The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Great Aspiration (abhinihara) 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 on Miscellany. 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 6a - Great Aspiration (abhinīhāra)

(abhi means towards Omniscience; nīhāra means ‘directing’ or ‘applying the mind’; hence ‘aspiration for Omniscient Buddhahood’.)

Here, the eight factors required for receiving the prophecy of Buddhahood, described in the Chapter on ‘Rare appearance of a Buddha’, may be recalled.

In an existence complete with the eight factors (like that of Sumedha, the wise), the following thoughts occur in the mind of the Bodhisattas (like Sumedha the wise) without being aroused by anyone, but only by being endowed with the same eight factors.

“When I have crossed the ocean of saṃsāra by myself, with my own effort, I shall also rescue other beings; when I have freed myself from the bonds of saṃsāra, I shall also liberate other beings;when I have tamed my sense faculties, I shall teach other beings so that they become tame; when I have extinguished the fires of mental defilements in me, I shall calm the burning minds of other beings; when I have gained the most excellent comfort of Nibbāna, I shall let other beings enjoy the same; when I have extinguished in me the flames of the three rounds of rebirths[1], I shall put out those flames raging in other beings; when I have purified myself of the dust of defilements through my own effort, I shall cause purification of other beings; when I have gained knowledge of the four Noble Truths, I shall teach them to other beings. (In short, I shall strive to become a Buddha and go to the rescue of all beings.)”

Thus the aspiration to Buddhahood arises fervently, continuously, as great meritorious consciousness (mahākusala citta) together with its mental concomitants. These meritorious consciousness and mental concomitants which aspire to Buddhahood are known as the great meritorious (abhinīhāra), which forms the basic condition for all the Ten Perfections.

Indeed, it is only through the arising of this great aspiration that Bodhisattas receive the definite prophecy of Buddhahood; after receiving the prophecy, there occur in succession, reflection on the pāramīs, resolution to fulfil them and necessary practices that take him to the sublime height of accomplishment.

This great aspiration has the characteristic of inclination of the mind towards Omniscience. Its function is to aspire for Buddhahood and having gained it, to wish for the ability to bring welfare and happiness to all beings until they attain Nibbāna. Its manifestation in the yogi’s mind is its being the basic cause of the requisites for Enlightenment. Its proximate cause is Great Compassion (or, the completion of necessary supporting conditions to be explained later).

This great aspiration has, as its object, the inconceivable province of the Buddhas and the welfare of the whole immeasurable world of beings. It should thus be seen as the basis of actions, such as Perfections, Sacrifices and Practices, and the most exalted meritoriousness which is endowed with incomparable power.

To deal briefly with this unique power:

As soon as the great aspiration arises, the Great Being (Bodhisatta) is poised to enter the great field of performance for attainment of Omniscience (mahābodhiyāna paṭipatti). He is then destined to become a Buddha. This destiny is irreversible after the arising in him of this great abhinīhāra and thereby gains the designation of 'Bodhisatta'. (One is not entitled to be called a Bodhisatta until one possesses abhinīhāra.)

From that time onwards, the Bodhisatta becomes fully inclined to the attainment of Omniscience, and the power to fulfil and practise pāramī, cāga and cariya. Thus, the requisites for Enlightenment become established in him.

Because he had possessed this great meritorious abhinīhāra, Sumedha the Hermit correctly investigated all the pāramīs with Perfection-investigating Wisdom (pāramīpavicaya-ñāṇa)[2]. This wisdom was achieved by himself, without the help of a teacher, and was therefore known also as Sayambhū Ñāṇa which was the forerunner of Omniscience. Having thought about and investigated the pāramīs clearly and correctly, he fulfilled and practised them for the duration of four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand aeons.

This great aspiration has:

(a) four conditions (paccaya),
(b) four causes (hetu), and
(c) four powers (bala).

(a) The Four Conditions (Remote Factors)

(i) When the Great Being, who aspires to become a Buddha, sees a Buddha performing a miracle, he thinks: “Omniscience is of tremendous power; by acquiring it, the Buddha has come to be of such wonderful and marvellous nature and to possess such inconceivable power.” Having witnessed the Buddha’s powers, he is inclined towards Omniscience.

(ii) Although he does not himself see the Buddha’s great power, he hears from others: “The Exalted One is endowed with such and such powers.” Having heard thus, he is inclined towards Omniscience.

(iii) Although he neither witnesses nor hears of the Buddha’s great powers, he learns a discourse on the powers of a Buddha. Having learned thus, he is inclined towards Omniscience.

(iv) Although he neither sees the powers of a Buddha nor learns about it from others, nor hears a discourse concerning them, since he has a very noble disposition, he thinks thus: “I will protect the heritage, lineage, tradition and law of the Buddhas.” Because of this high reverence for Dhamma (Dhamma-garu) he is inclined towards Omniscience.

(b) The Four Causes (Immediate Factors)

(i) The Great Being is endowed with the immediate support (upanissaya) of having performed special acts of merit (adhikāra) under former Buddhas.

(ii) He is naturally endowed with compassionate temperament and is willing to alleviate the suffering of beings even at the sacrifice of his life.

(iii) He is endowed with energy and strength to strive long until he achieves his goal of Buddhahood, without feeling discouraged by the suffering in saṃsāra and hardships in working for the welfare of beings.

(iv) He enjoys the friendship of good people who restrain him from doing evil and encourage him to develop what is good.

