The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Eight Qualities of the Bodhisatta’s Mind Continuum 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 Attainment of Buddhahood. 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 8 - The Eight Qualities of the Bodhisatta’s Mind Continuum

If a review is now made of the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta out of devotion, it will be found that, at the time when he was practising dukkaracariya for six years, his mind continuum was exceedingly pure, undefiled by the three wrong thoughts (micchā-vitakka), namely, sensual thought (kāma-vitakka), malevolent thought (vyāpāda-vitakka), cruel thought, (vihiṃsā-vitakka), so that Mara could not find any opportunity (of censuring him).

Again, while he was spending the day in the Sāla forest on the full moon day of Vesākha, the day he was to attain Buddhahood, his mind continuum was worthy of veneration, for it was highly purified with the attainment of eight mundane jhānas. Moreover, when all the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand world-systems assembled, crowding this universe, and paid him homage while he was sitting on the Invincible Throne after his victory over Devaputta Mara, he remained oblivious of them, concentrating his attention on the practice of the Dhamma only. And so the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta, who had once again achieved and remained absorbed in the fourth jhāna of rūpavacara, (a feat for those of sharp intelligence) had his power of concentration greatly enhanced by the concentration of the fourth jhāna of rūpavacara as follows:

(1) By virtue of the very pure mental state of the fourth jhāna (rūpa jhāna cittuppāda), the mind continuum was completely pure throughout its entire process.

(2) On account of such purity, it appeared glittering like polished newly refined gold.

(3) Having discarded happiness and joy (sukha somanassa), which is the cause of greed (lobha), and also having discarded sorrow and distress (dukkha domanassa), which is the cause of hatred (dosa), it was free from mental defilements of lobha and dosa.

(4) Freedom from the defilements and taints of the mind leads to freedom from impurities which soil and oppress the mind (upakkilesa).

(5) Being controlled by the fivefold mastery over his mind (vasībhāva), and being tamed and trained in fourteen ways, the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta became pliable, gentle so as to be amenable to his wishes, like a well-tanned piece of leather or like the well-treated block of lac.

(6) Being soft and tender, like the newly refined, polished pure gold, which was ductile and malleable for easy making into desired ornaments, it became amenable to the wishes of the Bodhisatta, enabling him to accomplish effectively and easily all kinds of feats, such as recollecting, discerning the events of previous existences, or seeing as if with the divine eye, distant objects, hidden objects and very fine, microscopic objects.

(7) Having been well developed and trained so as not to become deprived of the aforesaid qualities, the mind continuum remained firmly established in the qualities; or being pliable and malleable for effective accomplishment of anything desired, the mind continuum remained amenable to the wish of the Bodhisatta.

(8) Being thus firmly and securely established, his mind was completely unshaken; or, being established thus, the mind continuum was very strong in respect of faith

(saddhā), energy (vīriya), mindfulness (sati), concentration (samādhi), and the light of wisdom (paññā). There was, therefore, no shaking of the mind at all which occurs owing to faithlessness, laziness, heedlessness, restlessness, ignorance and gloom arising from mental defilements. In other words, faithlessness, etc., could not make even the slightest inroad into the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta.


(1) The mind continuum of the Bodhisatta was well-established in the concentration of the fourth jhāna.

(2) It was entirely pure, being free from the hindrances (nīvaraṇas).

(3) Having gone beyond the grosser factors of jhāna (jhānanga), such as vitakka, etc., which agitate and disturb the mind, the mind continuum was shinning pure, as if about to glitter.

(4) It was free from such defilements as pride (māna), deception (māyā), treachery (sāṭheyya), etc., apt to be generated through attainment of jhāna.

(5) It was also free from covetousness (abhijjhā), etc., which form the cause of mental defilement (upakkilesa).

(6) It was malleable, having gained the fivefold mastery (vasībhāva).

(7) Having become the basis of all kinds of supernatural powers (iddhi), it was in a position to accomplish whatever is desired by the Bodhisatta.

(8) Having been perfected by mental development (bhāvanā), his mind continuum remained unshaken and firmly established.

The mind of the Bodhisatta, which was thus endowed with these eight attributes, finds it easy, needing only an inclination, for realization of the Dhamma which should be realized by means of abhiññā. When the mind was bent towards the object of abhiññā, thought moments on it (abhiññā-javana), arise quite easily.

