Apadana commentary (Atthakatha)

by U Lu Pe Win | 216,848 words

This is the English translation of the commentary on the Apadana (Atthakatha), also known as the Visuddhajana-Vilasini. The Buddhist stories known as apadanas refer to biographies of Buddhas, Buddhist monks and nuns. They are found in the Pali Canon (Khuddaka Nikaya), which is the primary canon of Theravada Buddhism. Alternative titles: Visuddhaja...

Commentary on internal preface (abbhantara-nidāna)

5. "Now, listen to the biographies of Buddhas with pure heart. Innumerable are the sovereigns of dhamma, who themselves fulfilled the thirty perfections.

5.1. Here in this stanza, the Pāli word atha is an adverbial particle nipāta), a word to signify that it has the purpose of serving to indicate the principle of form. Out of the two kinds, namely: one fit for classification and another which is not so, this adverbial particle is one fit for classification.

The work atha in grammar occurs in the case of service and luck (maṅgala), of accomplish- ment and affirmation or emphasis, of incessant happening and going away.

So also, indeed,-

"It illustrates a particular action, a special circumstance and particular purpose. By being the best and senior-most, service is assigned."

Because of being said thus, from the point of view of particular action of Buddhas, of the deeds done by them in fulfilling the thirty perfections altogether; from the point of view of the best and senior-most service, it is with (the use of) the grammatical word atha that the biographies are fit or proper). Because of the nature of the blessing maṅgala of worshipping the three kinds of Bodhisatta, over such a statement as: "Honour to those to whom honour is due; this is the best blessing", it is with the use of the grammatical term atha signifying blessing (maṅgala), that the biographies are proper. Because of the accomplishment of the glorious Ones, comprising Buddhas, etc., over their business of proper attainments by means of the final stage of sanctification (arahattamagga), it is with the use of the grammatical term, atha, signifying accomplishment, that the biographies are proper. Because of the absence of any other meritorious deeds, besides such merit as the path of becoming an arahat, etc., for Buddhas, etc., it is with the use of the grammatical term, atha, signifying affirmation and refusal, that the biographies are proper. Since it is to be grouped immediately after Khunddakapāṭha collection, it is with the grammatical term, atha, signifying continuity that the biographies are proper. since it is said that hereafter beginning from Khuddakapāṭha, it is with the use of the grammatical term, atha, signifying to go away, that the biographies are proper.

5.2. Here, the Pāli word Buddha is to be explained as: He is Buddha because he understood the noble truths; because He enlightens the living beings, He is Buddha; He is Buddha because of His omniscience; because he sees everything He is Buddha; He is Buddha because He could not be led by any other man; He is Buddha because of His being nonpoisonous; because of the fact that He could be considered as having destroyed the cankers (āsava), he is Buddha; because He is reckoned as being devoid of depravity 9kilesa), he is Buddha; since He is reckoned as renounced recluse, He Is Buddha; as He stood without a second, all alone, He is Buddha; since He forsook craving desire (tanhā),his is Buddha; Buddha is He who had gone the one and only right path; He is Buddha because all alone he became a selfmade Buddha after attaining the unsurpassable perfect enlightenment (sambodhi); because of the destruction of ignorance and proper gaining of wisdom he is Buddha; There is no difference in these Pāli terms: Buddhi, Buddham and bodho. Just as owing to its association with blue colour, etc., a pieces of cloth is spoken of as: "Blue cloth and red cloth", so also, because of his association with the qualities of a Buddha, He is Buddha. In other words, knowledge regarding the four right paths is said to be "Bodhi". Having overthrown the multitude of enemy comprising one thousand five hundred denominations of sinful depravity (kilesā), there arises knowledge for the attainment of nibbāna; such a knowledge as this is said to be "bodhi". The individual, who is properly associated (sampayutta) with and has possession of that knowledge is Buddha. By means of that self-same knowledge, even a silent Buddha (paccekabuddha), overthrows all kilesas and attains nibbāna. In the case of Buddhas, however, because of the fact that They attained by themselves such six kinds of unique knowledge as: knowledge of the maturity or otherwise of controlling faculties (indriya), knowledge provoking sympathy towards those worthy of the same; knowledge of making twin-miracle, knowledge of omniscience, knowledge of absence of hindrance in His spiritual insight (anāvaraṇa), knowledge as to how His wish could be instantaneously fulfilled (āsayānsaya), etc., because of the fact that by means of a single preaching of dhamma, he let innumerable bodies of beings drink the immortal water of dhamma and made them attain nibbāna and because of the fact that that self-same six sorts of knowledge were attained by buddhas only, after having fulfilled perfections throughout a hundred thousand kappas over and above four very long periods of innumerable number of kappas, the recording of the biographies of those omniscient Buddhas only is biographies of Buddhas, Buddhāpadāna. By way of merit and demerit that biography is of two kinds. the silent buddhas (paccekabuddha), however, are not capable of doing similarly to omniscient Buddhas.

In extending beneficial help towards the donors of such requisites as food etc., the silent buddhas preached dhamma by means of these two stanzas only:-

"May your desires and aspirations be quickly fulfilled. Like unto the fifteenth waxing- day moon, may your mental intentions materialise. May your desires and aspirations be fulfilled quickly Like the shining gem (jotirasa- mani), may your mental intentions materialise.

Although they preach, the silent buddhas are not capable of enlightening innumerable bodies of beings. Therefore, not being similar to omniscient Buddha, the silent buddhas (pacceka Buddha), are such as would, separately, become Buddha, one by one. The recording of their biography is said to be the biography of silent buddhas (paccekabuddhāpadana).

