The Curse of Mittavinda
[Chapter 1. Jealousy]
Once upon a time, there was a monk who lived in a tiny monastery in a little village. He was very fortunate that the village rich man supported him in the monastery. He never had to worry about the cares of the world. His alms food was always provided automatically by the rich man.
So the monk was calm and peaceful in his mind. There was no fear of losing his comfort and his daily food. There was no desire for greater comforts and pleasures of the world. Instead, he was free to practice the correct conduct of a monk, always trying to eliminate his faults and do only wholesome deeds. But he didn’t know just how lucky he was!
One day an elder monk arrived in the little village. He had followed the path of Truth until he had become perfect and faultless.
When the village rich man saw this unknown monk, he was very pleased by his gentle manner and his calm attitude. So he invited him on to his home. He gave him food to eat, and he thought himself very fortunate to hear a short teaching frm him. He then invited him to take shelter at the village monastery. He said, “I will visit you there this evening, to make sure all is well.”
When the perfect monk arrived at the monastery, he met the village monk. They greeted each other pleasantly. Then the village monk asked, “Have you had your lunch today?” The other replied, “Yes, I was given lunch by the supporter of this monastery. He also invited me to take shelter here.”
The village monk took him to a room and left him there. The perfect monk passed his time in meditation.
Later that evening, the village rich man came. He brought fruit drinks, flowers and lamp oil, in honor of the visiting holy man. He asked the village monk, “Where is our guest?” He told him what room he had given him.
The man went to the room, bowed respectfully, and greeted the perfect monk. Again he appreciated hearing the way of Truth as taught by the rare faultless one.
Afterwards, as evening approached, he lit the lamps and offered the flowers at the monastery’s lovely temple shrine. He invited both monks to lunch at his home the next day. Then he left and returned home.
In the evening, a terrible thing happened. The village monk, who had been so contented, allowed the poison of jealousy to creep on to his mind. He thought, “The village rich man has made it easy for me here. He provides shelter each night and fills my belly once a day.
“But I’m afraid this will change because he respects this new monk so highly. If he remains in this monastery, my supporter may stop caring for me. Therefore, I must make sure the new monk does not stay.”
Thinking in this way, he lost his former mental calm. His mind became disturbed due to his jealousy – the fear of losing his comfort and his daily food. This led to the added mental pain of resentment against the perfect monk. He began plotting and scheming to get rid of him.
Late that night, as was the custom, the monks met together to end the day. The perfect monk spoke in his usual friendly way, but the village monk would not speak to him at all.
So the wise monk understood that he was jealous and resentful. He thought, “This monk does not understand my freedom frm attachment to families, people and comforts. I am free of any desire to remain here. I am also free of any desire to leave here. It makes no difference. It is sad this other one cannot understand nonattachment. I pity him for the price he must pay for his ignorance.”
He returned to his room, closed the door, and meditated in a high mental state throughout the night.
The next day, when it was time to go collect alms food frm the supporter of the monastery, the village monk rang the temple gong. But he rang it by tapping it lightly with his finger nail. Even the birds in the temple courtyard could not hear the tiny sound.
Then he went to the visiting monk’s room and knocked on the door. But again he only tapped lightly with his finger nail. Even the little mice inside the walls could not hear the silent tapping.
Having done his courteous duty in such a tricky way, he went to the rich man’s home. The man bowed respectfully to the monk, took his alms bowl, and asked, “Where is the new monk, our visitor?”
The village monk replied, I have not seen him. I rang the gong. I knocked at his door, but he did not appear. Perhaps he was not used to such rich food as you gave him yesterday. Perhaps he is still asleep, busily digesting it, dreaming of his next feast! Perhaps this is the kind of monk who pleases you so much!”
Meanwhile, back at the monastery, the perfect monk awoke. He cleaned himself and put on his robe. Then he calmly departed to collect alms food wherever he happened to find it.
The rich man fed the village monk the richest of food. It was delicious and sweet, made frm rice, milk, butter, sugar and honey. When the monk had eaten his fill, the man took his bowl, scrubbed it clean, and sweetened it with perfumed water. He filled it up again with the same wonderful food. He gave it back to the monk, saying, “Honourable monk, our holy visitor must be worn out frm travelling. Please take my humble alms food to him.” Saying nothing, he accepted the generous gift for the other.
By now the village monk’s mind was trapped by its own jealous scheming. He thought, “If that other monk eats this fantastic meal, even if I grabbed him by the throat and kicked him out, he still would never leave! I must secretly get rid of this alms food. But if I give it to a stranger, it will become known and talked about. If I throw it away in a pond, the butter will float on the surface and be discovered. If I throw it away on the ground, crows will come frm miles around to feast on it, and that too would be noticed. So how can I get rid of it?”
