by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Renunciation of Sumedha 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 great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
[Note, for the actual chapter, see Renunciaton of Sumedha]
The Five Defects of a Walkway
(1) A walkway that is rough and rugged hurts the feet of one who walks on it;blisters appear. Consequently, meditation cannot be practised with full mental concentration. On the other hand, comfort and ease provided by a soft and even-surfaced walkway is helpful to complete practice of meditation. Roughness and ruggedness therefore is the first defect of a walkway.
(2) If there is a tree inside or in the middle or by the side of a walkway, one who walks without due care on that walkway can get hurt on the forehead or on the head by hitting himself against the tree. The presence of a tree is therefore the second defect of a walkway.
(3) If a walkway is covered by shrubs and bushes, one who walks on it in the dark can tread on reptiles, etc. and kill them (although unintentionally). The presence of shrubs and bushes, therefore, is the third defect of a walkway.
(4) In making a walkway, it is important that it has three lanes. The middle and main one is straight and of 60 cubits in length and one and a half cubit in breath. On either side of it are two smaller lanes, each a cubit wide. Should the middle lane be too narrow, say, only a cubit or half a cubit, there is the possibilities of hurting one’s legs or hands through an accident. Being too narrow, therefore, is the fourth defect of a walkway.
(5) Walking on a walkway which is too wide, one may get distracted; one’s mind is not composed then. Being too wide, therefore, is the fifth defect of a walkway.
(Here follows the explanation of the Pāli word ‘pañcadosa’ as contained in the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary. This is left out from our translation.)
The Eight Comforts of a Recluse
The eight comforts of a recluse (samaṇasukha), mentioned here are described as the eight blessings of a recluse (samaṇabhadra) in the Sonaka Jātaka of the Satthi Nipāta. The following is the Jātaka story in brief:
The two boys were brought up together and when they came of age, they went to Taxila to study. After finishing their education, they left Taxila together and went on a long tour to acquire a wider and practical knowledge of various arts and crafts and local customs. In due course, they arrived at the royal garden of the King of Bārāṇasī and entered the city the following day.
On that very day, the festival of Veda recitations known as Brāhmaṇavācaka was to be held and milk-rice was prepared and seats were arranged for the occasion. On entering the city, Prince Arindama and his friend were invited into a house and given seats. Seeing that the seat for the prince was covered with a white cloth while that for him was covered with red cloth, Sonaka knew from that omen that “Today, my friend Arindama will become King of Bārāṇasī and I will be appointed general.”
After the meal, the two friends went back to the royal garden. It was the seventh day after the King’s demise, and ministers were looking for a person who was worthy of kingship by sending the state chariot in search of him. The chariot left the city, made its way to the garden and stopped at the entrance. At that moment, Prince Arindama was lying asleep on an auspicious stone couch with his head covered and Sonaka was sitting near him. As soon as Sonaka heard the sound of music, he thought to himself: “The state chariot has come for Arindama. Today, he will become King and give me the post of his Commander-in-Chief. I do not really want to have such a position. When Arindama leaves the garden, I will renounce the world to become an ascetic,” and he went to a corner and hid himself.
The chief adviser and ministers of Bārāṇasī anointed Prince Arindama, King, even on the very stone couch and with great ceremonial pomp and grandeur took him into the city. Thus Prince Arindama became King of Bārāṇasī. Lost in the sudden turn of events and attended upon by a large numbers of courtiers and retinue, he totally forgot his friend Sonaka.
When King Arindama had left for the city, Sonaka appeared from his hiding place and sat on the stone couch. At that time, he saw a dry leaf of sāla (shores robusta) falling right in front of him and he contemplated: “Like this sāla leaf, my body will certainly decay and oppressed by old age, I will definitely die and fall to the ground.” With his religious emotion thus aroused, he at once engaged himself in Vipassanā meditation, and, at the very sitting, there arose in him the enlightenment of a Paccekabuddha, and he became a Paccekabuddha himself. His lay appearance vanished and he assumed a new appearance of an ascetic. Making an utterance of joy: “Now I have no more rebirth!” he went to the cave of Nandamūlaka.
