The Bad Consequences of Uttering Harsh Words

Dafangbian Fo Bao'en Jing, Vol. 3


  At that time, Ananda asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One! What karmic actions did Madame Maya commit in the past that led to her being born as a doe in the animal realm?” The Buddha replied to Ananda, “Listen carefully! I will explain the karmic causes and conditions of Madame Maya’s physical, verbal, and mental acts in her past life. Immeasurable asaṃkhya-kalpas ago, a Buddha named Tathagata Vipassin was born in the world. He taught and guided sentient beings in the mundane world. He possessed all the ten epithets: Worthy of Respect, the Complete and Perfect Enlightened One, Perfected in Wisdom and Action, Well Gone, the Knower of the Secular World, the Unsurpassed Lord, the Tamer, the Teacher of Gods and Men, the Buddha, and the World-Honored One.

  During the Semblance Dharma period, after Tathagata Vipassin’s passing into nirvana, there lived in Vārānasī a Brahman with his wife and only daughter. After his death, his wife single-handedly raised their only daughter with utmost love and care. Every day, the daughter stayed at home and guarded their orchard garden while the mother worked outside to bring home food for her.

  One day, for an unknown reason, the mother was late in bringing home food for her daughter. The daughter was worried and became unsettled. She then got impatient due to her hunger and thirst. Angry, she said to herself, “Why hasn’t my mother given me any food today? She has not come back to see me either.” Her anxiety grew when her mother still did not return. She became restless, distressed, and even infuriated in the end. She then cursed her mother, saying, “My mother is worse than animals! Even among beasts, wild deer, and other animals, when their children are hungry and thirsty, their mothers would constantly keep them in mind and would not abandon them!” After a while of waiting, her mother finally came home with some food for her.

  When this Brahman girl was about to eat, she happened to see a monk pass by. This bhikkhu had attained the fruition of pratyekabuddha and flew from the south to the north. At that moment, the girl’s heart burst with absolute joy. Immediately, she stood up and greeted him with joined palms, and then prostrated herself before him. She invited the bhiksu into her house, and with great respect, she laid a clean seat for him without any hesitation. She offered him the most delicate flowers and shared her food with him. After the meal, the bhiksu taught the Brahman girl the wondrous Dharma, enabling her to attain its unseen benefits and joy. The Brahman girl then vowed, “May I be worthy of meeting sages and saints in my future lifetimes, and be able to worship and make offerings to them. I also hope to be born into a wealthy and honored family with good looks. In addition, while walking, may I have lotus flowers under my feet to support me.”

  The Buddha then told Ananda, “The Brahman girl later became Mother Mṛgāra, who is also known today as Madame Maya! She offered a meal covered with pure and wondrous flowers to a pratyekabuddha. For this reason, over her next five hundred lives, she was born into a wealthy and honored family life after life, where food and clothing were abundant. Besides, she had lotus flowers supporting her feet while walking. In addition to her previous vow, she was able to encounter five hundred pratyekabuddhas and could worship and make offerings to them. However, as the Brahman girl before, she had hurled verbal insults at her own mother, not having any appreciation and gratitude for everything that her mother had done for her unconditionally. Moreover, she compared her mother to an animal, implying that she was worse than a beast. These harsh words that she had said resulted in her being continuously born from the womb of a doe one life after another for five hundred lifetimes.”

  The Buddha also told Ananda, “For the people living in the mundane world, disasters often arise from their dreadful karmic speech. Therefore, we should carefully guard our speech, more than guarding against blazing fire. The blazing fire can burn and destroy the life and worldly assets of sentient beings only in a single lifetime, but any dreadful, harsh words such beings utter can burn and harm them for innumerable lifetimes of their Seven Noble Assets pertaining to the supramundane Dharma. Therefore, Ananda! All calamities occurring to sentient beings are self-inflicted by their awful speech! The habit of enjoying arguing with people is similar to an ax that can harm our bodies as the deed will bring deadly disasters upon us.”

  After the Buddha finished preaching this sutra, a thousand lay men and women reflected upon and guarded their speeches. Hence, they all attained the first fruition. There were also innumerable bhiksu and Bhikkhunī who attained the first fruition, including the fourth fruition in the Path of Liberation. Countless humans and heavenly beings initiated their Bodhi mind or were inspired to achieve the fruition of pratyekabuddha. Having heard the Buddha’s discourse, all those in the audience became joyous and began to faithfully practice the said teaching. They all then prostrated themselves before the Buddha before they left.

This article is an excerpt from Electronic Journal of True Enlightenment, Issue 106