by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Prophecy 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 great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
[For the Anudīpanī on this chapter, see The Prophecy]
By the time Sumedha the Hermit had become accomplished in practices of asceticism by following the teachings of noble ascetics and had gained jhānas and Higher Spiritual Powers, there appeared in the world Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, Lord of the three worlds. Thirtytwo wondrous events such as quake of the ten thousand universe, occurred on four occasions concerning the appearance of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, namely, His conception, birth, attainment of Buddhahood and teaching of the First Sermon. But Sumedha was not aware of these wondrous events as he was then totally absorbed in the bliss of jhānas.
After His Enlightenment, Buddha Dīpaṅkarā preached the First Sermon to a hundred thousand crores of devas and human beings at Sunandarama. After that, He set out on a journey with an intention of removing mental defilements of beings by pouring on them the purifying water of Dhamma, like the heavy rain that falls on all four continents.
Then with four hundred thousand arahants, He went to the city of Rammavatī and stayed at Sudassana Monastery. Meanwhile Sumedha was enjoying the bliss of jhānas in the forest and completely unaware of the appearance of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā in the world.
On hearing the Buddha’s arrival at Sudassana Monastery, the citizens of Rammavati, after their morning meal, carried excellent gifts for medicinal use such as butter, ghee, etc., as well as flowers and scents and went to the presence of the Buddha. Having paid obeisance to the Buddha and honoured Him with flowers, scents, etc., they sat down at suitable places and listened to His most delectable sermon. By the end of the sermon, they invited Him, together with His disciples, the Order of bhikkhus, to the next day’s meal, and having circumambulated the Buddha in salutation, they left the monastery.
Elaborate Preparations to receive Buddha Dīpaṅkarā and His Company
The next day, the citizens of Rammāvati were preparing elaborately for the “incomparably great alms-giving” (asadisa-mahādāna). A pavilion was set up and pure, tender blue lotuses strewn in it. The air was refreshed with four kinds of perfume; sweet smelling flowers made from rice-flakes were scattered; pots of cool sweet water were covered with emerald-green banana leaves and placed at the four corners of the pavilion; a canopy, decorated with stars of gold, silver and ruby, was fixed to the ceiling of the pavilion; scented flowers and jewel, like blooms formed into garlands and festoons, were hung here and there. When the decorations of the pavilion were completed, the citizens started to make the city clean and tidy. On both sides of the main road were placed waterpots, flowers, banana plants complete with bunches of fruit. Flags, banners and streamers were hung up and decorative screens were put up at suitable places.
When necessary preparations had thus been made in the city, the citizens attended to mending the road which the Buddha would take in entering the city. With earth, they filled holes and cracks caused by floods and levelled the uneven muddy ground. They also covered the road with pearl-white sand, strewed it with flowers of rice-flakes and placed banana plants complete with bunches of fruit along the route. Thus, they made all the arrangements and preparations for the ceremony of alms-giving.
At that time, Sumedha the Hermit levitated from his hermitage and while travelling through space saw the citizens of Rammāvati engaging cheerfully in road-mending and decorating. Wondering what was going on below, he alighted and stood at an appropriate place while the people were watching him. Then he asked:
“You are mending the road
so happily and enthusiastically.
For whose benefit
are you mending the road?”
The people then answered:
there has appeared in this world
the Incomparable Buddha Dīpaṅkarā,
who has conquered the five evil forces of Māra,
and who is the Supreme Lord of the whole world.
We are mending the road for His visit.”
(From this conversation, it may be noted that Buddha Dīpaṅkarā appeared long after Sumedha had attained jhānas and higher spiritual powers. Sumedha did not happen to be aware of Dīpaṅkarā’s conception, birth, attainment of Buddhahood, and teaching of the First Sermon because he had wandered about only in the forest and in the sky, totally absorbed in the bliss of jhānas and in the exercise of higher spiritual powers, taking no interest in any event of the human world. It was only while he was travelling through space and saw the people of Rammāvatī were attending to road-mending and cleaning, he descended to earth to ask what was going on. This suggests that Sumedha was some few thousand years old at that time, as the duration of life, when Buddha Dipaikara appeared, was a hundred thousand years.)
Sumedha’s Participation in The Road-mending Work
Sumedha was filled with joy on hearing the word, "Buddha", uttered by the people of Rammāvatī. He experienced great mental happiness and repeated the word, “Buddha, Buddha,” as he could not contain the intense joy that had arisen in him.
