by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Eight Differences (vematta) 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).
Though these eight differences (vematta) are given at the end of Buddha Gotamavaṃsa in the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary, here, in this work, they are given at the end of the Chronicle of the twenty-four Buddhas lest they should be too far apart from the series of their chronicles beginning with that of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā.
Vematta is a Pāli word coming from vimatta, (vi meaning ‘varied’ and matta ‘length’ or ‘size’.) The Buddhas, namely, Dīpaṅkarā, etc., possessed the same and equal attributes but they were different from one another in eight particulars. These eight are:
(1) Āyu vematta (difference in age),
(2) Pamāṇa vematta (difference in height),
(3) Kula vematta (difference in clan),
(4) Padhāna vematta (difference in duration of dukkaracariyā),
(5) Rasmi vematta (difference in bodily rays),
(6) Yana vematta (difference in vehicles used in renunciation),
(7) Bodhi vematta (difference in Bodhi tree), and
(8) Pallanka vematta (difference in Pallanka).
1. Āyu Vematta
Āyu vematta is the difference in life span of Buddhas.
Buddha Vipassī appeared when the life span was eighty thousand; Buddha Sikhī, when it was seventy thousand; Buddha Kakusandha, when it was forty thousand; Buddha Konāgamana, when it was thirty thousand; Buddha Kassapa, when it was twenty thousand and our Buddha Gotama when it was a hundred years.
It may be argued that these Buddhas should be of equal life span as they were great beings who had fulfilled the Perfections to a great degree.
In this connection, an elaborate explanation given in the commentary on the Mahā Padāna Sutta of the Sutta Mahā Vagga Atthakathā should be noted in brief. The span of life of beings in the world depends on the observance of righteousness by the ruler. When he observes righteousness, all his people will do so and likewise, so do devas who cause rainfall and do other helpful things. This leads to regularity in climate and production of nutritious fruits and vegetables, etc., for people, who live long because of good heath. When the ruler does not observe righteousness, many of his people do not also; nor do devas who cause sufficient rain-fall and other favourable conditions. Consequently, fruits and vegetables become deficient in nourishment and the climate becomes irregular. As a result, people are exposed to ill-health and become short-lived.
In this way, those Buddhas who appeared in a period of long life span enjoy longevity and those who appeared in a period of short life span do not.
Though all Buddhas have the power to prolong their lives as a result of their past deeds that have effected their conception, their life spans are different in length. According to the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary which says:
—though they are endowed with the merits of their past deeds that can bring about longevity as a result of their acquisition of wholesome prerequisites, Buddhas are of unequal length of life in accordance with their āyu-kappas (life spans).”
To give a worldly example: if the seed of a teak tree that has the ability to last for a thousand years were sowed in a dry zone where the soil is hard and barren, it cannot live that long. Similarly, though the (meritorious) deed of the Bodhisattas in their final existence that has caused their conception and that has the power to prolong their lives, if they attain Buddhahood in the short period of an āyu-kappa, that is like the dry hard barren land, their lives have to be short according to their āyu-kappas.
Length of Āyu-kappa
when A Buddha appears Buddhas usually do not appear in a kappa when the life span of beings is on the increase. Because if a Buddha were to appear in such a kappa and teach the doctrine of impermanence and the like, beings would fail to understand the characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta of conditioned things as their lives become longer and longer, one kappa after another. For this reason, Buddhas do not appear in any of the kappas on the increase but they do so in the decreasing kappas.
Even with regard to the decreasing kappas, Buddhas appear only in the kappas that have the life span of at most a hundred thousand years. They do not appear in the kappas that have the life span longer than a hundred thousand years because their teaching of the three characteristics of conditioned things would fall on deaf ears. When the life span decreases, a hundred years is the minimum of the kappa in which they would appear. When the life span goes down from a hundred years, Buddhas do not appear in those kappas of shorter life span because even though the characteristics of conditioned things manifest themselves glaringly, as their impurities of greed, hate and delusion grow more at the time, and beings are unable to accept, follow and practise (the Dhamma) despite the Buddhas' Teaching. Hence kappas of less than a hundred years of life span are devoid of Buddhas.
