Sariputta | Dhammapada | The Story of a Great Many Bhikkhus Sariputta

The Story of a Great Many Bhikkhus

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verses (368) to (376) of this book, with reference to nine hundred bhikkhus.

Once there was a very rich lady in the town of Kuraraghara, about one hundred and twenty yojanas from Savatthi. She had a son who had become a bhikkhu; his name was Sona. On one occasion, Bhikkhu Sona passed through his home town. On his return from the Jetavana monastery his mother met him and organized a grand charity in his honour. Having heard that Bhikkhu Sona could expound the Dhamma very well she also requested him to expound the Dhamma to her and other people of the home town. Bhikkhu Sona complied with her request. So a pavilion was built and a meeting was organized for Bhikkhu Sona to give a discourse. There was a large gathering at the pavilion; the mother of the bhikkhu also went to listen to the Dhamma expounded by her son. She took all the members of her household with her leaving only a maid to look after the house.

While the lady was away, some thieves broke into the house. Their leader, however, went to the pavilion where the mistress of the house was, sat down near her and kept an eye on her. His intention was to get rid of her should she return home early on learning about the theft at her house. The maid seeing the thieves breaking into the house went to report the matter to her mistress, but the lady only said, "Let the thieves take all my money, I don't care; but do not come and disturb me while I am listening to the Dhamma. You'd better go back." So the maid went home.

There the girl saw the thieves breaking into the room where her mistress kept all her silverware. Again she went to the pavilion where her mistress was and reported to her that the thieves were taking away her silverware, but she was given the same answer as before. So she had to go back to the house. There she saw the thieves breaking into the room where her mistress kept her gold and she reported the matter to her mistress. This time, her mistress shouted at her, "O dear! Let the thieves take whatever they wish to take; why do you have to come and worry me again when I am listening to a discourse on the Dhamma? Why did you not go back when I told you to? Don't you dare come near me again and say things about the theft or the thieves."

The leader of the gang of thieves who was close at hand heard everything the lady had said and he was extremely surprised. Her words also kept him thinking, "If we take away the property of this wise and noble person, we will surely be punished; we might even be struck by lightning and our heads broken into many pieces." The leader got alarmed over this possibility and he hurried back to the house of the lady and made his followers return all the things they had taken. He then took all his followers to where the mistress of the house was; she was still at the pavilion, listening attentively to the Dhamma.

Thera Sona finished his exposition on the Dhamma with the crack of dawn and came down from the dais from where he had expounded the Dhamma. The leader of the thieves approached the rich, noble lady, paid respect to her and revealed his identity to her. He also related to her how they had plundered her house and also that they had returned all her property on hearing her words to her maid, who reported the theft to her during the night. Then, the leader and all the thieves asked the lady to forgive them for having wronged her. Then, they asked Thera Sona to admit them to the Order of bhikkhus. After the admission, each one of the nine hundred bhikkhus took a subject of meditation from Thera Sona and went to the nearby forest to practise meditation in seclusion.

From a distance of one hundred and twenty yojanas, the Buddha saw those bhikkhus and sent forth his radiance to them so that he seemed to be sitting in their midst.

Then noticing their individual dispositions, the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 368: The bhikkhu who lives exercising loving-kindness and is devoted to the Teaching of the Buddha will realize Nibbana — the Tranquil, the Unconditioned, the Blissful.

Verse 369: O bhikkhu, bale out the water (of wrong thoughts) from this boat (your body); when empty it will sail swiftly; having cut off passion and ill will you will realize Nibbana.

Verse 370: Cut off the five (the lower five fetters) give up the five (the upper five fetters); and develop the five (controlling faculties). The bhikkhu who has freed himself of the five bonds (passion, ill will, ignorance, pride and wrong view) is called "One who has crossed the flood (of samsara)."

Verse 371: O Bhikkhu, mediate, and do not be unmindful; do not let your mind rejoice in sensual pleasures. Do not be unmindful and swallow the (hot) lump of iron; as you burn (in niraya) do not cry, "This, indeed, is suffering."

Verse 372: There can be no concentration in one who lacks wisdom; there can be no wisdom in one who lacks concentration. He who has concentration as well as wisdom is, indeed, close to Nibbana.

Verse 373: The bhikkhu who goes into seclusion (to meditate), whose mind is tranquil, who clearly perceives the Dhamma, experiences the joy which transcends that of (ordinary) men.

Verse 374: Every time he clearly comprehends the arising and the perishing of the khandhas, he finds joy and rapture. That, to the wise, is the way to Nibbana (the Deathless).

Verse 375: For a wise bhikkhu in this Teaching, this is the beginning (of the practice leading to Nibbana): control of the senses, contentment, and restraint according to the Fundamental Precepts.

Verse 376: Associate with good friends, who are energetic and whose livelihood is pure; let him be amiable and be correct in his conduct. Then, (frequently) feeling much joy he will make an end of dukkha (of the round of rebirths).

At the end of each verse, one hundred out of the nine hundred bhikkhus attained arahatship.
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