Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.5.11
Aṅkurapetavatthu - Not even Harming a Tree

Yo appaduṭṭhassa narassa dussati, suddhassa posassa anaṅgaṇassa1;
Tameva bālaṃ pacceti pāpaṃ, sukhumo rajo paṭivātaṃva khitto.

He who wrongs a man who is without fault, a pure man without any blemish
Upon that same man his wicked deed rebounds, like fine dust thrown against the wind.

The verses that conclude this chapter introduce with the example of Aṅkura a paragon who had taken a vow to generate wholesome future kamma for him by performing wholesome acts. Aṅkura, who uttered the verses presented in this lesson, had been a righteous and upright man by nature. But when he came in contact with a formerly related person, who got rebirth2 as a powerful yakkha or peta and realized the results of the peta’s previous wholesome acts Aṅkura took a respective determination to achieve an even more wholesome rebirth. Even so Aṅkura was not a peta3 himself. This account is related in the selection of the Khuddakanikāye, Petavatthupāḷi, the stories about petas due to this very incident. Ankara was from the Khattiyā-caste, born into a royal family with eleven children, - ekādasa khattiyā ahesuṃ - ten brothers and one sister, who by their skills in warfare had gained dominion about the whole – sakalajambudīpe - of Jambudīpa. After dividing their empire into equal parts the brothers noticed that they had forgotten to give equal share to their sister. Aṅkura then announced that he was happy to renounce his part on her behalf and to live as a trader.

On one of his trading tours on his way to Kamboja along the uttarāpatha4, the high road to the North of those days, with a fellow trader, both leading a huge caravan of about 500 carts each, they got lost in the desert where the above mentioned powerful yakkha dwelled. Out of compassion to his former benefactor Aṅkura, the yakkha showed them the way to his Banyan tree where he resided and there he provided all animals and men with ample shade, food and drink. Recognizing the ability of this yakkha Aṅkura's partner tried to persuade Aṅkura that they should take the help of this yakkha either with his consent or by force to find their way out of the desert, return to Dvāraka quickly because this yakkha would fulfil all their ambitions that they had gone for towards Kamboja: - ‘‘Yassa atthāya gacchāma, kambojaṃ dhanahārakā5; ayaṃ kāmadado yakkho, imaṃ yakkhaṃ nayāmase. Imaṃ yakkhaṃ gahetvāna, sādhukena pasayha vā; yānaṃ āropayitvāna, khippaṃ gacchāma dvāraka’’nti. -

Honestly upset with these cruel and unwholesome intentions Aṅkura uttered those stirring verses expressing empathy, peace and harmony towards one’s fellow beings and environment. To convince his partner to stay morally genuine and sincere he used the expression: ‘mittadubbho6 hi pāpako’ – ‘betraying a friend thus is wicked indeed’.

The commentary specifies this term: “Mittadubbhoti mittesu dubbhanaṃ tesaṃ anatthuppādanaṃ7. Pāpakoti abhaddako mittadubbho. Yo hi sītacchāyo rukkho ghammābhitattassa8 purisassa parissamavinodako9, tassāpi nāma pāpakaṃ na cintetabbaṃ, kimaṅkaṃ pana sattabhūtesu.” – “Injuring a friend: injuring a friend means causing them harm. It would be wicked: Injuring a friend would be wicked. Because a tree has given coolness and shade to man by dispelling his fatigue, one should not even think of performing anything wicked towards it, how much less towards a living being.”

His partner could not be convinced and maintained his antagonistic ignorant10 attitude – samūlampi taṃ abbuhe, attho ce tādiso siyā - in spite of further warning words by Aṅkura.

Aṅkura later had the chance to enquire with the peta about this enormous strength of his arm that granted all desires! He was informed that the peta in his previous life as a tailor, even though poor and unable to support others, happily with joy in his heart he showed with his right hand the way to any needful mendicant where he was to get support. Alone this good volition resulted in the strength of fulfilling desires. When Aṅkura heard this his good intention was stirred: - “So hi nūna ito gantvā, anuppatvāna dvārakaṃ; dānaṃ paṭṭhapayissāmi, yaṃ mamassa sukhāvahaṃ. Dassāmannañca11 pānañca, vatthasenāsanāni ca; papañca udapānañca, dugge saṅkamanāni cā’’ti12. He fulfilled this vow to excess, was reborn in the world of the tāvatiṃsadeva – the realm of the thirty-tree goods13. There he lived a happy life in splendour but at a visit of the Buddha in the Tāvatiṃsadeva-world he expressed the knowledge that he had gained14: Giving needs to be done with consideration – not just to give but how and whom to give were essential.

This chapter opened with reference to the verses from the Dhammapada15:
Idha socati pecca socati,
Idha modati pecca modati
This short historical account of Aṅkura presents a stirring example how wholesome determination and the performance of respective action can create a good kammic base and destine good future existence:

Pecca so labhate sukhanti yo khantimettānuddayasampanno16 ‘‘yathāhaṃ sukhakāmo dukkhappaṭikūlo, evaṃ sabbepī’’ti cintetvā sampattaviratiādīsu17 ṭhito vuttanayena kenaci daṇḍena sabbānipi bhūtāni na hiṃsati na bādhati, so puggalo paraloke manussabhūto manussasukhaṃ, devabhūto dibbasukhaṃ, ubhayaṃ atikkamanto nibbānasukhaṃ labhatīti18. – ‘He will attain happiness thereafter’: A person, being established in tolerance, loving kindness and compassion considers thus: ‘As I myself am desiring happiness and loath misery so likewise do all’ – and steadfast in abstaining he doesn’t hurt any being with a stick; nor harm or afflict any, will attain happiness as a human being or heavenly happiness in the heavenly fileds or even, if going beyond the happiness of Nibbāna.
[1] anaṅgaṇassa: an + aṅgaṇassa: not, free + stain, blemish

[2] ……nigrodharukkhe bhummadevatā hutvā nibbatti, tassa dakkhiṇahattho sabbakāmadado ahosi: he arose as a terrestrial devatā in a banyan tree and was provided with a right hand that granted all desires.