Then he saw a field that had just been burned by farmers to enrich the soil. It was covered with hot glowing coals. So he threw the rich man’s generous gift on the coals. The alms food burned up without a trace. And with it went his peace of mind!
For when he got back to the monastery, he found the visitor gone. He thought, “This must have been a perfectly wise monk. He must have known I was jealous – afraid of losing my favoured position. He must have known I resented him and tried to trick him on to leaving. I wasted alms food meant for him. And all for the sake of keeping my own belly full! I’m afraid something terrible will happen to me! What have I done?” So, afraid of losing his easy daily food, he had thrown away his peace of mind.
For the rest of his life the rich man continued to support him. But his mind was filled with torment and suffering. He felt doomed like a walking starving zombie, or a living hungry ghost.
When he died, his torment continued. For he was reborn in a hell world, where he suffered for hundreds of thousands of years.
Finally, there too he died, as all beings must. But the results of his past actions were only partly completed. So he was reborn as a demon, 500 times! In those 500 lives, there was only one day when he got enough to eat, and that was a meal of afterbirth dropped by a deer in the forest!
Then he was reborn as a starving stray dog another 500 times! For the sake of a full monk’s belly in a past life, all these 500 lives were also filled with hunger, and quarrelling over food. Only a single time did he get enough to eat, and that was a meal of vomit he found in a gutter!
Finally most of the results of his actions were finished. Only then was he so very fortunate enough to be reborn as a human being. He was born on to the poorest of the poor beggar families of the city of Kasi, in northern India. He was given the name, Mittavinda.
From the moment of his birth, this poor family became even more poor and miserable. After a few years, the pain of hunger became so great, that his parents beat him and chased Mittavinda away for good. They shouted, “Be gone forever! You are nothing but a curse!”
Poor Mittavinda! So very long ago he had not known how lucky he was. He was contented as a humble village monk. But he allowed the poison of jealousy to enter his mind – the fear of losing his easy daily food. This led to the self-torture of resentment against a perfect monk, and to trickery in denying him one wholesome gift of alms food. And it took a thousand and one lives for the loss of his comfort and daily food to be completed. What he had feared, his own actions had brought to pass!
[Chapter 2. Greed]
Little did poor Mittavinda know that his lives of constant hunger were about to come to an end. After wandering about, he eventually ended up in Benares.
At that time the Enlightenment Being was living the life of a world famous teacher in Benares. He had 500 students. As an act of charity, the people of the city supported these poor students with food. They also paid the teacher’s fees for teaching them.
Mittavinda was permitted to join them. He began studying under the great teacher. And at last, he began eating regularly.
But he paid no attention to the teachings of the wise master. He was disobedient and violent. During 500 lives as a hungry dog, quarrelling had become a habit. So he constantly got on to fist fights with the other students.
It became so bad that many of the students quit. The income of the world famous teacher dwindled down to almost nothing. Because of all his fighting, Mittavinda was finally forced to run away frm Benares.
He found his way to a small remote village. He lived there as a hard working labourer, married a very poor woman, and had two children.
It became known that he had studied under the world famous teacher of Benares. So the poor villagers selected him to give advice when questions arose. They provided a place for him to live near the entrance to the village. And they began following his advice.
But things did not go well. The village was fined seven times by the king. Seven times their houses were burned. And seven times the town pond dried up.
They realized that all their troubles began when they started taking Mittavinda’s advice. So they chased him and his family out of the village. They shouted, “Be gone forever! You are nothing but a curse!”
While they were fleeing, they went through a haunted forest. Demons came out of the shadows and killed and ate his wife and children. But Mittavinda escaped.
He made his way to a seaport city. He was lonely, miserable and penniless. It just so happened that there was a kind generous rich merchant living in the city. He heard the story of Mittavinda’s misfortunes. Since they had no children of their own, he and his wife adopted Mittavinda. For better or worse they treated him exactly as their own son.
His new mother and father were very religious. They always tried to do wholesome things. But Mittavinda still had not learned his lesson. He did not accept any religion, so he often did unwholesome things.
Some time after his father’s death, his mother decided to try and help him enter the religious life. She said, “There is this world and there is the one to come. If you do bad things, you will suffer painful results in both worlds.”
But foolish Mittavinda replied, “I will do whatever I enjoy doing and become happier and happier. There is no point considering whether what I do is wholesome or unwholesome. I don’t care about such things!”