Standing on the spot where he had descended, Sumedha was filled with happiness and also stirred by religious emotion, he thought profoundly thus:
“I will sow excellent seeds of merit in the fertile ground, namely, this Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, for cultivation of good deeds. Rare and difficult, indeed, it is to witness the happy moment of a Buddha’s appearance. That happy moment has now come to me. Let it not pass by unheeded.”
Having thought thus, he asked the people: “O men, if you are preparing the road for the Buddha’s visit, allot me a stretch of the road. I, too, would like to participate in your roadmending work.”
“Very well,” said the people, and because they were confident that he was a person of great supernatural powers, they allotted him a big, boggy and very uneven portion of ground which would be difficult to mend. As they assigned him his share of work, they said: “You may improve and make it delightful with decorations.”
Then Sumedha, with his heart gladdened by thought on the attributes of the Buddha, decided: “I can mend the road with my supernatural powers so that it will look pleasant. But if I do so, the people around me may not think highly of it (because it will be done easily in an instant). Today, I should do my duties with my own physical labour.” Having decided thus, he filled the bog with earth which he carried from a distance.
The Arrival of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā
Before Sumedha could finished his assigned work, Buddha Dīpaṅkarā came along the road with four hundred thousand arahants, who were all endowed with the Six Higher Spiritual Powers, who could not be shaken by the eight vicissitudes of the world and who were purified of mental defilements.
When Buddha Dīpaṅkarā came along the road with four hundred thousand arahants, devas and humans welcomed them with beating of drums. They also expressed their joy by singing songs of welcome in honour of Him.
At that time, human beings were visible to devas and devas were visible to human beings. All these beings, divine and human, followed the Buddha, some raising their hands in adoration and others playing their respective musical instruments.
Devas, coming along through the air, tossed and scattered celestial flowers, such as Mandārava, Paduma and Koviḷāra, all over the place - up and down, front and behind, left and right - in honour of the Buddha. Humans also did similar honour to the Buddha with such flowers as Campā, Sarala, Mucalinda, Nāga, Punnāga, and Ketakī.
Sumedha gazed, unblinking, at the Buddha’s person, which was endowed with the thirtytwo marks of an extraordinary being and further adorned with the eighty minor marks. He witnessed the Buddha’s resplendent person, looking as if of solid gold, at the height of glory, with the bright aura always around Him and the six rays emanating from His body flashing like lightning against a sapphire-blue sky.
Then he decided thus: “Today, I ought to sacrifice my life in the presence of the Buddha. Let Him not tread in the mud and suffer discomfort. Let the Buddha and all His four hundred thousand arahants tread on my back and walk just as they would do on rubycoloured planks of a bridge. Using my body as footpath by the Buddha and His arahats will definitely bring me long-lasting welfare and happiness.”
Having made up his mind thus, he loosened his hair-knot, spread the mat of black-leopard skin, and fibre-robe on the murky swamp and then prostrate himself on them, like a bridge constructed of ruby-coloured wooden planks.
Sumedha’s Aspiration towards Omniscient Buddhahood
Thus Sumedha, who had prostrated himself, the aspiration to become a Buddha arose:
“If I so desire, this very day I can become an arahat in whom the āsavas are exhausted and mental defilements removed. But what does it profit me to realise the fruition of arahatship and Nibbāna as an obscure disciple in the dispensation of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā? I will exert my utmost for the attainment of Omniscient Buddhahood.”
“What is the use of selfishly escaping the cycle of births alone, in spite of the fact that I am a superior person, fully aware of my prowess of wisdom, faith and energy. I will strive for attainment of Omniscient Buddhahood and liberate all beings, including devas, from the cycle of births which is a sea of suffering. “After attaining Omniscient Buddhahood myself, which is the result of my matchless deed of lying prostrate in the mud and making myself a kind of bridge for the Supreme Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, I will rescue beings out of the cycle of births, which is a sea of suffering.
“After crossing over the stream of saṃsāra and leaving behind the three realms of existences, I will, by myself, first embark on the Dhamma-raft of the Noble Path of the Eight Constituents and go to the rescue of all beings including devas.” Thus, his mind was bent upon being a Buddha.
