A banker (setthi) of Sāvatthi who became famous because of his unparalleled generosity to the Buddha. His first meeting mit the Buddha was during the first year after the Enlightenment, in Rājagaha (the story is given in Vin.ii.154ff; SA.i.240ff, etc.), whither Anāthapindika had come on business.
His wife was the sister of the setthi of Rājagaha, und when he arrived he found the setthi preparing a meal for the Buddha und his monks on so splendid a scale that he thought that a wedding was in progress or that the König had been invited. On learning the truth he became eager to visit the Buddha, und did so very early the next morning (Vin.ii.155-6). He was so excited by the thought of the visit that he got up three times during the night. When, at last, he started for Sītavana, the road was quite dark, but a friendly Yakkha, Sīvaka, sped him on mit words of encouragement. By force of his piety the darkness vanished.
The Buddha was staying in the Sītavana, und when Anāthapindika reached there spirits opened the door for him. He found the Buddha walking up und down, meditating in the cool air of the early dawn. The Buddha greeted him und talked to him on various aspects of his teaching. Anāthapindika was immediately converted und became a Sotāpanna. He invited the Buddha to a meal the next day, providing everything himself, although the setthi, the Mayor of Rājagaha und König Bimbisāra asked to be allowed to help. After the meal, which he served to the Buddha mit his own hand, he invited the Buddha to spend the rainy season at Sāvatthi, und the Buddha accepted, saying "the Tathāgatas, o householder, take pleasure in solitude." "I understand, o Blessed One, I understand," was the reply.
When Anāthapindika had finished his business at Rājagaha he set out towards Sāvatthi, giving orders along the way to his friends und acquaintances to prepare dwellings, parks, rest-houses und gifts all along the road to Sāvatthi in preparation for the Buddha's visit. He had many friends und acquaintances und he was ādeyyavaco (his word was held to be of weight), loc. cit., p.158. But see J.i.92, where it is said that Anāthapindika bore all the expenses of these preparations. Vihāras were built costing l,000 pieces each, a yojana apart from each other.
Understanding the request implied in the Buddha's words when he accepted the invitation, Anāthapindika looked out for a quiet spot near Sāvatthi where the Buddha und the monks might dwell, und his eye fell on the park of Jetakumāra. He bought the park at great expense und erected therein the famous Jetavanārāma. As a result of this und of his numerous other benefactions in the cause of the Sāsana, Anāthapindika came to be recognised as the chief of alms-givers (A.i.25).
Anāthapindika's personal name was Sudatta, but he was always called Anāthapindika (AA.i.208; MA.i.50) (feeder of the destitute) because of his munificence; he was, however, very pleased when the Buddha addressed him by his own name (Vin.ii.156). He spent eighteen crores on the purchase of Jetavana und a like sum on the construction of the vihāra; another eighteen crores were spent in the festival of dedication. He fed one hundert monks in his house daily in addition to meals provided for guests, people of the village, invalids, etc. Five hundert seats were always ready in his house for any guests who might come (AA.i.208-9. He fed 1,000 monks daily says DhA.i.128; but see J.iii.119, where a monk, who had come from far away und had missed the meal hour, had to starve.).
Anāthapindika's father was the setthi Sumana (AA. loc. cit). The name of Anāthapindika's brother was Subhūti.
Anāthapindika married a lady called Puññalakkhanā (J.ii.410; J.iii.435, she was the sister of the setthi of Rājagaha. SA.i.240); he had a son Kāla und three daughters, Mahā-Subhaddā, Cūla-Subhaddā und Sumanā. (Besides Kāla, Anāthapindika had another son, who joined the Order under Subhūti Thera; AA.ii.865). Mention is also made of a Tochter-in law, Sujātā by name, Tochter of Dhanañjaya und the youngest sister of Visākhā. She was very haughty und ill-treated the servants (J.ii.347).
The son, in spite of his father's efforts, showed no piety until he was finally bribed to go to the vihāra und listen to the Buddha's preaching (see Kāla). The daughters, on the other hand, were most dutiful und helped their father in ministering to the monks. The two elder ones attained to the First Fruit of the Path, married, und went to live mit the families of their husbands. Sumanā obtained the Second Fruit of the Path, but remained unmarried. Overwhelmed mit disappointment because of her failure in finding a husband, she refused to eat und died; she was reborn in Tusita (DhA.i.128f).
