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Verse 53: The Story of Visakha

While residing at the Pubbarama monastery in Savatthi, the Buddha uttered Verse (53) of
this book, with reference to Visakha, the famous donor of the Pubbarama monastery.

Visakha was the daughter of a rich man of Bhaddiya, named Danancaya, and his wife
Sumanadevi, and the granddaughter of Mendaka, one of the five extremely wealthy men of
King Bimbisara's dominions. When Visakha was seven years old, the Buddha came on a tour to
Bhaddiya. On that occasion, the rich man Mendaka took Visakha and her five hundred
companions with him to pay homage to the Buddha. After hearing the discourse given by the
Buddha, Visakha, her grandfather and all her five hundred companions attained Sotapatti
Fruition.

When Visakha came of age, she married Punnavadahana, son of Migara, a fairly rich man from
Savatthi. One day, while Migara was having his meal, a Bhikkhu stopped for alms at his house;
but Migara completely ignored the Bhikkhu. Visakha, seeing this, said to the Bhikkhu, "I am
sorry, your reverence, my father-in-law only eats leftovers." On hearing this, Migara flew
into a rage and told her to leave his house. But Visakha said she was not going away, and that
she would send for the eight elderly rich men who were sent by her father to accompany her
and to advise her. It was for them to decide whether she was guilty or not. When the elders
came, Migara said to them, "While I was having my rice-with-milk in a golden bowl, Visakha
said that I was taking only dirt and filth. For this offence, I'm sending her away."
Thereupon, Visakha explained as follows: "When I saw my father-in-law completely ignoring
the Bhikkhu standing for alms-food, I thought to myself that my father-in-law was not doing
any meritorious deed in this existence. he was only eating the fruits of has past good deeds.
So, I said, 'My father-in-law only eats leftovers.' Now Sirs, what do you think, am I guilty?"
The elders decided that Visakha was not guilty. Visakha then said that she was one who had
absolute and unshakable faith in the Teaching of the Buddha and so could not stay where the
Bhikkhus were not welcome; and also, that if she was not given permission to invite the
Bhikkhus to the house to offer alms-food and make other offerings, she would leave the
house. So permission was granted her to invite the Buddha and his Bhikkhus to the house.

The next day, the Buddha and his disciples were invited to the house of Visakha. When alms-
food was about to be offered, she sent word to her father-in-law to join her in offering
food; but he did not come. When the meal was over, again she sent a message, this time
requesting her father-in-law to join her in hearing the discourse that would soon be given by
the Buddha. Her father-in-law felt that he should not refuse for a second time. But his
ascetic teachers, the Niganthas, would not let him go; however, they conceded that he could
listen from behind a curtain. After hearing the Buddha's discourse Migara attained
Sotapatti Fruition. He felt very thankful to the Buddha and also to his daughter-in-law. Being
so thankful, he declared that henceforth Visakha would be like a mother to him, and Visakha
came to be known as Migara mata.

Visakha gave birth to ten sons and ten daughters, and ten sons and ten daughters each were
born to everyone of her children and grand-children. Visakha possessed an immensely
valuable gem-encrusted cloak given by her father as a wedding present. One day, Visakha
went to the Jetavana monastery with her entourage. On arrival at the monastery, she found
that her bejeweled cloak was too heavy. So, she took it off, wrapped it up in her shawl, and
gave it to the maid to hold it and take care of it. The maid absentmindedly left it at the
monastery. It was the custom for the Venerable Ananda to look after the things left by any
one of the lay disciples. Visakha sent the maid back to the monastery saying, "Go and look for
the bejeweled cloak, but if the Venerable Ananda had already found it and kept it in a place
do not bring it back; I donate the bejeweled clock to the Venerable Ananda." But the
Venerable Ananda did not accept her donation. So Visakha decided to sell the bejeweled
cloak and donate the sale proceeds. But there was no one who could afford to buy that
bejeweled cloak. So Visakha bought it back for nine crores and one lakh. With this money,
she built a monastery on the eastern side of the city; this monastery came to be known as
Pubbarama.

After the opening ceremony she called all her family to her and on that night she told them
that all her wishes had ken fulfilled and that she had nothing more to desire. Then reciting
five verses of exultation she went round and round the monastery. Some Bhikkhus hearing
her, thought she was singing and reported to the Buddha that Visakha was not like before,
and that she was going round and round the monastery, singing. "Could it be that she had gone
off her head?" they asked the Buddha. To this question, the Buddha replied, "Today, Visakha
had all her wishes of the past and present existences fulfilled and on account of that sense
of achievement, she was feeling elated and contented; Visakha was just reciting some verses
of exultation; she certainly had not gone off her head. Visakha, throughout her previous
existences, had always been a generous donor and an ardent promoter of the Doctrine of
successive Buddhas. She was most strongly inclined to do good deeds and had done much
good in her previous existences, just as an expert florist makes many garlands from a
collection of flowers.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 53. As from a collection of flowers many a garland can be made by an expert florist, so
also, much good can be done (with wealth, out of faith and generosity) by one subject to
birth and death.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.


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