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Buddhist Writings.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

III. The Order

The Story of Visakha

Translated from the Dhammapada, and from Buddhaghosa’s comment

  • “As flowers in rich profusion piled
  • Will many a garland furnish forth;
  • So all the years of mortal man
  • Should fruitful be in all good works.”

  • “AS flowers in rich profusion piled.” This doctrinal instruction was given by The Teacher while dwelling near Savatthi in Eastern Monastery; and it was concerning Viskh, a female lay disciple. She was born, we are told, in the city of Bhaddiya, in the kingdom of Bengal. Her father Dhanañjaya, son of Mendaka the treasurer, ranked also as treasurer, and her mother was the lady Suman, his principal wife.

    When Viskh was seven years old, The Teacher, perceiving that the Brahman Sela, and others of her city, were competent to attain to salvation, went thither on his wanderings, accompanied by a great congregation of priests.

    Now at that time Mendaka, who was filling the office of treasurer in that city, was head of a household of five persons of great merit. The five persons of great merit were: Mendaka the treasurer; Padum, his principal wife; Dhanañjaya, his eldest son; the latter’s wife, Suman; and Mendaka’s slave, Punna. Now Mendaka the treasurer was not the only person of illimitable wealth in Bimbisra’s territory. There were five of them: Jotiya, Jatila, Mendaka, Punnaka, Kkavaliya.

    When Mendaka the treasurer heard of the arrival of The One Possessing the Ten Forces, he sent for the little maid Viskh, the daughter of his son Dhanañjaya the treasurer, and said to her:

    “Dear girl, this is an auspicious day for you and for me! With your five hundred girl-attendants mount five hundred chariots, and with these five hundred female slaves as your retinue go to welcome The One Possessing the Ten Forces.”

    “Very well,” said she, and did so. But as she well knew what etiquette required, when she had gone as far in her carriage as was proper for carriages to go, she alighted, and on foot drew near to The Teacher. Then she did him obeisance, and stood respectfully at one side. Pleased with her behavior, The Teacher taught her the Doctrine, and at the end of the discourse, she attained to the fruit of conversion, together with her five hundred maidens.

    Also Mendaka the treasurer drew near to The Teacher, and listening to a sermon, attained to the fruit of conversion, and invited him for the morrow to breakfast. On the next day at his own house he served The Buddha and the congregation of the priests with excellent food, both hard and soft; and thus for half a month he gave liberally. And when The Teacher had stopped in the city of Bhaddiya as long as he wished, he departed.

    Now at that time Bimbisr and Pasenadi the Kosalan were connected by marriage, being each of them the husband of the other’s sister. And one day it occurred to the Kosalan king: “In Bimbisra’s territory dwell five men of illimitable wealth, while there is not one in mine. Suppose, now, I go to Bimbisra, and ask him for one of these persons of great merit.”

    And going to king Bimbisra, he was received cordially by the latter, who then asked,

    “What was your purpose in coming?”

    “In your territory dwell five men of illimitable wealth, persons of great merit. I have come with the intention of taking one of them back with me. Let me have one.”

    “It would be impossible for me to move one of those great families.”

    “I will not go without,” was the reply.

    The king took counsel with his ministers, and then said to him:

    “To move such powerful personages as Joti and the others, would be like moving the world. But Mendaka the great treasurer has a son called Dhanañjaya the treasurer: I will consult with him, and then give you my reply.”

    Then Bimbisra sent for Dhanañjaya the treasurer, and said to him,

    “Dear friend, the king of the Kosalans says he will not return home unless you go with him. Therefore, go with him, pray.”

    “Sire, I will go, if you send me.”

    “Then make your preparations, dear friend, and go.”

    So he got himself ready, and the king was full of kind attentions to him, and at parting formally intrusted him to Pasenadi the king. And Pasenadi the king set out for Svatthi, intending to spend one night on the way. And coming to a pleasant spot, they bivouacked there.

    Then said Dhanañjaya the treasurer,

    “Whose territory are we on now?”

    “Mine, O treasurer.”

    “How far is it from here to Svatthi?”

    “Seven leagues.”

    “It is very crowded in a city, and my suite is a large one. Sire, if it so please you, I will dwell here.”

    “Very good,” said the king in assent; and mapping out for him a city, he gave it to him, and went away. And from the circumstance that the settlement in that place was made in the evening [s-yam], the city received the name of Sketa.

    Now there was dwelling at Svatthi a young man named Punnavaddhana, who was the son of a treasurer named Migra, and had just come of age. And his mother and father said to him,

    “Son, choose yourself a wife from what family you please.”

    “Oh! I have no use for anything of that sort.”

    “Son, act not so! No family can last without children.”

    “Well, then,” said he, when they continually insisted, “if I can have a girl endowed with the five beauties, I will do as you say.”

    “But, son, what are these five beauties?”

    “Beauty of hair; beauty of flesh; beauty of bone; beauty of skin; and beauty of youth.”

    (The hair of a woman who is experiencing the reward of great merit is like a peacock’s tail, and, when it is loosened and allowed to fall, reaches to the bottom of the tunic, where the ends turn and point upwards. This is “Beauty of hair.” The lips are of a fine color, resembling a bright red gourd, and are smooth and pleasant to the touch. This is “Beauty of flesh.” The teeth are white, with even interstices, resembling a row of diamonds set upright, or evenly cut mother-of-pearl. This is “Beauty of bone.” The skin, even without the application of sandal-wood perfume, or any rouge, or other cosmetic, is glossy like a blue-lotus wreath, and white like a wreath of kanikra flowers. This is “Beauty of skin.” She possesses a youthfulness as fresh when she has brought forth ten times, as if she had brought forth but once. This is “Beauty of youth.”)

    Then his mother and father invited and entertained one hundred and eight Brahmans, and inquired of them,

    “Are there any women endowed with the five beauties?”

    “Assuredly there are.”

    “Then let eight of you go in search of a girl of this description.”

    And giving them a liberal present, they continued: “When you return, we will remember you again. Go, search for a girl of this description, and as soon as you find her, put on her this decoration.” And with that they placed in their hands a gold wreath worth a hundred thousand pieces of money, and dismissed them.

