The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Buddha’s Discourse to Sakka (Sakka Panha 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 how the Āṭānāṭiya Paritta came to be Taught. 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 2 - The Buddha’s Discourse to Sakka (Sakka Pañha Sutta)

At one time, the Buddha was residing at the Indasāla Cave where the Odina woodier tree stood on the slope of the Vediyaka hill, north of Ambasaṇḍa brahmin village, which lay to the east of the City of Rājagaha, in the province of Magadha.

(The brahmin village was known as Ambasanda because it was situated by the side of a mango grove. The Vediyaka hill got its name from a grove of gracefully straight and round trees like columns of sapphire growing around the hill. Indasāla Cave got its name from the Odina woodier tree that stood at its entrance. It was originally a natural stone cave which was later embellished with engravings.)

Signs of Imminent Death appeared to Sakka

As the Buddha was staying at the Indasāla Cave where the Odina woodier tree stood on the slope of the Vediyaka hill near Rājagaha, there appeared to Sakka the five signs that proclaim the approaching death of a deva; (these are: 1. the flowers adorning his person wither; 2. the dress become soiled; 3. the armpit sweat; 4 personal appearance declines; 5. listlessness sets in.) Sakka knew these signs well and said to himself: “Alas, my life span has ended.”

When the five signs of imminent death appear to devas, those with little merit in store are gravely concerned about their next (oncoming) existence. These devas with vast store of merit remember their previous good deeds of giving, observing moral precepts and achieving concentration, and being assured of a good destination in the higher deva realms, remain unperturbed.

As for Sakka, he was fearful and despondent, for he would now lose all the greatness of a

Sakka, namely, the Tāvatiṃsa Deva realm which is ten thousand yojanas wide; the Vejayantā palatial mansion that is a thousand yojanas tall; the Sudhammā Assembly Hall, three hundred yojanas wide, for the hearing of the Dhamma; the Coral Tree (the Pariochattaka) which is a hundred yojanas high; the Paṇḍukambalā stab of emerald, which is sixty yojanas long, fifty yojanas wide and fifteen yojanas high; twenty five million celestial dancers; his follower devas who are denizens of Catumahārāja realm and Tāvatiṃsa realm; and celestial parks known as Nandavana Park, Cittalatā Park, Missaka Park, Phāsuka Park.

Then Sakka pondered: “Is there any samaṇa or brāhmana outside the Buddha’s Teaching who can allay my worries and fears of death and help perpetuate my Lordship of Devas?” He saw none. He continued pondering and he thought of the Buddha: “The Buddha can allay fears and worries that oppress hundreds of thousands of Sakkas like myself.” Thus he had a strong desire to see the Buddha.

“Where is the Bhagavā residing just now?” he considered. He saw that the Buddha was residing at the Indasāla Cave. He then said to his companions, the Tāvatiṃsa devas: “Friends, the Bhagavā is residing at the Indasāla Cave where the Odina woodier tree stands on the slope of the Vediyaka hill near Rājagaha. Friends, it were well if we go there to see the Bhagava.” The Tāvatiṃsa devas said: “Very well, Lord.”

(Herein, the time and circumstances of Sakka’s seeing the Buddha may be noted. A few days ago, Sakka had paid a visit to the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery, in the company of his close attendants such as Mātali but without a big retinue. At that time the Buddha saw that Sakka was not yet ripe for enlightenment and that after two or three days' time he would become obsessed with death after seeing signs of nearing the end of his life, and then he would visiting Him in the company of devas from both the Catumahārājika and Tāvatiṃsa Deva realms to ask fourteen questions and that, at the end of the question concerning equanimity, he would attain Stream-Entry along with eighty thousand devas of Catumahārājika and Tāvatiṃsa Deva realms. Seeing this situation, the Buddha dwelled in the jhānic absorption of arahatta-phala so that Sakka did not get an opportunity to see him.

On his part, Sakka was thinking: “About three days back the Bhagavā did not give me audience because I went to see him alone. Perhaps, I was not endowed with sufficing condition (of ripened merit) to gain enlightenment. It is customary for the Bhagavā to go to the end of the world-system to preach the Doctrine if there is someone who has sufficing condition for enlightenment. This time, if I go to the Bhagavā along with a company of followers, there must be at least one of them who is endowed with sufficing condition and the Bhagavā would discourse to him. In that way, I shall have my opportunity to hear the discourse which will set my troubled mind at ease.” That was why he called the Tāvatiṃsa devas to accompany him. (This is as explained in the Commentary.)

