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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Agriculture was a big part of Buddha’s life

Agriculture was a big part of Buddha’s life
- Lakbima Online
By Ven.Kamal Madhava Thera.

Prince Siddhartha was born to a royal dynasty associated with agriculture. His father who enjoyed a vast yield of clean paddy was named Suddhodana. Servants of other royal families ate naadu rice with a simple curry while the servants in King Suddhodana’s palace enjoyed delicious food made of clean rice. The rice festival marking the gathering of the new harvest was an occasion celebrated by King Suddhodana with elaborate festivity. According to Buddhist literature, Prince Siddhartha who was destined to attain Buddhahood displayed his first miracle on a day when the rice festival or the Vap Magula was in progress.
The ascetic Siddhartha, as he sat cross-legged at the foot of an Esathu tree resolutely determined to attain enlightenment before he rose from that sedentary position was offered a meal of milk rice by Princess Sujatha. That too was a historic blessing bestowed upon the agricultural community.
The Eight-fold Noble Path Arya Astangika Marga which is the foundation of Buddha’s teachings laid down Samma cammantha which included agriculture as a means of rightful earning. This means that Buddha appreciated and advocated tilling the soil to earn a living. At the same time Buddha wandered from place to place to meet farmers to see to their welfare and guide them along the path to cease suffering and his intense and close association with farmers surpasses similar efforts of any other religious teacher in human history. The Buddha was so friendly with farmers so as to visit their households and sometimes when nobody was in the house, to walk into the kitchen and serve himself with a meal of rice. As a result of this intimacy with farmers, they made it a point to venerate the Buddha with the offering of the first meal out of the first harvest from their fields.

Harvesting time

On one occasion, the Buddha visited a farmer just before harvesting time and found the farmer in sorrow because the rain that had fallen the previous night had devastated his entire paddy field that was ready for reaping. The farmer was worried more because he was missing the opportunity to offer the first meal to the Buddha. The Buddha preached and explained to him the uncertainty of the gains and losses due to nature. At the end of the sermon, the farmer attained enlightenment.
The story of “Kasee Bharadvaja” is another interesting case manifesting the Buddha’s relationship with farmers. Kasee Bharadvaja who used to meet Buddha very often, was in the habit of blaming the Buddha for not being engaged in tilling the soil as a means of sustenance instead of doing rounds with the alms bowl. Buddha in reply to Kasee Bharadvaja said that he too engaged himself in sowing as a means of livelihood and he used agricultural equipment. Puzzled with this answer Kasee Bharadvaja begged of the Buddha to show the agricultural equipment used by the Buddha. To this request, Buddha answered thus:
“Sadda beejan thapo vutti -pagngna me yuga nangalan
Hiri eesa mano yoththan - sathime paala paavanan.”

“Saddha ” or devotion is the seed I use to sow in my field.
My rainwater is ‘Thapasa” or strict restrain of sensualities.
The ploughs I use are my pragna or wisdom. Fear and shame to do wrong is the “Yotha” I use in my paddy field.
The Buddha waded across paddy fields throughout the length and breadth of the country to meet people who were destined to be helped by him. Once when the Buddha was walking across a paddy field he saw a wallet lying in the field and the farmer tilling the soil there. Then he turned to Ananda Thera who was accompanying him and asked “Ananda, did you see the serpent lying there. It was uttered to be heard by the farmer who was working in the field.

Story goes...

The farmer on hearing this word looked for the serpent and found the wallet which he picked up and kept aside and continued with his tilling. A while later, the king’s men who were chasing after a robber saw the wallet in the field and took the farmer to task. The farmer explained to the king’s men how he came by the wallet on hearing the Buddha’s speaking of a serpent. Thus the farmer was absolved from a possible charge at the hands of the king’s men.
Again in another instance the Buddha came across a farmer who was tired and hungry in his search for missing cattle from his herd. The Buddha realised the plight of the farmer and offered food from the alms bowl. The farmer after fulfilling his hunger listened to the preaching of the Buddha and succeeded to understanding the Dhamma.
The saffron robe worn by Buddhist monks is designed in the pattern of a paddy field. It came to be so on the advice of the Buddha. This signifies the close ties between Buddhism and agriculture over the past 2550 years.
The Buddhist text “Dhamma Padaya” which is the manual of Buddhism is rich with comparisons taken from agriculture. The Buddha advised that a wise person should control his thoughts like a farmer diverts water to his paddy field. Similarly he said that a leader of a community should find the proper path because his followers will go by the path he chooses like a herd of cattle following the leading ox.
In this way, the farmer and agriculture occupy pride of place in the Buddhist way of life. “Devo Wassathu Kaalena-Sassa sampatthi mewacha” This is the blessing that withstood the test of time in Buddhist culture during the past 2550 years.

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