The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Teaching the Abhidhamma at Tavatimsa 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 Seventh Vassa. 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 - Teaching the Abhidhamma at Tāvatiṃsa

Having established Ankura and Indaka Deva in the Fruition stage of sotāpatti, the Buddha continued to stay on to observe the 7th vassa, sitting crossed-legged on the throne of Sakka in Tāvatiṃsa and preached the Abhidhamma, day and night, to all those devas from ten thousand world-systems, who rallied around Him, with Santusita Deva as their head. He started with the ‘Law of good action’ and its result (kusala dhamma);bad action and its result (akusala dhamma); neutral or amoral or indeterminate action (abyakata dhamma); teaching round the clock, like the river of the sky flowing continuously, for the duration of the vassa.

(N.B. Buddhas used to deliver before noon discourses in praise of food offered, such discourses could be as long as Digha-nikāya and Majjhima-nikāya put together. The discourses preached to the devas and Brahmās who arrived in the afternoon have the combined lengths of Samyutta-nikāya and Anguttara-nikāya.

This is because the thought-process of the Buddha is very fast, with very few intervening bhavaṅga consciousness. And the Buddha’s lips are proportionately and firmly set, the lip movements are precise. The tongue is long, slender and delicate. All these features contribute to production of a voice, so melodious at a very fast rate.

It is stated that when an ordinary average person had spoken a word, the Venerable Ānanda had spoken eight words as much; when Venerable Ānanda had spoken one word, the Buddha had spoken sixteen words as much. It has thus been calculated that the Buddha’s rate of speech is 128 times faster than that of an average person)

Thus, with such unimaginable fast rate of speech, it is no wonder that the Buddha preached the long discourses, in appreciation of offering of food, before noon and more lengthy discourses to devas who arrived in the afternoon. The Abhidhamma that the Buddha had preached during that vassa of three months is thus endless and incomparable.

Keeping The Body well maintained while preaching The Abhidhamma

In case a question such as this arises: “How did the Buddha maintain His body when He was engaged in preaching the Abhidhamma during the whole period of vassa lasting three months?” The brief reply is, He did it by regular provision of nourishment.

The following is an extensive answer:

All Buddhas are mindful of such matters;they usually followed the progress of time in the world of man while in the act of preaching the Abhidhamma. When the time came for going on the alms-round, He created a Buddha after His own image, acting after His own manner in handling the bowl and holding the robe and with a voice like His own. He caused the created Buddha to preach the Abhidhamma to the extent prescribed by Himself.

The Buddha then left for the Anotatta lake with His bowl and robe. On His arrival at the Anotatta lake devas presented Him with a twig frayed at one end. After brushing His teeth with the twig, He took a bath in the Anotatta lake. After His bath, He stood on the slab of orpiment and donned the well-dyed double stitched robe. He then took the brown stonebowl that was offered by the Four Great Devas of Catumahārājika Deva plane, under the Rājayatana tree (at the seventh place of the seven places at which Buddha Gotama spent seven days each after attaining Buddhahood. Each deva had offered one bowl and the four were pressed into one with four rims by the Buddha with His hands.) He then proceeded to Uttara Kuru (north island) for receiving alms-food, and on return, He partook the food on the peaceful bank of the enchanting delightful Anotatta lake. After His meal, He proceeded to the forest of Sandal trees to spend the day.

The Venerable Sāriputta, the General of the Dhamma, went to the Sandal forest to attend on the Buddha and stood at a place that was free from six faults. Whereupon, the Buddha told the Venerable: “Dear son Sāriputta... I have taught this much of the Dhamma.” He would only give the gist and the guidelines, but the Venerable Sāriputta, being endowed with four paṭisaṃbhida-ñāṇa, could fully grasp of the Dhamma outlined by the Buddha, like a man who is shown the vast ocean by someone with an outstretched hand. He had the ability to understand it in a hundred, a thousand ways.

(The Buddha returned to Tāvatiṃsa in the afternoon to resume preaching there. With the exception of the powerful devas, no one knew that a created Buddha was preaching the Abhidhamma in the place of the real Buddha and that the real Buddha had gone to the human world and had returned from it. The created Buddha was an exact replica in all respects: in emission of rays, in voice and in the manner of speaking.)

The Venerable Sāriputta taught The Abhidhamma to His Five Hundred Bhikkhus Disciple

The Venerable Sāriputta, having learnt the Abhidhamma briefly from the Buddha daily, taught it in a form (neither too brief nor too elaborate) to his five hundred bhikkhu disciples, who had been common bats in a previous existence.

This is a short account of their previous life: They were little common bats dwelling in a cave, hanging down from its roof, in the time of Buddha Kassapa. They heard the recitation of the Abhidhamma by two bhikkhus, who were well versed in the Abhidhamma. They had not even the slightest idea of what was meant by the waxing and waning of the moon, but, their attention was drawn to the recitation of the Abhidhamma by the bhikkhus’ pleasant and harmonious tone. (The bats had no idea of what was meant by Abhidhamma, the aggregates, sensation, dhātu (elements), truth, not even the waxing and waning of the moon, but since the tone of the recitation by bhikkhus served as a good object of their dying consciousness (kamma-nimitta) for the following life, they were reborn in the plane of devas).

They enjoyed the life of devas from the time of Buddha Kassapa up to the time of Buddha Gotama, not being born even once in the lower planes of woes. At the time of the present Buddha, they were reborn in the world of humans. They witnessed the Twin Miracle, which aroused their faith and devotion and made them receive ordination under the personal supervision of Venerable Sāriputta. Everyday, Venerable Sāriputta taught them the Abhidhamma in a fairly extended form of what he had learnt from the Buddha in an abridged version.

The preaching of the Abhidhamma by the Buddha in the world of devas came to a close simultaneously with the completion of the full study of the Abhidhamma taken up by the five hundred bhikkhus under the Venerable Sāriputta in the world of humans.

Everyday the Buddha informed the Venerable Sāriputta of the nature and extent of the Abhidhamma taught by Himself and the nature and extent of the Abhidhamma taught by the created Buddha in Tāvatiṃsa and instructed him to teach his five hundred disciples as necessary, before He returned to resume preaching from the point where the created Buddha had concluded.

The teaching of the Abhidhamma came to a close at the end of the vassa, on the full moon day of Thadingyut, with the result that eighty thousand crores of devas and Brahmās were emancipated through realization of the Four Noble Truths. Santusita Deva, the Buddha’s mother in the human world, attained the fruition state of sotāpatti.

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