‘Don’t delay in doing good’
When a person wants to give in charity, do not hesitate do it
quickly. Remember, if one procrastinates, delay or postpone action, the
Reward will come slowly and sparingly. Mind is peculiar. It takes
pleasure sometime doing evil deeds. If you are slow or lazy to perform
Good Deeds, you may not be able to do it all. This is the normal pattern
and human psychology.
in doing good. Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
During the Buddha was living in Jetavanaramaya Monastery, there was a
husband - a Brahmin and his wife. They had only one upper garment.
They share this upper garment between the two of them. Therefore both
of them could not go out together. If the wife goes to Jetavanaramaya to
listen to Buddha, she goes during day time wearing the upper garment. In
the night, husband wears it and go to meet the Buddha. The husband’s
name was Chulla.
He was popularly known as Chulla Ekasataka, one day, when the husband
heard the Dhamma, and he desired to offer the upper garment to the
But selfishness overcame him. Throughout the night he thought about
offering. The Sataka, Upper Garment and finally one day he offered it to
Buddha. He was so overjoyed he shouted in the assembly “I have won - I
have won - I have won.”
On this particular day King Pasenadi Kosala was present in the
audience. His security officers questioned Chulla Ekasataka and he
explained that as he was in cloud nine, he shouted in that manner.
King Pasenadi Kosala highly appreciated Chulla Ekasataka gesture and
Brahamin was offered a cloth. The Brahmin donated it to Buddha. In this
manner, Brahmin offered clothes to Buddha.
Pasenadi Kosala was so taken up, the Brahmin was offered pieces of
He made two copies. Gave one to Buddha to be used in the
Gandhakutiya-perfumed chamber. The other one he kept at home. King
recognised the canopy and he was pleased.
The king offered seven kinds in fours as reward. Four elephants, four
horses, four female slaves, four male slaves, four errand boys, four
villages and four thousand in cash (Sabbacatukka).
The monks questioned Buddha about this matter.
Buddha replied “If the Brahmin offered the outer garment in the first
instance, he would have been rewarded with sixteen of each. So when
wants to give charity one should do quickly. If one procrastinates the
reward comes slowly. Thus he utter this stanza in Dhammapada – Papa
Vagga verse number 116. Abittharetha Kalyane – Papa uttam nivaraye
Dandham hi Karoto punnam – Papasmim ramati mano
Make haste in doing good; keep your mind away from evil. He who is
slothful in doing good tends to lean towards evil.
The contemporaries of the Buddha
Brahmanism prevailed in India during 800 CE to 500 CE. The term
Brahmanism is reserved for the early phase of religion, in which ritual
sacrifices offered by the priestly caste (Brahmins) were the dominant
form of orthodox religious practice.
The term thus denotes the early form of the religion subsequently
known to the west as Hinduism (Keown, 2003). The Brahmins occupied the
dominant, powerful and elite class in the Indian society which was very
intricate and complex during this era.
The Vedas (a collection of religious literature in Sanskrit, dating
from approximately 1200BCE and forming the foundation of the orthodox
scriptures of Hinduism) guided their religious beliefs and practices.
Only the Brahmins had access to the Vedas.
The term ‘Veda’ derives from the Sanskrit root ‘vid’ to know and the
texts are believed to be the repository of ultimate truth as revealed by
the devas (gods). Veda is also used to refer to what is most probably
the most ancient part of each Veda, the Samhitas or hymns and prayers
that make up the first of the four broad stages into which the Vedas are
generally divided (Pannikar 1977).
The four Vedas comprise more than 20,000 hymns. The teachings of the
Vedas are secular. The Vedas proclaim fundamental truths of all subjects
science, philosophy, ethics, theology in short all that man endeavours
to know. They contain the quintessence of man. The Vedic hymns (richas)
are mostly in the form of a prayer or an invocation, yet each and every
hymn has a definite message for the guidance of human conduct.
There are four types of Vedas; the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama
Veda and the Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda covers Reality, the creation of
the universe and human behaviour. It is the oldest of the Vedas and
contains over 10,000 verses in the form of over 1000 hymns. These are
written in various meters. The priests used to sing these at the
It includes the Gayatri mantra that is sung in Hindu houses. Yajur
Veda consists of sacrificial formulae of the Adhvaryu priests, and many
of these are also taken from the Rig Veda. It consists of two parts, the
Sukla (White) that consist of verses and the Krisna (Black) consists of
meaningful explanations of the verse.