Of these four causes, being endowed with immediate support (upanissaya sampadā) means that, because the Great Being has resolved mentally or verbally in the presence of former Buddhas (the Texts do not say how many of them) for Buddhahood, he is always inclined toward Omniscience. He is always inclined also to work for the welfare of beings. Because he is endowed with such immediate support, he becomes sharply distinguished from those who would become Paccekabuddhas (Pacceka-bodhisattas) or Disciples of Buddhas (Sāvaka-bodhisatta) in respect of (a) faculties (indriyas), (b) of practices for the welfare of others, (c) of skill in serving the interest of others and in knowing right from wrong (thānāthāna-kosalla ñāṇa). (From these three qualities, it may be deduced that the Bodhisattas have done special deeds of merit under former Buddhas.)

As for association with good friends, by ‘good friend’ is meant those who are possessed of eight attributes, namely, faith, morality, learning, sacrifice, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.

Being endowed with faith, a good friend has confidence in Omniscience of the Exalted One and one’s own deeds (kamma) and the fruits thereof. Because of such faith, he does not give up his wish for the welfare of beings; this wish is the basic cause for Supreme Enlightenment.

Being endowed with morality, he is dear to beings who hold him in esteem and reverence. Being accomplished in learning, he usually gives profound discourses which lead to the welfare and happiness of beings. Being accomplished in sacrifice, he is of few wants, easily contented, detached from sense pleasures, remaining aloof from them.

Being endowed with energy, he always strives to promote the welfare of beings. Being endowed with mindfulness, he never neglects to do deeds of merit. Being accomplished in concentration, he becomes a person of undistracted, concentrated mind. Being endowed with wisdom, he understands things as they really are.

Through mindfulness, the good friend examines the results of meritorious and demeritorious actions. He understands truly through wisdom what is beneficial or harmful to beings. Through concentration, he keeps his mind steady, and through energy, he restrains beings from what will bring harm to them and directs them to strive hard with unremitting zeal for their well-being.

Associating with and relying on the good friend, who is possessed of such qualities, the Bodhisatta endeavours to strengthen his own accomplishment in his immediate support (upanissaya-sampatti). With clear purified wisdom and extreme purity of deed and word which are achieved through persistent endeavours, he becomes accomplished in the four great powers. Before long, he comes to possess the eight factors required for receiving the prophecy. He shows the great aspiration (Mahābhinīhāra) boldly, and becomes established firmly as a true Bodhisatta. From then onwards, he has no aspiration other than Supreme Enlightenment. He becomes a noble person with a fixed, irreversible destination of full Enlightenment.

(c) The Four Great Powers

(i) Internal power (ajjhattika-bala): (Extreme inclination towards Omniscience or Sammāsambodhi through reliance on one’s physical ability, with reverence for the Dhamma (Dhamma gārava), the last of the aforesaid four conditions.) Exercising this power, having self-reliance and sense of shame (for doing evil), the Bodhisatta aspires after Buddhahood, fulfils the Perfections and attains Supreme Enlightenment.

(ii) External power (bāhira-bala): (Extreme inclination towards Omniscience through reliance on external power, the first three of the four conditions described above.) Exercising this power, relying upon the outside world, being supported by pride and self-confidence, “I am a person fully equipped with powers to attain Buddhahood,” the Bodhisatta aspires after Buddhahood, fulfils Perfections and attains Supreme Enlightenment.

(iii) Power of supporting conditions (upanissaya-bala): (Extreme inclination towards Omniscience through reliance on the first of the four conditions.) Exercising this power, being endowed with sharp faculties and natural purity and being supported by mindfulness, the Bodhisatta aspires after Buddhahood, fulfils the Perfections and attains Supreme Enlightenment.

(iv) Power of exertion (payoga-bala): (Being endowed with appropriate and sufficient energy for the attainment of Omniscience, thorough and persistent pursuit of supporting conditions and meritorious acts.) Exercising this power, being endowed with purity of deed and word, and constantly engaged in meritorious acts, the Bodhisatta aspires after Buddhahood, fulfils Perfections and attains Supreme Enlightenment.

Complete with these four conditions, four causes and four powers, by the time the Bodhisatta reaches the stage of development, as in the existence of Sumedha the Wise, he acquires the eight factors which entitle him to receive the prophecy of Buddhahood.

Actuated by the acquisition of these eight factors, the great aspiration, which is meritorious consciousness and its concomitants, arises: “I will strive with unremitting zeal to become a Buddha and go to the rescue of all beings.” This great meritorious abhinīhāra forms a basic condition for all the Perfections.

Great Marvels

Because of the arising of the great meritorious abhinīhāra in him, the following marvels come to be attributed to the noble Bodhisatta: (i) he treats all beings with love like his own children; (ii) his mind is not defiled through demeritoriousness (he remains undisturbed and untainted by defilements); (iii) all his intentions, actions and words are for promoting the welfare and happiness of beings, and (iv) fulfilment of the pāramīs, and practice of cāga and cariya instead of diminishing, become more and more pronounced and mature in him.

Because of the arising in him of these marvels, the Bodhisatta is endowed with the ‘stream’ of the most sublime meritoriousness and benevolence. As a result, he becomes worthy of receiving excellent gifts, and an incomparable fertile field where seeds of merit may be sown, establishing himself as an object of highest homage and reverence for beings.

Footnotes and references:


Three rounds of rebirths: the kamma round (kamma vatta);the round of defilements (kilesa vatta); the round of results (vipaka vatta).


Pāramī pavicaya ñāṇa. read Chapter IV REFLECTIONS ON PERFECTIONS.

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