The Buddha’s Past Life as a Princess in the Ekottarika-āgama

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August 7, 2020
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August 9, 2020

The Buddha’s Past Life as a Princess in the Ekottarika-āgama

In former times there was a king called *Ratnagiri, who governed by relying on the Dharma, without any crookedness, being in control over this realm of Jambudvīpa. At that time there was a Buddha called Ratnaśikhi,  who was a Tathāgata, an arahant, fully and rightly awakened, endowed with knowledge and conduct, a Well Gone One, a knower of the world, a supreme person, a leader on the path of Dharma,   a teacher of gods and humans, called a Buddha, a protector of the world, who had emerged in the world. That king had a daughter called Munī with an exceptional countenance, her face being of the color of peach blossoms, which was all the result of having in previous lives made offerings to Buddhas. At that time that Buddha also had three communal gatherings, [just as the future Buddha Maitreya]. At the time of the first communal gathering of disciples there was a congregation of 168,000  at the second communal gathering there was a congregation of 160,000, and at the third communal gathering a congregation of 130,000. All these were arhants who had eradicated the influxes.  Then that Buddha gave a teaching to his disciples in this way: “Monks, you should mindfully sit in meditation, do not be negligent. Moreover, try to make an effort to study and recite the discourses and the precepts.”

The attendant of that Buddha was called Pūrṇa, he was foremost in learning; just as now with me the monk Ānanda is most excellent in learning. Then the monk Pūrṇa said to the Buddha Ratnaśikhi: “There are many monks whose faculties are dull, who have neither the energy for the task of meditative concentration nor for study and recitation. Wishing for these people to find peace, to what category [of practice] would the Blessed One allocate them now?” The Buddha Ratnaśikhi said: “Suppose there are monks whose faculties are dull and who are not fit for the task of practicing meditation [or recitation]. They should cultivate [the third] of the three activities [that lead] to a superior human condition. What are the three? They are: sitting in meditation, reciting the discourses, and assisting the Saṅgha in its affairs.” In this way, that Buddha gave such sublime teachings to his disciples. At that time there was also an old monk who was not fit for the task of practicing meditation.  Then that monk had this thought: “I have now grown up to be ripe in age, and I am also unable to cultivate the task of meditation [or recitation]. Let me now aspire to practice a task that assists [the Saṅgha].” Then that old monk entered the town of *Marīci to seek for oil to light lamps and come to worship the Buddha Ratnaśikhi daily by illuminating him without interruption.

Then the princess Munī saw this old monk begging in the streets of the town. She asked that monk: “Monk, what are you now seeking for?” The monk replied: “Your royal highness,  please know that I am old and feeble with age, I am not fit for the task of practicing meditation. Therefore I beg for oil to be used to worship the Buddha by continuously venerating him with illumination.” When that lady heard the epithet “Buddha,” she was delighted and thrilled, unable to contain herself. She said to the old monk: “Monk, from now on do not try to beg at any other place. I will myself support and assist you with oil and lamp wicks, completing your generosity.” Then the old monk accepted the offering of that girl and came daily to fetch oil to worship the Tathāgata Ratnaśikhi, keeping up this meritorious deed. He dedicated the offering for his supreme and true awakening, with his own mouth proclaiming: “I am already feeble from age and my faculties are moreover dull, I have no wisdom for the task of practicing meditation. Endowed with the merits of this deed, wherever I am reborn, may I not fall into evil destinies.   May [this merit] in future lives cause me to meet a Buddha, just like now the Tathāgata Ratnaśikhi, not different from [now], and may I also meet a noble assembly just like the noble assembly now, not different from [now], and may I be taught the Dharma just as now, not different from [now].” Then the Tathāgata Ratnaśikhi, knowing what that monk had been thinking in his mind,  promptly smiled,  from his mouth five-colored lights emerged, and he said: “Now, monk, in the future, after innumerable eons, you will become a Buddha called the Tathāgata Dīpaṃkara, an arahant, fully and rightly awakened.” Then the old monk was delighted and thrilled, unable to contain himself. His body and mind became firm with the intention not to retrogress and his facial complexion was superb and exceptional. Then the girl Munī saw that the facial complexion of that monk was extraordinary. She came forward and asked: “Monk, now your facial complexion is very special and exceptional. What is the reason?”

The monk replied: “Your royal highness, please know that the Tathāgata has earlier manifestly sprinkled me with ambrosia.” The girl Munī asked: “How has the Tathāgata manifestly sprinkled you with ambrosia?” The monk replied: “I have been given a prediction by the Tathāgata Ratnaśikhi. He said that in the future, after innumerable eons, I will become a Buddha called the Tathāgata Dīpaṃkara, an arahant, fully and rightly awakened. My body and mind have become firm with the intention not to retrogress. In this way, your royal highness, I have been given a prediction by the Tathāgata.” The princess asked: “Has the Buddha given a prediction about me?” The old monk replied: “Indeed I do not know whether or not he has given a prediction about you.” Then, having heard what the monk had said, the princess mounted a vehicle [adorned] with feathers and gems and approached the Tathāgata Ratnaśikhi. She paid respect with her head at his feet and sat to one side. Then the princess said to the Buddha: “I am now the chief donor of the oil that was required, constantly supporting and assisting [the monk]. Yet, the Blessed One has now given a prediction to that monk, only [for me] he has not manifested a prediction.”

The Buddha said to the woman: “With a female body one cannot be a Buddha, a Pratyekabuddha, Brahmā, Śakra, Māra or a wheel-turning king; these dignities are very lofty and cannot be attained with a female body. If it is your wish to attain these, you should relinquish your dirty embodiment and acquire a pure body.”  The woman paid respect with her head [at the Buddha’s feet] and said: “I shall now relinquish it.” She returned to her house and cleaned herself by taking a bath.   She climbed up a building and formulated the aspiration: “May my filthy body now be for the benefit of hungry and thirsty living beings. I seek to become a male myself and receive a prediction of Buddhahood. Whatever living beings in this troubled world who are blind and have turned their back on what is right, who are inclined towards what is wrong and do not know a Buddha, I shall rescue them.  She threw herself down from up high. Those who saw it were chilled and shivered. Knowing her intention, the Buddha magically transformed the ground so that it became soft as if [receiving her with] a celestial net. Her body was visibly unharmed and had been transformed into a male one. [The widow-become-male] became dizzy with infinite joy, quickly approached the Buddha, and said full of enthusiasm: “Receiving the kindness of the Blessed One, I already gained a pure body. Out of compassion, may I receive a prediction.” The Buddha expressed his praise: “Your courage is extraordinary in the world. You will certainly become a Buddha, do not harbor any doubt about it. When the one who keeps the lamps burning [Dīpaṃkara] has become a Buddha, he will predict your name.”

When [Dīpaṃkara] became a Buddha he in turn gave Muni a prediction, saying  “In the future, after two incalculable eons and ninety-one [regular] eons you will become a Buddha, called Śākyamuni, endowed with the ten epithets.”

 

Ven. Anālayo University of Hamburg and Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts

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