Definition of Faith in Buddhism
faith or ‘Saddha’ is iconic, wholly rational. Defined ‘Akarawathi
Saddha’, the concept is not speculative ideology but experiential
functionality founded upon absolute conviction following dialectic
enquiry. Oft quoted Kalama Sutta too is indicative of its substance to
some extent. For the same reason hearsay and divine dicta have no
application here. Faith in its unshakable, most intense form (achala) is
achieved at acquisition of first stage of liberation, sowanhood, until
which it remains questionable, shaky and suspect. In combination with
wisdom, ‘Saddha’ transforms itself into the mightiest force on earth.
Surambatta, faithful follower of Buddha affords a touching example.
Having returned home
from Jetawanaramaya where he attained sowanhood, he was shocked to find
Buddha at his doorstep a while later. In bewilderment he rushed up to
his great benefactor when the latter made the stunning pronouncement
that he made a mistake at Jetawanaramaya when he said all things are
‘anicca’, ‘dukkha’ and ‘anatta’, whereas there are things in the world
that are not. Steeped in unassailable faith where fake is easily
identifiable, Surambatta ordered the supremely malevolent imposter Mara,
celestial personification of evil to disappear forthwith, which he did
‘as if struck with an axe’, declared the marvelous commentary.
The present essay
concerns the sensational life of the good king of Taxilla, Pukkusathi, a
living example of faith in Buddha’s time. He was one of the five
bhikkhus who perished on the mountain top in their desperate bid to seek
samsaric liberation before the disappearance of Kassapa Buddha’s
dispensation towards the end of its rapid decline many aeons ago. An
outstanding symbol of faith in Gautama Buddha’s dispensation as well,
Pukkusathi’s life story is a classic instance of evolutionary biography
where varied states of mental development and innate human traits pass
from life to life in unending succession. He ranked among the most
benevolent kings of ancient India. It is said he was both mother and
father to his subjects and ensured their happiness as a parent would the
child in his lap.
traders Great King Bimbisara of Rajagaha came to know of the merciful
provincial king of Taxilla. He was elated when he heard the details- was
of the same age as his and righteous too, so he requested the traders to
make him friends with Pukkusathi- eternal phenomenon of like-minded
coming together. Pukkusathi in time sent King Bimbisara a gift of eight
shawls of extreme value, four of which were offered to Buddha by the
king and four retained by him. For a gift in acknowledgement, Rajagaha
abounded in valuable treasures, but he was in a quandary. Ever since he
became a stream winner (Sowan), no treasure on earth other than the
Triple Gem could evoke happiness in him. Hence, he was looking for the
right treasure, the unparalleled one for his friend. He asked later
visitors from Taxilla whether the Triple Gem Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha
is seen in their kingdom. Not even heard of, let alone seen they said.
The king pondered, there was no way Buddha, Sariputta or Mugalan could
be sent to Taxilla, but their word as good as their image, could.
Having observed the
eight-fold precepts early one morning, he climbed the top most floor of
the palace, closed the door and began writing an immortal message in
meticulous letters on a plate of gold.
A Buddha has
appeared on earth from the Thusitha world. He was known by this name
while in the mother’s womb and by this, as a layman. Attained Supreme
Enlightenment from the unconquerable seat under the bo-tree. He is
possessed of nine incomparable virtues. There isn’t a like treasure in
the human or the heavenly words. May the power of this truth bestow
blessings upon you. Thanks were heaped on the Dhamma. The profound
doctrine is to be discerned intelligibly, individually, separately.
Anantariya Samadhi, the subtle, extremely refined state of concentration
reached consequent to the attainment of supermundane consciousness of
each fruit of the path was explained briefly. No other concentration
comes anywhere near, wrote the sowan-attainer. Finally he laid praise
upon the astute clansmen who having listened to the Blessed One have
abandoned their homes , their kingdoms and their generaliships to enter
the order of discipline and solitude leading up to the non -lingering,
totally woeless state. Very importantly, he gave a concise description
of anapanasathi meditation and prophetically declared Pukkusathi should
leave his kingdom and don the yellow robe, if possible. It may not have
been a samsaric accident that king Bimbisara thought of citing
anapanasathi. The gold sheaf was encased in eleven caskets one after
another made of gold, silver and priceless gems. After accompanying it
to the border of his kingdom in a spectacular procession and worshiping
the casket falling on his knees, he instructed the royal emissaries to
request King Pukkusathi to open it in seclusion, not in the presence of
women in the harem.
the sacred gift in a ceremony conducted with equal solemnity and
followed his friend’s instructions to the letter. When he commenced
reading the virtues of the Blessed One, all ninety nine thousand hairs
stood on end, was not aware whether he was seated or standing.
