|"Magic Buddha," Sukhothai, Thailand (fredMin/flickr.com)|
Once upon a time King Bharata reigned from the capital of Roruva in the kingdom of Sovira. He practiced the Ten Royal Virtues (dasavidha-raja-dhamma) for the benefit and happiness of his people:
- giving (dana)
- morality (sila)
- renunciation, altruism (paricaga)
- honesty, sincerity (ajava)
- gentleness, humility (maddava)
- self-control, perseverance (tapa)
- non-anger (akkodha)
- non-harming (avihimsa)
- patience, forbearance (khanti)
- uprightness, non-wrongdoing (avirodhana)
He won over the people through the Four Bases of Popularity.
- sweet speech
He acted toward the multitude like both mother and father, giving great gifts to the needy, the wayfarers (spiritual recluses), the beggars, crafty people, and the like.
His chief queen, Samuddavijaya (Yasodhara in a past existence), was wise and clever. One day he looked around the pavilion where alms were distributed and thought: “These alms are devoured by inferior greedy people. I do not like this. He spoke to the queen: “I would rather give alms to superior virtuous people, who deserve the best gifts. But they live in the Himalayas. Who will bring them here on my invitation? Whom shall I send on this errand?”
She answered: “O king, do not be concerned. We shall send flowers by the power of giving suitable things (dana), by our virtue and truthfulness. In this way, we will invite fully-enlightened ascetics (pacceka-buddhas). When they come, we will give them gifts, the requisites appropriate to ascetics.”
The king agreed and proclaimed by drum that the townspeople should undertake to uphold the precepts. He and his household undertook all of the duties customarily undertaken on lunar observance days (Lunar phases determine Uposatha Days, 2013) and gave gifts of great charity. He had his assistants bring a golden chest full of jasmine flowers down from the palace. He stood in the royal courtyard, paid homage by fully prostrating himself on the ground, saluting the eastern quarter. He threw seven handfuls of flowers while saying: “I salute the enlightened saints (arhats) in the eastern quarter: If there is any merit to be found in us, out of compassion for us, receive our alms!”
Since there were no such beings the eastern quarter, they did not come. On the second day, he paid respects to the southern quarter. But no one came. On the third day, he paid respects to the western quarter. But, alas, nothing. On the fourth day, he paid homage to the northern quarter, throwing seven handfuls of flowers with the words: “May enlightened saints living in the northern quarter receive our alms!”
|Jasmine flowers are a symbol of purity (mostbeautifulflower.com).|
The flowers went and fell on a large number of recluses in Nandamula cave. Reflecting, they understood that the king was inviting them. They called together seven of their number and said, “Venerable sirs, the king invites us; let us show him favor.”
These arhats came through the air alighting at the king’s gate. Seeing them arrive, the king and queen saluted them with delight, brought them to the palace, showed them great honor, and provided them with gifts. After a meal he asked them to return for more the next day, and the next, and so on for five days.
On the seventh day, they prepared a gift of all the requisites appropriate for spiritual recluses, arranged beds and chairs inlaid with gold, and set before the seven enlightened recluses three-part robes, and all of the other things they use. The king and queen formally offered the gift packages after the meal and stood to one side in respectful salutation.
To express their thanks the elder of the assembly uttered a stanza followed by the others and their stanzas.