The Background Story
In Rajagaha (a city in ancient India) there was a banker of great wealth. Because of his great wealth he was known as ‘Mahadana Situ’, meaning the banker of great wealth. He had one son. When he was a child, the wealthy parents thought, “Even though our son spends a thousand gold pieces a day, and keeps on spending, this wealth will not come to an end even in his life or couple of generations to last, therefore there is no point in giving him an education. May he enjoy happiness with this wealth without any trouble.” So they did not send him to school. When he reached his teens, he got married to a girl who was completely obsessed with sensual pleasures. Blinded by sensual pleasures, they indulged in happiness associating with drunkards and the like. They paid no respect to their parents and monks. After their parents died they hired actors, dancers and singers and spent heavily on them with no limit. Before long their wealth ran out and soon they went into debt. Later, they were reduced to beggars when their houses, lands and valuable things had to be given in order to settle the debt they had incurred. Finally, they ended up in the street as beggars.
One day on seeing the man, a gang of thieves came to him and said, “Hey, you are still young and have strong limbs. Why do you live like this, like a crimpled man? Join us and let’s steal from people and live happily.” “I don’t know how to steal,” said the man. “Have no fear we will teach you everything,” said the thieves. Then, he agreed and joined them.
One day the thieves gave him a wooden club and said,” We are going to break into this house, stay here and kill anyone who comes.” They entered the house, robed the valuables and fled when the people in the house woke up. The people in the house came out, looked here and there. The foolish man was still waiting for someone to come, they caught and handed him over to the King. The King ordered the executioner to behead him. While he was being taken to the killing place, from junction to junction the news was soon spread everywhere.
Then, in that city a prostitute called Sulasa saw the man and identified him as one of her customers who was then a wealthy man. She felt sorry for him and immediately prepared some food and sent it to him with water. She also made a plea to the executioner asking him to wait for the thief to eat the food.
Meanwhile, the Arahant Moggallāna Bhante saw this incident with his divine eye, this ill-fated man who did not engage in meritorious deeds but committed demerits was destined to be born in Hell. Then the Arahant thought, “If I go to him he will offer his food and water to me with a pleasant mind and with the power of that merit he will be reborn as a tree-bound God.” Out of compassion the Arahant appeared in front of the man just when he received his food. The man saw the Arahant and thought,” In a moment I will be killed by the executioner, therefore what is the use of eating this food. I’ll offer this to the Arahant and the merit born out of the meritorious deed will benefit me as I am leaving this world for the next.” Then, he offered the food to the Noble Arahant who ate it and drunk the water in front him in order to make him very happy.
The man was killed after a while and was reborn as a tree-bound God. He could have been reborn in a heavenly world of extreme happiness due to alms giving to the Arahant Moggallāna Bhante, But at the time of his death his mind became soiled because he was overcome by the deep affection towards the women Sulasa for sending him food and water.