Category

Khuddaka Nikāya - Books 5-9

(5) Suttanipāta Pāḷi

As well-known as Dhammapada, Sutta Nipāta is also a work in verse with occasional introductions in prose.

It is divided into five vaggas:

1.  Uraga Vagga of 12 suttas;
2.  Cūḷa Vagga of 14 suttas;
3.  Maha Vagga of 12 suttas;
4.  Aṭṭhaka Vagga of 16 suttas and
5.  Parāyaṇā Vagga of 16 questions.

In the twelve suttas of the Uraga Vagga are found some important teachings of the Buddha which may be practised in the course of one's daily life:

"True friends are rare to come by these days; a show of friendship very often hides some private ends. Man's mind is defiled by self-interest. So, becoming disillusioned, roam alone like a rhinoceros."

(Khaggavisāṇa Sutta)

"Not by birth does one become an outcast, not by birth does one become a brāhmaṇa;

By one's action one becomes an outcast, by one's action one becomes a brāhmaṇa."

(Vasala Sutta)

"As a mother even with her life protects her only child, so let one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings."

(Metta Sutta)

Pārāyana Vagga deals with sixteen questions asked by sixteen brāhmin youths while the Buddha is staying at Pāsānaka Shrine in the country of Magadha. The Buddha gives his answers to each of the questions asked by the youths.

Knowing the meaning of each question and of the answers given by the Buddha, if one practises the Dhamma as instructed in this sutta, one can surely reach the Other Shore, which is free from ageing and death.

The Dhamma in this sutta is known as Parāyaṇā because it leads to the Other Shore, Nibbāna.

(6) Vimāna Vatthu Pāḷi

Vimāna means mansion. Here it refers to celestial mansions gained by beings who have done acts of merit. In this text are eighty-five verses grouped in seven vaggas;

in the first four vaggas, celestial females give an account of what acts of merit they have done in previous existences as human beings and how they are reborn in deva realm where magnificent mansions await their appearance.

In the last three vaggas, the celestial males tell their stories.

The Venerable Maha Moggallāna who can visit the deva realm brings back these stories as told him by the deva concerned and recounts them to the Buddha who confirms the stories by supplying more background details to them.

These discourses are given with a view to bring out the fact that the human world offers plenty of opportunities for performing meritorious acts.

The other objective for such discourses is to refute the wrong views of those who believe that nothing exists after this life (the annihilationists) and those who maintain that there is no resultant effect to any action.

Of the eighty-five stories described,

five stories concern those who have been reborn in deva world having developed themselves to the stage of Sotāpanna in their previous existences;

two stories on those who have made obeisance to the Buddha with clasped hands; one on those who had expressed words of jubilation at the ceremony of building a monastery for the Sangha;

two stories on those who had observed the moral precepts; two stories on those who had observed the precepts and given alms; and the rest deal with those who have been reborn in the deva world as the wholesome result of giving alms only.

The vivid accounts of the lives of the devas in various deva abodes serve to show clearly that the higher beings are not immortals, nor creators, but are also evolved, conditioned by the results of their previous meritorious deeds;

that they too are subject to the laws of anicca, dukkha and anatta and have to strive themselves to achieve the deathless state of Nibbāna.

(7) Peta Vatthu Pāḷi

The stories of petas (or pretas) are graphic accounts of the miserable states of beings who have been reborn in unhappy existences as a consequence of their evil deeds.

There are fifty-one stories, divided into four vaggas, describing the life of misery of the evil doers, in direct contrast to the magnificent life of the devas.

Emphasis is again laid on the beneficial effects of giving; whereas envy, jealousy, miserliness, greed and wrong views are shown to be the causes for appearance in the unhappy state of petas.

The chief suffering in this state is dire lack of food, clothing and dwelling for the condemned being.

A certain and immediate release from such miseries can be given to the unfortunate being if his former relatives perform meritorious deeds and share the merit with him.

In Tirokuṭṭapeta Vatthu, a detailed account is given on how King Bimbisāra brings relief to his former relatives who are unfortunately suffering as petas,

by making generous offer of food, clothing and dwelling places to the Buddha and his company of bhikkhus and sharing the merit, thus accrued, to the petas who have been his kith and kin in previous lives.

(8) The Thera Gāthā Pāḷi

and

(9) The Therī Gāthā Pāḷi

These two treatises form a compilation of delightful verses uttered by some two hundred and sixty-four theras and seventy-three theris through sheer exultation and joy that arise out of their religious devotion and inspiration

These inspiring verses gush forth from the hearts of bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs after their attainment of Arahatship as an announcement of their achievement and also as statement of their effort which has led to their final enlightenment.

It may be learnt from these jubilant verses how a trifling incident in life, a trivial circumstance can become the starting point of spiritual effort which culminates in supreme liberation.

But for some of the theras, the call has come early to them to forsake the home-life and take to the life of a homeless recluse:

Their struggle has been hard because of the inner fight between the forces of good and evil. They have had a good fight and they have won by dint of resolution and ardent determination.

The crippling bonds of greed, hatred and ignorance have been broken asunder and they are freed. In sheer exultation, they utter forth these inspiring verses, proclaiming their freedom and victory.

Some of these theras reach the sublime height of poetic beauty when they recount their solitary life in the quiet glades and groves of forest, the beauteous nature that forms their surroundings, and the peace and calm that have facilitated their meditation.

Although the verses in the Therī Gāthā lack the poetic excellence and impassioned expression of love of solitude that characterise the verses in the Thera Gāthā,

they nevertheless reflect the great piety and unflinching resolution with which the theris have struggled to reach the goal.

One distinguishing feature of the struggle of the theris is that many of them receive the final impetus to seek solace in holy life through emotional imbalance they have been subject to,

for example, loss of the dear ones as in the case of Paṭācārī, or through intense personal suffering over the death of a beloved son as suffered by Kisā Gotamī.

Both the Thera Gāthā and the Therī Gāthā provide us with shining, inspiring models of excellence, so consoling and so uplifting, so human and true to life, leading us on to the path of the holy life, stimulating us when our spirit drops, our mind flags, and guiding us through internal conflicts and set-backs.

These gāthās may be enjoyed simply as beautiful poems with exquisite imagery and pleasing words or they may be contemplated on as inspiring messages with deep meaning to uplift the mind to the highest levels of spiritual attainment:

“Rain god! My abode has a roofing now for my comfortable living; it will shield me from the onset of wind and storm.

Rain god! Pour down to thy heart's content; my mind is calm and unshakeable, free from fetters. I dwell striving strenuously with untiring zeal.

Rain god! Pour down to thy heart's content.” (Verse 325)

The bhikkhu has now his “abode” of the five khandhas well protected by the “roofing and walls” of sense restraints and paññā. He lives thus comfortably, well shielded from the rain and storm of lust, craving and attachments.

Undisturbed by the pouring rain, and whirling wind of conceit, ignorance, hatred, he remains calm and composed, unpolluted.

Although he lives thus in security and comfort of liberation and calm, he keeps alert and mindful, ever ready to cope with any emergency that may arise through lack of mindfulness.