Master Lu: Buddhism In Plain Terms

Master Lu | Buddhism in Plain Terms | Episode 6 | A Story in the Buddha’s Time

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I want to tell everyone a story about a man called Sunita, whose job was to carry out the night soil. This is how the Buddha lead him to become a Monk. How the Buddha used his wisdom and patience to help such a person, whose time has come to be ordain as a Buddhist Monk.

During the Buddha’s time, in Shravasti lived a man name Sunita, who is an Untouchable, belonging to the low social status. In the past people say, your surname represents your status in society. Sunita had spent his life disposing night soil to earn a living. In other words, he carried out human waste.

One day, while the Buddha was in Jetavana, he saw that the time had come for Sunita to become spiritually awakened. So, the Buddha took Ananda with him and entered the city of Shravasti, to introduce Dharma to Sunita. At that the time, Sunita was carrying a pot filled with night soil and he was about to dispose of it. In the past, the night soil is taken out of the city and buried into a pit. The Buddha gracefully approaching Sunita from a distance. When Sunita saw Buddha’s serene, solemn and glowing appearance, he couldn’t help but felt embarrassed. He thought to himself, “oh! How dirty I am! I cannot let the Buddha see me like this”. So, he quickly moved off the path. When he was about to walk out of the City gate. Unexpectedly, he encountered the Buddha again. In fact, the Buddha purposefully followed reappeared before Sunita as he knew where he was going. It was the Buddha’s intention to share the Dharma with Sunita. At that time, Sunita was still carrying the pot filled with night soil. He thought to himself that he must hurry up and leave. Anxiously, when he turned around, the pot slammed against the wall and it immediately shattered. The excrement spilled all over his body. It all happened right in front of the Buddha, Sunita was in panic and embarrassment.

The Buddha walked right up to Sunita compassionately, said, “would you like to become a Monk?”.

Sunita thought to himself, “I have never had someone talk to me in such a gentle voice before”. He was moved and replied nervously, “Lord, you were from the distinguished Kshatriya caste and your disciples were all born as upper-class men. I am only an Untouchable, how could I become your disciple like them?”.

The Buddha replied, “the wonders of the Dharma is like pure spring water it could wash away all defilements. It is also like blazing fire, no matter how great or tiny, fine or coarse it can burn away everything. The compassion and equality of the Dharma is great and boundless; regardless of your background, wealth or gender. If you aspire to cultivate your mind, you can gain the ultimate benefits from the Dharma”.

The Buddha’s words of enlightenment were like the breaking dawn that had given Sunita hope and light he’d never experienced before. The thought of wanting to be a Monk sprouted from his mind. The Buddha then told Ananda to take Sunita with him, to the bank of the river outside the city and bathe Sunita, then lead him back to Jetavana.

At Jetavana, Sunita listened to the Buddha’s teachings and his mind was opened, and he immediately gained preliminary fruition. Preliminary fruition is the first stage of awakening.

Just like some of you who have gained preliminary fruition, while others may not there yet, but a stage before that.

Sunita wanted to be a Monk and keenly asked the Buddha to ordain him as a Monk. The Buddha replied, “The Kind-Hearted becomes the Monk! Wilfully hair fells off and put on the Monk robes”. After the Buddha spoke, in a split second, Sunita’s hair fell automatically and was dressed in the saffron robe. Sunita’s immediately appeared solemn and composed like a Monk. When the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths and Bhikkhu Sunita immediately attained Arhathood, the fourth stage of sanctity. His afflictions from a timeless past instantly ceased and he gained supranormal powers.

Meanwhile, the local people of Shravasti heard the news that the Untouchable Sunita was ordained as a Monk. Back then, those who can be ordained as a Monk, mostly are of very noble background such as royal family members. Disparaging views emerged among the locals, however, they were not interested in why the Buddha allowed an Untouchable to become a Monk. People started to gossip, many said, “How does a person from lower castes like him, deserve our respect and offerings? If Sunita enters the city asking for alms, he will pollute our homes”.