In this way, Buddhas appeared during the kappas ranging from that of the maximum life span which was a hundred thousand years to that of the minimum life span which was just a hundred years. Though it is true that they appeared in the decreasing kappas between the two kappas i.e. that of the maximum life span and that of the minimum, Buddhas appeared only in the kappa in which the life span agrees with the degree of maturity of the prerequisites for the Perfections while they were Bodhisattas. Those Bodhisattas, whose prerequisites reached the maturity, which coincided with the period of a hundred thousand years of life span, which was appropriate to their Enlightenment, they appeared as Buddha in that kappa of a hundred thousand years of life span. Those Bodhisattas, whose prerequisites were not mature yet as they are still at the stage of fulfilling the Perfections, could not appear as Buddhas in the kappa of a hundred thousand years of life span but could appear in the kappas in which they would reach the maturity of their prerequisites, which might be of ninety-thousand years of life span, or eighty thousand years, seventy thousand years, sixty thousand years, or so, of life span.
In this bhadda-kappa, Buddha Kakusandha appeared in the kappa of forty-thousand years of life span;(after him, passed one antara-kappa and) Buddha Konāgamana appeared in the kappa of thirty thousand years of life span; (after him, passed one antara-kappa and) Buddha Kassapa appeared in the kappa of twenty thousand years of life span. From this, it might be anticipated that our Buddha Gotama should appear in like manner, i.e. in the life span of a ten thousand years when one antara-kappa had elapsed after Buddha Kassapa. But He was unable to appear then, because the prerequisites for the Perfections had not reached maturity. He was unable to do so even in the kappa of five thousand years of life span, or of a thousand years or of five hundred years. The reason was that His complete fulfilment of the Perfections took place only in His life as Prince Vessantara. (Only in that existence did His Perfections attain the fullest extent.) His life as Prince Vessantara occurred in the kappa of a hundred years of life span. Since His undertaking of fulfilment of the Perfection came to an end (the Perfections were fully accomplished), in the kappa of a hundred years, Buddha Gotama appeared only in the kappa of the same length of life span.
(Here the author inserts Sayagyi U Lin’s remark on the four yugas in explaining the word yugavasena. We leave it out from our translation at it is not quite applicable here.)
(2) Pamāṇa Vematta
Pamāṇa vematta is the difference in height of Buddhas.
The height of six Buddhas, namely, Dīpaṅkarā, Revata, Piyadassī, Atthadassī, Dhammadassī and Vipassī, was eighty cubits.
The height of four Buddhas, namely, Koṇḍañña, Maṅgala, Nārada and Sumedha, was eighty-eight cubits.
The height of Buddha Sumanā was ninety cubits.
The height of five Buddhas, namely, Sobhits, Anomadassī, Paduma, Padumuttara and Phussa, was fifty-eight cubits.
The height of Buddha Sujātā was fifty cubits.
The height of three Buddhas, namely, Siddhattha, Tissa and Vessabhū, is sixty cubits.
The height of Buddha Sikhī is seventy cubits.
The heights of three Buddhas, namely, Kakusandha, Konāgamana and Kassapa, were forty cubits, thirty cubits and twenty cubits respectively.
Buddha Gotama’s height was sixteen or eighteen cubits. (These two different versions will be explained in Buddha Gotamavaṃsa.)
It should be noted that the differences in height of the Buddhas are caused mainly by climate and food. Since the Buddhas belonged to mankind and are thus human-Buddhas, their life span is naturally the same as that of the people of their times. The Buddhas who appeared in the period of ninety thousand years of life span generally lived up to ninety thousand years. Those who appeared in the period of one hundred thousand years of life span generally lived up to one hundred thousand years. In this way, the length of their life span agreed with that of the people.
