by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The request of Sahampati Brahma 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).
The Great Sahampati Brahmā’s Request for The Teaching of The Dhamma
(The great Sahampati Brahmā was a noble Thera by the name of Sahaka, at the time of Buddha Kassapa’s Dispensation. In that capacity, he attained rūpavacara first jhāna and when he died without having fallen from the jhāna, he was reborn on the first jhāna plane of existence and became the Mahā Brahmā with a life span of sixty-four antara-kappas which is equal to one asaṅkhyeyya-kappa. He was called Sahampati Brahmā by the Brahmās of the said plane of existence.)
When, thus the mind continuum of the Buddha was such that He was still inclined not to exert himself for teaching the Dhamma, this thought occurred to Sahampati Mahā Brahmā: “Nassati vata bho loko! Vimassati vata bho loko!— O friends, the world is going to perish! O friends, the world is going to perish! The Buddha, who is worthy of special veneration by devas and humans because of His fully and truly penetrating knowledge of all the Dhammas in the world, is inclined not to exert himself for teaching the Dhamma!” Then, as instantly as a man of great physical and mental strength might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm, Sahampati Mahā Brahmā vanished from the Brahmā-world along with ten thousand fellow Mahā Brahmās and appeared in front of the Buddha. At that time, Sahampati Mahā Brahmā had a scarf (a Brahmā scarf) placed over his left shoulder and kneeling with his right knee on the ground (sitting in the way of a Brahmā), he made obeisance to the Buddha by raising his clasped hands and addressed Him:
“Exalted Buddha, may the Buddha kindly teach the Dhamma to all sentient beings, devas, humans and Brahmās. Exalted Buddha of good speech, may the Buddha kindly teach the Dhamma to all sentient beings, devas, humans and Brahmās. There are many beings who have just a little dust of defilement in their eyes of knowledge and wisdom. If these beings do not get the chance to listen to the Dhamma of the Buddha, they will suffer a great loss by not acquiring the extraordinary Dhamma of magga-phala which they deserve. Venerable Buddha, there will evidently appear those who can comprehend the Dhamma to be taught by you.”
Then again, having addressed the Buddha in plain prose, Sahampati Mahā Brahmā made the request also in verse:
“Glorious Buddha, in the past, before your appearance, there had existed in Magadha country the impure, false doctrine sponsored by six heretical teachers, such as Purāṇa Kassapa, who were stained by the dirt of defilements And so, kindly open the great doorway of magga for entry into the Deathless Nibbāna (which has remained closed since the disappearance of the Buddha Kassapa’s sāsana). Let all sentient beings listen to the Dhamma of the Four Noble Truths discerned by you, who is free from the dust of kilesa.
“Noble and wise Buddha, the possessor of the eye of wisdom that is capable of seeing all around! As a man of keen eye-sight stands on the top of a rocky hill and surveys all the people in the surroundings, so you, Venerable Buddha, being already free from sorrows, go up to bejewelled tower of paññā and look at all sentient beings, devas, humans and Brahmās, who have fallen into the abyss of sorrows (being oppressed by birth, old age, sickness, death, etc.).
“Venerable Buddha of great, noble and courageous diligence, who knows only victory, but no defeat, in all battles! Arise! Venerable Buddha, free from the debt of sensual desire, who is wont to set free all sentient beings, who are eager to listen and follow the Buddha’s teaching, from such difficult journeys as birth, old age, etc. and, like unto a caravan leader, convey them to the safety of Nibbāna! Kindly wander in the world to proclaim the Dhamma. Glorious Buddha, kindly teach the Four Noble Truths to all sentient beings of devas, humans and Brahmās. Venerable Buddha, there will appear those who can discern and understand the Dhamma to be taught by you.”
(The fact that the Brahmā came and made the request to teach the Dhamma at the time when the Buddha reflected on the profundity of the Dhamma and on the abundance of kilesa in sentient beings and was still mentally inclined not to exert himself to teach the Dhamma is a dhammatā for every Buddha. Exposition on the thirty Dhammatās in the Buddhavaṃsa Aṭṭhakathā.)
The Buddha surveying The World of Sentient Beings
When Sahampati Brahmā thus made the request for teaching the Dhamma; the two conditions for doing so, namely, bāhira-nidāna and ajjihattika-nidāna were fulfilled; and so He surveyed the world of sentient beings with the pair of Buddha’s eyes (Buddha-cakkhus). Knowledge of the latent desire or inclination of beings (āsayānusaya-ñāṇa) and Knowledge of the maturity or otherwise of the sense faculties (indriya-paropariyatta-ñāṇa).
