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Visakha









Visakha, a wealthy woman in Savatthi who had many children and
grandchildren, had given to the order the Pubbarama or Eastern
Garden, and was the first in Northern Kosala to become a matron
of the lay sisters.

When the Blessed One stayed at Savatthi, Visakha went up to the
place where the Blessed One was, and tendered him an invitation
to take his meal at her house, which the Blessed One accepted.

And a heavy rain fell during the night and the next morning; and
the bhikkhus doffed their robes to keep them dry and let the rain
fall upon their bodies.

When on the next day the Blessed One had finished his meal, she
took her seat at his side and spoke thus: "Eight are the boons,
Lord, which I beg of the Blessed One."

Said the Blessed One: "The Tathagatas, O Visakha, grant no boons
until they know what they are."

Visakha replied: "Befitting, Lord, and unobjectionable are the
boons I ask."

Having received permission to make known her requests, Visakha
said: "I desire, Lord, through all my life long to bestow robes
for the rainy season on the Sangha, and food for incoming
bhikkhus, and food for outgoing bhikkhus, and food for the sick,
and food for those who wait upon the sick, and medicine for the
sick, and a constant supply of rice-milk for the Sangha, and
bathing robes for the bhikkhunis, the sisters." 7

Said the Buddha: "But what circumstance is it, O Visakha, that
thou hast in view in asking these eight boons of the Tathagata?"

And Visakha replied:

"I gave command, Lord, to my maid-servant, saying, 'Go, and
announce to the brotherhood that the meal is ready.' And the maid
went, but when she came to the vihara, she observed that the
bhikkhus had doffed their robes while it was raining, and she
thought: 'These are not bhikkhus, but naked ascetics letting the
rain fall on them.' So she returned to me and reported
accordingly, and I had to send her a second time. Impure, Lord,
is nakedness, and revolting. It was this circumstance, Lord, that
I had in view in desiring to provide the Sangha my life long with
special garments for use in the rainy season.

"As to my second wish, Lord, an incoming bhikkhu, not being able
to take the direct roads, and not knowing the places where food
can be procured, comes on his way tired out by seeking for alms.
It was this circumstance, Lord, that I had in view in desiring
to provide the Sangha my life long with food for incoming
bhikkhus.

"Thirdly, Lord, an outgoing bhikkhu, while seeking about for
alms, may be left behind, or may arrive too late at the place
whither he desires to go, and will set out on the road in
weariness.

"Fourthly, Lord, if a sick bhikkhu does not obtain suitable food,
his sickness may increase upon him, and he may die.

"Fifthly, Lord, a bhikkhu who is waiting upon the sick will lose
his opportunity of going out to seek food for himself.

"Sixthly, Lord, if a sick bhikkhu does not obtain suitable
medicines, his sickness may increase upon him, and he may die.

"Seventhly, Lord, I have heard that the Blessed One has praised
rice-milk, because it gives readiness of mind, dispels hunger and
thirst; it is wholesome for the healthy as nourishment, and for
the sick as a medicine. Therefore I desire to provide the Sangha
my life long with a constant supply of rice-milk.

"Finally, Lord, the bhikkhunis are in the habit of bathing in the
river Achiravati with the courtesans, at the same landing-place,
and naked. And the courtesans, Lord, ridicule the bhikkhunis,
saying, 'What is the good, ladies, of your maintaining chastity
when you are young? When you are old, maintain chastity then;
thus will you obtain both worldly pleasure and religious
consolation.' Impure, Lord, is nakedness for a woman, disgusting,
and revolting.

"These are the circumstances, Lord, that I had in view."

The Blessed One said: "But what was the advantage you had in view
for yourself, O Visakha, in asking the eight boons of the
Tathagatha?"

Visakha replied:

"Bhikkhus who have spent the rainy seasons in various places will
come, Lord, to Savatthi to visit the Blessed One. And on coming
to the Blessed One they will ask, saying: 'Such and such a
bhikkhu, Lord, has died. What, now, is his destiny?' Then will
the Blessed One explain that he has attained the fruits of
conversion; that he has attained arahatship or has entered
Nirvana, as the case may be.

"And I, going up to them, will ask, 'Was that brother, Sirs, one
of those who had formerly been at Savatthi?' If they reply to me,
'He has formerly been at Savatthi,' then shall I arrive at the
conclusion, 'For a certainty did that brother enjoy either the
robes for the rainy season, or the food for the incoming
bhikkhus, or the food for the outgoing bhikkhus, or the food for
the sick, or the food for those that wait upon the sick, or the
medicine for the sick, or the constant supply of rice-milk.'

"Then will gladness spring up within me; thus gladdened, joy will
come to me; and so rejoicing all my mind will be at peace. Being
thus at peace I shall experience a blissful feeling of content;
and in that bliss my heart will be at rest. That will be to me an
exercise of my moral sense, an exercise of my moral powers, an
exercise of the seven kinds of wisdom! This, Lord, was the
advantage I had in view for myself in asking those eight boons of
the Blessed One."

The Blessed One said: "It is well, it is well, Visakha. Thou hast
done well in asking these eight boons of the Tathagata with such
advantages in view. Charity bestowed upon those who are worthy of
it is like good seed sown on a good soil that yields an abundance
of fruits. But alms given to those who are yet under the
tyrannical yoke of the passions are like seed deposited in a bad
soil. The passions of the receiver of the alms choke, as it were,
the growth of merits."

And the Blessed One gave thanks to Visakha in these verses:

"O noble woman of an upright life,
Disciple of the Blessed One, thou givest
Unstintedly in purity of heart.

"Thou spreadest joy, assuagest pain,
And verily thy gift will be a blessing
As well to many others as to thee."





Next: The Uposatha And Patimokkha

Previous: The Bhikkhus' Conduct Toward Women



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Buddha's Gospels