Significant contributions of royal and common lay supporters to Buddhism during the time of Buddha.
Contributions of royal kings
Active patronage from different royal houses was a major contributing factor to the growth of Sangha, its missionary activities and successful spread of Buddhism. The royal kings provided security for the Buddha and sangha, they built viharas for the sangha to live, built stupas and provide the sangha with other requisites. Admiration for Buddha was obvious when kings and rulers made their claims on his relics after his demise. They were ready to go to battle for them. Dona, the Brahmana divided the relics into 8 equal parts for the 8 rulers to avoid dispute.
King Bimbisara of Magadha
King Bimbisara was the Buddha’s first royal patron who was the founder of the Magadha kingdom. He first met the prince while he was an ascetic on his alms round in Rajagaha and offered Buddha half his kingdom. But Buddha declined the offer and promised the king that he would return to Rajagaha after he was successful in his quest of enlightenment. Buddha returned after 7 years and taught the king dhamma.
i) Offering of Bamboo Grove
King Bimbisara decided that Veluvanarama, Bamboo Grove, also known as ‘The Sanctuary of the Squirrels’ was suitable accommodation and offered it to Buddha and the Sangha. He built a multi-story house and attendants helped in the maintenance of the residence. Buddha spent 6 rainy retreats at Veluvanarama.
ii) Offering of free Medical Service and transport
He appointed his personal physician, Jivaka to take care of medical needs of Buddha and the Sangha. Transport was free for the sangha and all other recluses in his kingdom.
ii) Influence on Sangha order
King Bimbisara also had a great influence on the Buddha with regards to administration:
• Buddha agreed with King Bimbisara that soldiers should not be allowed to join the Sangha and this was made into a rule. This is because king bimbisara mentioned that soldiers are needed to defend the kingdom. • Buddha also took up Bimbisara’s suggestion that Sangha hold uposatha days like the followers of other religious sects.
iv) Buddhist influence on family and subjects
He requested his family, royal officers and subjects to listen to the teachings of the Buddha and practice them in their daily lives. They were not to do any bodily harm to Buddha and any member of the Sangha. King Bimbisara influenced Khema, his chief consort to see the Buddha and listened to his teachings. She joined the order after she saw the impermanence of beauty and vanity of lust. She was known for her great insight.
King suddhodana (Buddha's Father) sent 9 envoys to invite Buddha to kapilavathu but all attained arahantship and did not convey the message to the Buddha. Finally, he sent kaludayi (playmate of Buddha) to ask Buddha to visit him, this was conveyed and Buddha went back to see king suddhodana. He attained different stages of sainthood after hearing the dhamma from Buddha and finally attained arahantship at his deathbed.
The King explained that when the Buddha renounced the world, it was severely painful to him. When his other son Nanda was ordained, he felt the same pain. When his grandson Rahula was ordained, it was even more painful for him. He therefore, requested that the Buddha refuse to ordain a son who has not got the approval of his parents for his ordination. The Buddha acceded to the King’s request and set up a vinaya rule on this.
King Pasenadi Kosala
King Pasenadi was the same age as the Buddha. Another of Buddha’s royal supporters. Pasenadi, son of King Mahakosala; educated in Taxila, was successful in various arts and subjects. He was an able ruler and an efficient administrator.
Meeting the Buddha
His first meeting with Buddha was at Jetavana and became a devotee after a discourse. Pasenadi questioned Buddha’s claim to enlightenment when the other six existing heretical teachers who were more senior had not. Buddha discoursed that just as one would be fearful and respectful of a prince who would be king one day; a young snake which could be poisonous, a small fire which could burn down a forest; so would one respect a young monk who had realized; as he would be able to show the way.
i) Buddha’s Advice and many discourses
The Buddhist texts recorded King Pasenadi’s conversations with the Buddha and his part in the advancement of Buddhism in his kingdom. Their discussions were recorded in Samyutta Nikaya, Kosalasamyutta or the “Connected discourses with the Kosalan”. These discourses benefited many even till now.
ii) Support for the sangha
King Pasenadi’s devotion and admiration to the Buddha could be seen by his fond expression that Buddha and himself were both Kosalans. He would visit Buddha up to 3 times a day, would bow at his feet and worshiped them with kisses.His visit was recorded onto a stone pillar of the southern gateway of the Bhardut stupa.