Their heights, however, cannot be determined by their life spans because, though they appeared in the same period of one hundred thousand years of life span, Buddhas Dīpaṅkarā, Atthadassī, and Dhammadassī were only eighty cubits tall while Kondañña was eighty-eight cubits, Buddhas Anomadassī, Paduma and Padumuttara were fifty-eight cubits, Buddhas Siddhattha and Tissa were sixty cubits. This suggests that the heights of the Buddhas had nothing to do with their life spans. If those of the same periods differed in height, so could those of different periods.
From the statement made in Nanda Sikkhapada, Ratana Vagga, Pācittiya Pāli, Vinaya Piṭaka, that the Buddha’s younger brother, the Venerable Ānanda, was only four fingers shorter than his elder brother, it may be taken that other people of the time were as tall as the Buddha, if not, of equal height. It therefore follows that the height of the Buddha was equal to that of the people who were His contemporaries. This, however, does not mean that the two heights were exactly the same.
That the Buddha’s height was equal to His contemporary people’s was due to the two factors, namely, climate and food. When unrighteousness of rulers is followed by that of the whole world (with the exception of the Noble Ones), there happened irregularities of climate and nutriment deficiencies in food. Being associated with such climate and food, people’s physical qualities due to them cannot develop as much as they should. On the other hand, these qualities would develop well when righteousness prevails.
(3) Kula Vematta
Kula vematta is the difference in clan in which Buddhas belonged.
Buddhas Kakusandha, Koṇāgamana and Kassapa were born in brahmin clans while the remaining twenty-two Buddhas were born in aristocratic clans. When people in the world recognized the supremacy of aristocrats, Buddhas came from aristocratic clans. When they recognized the supremacy of brahmins, Buddhas belonged to brahmin clans.
(4) Padhāna Vematta
Padhāna vematta is the difference in duration of dukkaracariyā.
Seven Buddhas, namely, Dīpaṅkarā, Koṇḍañña, Sumanā, Anomadassī, Sujātā, Siddhattha, and Kakusandha, practised dukkaracariyā for ten months.
Four Buddhas, namely, Maṅgala, Sumedha, Tissa and Sikhī, practised for eight months.
Buddha Revata practised for seven months and Buddha Sobhita, for four months. Three Buddhas, namely, Paduma, Atthadassī, Vipassī, practised for half a month (fifteen days).
Four Buddhas, namely, Nārada, Padumuttara, Dhammadassī and Kassapa, practised for seven days.
Buddhas Piyadassī, Phussa, Vessabhū and Konāgamana practised for six months.
Our Buddha Gotama, Lord of the three worlds, endowed with inconceivable attributes, practised dukkaracariyā for six years.
As there were reasons for inequality of life span, etc., so was here a reason for the difference in duration of dukkaracariyā (especially in the case of Buddha Gotama.) On investigation, it would be found that it was due to His own deed.
To explain further: In the Pubbakammavilotika Buddhapadāna, Avataphala Vagga, Apadāna Pāli, Vol.1, the Buddha himself says (with regard to His demeritorious deed that resulted in His practice of dukkaracariyā for six long years): “Avacaham jotipalo sugatam kassapam tada, etc.——In the lifetime of Buddha Kassapa, I was Jotipāla, a brahmin youth. Then I foolishly offended Him saying: ‘How can this shaven headed man attain knowledge of arahantship and Omniscience which are indeed very difficult to attain.’ Because of that verbal misdeed, I had to practise dukkaracariyā for six long years in my final existence.”
In view of the fact that it is directly mentioned in the Text that the Buddha had to spend six years for the practice of dukkaracariyā on account of His offence, it is understandable that those Buddhas who had to practise it only for seven days did so in accordance with their sufficiently great acts of merit.
Therefore, it should be stated that the difference in duration of practice of dukkaracariyā was effected by their actions.
Though there were differences in the duration of their ascetic practices (padhāna-viriya) just before their attainments of Buddhahood, once they attained the goal, the degrees of the efforts they put forth (payatta-viriya) being one of the six glories of a Buddha, are one and the same.
(5) Rasmi Vematta
Rasmi vematta is the difference in bodily rays.
