Alawaka The Demon | The Story of Lord Gautama Buddha
One day, Bimsara and Vishaka’s family had a visitor. The children were so happy. Father came home early from work that day. the visitor had earned respect from all. He lived in the village far from the city and he was around ninety years old. Everyone called him ‘Gurunnanse Mama’. Both Bimsara and Vishaka were hanging around Gurunnanse mama. They called him ‘Sudu Siya’ (White Grand Pa) as he had a long white beard. Bimsara found Sudu Siya’s long white beard very amusing and caressed it while sitting near him.
“Sudu Siya, you said that a person in the Monaragala city was possessed by a demon and that you chased the demon away by chanting Buddhist Sutras? Do demons really exist?” asked Bimsara. When Sudu Siya cleared his throat to speak, Vishaka came running to him. “Siya, demons do exist, don’t they?”
Hoh.. hoh..ho…. Sudu Siya started to laugh. He then looked at the children with love. “My dear children, you do not know, there are not only worlds of demons but there are worlds of ghosts (preta) too. And there are worlds of Brahmas and worlds of deities too. Yes, it is true that a small girl was possessed by a demon in Monaragala. That demon was discovered to be her uncle who had passed away. This person had been a drunkard when he was living in this human world. That is where he went after his death.”
“Sudu Siya, why do such things happen?”
“My little daughter, this is the reason. They had never taken refuge in the Noble Triple Gem. Now you know, we say Buddham Saranam Gacchami…and take refuge in the Buddha. We should place our wholehearted trust in the unlimited comprehension of the Buddha. The ‘Itipiso Bhagava…..’ stanza describes the great qualities of the Buddha. We should know the meanings of these great qualities and believe wholeheartedly. Taking refuge is that. Chanting without belief will not offer the intended refuge.
So this person, though he said Buddham saranam gacchami….. he never believed in the Buddha’s unlimited understanding. He had faith in other unnatural things. He argued about the high effects or influence of auspicious times but never made an effort to gain even a little faith in the Buddha. He did not protect the precepts either. He took alcohol, saying that there is no harm in taking a little. Finally, he became a demon following his death. This is called immoral behavior. Everyone who has no strong faith in the Triple Gem has this danger in their lives.
My dear children, the Buddha has clearly stated five benefits that a virtuous person will gain.
A virtuous person will become rich. A virtuous person is not afraid of walking up to any gathering. The good qualities of a virtuous person will be well known. A virtuous person will not lose his state of mind when dying. A virtuous person will be re-born in heaven after death.” Then Bimsara asked: “ Sudu Siya, then what will happen to an immoral person?”
“Ho…ho..my son, the losses of an immoral person are endless. they cannot be described. My children, you may have seen people who earn by doing wrong things like engaging in bad deeds, stealing, cheating and all sorts of underhand trades. They may gain high positions in companies, and build big mansions, buy luxurious vehicles, earn titles and live highly. But all that will come to an end just like a firework popping off. The Dhamma of the Buddha cannot be denied by anybody, my son. The Buddha has stated five losses an immoral person will suffer. The wealth of an immoral person will be destroyed.
An immoral person cannot walk up to a gathering of virtuous people with courage. The sinful life of an immoral person will spread like a bad smell. The ill-behaved person will die losing his senses or state of mind. The immoral person will be reborn in nirayam (hell) after death.
My children, if someone has an unchangeable Saddha -wholehearted trust- in the Triple Gem, and observes the five precepts with utmost devotion, then there is nothing to fear. That person will never be born in a bad place. Thus, such people will never be born as demons either.”
“Sudu Siya, were there demons during the Buddha’s time?”
“Why not my daughter, there were demons. But the Buddha had subjugated all those demons. You may have heard the story about the demon Alawaka?”
Bimsara urged Sudu Siya to tell the story of demon Alawaka. So, Sudu Siya started the story.
