Thursday, July 1, 2010

Association of Jivaka with the Buddha

It could be contemplated that during his daily to Griddhkuta, the calm demeanor and radiant personality of the Buddha prompted Jivaka to strike a conversation with the Buddha. Or perhaps Jivaka was appointed as the physician of the Sangha by Bimbisara himself; and after coming in contact with the Buddha, he grew fond of him. Jivaka’s respect for the Buddha could be gauged from the fact that he gifted a prized possession, a celestial shawl he received from king named Chanda Pradyotha to the Buddha. The Buddha accepted the gift and, as requested by Jivaka, dispensed a sermon on the giving of robes (Vin.i.268-81; AA.i.216). After listening to the discourse, Jivaka attained the first stage of enlightenment, Sotapanna (stream-winner).

After Jivaka became a Sotapanna, he was anxious to visit the Buddha twice a day, but Jivaka being a popular physician was busy the day and the physical distance huge. His house was at the southern corner of the city while veluvana where the Buddha usually stayed was at the Northern end, outside the city which was about 4kms from his residence.

He built a monastery with all its adjuncts in his own Ambavana in Rajgir, which he gave to the Buddha and his monks (DA.i.133; MA.ii.590). As we discussed earlier the Vinaya rules for the sangha were not framed in a day, it was a gradual process of learning of the good, the bad and appropriateness and these were contributed by many. Jivaka had his share of important suggestions which became part of the Vinaya. Free treatment of monks who belonged to Sangha by Jivaka attracted lots of people who could not afford medicine to take refuge in sangha just so that they get free treatment for their illness. On discovering that the Order was thus being used for convenience rather than to seek enlightenment, he asked the Buddha to lay down a rule that men afflicted with certain diseases should be refused entry into the Order (Vin.i.71ff).

Jivaka had gone to Vesali on business and at a monastery there he noticed a few pale, unhealthy looking monks (Vin.ii.119). Jivaka then suggested a number of measures to regulate the day-to-day activities of the monks so that the physical activities can be better managed for the appropriate spiritual journey. These rules included the following: monks should sweep the compound of the monastery and attend to other duties that would exercise their bodies. The Buddha accepted all the suggestions.

Association of Jivaka with the Buddha stared with a professional relationship that soon turned into care and mutual respect. Jivaka took care of the Buddha and the sangha by taking care of the medicinal needs. In the process teachings of the Buddha drew him more closely and then probably he decided to become a lay follower of the Buddha. But before that he wanted to get information on do’s and don’ts of a lay follower, probably he didn’t want to become a lay follower for sake of it but as with a desire to further the cause; with this question in mind he once visited the Buddha when he was in Jivak amravana, Jivaka asked

"Lord, to what extent is one a lay follower (upāsaka)

To which the Buddha replied,

"Jivaka, when one has gone to the Buddha for refuge, has gone to the Dhamma for refuge, and has gone to the Sangha for refuge, then to that extent is one a lay follower."

"And to what extent, lord, is one a virtuous lay follower?"

"Jivaka, when one abstains from taking life, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from lying, and from fermented & distilled drinks that lead to heedlessness, then to that extent is one a virtuous lay follower."

The Buddha laid down several rules forbidding monks from asking for the food that they liked. As a result, they would receive just the sort of meals that ordinary people ate - and that was often meat. If meat was what a householder chose to offer, it was to be accepted without discrimination or aversion. To reject such an offering would be an offense against hospitality and would deprive the householder of an opportunity to gain merit -- and it could not benefit the animal, because it was already dead. Hence the Buddha saw no harm in continuing the tradition but there were rumours on streets in Rajgir and among the mendicants of other sects that animals were purposefully killed for the Buddha. When Jivaka heard of this he tried to clarify it with the Buddha,

Lord, I have heard that animals are slaughtered on purpose for the recluse Gotama, and that the recluse Gotama knowingly eats the meat killed on purpose for him

The Buddha however denied the allegations and said,

Jivaka, I have declared that one should not make use of meat it is seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. I allow the monks meat that is quite pure in three respects: if it is not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk.' (Jivaka Sutta)

Jivaka was declared by the Buddha chief among his lay followers loved by the people (aggam puggalappasannānam) (A.i.26). He is included in a list of good men who have been assured of the realization of deathlessness (A.iii.451; DhA.i.244, 247; J.i.116f).


Next Post: Sirimā, Jivaka’s youngest sister

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