Why the Buddha Suffered

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[10. Eating Barley]

In the tenth enquiry, called eating barley, we hear about eating husked barley. Taṇḍula means husked rice normally, but in the story there is no mention of rice being served with the barley, so I take it it must mean husked barley.1

In the past, it seems, the Buddha-to-be was reborn in a certain family, and because of his high birth and being blinded by foolishness, having seen the disciples of the Gracious One Phussa enjoying sweet drinks and food and the finest rice and so on, he scolded them saying: “Hey, you shaveling ascetics should eat barley, you shouldn't enjoy the finest rice!”

Through that unwholesome deed and its result, after undergoing suffering in the four lower realms for countless thousands of years, in this his last state of existence, he by and by attained Buddhahood. Having sympathy for the world he walked in the villages, towns and royal cities, and at one time, while in the vicinity of the brahminical village of Verañjā, he arrived at the root of a Margosa tree endowed with spreading See Viṭapa in SED for this meaning, which goes unnoticed in PED.2 branches.

A Verañjā brahmin, The whole story of the Buddha's residence in Verañjā, the famine that prevailed at that time and the conversations he had with the Verañjā brahmin is related at the very beginning of the Vinayapiṭaka. Suttavibhaṅga, 1 ff. The discussion with the brāhmin in which the Buddha counters his accusations, and eventually teaches him the Four Noble Truths, can be found there and also in the Verañjasutta of Aṅguttaranikāya: AN Bk. 8, Ch. 2, Su. 1.3 having approached the Gracious One, being unable to overcome the Gracious One in any way became a Stream-Enterer and invited him saying: “Venerable Sir, please undertake to spend the Rains Retreat here.”

The Gracious One consented by remaining silent.

Then, beginning on the following day, the Wicked Māra posssessed the whole of those dwelling in the brahmin village of Verañjā. And when the Gracious One entered the village for alms because of being possessed by Māra they did not give even one spoon of almsfood. The Gracious One, surrounded by the Community of monks, returned with an empty bowl.

A horse merchant arrived at the very place where they resided and after giving a gift of almsfood that day, and inviting the Gracious One and his five hundred monks thenceforth, and dividing a share of food from the five-hundred horses, he crushed the barley, and dropped it into the monks' bowls.

All the well-born gods from the whole of the ten-thousand universes dropped in godly nutrients so that it was like freshly cooked milk-rice. The Gracious One partook of the food and for three months thereafter he partook of barley.

At the end of three months, being no longer possessed by Māra, on the Invitation Day, the Verañjā brahmin, after remembering his duties, became very anxious and gave a great gift of almsfood to the Community of monks with the Buddha at its head, and worshipping, begged for forgiveness.

Therefore it is said:

I blamed the teachings and disciples of Buddha Phussa saying:
“You should eat and enjoy barley, you should not enjoy this fine rice;”

Through that deed and its result for three months I ate only barley
When invited by the brahmin to dwell three months in Verañjā.