Sudarananda Finds the Way

Presented at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas 
in honor of the Master's birthday.

Compiled and directed by Kuo Ts'an Epstein
Music by Dharma Master Heng Yin

Song: Everyone

Nanda loved Sundari

He couldn't put her down.

So the Buddha took him to the heavens

And he took him underground.

All things are relative

So the Buddhas say.

So he left the fire of desire

To cultivate the Way.

Instilling Virtue Players from left to right: Kuo Che Bradley as the narrator; Kuo Chau Silver as Sundarananda; Kuo Ju Bradley as the Buddha; Kuo Ch'ing Linebarger as a heavenly maiden; Kuo Mi Love joy as a heavenly maiden; and Kuo T'ou Gray as Sundari. Narrator: Long ago in India when the Buddha was in the world he had a little brother whose name was Sundarananda. He had a wife that he was so fond of that he had actually been named after her. Her name was Sundari and his name, Sundarananda means Sundari's Nanada. Why did he love her so much? Because she was absolutely stunning. In fact, she was the most beautiful woman in all of India. Because of this, Sundarananda was as if hypnotized by her beauty and he never left her side whether walking, standing, sitting, lying down, or even eating.

Song: Sundari & Sundarananda

Together we walk, together we sleep

Together we talk, together we eat,

Whatever you do, you do it with me,

whatever I do, I do it with you


Narrator: The Buddha saw that his little brother had deep good roots and that if he left the home-life he would surely be a good cultivator, but he also knew that Sundarananda would never be able to leave his wife. So he devised a plan. He took his bowl and went to Sundarananda's house to beg for food. Sundari and Sundarananda were having lunch but when Sundarananda saw his brother, the Buddha, of course he wanted to go outside and make offerings to him.

Sundarananda: Sundari, please, I would like to step outside and give my brother, the Buddha, an offering of food.

Sundari: (spitting on the floor) All right, but on one condition. You come back before that spit dries on the floor. If you aren't back by then, then don't bother coming back at all. Understand?

Sundarananda: Sure, that's no problem. It won't take me that long.

Narrator: So Sundarananda went out to make offerings to his brother, the Buddha. But the strangest thing happened. Everytime he took a step forward to put the food in the Buddha's bowl, the Buddha took a step backward. With the help of the Buddha's spiritual penetrations, in a few minutes Sundarananda found himself back at the Jeta Grove.

Sundarananda: Oh, no, what will I do now. I'll never get back before that spit dries on the floor and Sundari will think I did it on purpose. She'll never forgive me.

Buddha: Don't go back, then. Stay here with me and leave the home-life. You should cultivate the Way.

Narrator: So Sundarananda allowed the Buddha to shave his head and garb him in the robes of a left-home person, but in his mind he was still very much in love with his wife, Sundari, and all he could think of was finding a chance to escape and go back home to her. One day the Buddha and all of his disciples went out for lunch and left Sundarananda to guard the door.

Buddha: We will be back soon, and bring you lunch. Sweep the floor and clean up the place a bit while we are gone. Goodbye.

Sundarananda: Now's my chance to go home to Sundari. But first I will do the chores the Buddha asked me to do.

Song: Sundarananda while sweeping

Watch the door, sweep the floor,

Is that all I'm good for


Answer the phone, stay at home

All alone...

Narrator: So Sundarananda began to sweep the floor, but the strangest thing began to happen. Every time ha got the dust together into a pile, a gust of wind would come and blow it all over the room again. He tried closing all the windows but nothing worked and after al while he got really nervous.
Sundarananda: The Buddha will be back any minute and I will lose my chance. Dust or no dust, I'm leaving.
      Hmmm. Let's see, the Buddha will return on the main road, so I'll take a side road and that way I won't run into him.

Narrator: He ran for a couple of miles when he suddenly saw the Buddha and all the disciples walking toward him down the road. He quickly hid behind a tree and waited for him to pass. Moving slowly around' the tree so that the Buddha wouldn't see him, he never would have guessed the Buddha would reverse directions as he rounded the tree. Sundarananda ran right smack into the Buddha.

Buddha: What are you doing? I thought you were watching the door.

Sundarananda: I waited and waited but when you didn't return I decided to come and meet you. I thought that your bowl might be too heavy. I came to carry your bowl back for you, Buddha.

Buddha: What a good disciple! Let's go back together, then.

Narrator: But the Buddha knew that Sundarananda wasn't happy and that all day long he thought of his wife, Sundari, so one day the Buddha went to him and said:

Buddha: Let's go for a walk in the mountains. Just you and I, all right, Sundarananda?

