|Academic||Sutta Name||Notes||PSA Plae||Vagga||Nikaya||PTS||Keywords|
XXIV:6 An acrobat who became a Saint (Uggasena)
Once a wandering theatrical troupe consisting of many dancers and acrobats came to Rajagaha to perform at the palace of King Bimbisara. There, a beautiful young female dancer sang and danced on the top of a long bamboo pole. Uggasena, the young son of a rich man, fell desperately in love with this dancer. He married the young dancer and since she refused to remain behind in Rajagaha, Uggasena had to follow the troupe. As he was not a dancer or an acrobat, he was of no use to the party. So, as they moved from place to place his job was to help to carry the boxes, or to drive the carts, etc.
In due course, the dancer gave birth to a son. To this child, she would often sing a song which ran thus: 'O you son of the man who keeps watch over the carts, the man who carries boxes and bundles! O you son of the ignorant one who can do nothing.'
Uggasena came to realise that she sang the song to taunt him. So he went and asked her, 'Are you referring to me?' 'Yes, I am referring to you.' 'In that case, I will go away and leave you.' 'What difference does it make whether you go away or not?' replied his wife. And over and over, she sang the same song.
Reflecting over her arrogance, Uggasena concluded that because of her skill as an acrobat his wife was proud. So he requested his father-in-law, an acrobat, to teach him acrobatics. After a year's training, Uggasena became a skilful acrobat.
Then one day, the troupe returned to Rajagaha for another performance. The troupe publicly announced that Uggasena would demonstrate his skill. When the day came, a long pole was put up and Uggasena stood on top of it. At a given signal, he began to perform his act on the pole. At about this time the Buddha saw Uggasena in his vision and knew that the time was ripe for him to realise the Dhamma. So, he entered Rajagaha and willed that the audience should turn their attention to him instead of applauding Uggasena for his acrobatic feats. When Uggasena saw that he was being neglected and ignored, he just sat on the pole feeling very discontented and depressed. The Buddha then addressed him, 'Uggasena, a wise man should abandon all attachment to component things and strive to gain liberation from the round of rebirths.'
While reflecting mindfully on the admonition given by the Buddha, Uggasena attained Arahanthood while still on top of the pole.* He came down from the pole and joined the Order of the bhikkhus.
One day, back at the Veluvana Monastery where the Buddha was residing, the bhikkhus were discussing why Uggasena had gone about with a wandering theatrical troupe for the sake of a pretty dancer.
Upon hearing their discussion, the Buddha revealed that in one of his past existences, Uggasena was born during the time of Kassapa Buddha. One day, he and his wife saw a bhikkhu going on his almsround. Since they had some food with them, they took the opportunity to offer almsfood to him, and made an earnest wish, 'Venerable Sir, may we be able to realise the Truth.'
The bhikkhu who was an Arahant used his supernormal powers to look into the future, and perceiving that their wish would be fulfilled, he smiled. The man noticed the smile, and being ignorant of the ways of the Arahants, he commented contemptuously that the bhikkhu was behaving like an actor. Because of his comment, the Buddha explained that he had to travel with a wandering theatrical troupe.
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