by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Occasion of the Great Assembly (Mahasamaya) 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 founding of Vesali. 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).
“Dear bhikkhus.... come on, sit down, I shall teach you the meditation practice that leads you to the three higher stages of the Path (magga), through eradication of defilements.” He then instructed them on the meditation method for attainment of the three higher maggas. The bhikkhus thought to themselves:
“The Buddha, being well aware that we were not happy leading the life of a bhikkhu in the Dispensation, took us to Kunala lake and then having removed our discontent and unhappiness led us to the first stage of sotāpatti-phala. And now that, in this Mahāvana forest, He has taught us the meditation method of attaining the three higher maggas, we should not become lax with the thought: ‘We are sotāpanna-ariya,’ but should strive hard like those pioneers who have gone before us attaining the state of perfection through application.”
They paid homage to the Buddha and left;in the secluded place at the base of trees, each of them spread their own small mats, and sat on them.
The Buddha perceived:
“These bhikkhus, being sotāpannas, know the technique of attaining the Path and Fruition and as such, they will not have any difficulty to achieve the higher stage of the Path and Fruition. Each and every one of bhikkhus who have now gone to practice the Vipassanā meditation will return in the evening to acquaint me with the virtues of arahatship he has gained. All the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universe will also gather together in this Universe at the same time. Then this will be an occasion of a Great Assembly (Mahāsamaya). It would be better for me to wait for such an assembly from a secluded place.”
Having considered in this way, He went to a secluded spot and sat on the reserved place abiding in phala-samāpatti.
The Five Hundred Bhikkhus attained Arahatship
Of the five hundred bhikkhus, the one, who left first after receiving instructions on meditation, attained arahatship complete with four paṭisaṃbhidā-ñāṇa before the rest. The bhikkhu, who left second after receiving instructions, attained arahatship with paṭisaṃbhidā-ñāṇa like the first one. He was next followed by the third bhikkhu in a like manner. Thus all the five hundred bhikkhus had their knowledge of the Four Noble Truths blossoming out as arahatta-phala one after another like Paduma lilies blooming forth into beautiful flowers in order of maturity.
The first bhikkhu who attained arahatship, rose from his seat picking up the small mat on which he had been sitting with a view to go to the Buddha to acquaint Him with his attainment. The second and the third bhikkhu and all the rest of them followed suit and headed towards the refectory. Then they went in a long queue as if they had lined themselves according to seniority in monkhood, to where the Buddha was waiting for them. The bhikkhu who arrived first sat on the small mat at a suitable place and prepared to address the Buddha with the virtues of the arahatta-phala he had attained. But first, he turned round to see if there was anyone coming behind him with the same idea, and saw the second bhikkhu, the third bhikkhu, and finally all the five hundred bhikkhus lined up in a row after him.
When all the bhikkhus had taken their seats at suitable places, each one looked at the other with a searching eye to form an idea of one another’s intention and discovered, that “each one of them felt shy to address the Buddha about his attainment.”
Two Qualities of Arahats
(1) Noble arahats always have the welfare of all beings at heart and their sincere wish that “devas, humans and Brahmās acquire the penetrative Insight-wisdom which they attained.”
(2) They have no desire to reveal their attainment of arahatship for conspicuousness unlike the person who has discovered a pot of gold.
Expounding of Mahāsamaya Sutta
The Great Assembly of the five hundred bhikkhus took place in the cool evening on the full moon day of Jetthamasa. No sooner had the five hundred arahats taken their seats, the moon appeared, rising from the top of mount Yugandhara in the eastern hemisphere, free from five kinds of obstructions, namely, dew, mist, cloud, eclipse and smoke. The moon, in its fullness, assumed the form of a framed disc of a silver mirror or the frame of a silver wheel turning round and round on its edge, hanging high above the eastern horizon, shining with all its brightness as if to reveal the world that was made delightful and pleasurable by the appearance of the Enlightened Buddha. At that auspicious moment, the Buddha was still in residence in the forest of Mahāvana near Kapilavatthu of Sakka country, in the company of five hundred arahats.
The Gathering of Devas and Brahmas
The devas residing in the environs of Mahāvana, in great excitement, hailed one another: “O friends! Come, let us go. To pay homage to the Buddha is meritorious; to hear the Dhamma is beneficial; to pay respects to the Sangha is to acquire great merit; Come, friends, let us go.” Thus clamouring, they congregate in the presence of the Buddha, making obeisance to Him as well as to the five hundred bhikkhus who had just attained arahatship.
