The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Greatness of the Paramis 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 9 - Greatness of the Pāramīs

The noble Bodhisatta had, during the period spanning four asaṅkhyeyyas and one hundred thousand world-aeons, been passing through existences, so numerous that they could not be counted in hundreds, thousands and hundred thousands, accumulated meritorious deeds of dāna-pāramīs, which were performed on the basis of the four modes of development (as explained in the Chapter on Miscellany), even to the extent of risking his own life. And in every existence, he had conducted himself to completely eradicate or lessen the defilement of greed that arose whenever he gave attention to this or that object. This led him to reach the stage at which others started remarking: “Is there no defilement of greed in the mind continuum of this noble person?”

Similarly, by virtue of sīla-pāramī, khantī-pāramī and mettā-pāramī, which were developed through the whole period of four asaṅkhyeyyas and ten thousand aeons, he prevented the arising of anger (kodha), and fault (dosa), and by pouring the cool water of mettā over a long period of time, he had extinguished the fire of kodha and also done away with its company of jealousy (issā), stinginess (macchariya) and remorse (kukkucca).

By means of paññā-pāramī, which was well developed and accumulated throughout his many existences and world-cycles, he had dispelled the element of darkness which is delusion (moha). He had also discarded wrong views; he was therefore a great man of very pure wisdom. He had also approached all the Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas, and noble Disciples, as well as other learned individuals whom he happened to encounter and asked them such questions: “Which Dhamma is faulty and which Dhamma is faultless? Which Dhamma is black and dirty and which Dhamma is white and pure?” Because of such enquiries, he had eliminated doubts in matters of Dhamma and had progressed in wisdom, existence after existence.

In the house of his relatives, he showed respect to those older than himself, such as mother and father, maternal uncles, etc., by bowing, by adoring, by honouring, by offering seats, by rising from the place in advance and by extending welcome to them. He also showed respect to learned persons of virtuous conduct. He had thereby removed conceit (māna) and distraction (uddhacca) and became free from arrogance, like a snake with broken fangs, or a bull with broken horns, or a rope coil used as a foot-scraper. He was in the habit of praising the virtues of forbearance, the virtue of wishing for the welfare of others, and the virtue of the virtues of being helpful to others with compassion.

By renouncing the world, the Bodhisatta had abandoned the luxuries of his domain and kingship, and became a recluse. After achieving jhāna attainments in the forest, he discarded the five hindrances and did away with sensuality (kāma-rāga), and delight in womenfolk (itthirati) whenever they appeared in each and every existence. With the Perfection of Truthfulness, he also abstained from false speech (micchā-vaca) which tends to mislead the world; with the Perfection of Energy, he also removed displeasure (arati) and indolence (kosajja) in Concentration and Insight Meditations which are practices of extraordinary merit, by keeping his mind continuously active and diligent in performing meritorious deeds. In the aforesaid manner, he had endeavoured to make his mind continuum purer and purer one existence after another.

The noble Bodhisatta, who had thus removed the moral defilements (kilesa) by means of the accumulated merit which was accrued from meritorious deeds of Perfection, such as dāna, etc., had to go through, even in a single existence, the process of repeated purification because the defilements which he had removed would reappear soon. He would then remove them, only to find them making their appearance again [since they had not yet been completely eradicated (samuccheda-pahāna) by means of the Path Knowledge (magga-ñāṇa)]. The Bodhisatta, however, would not concede defeat and would not give up but put them away temporarily to a distance (tadaṅga-pahāna and vikkhambhana-pahāna) by means of great deeds of merit (mahā-kusala) and supernormal deeds of merit (mahāggata-kusala).

[see notes on defilements below]

In this manner, throughout the period of four asaṅkhyeyyas and ten thousand worldcycles, he had eradicated the aggregates of impurities which defiled his mind, and also eliminated ignorance and delusion (avijjā-moha) which act as general of the army leading the hordes of defilements (kilesa), accompanying him. At the same time, he made the five Faculties, namely, Faith, Energy, Mindfulness, Concentration and Wisdom, grew stronger, existence after existence. Thus, he had travelled through the difficult journey of saṃsāra, continuously engaged in developing and fulfiling the pāramīs with fiery zeal till the time when, as King Vessantara, he gave away his Queen Maddī in charity, as the final act of merit which would enable him to attain Buddhahood. Thereafter, he spent his life in the Tusitā deva-world, enjoying the celestial pleasures and awaiting the time when he would become a Buddha.

