Etadagga Recipients and Dhammapada Stories (10)
- Dear Friends,
Among Saavaka Bhikkhus, Va”ngiisa Thera was declared by the Buddha as the foremost in explaining the Teaching with ready wit (pa.tibhaanavantaana.m). Va”ngiisa Thera was mentioned in the following Dhammapada story.
Dhammapada Verses (419) and (420)
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verses (419) and (420), with reference to Thera Vangisa.
Once, in Rajagaha, there was a brahmin by the name of Vangisa who by simply tapping on the skull of a dead person could tell whether that person was reborn in the world of the devas, or of the human beings, or in one of the four lower worlds (apayas). The brahmins took Vangisa to many villages and people flocked to him and paid him ten, twenty or a hundred to find out from him where their various dead relatives were reborn.
On one occasion, Vangisa and his party came to a place not far from the Jetavana monastery. Seeing those people who were going to the Buddha, the brahmins invited them to come to Vangisa who could tell where their relatives had been reborn. But the Buddha's disciples said to them, "Our teacher is one without a rival, he only is the Enlightened One." The brahmins took that statement as a challenge and took Vangisa along with them to the Jetavana monastery to compete with the Buddha. The Buddha, knowing their intention, instructed the bhikkhus to bring the skulls of a person reborn in niraya, of a person reborn in the animal world, of a person reborn in the human world, of a person reborn in the deva world and also of an arahat. The five were then placed in a row. When Vangisa was shown those skulls he could tell where the owners of the first four skulls were reborn but when he came to the skull of the arahat he was at a loss. Then the Buddha said,
"Vangisa, don't you know? I do know where the owner of that skull is." Vangisa then asked the Buddha to let him have the magical incantation (mantra) by which he could thus know; but the Buddha told him that the mantra could be given only to a bhikkhu. Vangisa then told the brahmins to wait outside the monastery while he was being taught the mantra. Thus,Vangisa became a bhikkhu and as a bhikkhu, he was instructed by the Buddha to contemplate the thirty-two constituents of the body. Vangisa diligently practised meditation as instructed by the Buddha and attained arahatship within a short time.
When the brahmins who were waiting outside the monastery came to ask Vangisa whether he had acquired the mantra, Vangisa said, "You all had better go now; as for me, I should no longer go along with you." Other bhikkhus hearing him thought he was telling lies, so they went to the Buddha and said, "Venerable Sir! Vangisa is falsely claiming to have attained arahatship." To them the Buddha 'said, "Bhikkhus! Vangisa really knows the death and rebirth of beings.
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
Verse 419. Him I call a brahmana, who knows the death and rebirth of beings in every detail, who is detached, who follows the good practice and knows the Four Noble Truths.
Verse 420. Him I call a brahmana, whose destination the devas or gandhabbas or men do not know who has eradicated moral intoxicants and is an arahat.