The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Notes on the Dhammacakka-pavattana 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 the Dhamma Ratanā. 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 16 - Notes on the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta

Some Important Remarks.

We shall now consider some important points regarding the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta and the Anatta-lakkhaṇa Sutta one by one.

Before the advent of the Buddha, there appeared in India some leaders of religious sects who called themselves samaṇas. Some of them practised and preached sensuous way of life as the conduct of samaṇas while others practised and preached a self-tormenting mode of life as the conduct of samaṇas. During the time when the world was thus shrouded with the darkness of the two extreme doctrines of self-indulgence and self-torment, each claiming as the true good practice. On the full moon of Vesākha, at dusk, in the year 103 of the Great Era, the Buddha delivered the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta.

The Buddha began the discourse with the words: “Bhikkhus these two extremes should not be followed by one who has renounced the world.” And as soon as these words were uttered by the Buddha, due to the Buddha’s powers, they echoed throughout the ten thousand world-systems which constitute the birth Sphere of the Buddha, and filled the entire world, with Avīci Niraya realm at the bottom and the highest (Brahmā) realm at the top. By that time, Brahmās, numbering eighteen crores, who had matured root of merit as sufficing condition to perceive the Four Truths had already assembled at the Deer Park, Isipatana, where the sermon was to be delivered. When this first sermon was delivered by the Buddha, the sun was setting in the west and the moon was appearing on the eastern horizon.

The theme of the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta is this:

The Buddha exhorted the Group of Five ascetics to avoid the two extremes of selfindulgence and self-mortification and pointed to them the middle way, which consists of eight factors, as the proper course of practice. Then He briefly expounded the Four Truths. Next, He declares the essential features of Buddhahood which requires three stages of knowledge regarding each of the Four Truths and proclaims that He is the Buddha because He has fulfilled those requirements.

As the discourse continues, Koṇḍañña, who ‘entered the stream of knowledge’, was the first sotāpanna, a disciple established in the First Path. Thus, the wheel of the Dhamma was set rolling and the Ariya Truth became established in the world. The great event was cheered by the terrestrial devas whose loud applause spread among celestial devas and Brahmās. The great earth quaked in joyous approval. A wondrous light emanating from the Buddha, caused by His mind and arising from temperature, infinitely superior to the personal effulgence of the greatest of the devas or Brahmās, arose, thanks to the allknowing wisdom.

At the end of the discourse, the delightful satisfaction that had begun to arise at the start of the discourse could not be contained by the Buddha who made the joyous utterance: “Koṇḍañña has seen the Truth. Indeed Koṇḍañña has seen the Truth.” (This joyous utterance also spread to the ten thousand world-systems.) Then Koṇḍañña requested the Buddha to make him a bhikkhu. The Buddha called him: “Come bhikkhu”, and at that very instant, the Venerable Koṇḍañña became a bhikkhu who had the distinction of being called up by the Buddha himself.

This is the gist of the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta.

Some salient points in the Dhammacakka.

What is it that is termed “Dhammacakka”?

Dhammacakka is a term referred to two kinds of the knowledge of the Buddha: the penetrative knowledge (paṭivedha ñāṇa) (i.e. the four magga ñāṇas) and the power of exposition (desanā ñāṇa). I shall expand this:

The Four Path Knowledges, consisting of the twelve aspects of the Four Truths, that arose in the Bodhisatta who was about to attain Perfect Enlightenment is the Dhammacakka; and the power of exposition on the self - same twelve aspects of the Four Truths, which was making clear to the Group of Five is also the Dhammacakka. They are called Dhammacakka, the wheel of the Dhamma or Righteousness, because these two kinds of Buddha-Knowledge destroy all the defilements just as a powerful missile destroys all enemies.

Both Knowledges arose in the heart of the Buddha. By means of them the Buddha caused the Wheel of the Dhamma to turn, caused it to happen.

This Wheel is said to be turning up to the moment when the Venerable Koṇḍañña and the eighteen crores of Brahmās attained sotāpatti-phala. That is because the function of the Wheel did not end till that precise moment. From that moment, when the first (full-fledged ariyas) sotāpatti-phala puggalas in Koṇḍañña and the eighteen crores of Brahmās appeared in the world, the Wheel of the Dhamma is said to have been turned, i.e. the Kingdom of Righteousness became established. This is because since the time when the Teaching of Buddha Kassapa became extinct, up to this point under Buddha Gotama, nobody had been able to turn this Wheel through the above-mentioned two Buddha-Knowledges. (Sārattha Tika)

In the matter of penetration of the Four Truths, the Truth of Cessation is penetrated or perceived through having Nibbāna as object of the mind. The remaining three Truths are perceived in their respective functions. It means that the Four Truths are simultaneously revealed at the instant magga ñāṇa dispels bewilderment or ignorance that had concealed the Four Truths.

(These are some salient points on the Dhammacakka-pavattana Sutta)

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