    So the eight Brahmans went searching through all the large cities, but discovered no girl endowed with the five beauties. Then they turned back, and as they were returning, they chanced to arrive at Sketa on Public Day. “Now,” thought they, “our mission will be effected.”

    It seems that every year in that city there was held a festival called “Public Day.” Then all those ladies who are not in the habit of going out of doors issue forth from their homes with their attendants, and show themselves in public, going on foot to the banks of the river. And on the same day they do this, all the rich men’s sons of the warrior and other castes station themselves alongside the paths in order to put garlands on the heads of any pretty girls they may see of equal rank with themselves.

    And these Brahmans came also, and stationed themselves in a hall on the banks of the river. At that moment Viskh, then some fifteen or sixteen years of age, came to that place on her way to bathe in the river, being decked in all her ornaments, and attended by five hundred maidens. And suddenly a cloud arose, and it began to rain. The five hundred maidens took to running, and sought refuge in the hall. The Brahmans scanned them carefully, but saw not one among them endowed with the five beauties. Then Viskh came up at her natural gait, and entered the hall, and her garments and ornaments were wet.

    The Brahmans perceived that she had four of the beauties, and being desirous of seeing her teeth, they began conversing among themselves, saying,

    “Our daughter is of a lazy disposition; her husband, we must needs suppose, will have to content himself with sour gruel.”

    Then said Viskh, “What is that you are saying?”

    “Dear girl, we say thus and so.”

    (They say the sound of her voice was sweet, sounding forth like the tones of a gong of bell-metal.)

    Then with a sweet voice, she asked them again,

    “Why do you say that?”

    “Your attendant women came running to this hall, and did not get their garments or their ornaments wet. But though it is but a little way, you did not run at all, and got your garments and ornaments wet. This is why we speak as we do.”

    “Good sirs, say not so. I am better able to run than they; but I had my reasons for not running.”

    “What were they, dear girl?”

    “Good sirs, there are four things which do not appear to advantage when running. And there is another reason.”

    “Dear girl, what are the four things?”

    “Good sirs, an anointed and richly dressed king does not appear to advantage when he binds up his loin-cloth, and runs in the royal court. Every one finds fault, saying, ‘How is it this great king rushes around like any householder?’ He appears to advantage when walking at a slow gait. The king’s caparisoned state elephant does not appear to advantage when running. He appears to advantage when marching at an elephant’s natural dignified pace. A man who has retired from the world does not appear to advantage when running. Every one finds fault, saying, ‘How is it this monk rushes about like any layman?’ He appears to advantage when adopting a tranquil gait. No woman appears to advantage when running. People justly find fault with her, saying, ‘How is it this woman rushes about like a man?’ These four do not appear to advantage when running.”

    “But what, dear girl, was your other reason?”

    “Good sirs, a daughter is brought up by her mother and father, who put a value on every limb in her body. For we are goods for sale. They bring us up in order to marry us into another family. If we should run and stumble, either over our skirts or over some obstacle on the ground, and in falling should break either a hand or a foot, we should remain as burdens on our families. But articles of ornament, if they get wet, can dry. This, good sirs, was my reason for not running.”

    All the while she was talking, the Brahmans were beholding the splendor of her teeth, such splendor as they felt they had never seen before. And having applauded her speech, they took the gold wreath, and placed it on her head, and said:

    “You, dear girl, are the one whom this befits.”

    Then she asked them: “Good sirs, from what city are you come?”

    “From Svatthi, dear girl.”

    “The treasurer, the head of the family, what is his name?”

    “His name, dear girl, is Migra the treasurer.”

    “And my young master, what is his name?”

    “He is the young Punnavaddhana, dear girl.”

    Having thus ascertained that the family was of equal caste to her own, she sent a message to her father to send the chariot. For although she had come on foot, it is not allowed to maidens to return in that manner when once they have been decorated with the wreath. The daughters of influential families return in chariots and the like; others, either mount ordinary carriages, or walk under a palm-leaf parasol, or, if that is lacking, they raise the skirts of their cloaks and throw them over their shoulders. In present instance, her father sent her five hundred chariots, and she and her attendants mounted and returned home, while the Brahmans accompanied them.

    Then said the treasurer to the Brahmans,

    “Whence are ye come?”

    “From Svatthi, great treasurer.”

    “The treasurer, what is his name?”

    “Migra the treasurer.”

    “What is the son’s name?”

    “Young Punnavaddhana.”

    “The riches, how great are the riches?”

    “Four hundred millions, great treasurer.”

    “His riches, by the side of ours, are but as a farthing. However, from the time one obtains a protector for a maiden, why look for anything else?” Thus he gave his consent.

    After a day or two of hospitable entertainment, he dismissed them. And they returned to Svatthi, and announced to Migra the treasurer:

    “We have found the girl.”

    “Whose daughter is she?”

    “Dhanañjaya the treasurer’s.”

    “That is a powerful personage whose daughter you have secured for us. We must go quickly to fetch her.” Then he went and announced to the king the circumstances of the case, and that he must needs absent himself for a while.

    And the king thought to himself: “This is the great personage whom I removed from before Bimbisra and settled in Sketa. I ought to pay him some attention.” And he said to Migra the treasurer,

    “I, too, will go.”

    “Very good, sire,” replied the other, and sent the following message to Dhanañjaya the treasurer: “When I come, the king will come also, and the king’s army is large. Shall you be able to take care of so many people, or not?”

    The return message came: “Let ten kings come, if they wish.”

    The Migra the treasurer took all the inhabitants of that large city, leaving barely enough to guard the houses, and when he had come within half a league of Sketa, he halted, and sent a message announcing his arrival.

    Then Dhanañjaya the treasurer, after sending out to them a large present, consulted with his daughter:

    “My dear,” said he, “I hear that your father-in-law has come with the king of the Kosalans. Which house shall we get ready for him, which for the king, and which ones for the deputy kings?”

