Divine Stories, Part 2

18. The Story of Dharmaruci: Dharmaruci-avadāna

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18. The Story of Dharmaruci


Five Hundred Merchants and a Sea Monster

THUS have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was staying in the city of Śrāvastī at the Jeta Grove in the park of Anāthapiṇḍada (Almsgiver to the Poor).

At that time five hundred merchants gathered up their goods, and after passing through marketplaces, villages, towns, trading centers, and capitals, one after another, arrived at the shore of the great ocean. There they carefully chose an ocean-going ship, [229] but when the merchants saw the great ocean, they were of two minds. They couldn’t bring themselves to go down to the water.

“Friend,” the merchants said to the captain, “proclaim for us the true glory of the great ocean!”9

“Listen, honorable men of Jambudvīpa (Black Plum Island)!” the captain proclaimed. “In the great ocean there are treasures such as these—jewels, pearls, beryl, and conch, quartz, coral, silver, and gold, emeralds, sapphires, red pearls, and right-spiraling conch shells. Whoever wants to make himself happy with such treasures, and to delight his mother, father, wife, and children, servants, maids, workers, and laborers, friends, counselors, kinsmen, and relatives, and whoever wants, from time to time, to present to those worthy of offerings—ascetics and brahmans—gifts that guide one upward, bring good4 fortune, result in pleasure, and lead to heaven in the future, he should set sail in this great ocean to find that wealth.”

Since all beings, without exception, desire wealth and spurn poverty, everyone who heard him decided to set sail in the great ocean. As a result, the ship was overcome by all those people and the heavy load. It began to sink on the spot.

“The ship can’t take it!” the captain said.

“So whom should we tell to disembark?” the merchants asked.

Then those merchants said to the captain, “Proclaim for us the true infamy of the great ocean!”10

“Listen, honorable men of Jambudvīpa!” he proclaimed again. “In the great ocean there are also great, great dangers—the danger of sea monsters like the Timi and the Timiṅgila, the danger of waves, the danger of turtles, the danger of going aground, the danger of sinking, the danger of running into reefs, and the danger of hurricanes. Dark-clothed pirates may also come and steal your riches. Whoever is prepared11 to give up his very life and to give up his mother, father, wife, and children, servants, maids, workers, and laborers, friends, counselors, kinsmen, and relatives, as well as wonderful Jambudvīpa, he should set sail in the great ocean.”

Few men are brave. Many are cowards. [230]

Hearing this, those who had clambered on board expressed their agreement—“So be it, so be it”—and then most of them disembarked from the ship. Only a small number remained. Thereafter the merchants cut one of the ship’s ropes, then a second and a third and so on, until all the ropes were cut. Once the ropes were cut, the great captain launched the ship, and urged on by powerful winds, it sailed off quickly, like a cloud in the sky blown by a cylone. It soon arrived in Ratnadvīpa (Treasure Island).

When they arrived there, the captain said to the merchants, “There are glass jewels just like diamonds here in Ratnadvīpa. You should examine them carefully, one by one, as you collect them. Let’s not have any regrets after you’ve returned to Jambudvīpa. And here there are5 also females called kroñca maidens. If they come across a man, they’ll attack him with stones, and he’ll straightaway meet with his death.12 There are also intoxicating fruits here. Whoever eats them stays asleep for seven days and nights. And here in Ratnadvīpa, nonhumans don’t put up with men after seven days. They’ll stir up headwinds that will carry off a ship, even if one’s work isn’t finished. If you find any of these fruits, don’t eat them!”

After listening to this, the merchants remained mindful and on their guard. When they arrived at Ratnadvīpa, they diligently looked for treasures, examining one after another, and they filled their ship with these treasures as one would with barley or barleycorn, mung beans or black gram. Once they’d filled the ship, they departed with favorable13 winds leading them back to Jambudvīpa.

Now in the great ocean, creatures are dispersed across the three water levels. In the first level, creatures have bodies one hundred leagues long, though sometimes their bodies are two or three hundred leagues long.14 In the second level, they have bodies eight hundred leagues long, though sometimes their bodies are nine, ten, or up to fourteen hundred leagues long. In the third level, they have bodies fifteen hundred leagues long, though sometimes their bodies are sixteen hundred leagues long, or even up to twenty-one hundred leagues long.