Since he was one who had thus reached the pinnacle of wisdom, having done away with the factors of defilements, such as greed, hatred, etc., by means of accumulated merits of pāramī such as dāna, etc., the Fourfold Knowledge of the Path (magga-ñāṇa), which are very deep and subtle, arose (unaided) only in the mind continuum of the Bodhisatta.

Furthermore, beginning from the time when he prostrated himself at the feet of Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, he had endeavoured to develop and accumulate merit through fulfilment of pāramīs, such as dāna, etc., which are difficult to accomplish by ordinary men without making any wish for the pleasures of any realm of existence whatsoever as the fruits of his meritorious deeds. For all the deeds of merit, such as dāna, etc., performed by him, the Bodhisatta made only this wish: “Let the accumulated merits of these deeds become sufficing conditions (upanissaya-paccaya) for the arising in me of Omniscience (sabbaññuta-ñāṇa).”

As for others, they pray for the pleasures of devas and humans after performing deeds of merit. And, in accordance with their wishes, they gain the pleasures of the devas and human worlds as the fruits of their good deeds. It is like spending and squandering whatsoever wealth of merit they have accumulated from their good deeds. Unlike these people, the Bodhisatta, after the manner of one who fills his granary with paddy and always keeps guard over it without making use of it, properly store up the merit acquired from every performance of his good deeds, wishing: “Let this deed be the sufficing condition only for the realisation of magga-ñāṇa, with sabbaññutā-ñāṇa” as its pinnacle.

Such being the case, the accumulation of merits from the Perfections and good deeds, over the long period of four asaṅkhyeyyas and a hundred thousand world-aeons, found an occasion to bear fruits, of which the attainment of Buddhahood was the greatest in this last existence as Siddhattha. But, as there were countless merit to come to fruition, all in one existence, that very existence appeared congested with fruit-bearing merits.

By virtue of the aspiration, solely for the achievement of Buddhahood, the merits of his good deeds that would come to fruition in a great rush in this last existence were very powerful. Consequently, it was only in the mind continuum of the noble Bodhisatta that the knowledge of the Four Paths which is so subtle and deep, arose unaided.

(In this chapter on the attainment of Buddhahood, numerous excerpts that would give devotional inspiration are taken from the Jinālaṅkāra).

Notes on Defilements:

The following notes based on the Vipassanā-Dipanī of Ledi Sayadaw is provided here for further elucidation of this paragraph: Moral defilements arise in common worldlings in three stages:

(a) Vitikkamabhūmi at which the defilements are very active and violent producing evil deeds and words. The defilements of this stage can be got rid of or put away by meritorious deeds of the perfection (sīla) but only temporarily. Therefore, the putting away by sīla, etc., is called Tadaṅga-pahāna which means temporary puffing away.

(b) The defilements at the next stage, Pariyuṭthānabhūmi comes into existences as mental properties at the mind door when any object which has power to wake them up produces perturbances at one of the six doors. The defilements which appear thus can be subdued only by the cultivation of jhāna through practice of Concentration. The putting away of defilements by Samādhi is called Vikkhambhana-pahana, which means putting away to a distance. Here again, jhāna can dispose of the defilements only for a considerable time so that they do not rise again.

(c) But there still remain the defilements of the third stage, Anusayabhūmi, which do not come into existence as mental properties but lie latent surrounding the life-continuum. They cannot be removed by Sīla and Samādhi and are left undispelled by them. Only the knowledge of the Path, (magga-ñaṇa) attained by development of Insight Meditation which produces Insight knowledge (paññā), can get rid of these defilements leaving nothing behind. This putting away of defilements by means of paññā so that they will never rise again is called Samuccheda-pahāna.

Here, fulfilment of pāramīs and practice of sīla which put away the defilements temporarily (tadaṅga-pahāna) come under the great deeds of merit (mahā-kusala); practice of Concentration Meditation to develop Samatha, which puts away defilements to a distance is regarded as supernormal deeds of merit (mahāggata-kusala). Practice of Insight Meditation to produce paññā, the Path Knowledge (magga-ñaṇa), which completely eradicates the defilements (samuccheda- pahāna), is supramundane deed of merit (lokuttara-kusala).

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