Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

Divine Stories - Selections

Divyāvadāna Part 1

A Summary of the Stories

1. The Story of Koṭikarṇa
Koṭikarṇa-avadāna

The caravan leader Śroṇa Koṭikarṇa encounters people from his hometown who have been reborn as hungry ghosts and sees them experiencing the results of their karma. Asked to intercede on behalf of their family members who aren’t following the true dharma, Śroṇa Koṭikarṇa returns home, does as he has been instructed, and eventually becomes a monk. Śroṇa Koṭikarṇa later meets the Buddha and, following the directions of his instructor, the venerable Mahākātyāyana, asks him questions about monastic regulations.

2.The Story of Pūrṇa

Pūrṇa-avadāna

A wealthy merchant with three sons suffers a serious illness before being cured by a slave girl. As per her request, she bears him a child, who is named Pūrṇa. This son of a slave girl is mistreated by some of his half-brothers, and the household soon splits apart. Though Pūrṇa is now destitute, he is diligent and clever, and in time becomes a wealthy merchant and friend to the king. Pūrṇa eventually becomes a monk, receives teachings from the Buddha, and travels to Śroṇāparāntaka. The rest of the monastic community later meets him in Sūrpāraka, where they have been invited for a meal.

3. The Story of Maitreya
Maitreya-avadāna

The Buddha has the sacrificial post of King Mahāpraṇāda unearthed so that it can be glimpsed by the monastic community, but the monk Bhaddālin barely notices it. In response to questions about Bhaddālin’s behavior, the Buddha tells the story of how and why in the past King Mahāpraṇāda disposed of the sacrificial post. The Buddha then tells a story about the future concerning the Buddha Maitreya and the disappearance of the post, and then another story about previous events that will culminate in Maitreya becoming a buddha.

4. The Story of a Brahman’s Daughter
Brāhmaṇadārikā-avadāna

A brahman’s daughter sees the Buddha and, filled with faith, offers him some barley meal as alms. The Buddha then explains that as a result of her offering she will eventually become a solitary buddha. The woman’s husband hears of this prediction and approaches the Buddha in angry disbelief. The Buddha, however, proves to him the truth of his words, and the brahman becomes a stream-enterer.

5. The Story of a Brahman’s Panegyric
Stutibrāhmaṇa-avadāna

A brahman sees the Buddha and, filled with faith, praises him with a verse. The Buddha then explains that as a result of his offering he will eventually become a solitary buddha. In response to questions about this course of events, the Buddha tells the story of how this brahman in a previous life had likewise offered a verse of praise.

6. The Story of a Brahman Named Indra
Indrabrāhmaṇa-avadāna

A brahman named Indra is told by the Buddha where he can find a post of sandalwood the height of the Buddha. The brahman retrieves it and, with the permission of the Buddha, uses it to celebrate a festival that comes to be known as the Indramaha. In what follows, the Buddha travels to Toyikā and there sits down upon the spot where the Buddha Kāśyapa lies buried, hence creating a site that is doubly venerable. Pilgrims come to venerate the shrine, and the Buddha explains the value of their offerings. A festival is established there that comes to be known as the Toyikāmaha.

7. The Story of a Woman Dependent on a City for Alms
Nagarāvalambikā-avadāna

The venerable Mahākāśyapa accepts the offering of a leprous beggar woman, allowing her to earn great merit. Śakra tries to do likewise, but is thwarted by Mahākāśyapa. Hearing of the results of the leprous beggar’s actions, King Prasenajit tries to replicate her success, but is thwarted by a bowl-carrying beggar, leading to a peculiar assignation of merit by the Buddha. The Buddha then tells of King Prasenajit’s deeds in a past life that resulted in his becoming king.

8. The Story of Supriya
Supriya-avadāna

After paying off a thousand robbers who repeatedly rob the monastic community, the Buddha converts those robbers, and they become monks. The Buddha then tells the story of when he trained those robbers once before in a previous life. He was the great caravan leader Supriya, and after being robbed by those same one thousand robbers, he undertook the arduous journey to find riches that could satisfy everyone’s needs.

