IX (11) The Story of Three Groups of Persons
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (127) of this book, with reference to questions raised by three groups of bhikkhus concerning three extraordinary incidents.
The first group: A group of bhikkhus were on their way to pay homage to the Buddha and they stopped at a village on the way. Some people were cooking alms-food for those bhikkhus when one of the houses caught fire and a ring of fire flew up into the air. At that moment, a crow came flying, got caught in the ring of fire and dropped dead in the central part of the village. The bhikkhus seeing the dead crow observed that only the Buddha would be able to explain for what evil deed this crow had to die in this manner. After taking alms-food they continued on their journey to pay homage to the Buddha, and also to ask about the unfortunate crow.
The second group: Another group of bhikkhus wore travelling in a boat; they too wore on their way to pay homage to the Buddha. When they were in the middle of the ocean the boat could not be moved. So, lots were drawn to find out who the unlucky one was; three times the lot fell on the wife of the skipper. Then the skipper said sorrowfully, "Many people should not die on account of this unlucky woman; tie a pot of sand to her neck and threw her into the water so that I would not see her." The woman was thrown into the sea as instructed by the skipper and the ship could move on. On arrival at their destination. the bhikkhus disembarked and continued on their way to the Buddha. They also intended to ask the Buddha due to what evil kamma the unfortunate woman was thrown overboard.
The third group: A group of seven bhikkhus were also on their way to pay homage to the Buddha. On the way, they enquired at a monastery whether there was any suitable place for them to take shelter for the night in the neighbourhood. They were directed to a cave, and there they spent the night; but in the middle of the night, a large boulder slipped off from above and effectively closed the entrance. In the morning, the bhikkhus from the nearby monastery coming to the cave saw what had happened and they went to bring people from seven villages. With the help of these people they tried to move the boulder, but it was of no avail. Thus, the seven bhikkhus were trapped in the cave without food or water for seven days. On the seventh day, the boulder moved miraculously by itself, and the bhikkhus came out and continued their way to the Buddha. They also intended to ask the Buddha due to what previous evil deed they were thus shut up for seven days in a cave.
The three groups of travellers met on the way and together they went to the Buddha. Each group related to the Buddha what they had seen or experienced on their way and the Buddha answered their questions.
The Buddha answer to the first group: "Bhikkhus, once there was a farmer who had an ox. The ox was very lazy and also very stubborn. It could not be coaxed to do any work; it would lie down chewing the cud or else go to sleep. The farmer lost his temper many times on account of this lazy, stubborn animal; so in anger he tied a straw rope round the neck of the ox and set fire to it, and the ox died. On account of this evil deed the, farmer had suffered for a long time in niraya. and in serving out the remaining part of his punishment, he had been burnt to death in the last seven existences."
The Buddha's answer to the second group: "Bhikkhus, once there was a woman who had a pet dog. She used to take the dog along with her wherever she went and young boys of the city poked fun at her. She was very angry and felt so ashamed that she planned to kill the dog. She filled a pot with sand, tied it round the neck of the dog and threw it into the water; and the dog was drowned. On account of this evil deed that woman had suffered for a long time in niraya and in serving the remaining part of her punishment, she had been thrown into the water to drown in the last one hundred existences."
The Buddha's answer to the third group: "Bhikkhus, once, seven cowherds saw an iguana going into a mound and they dosed all the seven outlets of the mound with twigs and branches of trees. After closing the outlets they went away, completely forgetting the iguana that was trapped in the mound. Only after seven days, they remembered what they had done and hurriedly returned to the scene of their mischief and let out the iguana. On account of this evil deed, those seven had been imprisoned together for seven days without any food, in the last fourteen existences."
Then, a bhikkhu remarked, "O indeed! There is no escape from evil consequences for one who has done evil, even if he were in the sky, or in the ocean, or in a cave." To him, the Buddha said, "Yes, Bhikkhu! You are right; even in the sky or anywhere else, there is no place which is beyond the reach of evil consequences."
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
Verse 127. Not in the sky, nor in the middle of the ocean, nor in the cave of a mountain, nor anywhere else, is there a place, where one may escape from the consequences of an evil deed.
At the end of the discourse all the bhikkhus attained Sotapatti Fruition.