The rumour spread very fast, it had made its way to the ear of King Pasenadi. When the King heard the news, he felt contempt but bewildered, so he got into his carriage and took a few servants with him to Jetavana to visit the Buddha.

Once the King and his carriage arrived, the King went to ask the Buddha to help cast away his confusion. The entourage was waiting outside the entrance of Jetavana. At this moment, Bhikkhu Sunita, was sitting on a giant rock outside the entrance, mending his robe. Seven hundred heavenly beings surrounded Bhikkhu Sunita. The King saw this extraordinary scene, he couldn’t help but stare in awe, “this Monk is incredible! Why are there so many heavenly beings around him?”. He approached Bhikkhu Sunita and said, “Venerable Sir, I would like to seek an audience with the Buddha, “could you please convey the message to Buddha know?”. The King didn’t know who this Monk was, had no idea that he Sunita.

Bhikkhu Sunita immediately used his supranormal power and teleported through the giant rock and instantly appeared in front of the Buddha. He then reported to the Buddha, “Lord Buddha, King Pasenadi is currently awaiting outside the entrance and he beseeched you to enlighten him”.

The Buddha replied, “use the supranormal power you just showed to return to the entrance and invite the King inside”.

Bhikkhu Sunita immediately vanished and emerged from the giant rock the same way as water makes its way through the crack unhindered. Bhikkhu Sunita came out of the rock and said to the King that he had conveyed the message and he is invited to come inside. The King was astonished when he saw this distinguished person vanish and emerge from the rock so freely. His previous confusion and negative thoughts were gone. He decided not to ask the Buddha about the Untouchable, instead wanted to know about this distinguished person and how he had gain such amazing supranormal powers.

The King was pondering as he went up to the Buddha, he bowed and walked around in a clockwise direction three times. The King then respectfully retreated and sat down on the side. He asked the Buddha to clear his confusion, “Lord Buddha, the Monk who helped convey my request, has such a great supranormal power. I saw him vanish into a giant rock, just like water seeping into a rock and freely emerge from the rock. Could you please tell me the name of this Monk?”

The Buddha then replied to King Pasenadi, “The Monk with the supranormal power is Bhikkhu Sunita. He was once an Untouchable, who carried night soil in Shravasti. I have ordained him as a Monk and he has attained Arhathood.” After King Pasenadi heard this, the King’s arrogant and haughty thoughts instantly disappeared.  Instead, he was filled with joy and admiration.

The Buddha continued, “Your Majesty, no phenomenon in this world can be separated from karma. Why is that in this world, we find among the poor and rich, lower-class and upper-class, powerful and powerless, those who suffer and those who are fortunate? These all stem from the karmic causes they sowed in their past lives. If in previous lifetimes, a person constantly has wholesome thoughts such as kindness, compassion, humility, respects the Triple Gem and the elderly, and cares for the young and upholds the wholesome deeds of all sentient beings, then in this lifetime, they will be respected by others and be wealthy. Whereas, if in the previous lifetimes, a person was brutal, cruel and arrogant, self-indulgent and didn’t break their bad habits. Then in their future lives, they will suffer the retributions of being poor and disadvantaged. Therefore, your Majesty, karma is the Truth from both worldly and transcendental perspectives”.

King Pasenadi asked the Buddha again “Lord Buddha, what had Bhikkhu Sunita done in his previous lives that led him to be in such a menial and impoverished state in this lifetime? Also, what had he done in his previous lives that enabled him to encounter the Buddha and attain spiritual fruition? Please enlighten me”.