(1) The First Vijjā-ñāṇa:

Summary: Attainment of Supernormal Knowledge of Former Existences, Pubbenivās’ānussati Abhiññā (The First Vijjā-ñāṇa)

The mind continuum, endowed with the aforesaid eight attributes and very pure and pellucid, being in such a perfect state in which abhiññā-javana arose easily when the mind was inclined to the object of abhiññā, the Bodhisatta inclined it towards supernormal knowledge of former existences (pubbenivās’ānussati-abhiññā), which could recollect past activities, events and experiences. Thereupon, pubbenivās’ānussati-abhiññā arose in him easily. Through that supernormal knowledge, he recollected and saw all his past activities, events, and experiences of the past existences, going back from his previous life right up to the existence when he was Sumedha the Hermit. He recollected, also in backward order, many existences and world-cycles prior to them, and recollected, in forward order, his existences up to that of Setaketu Deva, just before the present one.

(This abhiññā was achieved in the first watch of the night. Here, there can be doubt as to how it was possible to know all the happenings and experiences in so many existences with one single thought-moment (abhiññā-javana), which arises only once in one thoughtprocess (vīthi). The answer is: Although there arose only one single thought moment in one thought process, ignorance (moha), which kept the happenings and experiences in those existences hidden, was done away through that thought-moment. All kinds of happenings and experiences of those existences were recollected only thereafter, through successive processes of reflection (paccavekkana-vīthi), which followed the abhiññā-vīthi.

The noble Bodhisatta, who recollected successive existences of the past through Pubbenivās’ānussati Vijjā-ñāṇa, also acquired supernormal knowledges which could assure him the attainment of supramundane Path and Fruition (lokuttara magga-phala) with penetrative insight thus:

“There were only the phenomena of mind and matter (nāma-rūpa) throughout the countless rounds of existence; the beginning of which is not known. On all the three occasions of birth, living and death, there were only these two phenomena of nāma and rūpa. Indeed in all abodes and at all times, the phenomena of nāma and rūpa are in a continuous state of flux, like the flame of an oil lamp or like the current of a river, and through a succession of cause and effects, it is only the continuum of nāma and rūpa which fulfils the various functions concerned, such as seeing the sight, hearing the sound, etc., at the six doors of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, thus giving rise to various modes of intimating one’s intention (viññatti) by bodily movement and verbal expression, etc. (In reality) there is no sentient individual at all to be called ‘I’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘man’, etc. Indeed, there is not a single deva, māra or Brahmā who can create such a sentient being.)”

This being the case, the Bodhisatta had, through pubbenivās’ānussati-ñāṇa, temporarily put away to a distance (vikkhambhana-pahāna) the twenty wrong views of attā (personality-belief); they are the four wrong views of attā relating to the aggregate of corporeality, namely, rūpa is attā, attā has rūpa; rūpa exists in attā, attā exists in rūpa and similarly, each set of these four wrong views relating to the remaining aggregates of feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. In a similar manner, he had also discarded delusion (moha), which had taken place in the distant past.

(2) The Second Vijjā-ñāṇa:

Summary: Attainment of Supernormal Knowledge of Divine Power of Sight, Dibbacakkhu Abhiññā (The Second Vijjā-ñāṇa)

After the noble Bodhisatta had realised the pubbenivās’ānussati abhiññā in the first watch of that night, he recollected many past events and existences through that abhiññā; and, having temporarily put away, to a distance, the twenty wrong views (sakkāya-diṭṭhi) together with moha which had taken place in the distant past, he directed his mind continuum, which was endowed with the aforesaid eight attributes, towards acquiring cutūpapāta-ñāṇa, the knowledge of seeing the deaths and births of sentient beings, and towards acquiring yathākammūpaga-ñāṇa, knowledge of analysing and seeing the meritorious and demeritorious deeds which form the origins of sentient beings.

(Cutūpapāta-ñāṇa is the same as dibbacakkhu-ñāṇa, because dibbacakkhu-ñāṇa, is also known as Cutūpapāta-ñaṇa. When dibbacakkhu-ñāṇa is developed, yathākammūpaga-ñāṇa and anāgataṃsa-ñāṇa (knowledge of foreseeing the future) also become developed.)

When the mind was thus inclined to acquire dibbacakkhu-ñāṇa, also called Cutūpapātañaṇa, dibbacakkhu-abhiññā (the second vijjā-ñāṇa) arose quite easily. Through that abhiññā, he could see sentient beings on the verge of death or just after taking conception; those who were low-born or high-born by lineage, caste, etc., those who were beautiful or not beautiful, and attain a happy existence or a miserable existence. In other words, he saw those who were rich and prosperous because of their past deeds of merit based on absence of greed (alobha), and those who were indigent and poverty-stricken because of their past deeds of demerit based on greed (lobha).

