King of Kosala and contemporary of the
Buddha. He was the son of Mahā Kosala, and was
educated at Takkasilā where, among his
companions, were the Licchavi Mahāli and the
Malla prince Bandhula. On his return home his
father was so pleased with his proficiency in the various arts that he forthwith
made him king. (DhA.i.338; for his genealogy see Beal.: Records ii.2, n. 3).
As ruler, Pasenadi gave himself wholeheartedly to his administrative duties
(*2) and valued the companionship of wise and good men (*3). Quite early in the
Buddha's ministry, (*4) Pasenadi became his follower and close friend, and his
devotion to the Buddha lasted till his death.
(*2) E.g., S. i.74, 100; the Commentary (SA i.109f.) adds that the king tried
to put down bribery and corruption in his court, but his attempt does not appear
to have been very successful.
(*3) Thus he showed his favour to
Pokkharasādi and Cankī, by giving them,
respectively, the villages of Ukkatthā and
Opasāda free of all taxes. It is said that his
alms halls were always open to everyone desiring food or drink (Ud.ii.6). Even
after becoming the Buddha's follower, he did not omit to salute holy men of
other persuasions (Ud.vi.2).
(*4) According to Tibetan sources, Pasenadi's conversion was in the second
year of the Buddha's ministry (Rockhill, p.49). We find the king referring to
the Buddha, at their first meeting, as being young in years (S.i.69). Their
first meeting and conversation, which ended in Pasenadi's declaring himself an
adherent of the Buddha, are recorded in the Dahara
But Pasenadi's conversion did not prevent him from extending his favour, with
true Indian toleration, to the members of other religious orders. Mention is
even made of a great animal sacrifice which he once prepared, but which he
abandoned on the advice of the Buddha, whom he sought at Mallika's suggestion
(*5). He frequently visited the Buddha and discussed various matters with him
(*6). The whole of the Third Samyutta (Kosala Saipyutta), consisting of twenty
five anecdotes, each with a moral bias, is devoted to him. The topics discussed
are many and varied. The Buddha and Pasenadi were equals in age, and their talks
were, therefore, intimate and frank (*7).
(*5) S. i.75; for details see the
Mahāsupina and Lohakumbhi Jātakas.
It is said (SA.i.111) that the king fell in love with a woman while riding round
the city; on discovering that she was married, he ordered her husband to go,
before sunset, and fetch clay and lilies from a pond one hundred leagues away.
When the man had gone, the king ordered the gatekeepers to shut the gates early
and not on any account to open them. The husband returned in the evening, and
finding the gates shut, went to Jetavana, to seek protection from the king's
wrath. The king spent a sleepless night owing to his passion and had bad dreams.
When the brahmins were consulted they advised a great animal sacrifice. The
story is also found at DhA.ii.1ff., with several variations in detail.
(*6) It is said that he went three times a day to wait on the Buddha,
sometimes with only a small bodyguard. Some robbers, knowing this, arranged an
ambush in the Andhavana. But the king
discovered the plot, of which he made short work.
(*7) Pasenadi was extremely attached to the Buddha, and the books describe
how, when he saw the Buddha, he bowed his head at the Buddha's feet, covering
them with kisses and stroking them (M.ii.120). The Chinese records say (Beal.,xliv)
that when the Buddha went to Tāvatimsa,
Pasenadi made an image of the Buddha in sandalwood, to which he paid honour. He
was very jealous of the Buddha's reputation, and put down with a firm hand any
attempt on the part of heretics to bring discredit on him - e.g., in the case of
Sundarī Nandā. In the
Aggañña Sutta (D.iii.83f.), the Buddha
explains why Pasenadi honours him. For Pasenadi's own explanation as to why
people honoured the Buddha even more than the king, see M.ii.123; see also
A.v.65 ff. Pasenadi was also jealous of the reputation of the Order, and if
anything arose which seemed likely to bring discredit on it, he took prompt
steps to have the matter remedied - e.g., in the case of
Kumāra Kassapa's mother. Pasenadi's
palace overlooked the Aciravati, and when he
once saw some monks sporting in the river in an unseemingly way, he made sure
that the Buddha knew of it (Vin.iv.112). The story of the blind man and the
elephant shows that he was anxious to justify the Buddha's teaching as against
that of other sects (SnA..ii.529).
