by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Hard to become even a Future 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).
Let alone becoming a Perfectly Self-Enlightened One, the stage of development attained by Sumedha the Hermit since he received the prophecy of Buddhahood, can be reached only when one is endowed with eight factors. These are:
(1) Being a true human being,
(2) Being a true male person.
(3) Having fulfilled all conditions such as Perfections, which are necessary for realisation of arahantship in that very life.
(4) Meeting with a living Buddha,
(6) Being endowed with jhāna attainments,
(7) Intense efforts to develop one’s Perfections without regard to one’s life, and
(8) Wholesome desire strong enough to aspire after Buddhahood.
Only those who are endowed with these eight factors are able to wear the ‘crown of prophesy’ accordingly. Let alone becoming a Buddha, it is very difficult to reach the stage of development like Sumedha the Hermit when he became eligible to receive the prophecy of Buddhahood.
When, as a future Buddha, it is so difficult to receive the prophecy of Buddhahood, what can be said of Buddhahood which can be attained only by fulfilling Perfections by the fourfold mode of development63a for at least four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons, after receiving the prophecy? Truly, hard it is to become a Buddha.
Since Buddhahood is so hard to attain, the 'moment' of a Buddha’s emergence is also very hard to encounter. In this connection, the Atthaka Nipāta of the Aṅguttara Nikāya gives an enumeration of eight moments or existences in saṃsāra which are to be regarded as ‘inopportune moment’ or ‘unfortunate existences.’ On the other hand, the moment of a Buddha’s appearance is to be reckoned as an opportune moment of fortunate existence.
The eight unfortunate existences are:
(1) Existence in an abode of continuous intense suffering (niraya): it is an unfortunate existence because a being in this abode cannot perform any act of merit as he is all the time suffering from severe and painful tortures.
(2) Existence in an animal abode: it is an unfortunate existence because a being of this abode, living in fear always, cannot perform any act of merit and is in no position even to perceive what is good or bad.
(3) Existence in a peta abode: it is an unfortunate existence because a being in this abode cannot perform any act of merit as it always feels the sensation of hotness and dryness and suffers from severe thirst and hunger.
(4) Existence in an abode of brahmās who are devoid of consciousness (asaññasattabhūmi): it is an unfortunate existence because a being in this abode cannot perform any act of merit nor listen to the Dhamma as he is not equipped with the faculty of hearing.
(5) Existence in a remote area of the land: it is an unfortunate existence because such an area is not accessible to bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs and other disciples and devotees of a Buddha. It is also a place where people are not well informed or up to date. A person living there cannot perform any act of merit as he had no chance to listen to the Dhamma though he possesses the faculty of hearing.
(6) Existence in which one holds a wrong view: it is an unfortunate existence because a man holding a wrong view cannot hear and practise the Dhamma though he may be living in the Middle Country where a Buddha appears and the continuous thunder of the Buddha’s Dhamma reverberates throughout the land.
(7) Existence in which one is born with deficient sense faculties: it is an unfortunate existence because, as consequence of demeritorious deeds of past lives, his rebirthconsciousness is devoid of three wholesome root-conditions, viz., non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion (ahetuka-paṭisandhika) and, therefore, he is deficient in sense faculties such as sight, hearing, etc. As such, he is unable to see the Noble Ones, hear their teachings nor practise the Dhamma as taught by them, even if he may be living in the Middle Country and have no staunchly held wrong view.
(8) Existence at a time when a Buddha does not appear: it is an unfortunate existence because, at such a time, a man cannot cultivate and practise the threefold training of morality (sīla), concentration of mind (samādhi) and wisdom (paññā) though he may be living in the Middle Country, possessing unimpaired sense faculties and holding the right view, that is, belief in the Law of Kamma.
Unlike these eight unfortunate existences (akkhaṇa), it may be noted that there is a ninth existence which is fortunate and is called, “Buddh’uppāda-navamakhaṇa” because it is the existence in which a Buddha appears. Rebirth at such a time with unimpaired sense faculties and holding the right view enables one to cultivate and practise the Dhamma as taught by a Buddha. This ninth existence in which a Buddha appears (Buddh’uppādanavamakhaṇa) covers the lifetime of a Buddha when He is teaching the Dhamma and the whole period throughout which His Teaching flourishes.
Footnotes and references:
63. Detail of these eight factors will be given at the end of the chapter on Perfections. (63a). See The eight unfortunate existences.
Inopportune moment: akkhana, literally, ‘wrong moment.’
Usually translated “dead, departed” or “the departed spirit.”
With regard to this fourth akkhana, the author says that only asaññasatta-bhūmi is mentioned in the Aṭṭhaka Nipāta of the Aṅguttara Commentary. In the Jinālaṅkāra Sub-Commentary, however, immaterial abode (arūpa-bhūmi) is also included in this akkhana. The reasons for its exclusion from the Aṅguttara Nikāya are given by the author in the next paragraph. But as they are too technical we have omitted the paragraph in our translation.
Wrong view: niyata-micchādiṭṭhi, literally, a staunchly held wrong view.
Thunder: nada, literally. ‘roar,’ such as that of a lion.
The country in Central India and the birthplace of men of superior quality including Buddhas.