Prince Arindama, on the other hand, remained intoxicated with kingly pleasures. Only after some forty years, he suddenly remembered his childhood friend. Then, he yearned to see him and wondering where he would be staying then.
But, receiving no news or clues about his friend’s whereabouts, he uttered repeatedly the following verse:
“Whom shall I give a hundred coins for hearing and bringing me good news about Sonaka? Whom shall I give a thousand coins for seeing Sonaka in person and telling me how to meet him? Who, whether young or old, would come and inform me of my friend Sonaka, my playmate with whom I had played in the dust?”
People heard the song and everybody sang the same, believing it to be his favourite.
After 50 years, a number of children had been born to the King, the eldest one being Dīghāvu. At that time, Paccekabuddha Soṇaka thought to himself thus: “King Arindama is wanting to see me. I will go to him and shower upon him the gift of thought-provoking sermons on the disadvantages of sensuality and the advantages of renunciation so that he would incline to lead an ascetic life.” Accordingly, He by His psychic power, appeared in the royal gardens. Having heard a boy singing repeatedly the aforementioned song of King Arindama while chopping wood, the Paccekabuddha taught him a verse in response to the King’s.
The boy went to the King and recited the responding song, which gave the clue of his friend’s whereabouts. Then, the King marched in military procession to the garden and paid respect to the Paccekabuddha. But, being a man of worldly pleasures, the King looked down upon Him and said: “What a destitute you are, living a wretched lonely life as this.” The Paccekabuddha rejected the King’s censure by replying: “Never is he a destitute who enjoys the bliss of the Dhamma! Only he who dissociates himself from the Dhamma and practises what is not righteous is a destitute! Besides, he is evil himself and forms a refuge for other evil person.”
Then he informed the Paccekabuddha that his name was Arindama and that he was known by all as a King of Bārāṇasī, and asked if the holy man was living a happy life.
Then the Paccekabuddha uttered the eight verses in praise of the eight blessings of a recluse (samanabhadra):
(1) Great King, a recluse, who has gone forth from a household life to a homeless state and who is free of the worries of wealth, feels happy at all places and at all times (not only in your gardens and at this moment). Great King, such a recluse does not have to keep grain in stores or in jars (unlike lay people who do the hoarding and whose greed grows for a long time). A recluse lives on food prepared in donor’s homes and obtained by going on alms-round; he partakes of such food with due contemplation. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from non-hoarding of wealth and grain.)
(2) [There are two kinds of blameworthy food (savajapinda). As mentioned in the Vinaya, the first kind is the food obtained by one of the improper means, such as by healing the sick and so on, or by one of the five wrong manners of livelihood. The other blameworthy kind is food taken without due contemplation although the food may have been properly obtained.]
Great King, a noble recluse duly contemplates while eating the food that has been obtained blamelessly. He who has thus blamelessly eaten his blameless food is not oppressed by any form of sensuality. Freedom from oppression by sensuality is the second blessing of a recluse who has neither wants nor worries. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from seeking and taking of blameless food.)
(3) (The food that has been sought properly and eaten with due contemplation by a worldling may be called “peaceful food” (nibbutapinda), that is to say, the food that does not incite craving. In reality, however, only an arahat’s food is “peaceful” i.e. it does not incite craving.)
Great King, a noble recluse takes peaceful food only. He is thus not oppressed by any form of sensuality. Freedom from oppression by sensuality is the third blessing of a recluse who has no wants nor worries. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from taking peacefully food only.)
(4) Great King, a noble recluse, who goes on alms-round in towns or villages without attachment to donors of requisites, does not adhere to greed and hatred. (Clinging wrongly to sense object in the manner of a thorn is called dosasaṅga, faulty adherence.) Freedom from such clinging is the fourth blessing of a recluse who has no wants nor worries. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from nonattachment to male or female donor and from non-association with them.)