    Now clever was the treasurer’s daughter, with a fully matured and keen intellect, the result of longing expressed and aspiration cherished through a hundred thousand world-cycles, And she gave orders: “Let such and such a house be got ready for my father-in-law, such another for the king, and such others for the deputy kings.” After making these arrangements, she next summoned the slaves and servants, and said to them: “Let so many of you wait on the king, and so many on the deputy kings; and do you who are hostlers and the like take care of the elephants, horses, and other beasts; for our guests must have a merry time while they are here.” Such were her orders. And why? So that none might say: “We came to Viskh’s merrymaking and got nothing for our pains, but spent our time looking after our beasts.”

    That same day, Viskh’s father sent for five hundred goldsmiths, and giving them a thousand nikkhas of red gold, besides silver, gems, pearls, coral, diamonds, etc., enough to go with it, he said: “Make for my daughter what is called the great creeper parure.”

    After remaining a few days, the king sent a message to Dhanañjaya the treasurer, saying,

    “It is too great a load for a simple treasurer to feed and take care of us. Be pleased to appoint a time for the maiden’s departure.”

    But Dhanañjaya the treasurer returned word to the king:

    “The rainy season is now come, and you can well afford to remain four months. Let everything pertaining to your army be my care. It will be time enough for your majesty to go when I dismiss you.”

    From that time on it was like a continual festival for the city of Sketa. From the king down, every one was provided with garlands, perfumes, garments, and other gifts, so that each one felt himself the especial object of the treasurer’s hospitality.

    Thus three months went by, but the parure was not yet finished.

    Then came the masters of ceremonies, and announced to the treasurer:

    “There is no lack of anything else, but the army has not sufficient wood to cook its meals.”

    “Go, my dear sirs, take all the tumble-down elephant stables, and other buildings of the kind in the city, and all the dilapidated houses, and use them for cooking-fuel.”

    This wood did the cooking for half a month, and thereupon they again announced to the treasurer:

    “There is no wood.”

    “At this time in the year one cannot go for wood. But open the store-houses where stuffs are kept, and make wicks of the coarse cloths, dip them in vessels of oil, and so cook your meals.”

    They did so for half a month, and thus four months had gone by, and the parure was finished. There was no thread in this parure; silver was used instead. When this parure was on, it extended from head to foot. At the latter place were bunches of gold medals, and silver dies. On the crown of the head was a medal, at the top of the ears two, at the throat one, at the knees two, at the elbows two, and at the sides of the waist two.

    Now a part of this parure consisted of a peacock, and there were five hundred feathers of red gold in the wing on the right side, and five hundred in the one on the left side. The beak was of coral, the eyes were of jewels, and likewise the neck and the tail-feathers. The midribs of the feathers were of silver, and likewise the shanks of the legs. When placed in position on Viskh’s head, it appeared like a peacock dancing on the summit of a mountain, and the sound which came from the thousand midribs rolled forth like the tones of celestial choruses and orchestras. And it was only when people had come quite close that they knew it was not a real peacock.

    This parure was worth ninety millions, and a hundred thousand was spent on the workmanship. But what was the deed in a previous existence which caused her to obtain this parure? They say that in the time of Kassapa Buddha she gave cloth for robes to twenty thousand priests, also thread and needles and dyeing material, all her own property; and the parure was the result of this liberality. For the giving of robes by a woman attains its fruition in the great creeper parure; by a man, in the supernatural bowl and robes.

    When the great treasurer had thus spent four months in getting ready his daughter’s trousseau, he began giving her the dowry. He gave five hundred carts full of money, five hundred carts full of gold dishes, five hundred full of silver dished, five hundred full of copper dishes, five hundred full of silk garments, five hundred full of clarified butter, five hundred full of husked rice, and five hundred full of plow-shares and other implements. They say the reason why he thus gave her all manner of implements was for fear that his daughter in her new home might need something, and be obliged to send to a neighbor’s for it. And he gave fifteen hundred waitingmaids whose duties were to bathe, feed, and dress her,—all of them handsome slaves, and richly dressed, and riding in five hundred chariots, three to each several chariot.

    Then he determined to give his daughter some cattle, and gave orders to his men:

    “Look you now! Go and open the door of my lesser cattle-fold, and post yourselves for a distance of three quarters of a league, and at every quarter-league have a drum. And let the space across from side to side be a hundred and forty cubits, and let not the cows transgress those limits. And as soon as you get them in position, sound your drums.”

    They did so. When the cows passed out of the fold, and had gone a quarter-league, the men gave a signal with the drum, and again at the end of the second quarter-league, and again at the third quarter-league. And they hemmed them in at the sides. Thus, for a space of three-quarters of a league in length, and a hundred and forty cubits across, the cows stood so close that they chafed one another.

    Then said the great treasurer, “That is enough cows for my daughter. Shut the door.” So they shut the door of the fold; but, notwithstanding the door was shut, such was the effect of Viskh’s merit that the vigorous bulls and the milch cows leaped up and got out. And in spite of all the men could do to prevent them, sixty thousand vigorous bulls and sixty thousand milch cows got out, and behind the milch cows followed vigorous bull calves.

    What was the deed in a previous existence by reason of which the cattle thus got out? Because once she kept on giving, in spite of the efforts people made to stop her. As tradition has it, in the time of The Supreme Buddha Kassapa, she was the youngest of the seven daughters of king Kiki, and her name was Servant-of-the-Congregation. And as she was once giving the five products of the cow in alms to twenty thousand priests, the yound priests and the novices cried, “Enough, enough!” and closed their hands up tight. But, notwithstanding their efforts to prevent her, she kept on giving, saying, “Here is a sweet bit; here is a dainty morsel.” This was the reason the cattle kept on coming out, notwithstanding the efforts made to prevent them.

    When the treasurer had got thus far in his giving, his wife said to him,

    “You have assigned goods to my daughter, but no male and female vassals to do her bidding. Why is this?”

    “Because I want to find out who are fond of her, and who are not. Of course, I shall vassals with her to do her bidding. When she comes to mount her chariot to depart, I shall make proclamation: ‘Let all who wish to go with my daughter, do so; and let all others stay at home.’”