On one occasion we find the Buddha telling him to eat less and teaching his
nephew Sudassana (or Uttara) a verse on the
advantages of moderation, to be repeated to the king whenever he sat down to a
meal. This advice was followed and the king became slim.
S.i.81; DhA.iii.264f.; iv.6f.; the Samyutta Commentary (SA.i.136) states
that the bowl out of which he ate (paribhogapāti) was the size of a cartwheel.
Pasenadi was always conscious of his own dignity - e.g., the incident with
Chattapāni; but see Vin.iv.157f., which
probably refers to the same story.
Pasenadi's chief consort was Mallikā, daughter of a garland maker (see
Mallikā for details of her marriage with the
king). He loved her dearly and trusted her judgment in all things. When in
difficulty he consulted her, realizing that her wisdom was greater than his own
(E.g., in the Asadisadāna). There is an
account given (S.i.74) of Pasenadi seeking a confession from her that she loved
him more than her own soul (attā) as a confirmation of their mutual trust. But
the queen was pious and saw into the reality of things, and declared that
nothing was dearer to her than her own soul. Piqued by this answer, Pasenadi
sought the Buddha, who comforted him by explaining the true import of Mallikā's
words. On another occasion, Pasenadi expressed to the Buddha his disappointment
that Mallikā should have borne him a daughter instead of a son; but the Buddha
pointed out to him that there was much, after all, to be said for daughters
Mallikā predeceased Pasenadi (A.iii.57); he had also other wives, one of them
being the sister of Bimbisāra, (*14) and
another Ubbirī. The
Kannakatthala Sutta (M.ii.125) mentions
two others who were sisters: Somā and
(*14) DhA.i.385; Pasenadi's relations with Bimbisāra were very cordial.
Bimbisāra had five millionaires in his kingdom -
and Kākavaliya - while Pasenadi had
none. Pasenadi therefore visited Bimbisāra and asked for one to be transferred
to him. Bimbisāra gave him Dhanañjaya, Mendaka's son, and Pasenadi settled him
in Sāketa (DhA.i.385ff).
(*16) In the Samyutta Nikāya (v. 351), the king's chamberlains,
Purāna, speak of his harem. When he went riding in the park he took with him
his favourite and lovely wives on elephants, one before and one behind. They
were sweetly scented - "like caskets of scent" - and their hands
were soft to the touch.
It is stated that Pasenadi wished to associate himself with the Buddha's
family so that their relationship might be even closer. For seven days he had
given alms to the Buddha and one thousand monks, and on the seventh day he asked
the Buddha to take his meals regularly at the palace with five hundred monks;
but the Buddha refused the request and appointed Ananda to take his place.
Ananda came daily with five hundred others, but the king was too busy to look
after them, and the monks, feeling neglected, failed to come any more, only
Ananda keeping to his undertaking. When the king became aware of this he was
greatly upset, and determined to win the confidence of the monks by marrying a
kinswoman of the Buddha. He therefore sent messages to the Sākiyan chiefs, who
were his vassals, asking for the hand of one of their daughters. The Sākiyans
discussed the proposition in their Mote-Hall, and held it beneath the dignity of
their clan to accede to it. But, unwilling to incur the wrath of their overlord,
they sent him Vāsabhakhattiyā,
daughter of Mahānāma and of a slave
woman, Nāgamundā. By her, Pasenadi had a son
Vidūdabha. When the latter visited Kapilavatthu, he heard by chance of the
fraud that had been practised on his father and vowed vengeance. When he came to
the throne, he invaded the Sākiyan territory and killed a large number of the
clan without distinction of age or sex (DhA.i.339ff.; J. i.133f.; iv.144ff). It
is said that when Pasenadi heard of the antecedents of Vāsabhakhattiyā, he
withdrew the royal honours, which had been bestowed on her and her son and
reduced them to the condition of slaves. But the Buddha, hearing of this,
related to Pasenadi the Katthahārika
Jātaka, and made him restore the royal honours to the mother and her son.
