The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Buddha-kicca (daily duties of a Buddha) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as rare Appearance of a Buddha. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 5 - Buddha-kicca (daily duties of a Buddha)

Among these great personages, namely, Omniscient Buddhas, Private Buddhas and Enlightened Disciples, Omniscient Buddhas are called Tārayitu[1] beings, the Most Supreme Ones, who, having themselves crossed the ocean of saṃsāra[2], save others from their perils.

Private Buddhas are called Tarita[3] beings, the Noble Ones who have crossed over the ocean of saṃsāra on their own, but are unable to save others from its perils. To elaborate: Private Buddhas do not appear in an age when an Omniscient Buddha makes His appearance. They appear only in the intervening period between the lifetime of two Buddhas. An Omniscient Buddha realises for himself the Four Noble Truths without guidance and has the ability to teach and make others understand them. A Private Buddha also realises the Four Noble Truths on His own, but He is in no way able to teach and make others understand them. Having realised the Path, Fruition and Nibbāna (Paṭivedha[4]), He is unable to recount His personal experiences of these attainments because He lacks possession of appropriate terminology for these supramundane doctrines. Therefore, a Private Buddha’s knowledge of the Four Truths (Dhammābhisamaya[5]) is compared by the commentators to a dumb person’s dream or an ignorant peasant’s experience of a city life for which he has no words to express. Private Buddhas (Tarita beings) are thus those who have gone across saṃsāra on their own, but who are in no position to help others cross.

Private Buddhas may bestow monkhood on those who wish to become monks, and they may give them training in special practices of the holy life (ābhisamācārika[6]) thus: “In this calm manner, you should step forward, step backward, you should see, you should say,” and so on; but they are not able to teach them how to differentiate between mind and matter (nāma and rūpa), and how to view them in terms of their characteristics, namely, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality, etc., so that they may reach the stage of realisation of the Path and Fruition. (The next paragraph is omitted.)[7]

Noble Disciples, who are Sāvaka-Bodhisattas, are called Tarita beings as they have been helped cross the ocean of saṃsāra and saved by Omniscient Buddhas. To illustrate, Upatissa, the wandering ascetic, who was to become the Venerable Sāriputta, became established in the Path and Fruition of Sotāpatti on hearing from the Venerable Assaji the following stanza:

Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā,
tesaṃ hetuṃ Tathāgato

From this account, one would think Noble Disciples could be both those who have been saved (Tarita beings) by others and those who have saved others (Tārayitu beings). But the teaching of a Buddha’s disciple has its origin in the Buddha; it does not originate from the Disciple himself. He does not preach a sermon of his own without taking help and guidance from the Teaching of the Buddha. Therefore, such Disciples are to be called “Tarita beings” and not Tārayitu beings, as they can, by no means, realise the Four Noble Truths without a master; and their realisation of the Path and Fruition can take place only with the master’s help and guidance.

As has been said, Private Buddhas and Noble Disciples are Tārita beings and Tarita beings respectively. Hence, after their realisation of the Path and Fruition of Arahantship, they entered into the stage of attainment of Fruition (phala-samāpatti) and attainment of Cessation (nirodha-samāpatti) for their own enjoyment of bliss of Peace, and not working for the benefit of others. On the other hand, an Omniscient Buddha (Sammā-sambuddha) would not remain working for His interest only. In fact, even at the time of fulfilling Perfections, He resolves: “Having understood the Four Noble Truths, I will make others understand the same (Buddho bodheyyaṃ),” and so on. Accordingly, He performs the five duties of a Buddha continuously, day and night[9].

Because He has to perform the five duties of a Buddha, the Buddha takes short rest after His day-meal each day. At night, He rests only for one third of the last watch of the night. The remaining hours are spent attending to His five duties.

Only those Buddhas, who possess the energy in the form of unique and supreme diligence (payatta) which is one of the glories (bhaga) of a Buddha, are able to perform such duties. The performance of these duties is not the sphere of Private Buddhas and Disciples.

Footnotes and references:


Tārayitu, literally, “one who makes other cross” and helps them through.


Samsāra, literally, moving about continuously from one life to another i.e. cycle of births.


Tarita, Grammatically speaking, it is a Past Participle form of taratī meaning to cross or to pass over.


Pativedha, literally, penetration. It is one of the three aspects of the Buddha’s Teaching, the first two being pariyatti and patipatti, learning of the scriptures and engagement in practices respectively.


Dhammābhisamaya, literally, truth-realisation, which is penetration of the Four Noble Truths according to the commentaries.


Ābhisamācārika “belonging to the practice of the lesser ethics, according to PED; “the minor precept,” according to CPD.


The next paragraph in the original Text deals with the Uposatha. services observed by Pacceka Buddhas. This account is too technical for lay readers, and we have thus omitted it from our translation.


This is only half of the gatha, and the remaining two lines read:

Tesañ ca yo nirodho evaṃ
vādī mahāsamano


Here the author asks to see details of the five duties of a Buddha in the exposition on the attributes of Bhagava in the Gotama-Buddhavaṃsa in a later volume.

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