The deep cultural roots, along with a wealth of folklore contained in the scriptures with regards to the patrons of the Phra Setthi Nawa Kot
In part 2, we will explore the personal histories of each of the 9 patrons who are represented in the 9 divine faces, and uncover some of the more startling accounts of their devotion to the Buddha.
Thananchai (Pali: Dhananjaya)
Dhananjaya was the richest man in a town named Bhaddiyanagara
The kingdom of Magadha
As Dhananjaya was held in high regard by Kings, celebrating his virtues and achievements with sincere reverence, brings one respect and superiority among the rank and file.
Yasa was the son of a rich merchant. He was raised in the lap of absolute luxury, never wanting for anything, and enjoying all the pleasures life had to offer. He maintained 3 palaces, one for winter, one for summer and another for the rainy season. It was during one particular monsoon in that very house, that enlightenment came to him.
Amidst the pouring rain, Yasa lived in the company of only female musicians, who entertained him and tended to his every need. One tumultuous night, he awoke to the sight of his female attendants piled together in various states of dishevelment, and was abhorred by the sight. They resembled corpses piled in a mass grave, and he felt a sickness in the pit of his stomach, for the vile self-indulgences that had defined his life this far.
Yasa rushed out in a state of panic, and as fate would have it, the gates of the palace were swung open by angels, leaving him on a clear beeline towards the outskirts of the city. He ran and ran, eventually stumbling into the Deer Park, Isipatana
Upon seeing the Buddha, Yasa collapsed in fits of despair. The Buddha consoled him, eventually going on to tutor him in the merits of alms-giving, morality, the mysteries of existence across various planes, and the pitfalls of succumbing to vanity and lust. Through his teachings, Yasa found emancipation, and freedom from the trappings of desire. By the time he had emerged from his sorrow, he had attained the first stage of liberation, Sotapanna
Yassa’s father, came searching for his son (he had recognized Yasa’s slippers nearby), and seeing the Buddha, enquired about his whereabouts. The Buddha had made Yasa invisible to his father, in the hopes that his father too would stay and share in his knowledge. He urged Yasa’s father to stay, promising to take him to his son after. In doing so, Yasa’s father too, gained the fruit of Sotapanna and took refuge under the Buddha, his teachings and his fraternity of monks. He was the first lay disciple to take refuge in the Triple Gems (the Buddha, his teachings and his fraternity of monks).
Yasa bestows clear insight (the awakening from a life of excess and immorality), and draws people in, bestowing unity in their hearts and minds.
Sumana (Pali: Sumana)
The story of Sumana the gardener, is a study in the proper bestowment of honour when it is due. Drawing from parallels in scripture, Sumana bestows the benefit of clarity and wisdom. Sumana, the gardener to King Bimbisara, honoured the Buddha with eight measures of jasmine flowers intended for the King. In recognition, the Buddha extolled the humble gardener’s virtues throughout the city, inspiring the King to reward him with eightfold gifts.
When Sumana honoured the king daily with eight measures of jasmine flowers, he would receive a mere eight coins. One day, while making his way to the palace, he happened across the Buddha. In delight, he cast two handfuls of flowers aloft in the air, and the delicate petals took the form of a canopy above the Buddha’s head. Two handfuls to the right, two handfuls to the left, and an equal measure to above him, the miracle of the flower canopy accompanied the Buddha as he walked through the city, clearly visible for three leagues and beyond, a wonder, surely, for all who beheld.
Sumana hurried home with his empty basket, excitedly relating the account to his wife, who was less enthused, fearing the wrath of a King missing his daily flowers. She rushed to the palace to confess, and absolve herself of any responsibility for her husband’s misdeeds. King Bimbisāra, having already been visited by the Buddha, sent for Sumana, who dejectedly surrendered to his likely fate. To his surprise, the King elevated him instead, bestowing him with several eightfold gifts: eight female servants, eight sets of jewels, eight thousand pieces of currency, eight women from the royal harem, and eight villages.
Chatisatsa (Pali: Jatila Kassa)
A setthi of Magadha, one of the five setthis of King Bimbisāra. His mother was a setthi’s daughter in Benares, and he was borne of her illicit consorts with a sorcerer. When their child was born, she loaded him into a vessel, and handed him to her servants to be floated down the Ganges, in order to escape the fate that would surely befall him.