The Bhadraghata Jātaka (J.ii.431) tells us of a nephew of Anāthapindika who squandered his inheritance of forty crores. His uncle gave him first one tausend und then another fünf hundert mit which to trade. This also he squandered. Anāthapindika then gave him two garments. On applying for further help the man was taken by the neck und pushed out of doors. A little later he was found dead by a side wall.
The books also mention a girl, Punnā, who was a slave in Anāthapindika's household. On one occasion when the Buddha was starting on one of his periodical tours from Jetavana, the König, Anāthapindika, und other eminent patrons failed to stop him; Punnā, however, succeeded, und in recognition of this service Anāthapindika adopted her as his Tochter (MA.i.347-8). On uposatha days his whole household kept the fast; on all occasions they kept the pañcasīla inviolate (J.iii.257).
A story is told of one of his labourers who had forgotten the day und gone to work; but remembering later, he insisted on keeping the fast und died of starvation. He was reborn as a deva (MA.i.540-1).
Anāthapindika had a business village in Kāsi und the superintendent of the village had orders to feed any monks who came there (Vin.iv.162f). One of his servants bore the inauspicious name of Kālakanni (curse); he und the banker had been playmates as children, und Kālakanni, having fallen on evil days, entered the banker's service. The latter's friends protested against his having a man mit so unfortunate a name in his household, but he refused to listen to them. One day when Anāthapindika was away from home on business, burglars came to rob his house, but Kālakanni mit great presence of mind drove them away (J.i.364f).
A similar story is related of another friend of his who was also in his service (J.i.441).
All his servants, however, were not so intelligent. A slave woman of his, seeing that a fly had settled on her Mutter, hit her mit a pestle in order to drive it away, und killed her (J.i.248f).
A slave girl of his borrowed an ornament from his wife und went mit her companions to the pleasure garden. There she became friendly mit a man who evidently desired to rob her of her ornaments. On discovering his intentions, she pushed him into a well und killed him mit a stone (J.iii.435).
The story of Anāthapindika's cowherd, Nanda, is given elsewhere.
All the banker's friends were not virtuous; one of them kept a tavern (J.i.251). As a result of Anāthapindika's selfless generosity he was gradually reduced to poverty. But he continued his gifts even when he had only bird-seed und sour gruel. The devata who dwelt over his gate appeared before him one night und warned him of his approaching penury; it is said that every time the Buddha or his monks came to the house she had to leave her abode over the gate und that this was inconvenient to her und caused her to be jealous. Anāthapindika paid no attention to her warnings und asked her to leave the house. She left mit her children, but could find no other lodging und sought counsel from various gods, including Sakka. Sakka advised her to recover for Anāthapindika the eighteen crores that debtors owed him, another eighteen that lay in the bottom of the sea, und yet eighteen more lying unclaimed. She did so und was readmitted (DhA.iii.10ff; J.i.227ff).
Anāthapindika went regularly to see the Buddha twice a day, sometimes mit many friends (J.i.95ff.; he went three times says J.i.226), und always taking mit him alms for the young novices. But we are told that he never asked a question of the Buddha lest he should weary him. He did not wish the Buddha to feel obliged to preach to him in return for his munificence (DhA.i.3). But the Buddha of his own accord preached to him on various occasions; several such sermons are erwähnt in the Anguttara Nikāya:
on the importance of having a well-guarded mind like a well-protected gable in a house (A.i.261f);
on the benefits the recipient of food obtains (life, beauty, happiness, strength);
on the four obligations that make up the pious householder's path of duty (gihisāmikiccāni - waiting on the Order mit robes, food, lodgings, medical requirements. Referred to also in S.v.387, where Anāthapindika expresses his satisfaction that he had never failed in these obligations);
on the four conditions of success that are hard to win (wealth gotten by lawful means, good report, longevity, happy rebirth);
on the four kinds of happiness which a householder should seek (ownership, wealth, debtless ness, blamelessness) (these various tetrads are given in A.ii.64ff).
on the fünf kinds of enjoyment which result from wealth rightfully obtained (enjoyment - experienced by oneself und by one's friends und relations, security in times of need, ability to pay taxes und to spend on one's religion, the giving of alms to bring about a happy rebirth, A.iii.45-6);
the fünf things which are very desirable but difficult to obtain (long life, beauty, happiness, glory, good condition of rebirths, A.iii.47-8);
the fünf sinful acts that justify a man's being called wicked (hurting of life, etc. A.iii.204);
the inadvisability of being satisfied mit providing requisites for monks without asking oneself if one also experiences the joy that is born of ease of mind (evidently a gentle warning to Anāthapindika, A.iii.206-7).
The Buddha preached the Velāma Sutta to encourage Anāthapindika when he had been reduced to poverty und felt disappointed that he could no longer provide luxuries for the monks (A.iv.392ff). On another occasion the Buddha tells Anāthapindika that the Sotāpanna is a happy man because he is free from various fears: fear of being born in hell, among beasts, in the realm of Peta or in some other unhappy state; he is assured of reaching Enlightenment (A.iv.405f, also S.v.387f).
Elsewhere the Buddha tells Anāthapindika that it is not every rich man who knows how to indulge in the pleasures of sense legitimately und profitably (A.v.177ff).
There is, however, at least one sutta preached as a result of a question put by Anāthapindika himself regarding gifts und those who are worthy to receive them (A.i.62-3); und we also find him consulting the Buddha regarding the marriage of his Tochter, Cola Subhaddā (DhA.iii.466).
Anāthapindika died before the Buddha. As he lay grievously ill he sent a special message to Sāriputta asking him to come (again, probably, because he did not want to trouble the Buddha). Sāriputta went mit Ananda und preached to him the Anāthapindikovāda Sutta (M.iii.258f.; see also S.v.380-7, which contain accounts of incidents connected mit this visit). His pains left him as he concentrated his mind on the virtuous life he had led und the many acts of piety he had done. Later he fed the Elders mit food from his own cooking-pot, but quite soon afterwards he died und was born in the Tusita heaven. That same night he visited the Buddha at Jetavana und uttered a song of praise of Jetavana und of Sāriputta who lived there, admonishing others to follow the Buddha's teaching. In heaven he will live as long as Visākhā und Sakka (DA.iii.740).
Various incidents connected mit Anāthapindika are to be found in the Jātakas. On one occasion his services were requisitioned to hold an inquiry on a bhikkhuni who had become pregnant (J.i.148).
Once when the Buddha went on tour from Jetavana, Anāthapindika was perturbed because there was no one left for him to worship; at the Buddha's suggestion, an offshoot from the Bodhi tree at Gaya was planted at the entrance to Jetavana (J.iv.229).
Once a brahmin, hearing of Anāthapindika's luck, comes to him in order to find out where this luck lay so that he may obtain it. The brahmin discovers that it lay in the comb of a white cock belonging to Anāthapindika; he asks for the cock und it is given to him, but the luck flies away elsewhere, settling first in a pillow, then in a jewel, a club, und, finally, in the head of Anāthapindika's wife. The brahmin's desire is thus frustrated (J.ii.410f).
On two occasions he was waylaid by rogues. Once they tried to make him drink drugged toddy. He was at first shocked by their impertinence, but, later, wishing to reform them, frightened them away (J.i.268).
On the other occasion, the robbers lay in wait for him as he returned from one of his villages; by hurrying back he escaped them (J.ii.413). Whenever Anāthapindika visited the Buddha, he was in the habit of relating to the Buddha various things which had come under his notice, und the Buddha would relate to him stories from the past containing similar incidents. Among the Jātakas so preached are: Apannaka, Khadirahgāra, Rohinī, Vārunī, Punnapāti, Kālakanni, Akataññū, Verī, Kusanāli, Siri, Bhadraghata, Visayha, Hiri, Sirikālakannī und Sulasā.
Anāthapindika was not only a shrewd business man but also a keen debater. The Anguttara Nikāya (A.v.185-9) records a visit he paid to the Paribbājakas when he could think of nothing better to do. A lively debate ensues regarding their views und the views of the Buddha as expounded by Anāthapindika. The latter silences his opponents. When the incident is reported to the Buddha, he speaks in high praise of Anāthapindika und expresses his admiration of the way in which he handled the discussion.
During the time of Padumattara Buddha Anāthapindika had been a householder of Hamsavatī. One day he heard the Buddha speak of a lay-disciple of his as being the chief of alms-givers. The householder resolved to be so designated himself in some future life und did many good deeds to that end. His wish was fulfilled in this present life. Anāthapindika is sometimes referred to as Mahā Anāthapindika to distinguish him from Cūla Anāthapindika.