After seeing, through dibbacakkhu-abhiññā, the denizens of the woeful states (apāya) suffering misfortune, he reflected: “What kind of deeds have these beings of the apāya done to suffer such awful miseries?” Thereupon, yathākammūpaga-abhiññā, which enabled him to see the deeds of demerit done by these beings, arose in him.

Likewise, after seeing, through dibbacakkhu-abhiññā, immense happiness enjoyed by sentient beings of the realms of devas, humans and Brahmās in a progressively higher and better manner, he reflected: “What kind of deeds have these devas, humans and Brahmās done to enjoy such progressively magnificent bliss in their respective realms?” Thereupon, yathākammūpaga-abhiññā, which enabled him to see the deeds of merit done by those beings, arose in him.

By means of the yathākammūpaga-abhiññā, he reviewed in detail the past deeds of merit and demerit done by beings and came to know them as they really were: “These denizens of the apāya world had, in their past existences, committed evil by deed, word and thought;they had maligned, abused and reviled the noble individuals (ariyas). They held wrong views and with these wrong views they, themselves, committed and also caused others to commit various demeritorious deeds. After death and dissolution of their bodies, they reappeared in miserable existences (apāya), namely, the realm of continuous suffering (niraya), the realm of animals (tiracchāna), the realm of ghosts (peta) and the realm of asuras (asūrahya)”, and “These beings in good existences had performed good deeds bodily, verbally and mentally; they did not malign, abuse or revile the ariyas; they held right views and with the right views, they performed various kinds of meritorious deeds and they caused others to do so. After death and dissolution of their bodies, they were reborn in the good world of devas, humans and the twenty realms of the Brahmās.”

This dibbacakkhu-abhiññā (the second vijjā-abhiññā) was achieved by the noble Bodhisatta at midnight of that day. By virtue of this second vijjā ñāṇa, the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta became devoid of the element of ignorance and delusion (avijjā-moha- dhātu) which was apt to keep hidden the passing away and arising of sentient beings. Then with yathākammūpaga-abhiññā, which has dibbacakkhu-abhiññā as its basis, he was able to review and became enlightened as to the true facts of the past deeds by sentient beings;and having done away with sixteen kinds of doubt[1] (kankhā), the Bodhisatta attained the stage of purity by the removal of doubt, Kankhā vitaraṇa visuddhi.

(3) The Third Vijjā-ñāṇa:

Summary: Attainment of Knowledge of Extinction of Moral Intoxicants, Āsavakkhaya Ñāṇa (The Third Vijjā-ñāṇa) and becoming A Buddha

(It is intended to treat both in brief as well as in fuller details the Asavakkhaya Ñāṇa complete with note worthy particulars and important remarks.)

In brief:

The noble Bodhisatta attained the arahatta-magga-ñāṇa, also called Asavakkhaya-ñāṇa, in the last watch of the night realising thereby sabbaññuta-ñāṇa (Omniscience). Then to become a Buddha among devas, humans and Brahmās, he inclined his mind continuum, which was endowed, as it was, with the aforesaid eight attributes, to attain arahatta-magga- ñāṇa; then letting it dwells on the Doctrine of Dependent Origination (Paṭicca-samuppāda) which is made up of twelve factors, namely, avijjā, sankhāra, viññāṇa, nāma-rūpa, saḷāyatana, phassa, vedanā, taṇhā, upādāna, bhava, jāti, jarā, and marana. Going over this Doctrine of Dependent Origination in forward and reverse order repeatedly, he attained the Noble Path (Ariya-magga), which is also known as Yathā-bhūta ñāna-dassana. (This is the brief treatment.)

In detail

This knowledge of the Four Paths (Magga-ñāṇa), also called Yathā-bhūta ñāṇa-dassana, did not appear in the mind continuum of such individuals as Sakka and Brahmā who were very mighty in the world and the noble hermits, Kaladevila and Nārada, who were highly accomplished in jhāna attainments and abhiññā. So, it may be asked: “Why did this knowledge of the four Paths which was so subtle and profound, which was not even dreamed of throughout the beginningless saṃsāra and never realised before, appear in the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta who had no teacher and who had entered the ascetic life by his own volition?” The answer is:

Footnotes and references:


Sixteen kinds of doubts: from Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka: Have I been in the past? or have I not been in the past?; What have I been in the past? How have I been in the past?; From what state into what state did I change in the past?; Shall I be in the future? or shall I not be in the future?; What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? From what state to what state shall I change in the future? Am 1? or am I not? What am 1? How am I? Whence has this being come? Whither will it go?

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