Unprecedented joy pervaded his whole body, sat down awhile and next
commenced reading on Dhamma and Sangha. Swiftly he reached the fourth
and fifth jhana on the given meditation and full fifteen days he abided
in its absorption. There was no inspection of the army, rejoicing with
dancing women or arbitration of disputes, but just one question remained
- kingdom or Buddha?. Numberless were the times of managing kingdoms and
holding ministerships; I shall bear the noble doctrine. He cut off his
hair with the sword, clad himself in a saffron robe obtained from the
marketplace through a minor employee and entered the street with a clay
bowl in hand, heading towards Buddha and his royal friend in Rajagaha in
the company of a group of caravanners, leaving behind a weeping nation.
He wouldn’t get on
to a pair of single strap sandals or carry an umbrella to walk the 192
yojuns (720 miles ) lest he shames his Master who never ever boarded an
animal- drawn carriage in the entirety of His majestic forty five year
Buddha- hood. When Pukkusathi reached Rajagaha at nightfall, he
discovered he had passed Jetawanaramaya where Buddha was residing then,
by forty five yojuns. He was directed by townsfolk to Bhaggawa the
potter, whose workshop served as the resting place for late - arriving
ascetics in the city. Pukkusathi obtained his permission to spend one
night in it until he begins his journey back to Jetawanaramaya at break
That morning the Great Being
perceived in His vision the clansman Pukkusathi having read only a
letter of his friend, abandoning his 375 mile wide kingdom, taking to
robes and walking over 700 miles in His honour and dying a feeble death
after living a night in a humble shed. If He goes Pukkusathi will
receive the third reward of noble disciplehood. That morning, surrounded
by bhikkhus He went on His morning alms-round in the city of Savaththi,
rested awhile after the meal and left for Rajagaha in the guise of a
wandering ascetic suppressing the visual splendour like a dark cloud
obliterating the glow of the full moon. Two chief disciples themselves
were not wise to it. The Great Being did not travel astrally, neither
did he constrict the earth, but walked the entire 170 miles from
Savaththi to Rajagaha to reciprocate Pukkusathi’s grateful deed. He
reached Bhaggava’s workshop soon after Pukkusathi. There was no bold
announcement that that he was Buddha, but sought Bhaggava’s permission
to spend a night there. The potter agreed if the homeless one already in
it consented. Buddha went upto Pukkusathi, said if it is not
inconvenient to the bhikkhu he would remain one night there. Why would
he crave for another’s shed when the kingdom he left was over 300 miles
wide. Empty men ordained in this immaculate discipline unable to conquer
their vicious greed continue to keep bickering shamelessly over temple
premises and their lodgings.
workshop is large enough friend, let the venerable one stay as long as
he likes" replied Pukkusathi. Having forgone the perfumed chamber at
Savaththi, the extremely delicate Buddha laid the folded pansakulika
robe on a spread of grass at one end of the unkempt floor littered with
ash, broken jars and chicken droppings to sit in perfect cross-legged
composure as in heavenly abode.
The Great Being
arose from unfractured royal lineage. The clansman too grew up in a
royal womb. Buddha had enormous merit. So did the clansman. Buddha
abandoned royalty for reclusion. So did the clansman. They both had a
radiant complexion. Both were princely hermits. Both had acquired mental
absorptions. The lowly workshop dazzled with their presence. Not a
thought occurred they ought to take a moments rest. The Great being
instantly entered nirodha sampaththi (attainment of state of
extinction), the clansman the fourth jhana. Did not Buddha travel the
enormous distance in order to preach Dhamma? Clansman in a state of
exhaustion would not absorb it. In the third watch of the night Buddha
exited from nirodha sampaththi and opened his jewel- like eyes to see
the absolutely motionless clansman seated like a golden statue,
inspiring confidence. A unique exchange of words, of mystique then takes
Buddha- "Under whom have you gone forth,
bhikkhu ? Who is your teacher?"
