The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Contemplation on Rare Appearance 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 6 - Contemplation on Rare Appearance of a Buddha

Profound contemplation on the following four matters concerning a Bodhisatta and a

Buddha, namely,

(1) Bodhisatta (A future Buddha),
(2) Bodhisatta-kicca (Duties of a Bodhisatta),
(3) Buddha (A Supremely Enlightened One), and
(4) Buddha-kicca (Daily duties of a Buddha)

leads one to the realisation that a Buddha’s coming into being is a very rare phenomenon.

To elaborate: Numerous were those who aspired after Buddhahood when they had themselves seen or heard the powers and glories of Buddha Gotama after His Enlightenment such as victory over the heretics bloated with conceit, performance of the Twin Miracle[1], etc. Therefore, when the Buddha descended to the city of Saṅkassa from Tāvatiṃsa, where He had preached the Abhidhamma, devas, human beings and Brahmās became visible to one another owing to Devorohaṇa Miracle[2] performed by the Buddha. The Devorohaṇa Miracle created a great expanse of space from Bhavagga[3] above to Avīci[4] below and throughout the eight directions of the unbounded universe. Beholding the Buddha’s splendour that day, there was none among the people, who had gathered in a great mass, who did not aspire to Buddhahood. That all the people of this huge gathering wished for Buddhahood is mentioned in the story of Devorohaṇa of the Dhammapada Commentary and in the explanations of the three kinds of miracles in the Jinālaṅāra Sub-Commentary.

Although the number of people aspiring after Buddhahood, on seeing and hearing the Buddha’s splendour, was great, it is certain that those who were of little faith, wisdom, will and energy would have flinched if they had known the pertinent facts concerning the multiplicity of Perfections such as fulfilment of these Perfections on a mighty scale, fulfilment of Perfections in every existence without interruption, fulfilment with seriousness and thoroughness, fulfilment for a long time and fulfilment without regard to one’s life. Only undaunted fulfilment of these awesome Perfections could lead to Enlightenment. Buddhahood is therefore said to be something hard to obtain (dullabha)[5]. The appearance of a Buddha is indeed a rare phenomenon.

Thus, it is mentioned in the second Sutta of Ekapuggala Vagga (15), Ekaka-nipāta of the Aṅguttara Nikāya:

Ekapuggalassa bhikkhave pātubhāvo dullabho lokasmim: katamassa ekapugglassa? Tathāgatassa arahato sammā-sambuddhassa imtassa kho bhikkhave ekapuggalassa pāttubhāvo dullabho lokasmiṃ.

Monks, in the world, emergence of a being is very rare. Whose emergence? The Tathāgata, who is worthy of the highest veneration and who knows the truth with Perfect Self-Enlightenment, His emergence is indeed very rare.

The Commentary on that Sutta, too, explains why so rare is the appearance of a Buddha. Of the Ten Perfections, with regard to alms-giving alone, one cannot become a Buddha after fulfilling it just once; one cannot become a Buddha after fulfilling it twice, ten times, twenty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand times, or times numbering one crore, one hundred crores, one thousand crores, or one hundred thousand crores. Similarly, one cannot become a Buddha after fulfilling it for one day, two days, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand days or days numbering one hundred thousand crores; not after fulfilling it for one month, two months or months numbering one hundred thousand crores; not after fulfilling it even for one year, two years, or years numbering one hundred thousand crores; not after fulfilling it even for a great aeon, two great aeons, or great aeons numbering one hundred thousand crores;fulfilling it even one great asaṅkhyeyya aeons, two great asaṅkhyeyya or three great asaṅkhyeyya aeons. (The same holds good in the case of other Perfections, such as morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, forbearance, truth, resolution, loving-kindness and equanimity.) In fact, the shortest duration for fulfilment of Perfections is four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons. It is only after fulfilling all Perfections for such a long time without interruption, and with profound reverence, devotion, seriousness and thoroughness can one become enlightened. This is the reason for the rare occurrence of an Omniscient Buddha.

The Sub-Commentary on the Sutta also emphasises that only when one has fulfilled Perfections for at least four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons can one become a Buddha. There is no other way. This is why the appearance of a Buddha is singularly rare.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

It is a well known miracle displaying both fire and water issuing alternately from the Buddha’s body.

[2]:

Devorohana means “Descent from the abode of gods,” i.e, the Buddha’s descent therefrom. The miracle that took place on that occasion is here mentioned as Devorohana Miracle, the most notable feature of which was seeing through all the universes from one end to another, from top to bottom and vice versa. There was nothing to obstruct one’s sight: everybody, whether human or divine, was capable of seeing one another and capable of being seen by one another.

[3]:

The highest abode of brahmas.

[4]:

The lowest abode of intense sufferings.

[5]:

Dullabha, lit. hard to obtain. There are five rare phenomena hard to encounter, namely, (1) Buddh'uppāda, appearance of a Buddha, (2) manussattabhāva, gaining rebirth as a human being, (3) saddhāsampattibhāva, being endowed with faith in the Triple Gem and the Law of Kamma, (4) pabbajitabhāva, becoming a member of the community of bhikkhus, and (5) saddammasavana, getting opportunity of hearing the teaching of a Buddha.

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