Pindola-Bharadvaja is translated as “unperturbed keen faculties.” He is still and imperturbable, with a stable, keen disposition. This Venerable One once served as the minister of the King of Udayana. When the conditions matured, disillusioned with worldly concerns, he renounced the home life to cultivate the Way, and further attained the spiritual penetration of knowing one’s past lives. One day, the king went to the Buddha’s place. Venerable Pindola-Bharadvaja did not rise from his seat, and thus the king was disgruntled. When the king went to the Buddha’s place again, Venerable Pindola-Bharadvaja moved forward seven steps to greet him and stopped, telling him, “That cost Your Majesty seven years of blessing.” At that time, Venerable Jyotika placed a sandalwood almsbowl on the roof of the temple and proclaimed to the assembly, “If any of you can use his spiritual penetration to take down the almsbowl, then it will be given to you.” Venerable Pindola-Bharadvaja was patching his robe under a tree on the mountain. As he saw the scene from afar with his heavenly eye, he immediately went to get the almsbowl. The Buddha reprimanded him, “You must not reveal your spiritual penetrations in front of laypeople. From now on, you are not allowed to follow me or enter into stillness; you must accept invitations to offerings in order to increase people’s blessings.” Thus Venerable Pindola-Bharadvaja is the foremost field of blessings. He always manifests an appearance with white hair and long eyebrows.
The Venerable Pindola-Bharadvaja is one who receives offering—the offering of Dharma. If anyone of you would like to treat him to a vegetarian meal he will be very happy. He will be so happy that even his hair, his eyes and his eyebrows will smile. His eyebrows are so long they extend to the ground. When he smiles, his eyebrows are raised. How can he see when his eyebrows extend to the ground? When they are raised, he can see again and know how you make offerings to him. Now we will talk about this Arhat.
This Arhat liked to reveal his spiritual penetrations in the past; he liked to play practical jokes on people. Accordingly, he used his spiritual penetrations to do things that other people could not do in order to show off his abilities. For this reason, the Buddha reprimanded him, saying, “You can’t even hide your light under a bushel! You always do things that are strange and unconventional to flaunt your ability!” “You are not allowed to enter stillness. You are not allowed to follow me!” The Buddha reproached him in this way. He probably listened to the Buddha’s instruction and thus did not enter stillness. Now if any of you sincerely invite him over to receive offering he will invariably come. Therefore in some monasteries, a nice room is prepared especially for him. The room is tidy and clean; it is not necessarily elegant, but it is very neat. A bed is also set up for him. Not only that, but quilts and everything else are prepared for him to come and stay, and receive offerings. He will invariably come because he was so instructed by the Buddha. You all probably don’t know about the wondrous abilities of this Venerable One. No matter who invites him—even if tens of thousands of people invite him all on the same day—he will go to tens of thousands of places to receive offerings.
His name is Pindola, and his last name Bharadvaja. His name means “unperturbed” and “keen disposition.” He is unperturbed by anything—wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep. Further, his disposition is very keen. To have a keen disposition means to be very intelligent. He is not only very sharp-witted, but also very intelligent. Therefore he is “still and unperturbed, with a stable, keen disposition”. He is an optimist and always very happy. You see, his beard is long, his hair is long, and his eyebrows are long. He is very happy and always looks like a youth.
Before he renounced the home life, he was the minister of the King of Udayana [An ancient kingdom situated in present day Xinjiang Province]. As a minister, he may have managed the finances, the public health, the foreign affairs or the domestic affairs of the country. Anyhow we are not concerned about this. Afterwards, he was disillusioned with worldly concerns and thus renounced the home life to cultivate the Way. After he renounced the home life to cultivate the Way, he attained the spiritual penetration of knowing one’s past lives. He further attained the spiritual penetrations of the heavenly eye and the heavenly ear, knowing others’ minds and that of spiritual travel. But he had not fully attained the spiritual penetration of freedom from outflows. If he had, then he would have attained the stage of those beyond study. The King of Udayana had faith in the Buddha and frequently went to make offerings to the Buddha. When he was making offerings to the Buddha, he saw that Pindola-Bharadvaja sitting there and totally ignoring him. This made him angry. He was upset and thought to himself, “In the past you were my minister; when you saw me you had to give me three hoorays wishing me a long life, kowtow and bow in obeisance. Now that you have renounced the home life, you simply ignore me when I come. You are indeed too rude! If you still treat me so rudely when I come next time, I’ll definitely kill you no matter what!”