Sundarananda: All right.

Buddha: Sundarananda, look at all these mountain-monkeys. Who is more beautiful, your wife, Sundari, or these monkeys?

Sundarananda: Why, of course, Sundari is more beautiful. How can you even compare them? Sundari is beautiful and these monkeys are ugly.

Buddha: Oh, I see you are quite intelligent. You know that your wife is more beautiful than the monkeys.

Narrator: When they returned to the Jeta Grove, Sundarananda thought of his beautiful wife even more, but before long the Buddha same to him again.

Buddha: Sundarananda, have you ever been to the heavens? Want to go?

Sundarananda: Wow! I've never been to the heavens, sure, I'll go.

Narrator: So they both sat down in meditation and the Buddha used his spiritual powers to take them to the heavens where they visited a palace where five hundred goddesses and many servants were working. The heavens were a million times more beautiful than the earth and Sundarananda fell in love with the exquisite goddesses the moment he saw them.

Sundarananda: Do you have a leader, who owns this palace? Who is your master?

Goddesses: Our master hasn't come yet. He's Shakyamuni Buddha's little brother Sundarananda. He's left home to cultivate the Way and in the future he will be reborn in this palace with these five hundred goddesses as his wives.

Song: Goddesses

We are the heavenly maidens

Look at our heavenly eyes.

Look at OUT heavenly pigtails.

Heave your heavenly sighs.

We are the heavenly maidens

Keeping the palace so neat.

For five hundred years from today

Nanda our Master we'll meet.

Sundarananda: Wow! Maybe I won't run away after all! I'll cultivate and get reborn in the heavens.

Buddha: By the way, Sundarananda, who do you think is more beautiful, your wife, Sundari or the goddesses up here?

Sundarananda: Buddha, compared to these goddesses, my wife, Sundari is as ugly as a monkey!

Narrator: Sundarananda cultivated day and night when they returned, because he wanted to be a heavenly lord. But the Buddha knew that wasn't good enough. Though Sundarananda was cultivating the blessings of the heavens, in the end he would use them up and fall. So wanting to help Sundarananda, he took him for another walk.

Buddha: Come one, Sundarananda, let's go visit the hells.

Sundarananda: I've heard they aren't very pleasant. But if you say so....

Narrator: They visited the hell of the mountain of knives, the sword-tree hell, the fire-sea hell, the ice-hell and many others, but finally they came to a hell where there were two ghosts sitting beside a pot of oil which was barely simmering. The lazy ghosts had let the fire go out and one was asleep. The other was just about.

Sundarananda (softly to himself): Hey, these ghosts are supposed to be tending the fire under that cauldron, but they're not doing their job at all. They sure are lazy. (Out loud while nudging one) Wake up! What are you doing going to sleep?

Ghost: What's it to you?

Sundarananda: (cowed a little by their fierceness): Just wondered.

Ghost: You gotta know, huh? Ok, I’ll tell ya. The Buddha’s got a little brother who’s cultivating the blessings of the heavens. He’s going to be reborn in the heavens and enjoy five hundred years of heavenly bliss before he falls. One he falls, thought, he’ll tumble all the way down here and when he gets here, we’re supposed to have this oil boiling hot. He’s going to be French Fried!

Song: Ghosts

Here is the copper kettle

Filled with boiling oil.

The Buddha's brother, Nanda,

Is coming here to boil.

When he's through in heaven,

Karma's laws decide

He's coming down to our place

To get himself French Fried!

Narrator: Well, as you can imagine, when Sundarananda heard this, he was so horrified that every hair on his body stood straight up.

Sundarananda: Heavenly maidens are beautiful, but I sure don't dig this boiling oil stuff. A bit too hot for me: It's just not worth it. I guess life isn't so wonderful after all. I think maybe I'll just cultivate to end birth and death and forget all about the heavenly bliss.

Narrator: Still shaking, Sundarananda returned to the Jeta Grove with the Buddha. But this time he didn't sit around thinking about his wife Sundari nor did he cultivate the blessings of the heavens. He just worked hard to end birth and death and soon he certified to the fruition.

Song: Everyone

Living beings without number

I vow to bring them through.

Why become a Buddha?

There's nothing else to do.

Endless Dharma-doors

I vow to study, too.

A person's gotta do something

And there's nothing else to do.

A person's gotta do something

Before it gets too late.

There ain't nothin' else to do,

Might as well cultivate.