The Buddha replied, “In the past, when Kasyapa Buddha attained nirvana, there were 100,000 Monks. In this group of Monks, there was a Monk serving as the executive administrator of the group. However, due to his illness he often suffered from diarrhoea and frequent urination. Instead of using the toilet outside, he would relieve himself in the room into containers made of gold and silver. He would often abuse his power and order his disciples to dispose of his excrement. Because he held an important position in the group of Monks, he indulged himself, and became extremely arrogant. Whenever he felt a bit unwell, he would succumb to laziness and let himself go. Amongst his disciples that he had ordered, one disciple had already attained the first stage of fruition. Due to this reason, he was born as a lower-caste person for five hundred lifetimes.  Also, would make a living by carrying night soil for others. Even in this lifetime, he remained an Untouchable who helped others dispose of excrement. However, because he was a Monk who observed the precepts, he’s condition had reached maturity in this lifetime and he gets to encounter the Buddha. He devotes himself to learning the Dharma, so he’s completely free from afflictions and contaminants, thus attained Arhathood. Your majesty, do you know who it I was referred to? The one who ordered a sage to dispose of his excrement? That was Bhikkhu Sunita’s previous life”.

After King Pasenadi heard the Buddha’s teaching, he was suddenly enlightened and was filled with Dharma bliss. All his arrogance was gone, and he expressed his heartfelt admiration. “For the Buddha to appear in my lifetime, it is truly wondrous and rare, countless and boundless sentient beings will surely benefit from your teachings and be free from suffering and attain happiness.”

The King’s stood up and walked in front of Bhikkhu Sunita and respectfully kneeled and prostrated before the Monk. The King sincerely repented for the unwholesome thoughts he had towards him.

When the Buddha saw that the pride from King Pasenadi’s had disappeared. The Buddha went further and explained the subtle and wondrous meaning of the Dharma “Whoever practises giving or observes the precepts while still attaching to a form or even desires to ascend to heaven, they are simply practising the teaching of arising and ceasing. This isn’t perfect and complete. Only when they practise all wholesome deeds without attaching to forms. When their minds do not dwell in anything, would they experience the ultimate happiness.”

At this moment, all the people present heard the wondrous and profound teachings of the Buddha. They had all come to their realisation and devoted themselves to diligently learning and practise the Dharma, by following the Buddha’s teachings.

This story is from the Sutra on the Wise and Foolish, Volume 6. The moral of the story is, if you are lazy and you ordered someone who is a more advanced than you are, in their practise. With an arrogant mind, you direct them to do things for you, you are depleting your merit and virtue. In the community of Buddhist Monks and nuns, there are rules, that you mustn’t deplete your merit and virtue. You must do everything on your own, when you order someone else to do it for you, you are depleting your merit and virtue. In other words, don’t ask others to do thing for no reason. Otherwise, your merit and virtue will be depleted.

It all because Sunita had ordered his disciple to dispose of his excrement. And that disciple, had already attained the first fruition, who is a Sage. What is a Sage? They are no longer ordinary people, they are people who will soon ascend to heaven.

So, the Monk didn’t sow a wholesome seed. Sowing an unwholesome seed, he had to suffer the unwholesome consequences. We must use our limited time to create an unlimited future. We must learn to eliminate our negative karma and do no evil. Don’t easily order people to do things for you. The more often you ask others to do things for you, the more you will owe them. If it’s something that you can do, you should do it yourself. If it’s something that you can’t do on your own, you ask others for help and repay with your merit and virtue. You should cherish other people, whenever you can.

If someone has done something for you, simply say, “Sorry and thank you very much”. Your merit and virtue would be lesser reduced.

That’s why you see Buddhist Monks who are reluctant to let others do things for them, that will deplete their merits and virtues.

I hope that everyone as Buddhists practitioners, when possible, do things themselves. Otherwise, when you get older, you will age faster. The less work you do by yourself, the faster your blessings will run out.

I hope that you all could properly use Buddha’s wisdom to change yourself. Truly understand and appreciate, how to resolve your worries and negative karmic affinities. Learn to stay on right faith and right thoughts, along the path of Buddhist practise. All kinds of laziness; all kinds of slackness; and all kinds of afflictions; arise because you lack wisdom. If you have wisdom, you can eliminate all confusion, deviated thoughts and gain fruition in your cultivation. I hope all of you can practise Buddhism diligently. You must strive to attain fruition in this lifetime. This concludes today’s teaching on Buddhism in Plain Terms. Thank you everyone.


< Master Lu: Buddhism in Plain Terms < 白话佛法共修分享