Their rousing clamour, spread far and wide, reaching by stages from a haling distance, to half a gāvuta, to a gāvuta, to half a yojana, and to a yojana and thus extending from the centre of this universe to the surrounding ten thousand universes. All the devas and Brahmās, inhabiting these ten thousand universes, therefore congregated in this universe, excepting the few Brahmās, the Asaññasa (no consciousness) Brahmās, Arūpa (Formless) Brahmās and those Brahmās who happened to be absorbed in their jhāna attainments (samāpatti).
At that time, the universe was entirely packed with devas from celestial regions, reaching up to the Brahmā realms (like a needle case packed tightly with needles with no space left between them) who had come to attend the Great Assembly. The distance between the plane of Brahmās and the human world may be reckoned by dropping a boulder (of the size of seven tiers, crowning the graduated mansion known as ‘Lohapa’ of Sri Lanka) from the Brahmā land. It took four months for that boulder to reach the human plane. The space between the two planes was so tightly packed with the devas and Brahmās that there was no vacuum whatsoever, even for the sweet fragrance of flowers to float upwards or a mustard seed to find its way downwards.
When a Universal Monarch sat in congregation with all the monarchs from the vassal states, privileged and powerful rulers who arrived earlier could find their seats which were in the vicinity of the Universal Monarch (not too uncomfortable). But those who arrived later could occupy only back seats which were packed tight and provided little comfort. In a like manner, the space around the Buddha who was like a Universal Monarch, was comparatively not so tight. All the powerful Brahmās, such as Mahāsakkha Brahmas, could find their seats close by the Buddha. But even there, those privileged powerful Brahmās had to make themselves comfortable, occupying a tiny space the size of a yak tails end, in batches of ten, twenty, to sixty, by making their bodies subtler and subtler.
Late Arrival of Four Suddhāvāsa Brahmas
When the Buddha and the five hundred arahats, together with devas and Brahmās from ten thousand universes, had assembled (as stated above), four Suddhāvāsa (arahat) Brahmās rose from absorption in jhāna at the expiry of the pre-determined duration. When they looked round the Brahmā realms, they found the whole region lifeless (like a deserted mess room after lunch time). On investigating ‘where the Brahmās had gone’, they noticed that the Great Assembly was in progress.
The four arahat-Brahmās discussed among themselves: “This is a great assembly and we are left behind, and there will be no seats for late comers. Let us not go empty handed; let each of us prepare a verse for presentation to the Assembly. These gift verses will serve as an intimation of our arrival and as a gesture of our homage to the Buddha.” Having agreed thus, each Brahmā composed a stanza before they left the plane of Brahmās and then one arahat-Brahmā descended on the edge of the eastern hemisphere of the universe; another descended on the edge of the southern hemisphere of the universe; another one descended on the edge of the western hemisphere of the universe and the last one on the edge of the northern hemisphere of the universe.
(1) The arahat-Brahmā who had descended on the edge of the eastern hemisphere entered into jhāna through meditation device of dark blue object (nila kasiṇa); and to signify his presence, emitted brilliant dark blue rays from his body that enveloped all the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universes as though they were covered by an emerald blanket. He then traversed along the approach passage, Buddha vithi, (free from any hindrance and reserved for easy access to the Buddha) and stood in front of the Buddha, paying homage by presenting the verse he had composed:
āgatamhā imaṃ Dhammasamyaṃ
Most Exalted, Glorious Buddha.... Today, a Great Assembly of devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universes is being convened in the forest of Mahāvana to pay homage to the arahats who have conquered the Three Maras with pure devotional faith. Like all these devas and Brahmās, we have also arrived with great delight at this congregation to pay our respect to the invincible victors, the arahats, with pure devotional faith.
Having presented this stanza, he returned (for want of space in the vicinity of the Buddha’s throne) to the edge of the eastern hemisphere of the universe and remained standing there.