And in the great ocean, these species of animals are intent on devouring each other. Those who live in the first level are eaten by those in the second level, and those who live in the second level are eaten by those in the third level. Now it was for this reason that the sea creature Timiṅgila arose from the third water level, [231] brought himself to the uppermost water level,15 and began to roam about. Then he opened his jaws, and in that moment water from the great ocean was sucked into his mouth with great speed. Pulled by that mass of water, a great variety of sea creatures such as fish, tortoises, vallabhakas, crocodiles, and makara monsters flowed down through his mouth and into his belly. As Timiṅgila was doing this, his head from far away appeared to6 be separate from the rest of his body, like a mountain touching the sky. And his eyes from far away looked like two suns in the sky.16

The merchants reflected on this from far away, and as they reflected on the form of the great churning ocean, they began to think, “Friends, what is this? The rising of two suns?” As they were occupied with such thoughts, their ship began to be swept toward Timiṅgila’s mouth. Watching their ship17 being swept away and reflecting on the two suns that had arisen, they were panicked. “Friends,” they said to each other, “have you heard it said that seven suns will rise up at the destruction of an age? Well, now it seems that they have arisen.”

Then the captain spoke to the men, engaged as they were in such thoughts: “Friends, you have heard of the sea monster Timitimiṅgila. Well, this is the danger of Timitimiṅgila. Friends, look at that! What appears like a mountain rising from the water is his head. And look! Those dark ruby-red streaks are his lips. And see there! That dazzling white strip is a row of his teeth. And look at those two things that appear like suns from far away! Those are the pupils of his eyes.”

Again the captain addressed the merchants. “Listen, my friends! There is no way now that we can save ourselves, no way to be free from this danger.18 Death stands before us all. So what should you do now? Each of you should pray to the god in whom you have faith. Perhaps by these prayers some deity will free us from this great danger. There is no other means of survival.”

Those merchants, afraid as they were of dying, [232] began praying to gods such as Śiva, Varuṇa, Kubera, the great Indra, and Upendra to save their lives. Despite their prayers, nothing happened to save them from the mortal danger they faced. Just as before, their ship was being pulled by the current and carried off toward the mouth of the Timiṅgila monster.

There was, however, a lay disciple of the Buddha on board. He said, “Friends, there is no escape for us from this mortal danger. Every single one of us will die. Still, let all of us raise our voices together and say, ‘Praise to the Buddha!’ If we have to face death, let us die with our7 awareness focused on the Buddha. This way there will be a good fate for us after death.”

Then every single one of the merchants, with their hands respectfully folded, raised their voices together and said, “Praise to the Buddha!”

Now the Blessed One, who was staying in the Jeta Grove, heard those words with his divine hearing, which is faultless and superhuman. And upon hearing them, the Blessed One exercised his power so that the Timiṅgila monster could hear that outcry. When Timiṅgila heard that cry “Praise to the Buddha!” an unease arose in his mind, and he became worried: “Oh no! A buddha has arisen in the world. It wouldn’t be right for me to eat any food after hearing an invocation of the Lord Buddha’s name.” Then he began to think, “If I close my mouth suddenly, this ship will be driven back by the swell and destroyed. Many people will lose their lives. I should close my mouth gently and ever so slowly.” Then the Timiṅgila monster closed his mouth gently and ever so slowly.

Freed from the jaws of that great monster, the merchants’ ship found a favorable wind and soon arrived at shore. When the merchants came to shore, they loaded their goods on carts, camels, bulls, donkeys, and so on, and after passing through marketplaces, villages, towns, and trading centers, one after another, they arrived in Śrāvastī. Once there, they reflected, “It’s only proper that if a ship successfully completes its voyage because of the power of someone’s name, all its treasures should go to him. We really should give these treasures to the Lord Buddha.”

Then they collected those treasures and went before the Blessed One. Having each, in turn, placed their heads in veneration at the Blessed One’s feet, they said to him: “Blessed One, we set sail on the ocean in a ship, and then when our ship was being carried off by the Timiṅgila monster [233] and the end of our lives was before us, we spoke the name of the Blessed One, concentrating our awareness on him, and were thus freed from the jaws of that great monster. Now that we have successfully completed our voyage, Blessed One, we have come here, safe and sound. It’s only proper that if people successfully8 complete a voyage on a ship19 because of the power of someone’s name, the treasures of that ship should go to him. By speaking the name of the Blessed One, we escaped from that mortal danger. Therefore the Blessed One should take these treasures of ours.”