Then Sakka, on second thought, considered that it would not be wise for him to go straight to the Buddha in the company of devas from Catumahārājika and Tāvatiṃsa. “It would look somewhat lacking in grace on my part. This Pañcasikha Deva, is well acquainted with the Bhagavā, being used to rendering personal service to the Bhagavā. He has the privilege of seeing the Bhagavā and asking questions freely. It would be well if I were to send him first, apprise my coming to the Bhagavā and obtain the Bhagava’s permission, then only I will put my questions to the Bhagavā.” Accordingly, he said to Pañcasikha: “O Pañcasikha, the Bhagavā is now residing at Indasāla Cave where the Odina woodier tree stands on the slope of the Vediyaka hill near Rājagaha. It would be well if we approach the Bhagavā there.”

“Very well, Lord,” said Pañcasikha. Then taking his lute known as Beluvapaṇḍu, and strumming it in accompaniment with a song, thereby letting the other devas know that Sakka was about to go somewhere, stood by the side of Sakka.

At the musical signal of Pañcasikha, Tāvatiṃsa devas got ready to go. Then just as soon as a strong man were to flex his bent arm, or bend his spread-out arm, they suddenly appeared on the Vediyaka hill lying to the north of Ambasaṇḍa brahmin village, eastwards from Rājagaha in the province of Magadha.

At that time, the Vediyaka hill and Ambasaṇḍa brahmin village were aglow with celestial lights. People living in that area were in awe with wonder at the extraordinary glowing of lights. “Today the Vediyaka hill seems aflame! There are so many glowing lights on the Vediyaka hill and above Ambasaṇḍa brahmin village! What is the matter?” People were talking in great wonder, with goose flesh forming on their skin.

(It should be noted that the visit to the Buddha by Sakka and company was rather too early. They were there after nightfall, when even children had not gone to bed. It was the custom of devas and Brahmās to visit the Buddha around midnight. But now that Sakka was so uneasy at the thought of death that he made the visit in the first watch of the night.)

Then Sakka said to Pañcasikha: “O Pañcasikha, Buddhas generally dwell in jhāna. If it is the time while the Bhagavā is dwelling in jhāna, it is not proper for person like me who is not free of greed, hatred and bewilderment. Go now and ask permission of the Bhagavā for me to see him. Having got permission, we shall go near the Bhagavā.”

“Very well, Lord,” said Pañcasikha. Then carrying the Beluvapaṇḍu lute in his left arm, he drew near to the Indasāla Cave. He took up his position not too close to the Buddha and not too far either, just a suitable distance away from where the Buddha could hear his music.

Deva Pañcasikha’s Songs to The Accompaniment of His Lute

From that appropriate position Deva Pañcasikha played his lute singing songs[1] on the subjects of the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the Arahat, and of sensual pleasures.

(1) Vande te pitaraṃ bhaadde timbaruṃ sūriyavacchase
yena jātāsi kalyānī Ānanda jananī mama

My noble Lady of glowing complexion like the radiant sun
Offspring of Lord Timbaru!
You are as fair as fair can be,
Possessing the five qualities of feminine beauty,
The source of my delight.
Out of my fondness for you,
I worship your father Timbaru.

(2) Vātova sedataṃ kanto pānīyaṃva pipsato
Aṅgīrasi piyāmesi dhammo arahatāmiva

(3) Āturasseva bhesajjaṃ bhojanaṃva jighacchato
Parinibāpaya maiṃ bhadde jalantamiva vārinā

(2-3) O glowing complexioned Lady!
Just as a sweating man welcomes a cool breeze,
Just as a thirsty man welcomes drinking water;
Just as the arahat welcomes the Dhamma;
Just as one afflicted by malady welcomes the medicine,
Just as a famished one welcomes the food.
So also I, the deva with Five Knots, adore you.
Just as water quells the blaze,
O my noble Lady!
Let your smile quell the fire of passion in me!

(4) Sītokadaṃ pokkharaniṃ yuttaṃ kiñjakkhareeṇunā
Nāgo ghammābhitattova ogāhe te thamīdaraṃ

Just as a tusker oppressed by heat
Wishes to descend into the cool waters of a lily pond,
So also I would fain descend into your soft bosom.