Two women, who had been bathing in the river, discovered the infant Jatila, each claiming him for her own. This dispute was brought before the King, who ruled that he be given to the woman who was a disciple of Mahā Kaccāna
When he was able to walk, he was given to be ordained in the care of Mahā Kaccāna, but the monk took him to Takkasilā
Years passed, and eventually the merchant had to leave town. He tasked Jatila with consolidating and selling all his personal effects. In a mere day, Jatila completed the task with aplomb, liquidating more than a decade’s worth of possessions with ease.
The merchant, recognising the young man’s destiny, bestowed him a house, and his daughter’s hand in marriage. As Jatila stepped into the house, the earth behind it began to rend, revealing a mountain of gold, eighty cubits in height.
Jatila was appointed as Treasurer by the King. Wishing to retire from the trappings of secular life, he sent emissaries far and wide, seeking another as rich as he, who could stand in his stead before the King. They returned from their mission, with the names of Mendaka
To the youngest of his three sons, the only one with sufficient virtue to fully utilize his resources, he left his entire fortune. Jatila walked away from his life and into the embrace of the 26.Sangha
Jatila’s affiliation by wealth spanned various lifetimes, and the circumstances of his birth, were more than just happenstance. They were cast by his own actions. In the aeon of the Kassapa Buddha
Of his three sons whose help he sought in making preparations, only the youngest consented to go with him.
Seven successive lives later, Jatila found himself cast into the river on the day of his birth (due to his harsh speech towards the Arahant in his previous life), and leaving his wealth to his youngest son. The golden mountain was the universe returning the gift he had so generously contributed, all those aeons ago. It is believed that Jatila bestows prosperity and luck, because of this immense merit.
Anata Binthika (Pali: Anathapindika)
Anāthapindika was a treasurer of Sāvatthi
He fed one hundred monks in his house daily, in addition to guests, travelers, residents of the area, and the needy. Five hundred seats were always ready and waiting in his house, to feed guests from all walks of life.
Stronger still than his love and empathy for his fellow man, was his desire to meet the Buddha, a wish that was so strong, the guardians and angels themselves descended from the heavens to assist him in fulfilling it. Although he was to meet the Buddha in the day, the night before, he could hardly contain his excitement, getting up three times to attempt the journey on his own.
Perhaps his most famous incident, was his purchase of an entire park for the Buddha and his monks, located about one kilometre south-west from the walls of Savatthi
It was the manner in which Anathapindika purchased the park, that made the incident noteworthy. When he first approached the Prince, asking to buy the park, he was declined. Anathapindika was insistent, offering to pay any price he could name. Infuriated, the Prince retorted that if he could cover the ground of the park with gold coins, he could consider the park sold.
To the prince’s astonishment, Anathapindika enthusiastically agreed. Wagon upon wagon of gold pieces appeared, carrying a king’s ransom worth of gold. Servants and attendants began to spread the gold across the floor, paving the entire park over. Witnessing Anathapindika’s determination, Prince Jeta was moved, and agreed to a more reasonable price.
After securing the new sanctuary, Anathapindika invested large sums of his personal fortune, building living quarters, assembly halls, storerooms and pavilions, laying out gardens and digging ponds. Prince Jeta too contributed an impressive gate and paths leading to the park, in addition to a grand perimeter fence to ensure their privacy. In recognition of the two men who made all this possible, the monastery was named Jeta’s Grove (Jetavana
Anathapindika is believed to bestow good progress in life.
Maenathaka (Pali: Mendaka)
In the City of Bhaddiya
In a previous life, his family had generously bestowed a Pacceka Buddha
The Buddhist scripture describe one such account in vivid detail. After completing his ceremonial bath, Mendaka visit his granary, and was blessed with miraculous showers of grain descending from the divine provenance of the heavens.
His wife, Candapaduma
Even Mendeka’s servant, Punnaka
The roots of this divine blessings, lay in an act of immense kindness from an earlier life. He once encountered a priest who warned of a coming famine. Collecting as much grain as possible, he stored it in his various granaries to ride out the impending calamity, and sent all members of his family out in search of more, so that they might survive, while remaining behind with his wife, his son and daughter in law, and a servant (all of whom would go on to make up the 5 aforementioned “lucky ones”).
One day, his wife had prepared some of the rice that they had squirrelled away, carefully divvying it amongst the 5 of them. As the family were about to dig in to the life-giving grains, a Pacceka Buddha came to the door seeking alms. In an act of single-minded devotion, they all surrendered their portions to the monk. During the afternoon, after the Pacceka Buddha consumed the food, Mendaka succumbed to his hunger, inquiring if his wife could scrape any morsels from the bottom of the rice pot. She went into the kitchen, and to her shock, she found the rice pot bursting with an abundant, fragrant supply. From that day on, they would never be left wanting. As a result of their earnest actions, they had been blessed manifold with an inexhaustible supply.
Amongst his many epithets, Mendaka was also known as the “Ram”, after the immense golden rams prancing in his backyard, as big as elephants, who shook the earth their mighty hooves, and filled the air with the constant, powerful thundering of their clashing horns. These mystical rams were more than just pets however, they were a conduit for the divine blessings themselves. Whenever Mendaka required food, garments or money, he would place balls of colored thread in their mouths. The rams would produce whatever he needed from their mouths thereafter.
All these blessings were his rewards for the meritorious deeds of prior lives. In the time of Vipassī Buddha
Grander still, was the shape of the hut, which was made to resemble a peacock fanning its tail. The uncle also dug 3 clear perfumed-water ponds near the hut, surrounding the ponds with all shrubs, trees and fragrant flowers. Finally he embellished the grounds surrounding the hut with a veritable cornucopia of small gems.
Not to be outdone, his nephew raised an elephant-shaped pavilion opposite the peacock-hut. In the middle of this jeweled pavilion, sat a spot for preaching, supported by footrest in the shape of two golden rams. At the festival of dedication, he gave alms to 6.8 million monks, blessing them with three sets of robes each. The robes were all of equal value, around a hundred thousand in today’s currency. Such was the value of his dedication to the path of the Buddha.
It is believed that Mendaka bestows neverending prosperity in wealth and luck.
Chotika (Pali: Jotika)
Jotika was the uncle of Mendaka in a past life, though both shared a name in that iteration of existence. Jotika was renowned for his many demonstration of his dedication to the Buddha, as well as for his generosity. It was a separate incident, in another lifetime however, that cemented his blessings forever, shrouding him in a divine glow and blessings of the Buddha himself.
Aparajita (the name of Jotika in that previous life) went to pay homage to Vipassī Buddha, placing a gemstone as large as a melon by the Buddha’s feet in tribute. He wanted the Buddha’s divine light to be magnified through the brilliance of the gem, enchanting the masses to come to the Buddha, to see the magnificence and benefit from the Buddha’s teachings. However, a greedy brahmin pretending to visit the Buddha, stole the gem.
Robbed of the spectacle of dedication that he had envisioned for the gem, where the glow from the massive gem would be rivalled only by that of the Buddha, Aparajita was deeply upset by the brahmin’s greed, and he made a wish to Vipassī Buddha that no one would ever take his belongings for themselves again, by force, calamity, or act of god. The Buddha himself, sensing his earnestness, granted his wish.
In the age of our current Buddha, Aparajita was reborn as Jotika. On the day he was born, the arsenals at Rājagaha
Later in life, Jotika and his wife would find themselves never in need of flame or illumination, as their emeralds and rubies shone with a fierce light that cooked their food and illuminated their daily lives.
The light is said to have imbued him with divine protection, holding true the promises granted to him by the Buddha.
It is said that even King Ajātasattu
Jotika’s wife was from Uttarakuru
Once, King Bimbisara arrived at Jotika’s home, and announced his dominion over Jotika, his wife, and all who lived there.
In later days, Prince Ajātasattu, the son of this King Bimbisāra , under the evil influence of Devadattha
Jotika was observing the uposatha
When King Ajātasattu’s army approached the first wall of Jotika’s mansion, Yamakoḷī
When Jotika saw the King, he rose and went to greet the King. The King however, was less enthused, accusing him of using trickery and treachery against the crown.
Jotika then learnt that the King had come to take his wealth for himself. Jotika calmly explained that no one, not even Kings would ever be able to do so.
The King was furious, and insisted that he would take whatever he wanted. Bemused, Jotika stretched out his hands, challenging the King to remove the rings from his fingers. In the scriptures, King Ajātasattu was described as a man of impressive physical prowess, but he found himself fumbling, totally unable to make the rings budge. To everyone’s astonishment, Jotika himself removed the rings with ease, allowing them to fall onto the King’s outstretched robes. Repulsed by the King’s greed, Jotika resolved to abandon the secular life, and become a monk instead.
King Ajātasattu was eager to grant him permission, believing that Jotika would have to relinquish his worldly possessions as a result. Not long after, Jotika became an Arahant, but the King could never lay a finger on any of his property or possessions as they vanished without a trace, as if they had been erased from the fabric of time and space. His wife too, disappeared, returned to the alternate dimension from whence she came.