The Blessed One said, “I have obtained the treasures of the [five] spiritual faculties, their corresponding powers, and the [seven] factors of awakening. What can ordinary gems do for the Tathāgata beyond this? My sons, if you want to go forth as monks in my order, come with me.”

The merchants reflected, “Whatever life we have is completely due to the power of the Lord Buddha. Let us abandon these treasures and go forth as monks under20 the Blessed One.”

Then they distributed their treasures, according to custom, to their mothers, fathers, wives, and children, servants, maids, and workers, friends, counselors, kinsmen, and relatives, and went forth as monks. After going forth as monks, they strived, struggled, and strained until they directly experienced arhatship.

Some monks in doubt asked the Lord Buddha, the remover of all doubts, “Blessed One, what deeds did those merchants perform and accumulate that resulted in them pleasing and not displeasing the Blessed One?”

“Long ago, monks,” the Blessed One said, “the perfectly awakened Kāśyapa arose in the world, and those very merchants went forth as monks into his order. After going forth as monks into his order, they didn’t amass any particular collection of virtues21 that was different from what those who had followed the religious life with them—and who had learned, studied, and recited the teachings—had come to possess. At the time of their death, they made this fervent aspiration: ‘Although we have come to the perfectly awakened Kāśyapa, and we have learned, studied, and recited the teachings, we still haven’t amassed any great collection of virtues. Still, as a result of those actions, may we please and not displease the one whom the perfectly awakened9 Kāśyapa has foretold will be a perfectly awakened buddha in the future, the one named Śākyamuni.’”

“What do you think, monks?” the Blessed One said. [234] “Those five hundred monks who in the past went forth as monks into the order of the perfectly awakened Kāśyapa were none other than22 these five hundred monks. Their senses have finally matured, and now they have directly experienced arhatship.”

Dharmaruci and His Insatiable Appetite

Now in the great ocean, once the sea monster named Timitimiṅgila heard the word buddha, he resolved not to take any food. Unable to endure the hunger pains that occurred because of his naturally inflamed digestive fire, he died and passed away. He then took rebirth in Śrāvastī in a brahman family that was devoted to the six duties of a brahman. That former body of his, now a corpse, floated along in the great ocean. The nāgas were unable to bear the smell of this corpse near their homes, so they cast it off to another place. Near where it was cast, however, was the home of another nāga. He too couldn’t bear the smell, so he cast it off as well. Cast off again and again in this way, that corpse was gradually brought close to the great ocean’s shore. Then it was immediately cast out by the tide and thrown onto the waterfront. The decomposed flesh on that mass of bones was consumed by many, like crows, vultures, dogs, jackals, tigers, and birds, and even by worms that were produced from it, until the bones of the corpse lay there stripped white.

Back in Śrāvastī,23 as soon as that brahman’s wife became pregnant,24 she was afflicted with severe hunger pains from the formation of the fetus. She said to her husband, “Dear husband, I’m suffering from terrible hunger pains.”

Since she spoke to him like this, her husband said, “My dear, whatever there is to eat and drink in our home is all yours to consume.”

Then she began to indulge herself. She consumed all that there was10 to eat and drink, but she still wasn’t satisfied. Once again, she asked her husband for help: “Dear husband, I’m still not satisfied.”

He asked his neighbors, friends, family, and others for food and drink and then gave whatever he got to her. She consumed all this as well,25 but she still wasn’t satisfied. Once again, she said to her husband, “Dear husband, I’m still not satisfied.”

Then the brahman, already disturbed, began to worry.

“Friends,” he said, “what could this be? A being has come to life in her womb, and as a result of its formation, she is never satisfied.”

Then the brahman had sign readers look at her, and to remove any doubts, he also spoke to physicians and others, and to those learned in the mysteries of the spirits. [235] “Look, gentlemen,” he said. “Could it be that my wife is consumed by a serious illness? Or maybe she is possessed by spirits or demons? Or maybe it’s some other kind of illness that’s fatal? Should some treatment be given?”

Hearing this, they treated her accordingly, but they didn’t observe any change in the brahman woman’s senses or faculties.26 When they didn’t observe any change in the brahman woman’s senses or faculties, the doctors, sign readers, physicians, and those learned in the mysteries of the spirits questioned her.

“When did the fire of your digestion start to blaze like this?”

