The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Buddha’s Delivery of The Tirokutta Sutta 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’s visit to Rājagaha. 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 3 - The Buddha’s Delivery of The Tirokuṭṭa Sutta

(as from the Khuddaka-Pāṭha Text and Commentary)

Prologue: Having given the Dhamma talk on the offer of the Veḷuvana Park by King Bimbisāra, the Buddha addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Anujānāmi Bhikkhave ārāmaṃ——I allow you, bhikkhus, to accept an offer of a park.”

The day after accepting the Veḷuvana Park, the Buddha delivered the Tirokuṭṭa Sutta. The following is the detailed account of it.

Counting back from this world, ninety-two aeons ago, King Jayasena ruled over the country of Kāsi. (In Sāriputta Vatthu, Yamaka Vagga of the Dhammapada Commentary and in Uruvelā-Kassapa Vatthu, Etadagga Vagga, Ekakanipatta of the Aṅguttara Commentary, it was mentioned that the King was named Mahinda.) King Jayasena’s Chief Queen, Sirīmā, gave birth to a Bodhisatta named Phussa. In due course, the Bodhisatta Phussa gained Enlightenment and became a Buddha. King Jayasena, saying: “My elder son has become a Buddha after renouncing the world and leading an ascetic life,” developed adoration (being obsessed) with such an idea, as ‘My Buddha,’ ‘My Dhamma,’ ‘My Sangha,’ so much so that he made attendance upon the community of bhikkhus, headed by the Buddha, his exclusive privilege and denying all others any opportunity to serve. He had bamboo walls set up on both sides of the road, all the way from the gate of the monastery to his golden palace; canopied ceilings fixed overhead and adorned with stars of gold; and festoons of flowers hung from them; underneath, silvery white sand was spread out and all kinds of flowers were scattered over so that the Buddha might come only along this route.

Buddha Phussa re-arranged His robe at the monastery and accompanied by His community of bhikkhus had to take this walled and covered way to the palace. After finishing the meal, they had to take the same screened-off route back to the monastery. Not a single inhabitant of the city was given an opportunity to offer alms-food.

Many of the citizen expressed their reproach saying:

“Although a Buddha has appeared in the world, we get no opportunity to gain merit by honouring Him. As the moon and the sun make their appearance to confer light on all people; so, Buddhas emerge for the happiness, and wellbeing of all sentient beings. But this King has monopolized for himself the great field of merit meant for all.”

Then three princes who were Buddha Phussa’s half-brothers, also thought: “Buddhas appear for the wellbeing of all sentient beings, not for the benefit of any individual only. Our royal father has denied others the right to attend upon the Buddha and honour Him. How could we gain an opportunity to do so?”

The citizens, who had the same thought as the princes, discussed with them and agreed to adopt a ruse. They decided therefore to arrange the arising of a sham insurgency in the border areas of the kingdom.

Hearing that administration had broken down in the remote provinces, the King despatched his three sons to subdue the rebellion. On their return from the disturbed regions, after a successful campaign against the insurgents, their royal father, King Jayasena, was so pleased with them that he offered to reward them, saying: “Dear sons, you may ask for any reward you wish.” Thereupon, the princes replied: “Royal father, we wish no other reward. We want only the reward of royal permission to attend upon the Buddha and honour Him.”

“Dear sons,” said the King, “you may ask any reward other than this.” The princes replied: “Royal father, we do not wish to get any other reward.” “In that case you may do so for a certain portion of time.”

Thereupon, the princes requested the permission for a period of seven years. The king refused to grant it, saying it was too long a time. In this way, the princes made their request reducing the duration to six years, to five, four, three, two years, one year and to seven months, six, five and four months. When the King turned down all these requests, the princes finally asked for three months' permission to attend upon the Buddha. To this the King assented, saying: “All right, you may have it.”

When they received the King’s approval to attend upon the Buddha and pay homage to Him for three months, they joyously approached Buddha Phussa and after making obeisance to Him, addressed Him: “Glorious Buddha, we wish to wait on and serve You for the whole three months of rains-retreat. May You accept our invitation to stay in our rural district for the whole three months of rains-retreat.” By remaining silent, the Buddha signified His acceptance.

When they knew that the Buddha had conceded their request, the three princes sent a message to their Chief Minister, commanding: “Chief Minister, for the whole three months of rains-retreat, we wish to support the ninety thousand bhikkhus headed by our eider brother Buddha Phussa, with four requisites and wait on them, making our obeisance. You must immediately make arrangements to build and finish construction of monasteries, etc., for the Buddha and His community of bhikkhus to reside.”

