Epic stories of Gautama Buddha's previous lives
Story of Thuwanna Tharma
Adapted and translated from Burmese written by Min Yu Wai.
Once upon a time, there was a fishing village near the city of Bhayarnarthi. In that village there lived a wedded couple, Dukula and Parigha. Their parents were fishermen. However, they did not live on fishing.
Although they lived together they did not have a sexual relationship as husband and wife. They practiced celibacy, Bhyamarsarigya. One day, they asked permission from their parents to be hermits and then they left the village.
When Dukula and Parigha reached Himawonda forest, they made themselves hermits in the hermitage near the river, Migathammadhar. They practiced meditation, metta. Due to the divine power of their meditation, animals in the vicinity were free from conflict among one another and instead united.
While they were living in the forest, Parigha fetched water for consumption, and swept, then she accompanied Dukula to search for fruits. After they had come back to the hermitage, they ate the fruits and practiced religious meditation.
In such a way of life a son was born even though they lived celibacy. The son was not a result of the relationship of the husband and wife. From advice given by Thar Kyar Minn, Parigha was conceived by the touch of Dukula on her bellybutton. Due to his shining golden skin, the son was called Thuwanna Tharma. He was also known as Thuwanna Shyan.
When Parigha was out in search for fruits, Female Keinneryi, mythical fairies, babysat Thuwanna Tharma. Both parents looked after Thuwanna Tharma, feeding him fruits, until he reached sixteen years of age.
One day, Dukula and Parigha were on their way back to the hermitage. Just before they got the hermitage, it started raining cats and dogs. Therefore, they went under a tree and stood on an anthill to avoid the rain. At that instance, drops of water mixed with sweat from their body fell into the hole of the anthill. In the hole there was a cobra that spat out poison so Dukula and Parigha's eyes were affected and they went blind.
Thuwanna Tharma was worried when his parents did not get back home as they were supposed to. He started looking for them on the way they normally went. He found them having trouble with their vision under the tree.
When Dukula and Parigha heard their son's voice, they shouted "Loving son, do not come here, it is dangerous." Thuwanna Tharma fetched a long vine branch and threw it to the parents and pulled them out away from the anthill. Then, he brought them back to the hermitage.
Thuwanna Tharma lamented when he found out that his parents had gone blind. But he soothed himself because he had a chance to look after his parents. Since then, Thuwanna Tharma had been looking after his parents by giving them bodily massages and feeding them fruits.
Thuwanna Tharma got up from bed very early every day. He paid homage to his parents and went to the river, Migathammadhar. He fetched water for consumption. He gave his parents water for facial wash and brush for their teeth. He let them wash face. He fed them fruits. He ate after his parents finished eating.
Then, he paid homage to his parents and went out in search of fruits with his company of deer. Keinneryis, mythical fairies, helped Thuwanna Tharma find fruits as well.
In the evening, Thuwanna Tharma came back to the hermitage from picking fruits. In the hermitage he boiled water. He bathed his parents with warm water. Then, he made a fire to let them warm. He fed them with the fruits. He ate after they finished eating. These were the daily routines.
At that time, Pithiyetkha Mingyi, a King of Bhayarnarthi, entered the Himawonda forest, as he was very fond of deer meat. While he was hunting deer, he approached the river, Migathammadhar.
The King saw the footprints of deer on the bank of the river where Thuwanna Tharma normally fetched water. Then, the King hid himself so he would be able to shoot the deer.
Not long after, Thuwanna Tharma came to the bank to fetch water. He was surrounded by the deer. When the King saw Thuwanna Tharma, due to unusual circumstances, the King did not realize that Thuwanna Tharma was a human being. Therefore, the King decided to catch him but was afraid that Thuwanna Tharma would run away as he approached. So, he shot him with a poisonous arrow with the intent that Thuwanna Tharma would not be able to run away.
The arrow entered from the left rib and protruded through the right rib of Thuwanna Tharma. The deer ran away because they were afraid of the sound of the arrow. Even though the arrow struck him, Thuwanna Tharma did not let go of the water pot. With extreme caution, he slowly put down the water pot. Then, he lay down on the sand of the bank facing the direction of his parents.
Thuwanna Tharma vomited blood because of the poisonous arrow. However, he remained conscious and said, "I do not have any enemy here, neither do my parents. Who has shot me with the arrow?" Then he continued, "My flesh is not edible. My skin is not usable. Even so, why have I been shot like an animal?"
King Pithiyetkha Mingyi was amazed when he heard him. "Even though I shot him with an arrow, this person does not swear, but says lovely words." He approached.
He introduced himself as Pithiyetkha Mingyi and asked Thuwanna Tharma.
"Who are you? Whose son are you? What is your background?"
"I am Thuwanna Tharma. My parents are Dukula and Parigha. My background is fisherman. Now, I am going to die because of the arrow with which you shot me. Why did you shoot me with the arrow?"
The King lied.
"The deer I was going to shoot ran away because they were afraid when they saw you. Therefore, I was angry and shot you."
"In this forest, no such animal is ever afraid of me or run away when they see me. Deer are friendlier with me and they are never afraid of me. Why do you say that deer were afraid of me and ran away when they saw me?"
The King admitted that he had lied. After his admission, he enquired Thuwanna Tharma. Thuwanna Tharma also told him that he was looking after his blind parents. Thuwanna Tharma did not care for his injury but instead worried for his parents.
"Your majesty, my parents have fruit rations left for only six days. No water for them to drink. Without water they will die," he lamented.
The King was regretful, "Wow, this is a good man. He is looking after both his parents. Even though he is suffering from a poisonous arrow, he is worried about his parents. I have committed a sinful act against a man who has so many blessings."
Thus the King decided not to go back to the palace but to look after the parents of Thuwanna Tharma on his behalf.
He said, "You, Thuwanna Tharma, tell me the location of your parents. I will look after them the way you do."
Thuwanna Tharma was very happy with that. He immediately disclosed the location of his parents to the King. For a while he lost consciousness because of the poison.
The King examined Thuwanna Tharma and lamented, "Thuwanna Tharma has died." Then the King went to the hermitage where Dukula and Parigha resided. He told all about the incident to Dukula and Parigha. He also disclosed the reason why he was here.
"Oh, you hermits, from now on I will serve you as my parents."
"Your majesty, you do not need to serve us. Please lead us to where Thuwanna Tharma is. We would like to cry while banging our chest and touching our son's face. We would like to die after our son."
The King tried to console them but was unsuccessful. At last, the King had no option but to guide them by pulling their hands to Thuwanna Tharma. When they reached their son, Dukula lifted and hugged the head of Thuwanna Tharma. Parigha put the leg of Thuwanna Tharma on her lap. They cried.
While Parigha was touching her son's chest and crying, she realized that her son had not died yet. "Oh, my son has not died yet. He has just passed out because of the poison." In order to get the effect of the poison overcome, she did incantations, magical spells:
1. "My son Thuwanna Tharma always practices good deeds. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
2. "My son Thuwanna Tharma always behaves with good attitude. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
3. "My son Thuwanna Tharma always speaks the truth. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
4. "My son Thuwanna Tharma looks after his parents. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
5. "My son Thuwanna Tharma pays respect to the elders. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
6. "I love my son Thuwanna Tharma much more than my own life. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
7. "For all the good deeds Dukula and I have done let the effect of the poison be overcome."
After Parigha had recited the solemn oaths, Thuwanna Tharma started to move from stillness. He rolled over. Dukula was so excited with confidence. Parigha recited the seven incantations again. Then, Thuwanna Tharma rolled over to the other side.
At that instance, Bahuthudari Natami, who had been a mother to Thuwanna Tharma in a previous life, was near around. Natami had sympathy on Thuwanna Tharma and also made incantation.
"I have resided at Ganthamardana Mountain for many years. During my stay, there is no one else that I love much more than I love Thuwanna Tharma. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
"Every tree in this Ganthamardana smells pleasant. There is no tree that doesn't smell unpleasant. For this solemn oath let the effect of the poison be overcome."
After the incantation, the effect of the poison overcame and Thuwanna Tharma moved to a sitting position. The wound was healed immediately. At the same time, due to the power of incantation, Dukula and Parigha regained vision. When they saw Thuwanna Tharma alive;
"We regain our vision. Thuwanna Tharma is alive as well." They overwhelmed.
King Pithiyetkha Mingyi could not believe what he experienced. The King asked, "Thuwanna Tharma, why did you come back to live?"
Thuwanna Tharma said, "Your majesty, the one who look after his parent is treated by the Nat."
The King put his two hands together to kowtow and apologized, "You, Thuwanna Tharma, I pay homage to you."
Thuwanna Tharma disciplined the King to look after the parents in accordance with the obligations, to govern the nation in accordance with the ten royal codes and to observe five precepts.
The King accepted the directives from Thuwanna Tharma and left for the palace. Thuwanna Tharma kept looking after his parents for the rest of his life. When he died, he reached Byamar Pyi.
King Pithiyetkha Mingyi did good deeds for the rest of his life and when he died, he reached Nat Pyi.
Epilogue:Thuwanna Tharma was claimed the avatar of Gautama Buddha in one of his previous 547 lives.
Note: Sanskrit names are localized for easy understanding.
I hereby acknowledge the writer Min Yu Wai for his great work. Thank you.