“This condition of mine developed when the fetus first formed.”27

“There isn’t any known illness of the kind that she has,” the sign readers, doctors, and physicians said, “nor is there any kind of affliction like this that arises because one is possessed by spirits or demons.28 An inflamed digestive fire such as hers is due to the influence of the fetus.”

When the brahman received this news, he was relieved, but still the brahman’s wife was never satisfied from what she ate or drank.

Eventually, in due time, a son was born. As soon as that boy was born, the brahman woman’s hunger pains subsided. But from the moment he was born, the boy himself was pained by intense hunger.11 Since he was pained by hunger, his mother began to breastfeed him. Even after the boy drank every drop of milk from her breasts, he still wasn’t satisfied. The brahman and his wife requested help from the young women among their neighbors and relatives,29 and then they too began to breastfeed the boy. The boy drank from the breasts of all those women as well, but he still wasn’t satisfied. Then the brahman got a goat for him. The boy drank the goat’s milk in addition to the milk from his mother’s breasts, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

From time to time monks and nuns would enter that house for alms and tell a roundabout story. The boy would listen to that roundabout story, and at that time he wouldn’t cry. He’d listen attentively and silently to their stories about listening to the dharma.30 When the monks and nuns would depart, he would again experience the suffering of thirst and begin to cry.31 [236]

“This child relishes the dharma,” his parents reflected. And so they gave him the name Dharmaruci (Relishes the Dharma).32

Gradually, after months and fortnights passed, the boy began to take solid food, but he still never got his fill of food and drink. Finally, when the boy reached the right age, his mother and father gave him a begging bowl. “Go, my son,” they said. “This is your begging bowl. Take it, wander through Śrāvastī for alms, and eat whatever food you get.”33 The boy took the begging bowl and went wandering through Śrāvastī for alms. Wandering on and on, and eating and eating, he still came home unsatisfied.

“What deed have I done,” he reflected, “that’s resulted in my never being satisfied with the food I get?” Feeling distraught, he began to think, “Should I throw myself in a fire, drown myself, or jump off a cliff?” He stood there with such thoughts in mind.

A lay disciple of the Buddha saw him and said, “Why do you stand there like that, lost in thought? Go! Great is the order of the Buddha, full of magic and power. You should go forth as a monk into it. Once you’ve done so, you’ll accumulate good qualities, and any bad qualities12 that you may have accumulated in this life will diminish. If you go on to amass a great collection of virtues, the course of your existence in saṃsāra will be brought to an end.”

Urged on by the lay disciple, that great being went to the Jeta Grove. Having gone to the Jeta Grove, he saw monks there diligently engaged in reading, recitation, and concentration, and he became filled with intense faith.

He approached a monk and said, “Noble one, I want to go forth as a monk.”

“Have you received permission from your parents?” some monks asked him.

“No,” he said. “I haven’t received permission from my parents.”

“Go, my son,” they said. “Seek your parents’ permission.”

So he set out to seek permission from his parents. His parents told him, “Go, son. Do as you wish.”

Having obtained their permission, he went back to the monks. Thereafter one of the monks initiated him.

Now in the monastery, sometimes there was almsfood for the monks, and sometimes there was an invitation to eat at someone’s home. On one particular day when there was almsfood, his instructor said to him, “Son, are you satisfied or not?”

“No, I’m not satisfied,” he said to his instructor. [237]

Then the instructor made this observation34 about him: “Dharmaruci went forth as a monk while still of a young age. His digestive fire is inflamed, so he’s never satisfied.” The instructor then began to share with him the food from his own bowl.

“My son,” he asked again, “are you satisfied now?”

“No, I’m still not satisfied,” he said to the instructor.

After the instructor heard this, he began to speak with some kindhearted monks and some other students also living in the monastery. Those monks who had the same instructor as Dharmaruci, those who had the same teacher, and others who were kindhearted began to make special provisions of food and drink for him. But even after receiving13 those provisions from them, he still wasn’t satisfied. When there was an invitation for a meal, they would make provisions for him in just the same way. A particular donor also knew about Dharmaruci’s condition. He would come and give Dharmaruci whatever extra food he had. And if there was anything extra to drink, he’d do likewise. Anything extra at all was given to him. Nevertheless, from the time Dharmaruci had gone forth as a monk, his stomach had not once been full with food and drink.