The Chief Minister, having accomplished the construction of monasteries as commanded by the princes, reported the matter, saying: “Construction of required monasteries, etc., have been completed as commanded.”

Then the three princes, together with one thousand soldiers, wearing bark-dyed clothes, conveyed the community of bhikkhus, headed by the Buddha, to their rural district. Two thousand five hundred attendants were organised to serve the Sangha with the four requisites (and to render service) for its comfort (and convenience). Then the princes presented the Buddha and His bhikkhus with monastic buildings to take up their residence in.

The Treasurer and His Wife endowed with Faith

The princes' wealthy bursar and his wife had profound faith in the Three Gems. (On behalf of the princes) he took out things for the bhikkhus, headed by the Buddha, from the princely store-houses in turn and faithfully handed them to the minister. The minister took them and with eleven thousand people, residents of the district, managed to turn them into choice food by cooking which they offered daily to the Buddha and His Sangha. (The three princes and their one thousand soldiers, all in bark-dyed garments, stayed at the monastery, observing the precepts, listening to the sermons and fulfilling their major duties to the Sangha led by the Buddha)

The Ill-natured Relatives of The Chief Minister

Out of the eleven thousand people doing sundry jobs at the minister’s command, some of his relatives were wicked and ill-natured. So they created various disturbances to the almsgiving; they personally plundered and devoured the food prepared for the Buddha and His Sangha and fed it to their children; they also set fire to the alms distribution pavilions.

Buddha Phussa conveyed back to His royal father

When the rains-residence was over and the bhikkhus had attended the pavāraṇā ceremony, the three princes held a huge ceremony of honouring the Buddha. And, in fulfilment of the original agreement made with their royal father, they conveyed the Buddha in a procession headed by Him to the King’s country. Soon after the arrival at the capital city of Kāsi where King Jayasena resided, Buddha Phussa passed into Nibbāna. (According to the Saṃyutta Commentary, Buddha Phussa passed away while He was still staying with the princes).

The royal father, Jayasena, as well as the three princes, their Chief Minister, and the royal treasurer passed away one after another. They were reborn together with their respective attendants in the deva-world. The wicked and ill-natured relatives of the Chief Minister were reborn in the realms of intense suffering (niraya).

For the duration of ninety-two aeons, the first group which reached the deva-world passed on from one deva realm to another in the cycle of rebirths, whereas the second group was reborn in one realm of miseries after another, Then in the present world-cycle of bhadda, when Buddha Kassapa made His appearance in the world, the wicked and illnatured relatives of the Chief Minister were reborn in the realm of petas. At that time, people shared their merits after performing deeds of charity, with their old relatives who happened to be reborn in the peta-world, saying: “Idaṃ ahmākaṃ ñatinam hotu.——Let this deed of merit be for the benefit of our relatives.” Thereby the petas who were their former relatives attained happiness and wellbeing.

Seeing other petas having happiness and wellbeing, they approached Buddha Kassapa and enquired of Him: “Glorious Buddha, is it likely that we will ever enjoy such prosperity?” “O petas,” said Buddha Kassapa, “it is not yet time for you to enjoy such prosperity. After a lapse of one antara-kappa, Buddha Gotama will make His appearance in the world. At that time, there will exist a king, named Bimbisāra. Ninety-two world-cycles ago, counting from this bhadda-kappa, the King named Bimbisāra was the Chief Minister, and a close relative of yours. That (old relative of yours,) King Bimbisāra, after making a great offering to Buddha Gotama, will share his merit with you. At that time, you will all enjoy such prosperity.”

The hopeful words of Buddha Kassapa filled the petas with intense joy as if He had told them: “You will gain happiness tomorrow.”

Then, when the long duration of time between the appearance of one Buddha (Kassapa) and another (Gotama), had elapsed, our Buddha Gotama appeared in the world. The three princes, together with their one thousand attendants, passed away from the deva realm and took rebirth in a brahmin clan of Magadha country. In due time, they renounced the household life and became three hermit brothers at Gayasisa with their one thousand hermit disciples. The former Chief Minister of the three princes had now become King Bimbisāra, ruler of Magadha. The Treasurer of the three princes had become now the rich man Visākhā, his wife then had now become Dhammadinnā, the daughter of another rich man. The rest of the former assemblage formed now the royal attendants of King Bimbisāra.

As has been stated above, when our Buddha Gotama of Unimaginable Majesty (Acinteyya), Lord of the three worlds, arrived at Rājagaha, He caused King Bimbisāra and his retinue of one hundred and ten thousand rich brahmins to be established in sotāpattiphala. On the next day, with Sakka acting as his usher, He went to the golden palace to accept the great charity made by King Bimbisāra.