Buddha Maṅgala’s rays spread and existed in the ten-thousand world-systems; Buddha Padumuttara’s rays did so up to twelve yojanas; Buddha Vipassī’s rays up to seven yojanas;Buddha Sikhī’s up to three yojanas; Buddha Kakusandha’s up to ten yojanas and Buddha Gotama’s up to four cubits which form a fathom. The rays of the rest of the Buddhas were not constant, they shone forth as far as these Buddhas desired.
—(Sutta Mahāvagga Commentary, Chatthasangayana edition, p.18.)—
—Of the vemattas, rasmi vematta is related a Buddha’s own wish expressed at the time of fulfilling of the Perfections. At the time of fulfilling the Perfections, if a Buddha wishes that His physical rays should spread to a certain extent, to that extent His rays spread. Buddha Maṅgala’s wish, however, was: “Let my rays spread throughout the ten-thousand worldsystems.” (This is the meaning of the Commentarial text.) In its Tika, ajjhāsaya is explained to be the aspiration that was said while the Bodhisatta concerned was fulfilling on the Perfections.
When one looks for the cause of the difference between physical rays of the Buddhas, one may say that it is the Perfections which they had fulfilled. That it should be so is explained by the Commentators in the story of Buddha Maṅgala whose rays spread all over the ten-thousand world-system:
In His final existence (that was like the existence of Bodhisatta Gotama as Prince Vessantara), while fulfilling the Perfections, Bodhisatta Maṅgala was once living with his family on a hill that resembled Vankapabbata, an ogre, Kharadathika, in the guise of a brahmin, asked the Bodhisatta to give him his children as alms. Thinking: “With pleasure, I shall give them away,” and he actually did so.
Leaning against the wooden railing at the end of the walk, the ogre devoured, in the Bodhisatta’s presence, his son and daughter as though he was chewing a bundle of lotus stalks. When the Bodhisatta looked at the ogre, he saw the red blood flowing like flames of fire from its mouth, which was open at that moment. But he did not experience even the slightest displeasure. “I have performed well the act of giving.” So thinking, he was in deed glad to have done so. “As a result of this meritorious act, may my physical rays likewise emit from my body in future,” wished the Bodhisatta. Because of this aspiration, when he became a Buddha, His natural physical rays reached every nook and corner in the tenthousand world-system.
From this explanation, it should be understood that the difference in rays depended on whether the Buddhas had aspiration or not in the past. When one speaks of the difference of physical rays, one generally means their natural rays. If created by means of their power, in accordance with their wishes, any Buddha could make His rays go as far as He desired. In the matter of power, there was no difference at all, one can never say: “This
Buddha was of lesser power.” or “That Buddha was of greater power.”
Three Kinds of Physical Rays
(1) Byamappabhā rays: This kind of rays constantly emit from the natural body of the Buddha. Having a fathom in length, these rays, surrounding His body, were so dense and massive that they could not be distinguished from the Buddha’s body. When one looks at the light of an electric bulb from a distance of the length of a bamboo, one would think that the glow of light is a ball of fire. A close and careful look will reveal, however, the dazzling filament of the original bulb. In the same way, the Buddha’s body was accompanied by the encircling rays, each beam measuring a fathom. Such rays are called byāmappabhā. They were thick and massive.
(2) Asitiniccalobhāsa rays: This kind of rays was the continuation of the byamappabhā kind and spread to the distance of eighty cubits.
(3) Disāpharaṇa rays: This kind of rays spread to countless world-systems because His blood, etc., became clearer when a Buddha contemplated the Doctrine of Patthana or when He displayed the Twin Miracle, or on other occasions.
Two Kinds of Rays
The special quality of the Buddha’s complexion, visible to devas, humans and Brahmās, is called “ray” in this connection. According to Abhidhamma, byāmappabhā rays and asitiniccalobhāsa rays are to be called the rays born of one’s deeds of merit, kammaja (or the rays born of temperature supported by one’s deeds, utuja-kammapaccaya), because these two kinds have the past action as their cause. Disāpharaṇa rays should be called the rays born of one’s mind (cittaja) (or the rays born of temperature and supported by one’s mind, cittapaccaya-utuja) because it has the clarity of the mind as its cause. Thus, their classification should be known.