(2) The Brahmā who had descended on the edge of the southern hemisphere of the universe entered into jhāna based on meditation device of golden yellow object (pita kasiṇa); and to signify his presence, emitted brilliant golden yellow rays from his body that enveloped all the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universes as though they were covered under a cloak of gold. Then after the manner of the first Brahmā, approached the Buddha and presented his verse:
Most Exalted, Glorious Buddha.... at this congregation of the devas and Brahmās, the five hundred arahats have kept their minds at peace and perfectly tranquilised through developing the highest state of supramundane concentration of attainment, appana-samādhi. They have kept their minds perfectly upright, free from mental deviations which may be likened to three deviations from straightness exemplified by zigzag track of urine of an ox, the comb shape crescent of the moon and the curvature of a harrow’s handle. In the same way, a skilful charioteer of a chariot harnessed to well-tamed Sindara horses, held the reins gently without pulling them roughly, to get an easy, comfortable ride, these five hundred arahats, wise with Path Knowledge (magga-ñāṇa), have guarded the sense doors, the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, against the inroads of defilements by means of the guardian Mindfulness. Most Exalted, Glorious Buddha.... we have come to this forest of Mahāvana with the object of paying homage to these five hundred arahats.
Then he went back to his place at the edge of the southern hemisphere of the universe like his predecessor and remained standing there.
(3) Then the Brahmā who had descended on the edge of the western hemisphere of the universe entered into jhāna based on meditation device of red object (lohita kasiṇa); and to signify his presence at the Great Assembly emitted shining red colour from his body that enveloped all the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universes as though they have been wrapped up in a cloak of red colour. Then after the manner of his predecessors, approached the Buddha and presented his verse:
Most Exalted and Glorious Buddha, the youthful arahats, who being well instructed, have been subdued and tamed to restrain their six faculties by the Buddha who is gifted with five kinds of eye: Buddha-cakkhu, the eye of a Buddha who sees the heart of humans; Dhamma-cakkhu, the eye of Truth which means attainment of the Path knowledge; Samanta-cakkhu, the eye of all round knowledge, Omniscience; Mansa-cakkhu, the physical eye which is exceptionally powerful and sensitive; Dibba-cakkhu, the deva-eye which is all pervading, seeing all that proceeds in the hidden worlds. These youthful arahats have done away with the thorns of passion, malice and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha) by the sword of the fourfold magga-ñāṇa. They have struck off and destroyed the cross-bars and bolts (on the door of the chamber of existence) namely, lobha, dosa and moha, which hinder escape from the Saṃsāra. By the same weapon of magga-ñāṇa, they have up-rooted the pillars, namely, lobha, dosa and moha, stoutly standing at the gate of the city of ‘Sakkāya’ (personality-belief), by means of the fourfold magga. Being devoid of craving, free from taints and desires, they freely roam about in all the four directions without any hindrance of defilements. We have come to pay homage to these youthful arahats.
Then he went back to the edge of the western hemisphere of the universe and like his predecessors remained standing there.
(4) Then the Brahmā who had descended on the edge of the northern hemisphere of the universe entered into jhāna based on meditation device of white object (odata kasiṇa); and to signify his presence at the Great Assembly emitted rays of white colour from his body enveloping all the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand worlds as though they have been wrapped up in robes made of Jasmine flowers. Then like the previous Brahmās, he approached the Buddha and recited the verse he had composed:
After presenting the verse, he went back to the edge of the northern hemisphere of the universe like his predecessors.
The Buddha observed that the Great Assembly of devas and Brahmās was taking place in the vast space which extended to the edges of the universe in width and to the plane of Akaniṭṭha-Brahmā in height. He considered: “This is indeed a huge congregation of devas and Brahmās; the five hundred bhikkhus may not be aware of this fact. I will make it known to them presently.” He therefore addressed them:
“Bhikkhus, all the devas and Brahmās from ten thousand universes have congregated here now to pay homage to the Omniscient Buddha whose coming (appearance), sugato, is just as excellent as those of the Supreme Buddhas of the past, and to the bhikkhus as well. Bhikkhus, just like this great assembly, similar congregations of devas and Brahmās (of the same magnitude, no more no less) had taken place during the time of Buddhas of the past also.
Bhikkhus, just like this great assembly, similar congregations of devas and Brahmās (of the same magnitude, no more, no less) will also take place during the time of the Supreme Buddhas in the future.”
Devas and Brahmas as well as The Buddha formed Ideas of Their Own
The devas and Brahmās at the Assembly were of the opinion that, in consideration of the huge number of celestial beings present, the Buddha might mention only the names of powerful devas and Brahmās and those of minor importance might not be brought out. The Buddha, on considering what the devas and Brahmās might be thinking about, perceived what was going on in their minds, as though He had held their hearts with His hands thrust through their mouths, or just as the case of a thief being caught red-handed with the exhibit, and accordingly decided:
“I shall reveal the names and clans of all the devas and Brahmās from ten thousand world-systems who are present at this Great Assembly, irrespective of whether they are of great or small power.”