9. The Chapter on the Great Fortune of the Householder Meṇḍhaka
Meṇḍhakagṛhapativibhūti-pariccheda

The householder Meṇḍhaka and his family possess great merit, and so the Buddha sets off to their home in the city of Bhadraṅkara to teach them the dharma. Hearing of this, some heretics enact a plan to ruin Bhadraṅkara and make sure that no one meets the Buddha when he arrives there. Nevertheless, the Buddha circumvents their plans and offers teachings to the community that has amassed there.

10. The Story of Meṇḍhaka
Meṇḍhaka-avadāna

The Buddha explains the deeds performed by Meṇḍhaka and his family in a past life that led them to their present condition. The Buddha tells of a famine in the past when Meṇḍhaka and his family offered the little food they had to a solitary buddha and, as a result, came to possess magical powers.

11. The Story of Aśokavarṇa

Aśokavarṇa-avadāna

A bull about be butchered breaks free and comes to the Buddha for protection, and the Buddha purchases his freedom. The Buddha explains that since the bull cultivated faith in him, he will eventually become a solitary buddha. The Buddha then tells of deeds done by the bull in his previous life as a robber that led him to be reborn as an animal.

12. The Miracle Sūtra
Prātihārya-sūtra

Prompted by the evil Māra, six heretics challenge the Buddha to a competition of miracles in the city of Śrāvastī. The Buddha accepts the challenge and agrees to meet after seven days. Meanwhile, King Prasenajit’s brother Kāla is falsely accused of consorting with one of the king’s wives, and his hands and feet are cut off. Ānanda restores them by the power of his words. On the seventh day, the Buddha displays a miracle at Śrāvastī that defeats the heretics. After the heretics flee, the Buddha offers teachings to those who have assembled before him.

13. The Story of Svāgata
Svāgata-avadāna

In the city of Śuśumāragiri, the householder Bodha has a son named Svāgata who turns out to be ill fated, causing death and destruction for his family. Svāgata goes to Śrāvastī and is forced to join the ranks of beggars, suffering greatly because of his bad karma. Svāgata meets the Buddha, who arranges for him to overcome some of his bad karma and become a monk. The Buddha, Svāgata, and the monastic community then travel to Śuśumāragiri, where Svāgata defeats an evil nāga and then returns back to Śrāvastī, where he unknowingly consumes liquor and gets drunk. The Buddha observes this and explains to the other monks what Svāgata did in a past life that has resulted in the difficulties he has faced in this lifetime.

14. The Story of a Wretched Pig

Sūkarika-avadāna

A divine being about to fall from heaven and be reborn as a pig laments his fate, and Śakra, out of compassion, convinces him to take refuge in the Buddha. As a result of his taking refuge, the divine being is reborn among the gods of Tuṣita heaven, a realm even higher than the one Śakra inhabits.

15. The Story of One Foretold to Be a Wheel-Turning King
Cakravartivyākṛta-avadāna

The Buddha observes a monk performing rituals at a stūpa and explains to the other monks that, as a result of this deed, this monk will become a wheel-turning king in a future life. The other monks, not wanting such a fate, refrain from such practices, and then the Buddha offers them instructions.

16. The Story of Two Parrot Chicks
Śukapotaka-avadāna

Two parrot chicks who frequently receive Buddhist teachings are killed by a cat, but not before taking refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the community. In response to a question about their fate, the Buddha explains that they have been reborn among the gods and will one day be reborn as solitary buddhas.

17. The Story of Māndhātā
Māndhātā-avadāna

After making the decision to enter final nirvāṇa, the Buddha tells the story of King Māndhātā. The king, full of hubris, conquered the earth and then the heavens, but then his magical powers were destroyed. The Buddha goes on to explain some of the deeds that Māndhātā did in past lives that resulted in his successes in this one.

 

How to cite this document:
© Andy Rotman Divine Stories (Wisdom Publications, 2008)

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