The next day, the king went to the Buddha’s place again. Venerable Pindola-Bharadvaja did not want the king to violate the precept against killing, so he reluctantly rose from his seat and moved forward seven steps to greet him. He stopped after seven steps and told the King of Udayana, “Your Majesty, now I’ve come forward seven steps to greet you. But that was at the expense of seven years of your blessing as a king! In the future I’m afraid you will encounter a disaster.” In this way, the reign of the King of Udayana was shortened by seven years. The law of cause and effect is very formidable.
Therefore, you lay people should not let the monastics serve you tea or rice, or do anything to greet you. In the temple, you should take care of yourselves and not let the monastics wait on you. In some temples, monastics seek to please the laypeople. Some of them even make half bows to the laypeople and treat them with great hospitality. Why do they do that? They are obsequious in order to develop relationships with the rich. This is not right. Even if you as a monastic have not attained sagehood, your status is still higher than that of laypeople. Therefore laypeople must not ask the monastics to serve them. In Dongbei, Hong Kong and America, I have never poured tea or served water to laypeople. I never do anything for them. I’m very simple. I don’t even offer plates of fruit. In the ordinary monasteries in China, when Dharma protectors come, plates of fruit—longan, dried longan, peanuts or other nuts—are set on the table. I don’t comply with such conventions. Therefore no matter where I go, people say that I’m too aloof and that I don’t know how to serve people. I dare not serve people! I’m afraid if I did I would decrease their blessings by seven years and if they were the king, their reign would be decreased by seven years. I no doubt am someone who has not attained sagehood. But how can you be sure that there won’t be any consequences in doing this?
Once there was an elder who was particularly mischievous. How so? He used some sandalwood to make an almsbowl. If you want to give away an almsbowl you can simply give it to anyone you wish; or you could let everyone draw lots. You can say, “Let’s draw lots for my almsbowl.” But he didn’t do that. Instead he placed the alms-bowl at the top of a pagoda in the temple. It was probably not easy to get it from the top. Maybe one could get it using a hoist or a helicopter. But I don’t know how he managed to get it up there; I don’t know what kind of bird he sent to place the almsbowl there. He put it in an inaccessible place. He said, “If any of you have spiritual penetrations and manage to get the almsbowl using your spiritual penetrations, I will give it to you.” At that time, some Arhats with spiritual penetrations thought, “No way! In no case will I do this! If we use our spiritual penetrations to take it down, it will show that we covet the almsbowl and are greedy. However, if none of us take it down, this elder seems to be testing us to see if we have spiritual penetrations. What are we to do?”
At that time, these Arhats who had attained sagehood did not know what course to take. Pindola-Bharadvaja was patching his robe under a tree at a faraway place. While he was patching his robe, he heard about what was happening. He then wanted to play a joke on them. So he went to the place using his spiritual penetrations, soared high into the space and took the almsbowl down. As a result, he was reprimanded by the Buddha, “You always show off your spiritual penetrations in front of everyone, and this is impermissible. Since you’ve made this mistake, I won’t allow you to follow me anymore. I won’t allow you to be part of the community, and I won’t allow you to enter stillness, be reborn, or enter Nirvana. You must stay in the world forever, and you must accept every invitation to an offering no matter who invites you. You must receive offerings in the world and serve as the field of blessings. You must let people in the world plant the seeds of blessings.” Pindola-Bharadvaja thought, “That sounds good! It’s fun and I can do it. I can be like a kid and play with the kids in the world.” Therefore, today, if anyone invites him he will go to receive offering. But let me tell you, he will not let you recognize him. If you pay attention to him, he will do certain things so that you will not be able to recognize him. This is how Pindola-Bharadvaja is. In the past, some people talked about him in great detail. Therefore, I am simply saying a little bit according to my own perspective and understanding of him.
To be continued