One time a householder invited the community of monks led by the Buddha for a meal. In the morning the Blessed One got dressed, took his bowl and robe, and along with the community of monks, went to the man’s home to eat. [In the interim,] Dharmaruci was appointed as the acting caretaker of the monastery.

At that time in Śrāvastī there lived a certain householder. He came to understand that whoever feeds the community of monks led by the Buddha, without informing them beforehand, will immediately prosper. And so he collected food for five hundred monks. He filled up a cart with this fresh and exceptionally fine food and went to the monastery at the Jeta Grove. “Assisted by my friends and family,” he thought, “and on behalf of all my family members,35 I will feed the community of monks led by the Buddha.” In the Jeta Grove, he saw that there weren’t any monks. Wandering about, he saw the acting caretaker Dharmaruci.

“Noble one,” the householder asked him, “where have the monks gone?”

“They were invited for a meal and have gone to someone’s home to eat,” he said.

When the householder heard this, he became upset. “Oh no! My efforts are in vain!” He thought about this and then said to Dharmaruci, “Noble one, at least you can eat.”

“If, gracious sir, you have any food to spare,” he said.

Then the householder reflected on how much food was enough for14 one monk, [238] took that much food and drink from the cart, and began to serve it to Dharmaruci. Dharmaruci ate until there was nothing left, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“He isn’t satisfied,” the householder reflected. So he said, “Noble one, will you eat some more?”

“If, gracious sir, you have any food to spare,” Dharmaruci said.

Then, once again, the householder took food and drink from the cart, this time what should have been enough food for two monks, and began to feed him. Dharmaruci ate this as well, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“He still isn’t satisfied,” the householder reflected once again. So he said, “Noble one, will you eat some more?”

“If, gracious sir, you have any food to spare,” Dharmaruci said.

The householder took food and drink from his cart and, thinking, “This should be enough for three monks,” began to serve him again. Dharmaruci ate this as well, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“Noble one, will you eat some more?” he asked.

“If you have any food to spare,” Dharmaruci said.

The householder then took food and drink from his cart and, thinking, “This should be enough for four monks,” began to serve him once again.

Dharmaruci ate this as well, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“Noble one, will you eat some more?” he asked.

“If you have any food to spare,” he said once again.

Again he took food and drink from his cart, this time what should have been enough to satisfy five monks, and again he began to serve him. Dharmaruci consumed this as well, but he still wasn’t satisfied. This happened again and again. Finally he consumed what should have been enough food and drink for ten monks, and yet he still wasn’t satisfied.

Then the householder reflected, “This isn’t a man. This isn’t any kind of man at all! It’s said that the Jeta Grove is filled with five hundred dark-clothed yakṣas.36 This must be one of them!” With this in mind,15 he began to send home his young family: “Go right home, quickly! I’ll deal with this myself, whether I live or die.” After he sent off his family, the householder, afraid as he was to die, took more food and drink from his cart and began to serve Dharmaruci. Dharmaruci ate as much as he liked.

The householder said, “Noble one, quickly—accept this food.”

So Dharmaruci immediately accepted the food and began to eat. [239] The householder served him faster and faster, giving him all that there was to eat and drink from his cart. Then, so seized was he with terror, that without even waiting to hear the assignment of the reward from the offering, he said, “Noble one, I praise you!” and then set out for the city as fast as he could, never looking back.

A monk whose task it was to bring almsfood from the city returned with alms he had brought specially for Dharmaruci. Dharmaruci ate that food as well. Since birth, Dharmaruci’s stomach had never been full. And yet, on this day, that food satisfied him.

Meanwhile the Blessed One, surrounded by the community of monks, came face to face with that householder as he was entering the city. The householder said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, for the sake of the community of monks led by the Buddha, I filled up my cart with enough food and drink to satisfy five hundred monks. Then I went to the Jeta Grove with the intention of feeding the community of monks led by the Buddha. But I didn’t find those monks there. Instead I saw only one monk. He explained to me that the community of monks led by the Buddha had been invited for a meal and had gone off to eat at someone’s home. This thought occurred to me: ‘At least this one monk may eat.’ Then, by and by, I gave him all the food and drink from my cart. He consumed every single bit of it. Blessed One, was he a human being or not?”

“Householder,” the Blessed One said, “he is a monk named Dharmaruci. You should be pleased. From your food and drink, he is now satisfied, and soon he will directly experience arhatship.”