The verses are sung in praise of gods. Sama Veda contains chants and
melodies (sa:man) chanted by priests of that name when they perform
religious function Atarveda bears a popular character than the other
three Vedas because of the many prayers against ills, incantations and
spells which it contains.
Atarva Veda comprises three parts namely, Gnana (knowledge), Karma
(action) and Upa:saka (yearning for blessings). Generally speaking the
Vedic hymns are full of glories of divinities (Bharadwaj, 1997). Apart
from the Vedas the Aryan literature was a repository of Brahmana,
Upanishad, Purana, Ramayana and Mahabaratha.
The Brahmana offered interpretations to the Vedic mantras. Upanishads
deal with ethics, metaphysical topics and various levels of existence.
The Upanishads are also known as the Vedantha (end of the Veda). They
represent the mystical and philosophical culmination of the Vedas. They
contain the teachings of the great masters which point towards the path
of moksha or liberation (Pannikar, 1977).
The Puranas are the oldest history books and Vishnu Puranaya is one
that covers the history of the Mauriyas. The Purana texts contain
legends about the birth of the universe, creation of human beings and
mythology. Bhagvatta, among the Puranas (about the sixth century AD),
contains the beautiful poems of Jayadeva (12th century) Lilasuka
(1250-1300) and Chaitanya (1476-1533) The cult of Krishna is embodied in
The Bhagavata cult commended the path of devotion (bhakti) to some
personal deities (Siva, Vishnu, Durga or minor gods like Ganesa,
Subramaniya, Hanuman and forms of Devi). Although the great two epics
Ramayana and Mahabaratha are national epics in Sanskrit in India, with a
remarkable religious flavour, these depict the cultural aspects as well
as the beliefs of the people. Mahabaratha wants us to make a choice
between survival and extinction.
In particular the Bagavad Gita (the Song of God) which appears in the
Mahabaratha, addresses itself to man and tells him how to live
meaningfully, peacefully and purposefully.
Its message ‘Trouble not the world and, allow not the world to
trouble you’ is valid for all the time for all the people.
The Gita tells us that survival can only be in terms of the quality
of life Survival needs to be goal oriented, purposeful, and enlightened.
(Rao, 1999). While the Upanishads deal elaborately with Shardha (faith),
in the Gita, Bhakthi (devotion) is enshrined. In the Gita, Krishna in
His message has emphasized on the harmony of different ideas and non
attachment (Vivekananda, 1963).
The Brahamana persuasion relied heavily on Vedic tradition,
especially on ritualistic aspects which were costly and the ordinary
people were unable to perform. The common people disliked the sacrifice
of useful animals that supported their farming and agricultural work.
The Brahmins conducted their rituals in Sanskrit language which the
commoners could not understand at all. The society was fragmented into
four castes and the lowest of them (the Sudras) were deprived of human
as well as religious rights.
They were not permitted to drink water from a public water source.
Those in the higher strata heavily exploited the basic human rights of
those occupying the lower social positions. Very often the Brahmins who
were the advisors to the rulers almost ruled the land according to their
whims and fancies as they were the most dominant and most powerful
privileged few of the social structure.
Customarily the feeding of Brahmins was the responsibility of the
higher castes of people except the lowest ‘Sudras’. Once a Brahmin
called Assalayana has described to the Buddha of the greatness of the
Brahmins as “The Brahmins are the greatest and the rest (low castes) are
low. Brahmins are white (sukla) and the rest dark (warna kruhnaya).
The Brahmins are pure and they are sons of Brahmas (Brahmaputra) and
born of Brahma, they are born from his mouth, because they are born from
his mouth they are known as Brahamaja, because they are created by
Brahma they are called Brahma-nirmita.
They live with the help of Brahma and thus known as Brahma-da:yada”
(The Assala:yana Sutta). The social system prevailed on the foundation
of chatur varna (concept where the Brahmins formed the highest caste).