Buddhas are very great and glorious personalities. There is nothing that is beyond their ken. All the six sense objects that make contact with the sense-organs of men and celestial beings to produce eye-consciousness, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind-consciousness are within the scope of their perception, with no obstruction whatsoever. The Buddha, therefore, had the power of differentiating between those who were fully matured and developed and ready to be released from the saṃsāra and those who were not yet ready to gain emancipation. He first (mentally) put aside all those beings who were not ready and gave His concentrated attention to those who would be benefitted by His teaching.
Again, amongst those who would gain release from saṃsāra, the Buddha divided them (mentally) into six groups, according to their inclinations, viz., devas and Brahmās with a propensity for lust, craving (rāga-cittam); devas and Brahmās with a propensity for aversion (dosa-cittam); devas and Brahmās with a propensity for delusion (moha-cittam); devas and Brahmās with a propensity for thought-conception (vitakka); devas and Brahmās with a propensity for faith (saddhā), and devas and Brahmās with a propensity for wisdom (paññā).
Then of these six groups, He decided that devas and Brahmās with an inclination towards lust, craving should be taught Sammā Paribbājaniya Sutta; those with tendency towards aversion, Kalahavivāda Sutta; those with inclination towards delusion, Mahābyuha Sutta;those with inclination towards thought-conception, Culabyuhā Sutta; those with inclination towards faith, Tuvaṭṭakapatipadā Sutta and those with wisdom tendency should be taught Purābheda Sutta.
He next determined which mode of teaching would be suitable for the assembled devas and Brahmās out of the four modes, namely,
(1) teaching according to Buddha’s free will, Attajjhāsaya sutta nikkhepa.
(2) teaching according to the wish of the audience, Parajjhāsaya sutta nikkhepa.
(3) teaching according to occasion or prevailing circumstance, Aṭṭhuppattika sutta nikkhepa.
(4) teaching in the form of an answer to a particular question, Pucchāvasika sutta nikkhepa.
And He perceived that devas and Brahmās would gain emancipation through realization of the Four Noble Truths, on hearing a discourse taught by way of answering the question asked in harmony with their inclination. He then tried to see if any of the five hundred arahats was capable of raising such a question that would be in accord with the inclinations of the devas and Brahmās, and perceived that there was none among them. He also found out that the eighty senior Disciples and the two Chief Disciples were not capable of raising such a question.
He perceived that a Paccekabuddha was equally incapable of raising such a question. He then considered whether Sakka or Suyama Deva could fulfil His need, but they were also found to be incapable of raising such a question.
Finally, realising that only a Fully Enlightened Buddha like Him would be able to raise a question in accord with the inclination of devas and Brahmās, He looked into the innumerable world-systems with His infinite power of vision to see if there was another Enlightened Buddha in any of the universes, and He discovered that there was none of His equal in any of the universes.
(N.B. There is no wonder that He could find none to equal Him now (there being none). Indeed there was none of His equal, amongst the devas and humans, even at the time of His last birth. As baby Prince Siddhattha, he uttered the bold words: ‘Aggohamasmi lokassa.——I am supreme in the whole world.’ Needless to say that there was no one to equal Him now that He had become a Fully Enlightened Buddha.)
Creation of An Image of True Likeness of The Buddha
Perceiving there was not another Buddha like Himself, the Buddha considered that: “These devas and Brahmās would not get a penetrative insight into the Dhamma if I were to ask a question and then provide the answer myself. Only if another Buddha raised the question and I gave the answer to it, would it be a wonderful feat and the devas and Brahmās would get a penetrative insight of the Teaching. I would have to create an image of my true likeness.” For this purpose, the Buddha entered into the fourth rupāvacara (kiriya) jhāna which formed the foundation for development of supernatural power (abhiññā). Then arising from the jhāna, He made the resolution, through exercise of ‘Mahākiriya Ñānasampyutta Adhiṭṭhan javana’ thought-process, that a Buddha of complete likeness of Him, in all respects, such as handling the bowl and robe, looking straight forward and glancing side ways, bending and stretching the limbs, should come into being. Thus He created another Buddha, an exact replica of Himself, as though it had emerged from the surface of the full moon which was then just rising from the top of Mt. Yugandhara in the eastern hemisphere.