All the petas, who were the old relatives of King Bimbisāra went too and stood surrounding him, hoping, “Our former relative, King Bimbisāra will share his merits with us. He will presently make the announcement of his merit-sharing.” But, having performed the great meritorious deed, King Bimbisāra was only thinking: “Where would the Blessed Buddha reside?” and failed to share the merits. They expressed their indignation by making terrible outcry of groans in the King’s palace at the dead of night.

Thoroughly shaken, frightened and alarmed by the uproar, King Bimbisāra went to the Buddha in the morning and paying respectful homage to Him asked: “Glorious Buddha, I had heard, last night, such frightful noise. What would be their effect upon me?” “Have no fear, Your Majesty,” replied the Buddha, “those noises will have no ill effects upon you at all. As a matter of fact, your former relatives have been reborn in the realm of petas and are roaming about and waiting for you, Your Majesty, throughout the innumerable worldcycles that intervened between the appearance of one Buddha and another with the hope to receive the fruits of merits shared by you. You failed to share your merits with your former relatives after your meritorious deeds yesterday. Deprived of any hope of receiving the share of your merits, they caused that frightful din.” On hearing the Buddha’s reply, the King addressed the Buddha again: “Glorious Buddha, if I perform a deed of charity again and share my merits gained thereby, will they be able to receive them?” “Yes, Your Majesty, they will be able to receive them.” “This being so,” the King requested the Buddha, “may You accept the great dāna to be performed by me today? I will announce my sharing of my merits with my old relatives.” The Buddha signified His acceptance by remaining silent.

The King went back to the palace and caused arrangements to be made for the performance of a magnificent dāna and when all the arrangements had been made, he had information sent to the Buddha that it was time for Him to come and accept the King’s offering. The Buddha went to the palace and sat down at the prepared seat together with His community of bhikkhus. All the petas, who were the King’s former relatives, also went to the palace, saying: “Today, we are surely going to receive the share of merits,” and stood waiting from outside the walls.

The Buddha exercised His supernormal powers in such a way that the King saw all the petas who were his former relatives. The King pouring water on the hands of the Buddha said: “Idaṃ me ñatinaṃ hotu—May this dāna done by pouring of clear water be for the wellbeing of my relatives.”

At that very moment, (his former relatives receiving their share of merits) there appeared suddenly ponds with five kinds of lotus for their enjoyment. All his relatives drank the water of the ponds, took bath in them; freed from miseries, worries, weariness and thirst; they acquired golden complexion.

Again, the King offered various eatable in succession such as rice gruel, hard food and soft food to the community of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha, and as before announced his distribution of merits to his old relatives. At that very moment, various kinds of celestial food appeared for their consumption. Partaking of these divine meals voraciously (more than making up the ravenous hunger they felt before), they assumed fresh, healthy physical appearance, complete with all the sense faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body.

Then the King proceeded to offer robes and sleeping and dwelling places to the community of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha and as before made known the distribution of his merits;and at that moment too, there appeared for use by the petas, divine garments, divine carriages, celestial mansions complete with beds, beddings, bed spreads and various kinds of ornamental clothing. The Buddha made the resolution wishing that King Bimbisāra could see the happiness and prosperity being enjoyed by his old relatives. On seeing them thus enjoying, through the Buddha’s resolution, King Bimbisāra was overjoyed. (According to the Dhammapada Commentary on the story of the Venerable Sāriputta, those peta relatives of the King abandoned their peta appearance and assumed divine appearances.)

Having finished His meal, the Buddha, in order to bless the King with an appreciation of all his good deeds, gave a discourse on Tirokkuṭṭa made up of twelve stanzas, beginning with:

Tirokuṭṭesu tiṭhanti
sandhisinghaṭakesu ca
dvārabahasu titthanti
āgantvānaṃ sakaṃ gharaṃ

(Tirokuṭṭa Sutta is included in the Khuddaka-pāṭha and Peta-vatthu Pāli Texts).

At the end of this Tirokuṭṭa discourse, eighty-four thousand sentient beings became aware of the frightful disadvantages of rebirth in the peta realm through the vivid descriptions by the Buddha, which generated in them a sense of religious urgency (saṃvega). Thereupon they readily practised the Dhamma and perceiving the Noble Truths achieved emancipation.

On the second day also, the Buddha repeated the same discourse to devas and humans. He continued to give the same discourse for seven days and on each occasions, eighty-four thousand beings perceived the Four Noble Truths and achieved emancipation.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: