Title- A Story Illustrating the Benefits of Saranagamana-The True Refuge & The Right Way



The following events are very notable in connection with the Saranagamana. Anathapindika’s persuading others to take refuge in the Three Gems is a very good example. The complete story runs as follows.



While the Buddha was dwelling in Jetavana monastery in Savatthi, the rich man Anathapindika used to bring his friends of other faiths (Anatittiya) whenever he went to the Jetavana monastery. Just as the rich man did, his friends also respectfully brought flowers, candles, joss sticks, and other offerings, and offered them to the Buddha and the bhikkhus.



When they saw his graceful apperance and pleasant manners, and heard his rational discourse free from the two extremes, they delightedly accepted his teachings as they were men of intelligence. They abandoned their old beliefs, rites and rituals, and took refuge in the Triple Gems. Not only were they converted in groups into Buddhism, they also regularly performed the Buddhist duties such as listening to the Dhamma, observing moral precepts and keeping Sabbath.



When the Buddha went from Savatthi to Rajagaha and stayed there for seven or eight months, these friends of Anathapindika again reverted to their original views. When the Buddha returned to Savatthi, they again followed the Buddha’s teaching on account of the persuation of Anathapindika. When the rich man reported this matter to the Buddha, the latter described the various kinds of refuge taken by people in the past.



“O lay disple, in the past, people worshipped forests, mountains, rivers, etc, for fear of various dangers and nature didasters. As these refuges cannot protect them from various dangers, they can neither escape from present dangers nor from being reborn in the lower realms.



One, who takes refuge in the Supreme Triple Gems, i.e, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha, will not be reborn in apaya (miserable realms) , he will be reborn in the deva world when he dies. Taking refuge in the Triple Gems is the main supporting factor to realize the Four Noble Truths and become an ariya. This indeed, is the safe refuge, this is the best refuge. Having come to this refuge, one is liberated from all evil consequences of existence (dukkha)”.



“O lay disciples, in the past, human beings, having wrong thoughts and wrong beliefs, took wrong refuge and relied on foolish leaders, so they were led astray while travelling in the desert and there met with great disaster and death”.




When the Buddha said so, the rich man Anathapindika requested the Buddha to tell the whole story. So the Buddha narrated the Apannaka Janaka, the story of a caravan of five hundred merchants travelled across a desert under the guidance of a foolish leader. They were beguiled by ogres, threw away their drinking water and were devoured by the ogres. Another caravan of five hundred merchants made the journey under the guidance of a wise leader. They were not beguiled by ogres, and they could cross the desert safely.”



On hearing the Apannaka Jataka, the friends of Anathapindika, who had wavered in faith, realized who should be their leader and whose advice they should follow. The Buddha preached not only on charity and morality but also on the threefold training- morality (sila) , concentration (samadhi) , wisdom (panna) the Noble Eightfold Path that surely leads to peace and happiness.



The Buddha is the One who shows the way accurately after he has experienced himself. So, the Buddha is honoured by the term “Satthadevamanussanam” as the chief charioteer guiding going around the circle of birth and death (samsara).



All friends of Anathapindika, who are taking other views, listened to the teachings of the Buddha and not only gained true refuge but also became enlightened by attaining sotapatti-magga. As the result of this enlightenment, they became ariyas.



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