(5) Great King, a recluse, who has extra requisites which are not used by him, entrust them to a donor for security. Later on when he hears such (and such) a donor’s house has been gutted by fire, he is greatly distressed and has no peace of mind. On the other hand, another recluse has only those requisites that are on his body or that he carries along with him, just like the wings of a bird that go with it wherever it flies. He suffers no loss when a town or a village is destroyed by fire. Immunity from loss of requisites through fire is the fifth blessing of a recluse. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from not being victimised by fire.)
(6) Great King, when a town or a village is plundered by robbers, a recluse, who like Me wears or carries along his requisites, loses nothing (while others who have extra requisites suffer loss through plundering by robbers and know no peace of mind). Freedom from the trouble of looking after one’s possessions is the sixth blessing of a recluse. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from feeling secure against robbers.)
(7) Great King, a recluse, who has only the eight requisites as his possession, moves freely without being stopped, interrogated or arrested on the road where robbers waylay or security officers patrol. This is the seventh blessing of a recluse. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from harmless travelling on the road where robbers or security men are waiting.)
(8) Great King, a recluse, who has only the eight requisites as his possession, can go wherever he likes without taking a long look back (at his old place). Such possibility of moving is the eighth blessing of a recluse who has no possessions. (By this is explained the comfort that comes from freely going about without yearning for his old place.)
King Arindama interrupted Paccekabuddha Soṇaka’s sermon on the blessings of a recluse and asked: “Though you are speaking in praise of the blessings of a recluse, I cannot appreciate them as I am always in pursuit of pleasures. Sensual pleasures, both human and divine, I cherish. In what way can I gain human and divine existence?” Paccekabuddha Soṇaka replied that those who relish sensuality are destined to be reborn in unhappy abodes, and only those who abandon it are not destined to be reborn there. By way of an illustration, He told the story of a crow that joyously rode on a dead elephant floating into the ocean and lost its life. Paccekabuddha then spoke of the blemishes of sensual pleasures and departed, travelling through space.
Being immensely moved by religious emotion as a result of the Paccekabuddha’s exhortation, King Arindama handed over kingship to his son Dighavu and left for the Himalayas. After becoming a recluse, living on fruit and cultivating and developing jhāna through meditation on the four sublime modes of living (Brahmavihāra-mettā, karuṇā, muditā and upekkhā) he was reborn in the Brahmā realm.
The Nine Disadvantages of A Layman’s Dress
(1) Costliness of the garment.
(2) Availability only through connection with its maker.
(3) Getting soiled easily when used.
(4) Getting worn out and tattered easily owing to frequent washing and dyeing.
(5) Difficult in seeking a replacement for the old one.
(6) Being unsuitable for a recluse.
(7) Having to guard against loss through theft.
(8) Appearing to be ostentatious when put on.
(9) When taken along without being worn, it is burdensome and makes one appear to be avaricious.
The Twelve Advantages of The Fibre-robe
(1) Being inexpensive but of fine quality.
(2) Possibility of making it by oneself.
(3) Not getting easily soiled when used and being easily cleaned.
(4) Easily discarded, when worn out without a need for stitching and mending.
(5) Having no difficulty in seeking a replacement for the old one.
(6) Being suitable for a recluse.
(7) Not having to guard against loss through theft.
(8) Not appearing to be ostentatious when put on.
(9) Not burdensome when taken along or put on.
(10) Forming no attachment to the robe as a requisite for the user.
(11) Made just by beating the bark from a tree; thus it is righteously and faultlessly gained.
(12) Not being worthy of regret over its loss or destruction.
The fibre-robe means the robe made of fibre, which is obtained from a kind of grass and fastened together. (This is described in the Aṭṭhasālinī.)
According to the Hsutaunggan Pyo, fastening the fibres together itself is not the complete making of such garment. It must be beaten so as to make it soft and smooth. That is why it is called “beaten fibre” in Myanmar.
Vākacīra literally means “a robe made of grass”, and, therefore, it should actually be translated “grass-robe”. But traditional teachers translate the word as “fibre-robe”.