“My children, this is how it happened. At that time, the Buddha was residing in a town called ‘Alaw’ city. In the jungle near the city, there was a rock cave. That was the demon Alawaka’s home. One day, the Buddha entered this rock cave and sat on Alawaka’s seat. The demon came to his cave after some time, and saw the Buddha. Alawaka was so annoyed that a bhikkhu has come to his cave without his permission. He then shouted so loudly that the whole jungle trembled, and said;
“Recluse, get out of my house”
“Yes my friend”, replied the Buddha and calmly walked out. So my children, when the Buddha walked out Alawaka thought; he should call this bhikkhu back in, and send him out again, then call again, and send him out again and continue doing so until the bhikkhu is so exhausted that he will never enter a place like this again. Assuming this Alawaka raised his roaring voice and said;
“Recluse……Hm…. come back in”. The ever compassionate Buddha very calmly went back in. The demon thought that this bhikkhu was now frightened by his words. Alawaka once again grumbled and asked the Buddha to go out of the cave. He called him back again. Alawaka was allowed to do this only three times. And when he roared for the fourth time, the Buddha said;
“Demon! I am not going out again. You may do whatever you are capable of.”
The demon realized that this recluse is not an ordinary one. Therefore, he decided to harass the Buddha by asking various questions. “Is it so..? Then I shall ask you questions. If you fail to answer those correctly, I shall confuse your mind. I shall split your heart or I shall drag you out of this cave and throw you over that river.”
The Buddha smiled and replied. “Demon…your thinking is all so wrong? I do not see anyone capable of what you said in this whole world where gods live. You may ask your questions.”
My children, though this demon Alawaka was cruel, he was also very intelligent. This demon put forward his questions in verses. The Buddha too replied in verses. Let us learn them like this;
What fortune in the world – is highest among all? What practice carried out – brings satisfaction? What flavor in the world – is most delightful to all? Which way of living makes – one’s life noble?
So my children, when the demon Alawaka asked his four questions in verse, the Buddha too replied in verse thus:
Faith in the triple gem – surpasses all treasures, Practising the dhamma truly – brings great joy, Four Noble truths is the – most delightful flavor, When one lives with wisdom – that life is noble.
Alawaka became very happy with this answer and asked another question.
How to cross the fierce current – of births and rebirths? How to cross the ocean of – the cycle of rebirths? How to break free from this – grieving and suffering? How can one cleanse life – destroying bad deeds?
The Buddha replied thus;
One who has faith truly – will beat the fierce current, One who is vigilant– will surely cross the ocean, One who sharpens courage – will win through suffering, One who cleanses life – does so through wisdom.
The demon was now so happy. His anger started to diminish and faith started to develop gradually towards the Buddha. The demon asked more questions;
How should one live life – in order to be wise? How should one act correctly – in order to collect wealth? How should one lead life – in order to be popular? How should one treat others – in order to win good friends? When one passes away – leaving this life one day What actions will make him – happy in his next life?
I want you to learn these answers given by the Buddha to these questions. These verses will help brighten our lives. The Buddha gave intelligent answers to all the questions of Alawaka.
Noble sages preach the dhamma – unfolding blissful Nibbana Earnest listener listens to dhamma – mindfully learning its meaning Remembering this blissful dhamma – giving it priority over all things Reflecting as taught in dhamma – opens up wisdom in you Courageous and diligent person – with a strong will to succeed Determined and persevering – will prosper with much fortune Trustworthy and loyal person – sincere to his word at best His good name will be so famous – as he always speaks the truth If one wants to have lots of friends – who are loyal and intelligent One should be kind to all around – offering help to all in need.
So my children, when the demon heard these answers, he completely changed. He sat on the floor and venerated the Buddha with reverence. He apologized for his actions. And he started reciting the great qualities of the Buddha. Finally, the demon said;
“Oh My Lord Buddha, I shall walk from village to village, from country to country and speak the greatness of the Buddha and the value of this noble Dhamma. The demon took refuge in the triple gem. He was completely tamed. What a better person he became, he who intended to frighten the Buddha!”