The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Reflections on the profundity of the Dhamma 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 Buddha Reflecting Deeply on the Profundity of the Dhamma. 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 1 - Reflections on the profundity of the Dhamma

Thereafter, on Thursday the sixth waxing moon of Āsāḷhā, which was 50 days after the attainment of Buddhahood on Wednesday the full moon day of Vesākha, having passed the sattasattāha (49 days), the Buddha rose from His seat under the Rājāyatana tree, again He proceeded to the foot of Ajapāla (Goatherds') banyan tree and remained there, sitting cross-legged. Thereupon, the Buddha, in solitary quietude, reflected thus:

“This Dhamma aggregate, the Four Noble Truths, discerned by Me distinctly with sayambhū-ñāṇa (self-born wisdom) is indeed profound (like the mass of water sustaining the solid earth from below). It is indeed difficult to see (like a mustard seed covered by the great Meru Mountain), it is indeed difficult to know (as difficult as hitting directly the tip of an animal’s tail-hair split into one hundred threads with the tip of another such hair-thread). It is indeed peaceful, it is indeed noble. (These two attributes refer to Lokuttara Dhamma, Supramundane things.) It is not the Dhamma which is not for the logicians to delve into through vitakka (reasoning). (It is the Dhamma to be resorted to and accepted by means of Ñāṇapaññā, Knowledge and Wisdom.) It is indeed subtle; it is the Dhamma which is discerned only by the wise of correct practice. All these sentient beings, however, find delight in two forms of attachment, namely, attachment to the five objects of sensual pleasure (kāmālaya) and attachment to the enjoyment of the five sensual objects (taṇhālya). Those sentient beings, who take delight in these two forms of attachment, are in fact unable to discern this Doctrine of Paṭiccasamuppāda, the relationship of Cause and Effect. It will be even difficult for them to discern the Dhamma of Nibbāna, which is the extinction of all conditioned things (sankhāra), the total rejection of all the substrata (upadhi), of sensuality (kāma-upadhi), of aggregates (khandha-upadhi);defilement (kilesa-upadhi), and of formation (abhisankhāra-upadhi), which is the drying up of one hundred and eight kinds of craving (taṇhā);which is the exhaustion of one thousand and five hundred forms of defilement and passion (kilesa-rāga) and which is the cessation of all suffering. Also, if I were to teach the Dhamma of such profundity, those devas and humans, who are of immature faculties (indriya), who are not fully developed yet for emancipation, will not see or understand the said Dhamma. To teach the Dhamma to such devas and humans will only mean weariness and exhaustion for Me.”

Moreover, two exceedingly marvellous verses, which had never been heard of before, appeared distinctly in the mind continuum of the Buddha. They were:

1. Kicchena me adhigataṃ
halaṃ dāni pakāsituṃ;
ñayṃ Dhamma Susambuddho

2. Paṭisotagāmiṃ nipuṇaṃ
gambhiīraṃ duddasaṃ aṇuṃ
rāgarattā na dakkhanti
tamokhandhena āvutā

(1) It is not opportune yet to teach devas and humans the Dhamma of the Four Noble Truths, which has been achieved by Me, through much effort, while developing the Perfections (pāramīs). At this very moment, when there is only my feeling of compassion, which is the internal cause (ajjhattikanidāna) but there is not yet the request by the Brahmā, who respected by the world (loka-garu), which is the external cause (bāhira-nidāna). This Dhamma of the Four Noble Truths is not easy to know and comprehend clearly by those who are overcome by evil influence of greed and hate.

(2) All devas and humans, who being covered by the darkness of ignorance (avijjā), so much so that they have no eye of wisdom, crave for sensual pleasure (kāma-rāga), continued existence (bhava-rāga), and false doctrine (diṭṭhi-rāga), will not be able to see the good Dhamma of the Four Noble Truths, which is subtle, profound (like the mass of water sustaining the solid earth from below), difficult to see (like a mustard seed covered by the great Meru Mountain), fine as an atom; and which leads to Nibbāna by going against the stream of saṃsāra. (This thought is in fact a usual thing, dhammatā, which happens to all the Buddhas.)

The Buddha, who had thus reflected, was inclined not to make an effort to teach the Dhamma forthwith, in view of the following three reasons: (1) the minds of sentient beings were full of defilements; (2) the Dhamma was very profound and (3) the Buddha held the Dhamma in high esteem.

The Buddha’s thought process may be likened to that of a physician who, having given treatment to a patient afflicted with various kinds of illness, would reflect: “In what way and with what medicine should this patient be treated for recovery from his illness?” so too the Buddha, being aware of all sentient beings afflicted with various ailments of kilesa on the one hand and of the Dhamma being immensely profound and not easily discernible on the other, reflected: “What Dhamma should be taught to these beings and what modus operandi should be employed in teaching them.” (It was not that the Buddha had entirely given up His intention thus: “I will not at all teach the Dhamma to sentient beings.” For details, see the Milindapañha.)

Another version:

There are two causes (nidāna) for the Buddhas to teach the Dhamma: (1) the feeling of compassion for sentient beings generated in the mind continuum of the Buddhas, i.e. the Great Compassion (Mahā-karuṇā), which is the internal (ajjhattika) cause and (2) the act of asking by the world-respected Brahmā for the Buddha’s teaching of the Dhamma, i.e. the request by the Brahmā, (Brahmāyācana) which is the external (bāhira) cause. At the time when the Buddha thus reflected on the profundity of the Dhamma and on the abundance of kilesa in sentient beings, the mahā-karuṇā of Buddha, the ajjhattika-nidāna, had already arise, but the bāhira-nidāna was still lacking as the Brahmā had not made the request yet. The Buddha was inclined to teach the Dhamma only when the Brahmā had made the request, thereby fulfilling the bāhira-nidāna.

The teaching of the Dhamma, only when requested by the Brahmā, was a natural course of event, dhammatā, for every Buddha. The reason for the teaching the Dhamma, only when thus requested by the Brahmā, was this: Outside the Buddha’s Dispensation (before the appearance of the Buddha), those who were considered virtuous, whether laymen, wandering ascetics, samaṇas or brāhmaṇas, worshipped and revered only the Brahmā. This being the case, if the world-respected great Brahmā showed reverence to the Buddha by bowing before Him, the whole world would do likewise, having faith in the Buddha. For this reason, it was usual for the Buddhas to teach the Dhamma only when requested by the Brahmā. Thus only when the bāhira-nidāna, the request of the Brahmā, had been made, the Buddha would teach the Dhamma.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: