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Vessavaṇa

One of the names of Kuvera, given to him because his kingdom is called Visāṇā.¹ He is one of the Cātumahārājano and rules over the yakkhas, his kingdom being in the north.² In the Āṭānāṭiya Sutta³ he is the spokesman, and he recited the Āṭānāṭiya Sutta for the protection of the Buddha and his followers from the yakkhas who have no faith in the Buddha. He rides in the Nārīvāhana, which is twelve leagues long, its seat being of coral. His retinue is composed of a hundred billion yakkhas.⁴ He is a Stream-winner and his life span is ninety thousand years.⁵ The books record a conversation between him and Veḷukaṇḍakī Nandamātā (q.v.), when he heard her sing the Parāyana Vagga and stayed to listen. When Cūḷasubhaddā wished to invite the Buddha and his monks to her house in Sāketa, and felt doubtful about it, Vessavaṇa appeared before her and said that the Buddha would come at her invitation.⁶

On another occasion,⁷ he heard Uttara Thera teaching the monks in Dhavajālikā on the Saṅkheyya Mountain, near Mahisavatthu, and went and told Sakka, who visited Uttara and had a discussion with him.

Once when Vessavaṇa was travelling through the air, he saw Sambhūta Thera wrapt in concentration. Vessavaṇa descended from his chariot, worshipped the Thera, and left behind two yakkhas with orders to wait until the elder should emerge from his trance. The yakkhas then greeted the Thera in the name of Vessavaṇa and told him they had been left to protect him. The elder sent thanks to Vessavaṇa, but informed him, through the yakkhas, that the Buddha had taught his disciples to protect themselves through mindfulness, and so further protection was not needed. Vessavaṇa visited Sambhūta on his return, and finding that the elder had become an Arahant, went to Sāvatthi and carried the news to the Buddha.⁸

Mention is made of Vessavaṇa’s Gadāvudha ⁹ and his mango tree, the Atulamba.¹⁰ Āḷavaka’s abode was near that of Vessavaṇa.¹¹

Bimbisāra, after death, was born seven times as one of the ministers (paricaraka) of Vessavaṇa, and, while on his way with a message from Vessavaṇa to Virūḷhaka, visited the Buddha and gave him an account of a meeting of the devas that Vessavaṇa had attended and during which Sanaṅkumāra had spoken in praise of the Buddha and his teachings.¹² Vessavaṇa seems to have been worshipped by those desiring children.¹³

There was in Anurādhapura a banyan tree dedicated as a shrine to Vessavaṇa in the time of Paṇḍukābhaya.¹⁴ Vessavaṇa is mentioned as having been alive in the time of Vipassī Buddha. When Vipassī died, there was a great earthquake that terrified the people, but Vessavaṇa appeared and quieted their fears.¹⁵ Vessavaṇa accompanied Sakka when he showed Mahā-Moggallāna around the Vejayanta-pāsāda.¹⁶

As lord of the yakkhas, it was in the power of Vessavaṇa to grant to any of them special privileges, such as the right of devouring anyone entering a particular pond, etc.¹⁷

Vessavaṇa, like Sakka, was not the name of a particular being, but of the holder of an office. When one Vessavaṇa died, Sakka chose another as his successor. The new king, on his accession, sent word to all the yakkhas, asking them to choose their special abodes.¹⁸ It was the duty of yakkhinīs to fetch water from Anotatta for Vessavaṇa’s use. Each yakkhinī served her turn, sometimes for four, sometimes for five months. However, sometimes they died from exhaustion before the end of their term.¹⁹

Vessavaṇa’s wife was Bhuñjatī (q.v.), who, like himself, was a devoted follower of the Buddha.²⁰ They had five daughters: Latā, Sajjā, Pavarā, Acchimatī, and Sutā.²¹ Puṇṇaka was Vessavaṇa’s nephew.²²

The pleasures and luxuries enjoyed by Vessavaṇa have become proverbial.²³ An ascetic named Kañcanapatti ²⁴ is mentioned as having been the favourite of Vessavaṇa.

See also Yakkhā.

Footnotes

¹ D.iii.201; SNA.i.369, etc. ² E.g., D.ii.207.

³ D.iii.194, He was spokesman because “he was intimate with the Buddha, expert in conversation, well-trained.” (DA.iii.962).

SNA.i.379; the teacher’s seat in the Lohapāsāda at Anurādhapura was made in the design of the Nārīvāhana, Mhv.xxvii.29.

AA.ii.718. AA.ii.483. A.iv.162, on his way to see the Buddha.

ThagA.i.46 f. Just as he encouraged the good, so he showed his resentment against the wicked; see, e.g., Revatī.

SNA.i.225; the books (e,g., SA.i.249; Sp.ii.440) are careful to mention that he used his Gadāvudha only while he was still a worldling (puthujjana).

¹⁰ J.iv.324, also called Abbhantaramba (see the Abbhantara Jātaka).

¹¹ SNA.i.240. ¹² D.ii.206 f. ¹³ See, e.g., the story of Rājadatta Thera. ThagA.i.403

¹⁴ Mhv.x.89. ¹⁵ ThagA.i.149

¹⁶ M.i.253, because he was Sakka’s very intimate friend. (MA.i.476).

¹⁷ See, e.g., DhA.iii.74; J.i.128; iii.325 Maghādeva. Sometimes, e.g., in the case of Avaruddhaka (DhA.ii.237), a yakkha had to serve Vessavaṇa for twelve years in order to obtain a particular boon (cf. J.ii.16,17. Three years at J.iii.502). Vessavaṇa sometimes employed the services of uncivilized human beings (paccantamilakkhavāsika), DA.iii.865 f. The yakkhas fear him greatly. If he is angry and looks but once, one thousand yakkhas are broken up and scattered “like parched peas hopping about on a hot plate.” J.ii.399. This was probably before he became a Stream-winner.

¹⁸ J.i.328. ¹⁹ DhA.i.40; also J.iv.492; v.21 ²⁰ D.ii.270.

²¹ For a story about them, see VvA.131 f. ²² J.vi.265, 326.

²³ See, e.g., Vv.iv. 3, 46 bhuñjāmi kāmakāmī rājā Vessavaṇo yathā; MT. 676 Vessavaṇassa rājaparihārasadisaṃ; cf. J.vi.313.

²⁴ J.ii.399.

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