Sumittā, The Future Yasodharā
While Sumedha was making his resolution to attain Buddhahood, a young brahmin maiden, named Sumittā, went to join the people who were gathering in the presence of the Buddha. She brought eight lotus blooms to honour the Buddha. When she was in the middle of the crowd, and as soon as her eyes fell on Sumedha, she was seized with a sudden great love for him. Though she wanted to offer him some gifts, she had nothing but the eight lotus blooms. Then she said to him: “Venerable Hermit, I give you five lotus blooms so that you may offer them to the Buddha by yourself. The remaining three blooms are for my own offering to the Buddha.” She then handed the five lotus blooms to Sumedha and expressed her wish saying: “Venerable Hermit, throughout the period you are fulfilling Perfections for Buddhahood, may I be the partner who shares your life.”
Sumedha accepted the lotus blooms from the young lady Sumittā and, in the midst of the crowd, offered them to Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, who had went towards him, and he prayed for the attainment of Perfect Self-Enlightenment.
Observing the scene that had taken place between Sumedha and Sumittā, the Buddha made the prediction in the midst of the multitude thus:
“O Sumedha, this girl Sumittā, will be your partner who will shares her life with you, assisting you with equal fervour and deed for your attainment of Buddhahood. She will be pleasing to you with her every thought, word and deed. She will be lovely in appearance, pleasing, of sweet speech and a delight to the heart. In your Dispensation as a Buddha, in your final existence, she will become a female disciple who will receive your spiritual inheritance of arahatship complete with supernormal psychic powers.”
The Utterance of The Prophecy
(As mentioned under the heading: "Contemplation on rare appearance of a Buddha", there was none among the people who did not aspire to Buddhahood on beholding a Buddha’s splendour. Although they aspired to Buddhahood, not one of them was qualified to become a Buddha. But, unlike this multitude of people, Sumedha was fully endowed with all requisites for his attainment of Buddhahood. In fact, he was inclined to become a Buddha as he was endowed with the eight factors required for receiving the prophecy.
These eight factors, as have been stated previously on Buddh'uppāda Navama Khaṇa are: (1) being a true human being, (2) being a true male person, (3) having fulfilled all conditions necessary for realization of arahantship, (4) meeting with a living Buddha, (5) being an ascetic who believes in the Law of Kamma, (6) having acquired jhāna attainments and high spiritual powers, (7) being prepared to lay down his life for the wellbeing of a Buddha. If Buddha Dīpaṅkarā and His four hundred thousand arahats had walked on the back of the prostrate Sumedha, as though they were crossing a bridge, he would not have survived. Knowing full well of this, Sumedha unhesitatingly and courageously prepared himself to render service to the Buddha. Such a performance is called a principal act of merit (adhikārakusala) according to Texts, and (8) intense wholesome aspiration for Buddhahood: even if the whole universe were filled with glowing red hot coal and sharp pointed spears, he would not hesitate to tread through them for attainment of Buddhahood.
Knowing that Sumedha was endowed with these requisite qualifications, Buddha Dīpaṅkarā went towards Sumedha and, standing at the head of his prostrate body, exercised His supernormal psychic power of seeing into the future, to find out whether Sumedha’s aspiration to become a Buddha would be fulfilled, and said: “Sumedha will become a Buddha, Gotama by name, after four asaṅkhyeyya and a hundred thousand aeons have passed from the present one.” While still standing at his head, the Buddha uttered the prophecy in nine verses beginning with the words “Passatha imam tāpasam jatilam uggatāpanam:”
(1) Monks, behold this matted-haired ascetic of rigorous austere practices! This Sumedha the Hermit will become an Enlightened One among Brahmās, devas and human beings after innumerable aeons, to be exact, four asaṅkhyeyya and a hundred thousand aeons from now.
(2) On the threshold of his Buddhahood, this Sumedha will renounce the world, leaving behind the marvellously delightful city of Kapilavatthu; he will then devote himself to meditation and perform strenuous austere practices (dukkara-cariyā).
(4) When his attainment of Buddhahood is drawing near, he will partake of the milk-rice on the river bank and approach the Bodhi tree by the path well prepared by devas.
(5) As he reaches the Bodhi tree, which will be the site of attaining Enlightenment, he goes round it clockwise; he will turn from south to west, from west to north and then from north to east. Thus becoming a Supremely Enlightened One with none to excel him and His fame spreading far and wide. Then, having seated himself at the foot of the Bodhi tree, he will gain Insight-Knowledge of the Four Noble Truths.
(7) The pair of His Chief Disciples will be Kolita and Upatissa, who will be free of mental intoxicants (āsava) and attachment (rāga), and who are of calm heart and profound mental concentration. The monk, Ānanda by name, will wait upon this Buddha as an attendant.
