This story unfolded during the Buddha’s 19th rain retreat in Veluvanna (Bamboo Grove). A deer hunter and his family were ripe for attaining Sotapatti-Magga and the Buddha ventured into the forest to liberate them.
On that occasion, traps set by the hunter did not catch a single prey. The Buddha arrived at the forest very early in the morning and set his footprint on the ground in front of a deer trap. After that, he took a seat some distance away from the trap but within sight.
According to ancient scriptures, the feet of an Enlightened person does not touch the ground. When perceived by ordinary humans, these enlightened being appears to be walking ordinarily. However on closer inspection, they do not leave a mark on the soil of Samsara. (There will be no footprint). Thus, a Buddha would intentionally leave his footprint when he wished to make his presence known. (Which is why, in some Buddhist temples, you will see images of Buddha’s footprint being worshipped; it also reminds us of the earthly presence of Buddha)
Back to the story
When Kukkutamitta the hunter arrived to check his trap, he was puzzled why there wasn’t a single prey. That was the first time that his trap failed to ensnare any deer. He saw the unusual footprint on the ground and noticed Buddha sitting in the distance.
Immediately, hatred gripped his mind. “That interfering monk must be the reason why my trap did not catch any deer!” He drew his arrow and aimed at the Buddha, determined to teach him a lesson.
However Buddha froze Kukkutamitta in that position with his supernatural power. Within an hour Kukkutamitta, experienced the most excruciating muscle ache due to his exertion of drawing his bow fully and remaining “frozen” in that posture.
Meanwhile, his wife and children were waiting for Kukkutamitta to return for lunch. When he failed to return home, his 7 sons decided to search for their father in the forest. It wasn’t long before they found him standing there with bow fully drawn, aiming his shot at a monk.
They decided to help their father kill his enemy and aimed their arrows at the Buddha too. Likewise, they were “frozen” in their position by Buddha.
The wife and daughters-in law of Kukkutamitta decided to search for their husbands when none of them returned. She screamed at Kukkutamitta when she saw him aiming his arrow at Buddha. “Do not kill my father!”
Kukkutamitta’s mind softened and calmed down when he heard that. “He’s my father-in-law after all, not an evil sorcerer monk” Likewise, the 7 youths became gladdened that it was their grandfather.
Did Buddha have a daughter?
In reality, Buddha is the spiritual father of Kukkutamitta’s wife and Kukkutamitta had never seen his wife’s biological father.
Kukkutamitta’s wife was the daughter of a rich merchant. As a young woman, she saw Kukkutamitta pulling a cart of deer carcass to the market while she was peering from her balcony. Somehow she became uncontrollably smitten by Kukkutamitta. She secretly followed Kukkutamitta into the forest and abandoned her birth parents. Never to set foot into the city again. Before long, she had 7 sons with Kukkutamitta. The rest is history.
As a young girl, she had the opportunity to listen to Buddha’s sermon and had actually attained the Sotapatti-Magga. That was why, she exclaimed that Buddha was her father.
Note: When a person attained Sotapatti-Magga, he/she is known as a Sotapanna. (Stream winner) I’ll leave that to another article.
Back to the story.
The men no longer had any illwill against Buddha when they heard the wife screaming that Buddha was her father. Therefore, Buddha withdrew his supernatural power and freed them.
The opportunity for Buddha to preach had manifested when the 15 members of this large family became open to Sakyamuni Buddha. Buddha taught them the dharma and the rest of the 15 members became Sotapanna too. (Kukkutamitta and his 7 sons and 7 daughter-in law)
After Buddha liberated Kukkutamitta’s family, he returned to his monastery and his monks enquired about his activities. Buddha recounted the liberation of Kukkutamitta, the hunter.
Subsequently, many monks had doubts and questions about Kukkutamitta’s liberation.
1) Kukkutamitta’s wife is an entry level liberated being (Sotapanna), how could she live together with a hunter and even produce 7 sons? How could she participate in their livelihood of killing animals when she had already become a Sotapanna? (Buddhist consider killing another sentient beings to be very bad)
2) Why is an entry level Buddhist “saint” smitten by a mere mortal and throwing herself at him when she saw him walking by?