King Pasenadi spent a great deal in alms giving and various gifts to the Sangha. Kala, his court minister objected to his lavish spending on alms. For that, he was banished. Instead, he was very happy with another minister, Junha who helped him with the alms giving. He even allowed Junha to rule over the kingdom for seven days.
iii) Influence of Buddhism
One of his sons, Brahmadatta joined the Sangha at an early age and became an arahant. His sister, Sumana also joined the order and attained arahantship. King Pasenadi built a monastery called Kajakarama in front of the Jetavana. This was offered to the nuns and Sumana stayed there. Upon the death of his grandmother, he offered her wealth to the Sangha.
King Pasenadi admired the Sakyan clan as Buddha was from that clan. He decided to ask for the hand of a Sakyan lady. He was sent a daughter of Mahanama, a Sakyan chief whose wife was actually a slave woman. Not knowing this, Pasenadi married their daughter; and had a son, Vidudabha. When the truth was discovered, both mother and child lost their royal honors but were reinstated after Buddha preached to Pasenadi the Katthaharika Jataka.
Death According to Majjhima Nikaya Commentary, he was away visiting the Buddha when his son, Vidudabha usurped the throne. King Pasenadi was said to have died outside the city of Savatthi. Canda Pajjota of Avanti
Canda Pajjota became a lay Buddhist devotee after discourses given by Mahakaccayana. Under his royal patronage, Mahakaccayana converted many to Buddhism and established several monasteries. A zealous patron, he offered valuable gifts to the Sangha. He supported the sangha so much that he could go to war for Buddha’s relics.
The lay people supported the sangha by providing basic requisites like food during alms round, clothing for robes, providing shelter by building monasteries and providing medicine for the sangha.
Anathapindika was chief of alms givers. He was famous for his generous support of Buddha and the Sangha. His name means: “One who gives alms (pinda) to the unprotected (a-natha). From early boyhood, he was very generous to the poor and gave away ornaments whenever anybody asked for them.
Meeting the Buddha
In the first year after Buddha’s enlightenment, Anathapindika was on a business trip to Rajagaha. He went out before dawn and overcame his fear and doubts to Sitavana where he found Buddha walking to and fro, meditating. Buddha greeted him and taught him various aspects of his teachings and the Four Noble Truths. He was immediately converted and attained the first stage of sainthood.
Offering of Jetavana
At Savatthi, he looked for a quiet spot for the sangha lodging and found a park belonging to Prince Jeta, son of King Pasenadi. The prince wanted as much gold pieces to cover the park and he spent 18 million, missing a small patch at the entrance. He was about to order for more gold pieces when the prince announced that he would build a mighty gate tower on that spot at his own expense. (optional: Can just say he bought jetavana park from the prince Jeta for the sangha).
Anathapindika spent another 18 million for buildings and furnishings, building individual cells, meeting hall, dining hall, storerooms, walkways, latrines, wells and lotus ponds for bathing and a large surrounding wall. Another 18 million was spent in the festival of dedication, with sumptuous celebration.
He supplied the Sangha at Jetavana with all the necessities. Several hundred monks came daily to his home, a 7-storied building for the noon meal. He continued to upkeep and maintain Jetavana.
When he had been reduced to poverty and felt disappointed that he could no longer provide luxuries for the Sangha, Buddha preached the Velama Sutta to encourage him. Even when he was without much funds, he continued to provide rice gruel for the monks.
In recognition of the services he rendered to the cause of Buddhism, and the construction of Jetavana, the Buddha announced that Anathapindika was the chief of alms givers.
