Sakka and the Poor Man
In times past, they say, Kassapa the Supremely Enlightened One, accompanied by a retinue of twenty thousand monks freed from the taints, paid a visit to Benares. Thereupon the residents, mindful of the fame they should acquire thereby, united in bands of eight or ten and presented the visiting monks with the customary offerings. Now it happened one day that the Teacher, in rejoicing with the merits of the donors at the end of the meal, spoke as follows: “Lay disciples, here in this world one man says to himself, ‘It is my bounden duty to give only that which is my own. Why should I urge others to give?’ So he himself gives alms, but does not urge others to give. That man, in his future states of existence, receives the blessing of wealth, but not the blessing of a following. Another man urges others to give, but does not himself give. That man receives in his future states of existence the blessing of a following, but not the blessing of wealth. Another man neither himself gives nor urges others to give. That man, in his future states of existence, receives neither the blessing of wealth nor the blessing of a following, but lives as an eater of remnants. Yet another man not only himself gives, but also urges others to give. That man, in his future states of existence, receives both the blessing of wealth and the blessing of a following.”
Now a certain wise man who stood there heard this and thought to himself, “I will straightaway act so as to obtain both blessings for myself.” Accordingly he paid obeisance to the Teacher and said, “Reverend sir, tomorrow receive alms from me.” – “How many monks do you wish me to bring?” – “How many monks are there in your following, reverend sir?” – “Twenty thousand monks.” – “Reverend sir, tomorrow bring all your monks and receive alms from me.” The Teacher accepted his invitation.
The man entered the village and announced, “Men and women, I have invited the Order of Monks presided over by the Buddha to take a meal here tomorrow; each and all of you give to as many monks as you are able.” Then he went about inquiring how many each could provide for. “We will supply ten”; “We will supply twenty”; “We will supply a hundred”; “We will supply five hundred,” they replied, each giving in proportion to their means. All of the pledges he wrote down in order on a leaf.
Now at that time there lived in this city a certain man who was so poor that he was known as Prince of Paupers, Mahāduggata. The solicitor, meeting him face to face, said also to him, “Sir Mahāduggata, I have invited the Order of Monks presided over by the Buddha for tomorrow’s meal; tomorrow the residents of the city will give alms. How many monks will you provide for?” – “Sir, what have I to do with monks? Monks need rich men to provide for them. But as for me, I possess not so much as a small measure of rice wherewith to make porridge tomorrow; what have I to do with monks?”
Now it behoves a man who urges others to give to be circumspect; therefore when the solicitor heard the poor man plead his poverty as an excuse, instead of remaining silent, he spoke to him as follows, “Sir Mahāduggata, there are many people in this city who live in luxury, eating rich food, wearing soft clothes, adorned with all manner of adornments, and sleeping on beds of royal splendour. But as for you, you work for your living and yet get scarcely enough to fill your belly. That being the case, does it not seem to you likely that the reason why you yourself get nothing is that you have never done anything for others?” – “I think so, sir.” – “Well, why do you not do a work of merit right now? You are young, and you have plenty of strength; is it not your bounden duty while you are earning a living to give alms according to your ability?” Even as the solicitor spoke, the poor man was overcome with emotion and said, “Write my name on the leaf for one monk; no matter how little I may earn, I will provide food for one monk.” The solicitor said to himself, “What is the use of writing one monk on the leaf?” and omitted to write down the name.
Mahāduggata went home and said to his wife, “Wife, tomorrow the residents of the village will provide food for the Order of Monks. I, also, was requested by the solicitor to provide food for one monk; therefore we also will provide food for one monk tomorrow.” His wife, instead of saying to him, “We are poor; why did you promise to do so?” said, ‘Husband, what you did was quite right. We are poor now because we have never given anything; we will both work for hire and give food to one monk.” So both of them went out to look for work.
