and the monks, asked Mahapanthaka, who was acting as steward, to collect all the monks in the monastery. This he did, omitting only Culapanthaka who, he said, had made no progress in the Doctrine. Greatly grieved, Culapanthaka determined to leave the Order, but as he was going out the Buddha met him, took him into the Gandhakuti and comforted him, giving him a clean piece of cloth. "Sit with your face to the East," said the Buddha, "repeat the words 'rojoharanam' [let this murk be gone — a classic 'visualization' technique ... but with the diagnosis relying on perception of a problem in a prior birth!] and wipe your face with the cloth." As Culapanthaka carried out these orders he noticed that the cloth became dirty, and as he concentrated his mind on the impermanence of all things, the Buddha sent a ray of light and exhorted him about the necessity of getting rid of the impurities of lust and other evils. At the end of the admonition Culapanthaka attained arahantship ...

Meanwhile, the Buddha and the monks were seated in Jivaka's house, but when the meal was about to be served the Buddha ordered it to be stopped, saying that there were other monks left in the monastery. A servant was sent to find them, and Culapanthaka, aware of this, contrived that the whole grove appeared full of monks engaged in various activities. When the messenger reported this, he was told to discover which of the monks was Culapanthaka and to bring him. But all the monks answered to this name, and the messenger was forced to return without him. "Take by the hand the first who says that he is Culapanthaka," ordered the Buddha; and when this was done the other figures vanished. [For those of you who are familiar with Carlos Castinada's Don Juan; remember his reluctance at all times to be touched physically? Such a touch would have resulted in him having to "materialize" in the touched body, which may have been at quite a distance from the "originating" body, resulting in great inconvenience. "Normally" the power of a sorcerer with poly-presence would prevent anyone from being able to grab him; but within the Buddha's Saṅgha the will of the Buddha would prevail.] At the conclusion of the meal, Culapanthaka was asked to return thanks, and "like a young lion roaring defiance" the elder Ranged over the whole of the Pitakas in his sermon. Thenceforth his fame spread ...

Culapanthaka was expert in rupajjhana and in samadhi, while his brother was skilled in arupajjhana and in vipassana.

It is said [Vin. Iv. 54] that when it was his turn to teach the nuns at Savatthi they expected no effective teaching, since he always repeated [the eightfold path]. One day, at the end of the lesson, he over heard their remarks, and [in the next session taught the eightfold path while sitting cross-legged on a pillar of fire — it proved to be effective].

The verses of Mahapanthaka:

When first I saw the blessed Master, Him
For whom no fear can anywhence arise,
A wave of deep emotion filled my soul
At sight of Him, the peerless man of men.
Had a man erst on hands and knees besought
Favor of Fortune's goddess hither come,
And won the grace of Master such as this,
Still might he fail to win [the thing he sought]
I for my part [all hindrance] cast away--
[The hope of] wife and children, coin and corn,
And let my hair and beard be shorn, and forth
Into the homeless life I went from home.
The life and training practicing, all faculties
Well held in hand, in loyalty to Him,
Buddha supreme, master of self I lived.
Then longing rose within my heart, I yearned
[To consummate]: 'Now will I no more sit,
Not even for a moment, while the dart
Of craving sticketh and is not outdrawn.
Of me thus aye abiding, O! behold
And mark the onward stride of energy:
The Threefold Wisdom have I made my own,
And all the Buddha bids us do is done.
I know the where and when of former lives,
And clearly shines the eye celestial.
Ar'hant am I, worthy men's offerings.
Released and without basis for rebirth.
For as the darkness melted into light,
And the day broke with rising of the sun,
From craving, stanched and dry, had come release,
And on my couch cross-legged I sat in peace.


[1]Footnote in PTS trans: "Acc. To Comy. Other monks in exercising this power could produce only two or three forms; but C. could 'manufacture' as many as a thousand recluses at 'one sitting,' no two being alike in appearance or action."