There were 18 discourses recorded in the Pali canon given to Anathapindika. The Buddha gave 14 discourses, another was when Anathapindika asked a question, 1 was when he reported how he had taught others, 2 were instructions from Venerables Ananda and Sariputta. Discourses comprise of basic advice to laity:
• The householder’s path of duty which leads to good repute and heavens…. they are offerings to the Sangha of robes, alms food, lodgings and medicines. • The four kinds of bliss to be won by the householder…. the bliss of ownership, wealth, debtlessness, blamelessness. • The five pleasant and agreeable things, which are rare, ……long life, beauty, happiness, fame and rebirth in the heavens.
Influence of Buddhism on his family
His son followed his father’s generous donations and was known as ‘Little Anathapindika’. His children attained different stages of enlightenment after hearing the dhamma. His son, Kala was married to Sujata, Visakha’s sister. She was very arrogant, ill-treated the servants and did not perform the duties of a wife. On one occasion, Buddha preached to her the 7 kinds of wives (slayer, thief, tyrant, motherly, sisterly, friend, handmaid).
Foremost amongst Buddha’s female lay donors. Her father was the rich millionaire. When she was seven, Buddha visited her hometown. At this first meeting, she was able to win the first stage of sainthood with her 500 girlfriends.
Influence on family members and built monastery
Previously her father-in-law was a follower of naked ascetics. By her tact, wisdom and patience, she gradually succeeded in converting her husband’s household to a Buddhist one.
Migara (her father in law) gave Visakha a valuable golden ornament out of gratitude. One day, she left it in the monastery and decided not to have it any more. She wanted to sell it off but it was too costly to buy. Eventually she decided to redeem it with a cartload of money. Buddha advised her to build a monastery for monks at the Eastern gate.
With the money, she bought land and built a 2-storied building of 1000 chambers with advice from Venerable Moggallana. The monastery was named Pubbarama (Eastern Monastery). Buddha spent 6 rainy retreats here.
She asked for the following 8 boons, which were granted by the Buddha: 1. Supply bathing clothes to monks. 2. Provide meals to visiting monks 3. Provide meals to resident monks. 4. Provide food for sick monks 5. Supply food for those who attend to sick monks 6. Provide medicine to sick monks. 7. Provide gruel to monks. 8. Supply bathing garments to nuns. Jivaka
Son of a Rajagaha courtesan and Prince Abhayarajakumara (King Bimbisara’s son); Jivaka was thrown away at birth. Found to be alive 'jivati' in a basket in rubbish heap and brought up by Prince Abhayarajakumara, and was called Jivaka. He studied medicine and became a very renowned physician, curing difficult cases. He was appointed the Court Physician to King Bimbisara and his consorts.
Medical conditions - Exclusion from joining Sangha
Jivaka provided free medical service for Buddha and the Sangha. Many members of the public afflicted with diseases joined the Order to receive free medical care. They would disrobe once cured. Jivaka then requested Buddha to exclude men afflicted with certain diseases from joining the Order to avoid abuse of the Sangha organisation. The rule continued to this day.
Jivaka also advised Buddha to request monks to exercise as he noticed their pale, unhealthy looks at Vesali.
Jivaka offered his own Ambavana in Rajagaha to Buddha and Sangha as he found the Bamboo Grove too far away. He could then visit the Buddha twice a day.
Influence over Ajatasattu
Jivaka was instrumental in bringing Ajatasattu to meet the Buddha. Ajatasattu then became an ardent supporter of the Buddha and the Sangha; ready to go to war for the Buddha’s relics and was the royal patron of the First Buddhist Council where the Dhamma - Vinaya were recorded for Posterity.
He became a Stream enterer upon listening to Buddha's discourse. He was in the list of good men who have been assured of the realization of deathlessness. But he did not became an arahant because he had been misled by Devadatta ad killed his own father King Bimbisara.