by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes the Journey (Carika) of the Buddha 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 Sixth Vassa at Mount Makula. 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 Buddha took up residence at the forest of Mahāvan in Vesali country during the fifth vassa emancipating those sentient beings who were deserving. He left there after conclusion of the vassa, and travelled towards the countries of Savatthi and Rājagaha on a similar mission.
Two Kinds of Journey (Cārika)
There are two kinds of journey undertaken by the Buddha, according to circumstances, namely, (1) the kind of journey made suddenly, turita cārika and (2) an itinerary with stops at villages and towns, covering distances from one to two yojanas regularly per day, aturita cārika.
Turita : The journey undertaken suddenly when perceiving someone deserving of emancipation. There are many instances such as, the Buddha setting out all of a sudden to receive Venerable Mahā Kassapa covering three gavutas; then He covered a journey of thirty yojanas in no time to save Ogre Alavaka; He did the same thing at the time of saving Angulimala, a notorious robber; He covered forty-five yojanas swiftly to preach to King Pakkusati after He had become a bhikkhu; He covered one hundred and twenty yojanas in no time to save King Mahā Kappina; He covered seven hundred yojanas in no time to save Dhaniya, the wealthy owner of bullocks and his wife. Such journeys made suddenly on such missions are termed Turita cārika.
Aturita Cārika: When the Buddha left a certain place at the end of a period of vassa, and set out on a journey, He usually touched in at every intermediate towns and villages to receive aims or to preach, covering a distance of one or two yojanas per day. Such a journey honouring all people along the route by receiving alms or preaching to them is known as Aturita cārika.
Three Circumferential Dimensions of The Buddha’s Journeys
The Buddha used to make three types of journey with varying circumferential dimensions, viz.,
(1) a journey covering the most widespread territory, Mahā-maṇḍhala,
(2) a journey with a medium coverage of territory, Majjhima-maṇḍhala,
(3) a journey with the smallest coverage of territory, Anto-maṇḍhala.
Of these three types (1) Mahā-maṇḍhala has an area of 900 yojanas; (2) Majjimamaṇḍhala has an area of 600 yojanas (3) Anto-maṇḍhala has an area of 300 yojanas. This will be clarified:
(1) The Buddha held the Pavāraṇā ceremony at the end of vassa on the full moon day of Thadingyut, Assayujo. Should there be no special reason to wait, such as to save a worthy sentient being from the round of existence, He started His journey on the first waning moon of Thadingyut, in the company of a large number of bhikkhus, covering one or two yojanas per day. He continued on wandering thus for nine months till the full moon day of Waso (Asalho) of the next year.
At each stop en route to the destination, enthusiastic donors from all directions, within an area of one hundred yojanas came in groups to pay homage with offerings. Those who came late scarcely got the chance of extending invitation to the Buddha to their places. These two other regions formed part and parcel of this mahā-maṇḍhala zone. The Buddha stayed a day or two at villages and towns within the vast zone of mahā-maṇḍhala, to bless the people of the locality by receiving alms from them and by preaching to them the Dhamma, He thus developed their merit to escape from the round of rebirth. Thus the Buddha usually spent nine months en route before He ended His itinerary. The journey lasting nine months covered a distance of three hundred yojanas from the beginning to the
end. With this area of three hundred yojanas as the centre, people from places three hundred yojanas on the left side of the route as well as those on the right also had the opportunity of doing meritorious deeds such as offering alms and listening to the Dhamma. Thus, these areas may be considered as also been visited by the Buddha. Hence the statement above that a mahā-maṇḍhala journey measures nine hundred yojanas, as explained.
(2) In case the bhikkhus had not reached maturity in their practice of concentration and insight meditation, 'Pavāraṇā' Ceremony of Sangha which fell on the full moon of Thadingyut, was put off till full moon of Tazaungmon, Kattika. Then only on the first waning moon of Tazaungmon, the Buddha would start the journey attended by the bhikkhus. If for some other reason He wished to go on a majjima-maṇḍhala range of journey, He would tarry till the full moon of Tazaungmon (a full four months) at wherever He had kept the vassa, and then set out on the journey. In the above manner, the Buddha would spend the eight-month journey honouring the populace with His visits and preaching the Dhamma. The journey of eight months would cover two hundred yojanas from the beginning to the end. Each area on either side of the road measured two hundred yojanas. People from these areas also had the opportunity of doing meritorious deeds such as offering alms and listening to the Dhamma. Thus these areas may be considered as also been visited by the Buddha. Hence the statement above that a majjima-maṇḍhala journey has an area of six hundred yojanas, as explained.
(3) Although Buddha had spent four months observing the vassa at a certain place (i.e. up to and inclusive of the full moon of Tazaungmon), if deserving beings were still lacking in maturity of faculties, He continued His stay at the same place for another month. When necessary, such time of grace was prolonged, month after month, even for four months right up to the full moon of Pyatho (Phusso), as occasion demanded, and then only did He leave that place in the company of a great number of bhikkhus, to set out on the antomaṇḍhala journey.
As in the previous case the Buddha spent these respective months, blessing people by His visits and preaching. The length of time necessary for traversing the country was reduced from seven to four months, for reasons as described above. Because of the shortage of time, that seven, or six, or five, or four month journey had a distance of one hundred yojanas. As in the above manner, the areas on either side of this one hundred yojanas journey were also visited. Hence it is said: “Anto maṇḍhala journey ranges altogether three hundred yojanas.”
It should be borne in mind that the Buddha had set out on anyone of these itineraries not for receiving the four requisites, namely, robe, food, shelter, medicine, but out of compassionate consideration and with the sole purpose of affording opportunity to the poor, the ignorant, the aged, the sick, who would have no means of paying homage to Him at any other time. Of them, some would be pleased just to see Him, some would like to offer flowers and sweet scents, or a morsel of hard earned food, and there would be those who had given up wrong view to take up the Right View. Such encounters with Him would bring about lasting peace, prosperity and happiness for these people.
This was how the Buddha, after having kept the fifth vassa in the Mahāvana forest at Vesali, travelled to Savatthi and Rājagaha with the villages on their outskirts (by way of any of the three kinds of journey) for the uplift of all living beings and administering the Elixir of the Dhamma with His preaching. He kept the sixth vassa at Mount Makula Monastery, which was situated by the side of the ocean and was shaded and walled by a forest of star flower trees, saving all deserving human and celestial beings and Brahmās from the sufferings of sentient existence.