On thus surveying, He saw distinctly different types of beings (comparable to four kinds of lotuses): There are, in the pond, blue, red or white lotuses. Of these four kinds of lotuses, there are: (1) the kind of lotuses which come into being in the water, grow and develop in the water but remain submerged; (2) the kind of lotuses which come into being in the water, grow up in the water and stand level with the surface of the water; (3) the kind of lotuses which come into being in the water, grow up in the water and stand aloft, above the water and without the water wetting and adhering to them. (Of the said three kinds of lotuses, the no. 3 lotuses which stand aloft above the water would bloom forth that very day; the no. 2 lotuses which stood level with the surface of the water would bloom forth the next day; and the no. 1 lotuses which developed but remained submerged would bloom forth on the third day.) Apart from the said three kinds of lotuses, there is the fourth kind of lotuses which will neither appear at all above the water nor bloom forth; the lotuses of this kind are diseased and will eventually become food for fish and tortoises. Like these four kinds of lotuses, there are beings who have little or no dust of kilesa in their eyes of knowledge; beings who have much dust of kilesa in their eyes of knowledge; beings in whom the five faculties of faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom are sharp and mature; beings in whom the said five faculties are dull and immature; beings whose disposition, such as faith, etc., are good or are not good; beings who would easily understand the Dhamma taught and beings who would not, beings who view all mundane matters, such as aggregates, all forms of defilements, wrong deeds, volitional activities and actions that would cause further existences as the dreadful group of dangers just like an enemy wielding a two-edged sword to prepare for an assault; and beings who have no such view.
(When the Buddha surveyed the world of beings with His Buddha-cakkhus, He saw four groups of individuals thus: (1) the individuals who understood the Dhamma of the Four Noble Truths, even if taught in a brief outline (mātikā uddesa), and became converted, just as the lotuses standing aloft above the water would bloom forth that very day with the rising of the sun (ugghāṭitaññū puggala); (2) the individuals who could not yet be converted by just hearing the Dhamma in a brief outline but would understand and become converted only when the Four Noble Truths were taught and explained in detail (vitthāra niddesa padabhājanī), just as the lotuses standing level with the surface of the water would bloom forth the next day (vipañcitaññū-puggala);(3) the individuals who could not yet be converted by listening to the Dhamma both briefly and in detail at one sitting but would understand the Four Noble Truths and become converted after a day or a month or a year with the help of their friends and by persistently applying themselves to the realisation of the Dhamma, just as the lotuses remaining submerged would bloom forth on the third day (neyya-puggala); (4) the individuals who would not realise magga-phala however much they listened to and practised the Dhamma in the present life (padaparama-puggala) but had the benefit of acquiring a bent (vāsanā) for the Dhamma in future existences. They would end their lives by becoming the food for fishes and tortoises of kilesa, just as the lotuses, which were diseased, neither rose from the water nor bloomed forth, would eventually become the food for fishes and tortoises.
(On thus seeing the four kinds of individuals and reflecting on the Dhamma which would be of respective benefit to them, the Buddha developed an ardent desire to teach the Dhamma. Then He proceeded to separate all beings into two categories: individuals fit for higher truths and liberation (bhabba-puggalas) and individuals not fit for higher truths and liberation (abhabba-puggalas). Of these two categories, abhabba-puggalas were set aside and not taken into consideration, He took only bhabba-puggalas into the fold of His sabbaññutā-ñāṇa and divided them into six groups, saying: “The beings full of rāga, are this many. The beings full of dosa, are this many. The beings full of moha, are this many. The beings full of vitakka, are this many. The beings replete with saddhā, are this many. The beings replete with paññā, are this many.” And then He expressed His intention by saying: “I shall indeed teach the Dhamma!”)
After thus reflecting and discerning, the Buddha gave His assent to Sahampati Mahā Brahmā in verse:
Apārutā tessam amatassa dvārā;
ye sotavanto pamuncantu saddham.
Vihimsasaññī pagunam na bhāsim;
Dhammam panītam manujesu Brahme.
“O Sahampati Mahā Brahmā, I do not keep the eight portals of magga, for entering into the Deathless Nibbāna, closed to devas and humans who are fit for emancipation (They are kept permanently open). Let devas and humans with good hearing (sota-pasāda show faith in Me.)”
(What is meant here is, only those with sota-pasāda will be able to listen to the Dhamma taught by the Buddha. Also only if they have faith in Him will they exert themselves to practice the Dhamma with faith, and the door of Nibbāna will be opened. If they have no faith in the Buddha, even though they have sota-pasāda, they will not have faith also in the Dhamma and will not exert themselves and practise it and in that case, the door of Nibbāna will not be opened. So, beings having sota-pasāda should show faith in the Buddha and listen to the Dhamma.
Alternatively: Since the time of the disappearance of the sāsana of Buddha Kassapa up to the present time, a genuine Buddha and His genuine Dhamma could not be found and so there had not been genuine faith in the mind continuum of beings, the Gem of Faith which should be packed and clutched in their fists. Devotion to heretical teachers in the meantime was not genuine faith. It was only an arising of unwholesome consciousness (akusala-citt'uppāda) which mistook what was wrong as right (micchādhimokkha). Now that a genuine Buddha had appeared, let devas and humans who had sotapasāda open their fists and unpack the Gem packets which had been kept close-fisted, as it were, since the time of the disappearance of the sāsana of Buddha Kassapa.)
“O Sahampati Mahā Brahmā, to devas, humans and Brahmās I have not in days past taught the noble Dhamma which I have acquired. It was because at that time the two nidānas for teaching the Dhamma had not yet been fulfilled and as such I knew well that, even though the Dhamma was taught, it would be of no benefit to them but merely an exhaustion for Me.”
Thereupon, Sahampati Mahā Brahmā felt jubilant and exclaimed: “The Buddha has given me the word of assent for teaching the Dhamma!” Then, after making obeisance to the Buddha and circumambulating Him, he vanished from that very place (and reappeared at the Brahmā World).