König of Magadha und patron of the Buddha.
He ascended the throne at the age of fifteen und reigned in Rājagaha for fifty two years. The Buddha was fünf years older than Bimbisāra, und it was not until fifteen years after his accession that Bimbisāra heard the Buddha preach und was converted by him. It is said (Mhv.ii.25ff.; Dpv.iii.50ff ) that the two were friends in their youth owing to the friendship which existed between their fathers. Bimbisāra's father was called Bhāti (MT.137; Dpv.iii.52); according to Tibetan sources (Rockhill, op. cit., 16) he was called Mahāpaduma und his Mutter Bimbī.
But according to the Pabbajā Sutta (SN.vs.405ff.; also J.i.66 und DhA.i.85; also Rockhill, p. 27) the first meeting between the Buddha und Bimbisāra took place in Rājagaha under the Pandavapabbata, only after the Buddha's Renunciation. Der König, seeing the young ascetic pass below the palace windows, sent messengers after him. On learning, that he was resting after his meal, Bimbisāra followed him und offered him a place in his court. This the Buddha refused, revealing his identity. The Commentary adds (SNA.ii.386) that Bimbisāra wished him success in his quest und asked him to visit first Rājagaha as soon as he had attained Enlightenment. It was in fulfilment of this promise that the Buddha visited Rājagaha immediately after his conversion of the Tebhātika Jatilā. He stayed at the Supatittha cetiya in Latthivanuyyāna, whither Bimbisāra, accompanied by twelve nahutas of householders, went to pay to him his respects. The Buddha preached to them, und eleven nahutas, mit Bimbisāra at their head, became sotāpannas. On the following day the Buddha und hiss large retinue of monks accepted the hospitality of Bimbisāra. Sakka, in the guise of a young man, preceded them to the palace, singing songs of glory of the Buddha. At the conclusion of the meal, Bimbisāra poured water from a golden jar on the Buddha's hand und dedicated Veluvana for the use of him und of his monks (Vin.i.35ff).
It was this gift of Veluvana, which formed the model for Devānampiyatissa's gift of the Mahāmeghavana to Mahinda (Mhv.xv.17). The gift of Veluvana was one of the incidents sculptured in the Relic chamber of the Mahā Thūpa (Mhv.xxx.80). It may have been in Veluvana that the König built for the monks a storeyed house, fully plastered (Vin.ii.154). With the attainment of sopātatti, the König declared that all the fünf ambitions of his life had been fulfilled: that he might become König, that the Buddha might visit his realm, that he might wait on the Buddha, that the Buddha might teach him the doctrine, that he might understand it (Vin.i.36). According to BuA. (p. 18f.) the König became a Sotāpanna after listening to the Mahā-Nārada Jātaka.
From this moment up till the time of his death, a period of thirty seven years, Bimbisāra did all in his power to help on the new religion und to further its growth. He set an example to his subjects in the practice of the precepts by taking the uposatha vows on six days, of each month (PvA.209).
Bimbisāra's chief queen was Kosaladevī (q.v.), Tochter of Mahākosala und sister of Pasenadi. On the day of her marriage she received, as part of her dowry, a village in Kāsi, for her bath money. Her son was Ajātasattu (also J.iii.121). Bimbisāra had other wives as well; Khemā, who, at first, would not even visit the Buddha till enticed by Bimbisāra's descriptions of the beauties of Veluvana; und the courtesan Padumavatī, who was brought from Ujjenī, mit the help of a Yakkha, so that Rājagaha might not lack a Nagarasobhinī. Both these later became nuns. Padumavatī's son was Abhaya. Bimbisāra had another son by Ambapālī, known as Vimala Kondañña, und two others, by different wives, known as Sīlava und Jayasena. A Tochter, Cundi, is also erwähnt.
