A banker (setthi) of Sāvatthi who became
famous because of his unparalleled generosity to the Buddha. His first meeting
with the Buddha was during the first year after the Enlightenment, in Rājagaha
(the story is given in Vin.ii.154ff; SA.i.240ff, etc.), whither Anāthapindika
had come on business.
His wife was the sister of the setthi of
Rājagaha, and when he arrived he found the setthi preparing a meal for the
Buddha and his monks on so splendid a scale that he thought that a wedding was
in progress or that the king had been invited. On learning the truth he became
eager to visit the Buddha, and did so very early the next morning
(Vin.ii.155-6). He was so excited by the thought of the visit that he got up
three times during the night. When, at last, he started for Sītavana, the road
was quite dark, but a friendly Yakkha, Sīvaka, sped him on with words of
encouragement. By force of his piety the darkness vanished.
The Buddha was staying in the Sītavana,
and when Anāthapindika reached there spirits opened the door for him. He found
the Buddha walking up and down, meditating in the cool air of the early dawn.
The Buddha greeted him and talked to him on various aspects of his teaching.
Anāthapindika was immediately converted and became a Sotāpanna. He invited the
Buddha to a meal the next day, providing everything himself, although the setthi,
the Mayor of Rājagaha and King Bimbisāra asked to be allowed to help. After the
meal, which he served to the Buddha with his own hand, he invited the Buddha to
spend the rainy season at Sāvatthi, and the Buddha accepted, saying "the
Tathāgatas, o householder, take pleasure in solitude." "I understand, o Blessed
One, I understand," was the reply.
When Anāthapindika had finished his
business at Rājagaha he set out towards Sāvatthi, giving orders along the way to
his friends and acquaintances to prepare dwellings, parks, rest-houses and gifts
all along the road to Sāvatthi in preparation for the Buddha's visit. He had
many friends and acquaintances and he was Ādeyyavaco (his word was held to be of
weight), loc. cit., p.158. But see J. i.92, where it is said that Anāthapindika
bore all the expenses of these preparations. Vihāras were built costing l,000
pieces each, a yojana apart from each other.
Understanding the request implied in the
Buddha's words when he accepted the invitation, Anāthapindika looked out for a
quiet spot near Sāvatthi where the Buddha and the monks might dwell, and his eye
fell on the park of Jetakumāra. He bought the park at great expense and erected
therein the famous Jetavanārāma. As a result of this and of his numerous other
benefactions in the cause of the Sāsana, Anāthapindika came to be recognised as
the chief of alms-givers (A.i.25).
Anāthapindika's personal name was
Sudatta, but he was always called Anāthapindika (AA.i.208; MA.i.50) (feeder of
the destitute) because of his munificence; he was, however, very pleased when
the Buddha addressed him by his own name (Vin.ii.156). He spent eighteen crores
on the purchase of Jetavana and a like sum on the construction of the vihāra;
another eighteen crores were spent in the festival of dedication. He fed one
hundred monks in his house daily in addition to meals provided for guests,
people of the village, invalids, etc. Five hundred seats were always ready in
his house for any guests who might come (AA.i.208-9. He fed 1,000 monks daily
says DhA.i.128; but see J. iii.119, where a monk, who had come from far away and
had missed the meal hour, had to starve.).
Anāthapindika's father was the setthi
Sumana (AA. loc. cit). The name of Anāthapindika's brother was Subhūti.
Anāthapindika married a lady called
Puññalakkhanā (J.ii.410; J. iii.435, she was the sister of the setthi of
Rājagaha. SA.i.240); he had a son Kāla and three daughters, Mahā-Subhaddā,
Cūla-Subhaddā and Sumanā. (Besides Kāla, Anāthapindika had another son, who
joined the Order under Subhūti Thera; AA.ii.865). Mention is also made of a
daughter-in law, Sujātā by name, daughter of Dhanañjaya and the youngest sister
of Visākhā. She was very haughty and ill-treated the servants (J.ii.347).
The son, in spite of his father's
efforts, showed no piety until he was finally bribed to go to the vihāra and
listen to the Buddha's preaching (see Kāla). The daughters, on the other hand,
were most dutiful and helped their father in ministering to the monks. The two
elder ones attained to the First Fruit of the Path, married, and went to live
with the families of their husbands. Sumanā obtained the Second Fruit of the
Path, but remained unmarried. Overwhelmed with disappointment because of her
failure in finding a husband, she refused to eat and died; she was reborn in
The Bhadraghata Jātaka (J.ii.431) tells
us of a nephew of Anāthapindika who squandered his inheritance of forty crores.
