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Ambasakkhara

One of the Licchavi chieftains of Vesāli during the Buddha’s time. He was a nihilist by persuasion.

Once while going through the city he saw a beautiful woman. Wishing to possess her, he commandeered her husband’s services and one day ordered him to bring mud and lotuses from a pond three leagues away, his life to be the penalty if he did not return the same evening. Meanwhile Ambasakkhara ordered the guards to shut the city gates earlier than usual. The woman’s husband returned to the city before nightfall, but finding the gates shut, he asked a thief, who was impaled just outside, to bear witness to his having arrived before sunset.

The thief’s uncle had been a pious merchant in Vesāli, but had been beheaded for alleged implication in his nephew’s theft. He had been reborn as a peta, and because of his good deeds he possessed various powers. By reason, however, of having once hidden, in jest, the clothes of a friend who was bathing in the river, he was born naked. Every night he came to see his nephew and encouraged him to go on living, in spite of his impalement, because the peta knew that suffering in hell awaited the thief after death.

When the man with the lotuses asked the thief’s assistance in proving his innocence, he was advised to await the peta’s arrival that night and to get his counsel. This the man did, and when, the next day, he was summoned before Ambasakkhara, he cited the peta as witness for his defence. Ambasakkhara agreed to test the truth of the story, and in the night he saw the peta and learnt all that had happened. Greatly marvelling, he offered to help the peta in getting rid of his nudity. He was asked to seek the holy elder Kappitaka who lived in Kapinaccanā in the Vajji country and give him robes in the peta’s name. This was done, and the peta immediately appeared before them clad in heavenly robes. From that time Ambasakkhara was converted to the faith, and after having listened to a discourse by Kappitaka became a Stream-winner.

The impaled thief was set free and was cured by the royal physician; he later attained to the state of an Arahant. Pv.45‑57; PvA.215‑44.

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