3) His family’s livelihood is hunting and slaughtering of deer for sales in the market, how can such “evil” people become ripe for enlightenment?
These were good questions from the monks and I think, is the essence of this story. Here’s where the Dharma lesson begins……
Buddha explained that although Kukkutamitta’s wife lived together with him, she did not commit any act of killing. Furthermore, she never had any intention of killing deer. She was just her husband’s housekeeper. Although she may manage the tools of his livelihood (butchering knifes etc), she did not have any unwholesome intention and she did not ask or instruct her husband to kill. Without a motivation, the act of killing is incomplete.
This question is similar to another story where Buddha explained that a blind monk crushing an insect while walking is not considered to have killed because the intention to kill was absent.
The Buddha explained this further with another utterance of Dharma verse.
In that verse, he explained that a hand free from wounds and cuts may handle poisons without being affected by the poison. Similarly Kukkutamitta’s wife is free from unwholesome intention and therefore she did not commit any act of killing; even though she lived together with the hunter.
I think, this story fully illustrated the attitude of Buddhist living. Buddhists are not fanatics and can live comfortably and harmoniously with people of other faith or no faith. We do not go about imposing our views on others. Nor should we be affected or influenced by them.
It is interesting to note that Kukkutamitta’s wife is already a sotapanna and she had no problem getting married and having children with a hunter.
On the other hand, I have heard of Buddhist who became religious snobs after learning some Dharma and practicing some precepts (they wrongly hold the view that I am holier than you)
To understand why Kukkutamitta’s wife was so smitten by her love at 1st sight and also to understand the merits of Kukkutamitta’s family, the Buddha explained their past lives.
Kukkutamitta was a wealthy merchant during the time of Kassapa Buddha (the Buddha before Sakyamuni Buddha) After Kassapa Buddha had passed into parinirvana, Kukkutamitta wanted to be the president of the relic enshrinement ceremony. He contested aggressively against another wealthy merchant for that prestigious position. Finally, he dedicated his entire fortune and family in servitude towards the upkeep of the stupa. (His family consist of the same family member in this life)
His contester backed off upon hearing Kukkutamitta’s commitment to serve the stupa for a lifetime. Subsequently, Kukkutamitta’s family spent their entire lifetime taking care of the stupa.
Upon their death, each one of them were reborn in heaven and remained there until the time of Sakyamuni Buddha. In accordance to karmic manifestation, they became a family again during Sakyamuni Buddha’s time.
Due to a difference in karma, Kukkutamitta’s wife was reborn a merchant’s daughter whereas Kukkutamitta was reborn a poor man.
Kukkutamitta’s wife had fallen uncontrollably in love with him again because of their past love and connection. It is interesting to note that a stream winner is still not free from such emotion and bondage.
Sakyamuni Buddha explained that the merits gained by Kukkutamitta’s family in their servitude of Kassapa Buddha Stupa had resulted in their attainment of Sotapatti-Magga during Sakyamuni Buddha’s time.
It is important to note that the superior merits obtained from their religious commitment during their previous lifetime had created a powerful force factor that was only awaiting the right time to bear fruit. Thus, not even their ignorance and unwholesome action of slaughtering can prevent their attainment of Sotapatti-Magga. (of course we must not forget that Sakyamuni Buddha was there to help)
It is interesting to note that the other monks in the monastery were bewildered by the apparent “unfairness”.
Why would a family of hunters attain Sotapatti-Magga whereas, many devoted monks had not. That is why they questioned Sakyamuni Buddha.
From this, Buddhist should learn not to be judgmental.
Many times, we see non-interested, non religious people seemingly attaining great insight spontaneously while attending a talk or while doing meditation for the 1st time in their life. Whereas, religious Buddhist struggled their entire life but do not even get to see Buddha in their dream.
Such “contradiction” is caused by our inability to see through time and know the past karma of people.
When practicing Buddhism, we just need to put in our best effort and believe that it will bear fruit ultimately. No need to be bothered by other people’s practice.
Hope you enjoy this loooong post.