Reply To: Useful Essays from DRARISWORLD and Other Websites


Sometimes we tell ourselves we will do this and we will do that, thinking that things are under our control (atta). The perfect example is life for a person in the prime of his youth. We believe we are invincible and even immortal. We don’t even suspect that death could come and find us at any moment. It’s easy to see, you just have to look around us at how people live. I often hear, “you have life ahead of you”. Such distorted thinking can only arise in a puthujunas and it will inevitably lead to more suffering (dukkha). Death can come at any time. If we are still puthujunas, it is very dangerous because we do not know if we will fall into apayas or not. It doesn’t matter whether we have done merits or not, the nimitta at the time of death is unknown. A sotāpanna is assured of not falling into apayas. Even the laziest among them (the one who attains Nibbāna in the seventh bhava) has no worries about his destination during the seven bhava. Understanding tilakkhana will help us eradicate this false view. A sense of urgency must emerge within us. We must put the study and practice of the Dhamma as a priority. The story of the merchant Mahadhana is a perfect example. He reaches the sotāpanna stage just before he dies.


  The 423 verses are divided into 26 chapters or vaggas each with a particular heading. The twentieth chapter is named “Magga vagga” meaning the chapter on “The path,” which contains 17 verses said by the Buddha. The background story of the 286th verse, the fourteenth verse of the Magga Vagga, is about a merchant named Mahadhana who was planning to stay at a certain place and sell his goods for a whole year, without knowing that he will face death in seven days.

The background story of verse 286

At one time, the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatti, which was donated to the Buddha by the chief benefactor named Anāthapindika.

Once, there was a certain festival in the city of Sāvatti. A merchant named Mahadhana from the city of Baranasi, came with five hundred carts fully loaded with textiles and other merchandise hoping to sell his goods at the festival. On his way to Sāvatti, he had to cross a river. But when he reached the river bank near Sāvatti, he discovered that the river was flooding and was unable to cross the river with his five hundred cart loads. He was held up at the river bank for seven days as it rained for seven days and as a result the water in the river did not subside. There was no need for him to cross the river anyway, as the festival in Sāvatti was over by then.

Since he had traveled a long distance from Baranasi to Sāvatti, he did not want to return to Baranasi with his five hundred carts loaded with unsold merchandise. He decided to stay near the river bank for the next three seasons: the rainy season, the cold season, and the hot season, hoping to sell his goods, and said so to his assistants who were accompanying him. On that day, the Buddha was on his morning alms round in Sāvatti, and when the Buddha saw the merchant, the Buddha knew of the merchant’s decision to stay on for one year and smiled. Venerable Ānanda was accompanying the Buddha on his alms round and when he saw the Buddha smile, he inquired as to why the Buddha smiled. The Buddha replied:

“Ānanda, do you see that merchant? He plans to stay here for the whole year and sell his goods. He does not know that he is going to die here in seven days.”

“What should be done, should be done today,

  who would know that one would die tomorrow?

  we have no date fixed with the King of Death,

  for one who is mindful by day or by night,

  who is not disturbed by moral defilements and is energetic,

  to live for just one night is a well spent life.”

Then the Buddha sent Venerable Ānanda to go and speak to the merchant. Venerable Ānanda went and explained to the merchant that time was running out for him and hence he should practise mindfulness instead of being negligent. When the merchant came to know about his impending death in seven days, he became alarmed and frightened. So, for the next seven days, he invited the Buddha and the monks and offered alms food. On the seventh day, the Buddha delivered a short sermon to him in appreciation of offering alms food to the Buddha and the accompanying monks. Then the Buddha recited the following verse which is recorded as the 286th verse of the Dhammapada.

Idha vassaṁ vasissāmi,

  idha hemantagimhisu,

  iti bālo vicinteti,

  antarāyaṁ na bujjhati.”

“Here shall I live in the rainy season,

  here shall I live in the cold season and the hot season,

  so imagines the fool,

  not realising the danger (of approaching death).”

It is recorded that at the end of this short sermon by the Buddha, the merchant attained the supra mundane stage of Stream Enterer (Sotāpañña). As the Buddha was leaving, the merchant followed the Buddha for some distance and returned. Soon afterwards, he developed a severe headache and passed away. He is believed to have been reborn as a deity in the heavenly world named Tusita.



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