by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Five Series of The Buddha’s Activities 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 Eleventh Vassa at Brahmin Village of Nāḷa. 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).
With reference to the Buddha’s activities, the Saṃyutta Nikāya Commentary and others enumerate five series of activities, whereas the Sutta Nipāta Commentary, combining the latter four, gives only two, namely, the morning series and the after-meal series. The idea, however, is the same. Hence two series according to the Sutta Nipāta Commentary and five series according the other Commentaries, namely, the activities in the first watch of the night (purima-yāma-kicca), the activities in the middle watch (majjhima-yāma-kicca), the activities in the last watch (pacchima-yāma-kicca). These five series of activities will be described in serial order so that readers might develop their devotion.
(1) The Buddha’s Morning Activities (Pure-bhatta Buddha-kicca)
The Buddha rose early in the morning and, in order to honour His attendant monk with merit as well as to see to His own physical wellbeing, cleaned His body by washing His face first and then spent the rest of the time engaging in phala-samāpatti in quietude till the time of going on alms-round. Then He adjusted His lower garment, girded His waist, put on His robe, took His bowl and entered the village sometimes alone and at other times in the company of monks. His entry into the village took place sometimes in a natural manner and at other times attended by miracles. For instance:
When He went to alms-round, gentle breezes blew, cleaning the ground before Him. Clouds repeatedly sprayed water, putting the dust to rest along the way, and followed the Buddha like a canopy above Him. The winds too blew bringing the blossoms from all the places and scattering them to make a bed of flowers all the way down. The natural high ground lowered itself and became even. So did the natural low ground become high and level with other parts of the ground automatically. Stones, pebbles, potsherds, stumps and thorns moved away on their own accord.
When the Buddha put down His foot on the ground, the surface became even; or the lotus flowers, which were as big as carriage-wheels and which provided a delightful touch, arose under the feet for ready support.
As soon as the Buddha laid His right foot on the threshold at the entrance of a town or a village, the six-hued rays streamed out from His body as though they poured liquid of gold on edifices including square-roofed and pinnacled houses, or as though they covered them with exquisite drapery. The rays rushed from place to place making them all luminous with brilliant lights. Horses, elephants, birds and other animals made agreeable sounds while remaining in their respective places. Similarly, drums, harps and other musical instruments produced pleasant music without players. Ornaments, such as necklaces, earrings, bangles, arm-bands, etc., which were worn by people, sounded sweet automatically. From these signs they knew “Today comes the Blessed One into our town (or village) for alms-food!”
Well-dressed and well-robed people came out of their houses with scents, flowers and other offerings in their hands. They gathered on the main road in the town-centre and paid obeisance with their offerings respectfully. They asked for monks, as many as they could afford, to provide meals, saying: “Venerable Sirs, give us ten monks,” “Give us twenty,” “Give us a hundred,” and so on. They also took the alms-bowl of the Buddha and placed the seats and treated the monks to meals.
After partaking of His food, the Buddha instructed the devotees according to their inclinations so that some might be established in the three refuges, others in the five precepts, still others in one of the fruitions of sotāpatti, sakadāgāmī and anāgāmī and the rest in monkhood and arahatship. In this way, He uplifted the multitudes spiritually by teaching them the Dhamma and finally He returned to the monastery.
On arrival at the monastery, the Exalted One sat on His Buddha-seat, readily made in the round flagrant pavilion and waited until the monks had eaten their meals. When they had finished eating, the attendant monk would inform the Buddha. Then only did He go into the scented chamber.
(All these were the Buddha’s series of activities in the morning. There were still others done in detail but not described here. These may be taken as recorded in the Brahmāyu Sutta of the Majjhima Paṇṇāsa Pāli.)
(2) The Buddha’s After Meal Activities (Pacchā-bhatta Buddha-kicca)
After meal, the Buddha sat on the seat prepared by the attendant monk near the scented chamber (at the meeting place of the monks) and washed His feet.
Then standing on the washing-board, He exhorted the monks thus:
“Monks, work out your completion of the threefold training by mindfulness. Hard indeed is to live in the time of the appearance of a Buddha in the world. Hard indeed is to have human life. Hard indeed is to have faith. Hard indeed is to have monkhood. Hard indeed is to hear (i.e., to have an opportunity of listening to) the True Law.”
At such meetings, some monks asked the Buddha about meditation. To them, He instructed on meditation (methods) according to their inclinations. They then paid obeisance to Him respectfully and retired to their respective day-resorts or night-resorts, some going to the forest, some to the foot of a tree, some to certain places up in the hills while others to the celestial abodes of Catumahārajika. Tāvatiṃsa, Yāma, Tusitā, Nimmānarati or Paranimmita Vasavattī.