    Now the day before she was to depart, the treasurer sat in his room and had his daughter sit by him, and he admonished her, telling her what rules of conduct she should adopt when she came to dwell in her husband’s family. And it happened that Migra the treasurer was seated in the next room, and overheard the admonition of Dhanañjaya the treasurer, which was as follows:

    “My child, as long as you dwell in your father-in-law’s family, the in-door fire is not to be taken out of doors; out-door fire is not to be brought within doors; give only to him who gives; give not to him who does not give; give both to him who gives, and to him who does not give; sit happily; eat happily; sleep happily; wait upon the fire; and reverence the household divinities.” This was the tenfold admonition.

    On the next day he assembled the different guilds of artisans, and in the presence of the royal army he appointed eight householders to be sponsors for his daughter, saying, “You are to try any charge of sin that may be brought against my daughter in her new home.”Next he had his daughter put on her great creeper parure that was worth ninety millions, and gave her besides five hundred and forty millions with which to buy aromatic powders for her bath. And causing her to mount a chariot, he took her about in the neighborhood of Sketa as far as to Anurdhapura, through fourteen villages that were subject to him; and as he went through one after another, he caused proclamation to be made: “Let all who wish to go with my daughter, go.” On hearing the proclamation all the inhabitants of the fourteen villages, without exception, issued forth, saying, “When our mistress is on the point of leaving, why stay we here?” Then Dhanañjaya the treasurer, full of polite attentions to the king and Migra the treasurer, accompanied them a short distance on their way; and having intrusted his daughter into their hands, he there took leave of them.

    And Migra the treasurer rode in a conveyance behind the others, and beholding a great crowd of people following, he asked,

    “Pray, who are these?”

    “They are male and female vassals to do the bidding of your daughter-in-law.”

    “Who could ever feed so many? Beat and drive them away and keep only those who do not run.”

    “Hold!” cried Viskh; “do not drive them away! The one army can feed the other.”

    But the treasurer persisted, saying, “My dear girl, we have no use for them. Who is there to feed them?” And he caused his men to fling clods of earth at them, and to beat them with sticks, and all those who did not run he took with him, saying, “These are a plenty.”

    When Viskh approached the gate of the city of Svatthi, she began to reflect, “Shall I enter seated in a covered conveyance, or standing erect in a chariot?” Then she thought, “If I am in a covered conveyance when I enter, no one will see the elegance of my great creeper parure.” So she entered the city standing in her chariot, and showing herself to the whole town. And when the inhabitants of Svatthi beheld the magnificence of Viskh, they said, “This, then, is Viskh. Truly, her magnificence becomes her well!” And thus it was in great pomp she entered the treasurer’s house.

    Then all the inhabitants of the city sent gifts to her, according to their power, and according to their ability; for they thought, “Dhanañjaya the treasurer was exceedingly hospitable to us when we went to his city.” But Viskh took all the gifts that were sent her, and distributed them to the different families everywhere throughout the city. And in sending, she accompanied each gift with an affectionate message: “This is for my mother, this for my father, this for my brother, and this for my sister;” thus treating each one according to age, and making, as it were, all the inhabitants of the city her relatives.

    Now towards the end of the night, her thoroughbred mare gave birth to a foal. And Viskh, accompanied by her female slaves bearing torches, went to the stable, and superintended while they washed the mare with warm water, and anointed her with oil. Then she returned to her own quarters.

    Now Migra the treasurer had for a long time been favorably disposed to the sect of naked ascetics. And urged by this feeling, though The Buddha was dwelling in a neighboring monastery, he neglected him in the festivities of his son’s wedding, but determined to do the naked ascetics an honor. So, on a certain day, he had some rice porridge cooked in several hundred new dishes, and extended an invitation to five hundred of the unclothed. And when he had got them all into his house he sent a message to Viskh, saying, “Let my daughter-in-law come and do reverence to the saints.”

    When Viskh heard the word “saints” she was greatly delighted, for she had been converted, and was a noble disciple. But when she came to the place where they were eating, and beheld them, she was angry with the treasurer, and returned to her own quarters, saying reproachfully, “These persons so devoid of shame and fear of sinning cannot be saints. Why did my father-in-law have me summoned?”

    “Why, O householder, did you not find some one else for a daughter-in-law? You have introduced into your house an arrant misfortune-breeder, a disciple of the monk Gotama. Make haste and have her expelled from the house.”

    “It is out of the question,” thought the treasurer, “for me to expel her just because these men tell me to do so. She is from too powerful a family.” And he dismissed them, saying,

    “Your reverences, young people sometimes act without knowing what they are about. Hold your peace!”

    Then he sat down on a costly seat, and began to eat the sweet rice porridge from a golden bowl. At that moment a [Buddhist] elder on his begging rounds entered the house. Viskh was standing fanning her father-in-law, and saw him. And thinking, “It would not be fitting for me to announce him to my father-in-law,” she moved off in such a way as to call his attention to the elder. But the foolish, unconverted man, although he saw the elder, made as if he did not see him, and with head bent down, he kept on eating.

    “Pass on, reverend sir,” said Viskh, when she perceived that her father-in-law made no sign, notwithstanding he had seen the elder; “my father-in-law is eating stale fare.”

    The treasurer, although he had borne with the talk of the naked ascetics, the moment she said, “He is eating stale fare,” removed his hand from his bowl, and exclaimed,

    “Take away this rice porridge, and turn the girl out of the house! To think that she should accuse me, and in a time of festivity, too, of eating anything unclean!”

    But all the slaves and servants in the house belonged to Viskh. Who was there to seize her by hand or foot? There was not one who dared so much as open his mouth.

    “Father,” said Viskh, after listening to him; ‘I’ll not leave so easily as you seem to think. I am not a common prostitute, picked up at some river bathing-place; and daughters whose parents are still living are not turned out so easily. Now my father has provided for this very case. When I was starting to come hither, he summoned eight householders, and put me in their charge, saying, ‘If any charge of sin be made against my daughter, investigate it.’ Have these men summoned, and establish my guilt or innocence.”

    “She speaks well,” said the treasurer, and had the eight householders summoned.

    Said he: “This young girl, when I was seated, in a time of festivity, eating rice porridge from a golden bowl, said I was eating what was unclean. Find her guilty and turn her out.”