Varying Views held by Devas and Brahmas
At the sight of the created Buddha (known as Nimitta Buddha), the devas and Brahmās expressed their views saying: “Friends, another moon has appeared besides the existing one.” When the Nimitta Buddha was seen emerging from the surface of the moon and coming closer to them, they changed their views and said: “Friends, that is not the moon but the appearance of the sun.” As the image came nearer, they said: “Friends, that is not the sun but the mansion of a deva.” When it was coming closer and closer, they said: “Friends, that is not a mansion but a deva”, and again they said: “Friends, that is not a deva but a great Brahmā,” and finally as it came quite close to them, they concluded: “Friends, that is not a great Brahmā, but, in fact, it is another Buddha coming to us.”
Of the celestial beings, ordinary (puṭṭhujana) devas and Brahmās thought to themselves: “When the universe was packed to its capacity by devas and Brahmās congregating to pay homage to a single Buddha, the number of devas and Brahmās for two Buddhas would be beyond imagination.” But the ariya devas and Brahmās concluded that there could not be two Buddhas in one and the same universe at the same time; therefore the other Buddha must be a creation in His own likeness by the living Buddha.”
In the meanwhile, the Nimitta Buddha came closer to the Buddha as the devas and Brahmās were looking on, and sat face to face with Him, on a seat kept in reserve on equal level, without paying homage to the Buddha.
There were thirty two characteristics of a great person on the body of the Buddha, and the Nimitta Buddha also bore the same characteristics. Six-hued rays emanated scintillating from the body of the Buddha; and the same kind of six-hued rays also emanated scintillating from the body of the Nimitta Buddha. The rays of the Buddha got reflected from the body of the Nimitta Buddha, just as the rays of the Nimitta Buddha were reflected from the body of the Buddha. The flashes of the rays from the body of the Buddha and those of the Nimitta Buddha shot up to the Akkanittha-Brahmā plane and retracing their paths, rested on the heads of the devas and Brahmās before they scattered towards the edge of the universe. The whole universe assumed the form of a scaffolding, made of bent rafters of gold, enclosing a stupa, looking graceful and glittering.
All the devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand universes, grouped together in this single universe, enveloped in the chamber formed of the meshing rays emanating from the two bodies of the Buddha and the Nimitta Buddha.
The Nimitta Buddha, in His sitting posture, put forward a question, after a formal address in verse in praise of the Buddha for His conquest over defilements (kilesa) on the throne of Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.
Before proceeding to deal with the question presented by the Nimitta Buddha, (i.e. before teaching the Sammaparibbājaniya Sutta [Sammāparibbājaniya Sutta?]), the Buddha, in order to make the minds of devas and Brahmās malleable, pliable, firm and imperturbable, decided to greet them, as it were, by announcing their names, families and clans, etc., without any distinction as regards to rank or status. Therefore, the Buddha proceeded to give the discourse on ‘Mahāsamaya Sutta’, which began with words, ‘acikkhissamai bhikkhave devakāyanam namāmi’ etc., which means ‘Bhikkhus, I shall disclose the identity of the audience by announcing their names, the names of their families, clans, etc.’
(Mahāsamaya Sutta has been dealt with in great details by various eminent scholars giving the Pāli Text and the translation (including word by word translation, nissaya, based on the Mahāvagga Pāli Text). Special mention must be made of the treatise entitled ‘Exposition of Mahāsamaya Sutta with Pāli Text and wordmeanings’ by the Venerable Bhadanta Nandiya, Presiding Thera of Mahāvisutarama Monastery of Pakokku. There is a section, at the tail end of the treatise, on six inclinations dealt with by the Buddha in the six discourses such as Sammaparibbajaniya following the Mahāsamaya Sutta; their Pāli text and word for word translation are also provided therein.)
Large Number of Devas and Brahmas achieved Emancipation
At the conclusion of the discourse on Mahāsamaya Sutta, one hundred thousand crores of devas and Brahmās attained arahatship, and those who attained sotāpanna ariyaship were beyond calculation (according to Mahāvagga Commentary).