A rich merchant saw Mahāduggata and said to him, “Sir Mahāduggata, do you wish to work for hire?” – “Yes, your honour.” – “What kind of work can you do?” – “Whatever you would like to have done.” – “Well then, we are going to entertain three hundred monks; come, split wood.” And he brought an axe and a hatchet and gave them to him. Mahāduggata put on a stout girdle and, exerting himself to the utmost, began to split wood, first tossing the axe aside and taking the hatchet, and then tossing the hatchet aside and taking the axe. The merchant said to him, “Sir, today you work with unusual energy; what is the reason for it?” – “Master, I expect to provide food for one monk.” The merchant was pleased at heart and thought to himself, “It is a difficult task this man has undertaken; instead of remaining silent and refusing to give because of his poverty, he says, ‘I will work for hire and provide food for one monk.’ ”
The merchant’s wife also saw the poor man’s wife and said to her, “Woman, what kind of work can you do?” – “Whatever you wish to have done.” So she took her into the room where the mortar was kept, gave her a winnowing-fan, a pestle, and so on, and set her at work. The woman pounded the rice and sifted it with as much joy and pleasure as if she were dancing. The merchant’s wife said to her, “Woman, you appear to take unusual joy and pleasure in doing your work; what is the reason for it?” – “Lady, with the wages we earn at this work we expect to provide food for one monk.” When the merchant’s wife heard this, she was pleased and said to herself, “What a difficult task it is that this woman is doing!”
When Mahāduggata had finished splitting the wood, the merchant gave him four measures of rice as pay for his work and four more as an expression of goodwill. The poor man went home and said to his wife, “The rice I have received for my work will serve as a supply of provisions for us. With the pay you have earned procure curds, oil, wood, relishes, and utensils.” The merchant’s wife gave the woman a cup of ghee, a vessel of curds, an assortment of relishes, and a measure of clean rice. The husband and wife between them therefore received nine measures of rice.
Filled with joy and satisfaction at the thought that they had received food to bestow in alms, they rose very early in the morning. Mahāduggata’s wife said to him, “Husband, go seek leaves for curry and fetch them home.” Seeing no leaves in the shop, he went to the bank of the river. And there he went about picking up leaves, singing for joy at the thought, “Today I shall have the privilege of giving food to the noble monks.”
A fisherman who had just thrown his big net into the water and was standing close by thought to himself, “That must be the voice of Mahāduggata.” So he called him and asked, “You sing as though you were overjoyed at heart; what is the reason?” – “I am picking up leaves, friend.” – “What are you going to do?” – “I am going to provide food for one monk.” – “Happy indeed the monk who shall eat your leaves!” – “What else can I do, master? I intend to provide for him with the leaves I have myself gathered.” – “Well then, come here.” – “What do you wish me to do, master?” – “Take these fish and tie them up in bundles to sell for a shilling, sixpence and a penny.”
Mahāduggata did as he was told, and the residents of the city bought them for the monks they had invited. He was still engaged in tying up bundles of fish when the time came for the monks to go on their rounds for alms, whereupon he said to the fisherman, “I must go now, friend; it is time for the monks to come.” – “Are there any bundles of fish left?” – “No, friend, they are all gone.” – “Well then, here are four redfish which I buried in the sand for my own use. If you intend to provide food for the monks, take them with you.” So saying he gave him the redfish.
Now as the Teacher surveyed the world on the morning of that day, he observed that Mahāduggata had entered the net of his knowledge. And he considered within himself, “What is going to happen? Yesterday Mahāduggata and his wife worked for hire that they might provide food for one monk. Which monk will he obtain?” And he came to the following conclusion, “The residents will obtain monks to entertain in their houses according to the names written on the leaf; no other monk will Mahāduggata obtain, but only me.” Now the Buddhas are said to show particular tenderness to poor men. So when the Teacher, very early in the morning, had attended to his bodily needs, he said to himself, “I will bestow my favour on Mahāduggata.” And he went into the Perfumed Chamber and sat down.
When Mahāduggata went into his house with the fish, the Yellowstone Throne of Sakka, king of the gods, showed signs of heat.  Sakka looked about and said to himself, “What can be the reason for this?” And he considered within himself, “Yesterday Mahāduggata and his wife worked for hire that they might provide food for one monk; which monk will he obtain?” Finally he came to the following conclusion, “Mahāduggata will obtain no other monk than the Buddha, who is sitting in the Perfumed Chamber with this thought in his mind, ‘I will bestow my favour on Mahāduggata.’ Now it is Mahāduggata’s intention to offer the Tathāgata a meal of his own making, consisting of porridge and rice and leaf-curry. Suppose I were to go to Mahāduggata’s house and offer to act as cook?”