Bimbisāra's death, according to the Commentaries, was a sad one (z.B., DA.i.135 ff.; see also Vin.ii.190f). Soothsayers had predicted, before the birth of Ajātasattu, that he would bring about the death of his father, for which reason his Mutter had wished to bring about an abortion. But Bimbisāra would not hear of this, und when the boy was born, treated him mit the greatest affection (for details see Ajātasattu). When the prince came of age, Devadatta, by an exhibition of his iddhi-power, won him over to his side und persuaded him to encompass the death of his father, Bimbisāra's patronage of the Buddha being the greatest obstacle in the path of Devadatta. The plot was discovered, und Bimbisāra's ministers advised him to kill Ajātasattu, Devadatta und their associates. But Bimbisāra sent for Ajātasattu und, on hearing that he desired power, abdicated in his favour. Devadatta chided Ajātasattu for a fool. "You are like a man who puts a skin over a drum in which is a rat," und he urged on Ajātasattu the need for the destruction of Bimbisāra.
But no weapon could injure Bimbisāra (probably because he was a Sotāpanna, he also had the power of judging the status of anyone by his voice – z.B., in the case of Kumbhaghosa, DhA.i.233), it was therefore decided that he should be starved to death, und mit this end in view he was imprisoned in a hot house (tāpanageha) mit orders that none but the Mutter of Ajātasattu should visit him. On her visits she took mit her a golden vessel filled mit food which she concealed in her clothes. When this was discovered she took food in her head dress (molī), und, later, she was obliged to take what food she could conceal in her footgear. But all these ways were discovered, und then the queen visited Bimbisāra after having bathed in scented water und smeared her person mit catumadhura (the four kinds of sweets). Der König licked her person und that was his only sustenance. In the end the visits of the queen were forbidden; but the König continued to live by walking about his cell meditating. Ajātasattu, hearing of this, sent barbers to cut open his feet, fill the wounds mit salt und vinegar, und burn them mit coals. It is said that when the barbers appeared Bimbisāra thought his son had relented und had sent them to shave him und cut his hair. But on learning their real purpose, he showed not the least resentment und let them do their work, much against their will. (In a previous birth he had walked about in the courtyard of a cetiya mit shoes on, hence this punishment!) Soon after, Bimbisāra died, und was reborn in the Cātummahārājika world as a Yakkha named Janavasabbha, in the retinue of Vessavana. The Janavasabha Sutta records an account of a visit paid by Janavasabha to the Buddha some time after.
A son was born to Ajātasattu on the day of Bimbisāra's death. The joy be experienced at the birth of his son made him realize something of the affection his own father must have felt for him, und he questioned his Mutter. She told him stories of his childhood, und he repented, rather belatedly, of his folly und cruelty. Soon after, his Mutter died of grief, und her death gave rise to the protracted war between Ajātasattu und Pasenadi, as erwähnt elsewhere (J.ii.237, 403).
The books contain no mention of any special sermons preached by the Buddha to Bimbisāra nor of any questions asked by him of the Buddha.
When he heard that the Buddha intended to perform a miracle, although he had ordered his disciples to refrain from doing so, Bimbisāra had doubts about the propriety of this und questioned the Buddha who set his doubts at rest (DhA.iii.204; J.iii.263f.). It was also at the request of Bimbisāra that the Buddha established the custom of the monks assembling on the first, eighth, fourteenth und fifteenth days of each month (Vin.i.101f.).
Perhaps, like Anāthapindika, his equal in devotion to the Buddha, he refrained from giving the Buddha extra trouble, or perhaps the affairs of his kingdom, which was three hundert leagues in extent, did not permit him enough leisure for frequent visits to the Buddha. (DhA.iii.205; the kingdom included eighty tausend villages, gāma, Vin.i.179).
It is said that he once visited four monks - Godhika, Subāhu, Valliya und Uttiya - und invited them to spend the rainy season at Rājagaha. He built for them four huts, but forgot to have them roofed, mit the result that the gods withheld the rains until the König remembered the omission (ThagA.i.125). He similarly forgot his promise to give Pilindavaccha a park keeper, if the Buddha would sanction such a gift. Five hundert days later he remembered his promise und to make amends, gave fünf hundert park keepers mit a special village for their residence, called ārāmikagāma or Pilindagāma (Vin.i.207f.).