(5) Accaṅkusova nāgova jitaṃ me tuttatomaraṃ
Kāraṇaṃ nappajānāmi sammatto lakkhanūruyā

O my noble Lady! Just as a tusker in musk,
Defying the pike that checks him, is blinded by passion,
I too, being infatuated with your graceful thighs,
Am blinded by passion.

(6) Tayi gedhitacittosmi cittaṃ vipariṇāmitaṃ.
Patigantuṃ na sakkomi vaṃkaghastova ambujo.

O, Lady of radiant complexion!
How I wish to possess you!
Just as a fish that has swallowed the hook.
Is unable to cast it out,
So also my fervour for you is irreversible,
O, how my mind flusters!

(7) Vamūrusaja maṃ bhadde saja main mandalocane
Palissaja maṃ kalyāni etaṃme abhipattitaṃ

O, Lady with lovely thighs!
May you, my beloved, embrace me gently.
O you Perfection personified!
How I yearn for your tender embrace!

(8) Appako vata me santo kāmo vellitake siyā
Anebhahāvo samuppādi arahanteva dakkhiṇā

Previously, I had known little sensual desire.
But since I have set my eyes, on you,
The possessor of long hair bent at the tips,
Sensual desire has risen by leaps and bounds in me,
Just as the fervent enthusiasm that arises
In one who makes offerings to an Arahat,

(9) Yaṃ me atthi kataṃ punnam Arahantesu tādisu
Taṃ me sabbaṅgakalyāṇi tayā saddhiṃ vipaccataṃ

O Maiden blessed with the five feminine charms!
In me there is past merit.
On account of serving Arahats, the stable ones.
May that merit now result in my nuptial tie with you.

(10) Yaṃ me atthi kataṃ punnaṃ asamiṃ pathavimaṇḍale
Taṃ me sabbaṅgakalyāṇi taya saddhiṃ vipaccataṃ

O Maiden blessed with the five feminine charms!
In me there is past merit (such as alms-offerings)
Done upon the entire-expanse of this great earth.
May that merit result in my nuptial tie with you.

(11) Sakyaputtova jhānena ekodi nipako sato
Amataṃ muni jigīsāno tamahāṃ sūriyavacchase

The sage, son of sakya clan (born of King Suddhodāna and
Queen Mahā Māyā) who delights in jhāna and who resorts to seclusion,
Who is wise and mindful,
Desires for the Deathless (Nibbāna)
O, my Lady of radiant complexion!
Likewise I desire for you.

(12) Yathāpi muni nandeyya patvā sambodhimuttamaṃ
Evaṃ nandeyyaṃ kalyāṇi missībhāvaṃ gato tayā

O Embodiment of Elegance!
The Sage, having attained the Supremely Perfect Wisdom
(through the seven purities),
Delights in his Enlightenment.
So also, it would delight me greatly.
If I were to be joined with you.

(13) Sakko ce me varaṃ dajjā tāvatimsā namissaro
Tā haṃ bhadde vareyyāhe evaṃ kāmo daḷho mama

O, my beloved! If Sakka, Lord of Tāvatiṃsa,
were to grant me a boon of my choice,
I would opt for you
(rather than for Lordship of Devas).
O my noble Lady!
So firm is my fondness for you.

(14) Sālaṃ va na ciram phullaṃ pitaraṃ te sumedhase.
Vandamāno namassāmi yassācetādisī pajā.

O my Lady of great intelligence!
Like the sudden blooming forth of the coral tree,
You came into existence
As the illustrious daughter of Lord Timbaru
Whom I worship on account of you.

At the end of Pañcasikha’s songs, the Buddha praised him: “Pañcasikha, your lute is in perfect harmony with your singing: neither the lute nor the singing dominated (or out rivals) each other.”

(Note: The Buddha praised Pañcasikha not because he enjoyed the music, but only for some purpose. For He (being an arahat) is neutral towards all pleasurable or painful sensations because He is possessed of equanimity in six ways (vide Koṭhika Sutta of Saḷāyatana Vagga, Saṃyutta Pāli). Yet He openly praises Pañcasikha to let him know that He approves of the devas action. If He did not give expressed approval, Pañcasikha might withdraw wrongly thinking that he was not welcome. In which case Sakka and company would not have the opportunity to put Sakka’s questions and to hear the Buddha’s answers to him that would lead to their enlightenment.)