(8) Khemā Therī and Uppalavannā Therī, who are free of mental intoxicants and attachments, who are of calm heart and profound mental concentration, will become the pair of female Chief Disciples. The fig tree, Ficus Religiosa (Assattha), will be the Buddha’s Bodhi tree under which he attains Enlightenment.
Acclamation by Devas and Humans
On hearing the prophecy of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, who had no equal in the three worlds and who was always in pursuit of meritorious deeds, devas and humans acclaimed with joy: “It is said that this Sumedha the Hermit is truly the seed of a future Buddha.” They slapped themselves on their upper arms with joy. Devas and Brahmās, who had come from the ten thousand universe together with humans raised their hands in adoration.
They also expressed their wishes:
“Even though we should now fail to put into practice the Teaching of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, Lord of the entire world, we have encountered this noble Hermit who will become a Buddha. We will then strive for attainment of higher knowledge of the Dhamma.
“For example, there are those who try to cross a river, but cannot reach the destined landing place on the other side as they are carried away by the current of the river. They manage, however, to cling to a landing place somewhere further down the river and thence cross over to their destinations.
“In the same way, although we cannot yet avail ourselves of the Teaching of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, we have encountered this noble Hermit who is destined to become a Buddha in future, when we will attain the Path and Fruition.”
Buddha Dīpaṅkarā proceeded to Rammavati
After Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, who was worthy of accepting the gift brought from a distance, who, having insight into the three worlds, was the possessor of the attribute “Knower of the World” (Lokavidū), had thus made the prediction and honoured him with eight handfuls of flowers, He departed, stepping out with His right foot placed by the side of Sumedha. From the place where the Buddha had uttered the prophecy, the four hundred thousand arahants also departed, keeping Sumedha on their right (after honouring him with flowers and scents). So also humans, supernatural beings and celestial musicians (Gandhabba devas) departed from there after paying obeisance to Sumedha and honouring him with flowers and scents.
Amidst the honours showered on Him in reverence by the devas and citizens of Rammāvatī, Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, followed by the four hundred thousand arahants, proceeded along the well-decorated road into the city where He took the seat especially prepared for Him. Sitting down, He appeared like the morning sun rising on the top of Mount Yugandhara. Just as the early rays of the sun bring the lotus flowers into full bloom, so the Buddha would shed rays of Enlightenment to enable those, who were on the verge of liberation, to penetrate stage by stage into the depths of the Four Noble Truths. The four hundred thousand arahants were also seated in an orderly manner at the places they had reached. The citizens of Rammāvatī then performed the ceremony of the great incomparable alms-giving (asadisa-dāna) to the Buddha and His follower bhikkhus.
Sumedha’s Delight and Satisfaction
When Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, the leader of the three worlds, and the four hundred thousand arahants went out of his sight, Sumedha got up joyfully from his prostrate position. With his mind suffused with joy and happiness, exultation and delightful satisfaction, he sat cross-legged on the huge pile of flowers that were strewn in his honour by devas and humans, and contemplated thus:
“I am fully accomplished in jhānas and have attained the height of the Five Higher Spiritual Powers. Throughout the ten thousand universe, there is no ascetic who is my peer. I see none who is equal to me in the exercise of supernormal powers.” Thus contemplating, he experienced intense joy and satisfaction.