When the Blessed One returned to the Jeta Grove, he reflected, “What donor could ever support Dharmaruci with this much food every day?”

Therefore the Blessed One said to Dharmaruci, “Dharmaruci, have you seen the great ocean?”

“No, Blessed One, I haven’t,” he said.

“Take hold of the edge of my robe,” the Blessed One said. “I will show you the great ocean.”

Dharmaruci grabbed hold of the edge of the Buddha’s robe. Then, like a royal goose with outstretched wings, the Blessed One made use of his magical powers, and in the space of a single thought, he arrived at the seashore with Dharmaruci in tow. The Blessed One brought Dharmaruci to that place where the skeleton of what had been the sea monster Timitimiṅgila still remained and set him down. [240]

Then he said to him, “Go, my son. Concentrate on this object.”

Dharmaruci began to look it over. “What is this,” he thought, “a piece of driftwood or a mass of bones?37 Or is it a plank of wood?” Not getting a clear sense of its size, he began to look for its endpoints. But he just couldn’t grasp its size.38 And while trying to determine its size, moving here and there and on both sides of the thing, he became exhausted. He couldn’t find an end to it.

It occurred to him: “I’m not about to understand what it was that was this big by asking myself, ‘What is this?’ Nor will I reach its end. I’ll go and ask the Blessed One himself about it.” Then he went before the Blessed One and asked him, “Blessed One, what is this? I can’t figure out what it was that was this big.”

“My son,” the Blessed One said to him, “this is a skeleton.”

“Blessed One,” he asked, “is there such a being with a skeleton like this?”

Then the Blessed One said, “Rejoice, Dharmaruci, in the different states of existence! Rejoice in the means that lead to these states of existence!39 This is your skeleton.”

When Dharmaruci heard these words of the Blessed One, he was perplexed and said, “A skeleton like this is mine?”


“Dharmaruci,” he said to him, “this is your skeleton.”

Hearing this, Dharmaruci was shocked.40

Then the Blessed One gave him these instructions: “Dharmaruci, concentrate on this and this alone.”

With that said, the Blessed One, like a royal goose with outstretched wings, made use of his magical powers and arrived back at the Jeta Grove.

Then Dharmaruci, thinking and practicing concentration, passed through [the four stages of the path of application]—the heat stage, the summit stage, and the tolerance stage, followed by the highest worldly dharma stage—and then through the path of seeing and the path of cultivation. He obtained the reward of the stream-enterer, then the reward of the once-returner, followed by the reward of the nonreturner, and finally he obtained arhatship. Becoming an arhat,41

he was free from attachment in the three realms;

he regarded clods of earth and gold as equal in value;

he possessed equanimity toward the sky and the palm of his hand;

he cast off passion and repugnance;

the eggshell [of his ignorance] was broken by knowledge;42

he obtained the special knowledges, superhuman faculties, and analytic insights;

he was averse to worldly attainments, temptations, and honors;

and he didn’t distinguish between being cut by a blade and being anointed with sandalwood paste.

He became worthy of respect, honor, and obeisance from the gods, including Indra and Upendra.

He began to focus his attention on his previous lives—“From where did I die and pass away? Where was I reborn?” He saw many hundreds of his lives. He had died and passed away from the realms of hell, the animal realm, and the realm of hungry ghosts and been reborn once18 again. It occurred to him, “If the Blessed One hadn’t turned his attention to me, [241] I’d still have more lives to pass through in the future.” Then he reflected on what would have been the continuous flow of his life in the future, a constant, uninterrupted cycle of rebirths in hell realms and the realm of hungry ghosts. Having reflected in this way, he thought, “Oh! The Blessed One has done for me something that is very difficult to do. If the Blessed One had achieved unsurpassed perfect awakening just for my sake, it would have been a very great deed. Yet he has led many thousands of beings away from rebirth in the terrible realms of existence!” Then, making use of his magical powers, Dharmaruci arrived at the Jeta Grove to see the Blessed One.

At that time the Blessed One was sitting down in front of an assembly of many hundreds of monks and discoursing on the dharma. Meanwhile Dharmaruci approached the Blessed One. Having approached, he placed his head in veneration at the Blessed One’s feet and then sat down at a respectful distance. Sitting down at a respectful distance, he was addressed by the Blessed One.

“It’s been a long time [since we met], Dharmaruci.”

“Yes, it’s been a long time, Blessed One,” Dharmaruci said.