Next came the Kshatryyas (the noble or warrier caste) The third class
was occupied by the Vaisyas (the merchants) and the last was Sudras.
They were like slaves who lived in poverty and misery. The sixth century
BC is looked upon as a period when innovations in religious thinking,
social living and spiritual aspirations began to sprout out.
There were ascetics who practiced asceticism and monastics who were
searching moksha (liberation). They were known as sramana (a striver, a
mendicant, or homeless wonderer). Before the time of the Buddha, such
individuals constituted a movement of religious seekers who rejected the
orthodox teachings of Brahmanism and typically formed themselves into
small groups around a particular teacher or leader.
It is out of this amorphous community that groups like Jains,
A:jivakas and Buddhists subsequently emerged. In the Pali Cannon, the
Buddha is referred to as ‘the samana Gotama’ and the Indian religious
community is summed up in the phrase ‘Samanas and Brahamanas’ referring
to unorthodox and the orthodox religious practitioners respectively
There were Brahmins like Saccaka, Ambattha, Sonadanda, Kutadanda,
Pottapada Payasi, Subhiya and Sela who were adept in the Three Vedas who
came to argue with the Buddha and tried to defeat or displease him.
Subhiya was so pleased with the Buddha’s knowledge and the way. He
answered his questions that Subhiya became a devotee and a refugee of
the Tipple Gem.
There were old contemporary religious leaders during Buddha’s time.
They were Jinna, Vuddha, Mahallaka, Addhagatha and Anuppatta. But he
respected them. Once an elderly mature Brahmin called Veranja called
upon the Buddha and blamed the Buddha that the Buddha did not respect
the elderly learned Brahmins by worshipping them.
The Buddha replied “I do not see anyone either among gods or men who
should be honoured by me by worshipping and by other gestures. A person
does not deserve to be honoured merely because of his hair is grey. If
someone possesses truth, righteousness’, non-violence, restraint, wisdom
and absence of blemishes, such people should receive veneration as
elders.” (Sarada 1998).
During The Buddha’s time there were groups of hermits who were in
constant search of salvation. The Paribrajakas or Parivrajakas strongly
opposed the Brahmin practices. They were hermits who grouped together
and spent their time without any expectation or any aim in life.
They used to discuss about the creation of the world and the end of
life and questioned about the body and the soul (atman). Most of them
practiced severe austerities. (Attakilamathanuyogaya). They had long
beards, nails, matted hair and were awfully dirty.
Some wore animal skins and they did not have permanent dwellings.
They were wondering ascetics. The two chief disciples of the Buddha
Sariputta and Moggalana previously have been followers of Sanjaya the
Paribbajaka teacher. One Paribajaka teacher. One Parribajaka called
Nigroda who welcomed the Buddha in discussing religious matters finally
became a disciple of the Buddha.
To be continued
Sujith looked at the full Poson moon. He was smiling happily. Its
golden rays shredded through making beautiful patterns on their small
garden. A few white clouds floated lazily, changing their shapes every
minute. The two paper lanterns hanging on the sepalika tree shone with
the soft rays of the moon. He sat on the door step and started thinking
about the incidents that happened...
Sujith was a poor fatherless boy. He saw his neighbours making
preparations to celebrate Poson. He knew the importance of the Poson
Poya, but how could he ask money from his mother to make a paper
lantern? He was too sad to think of what happened to his Vesak lantern.
If I had it, thought Sujith. Why didn’t I listen to mother?
It was on the fourth day after Vesak that he lost his Vesak lantern.
Putha, keep the Vesak lantern inside. We can use it for Poson too, his
mother told him that morning.
I’ll do it when I return from school, he replied.
He was having his lunch when he heard his friends calling him. He ran
after them. The Vesak lantern was still on the sepalika tree.
Unfortunately, an unexpected shower came down and by the time Sujith
returned home, only the broken skeleton of the Vesak lantern was hanging
Good punishment, he sighed, looked up at the sepalika tree and added,
No Poson lantern for you. Now Poson had come: only two days more. An
idea struck him suddenly. I’m sure that I might be able to collect some
remnants of the tissue papers if I go to the temple.
