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Anuruddha Thera

In Padumuttara Buddha’s time he had been a rich householder. Hearing one of the monks declared best among possessors of the celestial eye, he wished for a similar honour for himself in the future. He did acts of great merit towards that end, including the holding of a great feast of light in front of the Buddha’s tomb. In Kassapa Buddha’s age he was born in Benares; one day he placed bowls filled with clarified butter all round the Buddha’s tomb and lighted them, himself walking round the tomb all night, bearing on his head a lighted bowl.

Later he was reborn in a poor family in Benares and was named Annabhāra (lit. “food-bearer”). One day, while working for his master, the banker Sumana, he gave his meal to a Pacceka Buddha, Uparittha. The banker, having heard from the deity of his parasol of Annabhāra’s pious deed, rewarded him and set him up in trade. The king, being pleased with him, gave him a site for a house, the ground of which, when dug, yielded much buried treasure. On account of this great accretion of wealth he was given the rank of Dhanasetthi (ThagA.ii.65ff.; Thag.910; DhA.iv.120ff).

According to the Dhammapada Commentary (i.113), as a result of his gift to the Pacceka Buddha, Anuruddha never lacked anything he desired – such had been the wish he expressed. A charming story is related in this connection. Once when playing at ball with his friends he was beaten and had to pay with sweets. His mother sent him the sweets, but he lost repeatedly until no more sweets were to be had. His mother sent word to that effect, but he did not know the meaning of the words “there isn’t.” When his mother, to make him understand, sent him an empty bowl, the guardian deity of the city filled it with celestial cakes, so that he should not be disappointed. Thereafter, whenever Anuruddha sent for cakes, his mother would send him an empty vessel, which became filled on the way. See also DhA.iv.124ff.

The Apadāna (i.35) mentions another incident of his past. Once, in Sumedha Buddha’s time, Anuruddha, having seen the Buddha meditating alone at the foot of a tree, set up lights round him and kept them burning for seven days. As a result he reigned for thirty kappas as king of the gods, and was king of men twenty-eight times. He could see a distance of a league both by day and night.

This is another proof that meritorious actions can temporarily protect puthujunas from the apayas. I strongly doubt that Arahant Sāriputta was sotāpanna for 30 kappa as king of devas and 28 times as universal monarch. That’s a lot of good bhavas without being sotāpanna.A sotāpanna attains Nibbāna in a maximum of 7 Bhava. It is impossible to go beyond this number.