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The story of Princess Sumana Devi

Those days in India, there lived some devoted people who had developed faith in the Lord Buddha. Out of them, Anatha Pindika, the wealthy merchant was considered the foremost alms giver. His former name was Sudaththa. He was a very clever businessman. One day, he went to Rajagaha on business. He was chatting after having dinner at the residence of a merchant in Rajagaha when he heard about the Lord Buddha. The moment he heard the word “the Buddha”, he was elated. His happiness was extreme. “Very rare. Very rare. Yes, I have heard that the Buddhas are born into the world very rarely. If I could see that Buddha and listen to one word of the Dhamma, there is no harm even if I die.” Sudaththa went to his lodge that night with extreme happiness. Actually, he did not fall asleep that night. He was thinking over and over again of the good qualities of the Lord Buddha. He woke up in the middle of the night. He looked around. And found that there was light. He thought the day had dawned and set off to see the Lord Buddha. When he was passing a cemetery he got a little scared. Suddenly it became dark. It appeared as daylight to Sudaththa because of the pleasure that developed in his mind due to thinking of the qualities of the Lord Buddha. Actually, it was still dark. At the time it became suddenly dark Sudaththa stayed still. There was a sound from the sky. Even though one gets hundred elephants or hundred horses A hundred chariots with mares A thousand maidens with jewellery A fraction of a step taken to see Lord Buddha Is worth more than everything mentioned above As soon as he heard those words, he started thinking of the qualities of the Lord Buddha again. The fear left him. Darkness disappeared. He could see the way clearly. The disappearance of light and reappearance of darkness happened three times. He heard the stanza three times. When he was going to Veluvanaramaya the Lord Buddha was seating in the shade of a tree. He called kindly “Sudaththa, come here”. Sudaththa was very happy because Lord Buddha addressed him by his name. He went near Him lying prostrate and worshipped him. He heard the Dhamma from Lord Buddha and became a disciple who had attained the state of Sotapanna. The merchant Sudaththa set off on his return journey to Savatti. The Lord Buddha and the monks who were returning to Savatti were regularly offered alms on the way by Sudaththa. He provided free food to poor people and beggars also during his journey. Because of this, he came to be known as Anatha Pindika. On a later date he thought of constructing a park in Savatti for Lord Buddha. There was a beautiful park belonging to a prince by the name of Jeta. It was neither too far nor too close to Savatti. The place was quiet. Merchant Anatha Pindika’s mind was focused only on prince Jeta’s garden. Prince Jeta loved it very much. He did not want to sell it for anything. One day Merchant Anatha Pindika went in search of Prince Jeta and started pestering him to sell it. Finally, Jeta said “Even if you cover the entire park with gold coins, I will not part with it. Merchant Anatha Pindika then said “OK, prince Jeta, I have bought the garden” The prince Jeta asked “How is that?” Then the merchant said “Why, you said you will not sell it even if gold coins are spread on the ground. From tomorrow morning, I will start spreading gold coins”. Prince Jeta did not believe it. But on the following morning, servants of Merchant Anatha Pindika brought cart loads of gold coins and started covering the park with it. The stock of gold coins got exhausted when a portion of the park remained to be covered. Prince Jeta started thinking “This is very strange. Can a man spend like this even if he has faith? When the coins were being spread the Merchant was smiling happily. It is strange. Hasn’t he got a sense of greed? To spend his earnings like this, he must have received something more valuable than this.” Prince Jeta addressed the Merchant. “I am really amazed by your sacrifice. There is no need to cover the remaining portion. But I have a small request. After you construct the temple, would you like to call it by my name? Merchant Anatha Pindika agreed to it. The park was named Jetawanaramaya. Almost all the members of the family of Anatha Pindika attained some stage out of the four on the path to salvation. What a fortune it would be to see that one’s children, nieces, nephews attain these stages of salvation. Anatha Pindika had that fortune. He had three daughters. Eldest was Subadra, next was Chulla Subadra, Youngest was Sumana Devi. Youngest fell sick. She was nearing death. She started thinking “This life is impermanent. It cannot be kept under one’s control. I must develop the path to understand the Four Noble Truths. My father is mostly concerned with giving alms. What I can give my father is to make him more interested in the Dhamma” While Sumana Devi was thinking on these lines, her father came there in grief because his youngest daughter was sick. He addressed her “My daughter” Sumana Devi replied “Yes, my younger brother”. He looked at her in surprise. He could not understand why she was addressing him as younger brother. He said “Oh my daughter. Is your illness serious? Is that why you are addressing me like that?” She said “No my younger brother. I am not uttering nonsense”. But Anatha Pindika could not understand what his daughter was saying. “Then my daughter, are you not afraid to die?” “No, my younger brother. I am not afraid of death.” Saying so, she closed her eyes and died. The count thought about this deeply. “My doughtier is not a tender girl. She may have meant something deeper. I must ask the Lord Buddha”. After the funeral rites, Anatha Pindika went to see Lord Buddha and informed him about it. The Lord Buddha explained “Oh count, Although Sumana Devi was only a small child, she was very wise. She gave something at the last moment for you to think about. She had attained the stage of Sakadagami, (the second stage on the path to salvation). You are a Sotapanna (first stage). So she is senior to you in the Dhamma. She addressed you as younger brother in order to make it clear to you. She did not do it with a sense of pride. She did that with the intention of getting you interested in the path of the Dhamma. She is born in the heaven of Tusita and is very happy there. What happiness can be got from meritorious deeds?” The Lord Buddha then preached a stanza the meaning of which is given below. When one recollects the merit acquired by him. He will be happy always and enjoy pleasures Man who rejoices thinking that he has performed merits will be very happy when he enjoys in heaven. There is a talk among gods on the following lines “When the Buddha Sasana is flourishing the heavens get filled up. But when the Sasana deteriorates heavens become empty. “There is a big meaning in this statement. That is, most people who seek refuge in the Triple Gem and practice virtue are born in heaven. But many people have a wrong view of gods: There is no use in going to heaven. One cannot perform any meritorious deeds in heaven. Gods cannot attain salvation. They cannot get on to the stages on the path to salvation. This is a very wrong concept. Now, you understand how virtuous people who reached stages of salvation were born in heaven and enjoy heavenly comforts after death. These stanzas also describe it. Therefore, we see that birth in heaven is something that is especially receivable by those who practice the Dhamma. Sumana Devi was born among the gods in Tusita heaven. Now she is living happily. She had attained the stage of Sakadagami in this world. She can complete the balance stages in heaven. If gods cannot attain stages of salvation, will disciples who have reached stages of salvation be born in such heavens? Therefore, people who are not aware of this position fail to get born in heaven. It is a rare thing to be born over and over again in the human world. Only those who perform virtues deeds will be able to be happier in this world as well as the next world. By this stanza that the Lord Buddha referred to, one who has performed merit is the one who attain the stages of salvation. The only path that can be followed for the safety in life is the Noble Eight Fold Path. A disciple with right understanding can definitely develop his path to salvation through virtue, concentration and wisdom. by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero.
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