Sariputta | Dhammapada | The Story of Santati the Minister Sariputta

The Story of Santati the Minister

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (142) of this book, with reference to Santati, the minister of King Pasenadi of Kosala.

On one occasion, Santati the minister returned after suppressing a rebellion on the border. King Pasenadi was so pleased with him that he honoured the minister with the gift of the riches and glory of a ruler together with a dancing girl to entertain him for seven days. For seven days, the king's minister enjoyed himself to his heart's content, getting intoxicated with drink and infatuated with the young dancer. On the seventh day, riding the ornamented royal elephant, he went down to the riverside for a bath. On the way, he met the Buddha going on an alms-round, and being drunk, he just bowed casually, as a sign of respect to the Buddha. The Buddha smiled, and Ananda asked the Buddha why he smiled. So, the Buddha said to Ananda, "Ananda, this minister will come to see me this very day and after I have given him a short discourse will become an arahat. Soon after becoming an arahat he will realize parinibbana."

Santati and his party spent the whole day at the riverside, bathing, eating, drinking and thus thoroughly enjoying themselves. In the evening the minister and his party went to the garden to have more drinks and to be entertained by the dancer. The dancer, on her part, tried her best to entertain the minister. For the whole week she was living on reduced diet to keep herself trim. While dancing, she suffered a severe stroke and collapsed, and at that instant she died with her eyes and mouth wide open. The minister was shocked and deeply distressed. In agony, he tried to think of a refuge and remembered the Buddha. He went to the Buddha, accompanied by his followers, and related to him about the grief and anguish he suffered on account of the sudden death of the dancer. He then said to the Buddha, "Venerable Sir! Please help me get over my sorrow; be my refuge, and let me have the peace of mind." To him the Buddha replied, "Rest assured my son, you have come to one, who could help you, One who could be a constant solace to you and who will be your refuge. The tears you have shed due to the death of this dancer throughout the round of rebirths is more than the waters of all the oceans." The Buddha then instructed the minister in verse. The meaning of the verse is as follows.

"In the past there has been in you clinging (upadana) due to craving; get rid of it. In future, do not let such clinging occur in you. Do not also harbour any clinging in the present; by not having any clinging, craving and passion will be calmed in you and you will realize Nibbana."

After hearing the verse, the minister attained arahatship. Then, realizing that his life span was at an end, he said to the Buddha, "Venerable Sir! Let me now realize parinibbana, for my time has come." The Buddha consenting, Santati rose to a height of seven toddy-palms into the sky and there, while meditating on the element of fire (tejo kasina), he passed away realizing parinibbana. His body went up in flames, his blood and flesh burnt up and the bone relics (dhatu) fell through the sky and dropped on the clean piece of cloth which was spread by the bhikkhus as instructed by the Buddha.

At the congregation, the bhikkhus asked the Buddha, "Venerable Sir! The minister had realized parinibbana dressed in full regalia; is he a samana on a brahmana?" To them, the Buddha replied "Bhikkhus! My son can be called both a samana and a brahmana."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 142: Though he is gaily decked, if he is calm, free from moral defilements, and has his senses controlled, if he is established in Magga Insight, if he is pure and has laid aside enmity (lit., weapons) towards all beings, he indeed is a brahmana, a samana, and a bhikkhu.
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