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Jun, 2004

 Ananda and the Merchants of Rajgir


by Baksheesh the Madman
June, 2004


Thus have I heard. Once while seated in a cool grove near the City of Rajgir with Ananda, and beholding the shining city peopled with the people of Rajgir, the World-Honoured One spake thus:

"Ananda, this City of Rajgir has much wealth, if I am not correct."

"Yea, World-Honored One, much wealth indeed," replied Ananda.

"Ananda," asked the World-Honoured One, "are there many monks in the Sangha?"

"Yea, World-Honored One,” replied Ananda, "there are very many monks in the Sangha, as many as the inhabitants of a small city."

"Ananda," asked the World-Honoured One, "do these very many monks in the Sangha need such things as robes, sandals, food and shelter?"

"Yea, World-Honoured One," replied Ananda, "all of the monks in the Sangha require robes, sandals, food and shelter."

The World-Honoured One asked further, "Ananda, is much wealth required to care for the needs of the Sangha?"

Ananda answered, "Yea, World-Honored One, much wealth is needed to care for the needs of a Sangha that numbers as many monks as there are inhabitants in a small city."

The World-Honoured One asked further, "Ananda, have you spoken to the wealthy men of Rajgir, those skilled in crafts, in the making and distribution of valuable goods, in the creating of every pleasant and costly thing, concerning the needs of the Sangha? Have you spoken to those merchants blessed with the golden touch of Indra, who turn poverty to riches at the touch of their hand, to help them rise to greater merit and splendor by donating their riches to the Sangha?"

Then Ananda leaned forward to the World-Honoured One, smiling in a pleased fashion, and in lowered voice said, "World-Honoured One, indeed have I done these things. I have arranged the affairs of the Sangha so that the merchants of Rajgir, in order to ascend in closeness to your World-Honoured Presence, must compete in generosity to increase in merit. Thus have I induced the wealthy people of Rajgir to care for the needs of the Sangha."

The World-Honoured One asked further, "Ananda, is this the reason why you have on this day a more beautiful robe than the other members of the Sangha, is this why your sandals have a most pleasing style of workmanship, and your skin is delightfully scented?"

"Yea, World-Honoured One," replied Ananda, "rightly have you ascertained the source of these things, for from the greater abundance I have brought to the Sangha by my skill in handling the men of Rajgir, I have taken a small amount to purchase those robes and sandals and scented oils which I require in order to be fit for the company of the men of Rajgir, whose customs, as you have observed, are notable for their refinement."

"Ananda," asked the World-Honoured One then, "are you known as the World-Honoured One?"

"No," replied Ananda, revealing his right shoulder and inclining his head to the ground to show his respect, "World-Honoured One, only you are known as the World-Honoured One. I am known as the Bikkhu Ananda."

"Am I rightly known, Ananda, as the World-Honoured One?" asked the World-Honoured One.

"Yea," replied Ananda, "you are rightly called the World-Honoured, for all the world honours you, and rightly you are called the One, for you alone receive this recognition."

"Verily," replied the World-Honoured One to Ananda, "you speak rightly. I am the World-Honoured One, and you are not, because the World-Honoured One would not have done as you have done with the merchants of Rajgir, and one who does as you have done with the merchants of Rajgir would not be called the World-Honoured One, for he would not be honoured by all the world. Do you know, Ananda, why this is so?"

"No, World-Honoured One," replied Ananda, "I do not know why the act of providing for the needs of the entire Sangha could not be honoured by all the world."

"The reason, Ananda," replied the World-Honoured One, "why this act could not be honoured by all the world is because the merchants competing for merit would thereby be moved to jealousy, and others who have no means of acquiring such merit, would be moved to further jealousy, and therefore conduct such as yours with the merchants of Rajgir cannot conduce to universal honour. Do you perceive, Ananda, that this is so?”

“World-Honoured One,” replied Ananda, “I was only trying to help the Sangha to propagate the Dharma, relieving some of us who handle the administrative work from the burden of daily begging.”

“Ananda,” replied the World-Honoured One, “Before you became Bikkhu Ananda, were you a beggar?”

“No,” replied Ananda, “I was not a beggar, World-Honoured One, I was wealthy like yourself.”

“Ananda,” continued the World-Honoured One, “Do you wish to be wealthy again?”

“No,” replied Ananda, “I wish to be a Bikkhu and to follow your World-Honoured Self.”

“Then,” replied the World-Honoured One, “You must give up this notion that begging is to obtain wealth. Begging is to obtain poverty, not wealth. Do you understand, Ananda?”

“Yea, World-Honoured One, I understand.” Ananda then rose respectfully on one knee and supplicated before asking, “And now, World-Honoured One, may I respectfully take my leave?”

“Where are you going, Ananda?” replied the World-Honoured One.

“Oh,” replied Ananda, “No place special, I just have to cancel a party.”

Thus have I heard.