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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas


[AN 1.210]
At the top, Beggars, of those of my Beggars who became homeless out of faith is Ratthapalo.


DPPN: He was born at Thullakotthita in the Kuru country as the son of a very wealth councilor and was called by his family name of Ratthapala. He lived in great luxury, and, in due course, married a suitable wife. When the Buddha visited Thullakotthita, Ratthapala went to hear him preach and decided to leave the world. His parents would not, however, give their consent till he threatened to starve himself to death. Realizing then that he was in earnest, they agreed to let him go on condition that he would visit them after his ordination. Ratthapala accompanied the Buddha to Savatthi, and there, dwelling alone, he attained arahantship within a short time. [Footnote: But MA. II. 725 says he took twelve years, during which time he never slept on a bed (DA. III. 236)] Then with the Buddha's permission, he returned to Thullakotthita and dwelt in the deer-park of the Kuru king. The day after his arrival, while begging for alms, he came to his father's house. His father was in the entrance hall having his hair combed, but, failing to recognize his son, he started to abuse him, taking him for an ordinary monk, one of those who had robbed him of his son. Just at that moment the slave-girl of the house was about to throw away some stale rice, which Ratthapala begged of her. The girl recognized his voice, gave him the rice and told his parents who he was. When his father came to look for his son, he found him eating stale rice as though it were ambrosia. Having already finished eating, when invited to enter the house, he would not do so, but on the next day he went again, and his father tried to tempt him by making a display of the immense wealth which would be his should he return to the lay life, while his former wives [each seated on a huge pile of money], beautifully clothed, asked him about the nymphs, for whose sake he led the homeless life. "For the sake of no nymphs, Sisters," he said, and they fell fainting under the shock of being addressed as "Sisters." Growing impatient at the conduct of his family, he asked for his meal, ate it, preached to them [as follows from the Psalms:]

Behold the tricked-out puppet-shape, a mass
Of sores, a congeries diseased, and full
Of many purposes and plans, and yet
In whom there is no power to persist!
Behold the tricked-out form, bejeweled, ringed,
Sheathed in bones and skinny envelope,
By help of gear made fine and fair to see!
Feet dyed with lac, with rouge the lips besmeared:
All good enough for dull wit of a fool,
But not for him who seeketh the Beyond!
The locks in eightfold plait, eyes fringed with black:
All good enough for dull wit of a fool,
But not for him who seeketh the Beyond!
Like a collyrium-pot, brand new, embossed,
The body foul within is bravely decked:
All good enough for dull wit of a fool,
But not for him who seeketh the Beyond.
The trapper set his snare. The deer came not
Against the net. We've eaten of the bait --
Let's go! The while deer trappers make lament.
SNAP't is the hunter's snare! The deer came not
Against the net. We've eaten of the bait --
Let's go; the while deer catchers weep and wail.

Ratthapala thereupon went through the air to the Antelope Park of King Koravya, and seated himself on a stone slab. Now the Thera's father had had bolts put on his seven doors, and had sent men to prevent him from getting out, and to take off his yellow robes and clothe him in white. Hence the Thera's going through the air. Then the king, hearing where he was seated, went to him, and with courteous greeting asked him thus: 'Master Ratthapala, in this world men renounce it for some kind of misfortune — illness, loss of king, wealth or family. But you who have suffered no such thing, why have you left the world?' then the Thera replied: 'The world passes away, is transient; the world is without refuge or providence; the world has no stronghold; the world is wanting and destitute, dissatisfied, the slave of craving.' Thus showing his separate condition, he recited a parallel in verse:

Men of much wealth I see in the world: --
Riches acquiring they err in not giving.
Make out of greed a great hoard of their wealth.
Yea, hankering yet after ever more pleasures.
The king having forcibly conquered the earth,
To the shore of the ocean, holding the land
This side of the sea, may yet all unsatisfied
Hanker after the further side also.
See where both king and full many another man
Nursing their cravings come to their dying.
Paupers becoming, they put off this body,
For never content lies in pleasures of this world.
Kinsfolk bewail him with tresses disheveled,
Crying: 'Alas! Would our kin were immortal!'
Him in his shroud enveloped they bear away;
Raising a pyre they forthwith cremate him
He lies a-burning, by forks being prodded,
Clad in one garment, stripped of all riches.
Never to one who is dying are kinsfolk
Refuge, nor friends, nay, nor even neighbors.
His wealth is annexed by his heirs, but the being
Goeth according to all his past actions
Never doth wealth follow after the dying,
Nor children, nor wife, nor wealth, nor a kingdom.
Never is long life gotten through riches,
Nor is old age ever banished by property.
Brief is this life, all the sages have told us;
Transient it is, and essentially changing.
All feel the Touch, both the poor and the wealthy;
Touched is the wise man no less than the fool.
But the fool, smitten down by his folly, lies prostrate;
The wise man, when feeling the Touch, never trembles.
Wherefore far better than riches is wisdom,
Whereby we arrive even here at the terminus.
For from not reaching the goal the dull-minded
Work wicked deeds in delusion, reborn
In spheres whether high or whether of no account.
Cometh a man to the womb and in other worlds
Findeth rebirth, being caught in Samsara,
Round sempiternal of livings consecutive;
Him one of little wit follows believing,
Cometh to birth both here and in other worlds.
E'en as a thief who is taken in burglary,
By his own act is condemned as a criminal,
So is the race, after death, in another world,
By its own doing condemned as a criminal.
For by the charm, sweet and diverse, of sense-desire,
One way or other the mind is unbalanced;
And seeing the evil in sensuous pleasures,
Therefore, O King, have I gone all forsaking.
Fall as fruit from the tree all the sons of men,
Youthful and aged, when breaks down the body,
This too seeing, O King, have I gone forth
Better the safe, sure life of religion
Full of high confidence I left the world
And joined the Order of the Conqueror.
Blameless my going forth has been, and free
From debt I live on my allotted share.
Looking on sense-desires as fire alight,
On gold and silver as a [noxious] knife,
[On life] from entry in the womb as ill,
And on the fearsome peril of the hells: --
Seeing, I say, great evils everywhere,
Thereat was I with anguish sore beset.
Then to me, pierced and wounded as I was,
Came fourfold victory: o'er sense-desires,
O'er rebirth, error, ignorance, Victory!
The Master hath my fealty and love
And all the Buddha's bidding hath been done
Low have I laid the heavy load I bore,
Cause for rebirth is found in me no more.
The Good for which I bade the world farewell,
And left the home to dwell where home was not,
That highest Good have I accomplished,
And every bond and fetter is destroyed.




See: Ratthapala's Faith (discussion)
Majjhima Nikaya, II, #82: Ra.t.thapaalasutta
PTS, Middle Length Sayings, II, Horner, trans., pp. 250
WP, The Middle Length Discourses, Nanamoli/Bodhi, trans., pp. 677
ATI:Ratthapala Sutta — About Ratthapala, Bhk. Thanissaro, trans.