by Ācariya Dhammapāla | 1978 | 23,066 words
The work introduces itself as a treatise composed “for clansmen following the suttas who are zealously engaged in the practice of the vehicle to great enlightenment, in order to improve their skilfulness in accumulating the requisites of enlightenment.”...
As a minimum, four incalculables (asankheyya) and a hundred thousand great aeons (mahakappa); as a middle figure, eight incalculables and a hundred thousand great aeons; and as a maximum, sixteen incalculables and a hundred thousand great aeons. This threefold division obtains by way of those in whom wisdom is predominant, those in whom faith is predominant, and those in whom energy is predominant, respectively. For those in whom wisdom is predominant, faith is weakest and wisdom keenest; for those in whom faith is predominant, wisdom is middling (and energy weakest); and for those in whom energy is predominant, wisdom is weakest (and faith middling). But supreme enlightenment must be achieved by the power of wisdom; so it is said in the commentary.
But others say that the classification of the time required for bodhisattvas obtains by way of the keen, middling, and tender quality of their energy. Still others say that without distinction the three divisions of time correspond to the time required for their requisites of enlightenment to reach fulfilment, which in turn is determined by the keen, middling, and tender quality of their factors maturing towards emancipation (vimuttiparipacaniya dhamma).
Bodhisattvas also become threefold at the moment they form the aspiration, according to their division into those who comprehend through a condensed teaching (ugghatitannu), those who comprehend through an elaborated teaching (vipancitannu), and those who are capable of training (neyya). Among these, one who comprehends through a condensed teaching has such supporting conditions that, if he were disposed towards the enlightenment of a disciple, he could attain arahatship together with the four discriminations (patisambhida) and the six direct knowledges while listening to a four-line stanza from the lips of a perfectly enlightened Buddha, even while the third line. is as yet unconcluded. The second has such supporting conditions that, if he were disposed towards the enlightenment of a disciple, he could attain arahatship together with the six direct knowledges while listening to a four-line stanza from the lips of the Exalted One, even while the fourth line is as yet unconcluded. And the third has the supporting conditions to attain arahatship together with the six direct knowledges when the four-line stanza he hears from the Exalted One is concluded.
These three types, who form their aspirations without any allotted division of time, receive predictions (of their future Buddhahood) directly from the Buddhas. Then they fulfil the paramis in order and reach the supreme enlightenment according to the aforementioned time allotted to each type. But that these Great Beings, day by day giving great gifts like those given by Vessantara, accumulating all the other paramis in the same way, making the five great relinquishings, reaching the summit in conduct for the good of kinsmen, conduct for the good of the world, and conduct developing intelligence -- that they should become perfectly enlightened Buddhas before the time allotted to their respective types is fulfilled, this is not possible. Why? Because their knowledge is not yet mature enough and their accumulation of the factors issuing in Buddhahood not yet complete. For just as grain ripens only after the lapse of the time required (for its growth), so too the supreme enlightenment is perfected only after the lapse of the aforementioned periods of time. Before then, even though striving with all his might, the bodhisattva cannot attain enlightenment. The paramis are fulfilled according to the aforementioned distinction of time. Thus it should be understood.
Footnotes and references:
The duration of a great aeon is indicated in the texts only by means of similes, e.g. if there were a mountain crag of solid granite a yojana (7 miles) high and a yojana round, and a man passing it once every hundred years were to stroke it once with a silk hankerchief, by this means it would take less time for him to wear away the mountain than it takes for an aeon to elapse. An "incalculable" means an incalculable number of great aeons; it must be distinguished from the four incalculables which make up each great aeon, the four periods of expansion, evolution, contraction, and dissolution.
The suttanta basis for this classification is found at A.ii,135.
The last human existence of the bodhisattva who became the Buddha Gotama, a prince noted for his generosity and selflessness.