This account contains an important lesson in meditation, “Just as foolish ones, ruffians blinded by inordinate greed, fret and fume and torment themselves, the wise one, cherishing the Dhamma
In another life, Jotika had a brother, and they had been sugar cane farmers. One day, the younger brother went to the plantation and cut up two stems of cane, one for himself and the other for his brother. He carefully wrapped the ends with leaves, to retain the juice for the journey home.
On his way home, he met a Pacceka Buddha and offered the sugarcane juice into his alms bowl. He made a wish that this offering would bring him sensual pleasures in Heaven and earth, as well as one day being able to realize the Truth, just as the Paccekabuddha had understood.
The younger brother then offered the other stalk of sugarcane meant for his brother. His thirst quenched however, the Paccekabuddha instead shared the offering with 500 other Paccekabuddha. The elder brother was thrilled when he was informed of this, and made a wish to be able to discern and comprehend the truth of existence, without having to first overcome the trappings of desire from riches. This led his younger brother to be reborn as Jotika in the age of our Buddha.
That is one of the reasons why Buddhists exclaim “Sadhu sadhu sadhu”
Jotika is believed to imbue metta and attractiveness through an aura of radiance.
Sumangkala (Pali: Sumangala)
In the scriptures, he is said to have spent his fortune erecting a monastery for the Buddha, and covering the ground with pure gold. Once, he found a man sleeping upon the hallowed grounds of his temple, and accused him of thievery, attempting to steal the treasures housed within. Wrongfully accused, the man developed a personal vendetta against Sumangkala, repeatedly seeking out and burning his land, and killing his cattle.
Knowing how much Sumangala much cherished the monastery he had built, the man sought to enact the ultimate form of revenge, by razing it to the ground. However, when Sumangala saw the ruins, he rejoiced, exclaiming that he could now build another in its place. Angered by his seeming lack of regard for the gravity of the situation, the man plotted to kill him.
One day Sumangala held a huge almsgiving event, and upon its conclusion, remarked to the Buddha that there was one among the attendees, who had devoted all his time to harming him. He related to the Buddha that he held no anger towards that person, and dedicated the good merits from the almsgiving event towards that person. Upon hearing this, the saboteur was filled with remorse, and asked Sumangala for his forgiveness.
Because of his kindness, Sumangala is believed to bless devotees with a safe and peaceful life.
Manthatu (Pali: Mandathu/ Mandhata)
Mandathu was mentioned in Tale 258 of The Jataka Tales, detailing the stories of the Buddha’s Former Births.
During his time in Savatthi
He told the monk that there was no sufficient means to satisfy craving and clinging, and even Universal Monarchs (read our article on Keaw Jed Pragan to understand more) and Kings of deities were held sway by its hypnotic embrace.
In the early days of another aeon long past, there was a Universal Monarch named Mandhata. He was endowed with the Seven Precious Treasures (see our article on Keaw Jed Pragan) and supernatural powers. When he clenched his left hand, and then touched it with his right, seven kinds of jewels would rain from the sky, filling the area knee-deep with splendor.
One day, there arose a feeling of great discontent in him. His courtiers suggested that perhaps the kingdom of heaven would be more efficacious at easing his discontent. When he went to the 4 Guardian Kings in heaven, they gave him dominion over their kingdom. Time went by and again, Mandatha’s heart was tormented by discontent. Upon hearing from the 4 Guardian Kings that the Heaven of Sakka possessed hitherto untold dimensions of loveliness, he went forth to Sakka. Sakka, the king of deities, acceded half of his kingdom to Mandatha, and the two ruled jointly. However, Mandathu once again found the seeds of malcontent sprouting within him, growing with each passing day.
He plotted to kill Sakka and reign alone. This desire and greed caused his downfall, as his lifeforce began to wane. From the heavens he fell to earth, landing in a dirty park, where he died in the presence of curious onlookers.
The Buddha then went on to teach the monk through verses;
“Wherever sun and moon their courses run
All are Mandhata’s servants, every one:
Where’er earth’s quarters see the light of day,
There king Mandhata holds imperial sway.
“Not though a rain of coins fall from the sky
Could anything be found to satisfy.
Pain is desire, and sorrow is unrest:
He that knows this is wise, and he is blest.
“Where longing is, there pleasure takes him wings,
Even though desire be set on heavenly things.
Disciples of the Very Buddha try
To crush out all desire eternally.”
The story of Mandatha reminds the devotee not to cling towards the pursuit of upward mobility, though the power of Setthi Nawa Kot may bestow promotions in office and progress.
In Part 3, we will share the incantations and methods for proper worship to obtain maximum blessings and benefits.