Thereafter, the Buddha entered the fragrant chamber and lay down on His right side, if He wished for a moment without abandoning mindfulness. With His body eased, He rose and surveyed the world of sentient beings during the second period (of the day). During the third period, however, as He was to live depending upon the village-resort for alms, residents of towns or villages, who had given morning alms, nicely dressed and robed, gathered in the monastery, bearing scents and flowers and other offerings, to listen to the Buddha’s sermon in the afternoon. Then the Buddha arrived in a miraculous way agreeable to the audience and sat down on His sacred Buddha-seat, which was prepared in the Dhamma Hall (the round pavilion where sermons were delivered). Then He gave a talk on the Dhamma which was appropriate to the length of the time available and dismissed the audience when He knew the time was up. The people, having saluted Him, left the place.
(All this was the Buddha’s daytime series of activities after the meal.)
(3) The Buddha’s Activities in The First Watch of The Night (Purima-yāma Buddha-kicca)
Having finished His daytime activities after the meal, the Buddha, if He wanted to bathe, rose from His Buddha-seat and went to the place where the attendant monk had fetched the water for His bath. Taking the bath-robe from His attendant’s hand, He entered the bathroom.
While the Buddha was bathing, the attendant monk brought a seat for Him and placed it somewhere in the fragrant chamber. Having bathed, He put on the well-dyed and doubly folded robe, girding His waist, with His upper robe under the right arm and over the left shoulder, He then sat alone in the Buddha-seat, which was prepared in the fragrant chamber for a moment of recreation.
After a while, monks would arrive from their respective day-resorts and night-resorts to wait upon Him. At such meetings, some monks presented their problems, some asked about meditation subjects, while others made requests for a discourse. To them all, the Buddha gave His help by fulfilling their wishes and thereby spending the early hours of the night. (All these were the Buddha’s series of activities in the first watch of the night.)
(4) The Buddha’s Activities in The Middle Watch of The Night (Majjhima-yāma Buddhakicca)
When the monks departed, after paying their salutations to the Buddha as that series of the Buddha’s activities was over, devas and Brahmās, from all over the ten thousand worldsystems, took the opportunity of approaching Him to ask questions which had cropped up in their thoughts. The questions asked were extensive and covered a wide range of topics but the Buddha answered them, leaving none unanswered. Thus, He let the hours around midnight pass.
(All this was the Buddha’s series of activities in the middle watch.)
(5) The Buddha’s Activities in The Last Watch of The Night (Pacchima-yāma Buddhakicca)
The last watch of the night (or the daybreak) was divided into three parts: the first part was used for walking up and down in order to ease the strain due to His sitting posture since dawn; the second part was taken up by His lying down on His right without losing His mindfulness in the fragrant chamber, and in the third part, He rose from lying, sat cross-legged, surveying the world of sentient beings through His twofold Buddha-Eye, namely, Āsayānusaya-ñāṇa and Indriya-paropariyatti-ñāṇa, to find out clearly individuals, who had done in their past lives principal (adhikāra) meritorious deeds, such as dāna, sīla, etc., in the presence of former Buddhas. This is the exposition given in the Saṃyutta Commentary, Sīlakkhandha Commentary and other works.
The exposition of the Sutta Nipāta Commentary, reads as follows:
The morning time was divided into four periods: in the first period the Buddha walked to and fro; in the second period, He lay down on His right side in the fragrant chamber without losing mindfulness, which was noble lying. The third period was spent by engaging in the jhāna of arahatta-phala-samāpatti. In the fourth period, He was absorbed in the jhāna of mahākaruṇā-samāpatti and He surveyed the world of sentient beings by the aforesaid twofold Buddha-Eye so that He could see what beings were of less ‘dust’ in their eyes, what beings were of more ‘dust’ and so on.
(All these were the Buddha’s series of activities in the last watch of the night.) Here ends the account of the five series of the Buddha’s activities.
Thus it was customary for the Buddha to carry out diligently the five series of His activities daily wherever He stayed. In accordance with that practice, when the Buddha was now dwelling, during the eleventh vassa, at the Dakkhiṇāgiri Monastery, He also performed these duties. One day, when He did “the survey of the world of sentient beings through his Buddha-Eye,” which was one of His activities during the last watch of the night, He saw in His vision, by His Omniscience, the Brahmin Kasibhāradvāja who was endowed with adhikāra merit that would contribute to his attainment of arahatship. On further reflection, He foresaw thus: “The Brahmin will today hold the ploughing ceremony. When I get to his ploughing field, My conversation with him will take place. At the end of My conversation, on listening to My discourse, he will don the robe and become an arahat.” The Buddha then remained at Dakkhiṇāgiri Monastery waiting for an opportune moment.