Mention is made of another son of Pasenadi, named Brahmadatta, who entered
the Order and became an arahant.
ThagA.i.460; the Dulva says that Jeta, owner of
Jetavana, was also Pasenadi's son (Rockhill,
Pasenadi's sister, Kosaladevī, was
married to Bimbisāra.
Mahākosala gave her a village in
Kāsi as part of her dowry, for her bath money.
When Ajātasattu killed Bimbisāra, Kosaladevī
died of grief, and Pasenadi confiscated the Kāsi village, saying that no
patricide should own a village which was his by right of inheritance. Angered at
this, Ajātasattu declared war upon his aged uncle. At first, victory lay with
Ajātasattu, but Pasenadi had spies who reported to him a plan of attack
suggested by the Thera Dhanuggaha Tissa,
in the course of a conversation with his colleague
Mantidatta, and in the fourth campaign
Pasenadi took Ajātasattu prisoner, and refused to release him until he renounced
his claim to the throne. Upon his renunciation, Pasenadi not only gave him his
daughter Vajirā in marriage, but
conferred on her, as a wedding gift, the very village in dispute (J.ii.237, 403;
Three years later, Vidūdabha revolted
against his father. In this he was helped by the commander in chief,
Dīghakārāyana, nephew of
Bandhula. Bandhula, chief of the Mallas,
disgusted with the treachery of his own people, had sought refuge with his
former classmate, Pasenadi, in Sāvatthi. Bandhula's wife, Mallikā, bore him
thirty two sons, brave and learned. Pasenadi, having listened to the tales of
his corrupt ministers, contrived to have Bandhula and all his sons killed while
they were away quelling a frontier rebellion. Bandhula's wife was a devout
follower of the Buddha's faith, and showed no resentment against the king for
this act of treachery. This moved the king's heart, and he made all possible
amends. But Dīghakārāyana never forgave him, and once when Pasenadi was on a
visit to the Buddha at Medatalumpa (Ulumpa),
leaving the royal insignia with his commander in chief, Dīghakārāyana took
advantage of this opportunity, withdrew the king's bodyguard, leaving behind
only one single horse and one woman servant, hurried back to the capital and
crowned Vidūdabha king. When Pasenadi heard of this, he hurried on to Rājagaha
to enlist Ajātasattu's support; but as it was late, the city gates were closed.
Exhausted by his journey, he lay down in a hall outside the city, where he died
during the night.
When Ajātasattu heard the news, he performed the funeral rites over the
king's body with great pomp. He wished to march at once against Vidūdabha, but
desisted on the advice of his ministers (M.ii.118; MA.ii.753ff.; DhA.i.353ff.;
Pasenadi had a sister, Sumanā, who was
present at his first interview with the Buddha and decided to enter the Order,
but she delayed doing so as she then had to nurse their aged grandmother.
Pasenadi was very fond of his grandmother, and was filled with grief when she
died in her one hundred and twentieth year. After her death, Sumanā became a nun
and attained arahantship (ThigA.22; S. i.97; A.iii.32). The old lady's
possessions were given over to the monks, the Buddha giving special permission
for them to be accepted (Vin.ii.169).
Among the king's most valued possessions was the elephant
Seta (A.iii.345); he had two other elephants,
Bhadderaka (or Pāveyyaka) (DhA.iv.25) and
Pundarīka (Ibid., ii.1). Mention is also made
(J.iii.134f ) of a pet heron which lived in the palace and conveyed messages.
Tradition says (SA.i.115; J. i.382ff ) that Pasenadi had in his possession the
octagonal gem which Sakka had given to Kusa. He valued it greatly, using it as
his turban jewel, and was greatly upset when it was reported lost; it was,
however, recovered with the help and advice of Ananda. The Jātaka Commentary
records that Pasenadi built a monastery in front of Jetavana. It was called the
Rājakārāma, and the Buddha sometimes stayed there (J.ii.15). According to
Hiouen Thsang, Pasenadi also built a
monastery for Pajāpati Gotamī
(Beal., Records ii.2).