After praising Pañcasikha, the Buddha asked him: "Pañcasikha, when did you compose these verses on the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the arahat and sensual pleasures?”

Pañcasikha replied: "Venerable Sir, at one time the Bhagavā was staying at the foot of the Ajapāta Banyan Tree, near the bank of the Nerañjarā river, in the Uruvelā Forest (on the eighth week after the Buddha’s Enlightenment). Venerable Sir, during that time I fell in love with Sūrijavacchasā, daughter of Lord Timbaru. She, on her part, was in love with Sikhandī, son of Mātali, Sakka’s charioteer. Venerable Sir, when I saw that I had to lose Sūrijavacchasā, I went to the mansion of Lord Timbaru and played my Beluvapaṇḍu lute, singing these verses on the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the arahat, and sensual pleasures.” (The author repeats the verses here.) Venerable Sir, on my playing the lute and singing those verses, Surijavacchasa said to me: ‘Lord, I had never seen the Bhagavā myself, but while I was dancing at the gathering of Tāvatiṃsa devas at the Assembly Hall for hearing the Dhamma, I had heard of the Bhagavā. Today, you are singing in praise of the Bhagavā, and so you get your opportunity of meeting me.’ Venerable Sir, since that day I had never got the opportunity to see her.”

Sakka goes before The Buddha’s Presence

Sakka was glad that Pañcasikha was conversing cordially with the Buddha and said to him: “O Pañcasikha, go and say to the Bhagavā on my behalf: ‘Sakka, Lord of Devas, and his ministers with their retinues make obeisance with their heads at the feet of the Bhagavā.” “Very well, Lord,” said Pañcasikha, and having approached the Buddha, he said: “Venerable Sir, Sakka and his ministers with their retinues make obeisance with their heads at the feet of the Bhagavā.”

Thereupon, the Buddha said: “Very well, Pañcasikha, may Sakka, his ministers and their retinues be well. Indeed, all beings——devas, human beings, asuras, nāgas, gandhabbas——want to be well.” (This is the customary mode of response of the Buddha to the arrival of mighty devas.)

When the Buddha had said that Sakka entered the Indasāla Cave and making obeisance to Him and stood at a suitable place. Pañcasikha and other Tāvatiṃsa devas also followed Sakka into the cave, made their obeisance to the Buddha and stood at a suitable place.

The Indasāla Cave was not a big one to accommodate this big crowd. However, at that time, the cave became not only spacious enough for the big crowd but its floor, which was normally uneven was then even; the darkness inside also gave way to the dazzling lights of the devas- only that the lights were not as magnificent as the Buddha’s aura which surrounded (enveloped) Him to a range of eighty cubits, where the deva’s lights were outshone by the Buddha radiance.

Then the Buddha said to Sakka: “Wonderful indeed Sakka, unprecedented it is Sakka, that Sakka of Kosiya clan find time to come here amidst the multifarious duties.”

Sakka said: “Venerable Sir, I have been intending to see the Bhagavā for a long time but various matters concerning Tāvatiṃsa devas had held me back.”

(In this context, “various matters concerning Tāvatiṃsa devas” may be explained here. Sakka as Lord of Devas, has to act as judge or arbiter in disputes between Tāvatiṃsa devas. Devas are born as full grown adults as male or female in the bosom of deva parents. Their spouses also appear on the bed simultaneously. Female attendants to those spouses of devas appear surrounding the bed. Slaves also appear inside the mansion. For that kind of clear-cut cases no disputes arise as to ownership. Devas that appear at the boundary between two mansions form a bone of contention regarding the question of who owns these devas. Disputes arise on that account which are referred to Sakka for a decision.

Sakka would then adjudge ownership of those devas that appear nearer to one of the disputants mansions. Where the distance of the appearance of a certain deva is the same, the deva that was born (i.e. appear suddenly) facing either of the disputants' mansions is declared by Sakka as belonging to that mansion. If that deva was born without facing any of the two mansions then the case has to be concluded by declaring that neither side wins the dispute, and that the deva in question belongs to Sakka. This is the nature of Sakka’s duty in matters concerning Tāvatiṃsa devas. Besides those duties, normal life of devas in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures also take up much of Sakka’s time.——Commentary

