The Buddha's foster mother offers a cloth, which the Buddha gives to Venerable Ajita, the future Buddha
According to the sources in the Buddhist texts, especially the Commentaries, which were compiled by later writers after the Buddha's passing away, it seems that the Buddha went to visit Kapilavatthu many times.
This picture depicts one of those visits. The Pathamasambodhi states that it was his second visit. The woman sitting in front of the Buddha is Pajapati Gotami, the Buddha's aunt, being the younger sister of the Buddha's mother. When Mahamaya died, King Suddhodana took her as his wife.
According to the story, Pajapati Gotami, realizing that when the Buddha went to Kapilavatthu on his first visit she had not offered anything to him, on the second visit brought two pieces of cotton cloth, each 14 sork (forearm lengths) in length and 7 sork in width, to offer to the Buddha. The Pathamasambodhi states that the cotton of the cloth was yellow, like gold. The Queen had planted the cotton herself, and it grew a dark yellow color. She spun and wove the cotton herself and, putting it onto a golden tray, offered it to the Buddha.
The Queen was disappointed when the Buddha would not receive the cloth, and went to see Venerable Ananda to tell him what had happened. Ananda went to see the Buddha and asked him to receive it. Once again, the Buddha would not receive it, telling the Queen to offer it to one of the monks in the Order, but not one of them would receive it. There was only one monk, sitting at the end of the line of monks, newly ordained, who would receive it. His name was Ajita. He was still unenlightened, but, according to the Pathamasambodhi, in the future he would be Metteya, the next Buddha to save the world.
The reason the Buddha would not receive Pajapati Gotami's cloth was because he wanted to show the great worth of the Order, in that even a newly ordained monk who keeps the precepts is worthy of offerings from Buddhists. If he had not done this people would think that one should give offerings only to the Buddha, a view which would mean that the monks would live with difficulty after the Buddha had passed away.
Copyright © 2002 Mahidol
University All rights reserved.