Accordingly Sakka disguised himself, went to the vicinity of his house, and asked, “Would anyone like to hire a man to work for him?” Mahāduggata saw him and said to him, “Sir, what kind of work can you do?” – “Master, I am a man-of-all-work; there is nothing I do not know how to do. Among other things I know how to cook porridge and boil rice.” – “Sir, we need your services, but we have no money to pay you.” – “What work is it you have to do?” – “I wish to provide food for one monk and I should like to have someone prepare the porridge and rice.” – “If you intend to provide food for a monk, it will not be necessary for you to pay me. Is it not proper that I should perform a work of merit?” – “If that is the case, very well, sir; come in.” So Sakka entered the poor man’s house, had him bring the rice and other articles of food, and then dismissed him, saying, “Go and fetch the monk allotted to you.”
Now the solicitor of alms had sent to the houses of the residents the monks according to the names on the leaf. Mahāduggata met him and said to him, “Give me the monk allotted to me.” The solicitor immediately recollected what he had done and replied, “I forgot to allot you a monk.” Mahāduggata felt as if a sharp dagger had been thrust into his belly. Said he, “Sir, why are you ruining me? Yesterday you urged me to give alms. So my wife and I worked all day for hire, and today I got up early in the morning to gather leaves, went to the bank of the river, and spent the day picking up leaves. Give me one monk!” And he wrung his hands and burst into tears.
People gathered about and asked, “What is the matter Mahāduggata?” He told them the facts, whereupon they asked the solicitor, “Is it true, as this man alleges, that you urged him to hire himself out for service to provide food for a monk?” – “Yes, noble sirs.” – “You have done a grave wrong in that, while making arrangements for so many monks, you failed to allot this man a single monk.” The solicitor was troubled by what they said and said to him, “Mahāduggata, do not ruin me. You are putting me to great inconvenience. The residents have taken to their several houses the monks allotted to them according to the names written on the leaf, and there is no monk in my own house whom I can take away and give to you. But the Teacher is even now sitting in the Perfumed Chamber, having just bathed his face; and without are seated kings, royal princes, commanders-in-chief, and others, waiting for him to come forth, that they may take his bowl and accompany him on his way. Now the Buddhas are accustomed to show particular tenderness to a poor man. Therefore go to the monastery, pay obeisance to the Teacher, and say to him, ‘I am a poor man, reverend sir. Bestow your favour on me.’ If you have merit, you will undoubtedly obtain what you seek.”
So Mahāduggata went to the monastery. Now on previous occasions he had been seen at the monastery as an eater of remnants of food. Therefore the kings, royal princes, and others said to him, “Mahāduggata, this is not meal time. Why do you come here?” – “Sirs,” he replied, “I know it is not meal time; but I have come to pay obeisance to the Teacher.” Then he went to the Perfumed Chamber, laid his head on the threshold, paid respectful obeisance to the Teacher, and said, “Reverend sir, in this city there is no man poorer than I. Be my refuge; bestow your favour on me.”
The Teacher opened the door of the Perfumed Chamber, took down his bowl, and placed it in the poor man’s hands. It was as though Mahāduggata had received the glory of a Universal Monarch. Kings, royal princes, and others gasped at each other. Now when the Teacher presents his bowl to a man, no one dares take it from him by force. But they spoke thus, “Sir Mahāduggata, give us the Teacher’s bowl; we will give you all this money for it. You are a poor man; take the money. What need do you have of the bowl?” Mahāduggata said, “I will give it to no one. I have no need of money; all that I desire is to provide food for the Teacher.” All without exception begged him to give them the bowl, but failing to get it, desisted.