The remaining two names, vakkala and tirītaka, refer to a robe made of fibres that come from the bark of a tree. Though the word vakka of vakkala means “bark of a tree”, it does not denote pure, thick, outer crust of the bark, but the inner layers made up of fibres covering the wood-core. It should be noted that, because such fibres are taken off, fastened and beaten for softness and smoothness, the robe made thus is called fibre-robe. Though vākacīra has the meaning of “grass-robe”, the process of making the robe out of fibres taken off from trees is more common than that of making it out of grass and the name “fibre-robe” is better known that “grass-robes”. That is why the word “fibre-robe” is adopted in the Hsutaunggan Pyo.
The Wooden Tripod
The wooden tripod (tidaṇḍa or tayosūlī) is a requisite of a hermit. It is a stand with three legs, on which is placed a water jug or pot.
The Water Jug and The Yoke
The water jug (kuṇḍikā) is another requisite of a hermit. Khārikāja meaning a yoke, is taken by traditional teachers as a combination of khāri and kāja, both meaning the same: a pole which is curved. According to some, Khāri means a hermit’s set of requisites, which consists of a flint, a needle, a fan, etc. Taking these interpretations together, khārikāja may be taken as the pole on which are hung various requisites of a hermit.
The Hide of A Black Antelope (Ajinacamma)
The hide of a black antelope, complete with hoofs, called ajinacamma is also one of the requisites of a hermit, which may be elaborated somewhat as follows:
The Pāli ajinacamma has been unanimously translated “the hide of a black antelope” by ancient scholars. It is generally thought, therefore, that a beast which is black all over its body is called a “black antelope”. In the Amarakosa Abhidhāna (section 17 v, 47) the word, “Ajina” is explained as “hide” synonymous with camma. This explanation of the Amarakosa is worthy of note.
In the Atthasālinī and other commentaries, there is an expression meaning “the hide, complete with hoofs, of a black antelope, which was like a bed of punnāga flowers”. The phrase “complete with hoofs” (sakhuraṃ) indicates that it is the hide of a hoofed animal. When it is said to be “like a bed of punnāga flowers”, we have to decide whether the likeness to a bed of punnāga flowers refers to its colour or to its softness. That the punnāga flowers is not particularly softer than other flowers is known to many. Therefore, it should be decided that the likeness refers to its colour. This suggests then that the hide could not be that of a black antelope.
Though ajina is translated “black leopard” by scholars of old, that it actually means an animal’s coat and is synonymous with camma is evident from such statement as “ajinamhi haññate dīpi,” (“a leopard is killed for its coat,”) in the Janaka and Suvaṇṇasāma Jātakas. The Commentary on the Janaka also explains ajina to be a synonym of camma by saying “ajinamhīti cammatthaya cammkaraṇā–for its coat mean for obtaining its hide”). There are only two words, dīpi and saddūla, in Pāli meaning leopard. Ajina in not found in that sense.
The Buddhavaṃsa Text also says, “kese muñcitvā’ham tattha vākacīrañ ca cammakam”. When Sumedha lay prostrate before Buddha Dīpaṅkarā, offering himself as a bridge, he loosened his hair-knot and spread his fibre-robe and the animal hide on the bog. The Pāli word used here is cammaka which is the same as ajinacamma discussed above.
All these point to the fact that ajinacamma is not the coat of a beast with claws like a tiger, a leopard or a cat and the adjectival phrase “complete with hoofs” shows that it is the coat of an animal with hoofs like that of cattle or horses. The coat has the colour of a bed of punnāga flowers as mentioned in the Aṭṭhasālinī. It is also very soft to the touch.
Such animals like eṇī are found in the neighbourhood of the Himalayas. Because its coat is smooth and very beautiful and not easily available, people treasure it as a symbol of auspiciousness.
When Bodhisatta Siddhattha was born, the Cātumahārājika devas of the four quarters, received him from the hands of the saintly Brahmās of the Suddhāvāsa abode with a coat of this particular animal, i.e. the coat having a soft fur and commonly regarded to be auspicious. This is mentioned in the introduction of the Jātaka Commentary and in the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary as well.
(The author then acknowledges that all that has been discussed regarding the translation of ajinacamma as the hide of a black antelope is the view of the great scholar U Lin, the previous compiler of The Great Chronicle of Buddhas.)