"Friend, there is
the recluse Gotama who went forth from the Sakyan clan. A good report of
the Blessed Gotama is that he is accomplished, fully enlightened,
perfect in knowledge and conduct, sublime, knower of the worlds,
incomparable tamer of persons, teacher of men and gods, enlightened and
"Bhikku, have you seen that Blessed One
before? Could you recognize him?"
"No friend, I have
not seen him before, neither would I recognize him."
The Blessed One
addressed venerable Pukkusathi "Bhikkhu, I will teach you the Dhamma,
listen closely to what I shall say". Why would he not, when he didn’t
meet one person in his entire journey from Taxilla to Rajagaha who could
tell him a word of the sweet Dhamma, the sole purpose of his mission.
"Yes friend," venerable Pukkusathi replied.
The Samma Sambuddha in the
potter’s shed then delivered the fascinating, awe- inspiring sermon
‘Dhatuvibhanga Sutta’ an analysis of the ultimate constituents of the
entity called ‘person’ in worldly parlance, a subject entirely in the
domain of a Samma Sambuddha. He did not touch upon the requisite
seven-fold antecedent regime of blameless conduct, control of the
senses, moderate food intake, ability to break rest and establishment of
the four jhanas since Venerable Pukkusathi had already mastered them. He
delved directly into the profound theory of voidness liberation (sunnata
vimokkha) hallmark of the doctrine, substratum of Nibbana. The Supremely
Enlightened One began, "Bhikkhu, this person consists of six elements,
six bases of contact, eighteen types of mental exploration and four
foundations. Tides of conceiving do not sweep over one who stands upon
these foundations, and when tides of conceiving no longer sweep over him
he is called a sage at peace. One should not neglect wisdom, should
uphold truth, should cultivate relinquishment and train himself in the
elimination of defilements. This is the summary of the exposition of the
"Bhikkhu, why was it said that the person
consists of six elements? There is the earth element, the water element,
fire element, air element, space element and the consciousness element".
At times, Buddha expounds the real through imagery at others imagery
through the real. Here he chose the latter -there is no person here,
only a concept.
"Bhikkhu, it was said that this person
consists of six bases of contact. There are the base of eye contact, the
base of ear contact, the base of nose contact, the base of tongue
contact, the base of body contact and the base of mind contact".
person consists of eighteen kinds of mental exploration. So it was said.
And with reference to what was this said? On seeing a form with the eye
he explores a form productive of joy, or of grief or of equanimity. On
hearing a sound with the ear, he explores …, On smelling an odour with
the nose, he explores … On tasting a flavour with the tongue, he
explores … On touching a tangible object with the body, he explores… On
cognizing a mind object with the mind, he explores… So it was said that,
‘Bhikkhu, this person consists of eighteen forms of mental exploration’
"Bhikkhu, this person has four foundations,
it was said, It was said with reference to foundation of wisdom,
foundation of truth, foundation of relinquishment and foundation of
peace. So it was with reference to this that it was said, ‘Bhikkhu, this
person has four foundations’. "One should not neglect wisdom, should
preserve truth, should cultivate relinquishment and should train for
peace, so it was said."
Enlightened One then proceeded on a lucid elaboration of each of these
topics elucidating the intricate mode of treating each of them in their
proper perspective of non-entity, of non-self, leading up to total
disenchantment where only equanimity remains, purified, bright,
malleable, wieldy and radiant. Buddha initially praised the fine
material sphere (rupavachara loka) of the fourth jhana so the clansman
wouldn’t be suddenly thrown into a state of confusion that the immensely
pacifying attainment he had already gained was after all meaningless and
totally in vain; or could the preacher be making a mistake? Buddha then
gradually leads him to the higher jhanas of the immaterial planes
embracing infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness and the
sphere of neither perception nor non- perception entailing enormous,
almost incomprehensible lifespans of 20,000, 40,000, 60,000 and 84,000
aeons. The preachment of the Enlightened One was an unending cascade
flowing from the sky, as was said. The clansman at times fumbled in
Even though the lifespan there is 20,000
aeons, that too in conditioned, fashioned, built-up. It is thus
impermanent, unstable, not lasting, transient, subject to perishing,
breaking up and dissolution. It is not a shelter, a place of safety, a
refuge. Having passed away from there as a worldling, he can still be
born in the four states of deprivation. Finally Buddha masterfully
directs the clansman to the total destruction of craving for eternal
existence and belief in annihilation (bhava thanha, vibhava thanha )
culminating in the attainment of sublime arahantship.