(6) Yāna Vematta
Yāna vematta is the difference in vehicles used by Bodhisattas in renunciation.
Buddhas Dīpaṅkarā, Sumana, Sumedha, Phussa, Sikhī and Koṇāgamana renounced the world riding elephants.
Buddhas Koṇḍañña, Revata, Paduma, Piyadassī, Vipassī and Kakusandha renounced the world riding chariots drawn by thoroughbreds horses.
Buddhas Maṅgala, Sujāta, Atthadassī, Tissa and Gotama renounced the world riding horses.
Buddhas Anomadassī, Siddhattha and Vessabhū renounced the world riding golden palanquins.
Buddha Nārada renounced the world going on foot.
Buddhas Sobhita, Padumuttara, Dhammadassī and Kassapa renounced the world in (flying) palaces.
Thus, the difference in vehicles used by Bodhisattas in renunciation is called Yāna vematta.
(7) Bodhi Vematta
Bodhi vematta is the difference in Mahābodhi trees under which Bodhisattas attained Buddhahood.
Buddha Dīpaṅkarā’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a nigrodha.
Buddha Koṇḍañña’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a salakalyanī.
The attainments of Buddhahood by Buddhas Maṅgala, Sumana, Revata and Sobhita took place under a nāga (iron-wood) tree.
Buddha Anomadassī’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under an ajjuna tree.
The attainments of Buddhahood by Buddhas Paduma and Nārada took place under a Mahāsona tree.
Buddha Padumuttara’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a salala tree.
Buddha Sumedha’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a mahānipa tree.
Buddha Sujāta’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a mahāvelu plant.
Buddha Piyadassī’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a kakudha tree.
Buddha Atthadassī’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a campaka tree.
Buddha Dhammadassī’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a bimbijala tree.
Buddha Siddhattha’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a kanikara tree.
Buddha Tissa’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under an asana tree.
Buddha Phussa’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under an amalaka tree.
Buddha Vipassī’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a patali tree.
Buddha Sikhī’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a pundarika tree.
Buddha Vessabhū’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a mahāsala tree.
Buddha Kakusandha’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a sirisa tree.
Buddha Koṇāgamana’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under an udumbara tree.
Buddha Kassapa’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under a nigrodha tree.
Buddha Gotama’s attainment of Buddhahood took place under an assattha tree.
(The fourfold Path is called Bodhi because it leads to the knowledge of the four Truths. Omniscience is called Bodhi because it leads to the knowledge of what should be known. Its definition should be: bujjhati'ti Bodhi, “That which knows the four Truths and that which knows what is to be known is Bodhi.” The tree under which the Bodhisatta knows the four Truths and others to be known thoroughly is also called Bodhi. The definition here is: bujjhati ettha'ti Bodhi, “The tree under which the Bodhisatta knows the four Truths and all that is to be known is Bodhi.”)
Thus the difference in Bodhi trees under which Bodhisattas attained Buddhahood is termed Bodhi vematta.
(8) Pallaṅka Vematta
Pallaṅka vematta is the difference in the size of seat of Buddhas.
The seats, on which Buddhas Dīpaṅkarā, Revata, Piyadassī, Atthadassī, Dhammadassī and Vipassī attained Buddhahood, measured fifty-three cubits each.
That, on which Buddhas Koṇḍañña, Maṅgala, Nārada and Sumedha attained Buddhahood, measured fifty-seven cubits each.
That, on which Buddha Sumana attained Buddhahood, measured sixty cubits.
That, on which Buddhas Sobhita, Anomadassī, Paduma, Padumuttara and Phussa attained Buddhahood, measured thirty-eight cubits.
That, on which Buddha Sujāta attained Buddhahood, measured thirty-two cubits.
That, on which Buddhas Siddhattha, Tissa and Vessabhū attained Buddhahood, measured forty cubits.
That, on which Buddha Sikhī attained Buddhahood, measured thirty-two cubits.