“It’s been a very long time,19 Dharmaruci,” the Blessed One said.

“Yes, it’s been a very long time, Blessed One,” Dharmaruci said.

“It’s been an incredibly long time, Dharmaruci,” the Blessed One said.

“Yes, it’s been an incredibly long time, Blessed One.” Dharmaruci said.

Some monks in doubt asked the Lord Buddha, the remover of all doubts, “Blessed One, Dharmaruci was born right here in Śrāvastī, and in this very place, the Jeta Grove, he went forth as a monk. He didn’t come from someplace else and never went anyplace else. And yet, while Dharmaruci was standing right here, the Blessed One said, ‘It’s been a long time [since we met], Dharmaruci. It’s been a very long time, Dharmaruci. It’s been an incredibly long time, Dharmaruci.’ What was the Blessed One talking about?”

In response, the Blessed One addressed the monks: “Monks, I wasn’t talking about the present. I was talking about the past. What I said was about the past. Monks, do you want to hear a dharma story about the former karmic bonds of Dharmaruci?”

“Yes, Blessed One. It is the right time and the right occasion, Sugata, for the Blessed One to tell the monks a dharma story about Dharmaruci. Hearing such a story from the Blessed One, the monks will keep it in mind.” [242]

Kṣemaṅkara Buddha, the Guildmaster, and the Powerful Fighter

Long ago, monks, in a time gone by, in the first incalculable age, there arose in the world a tathāgata named Kṣemaṅkara (Safety Maker),

who was perfect in knowledge and conduct,

a sugata,

a knower of the world,

an unsurpassed guide for those in need of training,

a teacher of gods and humans,

a buddha,

and a blessed one.

He stayed near the capital called Kṣemāvatī (Safe Place). And in Kṣemāvatī there ruled a king named Kṣema (Safety). And in the capital Kṣemāvatī there also resided a certain guildmaster43 of the merchants. He provided the perfectly awakened Kṣemaṅkara and the community of monks with all their necessities for sixty44 rainy seasons.

The guildmaster reflected, “I will go to the great ocean. I’ll gather up my goods, sell them in exchange for jewels, and arrange a quinquennial20 festival for the community.” After thinking this over, he gathered up his goods, and after passing through marketplaces, villages, towns, trading centers, and capitals, one after another, arrived at the ocean. There he had bells rung to proclaim his intention and then set sail in the great ocean on an ocean-going ship.

As he set sail in the great ocean, the perfectly awakened Kṣemaṅkara, who had finished performing all the duties of a buddha, passed into the realm of remainderless nirvāṇa. After he had passed into final nirvāṇa, those monks who were in complete control of themselves also passed into final nirvāṇa. Seven days after the perfectly awakened Kṣemaṅkara passed into final nirvāṇa, his doctrine disappeared.

Now that guildmaster, after successfully completing his voyage, which had been favored by deities and spirits, returned from the great ocean. Having come ashore, he loaded up his goods on carts, camels, cows, and donkeys and in due course set off. Going along the road, he asked some people coming in the opposite direction, “Friends, do you know what’s happening in the capital Kṣemāvatī?”

“Yes, we know,” they said.

“Is the perfectly awakened buddha named Kṣemaṅkara there?” he asked.

“The Blessed One, the perfectly awakened Kṣemaṅkara, has passed into final nirvāṇa,” they said.

When he heard this, the guildmaster was grief-stricken. He fainted and fell to the ground. Splashed with water, he regained his senses and was revived.45 Then he got up and asked, “Friends, do you know if at least the disciples of the Blessed One are still there?”

“Those monks were also in complete control of themselves,” they said. “They too passed into final nirvāṇa. Seven days after the Lord Buddha Kṣemaṅkara passed into final nirvāṇa,46 [243] his doctrine disappeared. Then King Kṣema had a simple shrine constructed for the perfectly awakened Kṣemaṅkara.”47

The guildmaster then went to the capital and asked some people, “Friends, has any stūpa been constructed for the Lord Buddha?”


“Yes,” they said. “King Kṣema had a simple shrine constructed for him.”

Then it occurred to the guildmaster, “I brought this gold for the perfectly awakened Kṣemaṅkara, but he has passed into final nirvāṇa. I really should use this gold to renovate the Blessed One’s shrine so that it’s even more special.” With this thought in mind, he informed King Kṣema, “Your majesty, I brought this gold

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