[3] A peta, as described in the stories of the Petavatthupāḷi, is an unfortunate being, a ghost, a departed spirit that arises as a result of having never given charity. Such a being has been especially heedless donating to members of the Saṅgha. While beings that support the Saṅgha can hope to arise in the heavenly fields and encounter a pleasant existence by possessing a mansion -vimāna-  the petas are to experience a miserable existence as a ghost. Stories about their respective existence are told in the Vimānavatthupāḷi or respectively in the Petavatthupāḷi. It is said that petas are of four kinds: some who live on the gifts of others; some remain hungry and thirsty; some are driven by craving and others have black ears. See also footnote at 3.4.6- Cundasuttaṃ and 1.3.5 - 3.6.3 (Maṇḍūkadevaputtavimānavatthu - Parābhavasuttaṃ).

[4] The uttarāpatha is the northern road. The Pali-name: ‘Kambojanti kambojaraṭṭhaṃ’ – ‘Kamboja is: the realm, country, land, district of kamboja’. Peter Masefiled points out: The great northern road known as the great trunk road or as Raz-i Azam connected the principal capitals and trading centers like Tampari, Campa, Pataliputta, Varanasi, Kausambi, Kanyakubja, Mathura, Hastinapura, Srunghna, Sakala, Takasila, Puskalavati, Kapisi, Bamyan, Mahlika and Kamboja; the greatest overland route of those days.....

[5] dhanahārakā: dhana + hārakā: wealth + getting, taking

[6] Old students of the ten day meditation courses of Vipassana will be listening to this word mittadubbho during the morning chanting of day eight, when the Mittānisaṃsasuttaṃ is recited. While fulfilling the necessary conditions for enlightenment in his birth as prince Temiya in the Mūgapakkhajataka, the Bodhisatta spoke about the advantage of dear friendship to his charioteer named Sunanda, who was appointed to be his executioner. Prince Temiya had been pretending to be deaf and mute in order not to become king where he had to get involved in unwholesome actions he would have to perform as his duty in this position. Temiya had realized as successor of the throne he would need to punish his subjects in certain situations even with death, so he decided to avoid this. In the Mittānisaṃsasuttaṃ he enumerates the manifold benefits that would befall someone who as a true friend would never betray his friends, starting with: “Pahūta-bhakkho bhavati, vippavuttho sakā gharā, bahūnaṃ upajīvanti, yo mittānaṃ na dūbhati,… Yaṃ yaṃ janapadaṃ yāti, nigame rājadhāniyo, sabbattha pūjito hoti, sabbattha pūjito hoti ……yo mittānaṃ na dūbhati…….” “Well-feasted when absent from his home, for many he provides support, …In whatever land he goes, small town or royal city, everywhere he is honoured ……he who does not betray friends……”

[7] anatthuppādanaṃ: an + attha + uppādanaṃ: = not + fortune (misfortune) + causing, producing

[8] ghammābhitattassa: ghammo + abhitatta (pp. of abhitapati) + ssa: heat, sweat + tortured, exhausted by 

[9] parissamavinodako: parissama + vinodako: fatigue, exhaustion + dispelling

[10] Later on the peta was about to punish him by letting disappear all his goods but only through comforting words of Aṅkura who stepped in on behalf of his partner finally returned them.

[11] dassāmannañca: dassāmi + annaṃ + ca: I will give + food + and

[12] “When gone from here and having returned to Dvāraka I will give alms which will bring me happiness. I Intend to give food and drink, clothes and dwelling, water places, wells and bridges where it is hard to cross.”

[13] So hitvā mānusaṃ dehaṃ, tāvatiṃsūpago ahūti so aṅkuro āyupariyosāne manussatthabhāvaṃ pahāya paṭisandhiggahaṇavasena tāvatiṃsadevanikāyūpago ahosi.

[14] The continuation of this inspiring story is related at chapter of generosity, lesson 4.2.3 Aṅkurapetavatthu - Giving with the proper Attitude and proper Measure

[15] See 3.5.0

[16] Khantimettānuddayasampanno: khanti + metta + anuddaya + sampanno: tolerance + loving kindness + compassion, pity + established, endowed with

[17] sampattaviratiādīsu: sampatta + virati + ādīsu (loc.): arrived at, reached + abstinence + starting from. The three – ādī - abstinences here referred to are sampattavirati, samādhānavirati and samucchedavirati: habitual abstinence, abstinence of undertaking, putting together and of extirpation, uprooting

[18] Daṇḍasuttavaṇṇanā, Mucalindavaggo, Udāna-aṭṭhakathā
Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.5.11

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Last modified: Wednesday, 20 February 2019, 12:36 PM