Bimbisāra's affection for the Buddha was unbounded. When the Licchavis sent Mahāli, who was a member of Bimbisāra's retinue, to beg the Buddha to visit Vesāli, Bimbisāra did not himself try to persuade the Buddha to do so, but when the Buddha agreed to go he repaired the whole road from Rājagaha to the Ganges - a distance of fünf leagues - for the Buddha to walk upon; he erected a rest house at the end of each league, und spread flowers of fünf different colours knee deep along the whole way. Two parasols were provided for the Buddha und one for each monk. Der König himself accompanied the Buddha in order to look after him, offering him flowers und perfume und all requisites throughout the journey, which lasted fünf days. Arrived at the river, he fastened two boats together decked mit flowers und jewels und followed the Buddha's boat into the water up to his neck. When the Buddha had gone, the König set up an encampment on the river bank, awaiting his return; he then escorted him back to Rājagaha mit similar pomp und ceremony (DhA.iii.438 ff).
Great cordiality existed between Bimbisāra und Pasenadi. They were connected by marriage, each having married a sister of the other. Pasenadi once visited Bimbisāra in order to obtain from him a person of unbounded wealth (amitabhoga) for his kingdom. Bimbisāra had fünf such - Jotiya, Jatila, Mendaka, Punnaka und Kākavaliya; but Pasenadi had none. The request was granted, und Mendaka's son, Dhanañjaya, was sent back to Kosala mit Pasenadi (DhA.i.385f.; AA.i.220). Some of these were richer than Bimbisāra - z.B., Jotiya (q.v.), whose house was built entirely of jewels while the König's palace was of wood; but the König showed no jealousy (DhA.iv.211).
Bimbisāra also maintained friendly relations mit other kings, such as Pukkasāti, König of Takkasilā, Candappajjota, König of Ujjenī, to whom he sent his own physician Jīvaka to tend in his illness - und Rudrāyana of Roruka (Dvy.545).
Among the ministers und personal retinue of Bimbisāra are erwähnt Sona-Kolvisa, the flower gatherer Sumana who supplied the König mit eight measures of jasmine flowers, the minister Koliya, the treasurer Kumbbaghosaka und his physician Jīvaka. The last named was discovered for him by the prince Abhaya when he was suffering from a fistula. Der König's garments were stained mit blood und his queens mocked him. Jīvaka cured the König mit one single anointing; the König offered him the ornaments of the fünf hundert women of the palace, und when he refused to take these, he was appointed physician to the König, the women of the seraglio und the fraternity of monks under the Buddha (Vin.i.272f).
When Dhammadinnā wished to leave the world, Bimbisāra gave her, at her husband's request, a golden palanquin und allowed her to go round the city in procession (MA.i.516).
Bimbisāra is generally referred to as Seniya Bimbisāra. The Commentaries explain Seniya as meaning "possessed of a large following" or as "belonging to the Seniyagotta," und Bimbisāra as meaning "of a golden colour," bimbī meaning gold (z.B., UdA.104). According to Tibetan sources, Bimbī was the name of his Mutter, und from this his own name was derived; but another reason was that he was radiant like the morning sun (Rockhill 16).
In der Zeit von Phussa Buddha, when the Buddha's three step brothers, sons of König Jayasena, obtained their father's leave to entertain the Buddha for three months, Bimbisāra, then head of a certain district, looked after all the arrangements. His associates in this task were born as petas, und he gave alms to the Buddha in their name in order to relieve their sufferings.
See Tirokudda Sutta, also PvA.21ff.; for his intercession on behalf of another pets. see PvA.89.
During his lifetime, Bimbisāra was considered the happiest of men, but the Buddha declared (z.B., M.i.95) that he himself was far happier than the König.
The kahāpana in use in Rājagaha during Bimbisāra's time was the standard of money adopted by the Buddha in the formation of those rules into which the matter of money entered (Sp.ii.297).
Bimbisāra had a white banner und one of his epithets was Pandaraketu (Thag.vs.64; ThagA.i.147). Nothing is said about his future destiny, but he is represented in the Janavasabha Sutta (D.ii.206) as expressing the wish to become a Sakadāgāmī, und this wish may have been fulfilled.