On the next full moon holy day, Mittavinda’s mother advised him to go to the temple and listen all night long to the wise words of the monks. He said, “I wouldn’t waste my time!” So she said, “When you return I will give you a thousand gold coins.”
Mittavinda thought that with enough money he could enjoy himself constantly and be happy all the time. So he went to the temple. But he sat in a corner, paid no attention, and fell asleep for the night. Early the next morning he went home to collect his reward.
Meanwhile his mother thought he would appreciate wise teachings. Then he would bring the oldest monk home with him. So she prepared delicious food for the expected guest. When she saw him returning alone, she said, “Oh my son, why didn’t you ask the senior monk to come home with you for breakfast?”
He said, “I did not go to the temple to listen to a monk or to bring him home with me. I went only to get your thousand gold coins!” His disappointed mother said, “Never mind the money. Since there is so much delicious food prepared – only eat and sleep!” He replied, “Until you give me the money, I refuse to eat!” So she gave him the thousand gold coins. Only then did he gobble up the food until all he could do was fall asleep.
Mittavinda did not think a thousand gold coins were enough for him to constantly enjoy himself. So he used the money to start a business, and before long he became very rich. One day he came home and said, “Mother, I now have 120,000 gold coins. But I am not yet satisfied. Therefore I will go abroad on the next ship and make even more money!”
She replied, “Oh my son, why do you want to go abroad? The ocean is dangerous and it is very risky doing business in a strange land. I have 80,000 gold coins right here in the house. That is enough for you. Please don’t go, my only son!”
Then she held him to keep him frm leaving. But Mittavinda was crazy with greed. So he pushed his mother’s hand away and slapped her face. She fell to the floor. She was so hurt and shocked that she yelled at him, “Be gone forever! You are nothing but a curse!”
Without looking back, Mittavinda rushed to the harbour and set sail on the first departing ship.
[Chapter 3. Pleasure]
After seven days on the Indian Ocean, all the winds and currents stopped completely. The ship was stuck! After being dead in the water for seven days, all on board were terrified they would die.
So they drew straws to find out who was the cause of their bad luck and frightening misfortune. Seven times the short straw was drawn by Mittavinda!
They forced him onto a tiny bamboo raft, and set him adrift on the open seas. They shouted, “Be gone forever! You are nothing but a curse!” And suddenly a strong wind sent the ship on its way.
But once again Mittavinda’s life was spared. This was a result of his wholesome actions as a monk, so many births ago. No matter how long it takes, actions cause results.
Sometimes an action causes more than one result, some pleasant and some unpleasant. It is said there are Asuras who live through such mixed results in an unusual way.
Asuras are unfortunate ugly gods. Some of them are lucky enough to change their form on to beautiful young dancing girl goddesses. These are called Apsaras.
They enjoy the greatest pleasures for seven days. But then they must go to a hell world and suffer torments as hungry ghosts for seven days. Again they become Apsara goddesses – back and forth, back and forth – until both kinds of results are finished.
While floating on the tiny bamboo raft, it just so happened that Mittavinda came to a lovely Glass Palace. There he met four very pretty Apsaras. They enjoyed their time together, filled with heavenly pleasures, for seven days.
Then, when it was time for the goddesses to become hungry ghosts, they said to Mittavinda, “Wait for us just seven short days, and we will return and continue our pleasure.”
The Glass Palace and the four Apsaras disappeared. But still Mittavinda had not regained the peace of mind thrown away by the village monk, so very long ago. Seven days of pleasure had not satisfied him. He could not wait for the lovely goddesses to return. He wanted more and more. So he continued on, in the little bamboo raft.
Lo and behold, he came to a shining Silver Palace, with eight Apsara goddesses living there. Again he enjoyed seven days of the greatest pleasure. These Apsaras also asked him to wait the next seven days, and disappeared on to a hell world.
Amazing as it may seem, the greedy Mittavinda went on to seven days of pleasure in a sparkling Jewel Palace with 16 Apsaras. But they too disappeared. Then he spent seven days in a glowing Golden Palace with 32 of the most beautiful Apsaras of all.
But still he was not satisfied! When all 32 asked him to wait seven days, again he departed on the raft.
Before long he came to the entrance of a hell world filled with suffering tortured beings. They were living through the results of their own actions. But his desire for more pleasure was so strong that Mittavinda thought he saw a beautiful city surrounded by a wall with four fabulous gates. He thought, I will go inside and make myself king!
