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Hatthaka Āḷavaka

An eminent lay disciple of the Buddha declared foremost among those who gather a following by means of the four bases of sympathy (catūhi vatthūhi parisaṃ saṅganhantānaṃ) (A.i.26). He was the son of the king of Āḷavī (hence his name Āḷavaka), and the Buddha saved him from being eaten by the yakkha Āḷavaka. He was given the name of Hatthaka because he was handed to the Buddha by the yakkha, after the latter’s conversion, and by the Buddha to the king’s messengers. He was thus “handed” from one to another (hatthato hatthaṃ gatattā) (AA.i.212; SNA.i.240).

When he grew up Hatthaka heard the Buddha teach, and, in due course, became a Non-returner (anāgāmī). He was always accompanied by five hundred lay disciples, and was one of seven laymen who had such a following (SA.iii.223). The books record several conversations between the Buddha and Hatthaka. He once saw the Buddha at Gomagga in Sīsapāvana, near Āḷavi, and asked him if he were one of those who lived happily. The Buddha said he was always happy in any circumstances (A.i.136 f). On another occasion the Buddha asked Hatthaka how he could command the allegiance of such a large company. “By the four bases of sympathy,” he answered,

  1. by giving gifts,
  2. by kindly words,
  3. by kindly deeds,
  4. by equality of treatment.

And when Hatthaka had gone, the Buddha praised him for his eminence, in that he possessed eight marvellous qualities:

  1. faith,
  2. virtue,
  3. conscientiousness,
  4. fear of blame,
  5. ability to listen well,
  6. charity,
  7. wisdom,
  8. modesty. (A.iv.218 f; his modesty is especially mentioned elsewhere also e.g., at A.iv.216).

Together with Citta-gahapati, Hatthaka is often held up as an example to be copied by others, (e.g., at S.ii.235; A.i.88; ii.164; iii.451, etc.)

After death, Hatthaka was born in Avihā, there to pass away entirely. From there he once visited the Buddha and tried to stand in his presence, but collapsed and could not remain upright. The Buddha then asked him to create a gross body form, and when he did this he was able to stand. He told the Buddha that he was constantly surrounded by devas wishing to learn the Dhamma from him, and confessed that he had died regretting three things —

  1. of not having seen enough of the Buddha,
  2. of not having heard enough of the Dhamma,
  3. of not having served the Saṅgha enough (A.i.278 f).

In the Buddhavaṃsa (Bu.xxvi.19), Citta and Hatthaka Āḷavaka are mentioned as the chief lay patrons (aggupatthākā) of Gotama Buddha.

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