His uncle gave him first one thousand and then another five hundred with which
to trade. This also he squandered. Anāthapindika then gave him two garments. On
applying for further help the man was taken by the neck and pushed out of doors.
A little later he was found dead by a side wall.
The books also mention a girl, Punnā,
who was a slave in Anāthapindika's household. On one occasion when the Buddha
was starting on one of his periodical tours from Jetavana, the king,
Anāthapindika, and other eminent patrons failed to stop him; Punnā, however,
succeeded, and in recognition of this service Anāthapindika adopted her as his
daughter (MA.i.347-8). On uposatha days his whole household kept the fast; on
all occasions they kept the pañcasīla inviolate (J.iii.257).
A story is told of one of his labourers
who had forgotten the day and gone to work; but remembering later, he insisted
on keeping the fast and died of starvation. He was reborn as a deva
Anāthapindika had a business village in
Kāsi and the superintendent of the village had orders to feed any monks who came
there (Vin.iv.162f). One of his servants bore the inauspicious name of Kālakanni
(curse); he and the banker had been playmates as children, and Kālakanni, having
fallen on evil days, entered the banker's service. The latter's friends
protested against his having a man with so unfortunate a name in his household,
but he refused to listen to them. One day when Anāthapindika was away from home
on business, burglars came to rob his house, but Kālakanni with great presence
of mind drove them away (J.i.364f).
A similar story is related of another
friend of his who was also in his service (J.i.441).
All his servants, however, were not so
intelligent. A slave woman of his, seeing that a fly had settled on her mother,
hit her with a pestle in order to drive it away, and killed her (J.i.248f).
A slave girl of his borrowed an ornament
from his wife and went with her companions to the pleasure garden. There she
became friendly with a man who evidently desired to rob her of her ornaments. On
discovering his intentions, she pushed him into a well and killed him with a
The story of Anāthapindika's cowherd,
Nanda, is given elsewhere.
All the banker's friends were not
virtuous; one of them kept a tavern (J.i.251). As a result of Anāthapindika's
selfless generosity he was gradually reduced to poverty. But he continued his
gifts even when he had only bird-seed and sour gruel. The devata who dwelt over
his gate appeared before him one night and warned him of his approaching penury;
it is said that every time the Buddha or his monks came to the house she had to
leave her abode over the gate and that this was inconvenient to her and caused
her to be jealous. Anāthapindika paid no attention to her warnings and asked her
to leave the house. She left with her children, but could find no other lodging
and sought counsel from various gods, including Sakka. Sakka advised her to
recover for Anāthapindika the eighteen crores that debtors owed him, another
eighteen that lay in the bottom of the sea, and yet eighteen more lying
unclaimed. She did so and was readmitted (DhA.iii.10ff; J. i.227ff).
Anāthapindika went regularly to see the
Buddha twice a day, sometimes with many friends (J.i.95ff.; he went three times
says J. i.226), and always taking with him alms for the young novices. But we are
told that he never asked a question of the Buddha lest he should weary him. He
did not wish the Buddha to feel obliged to preach to him in return for his
munificence (DhA.i.3). But the Buddha of his own accord preached to him on
various occasions; several such sermons are mentioned in the Anguttara Nikāya:
on the importance of having a
well-guarded mind like a well-protected gable in a house (A.i.261f);
on the benefits the recipient of food
obtains (life, beauty, happiness, strength);
on the four obligations that make up
the pious householder's path of duty (gihisāmikiccāni - waiting on the Order
with robes, food, lodgings, medical requirements. Referred to also in S. v.387,
where Anāthapindika expresses his satisfaction that he had never failed in
on the four conditions of success that
are hard to win (wealth gotten by lawful means, good report, longevity, happy
on the four kinds of happiness which a
householder should seek (ownership, wealth, debtless ness, blamelessness)
(these various tetrads are given in A.ii.64ff).
on the five kinds of enjoyment which
result from wealth rightfully obtained (enjoyment - experienced by oneself and
by one's friends and relations, security in times of need, ability to pay
taxes and to spend on one's religion, the giving of alms to bring about a
happy rebirth, A.iii.45-6);
the five things which are very
desirable but difficult to obtain (long life, beauty, happiness, glory, good
condition of rebirths, A.iii.47-8);
the five sinful acts that justify a
man's being called wicked (hurting of life, etc. A.iii.204);
the inadvisability of being satisfied
with providing requisites for monks without asking oneself if one also
experiences the joy that is born of ease of mind (evidently a gentle warning
to Anāthapindika, A.iii.206-7).
