The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Fulfilment of the Ten Perfections 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 the chronicle of twenty-four Buddhas. 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).

Supplement (c): Fulfilment of the Ten Perfections

The Bodhisatta, Sumedha the hermit, before meeting Buddha Dīpaṅkarā and while in his youth, had engaged in generosity by giving away all his possessions; in renunciation, by going forth from household life to homeless state; in morality, by observing the precepts as an ascetic and in samatha meditation, by putting efforts to attain jhāna and abhiññana. Having done so, he received the definite prophecy from Buddha Dīpaṅkarā and that was followed by his contemplating the Ten Perfections and, exertion and fulfilment of the Perfections, beginning with Dāna through the aforesaid four modes of development that lasted four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand kappas up to his existence as Prince Vessantara.

In fulfilling the Ten Perfections, (as mentioned in the Atthasalini, and the Pāṭha Jātaka Commentary) with regard to Dāna pāramī, the existences in which he performed dāna was countless, as he had done so when he was Brahmin Akitti, Brahmin Sankha, King Dhanañjaya, King Mahā Sudassana, Purohita Mahā Govinda, King Nimi, Prince Canda Kumāra, the wealthy Visayha, King Sivi and Prince Vessantara, etc. What are particularly mentioned in these commentaries are that the generosity shown by the Bodhisatta, as the wise Hare, at the sacrifice of his life, was the Highest Perfection of Generosity (Paramattha dāna pāramī).

With regard to Sīla pāramī, the existences in which he observed morality are countless, as he had done so when he was Nāga King Campeyya, Nāga King Bhūridatta, Elephant King Chaddanta, Prince Jayadisa, Prince Alihasattu, etc. In particular, his observance of morality at the sacrifice of his life while he was Nāga King Sankhapāla was the Highest Perfection of Morality (Paramattha sīla pāramī).

With regard to Nekkhamma pāramī, the existences in which he renounced the world are countless, as he had done so leaving behind his kingdom when he was Prince Hatthipāla, Ayoghara the Wise, etc. In particular, his renunciation of the kingly wealth that had come to him when he was Cūla Sutasoma and which he found loathsome as spittle absolutely without attachment, was the Highest Perfection of Renunciation (Pammattha nekkhamma pāramī).

With regard to Paññā pāramī, the existences in which he fulfilled the Perfection of Wisdom were countless, as he had done so when he was the wise Vidhura, Mahā Govinda, Kudāla, Araka, Mahosadha, etc. In particular, his ability to assert (by means of his wisdom) that there was a snake in the leather bag (without seeing it with his own eyes) when he was Senaka the Wise of Sattubhasta Jātaka, was the Highest Perfection of Wisdom (Paramattha paññā pāramī).

With regard to Vīriya pāramī, the existences in which he fulfilled the Perfection of Energy were countless. In particular, his effort put forth in swimming in the great ocean as Prince Mahā Janaka of Mahā Janaka Jātaka was the Highest Perfection of Energy (Paramattha vīriya pāramī).

In the Khantivāda Jātaka, as Khantivādī the ascetic, his forbearance without anger of the chopping off his limbs, big and small, by King Kalābu was the Highest Perfection of Forbearance (Paramattha khantī pāramī).

In the Mahā Sutasoma Jātaka, as King Sutasoma, his keeping of promise and being true to his word given to the cannibal Porisāda, by returning to him, sacrificing his life, was the Highest Perfection of Truthfulness (Paramattha sacca pāramī).

In the Mūgapakkha (Temiya) Jātaka, (as Prince Temiya) his maintenance of resolve (to keep silent) at the sacrifice his life when he was subjected to test of endurance, sometimes mildly and at other times severely, for sixteen long years was the Highest Perfection of Resolution (Paramattha adhiṭṭhāna pāramī).

In the Ekarāja Jātaka (or in Suvannasāma Jātaka), his goodwill directed towards the malicious king (as well as towards lions, tigers and other beasts) was the Highest Perfection of Loving-kindness (Paramattha mettā pāramī).

In the Lomahamsa Jātaka, his being equally indifferent to all treatment such as the spitting of mucus, phlegm and saliva on him by village children or the honour done to him with flowers, scents, etc., (by village elders) was the Highest Perfection of Equanimity (Paramattha upekkhā pāramī).

The narration by the Commentators of these existences, in which the Ten Perfections were fulfilled, are reproduced from their respective stories of the Pāṭha Jātaka. A study of these stories shows that all the stories, except five, occurred in the present kappa.

The five exceptional ones are:

(1) Seriva Vānija Jātaka, Appaṇṇaka Vagga, Eka Nipāta. (This story originated five kappas ago as is evidenced by the following sentence read in the Commentary:

Atīte ito pañcame kappe bodhisatto seirva raṭṭhe seriva-nāmako kacchaputavānijo ahosi.—

—In the fifth aeon, reckoned from the present one, in the country of Seriva, the Bodhisatta was a hawker named also Seriva who roamed about with bags on his shoulder selling beads.”)