Matted Hair (Jaṭā) and Round Head-dress made of Hair (Jatāmaṇḍala)
The difference between the matted hair and the round head-dress made of hair should be understood. The matted hair is something that is a part of the hermit. In order to save the trouble of keeping it well groomed, the hermit knotted his hair firmly and tightly. This is what is meant by “matted hair”.
One of the requisites created and left in the hut by Visukamma as mentioned in the Aṭṭhasālinī is the round head-dress made of hair called jatamaṇḍala. This is a thing separate from the hermit’s person. It is not a part of him. From the sentence: “He put the head-dress on his topknot and fastened it with an ivory hairpin”, it is clear that the headdress is a thing separate from Sumedha’s hair-knot. It evolved into a hermit’s head-dress of later times and protects the hair from dust and litter.
(The author here mentions the opinions of the Monyway Zetawun Sayadaw and Mahāsilavaṃsa who stated that the “matted hair” and “head-dress” are the same thing. But the author concludes his discussion by quoting the Catudhammasāra (Kogan) Pyo, Magadha Abhidhāna, and certain Jātaka stories which say that they are two different things. By quoting the Catudhammasāra Pyo and the Maghadeva Laṅka, the author finally says that just as a snare is used to catch a bird, so also the matted hair in the form of a snare is worn by a hermit to catch the great bird of “the Eightfold Noble Path” as soon as it alights in the forest that is “his mind”.
Eight Kinds of Hermits
(The author first explains the derivation of the Myanmar word (hermit) from Pāli and Sanskrit.)
The word “hermit” refers to those who are outside the Buddha’s Teaching. Nevertheless, they should be regarded as holy persons of the time.
(1) Saputtabhariya. A hermit who piles up wealth and lives a house-holder’s life. (Here the author mentions Keṇiya of the Buddha’s lifetime as an example.)
(2) Uñchācariya. A hermit who does not pile up wealth and who does not live a householder’s life, but who collects unhusked grain from lay people at threshing grounds and cook his own food.
(3) Anaggipakkika. A hermit who collects husked grain from lay men in villages and cooks his own food. He thinks husking grain by pounding is not worthy of one who lives a hermit’s life.
(4) Asāmapāka. A hermit who enters a village and collects cooked rice. He thinks cooking is not worthy of one who lives a hermit’s life.
(5) Ayamuṭṭhika (Asmamuṭṭhika). A hermit who takes off the bark of a tree for food by means of a metal or stone implement. He thinks to collect food each day is wearisome.
(6) Dantavakkalika. A hermit who takes off the bark of a tree with his teeth for food. He thinks to carry metal or stone implements is wearisome.
(7) Pavattaphalabhojana. A hermit who lives on the fruits that fall by throwing stone or a stick at them. He thinks to remove the bark is wearisome.
(8) Pandupalasika. A hermit who lives only on leaves, flowers and fruits that fall naturally from trees.
The Paṇḍupalāsika are divided into three types:
(1) Ukkaṭṭha-paṇḍupalāsika, he who remains seated without arising and who lives on leaves, flowers and fruits that fall within his reach.
(2) Majjhuṃ-paṇḍupalāsika, he who moves from tree to tree and subsists only on leaves, flowers and fruits that fall from a single tree.
(3) Muduṃ-paṇḍupalāsika, he who moves from tree to tree in search of leaves, flowers and fruits that fall naturally from trees, to maintain himself.
(1) Saputtabhariya. A hermit who leads a householder’s life earning his living by farming, trading, etc., like Keṇiya and others.
(3) Sampattakālika. A hermit who lives only on food that is obtained at the meal time.
(4) Anaggipakka. A hermit who lives only on uncooked fruits and vegetables.
(5) Ayamuṭṭhika. A hermit who wanders from place to place with metal or stone implements in hand to remove the bark from trees for food whenever he feels hungry and who observes precepts, and cultivating meditation on the four sublime illimitables.
(6) Dantalūyyaka. A hermit who wanders from place to place without metal or stone implements in hand and who removes the bark from trees with his teeth whenever he feels hungry and who observes precepts and cultivating meditation on the four sublime illimitables.