After he entered, he saw one of the victims of this hell world. He had a collar around his neck that spun like a wheel, with five sharp blades cutting on to his face, head, chest and back. But Mittavinda was still so greedy for pleasure that he could not see the pain right before his eyes. Instead he saw the spinning collar of cutting blades as if it were a lovely lotus blossom. He saw the dripping blood as if it were the red powder of perfumed sandal wood. And the screams of pain frm the poor victim sounded like the sweetest of songs!
He said to the poor man, “You’ve had that lovely lotus crown long enough! Give it to me, for I deserve to wear it now.” The condemned man warned him, “This is a cutting collar, a wheel of blades.” But Mittavinda said, “You only say that because you don’t want to give it up.”
The victim thought, “At last the results of my past unwholesome deeds must be completed. Like me, this poor fool must be here for striking his mother. I will give him the wheel of pain.” So he said, “Since you want it so badly, take the lotus crown!”
With these words the wheel of blades spun off the former victim’s neck and began spinning around the head of Mittavinda. And suddenly all his illusions disappeared; he knew this was no beautiful city, but a terrible hell world; he knew this was no lotus crown, but a cutting wheel of blades; and he knew he was not king, but prisoner. Groaning in pain he cried out desperately, “Take back your wheel! Take back your wheel!” But the other one had disappeared.
Just then the king of the gods arrived for a teaching visit to the hell world. Mittavinda asked him, “Oh king of gods, what have I done to deserve this torment?” The god replied, “Refusing to listen to the words of monks, you obtained no wisdom, but only money. A thousand gold coins did not satisfy you, nor even 120,000. Blinded by greed, you struck your mother on your way to grabbing greater wealth still.
“Then the pleasure of four Apsaras in their Glass Palace did not satisfy you. Neither eight Apsaras in a Silver Palace, nor 16 in a Jewel Palace. Not even the pleasure of 32 lovely goddesses in a Golden Palace was enough for you! Blinded by greed for pleasure you wished to be king. Now at last, you see your crown is only a wheel of torture, and your kingdom is a hell world.
“Learn this, Mittavinda – all who follow their greed wherever it leads are left unsatisfied. For it is in the nature of greed to be dissatisfied with what one has, whether a little or a lot. The more obtained, the more desired – until the circle of greed becomes the circle of pain.”
Having said this, the god returned to his heaven world home. At the same time the wheel crashed down on Mittavinda. With his head spinning in pain, he found himself adrift on the tiny bamboo raft.
Soon he came to an island inhabited by a powerful she-devil. She happened to be disguised as a goat. Being hungry, Mittavinda thought nothing of grabbing the goat by a hind leg. And the she-devil hiding inside kicked him way up on to the air. He finally landed in a thorn bush on the outskirts of Benares!
After he untangled himself frm the thorns, he saw some goats grazing nearby. He wanted very badly to return to the palaces and the dancing girl Apsaras. Remembering that a goat had kicked him here, he grabbed the leg of one of these goats. He hoped it would kick him back to the island.
Instead, this goat only cried out. The shepherds came, and captured Mittavinda for trying to steal one of the king’s goats.
As he was being taken as a prisoner to the king, they passed by the world famous teacher of Benares. Immediately he recognized his student. He asked the shepherds, “Where are you taking this man?”
They said, “He is a goat thief! We are taking him to the king for punishment!” The teacher said, “Please don’t do so. He is one of my students. Release him to me, so he can be a servant in my school.” They agreed and left him there.
The teacher asked Mittavinda, “What has happened to you since you left me?”
He told the story of being first respected, and then cursed, by the people of the remote village. He told of getting married and having two children, only to see them killed and eaten by demons in the haunted forest. He told of slapping his generous mother when he was crazy with greed for money. He told of being cursed by his shipmates and being cast adrift on a bamboo raft. He told of the four palaces with their beautiful goddesses, and how each time his pleasure ended he was left unsatisfied. He told of the cutting wheel of torture, the reward for the greedy in hell. And he told of his hunger for goat meat, that only got him kicked back to Benares without even a bite to eat!
The world famous teacher said, “It is clear that your past actions have caused both unpleasant and pleasant results, and that both are eventually completed. But you cannot understand that pleasures always come to an end. Instead, you let them feed your greed for more and more. You are left exhausted and unsatisfied, madly grasping at goat legs! Calm down, my friend. And know that trying to hold water in a tight fist, will always leave you thirsty!”
Hearing this, Mittavinda bowed respectfully to the great teacher. He begged to be allowed to follow him as a student. The Enlightenment Being welcomed him with open arms.
The moral is: In peace of mind, there is neither loss nor gain.