    “Dear girl, is it so, as he says?”

    “That is not as Isay:—but when a certain elder on his beggingrounds came and stood in the door-way, my father-in-law, who was eating sweet rice porridge, paid to attention to him. Then I thought: ‘My father-in-law is not acquiring any merit in this existence, but is consuming old, stale merit.’ So I said: ‘Pass on, reverend sir; my father-in-law is eating stale fare.’ Now, what fault is there here of mine?”

    “There is none. Our daughter speaks justly. Why are you angry with her?”

    “Sirs, granted that this is no fault: but one night in the middle watch, she went out behind the house, accompanied by her male and female slaves.”

    “Dear girl, is it so, as he says?”

    “Good sirs, I went for no other reason but that I thought when a thoroughbred mare was bringing forth in this very house, it would not do to sit still and make no sign. So I had my slave-girls take torches, and went and caused the mare to receive the attentions suitable for a time of foaling.”

    “Sir, our daughter does in your house work that is unfit even for slave-girls. What fault can you discover here?”

    “Sirs, granted that here also there is no fault. Her father, however, was admonishing her at the time she was starting to come hither, and gave her ten admonitions of a deeply hidden meaning; and I do not understand them. Let her tell me their meaning. For instance, her father said, ‘The in-door fire is not to be taken out of doors.’ Is it possible, pray, for us to get on with our neighbors, without ever sending fire to their households?”

    “Is it so, as he says, dear girl?”

    “Good sirs, my father did not mean that by what he said; but this is what he meant: ‘Dear girl, if you notice any fault in your mother-in-law, or your father-in-law, or your husband, do not tell of it outside in some one else’s house. There is no worse fire than this.”

    “Sirs, so be it: but her father said: ‘Out-door fire is not to be brought within doors.’ Would it be possible, if our in-door fire were to go out, for us not to fetch fire from outside?”

    “Is it so, as he says, dear girl?”

    “Good sirs, my father did not mean that by what he said; but this is what he meant: ‘If any of your neighbors, whether male or female, speak ill of your father-in-law, or of your husband, do not bring their talk home, and repeat it saying. “So and so has this or that to say of you.” For there is no fire comparable to this fire.”’

    Thus, in this point also she was guiltless. And as in this case, so also in the others; and the following is their purport:—

    “When her father said to her: ‘Give only to him who gives,’ he meant, ‘Give only to those who give borrowed articles back again.’”

    And “Give not to him who does not give,” meant, “Give not to those who do not give back again what they borrow.”

    “Give both to him who gives, and to him who does not give,” meant, “When your needy relatives and friends come to you, you should give to them, whether they are able to repay you or not.”

    “Sit happily,” meant, “When you see your mother-in-law, or your father-in-law, or your husband, you should rise, and not keep your seat.”

    “Eat happily,” meant, “You should not eat before your mother-in-law, or your father-in-law, or your husband. You must eat after you have waited on them, and they have been helped to everything they wish.”

    “Sleep happily,” meant, “Do not ascend your couch to lie down to sleep before your mother-in-law, or your father-in-law, or your husband; but when you have done for them all the different services which should be done, you can afterwards yourself lie down to sleep.”

    “Wait upon the fire,” meant, “You should look upon your mother-in-law, your father-in-law, and your husband, as if they were a flame of fire, or a royal serpent.”

    “Reverence the household divinities,” meant, “You should look upon your mother-in-law, your father-in-law, and your husband, as your divinities.”

    When thus the treasurer had heard the meaning of the ten admonitions, he was unable to find any reply, and sat with downcast eyes. The householders then said to him,

    “Treasurer, is there any other sin in our daughter?”

    “Sirs, there is none.”

    “Then, if she is guiltless, why did you attempt without cause to turn her out of doors?”

    “Good sirs,” said Viskh, at this point in the discussion, “although at first it was not fitting that I should leave at the command of my father-in-law, yet now that you whom my father appointed to try charges which might be brought against me, have found me guiltless, it is a good time to go.”

    So saying, she gave orders to her male and female slaves to get ready the carriages and make the other necessary preparations.

    “Dear girl, I spoke in ignorance; pardon me,” said then the treasurer, speaking half to the householders.

    “Good sir, I do pardon you all there is to pardon. I am, however, daughter in a family that has studied and has faith in the religion of The Buddha, and to see something of the congregation of the priests is necessary to us. If I can be allowed to wait on the congregation of the priests at my pleasure, I will stay.”

    “Dear girl, wait on your monks as much as you please,” was the reply.

    Viskh, accordingly, sent an invitation to The One Possessing the Ten Forces, and on the next day received him at her house. And the naked monks, when they heard that The Teacher had gone to the house of Migra the treasurer, went also, and sat down outside the house encompassing it. Viskh, having given the water of donation, sent a message to her father-in-law:

    “All the arrangements for the entertainment are ready. Let my father-in-law come and wait on The One Possessing the Ten Forces.”

    But as he was about to go, the naked ascetics restrained him, saying,

    “O householder, go not near the monk Gotama.”

    So he sent back word: “Let my daughter-in-law wait on him herself.”

    When she had waited on The Buddha and on the congregation of the priests that followed him, and the meal was now at an end, she again sent a message:

    “Let my father-in-law come and hear the sermon.”

    “If I were not to go now, it would not do at all,” said then the treasurer; for he was very desirous of hearing the Doctrine.

    “Well, then,” said the naked monks, when they saw he was bent on going, “you may listen to the Doctrine of the monk Gotama, if you will sit outside of a curtain.” Then they went ahead of him, and drew a curtain around, and he went and sat down outside of the curtain.

    But The Teacher thought, “Sit outside of a curtain, if you will, or beyond a wall, or beyond a mountain, or at the end of the world. I am The Buddha, and can make you hear my voice.” And marching as it were with a mighty Jambu trunk held aloft, and showering down as it were showers of ambrosia, he began to teach the Doctrine in consecutive discourse.