The Buddha preached the Velāma Sutta to
encourage Anāthapindika when he had been reduced to poverty and felt
disappointed that he could no longer provide luxuries for the monks
(A.iv.392ff). On another occasion the Buddha tells Anāthapindika that the
Sotāpanna is a happy man because he is free from various fears: fear of being
born in hell, among beasts, in the realm of Peta or in some other unhappy state;
he is assured of reaching Enlightenment (A.iv.405f, also S. v.387f).
Elsewhere the Buddha tells Anāthapindika
that it is not every rich man who knows how to indulge in the pleasures of sense
legitimately and profitably (A.v.177ff).
There is, however, at least one sutta
preached as a result of a question put by Anāthapindika himself regarding gifts
and those who are worthy to receive them (A.i.62-3); and we also find him
consulting the Buddha regarding the marriage of his daughter, Cola Subhaddā
Anāthapindika died before the Buddha. As
he lay grievously ill he sent a special message to Sāriputta asking him to come
(again, probably, because he did not want to trouble the Buddha). Sāriputta went
with Ananda and preached to him the Anāthapindikovāda Sutta (M.iii.258f.; see
also S. v.380-7, which contain accounts of incidents connected with this visit).
His pains left him as he concentrated his mind on the virtuous life he had led
and the many acts of piety he had done. Later he fed the Elders with food from
his own cooking-pot, but quite soon afterwards he died and was born in the
Tusita heaven. That same night he visited the Buddha at Jetavana and uttered a
song of praise of Jetavana and of Sāriputta who lived there, admonishing others
to follow the Buddha's teaching. In heaven he will live as long as Visākhā and
Various incidents connected with
Anāthapindika are to be found in the Jātakas. On one occasion his services were
requisitioned to hold an inquiry on a bhikkhuni who had become pregnant
Once when the Buddha went on tour from
Jetavana, Anāthapindika was perturbed because there was no one left for him to
worship; at the Buddha's suggestion, an offshoot from the Bodhi tree at Gaya was
planted at the entrance to Jetavana (J.iv.229).
Once a brahmin, hearing of
Anāthapindika's luck, comes to him in order to find out where this luck lay so
that he may obtain it. The brahmin discovers that it lay in the comb of a white
cock belonging to Anāthapindika; he asks for the cock and it is given to him,
but the luck flies away elsewhere, settling first in a pillow, then in a jewel,
a club, and, finally, in the head of Anāthapindika's wife. The brahmin's desire
is thus frustrated (J.ii.410f).
On two occasions he was waylaid by
rogues. Once they tried to make him drink drugged toddy. He was at first shocked
by their impertinence, but, later, wishing to reform them, frightened them away
On the other occasion, the robbers lay
in wait for him as he returned from one of his villages; by hurrying back he
escaped them (J.ii.413). Whenever Anāthapindika visited the Buddha, he was in
the habit of relating to the Buddha various things which had come under his
notice, and the Buddha would relate to him stories from the past containing
similar incidents. Among the Jātakas so preached are: Apannaka, Khadirahgāra,
Rohinī, Vārunī, Punnapāti, Kālakanni, Akataññū, Verī, Kusanāli, Siri,
Bhadraghata, Visayha, Hiri, Sirikālakannī and Sulasā.
Anāthapindika was not only a shrewd
business man but also a keen debater. The Anguttara Nikāya (A.v.185-9) records a
visit he paid to the Paribbājakas when he could think of nothing better to do. A
lively debate ensues regarding their views and the views of the Buddha as
expounded by Anāthapindika. The latter silences his opponents. When the incident
is reported to the Buddha, he speaks in high praise of Anāthapindika and
expresses his admiration of the way in which he handled the discussion.
During the time of Padumattara Buddha
Anāthapindika had been a householder of Hamsavatī. One day he heard the Buddha
speak of a lay-disciple of his as being the chief of alms-givers. The
householder resolved to be so designated himself in some future life and did
many good deeds to that end. His wish was fulfilled in this present life.
Anāthapindika is sometimes referred to as Mahā Anāthapindika to distinguish him
from Cūla Anāthapindika.