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Meṇḍaka

A very rich householder of Bhaddiya-nagara in Aṅga. He was the father of Dhanañjaya and, therefore, the grandfather of Visākhā. He was one of the five Treasurers of Bimbisāra. When the Buddha visited Bhaddiya, Meṇḍaka, with the help of Visākhā, entertained him and the monks, and, after listening to the Buddha, he became a Stream-winner. DhA.i.384 ff; he had been earlier a follower of the heretics. The heretics tried in vain to stop him from visiting the Buddha; AA.i.219 f.

It is said (Vin.i.240 f; also PSA.509; DhA.iii.372 f; Vism.383; the accounts differ slightly ) that when he went to his granaries after his ceremonial bath, as he stood at the door, showers of grain would fall from heaven and fill the stores. His wife, Candapadumā, would cook one measure of rice and one curry and serve the food, ladle in hand. As long as there were people coming to receive the food, so long would the food cooked be un-exhausted. Meṇḍaka’s son, Dhanañjaya, would put one thousand pieces into a purse and give money from this purse to all who needed it, and at the end of the day the purse would remain full. His daughter-in-law, Sumanadevī, would sit by a basket containing four doṇa of seed paddy and distribute from this supply among the servants, enough to last for six months, but the supply of paddy would remain unexhausted. Meṇḍaka’s slave, Puṇṇaka, ploughed his fields with a golden plough. With every furrow so ploughed, six other furrows would appear, three on either side, each one ammaṇa wide. These five people came to be known as the five of great merit (pañca mahāpuññā). When Bimbisāra heard of this, he sent his minister to Bhaddiya with a fourfold army and discovered that it was true.

When the Buddha left Bhaddiya for Aṅguttarāpa, Meṇḍaka gave orders to his servants and followed the Buddha with abundant provisions of all sorts, entertaining the Buddha and his monks with luxurious food and fresh milk. At the end of the meal, Meṇḍaka provided the monks with ghee and butter for their journey. At first the monks were unwilling to accept the gifts, but the Buddha, at Meṇḍaka’s request, allowed them to do so (Viii.i.243 ff).

Meṇḍaka was so called (“Ram”) because, behind his house, in a yard eight karīsa in extent, some golden rams pranced up and down, as big as elephants, horses or bulls, hoofing the earth, smiting each other back to back. Whenever Meṇḍaka needed food or garments or money, he would place balls of coloured thread in the mouths of the rams, and when he pulled these out, there would follow them all that he needed (PSA.504; BuA.24).

All this was because of good deeds done in the past by Meṇḍaka. In the time of Vipassī Buddha, he was a householder named Avaroja. He had an uncle of the same name, and when the latter proposed building a Gandhakuṭi for the Buddha, his nephew wished to help with it. However, the uncle refused his help. He therefore built an Elephant Hall (kuñjarasālā) opposite the Gandhakuṭi. In the middle of the hall was a jewelled pavilion with a seat for teaching, which contained a foot rest, all this supported by golden rams. At the festival of dedication, he gave alms for four mouths to sixty-eight hundred thousand monks and presented them with sets of three robes each, the robes given to the novices being worth one hundred thousand. After many births, he was born in this age as the treasurer (seṭṭhi) of Bārāṇasī.

One day, when on his way to the palace, he met the chief priest (purohita), who told him that there would be a famine in three months. Profiting by this warning, the Treasurer exerted himself to collect all possible grain and store it in every available place. The famine came, and for many months the Treasurer and his retinue lived on the stored grain, but, in the end, the supplies were exhausted, and most of them, acting on his advice, went to the mountains in search of food. He, his wife, his son and daughter-in-law and a slave remained behind. One day, his wife cooked a nāļī of rice which she had hidden away and divided it into five portions. As the family were about to eat, a Pacceka Buddha came to the door for alms; they all gave him their portions of food and made various wishes. As a result of these earnest wishes, Meṇḍaka and the members of his family and his slave possessed the supernatural powers above mentioned. During the afternoon, after the Pacceka Buddha had had the food, the Treasurer felt very hungry and asked his wife if there were any lumps of rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. She went into the kitchen to the pot and found it full of fragrant food. From that time their supply of food never failed. DhA.iii.363 ff; but according to DhA.iv.203, Meṇḍaka’s name in the time of Vipassī Buddha was Aparājita. He was a nephew of that Aparājita who, in this life, became Jotiya seṭṭhi. (See also Divyāvadāna, pp.123 ff., 131 ff.).

Meṇḍaka’s grandson was Uggaha (q.v.)

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