The king thought to himself, “Money will not tempt Mahāduggata to give up the bowl, and no one can take from him the bowl which the Teacher has given to him of his own free will. But how much will this man’s alms amount to? When the time comes for him to present his alms, I will take the Teacher aside, conduct him to my house, and give him the food I have made ready.” This was the thought in his mind even as he accompanied the Teacher.
Now Sakka, king of gods, prepared porridge, rice, leaf-curry, and other kinds of food, made ready a seat worthy of the Teacher, and sat down awaiting the arrival of the Teacher. Mahāduggata conducted the Teacher to his house and invited him to enter. Now the house in which he lived was so low that it was impossible to enter without bowing the head. But the Buddhas never bow their heads in entering a house. When they enter a house, the earth sinks or the house rises. This is the fruit of the generous alms they have given. And when they have departed and gone, all becomes as before. Therefore the Teacher entered the house standing quite erect, and having entered, sat down on the seat prepared by Sakka. When the Teacher had seated himself, the king said to Mahāduggata, “Sir Mahāduggata, when we begged you to give us the Teacher’s bowl, you refused to do so. Now let us see what sort of alms you have prepared for the Teacher.”
At that moment Sakka uncovered the dishes and showed the porridge, rice, and other kinds of food. The perfume and fragrance that arose enveloped the whole city. The king surveyed the porridge, rice, and other foods, and said to the Exalted One, “Reverend sir, when I came here, I thought to myself, ‘How much will Mahāduggata’s alms amount to? When he presents his alms, I will take the Teacher aside, conduct him to my house, and give him the food I have myself prepared.’ But as a matter of fact, I have never yet seen such provisions as these. If I remain here, Mahāduggata will be annoyed; therefore I will depart.” And having paid obeisance to the Teacher, he departed. Sakka presented the porridge and other food to the Teacher and faithfully ministered to his needs. After the Teacher had eaten his meal, he returned thanks, rose from his seat, and departed. Sakka made a sign to Mahāduggata, who thereupon took the Teacher’s bowl and accompanied him.
Sakka turned back, stopped at the door of Mahāduggata’s house, and looked up at the sky. Thereupon there came down from the sky a rain of the seven kinds of jewels. The jewels filled all the vessels in his house and the very house itself. When there was no room left in the house, they took the children in their arms, carried them outside, and stood there. When Mahāduggata returned from accompanying the Teacher and saw the children standing outside the house, he asked, “What does this mean?” – “Our whole house is filled with the seven kinds of jewels, so much that there is no room to go in.” Mahāduggata thought to himself, “Today I have received the reward of the alms I have given.” Thereupon he went to the king, made obeisance to him, and when the king asked him why he had come, he said, “Your majesty, my house is filled with the seven kinds of jewels; accept this wealth.” The king thought, “This very day have the alms given to the Buddhas reached their consummation.” And he said to the man, “What must you have to remove the jewels?” – “Your majesty, it will require a thousand carts to remove all of this wealth.” The king sent out a thousand carts and had the wealth removed and dumped in the palace court. It made a heap as high as a palm tree.
The king assembled the citizens and asked them, “Is there anyone in this city who possesses so much wealth as this?” – “There is not, your majesty.” – “What ought to be done for a man possessed of so much wealth as this?” – “He should be given the post of treasurer, your majesty.” The king bestowed high honour upon him and gave him the post of treasurer. Then he pointed out the site of a house occupied by a former treasurer, and said to him, “Have the bushes that are growing there removed, build a house and reside in it.”
As the ground was being cleared and levelled, urns of treasure came to light with their brims touching each other. When Mahāduggata reported this to the king, the latter said, “It is through your merit that these urns have come to light; you alone shall have them.” When Mahāduggata had completed the house, he gave alms for seven days to the Order of Monks presided over by the Buddha. Thereafter, having lived out his allotted term of life in the performance of works of merit, Mahāduggata was reborn at the end of his life in the world of the gods. After enjoying celestial glory for the space of the interval between the appearances of two Buddhas, he passed from that state of existence in the dispensation of the present Buddha, and was conceived in the womb of the daughter of a rich merchant of Sāvatthī, a supporter of the Elder Sāriputta.
Sori, gak sempat translate....