5.3. Theras are they who had stood long, a long-standing bhikkhu. In other words, theras are the bhikkhus who are associated more firmly with such qualities as precepts, practice, gentleness, etc. In other words, theras are monks who are associated with such qualities as solidly excellent precepts, concentration, knowledge, emancipation and intellectual insight. in other words, theras are bhikkhus, who have made what are called more solid attainments, namely, the attainment of the most noble and unsurpassably peaceful nibbāna. The biographies of the theras are known as Thera biographies (therāpadāna). Similarly, therīs are the bhikkhunī who are associated with such qualities as those of theras. The life-stories of theris are called the biographies of theris (theriapadāna). Amongst them, in the biography (apadāna) of Buddhas, there are five biographies and five suttantas.

Therefore, ancient learned men said:

"Five even are the apadanas, of which there are five suttantas also. This is the biography of Buddhas, first of all, in the proper order of sequence."

5.4. in the apadāna of silent buddhas (paccekabuddha) also, there are five apadānas and five suttantas even.

Therefore, ancient sages said:

"Five are the apadānas, of which there are five suttantas also. This is the biography of silent buddhas (paccekabuddha), second in proper order of sequence."

5.5. In the biographies of the theras, there are ten, over and above five hundred apadānas; as regards chapters, there are fifty one of them.

Therefore, ancient sages said:

"Five hundred and ten are the apadānas; fiftyone are the chapters. This is the biography of the theras, third in the order of proper sequence."

5.6. in the biographies of the theris, there are forty apadānas; as regards chapters there are four of them.

Therefore, ancient sages said:

"forty are the apadānas, whose chapters are four in number. This is the biography of the theris, fourth in the order of proper sequence."

5.7. In saying: apadāna, the grammatical word apadāna here is seen as doing, seizing, going away, serial order, abuse, etc. So also, indeed, this grammatical word apadāna is 'seen' as doing in such instances as:- "The doing of khattiyas, the doing of brāhmaṇas" etc. In such examples as "The taking of devotees", etc; the grammatical word apadāna is seen as seizing. In such examples as: "The going away of merchants, the going away of people of cultivator class (sudda)", etc., it is 'seen' as going away. What is meant by the example is their going away from that place and thither. It is 'seen' as in serial order of sequence in such examples as: "A bhikkhu who practises the dhutanga precept of eating alms-food (pin̄ dapatika), goes about for collecting alms-food by way of halting at houses in their serial order", etc., what is meant here is that the bhikkhu goes about the row of houses from house to house in their serial sequence. It is seen in abuse in 'such' examples as: "These have abused monkhood; these have abused brahminhood", etc. What is meant here is he abuses and reviles. Here, however, the grammatical word apadāna is 'seen' as the doing of deeds. Therefore, the deeds done by Buddhas are Buddhas' apadānas. Actions of Buddhas is the meaning. It should be seen as the performance of thirty perfections altogether beginning with the perfection on charity of innumerable Buddhas similar in number to the particles of sand on the banks of Gangā river. Now, the connection is: you should all live with pure mind to the doing of deeds associated with service (adhikara)etc.

5.8 There, in that context, the word suddhamānssa is to be explained as; you, five hundred canker-free arahats (khīṇāsava), who are assembled in this assembly, and who have established themselves as such after discarding on thousand five hundred sorts of sinful depravity (kilesa) by means of their knowledge of the final path of sanctification (arahattamagga), and who also are of perfectly pure mind, clean heart, listen with pure mind. The meaning is: you all pay attention with fixed ears.

5.9. Here, however, without saying "The Apadānas", in spite of the existence of the apadāna of silent buddhas (paccekabuddha), as well as that of the theras and therīs, the statement: "Now, the apadānas of Buddhas" is made similar to the statement: "Origin twin" (Mūla yamaka)" by virtue of principality and initiality, in spite of the existence of 'aggregate twin (khandha yamaka), abode of senses, elements, truth, actions and latent twin (ayatanadhātu, sacca, sankhāra, anusaya yamaka), the statement: "Chapter on disciplinary rules, the transgression of which is punishable with expulsion from the order of clergy (Pārājikakaṇḍa)," by virtue of principality & initiality, in spite of the existence of thirteen disciplinary rules, the transgressor of which has to be suspended from the order, the decision over which can be made only by a formal sangha kamma (sanghādisesa), two disciplinary rules which require the offender to give up what he had received (nissaggiya); here also, the Pāli expression "Atha Buddhapadānāni" should be regards in the same light.

5.10. It is stated as "The deeds of Buddha (Buddhāpadānāni)" although it should be stated as "sammāsambuddhāpadānāni, the deeds 9or biography) of perfectly self-enlightened Buddha", for the sake of poetic convenience to facilitate composing stanza easily by making the elision of the third significant word, the adverbial term sammā and the word which signifies personally or by Himself, the prefix (upasaggapada), and accepting the word Buddha alone, abiding by the grammatical method (niruttinaya), which says; "The rule which points out (ādesa), the fact that amongst them there can be lengthening (vūḍḍhi), elision (lopa), insertion (āgama), distortion (vikāra), reversion (viparita)". Therefore, the expression actually means: "The deeds (or biography) of perfectly self-englightened Buddha".

Thus has ended the commentary on the inner preface (abbhantaranidāna), of the commentary on biography Apadānaṭṭhakathā, for the splendour of the pure people.

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