    Now when a Supreme Buddha teaches the Doctrine, those in front, and those behind, and those beyond a hundred or a thousand worlds, and those, even, who inhabit the abode of the Sublime Gods, exclaim: “The Teacher is looking at me; The Teacher is teaching the Doctrine to me.” To each one it seems as if The Teacher were beholding and addressing him alone. The Buddhas, they say, resemble the moon: as the moon in the midst of the heavens appears to every living being as if over his head, so The Buddhas appear to every one as if standing in front of him. This gift is said to be their reward for liberality in previous existences, when, for the benefit of others, they cut off their own garlanded heads, gouged out their own eyes, tore out their own hearts, and gave away to be slaves sons such as Jli, daughters such as Kanhjin, and wives such as Madd.

    And Migra the treasurer, as he sat outside the curtain, and turned over and over in his mind the teaching of The Tathgata, became established in the thousandfold ornamented fruit of conversion, and acquired an immovable and unquestioning faith in the three refuges. Then, raising the curtain, he approached his daughter-in-law, and taking her breast in his hand, he said: “From this day forth you are my mother,” thus giving her the position of mother. And henceforth she was known as “Migra’s mother”; and when, later on, she had a son, she named him Migra.

    The great treasurer then let go his daughter-in-law’s breast, and went and fell at the feet of The Blessed One, and stroking them with his hands, and kissing them with his lips, he three times proclaimed his own name, “Reverend Sir, I am Migra.”

    “Reverend Sir,” continued he, “all this time have I been without knowing that on you should one bestow alms to obtain great reward. But now I have learnt it, thanks to my daughter-in-law, and am released from all danger of being reborn in a lower state of existence. Truly, it was for my advantage and for my welfare that my daughter-in-law came to my house.” So saying, he pronounced the following stanza:

  • “Now have I learnt where rich reward
  • Will surely follow every gift!
  • Truly a happy day for me,
  • When first my daughter sought my home!”
  • Viskh invited The Teacher again for the next day on her own account, and on the day after her mother-in-law also attained to the fruit of conversion. And henceforth that house kept open doors for the religion of The Buddha.

    Then thought the treasurer, “My daughter-in-law is a great benefactress to me; I must make her a present. And, truly, her present parure is too heavy for every-day wear. I will have a very light one made, which she can wear both by day and by night in all the four postures.”

    And he had made what is called a highly polished parure, worth a thousand pieces of money: and when it was finished, he invited The Buddha, and the congregation of the priests, and assiduously waited on them at breakfast. And causing Viskh to bathe herself with sixteen pitcherfuls of perfumed water, he placed her in front of The Teacher, and putting her parure upon her, he had her do obeisance. Then The Teacher, after giving thanks for the repast, returned to the monastery.

    And Viskh continued to give alms, and do other deeds of merit, and she received the eight boons from The Teacher. And as the crescent of the moon waxes great in the sky, so did she increase in sons and daughters. They say she had ten sons and ten daughters, and of these each had ten sons and ten daughters, and of these also each had ten sons and ten daughters. Thus the children and children’s children which had sprung from her numbered eight thousand and four hundred and twenty persons.

    She lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, but there was not a single gray hair on her head,—always she appeared as if about sixteen. When people saw her on her way to the monastery, surrounded by her children and children’s children, there were always those who inquired: “Which of these is Viskh?” Those who saw her as she walked would think: “I hope she will walk a little further; our lady looks well when she walks.” And those who saw her stand, or sit, or lie, would think: “I hope she will lie a little longer now; our lady looks well when she is lying down.” Thus in respect of the four postures, it could not be charged against her that there was any one posture in which she did not look well.

    Moreover, she was as strong as five elephants. And the king, hearing that Viskh was currently reported to be as strong as five elephants, was desirous of testing her strength; and one day, as she was on her way back from the monastery where she had been to hear a sermon, he let loose an elephant against her. The elephant, lifting his trunk, came on to meet Viskh. Of her five hundred attendant women, some fled away, while others threw their arms about her. And when she asked what the matter was, they replied: “They say the king is desirous of testing your iron strength, and has let loose an elephant against you.” When Viskh saw the elephant, she thought, “What is the need of my running away? It is only a question how I shall take hold of him.” And, being afraid that if she seized him roughly it might kill him, she took hold of his trunk with two fingers, and pressed him back. The elephant was unable either to resist or to keep his feet, and fell back on his haunches in the royal court. Thereupon the crowd shouted “Bravo!” and she and her attendants reached home in safety.

    Now at that time Viskh, Migra’s mother, lived at Svatthi, and had many children and many children’s children, and the children were free from disease, and the children’s children were free from disease, and she was considered to bring good luck. Among her thousands of children and children’s children not one had died. And when the inhabitants of Svatthi had their festivals and holidays, Viskh was always the first to be invited, and the first to be feasted.

    Now on a certain day of merry-making, the populace were going in their fine clothes and ornaments to the monastery to listen to the Doctrine. And Viskh, having come from a place of entertainment, and wearing the great creeper parure, was likewise proceeding with the populace to the monastery. There she took off her ornaments, and gave them to her slave-girl. Concerning which it is said,

    “Now at that time there was a merry-making at Svatthi; and the people in gorgeous array went to the park. Viskh, also, Migra’s mother, in gorgeous array went to the monastery. Then Viskh, Migra’s mother, took off her ornaments, and tying them up in a bundle in her cloak, gave them to her slave-girl, saying, ‘Here, take this bundle.’”

    It would appear that she thought it not seemly to enter the monastery wearing such an extremely costly and showy parure,—a decoration which, when put on, adorned her from head to foot. Thus it was that, as she was proceeding to the monastery, she took it off, and made of it a bundle, and gave it to a slave-girl, who had been born with the strength of five elephants as the result of former good deeds, and hence was able to carry it. Thus her mistress could say to her, “Dear girl, take this parure. I will put it on when I return from The Teacher.”

    Having put on her highly polished parure, she drew near The Teacher, and listened to the Doctrine. And at the close of the sermon she rose, did obeisance to The Blessed One, and went forth from his presence. The slave-girl, however, forgot the parure. Now it was the custom of Ananda the elder, when the assembly had listened to the Doctrine, and had departed, to put away anything that had been forgotten. And so this day he noticed the great creeper parure, and announced to The Teacher,

    “Reverend Sir, Viskh has gone forgetting her parure.”