(2) Lomahamsa Jātaka, Litta Vagga, Eka Nipāta. (This story originated ninety-one kappas ago as is evidenced by the following commentarial statement:

Atīte eka navuti kappamatthake bodhisatto bahirakam tapam vīmamsissāmī ti ājivakapabbajjam pabbajitvā acelako ahosi.—

—In the ninety-first aeon, reckoned from the present one, the Bodhisatta was a naked ascetic, having taken up the life of an ājīvaka in order to investigate heretical asceticism.”)

(3) Araka Jātaka, Santhava Vagga, Duka Nipāta. (This story originated seven kappas ago as is evidenced by the following commentarial statement in the concluding portion of the Jātaka:

Evaṃ bodhisatto aparihīnajjhāno brahmaloke nibbattitvā sattasamvattavivaṭṭakappe na imaṃ lokam puna āgamāvi.—

—In this way, the Bodhisatta did not fall off jhāna but was reborn in the Brahmā abode and did not come to the human world for the period in which the kappa dissolved seven times and evolved seven times.”)

(4) Kesava Jātaka, Cūla Kunāla Vagga, Catukka Nipāta. (This story originated five hundred and seventy kappas ago.)

(5) Baka Jātaka, Kukkura Vagga, Sattaka Nipāta. (This story originated also five hundred and seventy kappas ago.)

The two Jātakas of Kesava and Baka are the stories between which there was no intervening period of existence. The stories given in detail in the Commentary may be retold as follows: In the Kesava Jātaka, Kesava was first an ascetic and on his death became Baka Brahmā. That Baka Brahmā was reborn in Vehapphala Abode, first, living for five hundred mahā-kappas. When his life there came to an end, he was reborn in Subhakiṇha Abode, living for sixty-four mahā-kappas. Again, when his life there came to an end, he was reborn in Ābhassara Abode where he lived for eight mahā-kappas. As a Brahmā he held wrong view, according to the Commentary. This shows that he attained Ābhassara Abode only after passing through five hundred kappas in Vehapphala and sixtyfour kappas in Subhakiṇha, thus totalling five hundred and sixty-four kappas. It is said that he held the wrong view when he reached Ābhassara Abode. Although there is no mention as to in which of the eight aeons in that abode that he did so, by taking the two Jātakas together, it may be estimated that about five hundred and seventy aeons have passed before he started harbouring the view that happened to be wrong.

Generations of teachers are of the belief that the text of any Jātakas in which the Commentator does not refer to the time of its origin in kappa, saying: “In such and such an aeon reckoned from the present one,” but which simply says “atīte” (“Once upon a time”) belongs to this aeon. On the authority of this belief, the stories in the Aṭṭhasālini and Pāṭha Jātaka Commentary originated in the present kappa, for they only have the simpler word "atīte"with regard to the time of the Bodhisatta’s rebirth. But all the stories belonging to this kappa cannot be told because they are too numerous. The stories told are only those that have relationship with the present episodes. The number of the stories left untold is far greater.

If only a few pertinent stories are delivered out of those innumerable ones that happened in this kappa, it follows that the stories of his fulfilment of the Perfections which had not been dealt with, must also be countless. Besides, considering that the existences in which the Bodhisattas fulfilled the Perfections during the period of four asaṅkhyeyyas and one hundred thousand aeons, which cannot be calculated in terms of kappas (not to speak of in terms of existences) before the present one, their task of fulfilling the Perfections is immensely formidable for ordinary persons.

On the other hand, if one thinks of the Bodhisattas, that these great beings, who undertook the fulfilment of the Perfections, were worthy of our most profound adoration and endless admiration, should be recognized.

The series of these numerous existences in which our Bodhisatta had fulfilled the Perfections ended with that of Prince Vessantara. Bodhisatta Sumedha, first and foremost, fulfilled Dāna pāramī by giving away all his possessions while as a layman and before his renunciation. Similarly, when he had become an ascetic and received the prophecy that predicted his Buddhahood, he contemplated the factors leading to Buddhahood and found that Dāna pāramī is the first of the Perfections, he resolved to act accordingly. All these point to the fact that it was Dāna pāramī with which the Bodhisattas commenced their fulfilment of the Perfections and it was the same pāramī with which they ended their fulfilment, as in the existence of Prince Vessantara.

Dāna pāramī results in bhavasampatti (attainment of higher life) and bhogasampatti (wealth), (which follow one like a shadow and which cannot be prevented from doing so until one realizes Nibbāna). It is essential for all who go from one birth to another in saṃsāra; (as has been said in the section on Dāna pāramī in the Anudipani). Since the Bodhisattas are leaders of those beings in saṃsāra, they specially fulfilled this pāramī in their final existence, as that of Prince Vessantara. After so doing in their final existence, they withdraw from their task of pāramī-fulfilment. Since their fulfilment is complete, they move on to Tusitā for their last existences, like that of Vessantara, as though they were to wait for their ripe time for attainment of Buddhahood.

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