He was correct. The novice bhikkhus were repairing the Vesak
lanterns. Sujith was happy to help them. He could take away some tissue
paper and make a long chain to decorate his house too. Yet he was
feeling sad. I have no lantern, it was his constant thought. His desire
to have a lantern was getting irresistible. The bhikkhus went in to have
their meals and Sujith too was asked to go home and return after lunch.
I’ll stay for a little while, he replied. He touched the lanterns and
his desire was getting worse. What a lot of lanterns! I don’t think they
have counted them. If I take away one, I’m sure nobody will notice it,
he was telling himself. These belong to the temple. I am not stealing
from anyone, he was trying to make his deed excusable.
If somebody sees me? He scratched his head. Well, I’ll say that the
monks gave it to me. Nobody will suspect me. He slowly took one and went
towards the dagaba. He looked about. The whole place was deserted.
He softly tiptoed towards the back of the temple garden and ran home.
He was happy that he went home with no mishap. Yet, his heart was
beating fast. He kept the Vesak lantern under the table and covered it
with an old newspaper.
He started taking his lunch. He was not feeling hungry. Something was
wrong with him. The first mouthful got him choked. He drank some water
and started again. No, he could not eat. He had no appetite. He took his
plate and dropped all its contents at the foot of a coconut tree. A dog
came running and started gobbling the rice.
Sujith wanted to rest for a little while before going back. But he
was feeling uneasy. He wanted to look at the lantern again, but he was
scared even to remove the cover. Something was wrong, but he did not
He knew that his mother would be returning only in the evening. He
was feeling too nervous and edgy to stay alone at home. Temple was the
only place he thought that would make him better even if he had stolen a
lantern from there. He slowly turned towards the temple.
The monks were already at work. Sujith felt guilty as he joined them.
Slowly he felt better when once he engaged whole-heartedly in the work.
Tomorrow morning come and help us to hang these, they said as he was
getting ready to go home.
Sujith, Jamis, the old man who worked at the temple called him.
Nayaka Hamuduruvo is asking for you. His uneasiness re-appeared. He was
finding it difficult to approach the prelate. His legs were shaking. I’m
sure He must have seen me taking the lantern, he mused. He was feeling
guilty. With great difficulty he knelt down at his feet. Sujith, take
that picture, said the Chief Monk pointing to a picture on the table.
Then turning it towards Sujith asked him, do you know what this picture
Yes, Sujith replied slowly. It is the story of Minithale.
Good. Tell me who the people in this picture are.
This is King Dhevanampiyathissa. This is Arahath Mahinda Maha Thera
and his disciples.
Tell me the names of these disciples.
Ittiya, Uttiya, Sambala, Bhaddasala, Sumana Samanera, Bhanduka Upasaka.
Good, said the Nayaka Thero. I am giving this picture to you.
Paste it on a hard paper and hang it on your sepalika tree. Those two
lanterns, he said pointing to the two lanterns on the table, are also
for you. You can take them home. Sujith could not believe his ears. He
could not restrain his guilt anymore. He fell down at the monks feet and
The Prelate looked at him for a few seconds, asked Sujith to stand up
and looked sternly at the boy.
Nayaka Hamudhuruvane, he cried. Forgive me. I can’t take them home. I
am sorry. He started crying.
Why? No secrets now. Tell me from the beginning, said the Prelate.
I stole a lantern from the temple. I took one home when I went for
lunch today, he replied amidst sobbing. A thin smile appeared on the
Why? Is it because you don’t have any lanterns?
Yes, he said and related what happened to his Vesak lantern. My
craving for a lantern was so strong that I stole one from the temple.
But now I feel so guilty that I cannot take these home.
So you see, it is the avarice, the desire, the craving, the lust that
made you a thief. You know the aftermath of your deed too. You have
learnt a lesson. Haven’t you?
Sujith was silent.
Never give in to that craving again. You take home the picture and
one lantern since you have already taken one.
Sujith wiped away his tears.
But you should be punished too.
Sujith looked guiltily at the Chief Monk.
You have a small statue of the Buddha at home, don’t you?
For seven days, every morning and evening, you have to offer flowers
in front that statue and make a determination not to break the second
precept ever in your life. Do you agree?
Yes, he replied. I will repay