    “Lay it aside, Ananda.”

    The elder lifted it up, and hung it on the side of the staircase.

    And Viskh, in company with her friend Suppiy, wandered about the monastery to see what could be done for the in-coming, for the out-going, for the sick, and others. Now it was the custom of the young priests and novices, when they saw the devout ladies bringing clarified butter, honey, oil, and other medicaments, to draw near with basins of various kinds. And on that day also they did so.

    Thereupon Suppiy saw a certain sick priest, and asked him,

    “Sir, of what do you stand in need?”

    “Meat broth,” was the reply.

    “Very well, sir; I will send you some.

    But as she failed on the next day to obtain any suitable meat, she made the preparation with flesh from her own thigh; and afterwards by the favor of The Teacher her body was made whole.

    When Viskh had attended to the sick and to the young priests, she issued forth from the monastery. But before she had gone far, she stopped and said,

    “Dear girl, bring me the parure; I will put it on.”

    Instantly the slave-girl remembered that she had forgotten it, and had left it behind. And she said,

    “Mistress, I forgot it.”

    “Go, then, and get it, and bring it hither. But if my master, Ananda the elder, has taken it up and laid it away anywhere, then do not fetch it. It is a present to my master.” It appears she knew that the elder was in the habit of putting away valuables which highborn personages had forgotten; and this was why she spoke as she did.

    When the elder saw the slave-girl, he said to her,

    “Why have you returned?”

    “I went away forgetting my mistress’s parure,” said she.

    “I have put it by the staircase,” said the elder; “go and get it.”

    “My lord,” said the slave-girl, “an article which has been touched by your hand is not to be reclaimed by my mistress.” And so she returned empty-handed.

    “How was it, dear girl?” said Viskh. And she told her.

    “Dear girl, never will I wear an article which my master has touched. I make him a present of it. Nevertheless, it would be troublesome for my masters to take care of it. I will sell it, and give them things which are more suitable. Go fetch it.”

    And the slave-girl went and fetched it.

    Viskh did not put it on, but sent for some goldsmiths and had it appraised.

    “It is worth ninety millions,” said they; “and the workmanship is worth a hundred thousand.”

    “Then put the parure in a wagon,” said Viskh, “and sell it.”

    “There is no one who is able to take it at such a price, and a woman worthy to wear such a parure is difficult to find. For in all the circuit of the earth only three women have the great creeper parure: Viskh, the great female lay disciple; the wife of Bandhula, the general of the Mallas; and Mallik, daughter of a treasurer of Benares.”

    So Viskh paid the price herself; and, putting ninety millions and a hundred thousand into a cart, she took the amount to the monastery.

    “Reverend Sir,” said she, when she had made her obeisance to The Teacher, “my master, Ananda the elder, has touched with his hand my parure, and from the time he has touched it, it is impossible for me to wear it again. I have endeavored to sell it, thinking that with the amount I should get for it, I would give things suitable for priests. But when I saw there was no one else able to buy it, I made up the price myself, and have now brought the money with me. Reverend Sir, which one of the four reliances shall I give?”

    “Viskh, a dwelling-place at the east gate for the congregation of the priests would be fitting.”

    “The very thing, Reverend Sir!”

    And Viskh, with a joyous mind, bought a site for ninety millions, and with another ninety millions she began constructing a monastery.

    Now one day, as The Teacher at dawn was gazing over the world, he perceived that a son, Bhaddiya, had been born from heaven into the family of a treasurer of the city of Bhaddiya, and was competent to attain to salvation. And after taking breakfast at the house of Anthapindika, he directed his steps towards the north gate of the city. Now it was the custom of The Teacher, if he took alms at the house of Viskh, to issue forth from the city by the south gate and lodge at Jetavana monastery. If he took alms at the house of Anthapindika, he would issue forth by the east gate, and lodge in Eastern Park; but if The Blessed One was perceived at sunrise making his way to the north gate, then people knew that he was setting out on his travels.

    So when Viskh heard on that day that he had gone in the direction of the north gate, she hastened to him, and making an obeisance, said,

    “Reverend Sir, are you desirous of going traveling?”

    “Yes, Viskh,”

    “Reverend Sir, at this vast expense am I having a monastery built for you. Reverend Sir, turn back.”

    “Viskh, this journey admits not of my turning back.”

    “Assuredly,” thought Viskh, “The Blessed One has some special reason in all this.” Then she said, “Reverend Sir, in that case, before you go, command some priest to stay behind who will know how the work should be done.”

    “Viskh, take the bowl of any one you wish.”

    Then Viskh, though fond of Ananda, thought of the magical power of the elder, Moggallna the Great, and how swiftly the work would progress with him to assist, and took his bowl.

    The elder then looked at The Teacher.

    “Moggallna,” said The Teacher, “take five hundred priests in your train and turn back.”

    And he did so: and by his supernatural power they would go a distance of fifty or sixty leagues for logs and stones; and having secured logs and stones of tremendous size, they would bring them home on the same day. And they who placed the logs and stones on the carts were not exhausted, nor did the axles break. And in no long time they had erected a two-story building on high foundations and approached by steps. The building contained a thousand apartments,—five hundred apartments being in the lower story, and the same number in the upper.

    After traveling about for nine months, The Teacher came again to Svatthi; and in these nine months Viskh had put up her building, and was now at work on the peak, which was intended to hold the water-pots, and was finished in solid, beaten, red gold.

    And Viskh, hearing that The Teacher was proceeding towards Jetavana monastery, went to meet him; and, conducting him to her monastery, she exacted of him a promise:

    “Reverend Sir, dwell here for four months with the congregation of the priests, and I will have the building completed.”

    The Teacher consented; and thenceforth she gave alms to The Buddha, and to the congregation of the priests in the monastery.

    And it came to pass that a certain female friend of Viskh came to her with a piece of stuff that was worth a thousand pieces of money.

    “Dear friend,” said she, “I want to replace some of the floor covering in your pavilion, and spread this instead. Tell me a place in which to spread it.”

