Two merchants offer dried rice cakes to the Buddha and become the first lay people to declare themselves Buddhists

The picture shown here depicts the events that occurred at the time the Buddha was staying under the ket tree, related in the caption to Picture 30. The place is the rajayatana or ket tree, and the time is during the fourth week after the Buddha's enlightenment.

During the first week the Buddha stayed under the Great Bodhi tree; on the second week he stayed under the goatherds' banyan tree; in the third week he stayed under the mucalinda tree, and in the fourth week he stayed here.

In the picture we see one of the two traveling merchants offering dried rice cakes to the Buddha. The Buddha is receiving them in the stone bowl offered to him by the Four Great Kings, as already related.

The Four Great Kings are powerful devas who have the duty of protecting the world. They live in the four directions. King Dhataratha is the Lord of the gandhabbas [gandharva, heavenly musicians]. He lives in the east. King Virulhaka is the Lord of the [earth] devas. He lives in the south. King Virupaka is the Lord of the nagas and lives in the west, and King Kuvera is the Lord of the yakkhas and lives in the north.

These four deva kings had each brought a bowl to offer to the Buddha. The Buddha received the four bowls and through a vow made them all into one. Then he received the food from the two caravan merchants.

The Pathamasambodhi relates that the Buddha's first bowl, which had been offered to him together with robes by Ghatika Brahma when he first went forth from the home life and which he had used up until arriving at the banks of the Anoma river, disappeared when he received the meal of milk rice from Sujata, just before his enlightenment.

When the two traveling merchant brothers brought the provisions to offer to the Buddha, there was no bowl for the Buddha to receive them in, so the Four Great Kings offered the four bowls already described. It is a tradition among Buddhas not to receive food offerings in their hands, but only to receive them in a bowl.
 

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