Pasenadi's chaplain, Aggidatta had
originally been Mahākosala's chaplain. Pasenadi therefore paid him great
respect. This inconvenienced Aggidatta, and he gave his wealth to the poor and
renounced the world.
DhA.iii.241ff.; SnA. (580) says that Bāvarī was
Mahākosala's chaplain and Pasenadi studied under him. When Pasenadi came to the
throne, Bāvarī declared his wish to leave the world. The king tried to prevent
him but failed; he did, however, persuade Bāvarī to live in the royal park.
Bāvarī, after staying there for some time, found life in a city uncongenial. The
king thereupon detailed two of his ministers to establish a suitable hermitage
Pasenadi's minister, Santati, who was once
allowed to reign for a week in the king's place as reward for having quelled a
frontier dispute, gave his wealth to the poor and renounced the world like
Aggidatta (DhA.iii.28ff). The king was always
ready to pay honour to those who had won the praise of the Buddha, as in the
case of Kānā (Ibid., ii.150ff), Culla Eka Sātaka
(Ibid., iii.2ff ) or Angulimālā (M.ii.100);
on the other hand, he did not hesitate to show his disapproval of those who
disregarded the Buddha's teaching - e.g.,
Pasenadi liked to be the foremost in gifts to the Buddha and his Order. This
was why he held the Asadisadāna under the
guidance and inspiration of Mallikā; but he was
hurt when the Buddha's sermon of thanksgiving did not seem to him commensurate
with the vast amount (fourteen crores) which he had spent. The Buddha then
explained to him that this lack of enthusiasm was out of consideration for the
king's minister Kāla. When the king
learned that Kāla disapproved of the lavish way in which money had been spent at
the almsgiving, he banished him from the court, while he allowed the minister
Junha, who had furthered the almsgiving, to rule
over the kingdom for seven days (DhA.iii.188ff).
Pasenadi seems to have enjoyed discussions on topics connected with the
Dhamma. Reference has already been made to the
Kosala Samyutta, which records several conversations which he held with the
Buddha when visiting him in Sāvatthi; even when Pasenadi was engaged in affairs
of state in other parts of the kingdom, he would visit the Buddha and engage him
in conversation if he was anywhere in the neighbourhood. Two such conversations
are recorded in the Dhammacetiya Sutta
(q.v.) and the Kannakatthala Sutta
(q.v.). If the Buddha was not available, he would seek a disciple. Thus the
Bāhitika Sutta (q.v.) records a discussion between Pasenadi and Ananda on the
banks of the Aciravatī. Once when Pasenadi
was in Toranavatthu, midway between
Sāketa and Sāvatthi,
he heard that Khemā Therī was there, and went at
once to visit and talk to her (S.iv.374ff). Rhys Davids thinks (Buddhist India,
p.10) that Pasenadi was evidently an official title (*38) and that the king's
personal name was Agnidatta. He bases this surmise on the fact that in the
Divyāvadāna (p. 620) the king who gave Ukkatthā
to Pokkarasādi is called Agnidatta, while
in the Digha Nikāya (i.87) he is called Pasenadi, and that Pasenadi is used, as
a designation for several kings (*39). The evidence is, however, insufficient
for any definite conclusion to be drawn.
(*38) The UdA. (104) explains Pasenadi as "paccantam parasenam jinātī ti =
Pasenadi." According to Tibetan sources he was so called because the whole
country was illuminated at the time of his birth (Rockhill, p.16).
(*39) E.g., in Dvy. 369, for a king of Magadha and again in the
Kathāsaritsāgara i.268, 298.
According to the Anāgatavamsa (J.P.T.S. 1886, p. 37), Pasenadi is a
Bodhisatta. He will be the fourth future Buddha.
The Sutta Vibhanga (Vin.iv.298) mentions a Cittāgāra (? Art Gallery) which
belonged to him.