Child Support

1.8 (8) Saṅgāmaji (Saṅgāmaji Sutta)

Thus has it been made known. At one time the Blessed One was residing near Sāvatthī, at the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. It was during that time when Venerable Saṅgāmaji arrived in Sāvatthī to listen to the Dharma-Lord’s discourse. Meanwhile, his former wife heard that he was staying in the vicinity and thus tracked him down with his child in tow.

As Venerable Saṅgāmaji was meditating at the root of a certain tree his wife approached him and spoke thus: “I have our little child with me, recluse; you need to support us both.” Venerable Saṅgāmaji remained silent. Persistent, she addressed him a second time and yet a third, “Don’t you hear me? You need to own-up to your responsibilities and support your wife and child!” But on both counts the Venerable Saṅgāmaji chose to remain silent.

In frustration due to his lack of response she placed the child-down beside him and as she walked away said, “Look! Your little son is sitting beside you—you need to support him!” The Venerable Saṅgāmaji neither acknowledged the child’s presence nor spoke to him. Finally, after she had walked some distance, the wife turned around and seeing that he still would not respond became flabbergasted and said, “Look! This fool recluse does not even want his son!” With that, she returned and soon left with the boy.

Witnessing all that had transpired, the Blessed One with his Divine Eye—superior and surpassing all human imperfection—uttered the following verse:

He experienced no joy with her coming,
And he grieved not when she left;
Behold! A true victor, freed from the ties that bind,
This is an Arahant indeed!

Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park: Anāthapiṇḍada. (P. Anāthapiṇḍika; T. Mgon med zas sbyin; C. Jigudu zhangzhe; J. Gikkodoku chōja; K. Kŭpkodok changja 給 孤 獨 長 者). In Sanskit, “Feeder of the Defenseless”; a wealthy merchant from the city of ŚRĀVASTĪ who became such a great patron of the SAṂGHA that the Buddha declared him to be chief among laymen (UPĀSAKA) in his munificence. His personal name was Sudatta; Anāthapiṇḍada was a sobriquet suggesting his philanthropic qualities. Anāthapiṇḍada’s father-in-law introduced him to the Buddha, and he was quickly converted, becoming in the process a stream-enterer (SROTAĀPANNA). Anāthapiṇḍada built numerous dwellings, guest houses, and residential parks for the Buddha and his monastic order and was unstinting in his donation of requisites. The most famous of the residences he built was the JETAVANA park on the outskirts of Śrāvastī, which he purchased from the prince JETA (Jetakumāra) by covering the entire property with gold coins.

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 3753-3766). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Saṅgāmaji: This particular name at the end of the story reveals its play on words: Literally, it means a victor in battle—a compound of Saṅgāma (battle) and -ji (victor)—but the Buddha also extracts from the first member of the compound the word saṇgā›, which means “from the tie.” (Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

Divine Eye: Seeing into the nature of things regardless of obstructing time and space; this also has to do with clairvoyant and all siddhic-like abilities that transcend the usual norms of perception. This occurs on the Sambhogakayic plane.

In the culture it was generally accepted that when someone left the householder life, one was then free to embrace the solitary lifestyle. This happened in Shakyamuni’s life and the same with the character here in the story. The woman was going above and beyond this tradition. Apparently at one time Saṅgāmaji was quite taken with her and so when he left she was the worse for wear. The woman was attempting to use the son as a ploy to get him back, but he was having none of it. Many would consider this to be a most irresponsible behavior, but given the acceptance of the general standards this was not the case. His ascetic side clearly won the day and the Buddha was in complete concurrence. Clearly this is not a story for today’s politically-correct culture.

1.9 (9) Jaṭila Ascetics (Jaṭila Sutta)

Thus has it been made known. At one time the Blessed One was residing near Gayā, on Gayā Peak. It was during this junction that a group of ascetics, during the cold winter months of “Between-the-Eights” while it was snowing, were partaking in an ascetic-action of jumping up and down in cold water whilst simultaneously pouring the cold water over their heads. While they were engaged in this action and performing the fire-sacrifice, they exclaimed to one another, “In this manner we shall become pure!” 

The Blessed One, witnessing these Jaṭila Ascetics engaging in this action, gave the following utterance:

It is not by water that one is cleansed,
It is rather whomever has embraced the Buddhadharma,
That one is marvelously purified and an Arahant indeed!

Jaṭila Ascetics: matted-hair ascetics usually engaged in fire worship.

Gayā Peak: a hill to the southwest of the town of Gayā. (Ireland)

Between-the-Eights: The “Eights” are the waning half-moon days (each on the eighth day of the waning cycle) after three of the full moons in the cold season. These are the dates of brahmanical ceremonies for making merit for the dead. The period between the first and last of these dates—the “Between-the-Eights”—is regarded in northern India as the coldest part of the year. (Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

This story is juxtaposed with the previous one to indicate the nature of the two extremes: holding fast to the household life above all else, and being engaged in extreme ascetical practices. In Buddhism, the Buddhadharma is the proper compass in which to embrace the middle-path to both extremes. It is thus the Buddhadharma that frees one from the snares of samsara, and it is the Right Choice that negates unhealthy and severe ascetic castigation.

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