Venerable Sayadaw U Budh’s Note of Clarification
When we look at Mahāsamaya Sutta as a whole, we find that the discourse was given with emphasis placed on the nomenclature of the devas and Brahmās, mentioning their family and clan names;and the question may arise:
In the absence of exposition of Ultimate Truth how should devas and Brahmās realise the Four Noble Truths and achieve emancipation (attain the state of sotāpannas, etc.) by hearing only their family and clan names?
Here is the answer: (1) The Buddha was aware that by hearing the discourse on Mahāsamaya Sutta, the mind of devas and Brahmās had become imperturbable, malleable, free of hindrances, exulted and pellucid, and therefore at that moment expounded the Four Noble Truths which He himself had discovered. Having thus heard the discourse on the Four Noble Truths, devas and Brahmās became ariyas. (2) In other words, by hearing the Mahāsamaya Sutta, there arose in the mind continuum of the devas and Brahmās, continuous mental states one after another, the preceding one serving as the cause for the arising of the following, which developed joyful satisfaction (pīti), tranquillity (passadhi), happiness (sukha), concentration (samādhi), knowledge according to reality or absolute knowledge, yatthābhuta-ñāṇa; getting thoroughly tired of worldly life, nibbida-ñāṇa; fading away of lust or passion, virāga-ñāṇa;knowledge of release, vimuccana-ñāṇa or Knowledge of the Path, Magga-ñāṇa;Knowledge of emancipation, vimutti-ñāṇa or Knowledge of Fruition, Phala-ñāṇa;insight arising from Knowledge of the emancipation, vimutti nānadassana or Paccavekkhana-ñāṇa. It was only because of development of series of these mental states that devas and Brahmās became ariyas.
In providing these clarifications, the Venerable Sayadaw U Budh quoted the authority of pertinent Commentaries.
Mahāsamaya Sutta was held in High Esteem by Devas and Brahmas
Mahāsamaya Sutta has been held in high esteem by celestial beings. Therefore a wise person who wishes welfare and prosperity in both mundane and supra-mundane matters should recite this sutta on auspicious occasions such as construction and occupation of houses, monasteries and villages.
(When we think of why Mahāsamaya Sutta was held in high esteem by devas and Brahmās, we find that) The Buddha was naturally the chief personality at the Great Assembly which comprised of a variety of beings from the lowly earth deities to the most powerful Harita Brahmas. Mahāsamaya Sutta was, in fact, the opening address by the Buddha in His capacity as the Chairman of the Great Assembly.
The Great Assembly was attended by three categories of celestial beings: those of the highest rank and power, those of the middle status and those from the lowest strata. To an audience of different social status, it would be a tactful measure for the Chairman to evince interest in the members of the lowest rank by announcing first their presence to the congregation, followed by mentioning those of the medium status and finally the most powerful devas. Any attempt to introduce the devas of highest rank and power at the outset by announcing their family and clan names might cause displeasure and dissatisfaction among those of the lower rank.
As it happened, the Buddha had made it a point to mention the members of the lowest rank of devas, such as the earth deities, at the beginning of the address of welcome, followed by giving recognition of the presence of the devas of medium status, and closing His address by giving attention to those of the highest rank. He thus gave delight to all classes of the audience, the lowest rank feeling happy that they were welcome first and the devas of position and influence satisfied that they were given prominence by being mentioned at the crucial closing of the proceedings. This can be regarded as how the Buddha had set a fine example for the guidance of those who are responsible for delivering address of welcome to a great gathering.
In view of the facts stated above, all the devas have since been looking forward to hearing the Mahāsamaya Sutta, as they wander about in the four directions of the universe. The following is an illustration of how Mahāsamaya Sutta is held in high esteem by the devas.
There was a cave known as ‘Nagalena’ in the precincts of ‘Kotipabbata’ monastery. A celestial damsel was dwelling on an ironwood tree standing at the gate of the said cave. One day a young bhikkhu dwelling in the cave was reciting the Mahāsamaya Sutta and the female deva listened ardently to the recitation of the Sutta. When the bhikkhu’s recitation came to a close, the celestial damsel uttered ‘Sādhu, Sādhu’ at the top of her voice and a dialogue ensued between the youthful bhikkhu and the female deva:
(Bhikkhu) B: Who is that who is saying ‘Sādhu’?
(Celestial Maiden) CM: Venerable Sir, it is me, a female deity
B: Why have you said, ‘Sādhu'?