He does not cling to
anything in the world. When he does not cling, he is not agitated. When
he is not agitated he attains Nibbana. It is called the pacification of
lust, hate and delusion. The sage at peace is not born, does not age,
does not die; he is not shaken and does not yearn. Not being born, how
could he age? Not aging, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be
shaken? Not being shaken, why should be yearn? He understands, on the
dissolution of the body, with the ending of life, all that is felt, not
being delighted in, will disappear right there, never to arise again.
"So it was with
reference to this that it was said the tides of conceiving do not sweep
over one who stands upon these foundations, and when tides of conceiving
no longer sweep over him, he is called a sage at peace," ‘muni santo’,
‘Bhikkhu, bear in mind this brief exposition of the six elements". The
Great Sage delivered the sermon from the loftiest pedestal of
arahantship, Buddhahood. The clansman grasped it in consonance with his
accumulated merit and reached the third stage of deliverance in the
manner of a ‘vipachithanghu’, one who comprehends upon elaboration.
Whatever doubts that existed vanished, prostrated himself at the Blessed
One’s feet and sought forgiveness for the transgression of addressing
Him as ‘friend’, ‘like a confused, blundering fool’. The Blessed One
said "since you see your transgression as such and make amends in
accordance with Dhamma, we forgive you, for it is growth in the Noble
One’s discipline when one makes amends in accordance with Dhamma and
undertakes restraint in the future".
The clansman pleaded
full admission under the Blessed One.
"But are your bowl
and robes complete, Bhikkhu?" said the Buddha.
"Venerable Sir, my
bowl and robes are not complete"
Thathagathas do not give full admission when one’s bowl and robes are
Bowl and robes did not materialize by divine
means on this occasion. Has he not donated them to another before? He
has. But they appear for those who live their last lives – ‘paschima
bhavika’. The clansman was not. Could not then the Noble Being provide
them Himself and give full admission? There was no possibility. The
clansman’s life had come to an end. It was as though the Anagami Maha
Brahma from the pure abode had descended upon the potter’s workshop.
The clansman paid
homage to the Blessed One and keeping Him on his right side, departed in
search of robes. Appearance of first streaks of the morning sun, ending
of the sermon and arising of the six coloured resplendent rays of the
Blessed One all took place at once.
The entire workshop
was aglow in splendorous radiance. Golden flares of the Blessed One ran
in all directions forming circles. He determined that townspeople shall
see him. They converged on the workshop in numbers and hurried to inform
King Bimbisara who rushed there to worship Him.
"Lord, when did you arrive
"Great King, yesterday at sunset"
"Lord, for what
"Your friend King Pukkusathi, having read
your letter, ordained himself. Coming in search of me, he passed
Savaththi by forty five yojuns, arrived at this workshop.
difficult task, I came here and preached Dhamma to him. He realized the
third fruit of the path."
"Lord, where is he
"Since his robes were incomplete for higher
ordination, he went in search of them."
King Bimbisara left
in the direction his friend went. Buddha came through the sky and
appeared in the magnificent chamber at Jetawanaramaya.
Clansman looking for
bowl and robes did not go to his royal friend of Rajagaha, neither to
the tradesmen from Taxilla. A thought occurred, I should not be going
from place to place like a fowl in the great city, surely I ought to
find them on a charnel ground, a river bank or in a rubbish heap
somewhere. While rummaging through a rubbish heap the cow that killed
three of his accomplices for murdering a woman of easy virtue many
births before, gored him, taking him completely by surprise.
angry woman who died with a curse on her lips had turned demon in the
form of a cow. The clansman flew up, fell dead face downwards. Was like
a golden statue on the mound of rubbish. No sooner he died he was born
in Aviha Brahmawasa and attained arahanthood immediately like the five
others Upaka, Palagandiya, Bhaddiya, Kundadeva and Pingiya. When King
Bimbisara’s men found him, the king went there and wept for his noble
friend who died a lonely death, who could not be given a befitting regal
reception. In a final act of endearment he dressed him in white clothes
decorated with royal insignia, kept him on a golden bier and had him
cremated on a pyre made of fragrant firewood.
He also built a
stupa enshrining his relics. King Pukkusathi epitomized the disciple of
ultimate faith known to Buddhism.
* Middle Length
Discourses of the Buddha by Bhikkhu N?namoli and Bhikkuhu Bodhi.
* Majjima Nikaya
Atthakatha translation by Ven Balapitiye Siri Seevali
27 12 2015 -