(7) Pavattaphalika. A hermit who lives depending upon a natural pond or a forest and who, going nowhere else, subsists on the lotus stems and stalks from the pond or on the fruits and flowers from the forest grove or even on the bark of trees (when other kinds of sustenance are not available) and who observes precepts and cultivating meditation on the four sublime illimitables.
(8) Vaṇṭamuttika. A hermit who subsists on leaves that fall naturally and observes precepts and cultivating meditation on the four sublime illimitables.
In these two lists of eight kinds of hermits, each type is nobler than the preceding type.
Again in these lists, excepting the first type, namely, Saputtabhariya, all are holy persons, observing precepts and cultivating meditation on the four sublime illimitables.
Sumedha came under the fourth category (of the list given in the Sīlakkhanda Commentary), namely, Asamapaka, for one day, i.e. a hermit who collects and lives only on cooked food; for the following days, he remained as a hermit of the eighth type, namely, Paṇḍupalāsika, one who lives only on leaves, flowers and fruits that fall naturally from trees. According to the list given in the Sutta Nipāta Commentary, he came under the eight category, namely, Vaṇṭamuttika, i.e. a hermit who subsists only on leaves that fall naturally from trees and who observes precepts and cultivating meditation on the four sublime illimitables.
Three Kinds of Persons addressed as “Shin” in Myanmar
[note: ‘Shin’ refers to a respectful religious title, more or less equivalent to Pāli Sāmi]
The Pāli “pabbajjā” has been translated “going forth as a recluse” by teachers of old. That is to say “giving up a worldly life”, which is of three kinds:
(1) Isi-pabbajjā, giving up of worldly life and becoming an isi (hermit).
(2) Samana-pabbajjā, giving up of worldly life and becoming a samaṇa (monk).
(3) Sāmaṇera-pabbajjā, giving up of worldly life and becoming a sāmaṇera (novice).
Accordingly, there are three kinds of persons worthy of veneration and addressed as “shin” in Myanmar. They are isi (hermit), samaṇa (monk) and sāmaṇera (novices).
The Eight Disadvantage of A Leaf-hut
(1) The hut requires the dweller to make efforts to acquire timber and other materials for its construction.
(2) It requires the dweller to take constant care and to provide maintenance or reconstruction when the grass roof and mud of the walls decay and fall into ruins.
(3) It requires the dweller to make room at any time for a visiting senior elder, who is entitled to suitable accommodation, so that he fails to get concentration of mind.
(4) Being sheltered from sun and rain under its cover, the dweller tends to become soft and feeble.
(5) With a roof and surrounding walls to provide privacy, it serves the dweller as a hiding place for committing blameworthy, evil deeds.
(6) It creates attachment for the dweller, who then thinks: “It is my dwelling place.”
(7) Settling down in it makes the dweller appear to be living a householder’s life with family.
(8) It requires the dweller to deal with nuisance created by domestic pests, such as fleas, bugs, lizards, etc.
These are the disadvantages of a leaf-hut which Sumedha discerned and which prompted him to abandon the hut.
The Ten Advantages of The Foot of A Tree
(1) The foot of a tree does not require the dweller to acquire building materials because it is already a dwelling place provided by nature.
(2) It does not require the dweller to take constant care and to provide maintenance.
(3) It does not require the dweller to make room for visiting senior elders.
(4) It does not provide privacy nor serves the dweller as a hiding place for committing evil deeds.
(5) Its dweller is free from stiffness of limbs unlike those dwelling in the open space who suffers from such a discomfort.
(6) The dweller does not have to take possession of it as his own property.
(7) The dweller is able to abandon it without an attachment saying: “It is my dwelling place.”
(8) The dweller does not have to request others to vacate the place for purpose of cleaning.
(9) It makes a pleasant place for the dweller.
(10)Since the dweller can easily finds similar dwelling places wherever he goes, he does not cling to it as “my dwelling place”.
(Then the author quotes the Hsutaunggan Pyo which gives the same list of disadvantages in verse.)