    “Dear friend, if I were to tell you there was no place left, you would think, ‘She does not want to let me have a place.’ But look through the two floors of the pavilion and the thousand apartments yourself, and find a place in which to spread it.”

    Then the other took the piece of stuff worth a thousand pieces of money, and went through the building; but finding no stuff there of less value than hers, she was overcome with grief; for she thought: “I shall have no share in the merit of this building.” And stopping still, she wept.

    And Ananda the elder happened to see her, and said, “Why do you weep?” And she told him the matter.

    “Let not that trouble you,” said the elder; “I will tell you a place in which to spread it. Make a door-mat of it, and spread it between the place for washing the feet and the staircase. The priests, after washing their feet, will wipe them upon the mat before they enter the building: thus will your reward be great.” This spot, it appears, had been overlooked by Viskh.

    For four months did Viskh give alms in her monastery to The Buddha and to the congregation which followed him; and at the end of that time she presented the congregation of the priests with stuff for robes, and even that received by the novices was worth a thousand pieces of money. And of medicines, she gave the fill of every man’s bowl. Ninety millions were spent in this donation. Thus ninety millions went for the site of the monastery, ninety for the construction of the monastery, and ninety for the festival at the opening of the monastery, making two hundred and seventy millions in all that were expended by her on the religion of The Buddha. No other woman in the world was as liberal as this one who lived in the house of a heretic.

    On the day the monastery was completed, when the shadows of eventide were lengthening, she walked with her children and her children’s children round and round the building, delighted with the thought that her prayer of a former existence had now attained its complete fruition. And with a sweet voice, in five stanzas, she breathed forth this solemn utterance:—

  • “‘O when shall I a mansion give,
  • Plastered with mud and stuccoed o’er,
  • A pleasing monastery-gift?’—
  • O this my prayer is now fulfilled!
  • “‘O when shall I give household goods,
  • Benches and stools to sit upon,
  • And bolsters, pillows for the couch?’—
  • O this my prayer is now fulfilled!
  • “‘O when shall I provisions give,
  • The ticket-food so pure and good,
  • Smothered in broths of various meats?’—
  • O this my prayer is now fulfilled!
  • “‘O when shall I give priestly robes,
  • Garments of fine Benares cloth,
  • And linen, cotton goods as well?’—
  • O this my prayer is now fulfilled!
  • “‘O when shall I give medicines,
  • Fresh butter, butter clarified,
  • And honey, treacle, purest oil?’—
  • O this my prayer is now fulfilled!”
  • When the priests heard her, they brought word to The Teacher:

    “Reverend Sir, in all this time we have never known Viskh to sing; but now, surrounded by her children and her children’s children, she walks singing round and round the building. Pray, is her bile out of order? or has she become mad?”

    “Priests,” said The Teacher, “my daughter is not singing; but the desire of her heart having come to pass, in her delight she breathes forth a solemn utterance.”

    “But when was it, Reverend Sir, she made the prayer?”

    “Priests, will you listen?”

    “Reverend Sir, we will.”

    Whereupon he related a tale of ancient times—

    “Priests, a hundred thousand cycles ago, a Buddha was born into the world by the name of Padumuttara. His term of life was a hundred thousand years; his retinue of those in whom depravity had become extinct was a hundred thousand; his city was Hamsavat; his father, king Sunanda; and his mother, queen Sujt. The chief benefactress of this Teacher, a lay devotee, had obtained the eight boons and held the position of mother, and used to provide him with the four reliances. Every evening and morning she used to wait on him at the monastery, and a certain female friend constantly accompanied her.

    “When this friend saw on what intimate terms she conversed with The Teacher, and how much she was beloved, she began to consider: ‘What do people do to be beloved by The Buddhas?’ And she said to The Teacher:

    “‘Reverend Sir, what is this woman to you?’

    “‘She is the chief of my benefactresses.’

    “‘Reverend Sir, by what means does one thus become chief benefactress?’

    “‘By praying for a hundred thousand world-cycles to become one.’

    “‘Reverend Sir, could I become one, if I now made my prayer?’

    “‘Assuredly, you could.’

    “‘In that case, Reverend Sir, come with your hundred thousand priests and take alms of me for seven days.’

    “The Teacher consented; and for seven days she gave alms of food, and on the last day stuff for robes. Then she did obeisance to The Teacher, and, falling at his feet, made her prayer:

    “‘Reverend Sir, I do not pray for rule among the gods, or any other such reward as the fruit of this alms-giving; but that from some Buddha like yourself I may obtain the eight boons, and have the position of mother, and be chief of those able to provide the four reliances.’

    “The Teacher looked into the future for a hundred thousand cycles to see if her prayer would be fulfilled, and said:

    “‘At the end of a hundred thousand cycles a Buddha named Gotama shall arise, and you shall be a female lay disciple of his, and have the name Viskh. From him you shall obtain the eight boons, and obtain the position of mother, and become chief of the benefactresses who shall provide the four reliances.’

    “… and after a life of meritorious deeds, she was reborn in the world of the gods. And continuing to be reborn in the world of the gods and the world of men, she was born in the time of The Supreme Buddha Kassapa as the youngest of the seven daughters of Kiki, king of Benares. In this existence she was called Servant-of-the-Congregation; and having married, and with her sisters for a long time given alms and done other meritorious deeds, she fell at the feet of The Supreme Buddha Kassapa, and prayed: ‘At a future time may I hold the position of mother to a Buddha such as you, and become chief of the female givers of the four reliances.’ Now, after further rebirths in the world of the gods and the world of men, she has been born in this existence as the daughter of Dhananjaya the treasurer, the son of Mendaka the treasurer, and has done many meritorious deeds for my religion. Thus it is, O priests, that I say my daughter is not singing, but that, at the realization of her prayer, she breathes forth a solemn utterance.”

    And The Teacher continued his instruction, and said,

    “Priests, just as a skilful garland-maker, if he obtain a large heap of various kinds of flowers, will go on and on making all manner of garlands, even so does the mind of Viskh incline to do all manner of noble deeds.” So saying, he pronounced this stanza:

  • “As flowers in rich profusion piled
  • Will many a garland furnish forth;
  • So all the years of mortal man
  • Should fruitful be in all good works.”