That, on which Buddha Kakusandha attained Buddhahood, measured twenty-six cubits.
That, on which Buddha Koṇāgamana attained Buddhahood, measured twenty cubits.
That, on which Buddha Kassapa attained Buddhahood, measured fifteen cubits.
That, on which Buddha Gotama attained Buddhahood, measured fourteen cubits.
Two Kinds of Pallaṅka
In this connection, it may be noted that there are two kinds of pallaṅka, namely, ābhujana pallaṅka and āsana pallaṅka. Of these two, by ābhujana pallaṅka is meant sitting crosslegged as in "nisīdati pallaṅkam ābhujjtvā"; of the Mahā Satipatthāna Sutta etc.
In the commentary on the Mayhaka Jātaka, Suci Vagga of the Chakka Nipāta, it is said; “Gaccha imaṃ amhakam gharam ānetvā mama pallanke nisidāpetvā amhākam patiyattabhattassa pattam pūretvā dāpehi——Go you, take this Paccekabuddha to my house; let him sit down on my seat and fill His bowl with the food prepared for me.” Such a seat of the wealthy man of Bārānasi represents setthi pallaṅka, a seat used by well-to-do persons.
Such royal thrones as:
(1) Sihāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of yamane wood with lion figures at the base and placed in the main hall of the palace where the king grants an audience;
(3) Sankhāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of mango wood with conch-shell figures at the base and placed in the chamber where the king puts on his head-dress;
(4) Bhamarāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of karaway wood with bee figures at the base and placed in the glass chamber where the king retires;
(5) Gajāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of saga wood with elephant figures at the base and placed in Byai Taik where the king gives rewards and punishments;
(6) Mayurāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of pauk wood with peacock figures at the base and placed in the northern chamber where the king accepts elephants and horses (as tributes);
(7) Migāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of fig wood with figures of wild beasts at the base and placed in the southern chamber where the king holds meetings; and
(8) Padumāsana Pallaṅka, the throne made of jack-fruit wood with lotus figures at the base and placed in the western theatrical chamber where the king is honoured.
The kind of throne mentioned in the Janavasabha Sutta, the Mahā Govinda Sutta, etc., of the Sutta Mahā Vagga;“Brahmā Sanankumara may take his seat on a deva’s throne which he likes” and also the kind of ruby throne measuring a yojana prepared for the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna, as mentioned in the Cula Tanhasankhaya Sutta, represent a Deva Pallaṅka.
The kind of throne on which the Respondants, the Venerables Upali and Ānanda, sat when the First Council was held, as mentioned in the introduction to the Sutta Sīlakkhandha Commentary, etc., and the throne on which noble Dhamma-preachers, such as Buddhas, etc., are seated, represent Dhamma Pallaṅka.
The kind of seat where all Bodhisattas sat cross-legged with a firm determination, resolving: “Never shall I get up from this place until I achieve the knowledge of the Path towards arahantship and Omniscience,” is Bodhi Pallanka. Since it was on this seat that they overcame the Five Evils, the throne is also called Aparājita Pallanka.
That Bodhi Pallanka was the throne lying four cubits east of the Bodhi tree which stands on the sacred site of Bodhi Mandala. It was a hundred cubits high and very beautiful. The throne arose instantly from the surface of the earth when the Bodhisatta spread the eight handfuls of grass at the very place. It was a result of his accumulated merits of deeds in fulfilling the Perfections. The Throne, being ornamented with various jewels, was full of splendour. Since it was the place on which the Bodhisatta arrived at the Knowledge of the Path to arahantship and Omniscience (or where he attained Buddhahood), it is called Bodhi Pallanka (in Pāli).
(The remaining pages of this volume contain the author’s note on controversy over the height of Buddha Gotama’s Bodhi Pallanka and other matters related to it quoting some extracts from such works as the Manidipa Tika, Paritta Tika, Samanta Cakkhu Dīpanī and the decision given by the Taung Gwin Thathanabaing Sayadaw. As the author’s note is mainly meant for the edification of Myanmar we have left it out from our translation.)