Devas proclaimed Thirty-two Prophetic Phenomena
When Sumedha was seated cross-legged, happy with recollection of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā’s prophecy and feeling as though he already had the precious gem of Omniscient Buddhahood in his very hand, devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universe arrived and proclaimed with a mighty sound:
(1) Noble Sumedha, thirty-two prophetic phenomena have now taken place; these phenomena had occurred also to all previous future Buddhas who had received the prophecy and were sitting down cross-legged as you are doing now. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(2) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, there was absence of extreme cold and heat or hotness of the weather. These two phenomena have been clearly discerned today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(3) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, there was utter silence and complete absence of disturbances over the whole ten thousand universe. These two phenomena have been clearly discerned today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(4) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas had received the prophecy, there were no violent winds blowing, there were no rivers flowing. These two phenomena have been clearly discerned today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(5) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddha received the prophecy, all the terrestrial flowers and aquatic flowers bloom simultaneously. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(6) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, all the creepers and trees bore fruit simultaneously. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(7) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas had received the prophecy, all he precious jewels that lie in the sky and on earth shone bright. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(8) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas had received the prophecy, great sounds of celestial as well as earthly music was heard, without either devas or human beings playing on the musical instruments. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(9) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, strange and exquisite flowers fall from heaven like rain. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(10) Noble Sumedha, when previous future Buddhas had received the prophecy, there occurred whirling of the great ocean and trembling of the ten thousand universe. There have been great roars today because of these two phenomena. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(11) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas had received the prophecy, there occurred extinction of hell-fires throughout the ten thousand universe. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(12) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, the sun became clear of blemishes, all the stars and planets were discernable during the day. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(13) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, water gushed from the earth without having any rain. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(14) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas had received the prophecy, the stars and planets shone with splendour. The planet Visākhā appeared in conjunction with the full moon. The same phenomena have happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(15) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, snakes, mongooses and other animals which live in pits, and foxes and other animals which live in ravines, came out of their habitation. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(16) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, there was no sign of dissatisfaction in the heart of sentient beings and they were content with what they had. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(17) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, sentient beings were cured of diseases and relieved of hunger, The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(18) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, there occurred alleviation of attachment to sense objects in the minds of sentient beings which are also rid of ill-will and bewilderment. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(19) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, the minds of sentient beings were rid of fear. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(20) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, the atmosphere was clear, free from dust, dirt and mist. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(21) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, he atmosphere was free of undesirable odours and filled with celestial fragrance. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(22) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, devas and Brahmās (except formless ones of the latter beings) became visible. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(23) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, all abodes of incessant suffering became visible today. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(24) Noble Sumedha, on the day that previous future Buddhas received the prophecy, walls, doors and even mountains always open wide and formed no obstructions or barriers. Today also, these walls, doors and mountains became as the empty space and the open sky, in any way. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
(25) Noble Sumedha, at the moment that Future Buddhas received the prophecy, there occurred no death nor conception of beings. The same phenomenon has happened today. So you will certainly become a Buddha.
Encouraging Words of Devas and Brahmas
Devas and Brahmās, who had arrived from the ten thousand universe, spoke words of praise and encouragement to Sumedha thus:
“Noble Sumedha, strive on earnestly with constant diligence! There should be no retreat. Proceed with your endeavour! We know without any doubt that you will certainly become a Buddha.”
Footnotes and references:
An account of the life of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā will be given in the twenty-four Buddhavaṃsa.
These wondrous events will be mentioned in Gotama Buddhavaṃsa.
A Buddha’s sermon is usually figuratively referred to as medicine that cures the ills of the world. The author therefore beautifully describes Buddha Dīpaṅkarā’s teaching of the First Sermon as medicinal prescriptions to cure the suffering of beings.
The four hundred thousand arahats always followed and accompanied Buddha Dīpaṅkarā. The virtues of these arahats are given just for ready reference in the Pāli Text which says that they were endowed with the Six Higher Spiritual Powers that they could not be shaken by the eight vicissitudes of the world and that they were purified of mental defilements. But the Commentary states that their virtues were in addition to those already mentioned: they had little desire; they were easily contented; they could give others words of advice; in turn they listen to words of advice respectfully;they were devoid of attachment to five sense objects; they did not mix with lay people (unnecessarily), and they observed the five kinds of discipline, etc., says the author. (The author also makes a quotation from the Hsutaunggan Pyo another well-known epic of Shin Sīlavamsa.)
Further details in this connection are given by the author in the Anudīpanī.
Name of the river, on the banks of which was Uruvelā, the scene of the Bodhisatta’s sojourn after his realization at the futility of most severe austerities. He bathed in the river before he ate the meal of milk-rice given by Sujātā. After eating the meal, the Bodhisatta launched the bowl in the river. Having reached the Nāga’s riverine abode, it sank down and came into contact with the bowls similarly launched by the three previous Buddhas of this kappa. Read also the Anudīpanī for the derivation of the river’s name.
Slapping oneself on the left upper arm with the right palm is a physical expression of one’s joy.
Āhuneyya: worthy of accepting the gift brought from a distance: the fifth of the nine attributes of the Sangha.
Called nāga, in Pāli, who are serpent demons with miraculous powers.
The author here points out that people are inflicted with discontent in their everyday life, never satisfied with whatever they possess. Judging from this particular phenomenon, it is only on the day of a Buddha’s prophecy that they are temporarily relieved of their perennial discontent.