Then Sakka continued: “Venerable Sir, on another occasion (i.e. about three days ago) the Bhagavā was staying at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatthi, (in the chamber built of celestial wood, donated by King Pasenadi of Kosala). I had gone there in the hope of paying my respect to the Bhagavā but, at that time, the Bhagavā was dwelling in jhāna. Bhūjati, Queen of Vessavanna, the Great Guardian King, was standing in worshipping posture by the Bhagavā then. I had said to her: “Sister, say to the Bhagavā on my behalf: ‘Venerable Sir, Sakka, Lord of Devas, and his ministers with their retinues make obeisance with their heads at the feet of the Bhagavā.’ To this, Bhūjati replied to me: “Lord Sakka, this is not the time to see the Bhagavā; He is in solitary seclusion.” Then I said to her: “Sister, in that case, when He rises from jhāna (phala-samāpatti), say to Him, on my behalf: ‘Venerable Sir, Sakka, Lord of Devas, and his ministers with their retinues make obeisance with their heads at the feet of the Bhagavā.’ How is it, Venerable Sir, did Bhūjati report to You of my message and do You recall it?”

The Buddha said: “Sakka, Lord of Devas, that celestial maiden did report to Me your message and I do recall it. As a matter of fact, I rose from the absorption in the jhāna of

Fruition simultaneously with the sound of the rolling of your chariots wheels.” (Note: There were four principal mansions where the Buddha resided in the Jetavana Monastic compound, namely: (1) Kareri Kuṭi, with the magnificent array of water sycamore trees at its entrance and whose boughs and branches intertwined with one another, provided a pleasant cool shelter as if a pandal had been put up; (2) Kosamba Kuṭi with the great ‘Ceylon’ oak tree whose foliage provided shelter at its entrance; (3) monastic building built of scented wood known as the Gandha kuṭi;(4) monastic building built of celestial wood, called Salaḷāgara monastery. Each of them cost one hundred thousand pieces of silver. The Salaḷāgara monastery was donated by King Pasenadi of Kosala; the other three were donated by Anāthapiṇḍika.

     ——Commentary on the-Dīgha Nikāya, Vol 2——

Prior to the discourse on Sakka’s questions, when the Buddha was residing in the Salaḷāgara monastery, Sakka had paid a visit to the monastery but as his faculties were not fully ripe yet, the Buddha did not receive him, but continued to dwell on the jhānic absorption of Fruition for a predetermined duration.

Bhūjati was a Queen of Vessavanna, the Great Guardian King. She was a Once-Returner, an ariya at the second stage of enlightenment, and so did not find deva pleasures agreeable to her. She spent her time in making obeisance to the Buddha with her joined palms raised above her head.

Sakka returned home after leaving his message with Bhūjati, after paying his respect toward the Buddha in Salaḷāgara monastery. As he drove away skywards, the wheels of his chariot filled the whole Jetavana monastery compound with a strange musical sound as though five kinds of musical instruments were playing. At that very moment, the Buddha rose from His predetermined dwelling in the attainment of arahatta-phala. That being so, the Buddha’s first sense cognition thought was the sound of the chariot. However, it must be noted that the Buddha did not rise from jhāna absorption due to that sound; it was only the predetermined time for arising.

     ——Commentary on the Dīgha Nikāya, Vol 2——

Sakka’s Report to The Buddha

Sakka continued to say: “Venerable Sir, I had learnt from those Tāvatiṃsa devas, who were there previous to me, that during the time of the appearance of Buddhas, who are Homage-Worthy and Perfectly Self-Enlightened, the number of asuras decline and the number of devas swell. Venerable Sir, I have personally observed this fact that when the Buddha, who is Homage-Worthy and Perfectly Self-Enlightened, appears in the world, the number of asuras decline and the number of devas swell.”

[The Story of Deva Gopaka]

[The Story of Magha]

Footnotes and references:


The word-for-word renderings in the original Myanmar, beautiful and learned, are penned by the Sibhani Sayadaw who presided over the Fifth Buddhist Council in Mandalay. He was awarded (1) “Narinda bhisiri Saddhamma dhaja mahā dhammarājādhi rājaguru” and “Narinda bhisīri Sadhammajotipala dhaja mahā dhammarājādhi rājaguru” title by King Mindon and “Narindha bhi dhaja atuladhipati sīri pavara mahā dhammarājā dhirājaguru” title by King Thipaw. The Sayadaw wrote the Burmese meaning of the songs in his treatise “Kavi maṇḍana medanī”. Only the gist of each song is given here in English prose.

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