CM: It is because, I had had the good fortune to hear Mahāsamaya Sutta for the first time, when the Buddha propounded it in the forest of Mahāvana and for the second time, I heard it today. I understand that you have learnt the Sutta well, exactly as taught by the Buddha, not making the slightest variation from the original even for a single letter. (I said Sādhu on that score).
B: Had you heard the recitation of Buddha by yourself?
CM: Yes, I had, Reverend Sir.
B: It is said that there was a great assembly of devas and Brahmās at the time of recitation by the Buddha of this Sutta. From which place did you hear the recitation?
CM: Venerable Sir, I was then a resident of the forest of Mahāvana near Kapilavatthu, but I was unable to acquire a place in the whole of Jambudipa because the powerful devas and Brahmās crowded in. I was compelled to go across to Sri Lanka, and as I was attempting to listen to the discourse standing at the port of Jambukola, powerful devas came crowding in again. I was again pushed further and further backwards until I got to a small village of Rohana near Mahāgama where standing in the ocean to the depth of my neck, I was finally able to hear the recitation.
B: O Celestial maiden, how could you see the Buddha at Mahāvana forest which was at such a great distance from where you happened to be at the time?
CM: Venerable Sir, I did see the Buddha really; it appeared as if the Buddha was looking at me fixedly from the forest of Mahāvana all throughout the time of expounding the discourse so much so, I felt afraid and abashed and I felt like hiding myself between the foamy waves.
B: It is said that one hundred thousand crores of devas and Brahmās attained arahatship on that day (when Mahāsamaya Sutta was delivered). Had you attained arahatship too?
CM: No, Venerable Sir, I had not.
B: Then I think you had attained Fruitional stage of anāgāmī!
CM: No. Sir, I had not.
B: Then I think you had attained the Fruitional stage of stage of sakadāgāmī!
CM: No. Sir, I had not.
B: O Celestial maiden, It is said that (hearing the Mahāsamaya Sutta) countless number of devas and Brahmas attained the three lower paths; I am sure you must have at least become a sotāpanna.
CM: (As one who had indeed attained the Fruitional stage of sotāpanna) the celestial maiden felt shy and said: ‘Venerable Sir, you should not have asked me such a question’, (thus side-tracking the issue.)
The young bhikkhu then asked the celestial maiden: “Can you manifest yourself to me?” She replied: “Venerable Sir, not the whole body but only the top of a finger and so saying, she thrust one of her fingers through a key hole, exposing just the tip of it. The whole cave was then brightly illumined as though thousands of moons and suns had thrown beams of light into it. (The celestial maiden did not manifest her whole person so as to save the young bhikkhu from the danger of temptation, which would ruin his life as a recluse.)
Then the celestial maiden departed after giving her respects and urging the young bhikkhu not to be remiss in his effort to practise precepts prescribed for bhikkhus.
This is how Mahāsamaya Sutta is being held in high esteem by the devas and Brahmās.
Preaching The Discourses in Harmony with The Inclinations of The Audience
After delivering the Mahāsamaya Sutta, the Buddha proceeded to give discourses to the same Assembly on the following suttas in accordance with the dispositions of different groups of devas and Brahmās.
(1) Samma paribbājaniya Sutta was taught to the devas and Brahmās who had propensity towards lust (rāga), (by way of a dialogue between a Nimitta Buddha and the Buddha himself). One hundred thousand devas and Brahmās attained arahatship at the conclusion of the discourse and countless devas and Brahmās attained the three Lower Paths at the same time.
(2) Kalahavivāda Sutta was taught to the devas and Brahmās with inclination towards aversion (dosa), such devas and Brahmās achieved emancipation in a like manner.
(3) Mahābyūha Sutta was taught to those who had inclination towards delusion (moha), such devas and Brahmās gained emancipation likewise.
(4) Cullabyūah Sutta was taught to those who were inclined to thought-conception (vitakka) with the same results.
(5) Tuvaṭṭakapaṭipaḍa Sutta was delivered to the audience with a tendency of Faith, confidence (saddhā) (in the Three Gems) with same results.
(6) Purābheda Sutta was taught to those who were inclined towards wisdom (paññā) in the same manner and with similar results.
(For full particulars in respect of these six suttas, reference may be made to Myanman version of Suttanipata Pāli Text and especially, to the treatise entitled ‘Exposition of Mahāsamaya Sutta with Pāli Text and word meanings’ by the Venerable Bhadanta Nandiya, Presiding Thera of Mahāvisutarama Monastery of Pakokku.)