This Dhamma teaching was given by the Buddha while he was living in Jetavana talking about the king’s minister Santati.

Once upon a time Santati returned from solving a problem on the edge of King Pasenadi Kosala’s country, and the king was so pleased that he turned over his kingdom to Santati for seven days and gave him a woman who danced and sang. For seven days Santati drank alcohol, and on the seventh day, wearing all the king’s fancy clothes, he mounted the back of the royal elephant and set out for the bathing-place. As he passed through the gate of the city, he saw the Buddha entering the city for alms. Remaining seated on the back of the elephant, he nodded his head at the Buddha and passed on.

The Buddha smiled. “Why do you smile, Reverend Sir?” asked Elder Ānanda.

“Ānanda, just look at the king’s minister Santati! This very day, wearing the king’s clothes, he will come to me, and at the end of a gatha made up of four lines he will attain Arahatship. He will then sit in the air at a height of seven palm-trees above the earth and will then and there pass into Nibbāna.”

The people around them heard what the Buddha said. Those of the crowd who held wrong views thought to themselves, “Look at the way the monk Gotama acts! Whatever comes into his head he speaks with his mouth! This very day, so he says, that drunken man, wearing the king’s clothes, will come before the Buddha and listen to the Dhamma and pass into Nibbāna! But that is precisely what will not happen; this very day we shall catch the Buddha in a lie.”

On the other hand the faithful disciples thought to themselves, “Oh how great and how marvelous is the power of the Buddhas! Today we will get to see how great the Buddha is and how great the king’s minister Santati is.”

Santati the king’s minister spent part of the day at the bathing-place playing in the water, and then entered his pleasure garden and sat down in his drinking-hall. Straightway the dancer given by the king came down to the center of the stage and began to display her skill in dancing and singing. Now she had not eaten for seven days so that she might dance better; and the result was that on that particular day, as she was displaying her skill in dancing and singing, knife-like pains came to her belly. It was like her heart was being cut up. And then and there, with open mouth and open eyes, she died.

Said Santati the king’s minister, “Look to the lady!”

“She is dead, master,” was the reply. As soon as Santati the king’s minister heard those words, he was overwhelmed with sadness; and in an instant the liquor he had drunk during the week disappeared like a drop of water on a red-hot pot. He said to himself, “No one else but the Buddha can get rid of my sadness!”

So in the evening, surrounded by his force of men, he went to the Buddha; and having worshiped him, spoke as follows, “Reverend Sir, such and such sorrow has come upon me. I have come to you because I know that you will be able to get rid of my sadness. Be my refuge.” Then the Buddha said to him, “You have indeed come to someone who is able to get rid of your sadness. On the countless when this woman has died in this very way and you have cried over her, you have shed tears more than all the water contained in the Four Great Oceans.” So saying, he spoke this gatha,

Let what is past dry up,
let there be nothing for the future,
if you do not grasp at the present,
you will live in complete peace.

At the end of the gatha, Santati the king’s minister attained Arahatship, together with the psychic powers. Then he looked at his own life, and seeing that he had just a little while to live, said to the Buddha, “Reverend Sir, permit me to pass into Nibbāna.” The Buddha, although he himself knew what had been Santati’s meritorious actions in a previous life, thought to himself, “The people with wrong view who have gathered themselves together for the purpose of catching me in a lie will not succeed in doing so. And the faithful disciples who have come with the thought in their minds, ‘We will get to see how great the Buddha is and how great the king’s minister Santati is,’ when they hear about the meritorious deed he performed in a previous life, will increase in confidence for works of merit.”

Therefore the Buddha said to Santati the king’s minister, “Well then, explain to us all the meritorious deeds you did in a previous life. Do not, however, explain it to us standing on the ground, but explain it to us seated in the air at a height of seven palm-trees above the ground.”

“Very well,” replied Santati the king’s minister. So worshiping the Buddha, he rose into the air to the height of one palm-tree and then descended to the ground. Then he worshiped the Buddha once more, and rising gradually to the height of seven palm-trees above the ground, he seated himself cross-legged in the air, and said, “Listen, Reverend Sirs, to the meritorious deed I performed in a previous life.” So saying, he related the following:

Ninety-one aeons ago, in the dispensation of the Buddha Vipassī, I was reborn in a certain household in a city named Bandhumati. And the following thought came to me, “What work will do away with the sufferings of others?” While I was thinking this thought, I saw the work of those who went about teaching the Dhamma, and from that time on I worked at that very task. I encouraged others to perform works of merit, and I performed works of merit myself. On uposatha days I kept the eight precepts; I gave alms; I listened to the Dhamma. And I went about telling people, “There are no jewels like to the Three Jewels which are named the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. So go for refuge to the Three Jewels.”

Now the great King Bandhumati, father of the Buddha Vipassī, hearing my voice, sent for me and asked me, “Friend, on what business are you going about?” I replied, “Your majesty, I am going about teaching the qualities of the Three Jewels, and encouraging people to do works of merit.”

“What vehicle do you use on your travels?” asked the king. I replied, “I travel about on my two legs, your majesty.” Then the king said, “Friend, it is not fitting that you should go about like that. Decorate yourself with this string of flowers and seat yourself on the back of a horse and go about like that.” So saying, he gave me a string of flowers similar in appearance to a string of pearls, and at the same time he gave me a horse.

After the king had done me this kindness, I went about as before teaching the Dhamma. Thereupon the king called me again and asked me, “Friend, on what business are you going about?” “The same as before, your majesty,” I replied. “Friend,” said the king, “a horse is not good enough for you; sit here as you go about.” So saying, he gave me a chariot drawn by four royal horses.

Again the third time the king heard my voice, and he sent for me and asked me, “Friend, on what business are you going about?”

“The same as before, your majesty,” I replied. “Friend,” said the king, “a chariot is not good enough for you.” And right away he presented me with great wealth and a wonderful set of jewels, and at the same time he gave me an elephant. So I decorated myself with all my jewels and seated myself on the back of the elephant, and in this way for eighty thousand years I went about performing the meritorious work of teaching the Dhamma. And during all that time my body smelled like sandalwood and from my mouth came the fragrance of the lotus. This was my meritorious deed in a previous state of existence.

As Santati the king’s minister told the story of his meritorious deed in a previous life, sitting cross-legged in the air, he meditated on the element of fire; and having gone deep into meditation, he right away passed into Nibbāna.

Instantly flames of fire came from his body and burned up his flesh and blood, and his relics floated down like jasmine flowers. The Buddha spread out a pure white cloth, and his relics fell there, and the Buddha put them at a crossing of four highways, caused a stupa to be built over them and said, “By worshiping these relics the people will earn much merit.”

In this way, because of teaching Dhamma in the past, Santati was able to quickly understand the Dhamma and attain Nibbāna in his last life.

Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!