The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Prophecy 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 The Prophecy]

As has been said, Sumedha reflected: “What is the use of selfishly escaping the cycle of births alone,” and this is mentioned in the Buddhavaṃsa Text: “Kim me ekena tinnena”.

Quoting this Pāli sentence people are fond of saying with a tinge of contempt: “One should not be selfish in this world. A selfish one is a person who seeks only his good. One who seeks only his welfare is a useless person.”

But, if one continues to read the same sentence, one would come across “purisena thamadassina”, implying, “in spite of the fact that I am a superior person, fully aware of my prowess of wisdom, faith and energy”, which explicitly qualifies the foregoing sentence. All this indicates that only those who, despite their ability, are selfish and not willing to work for others should be blamed. And those, who have no such ability but who say: “I will work for others” and are not true to their words, should be despised, for they do not know the limits of their own capability.

As a matter of fact, those, who have no ability to work for others, should look after their own interest.

That is why it is taught in the atta-vagga, the twentieth chapter of the Dhammapada:

Attadatthaṃ paratthena bahunā’ pi na hāpaye
attadattham abhiññāya sadatthapasuto siyā
.

Let him not sacrifice his own interest by willing to work much for others. Knowing full well his own limited ability he should work for his own welfare.

This teaching of the Dhammapada means: “He, who is incompetent to work for others but speaks as though he were competent, cannot do good for other, nor can he do for himself; thus he suffers a double loss. Therefore, he, who is incompetent to work for others, should seek his own good and work only for himself. He, who knows the true extent of his own capability and works only for himself (should not be blamed as a selfish person but), should be spoken of as a good person who works within the limits of his capability. On the contrary, he, who is qualified like Sumedha to render service to others, runs only after his own interest, ignoring others’ should truly be censure as a purely selfish person.

In short, let him work for others, if he is competent. If not, let him look after himself so that he may not miss his interest. He, who seeks his own interest but pretends to be working for others’ welfare, is surely a dishonest, cunning, evil person.”

Nerañjarā

Nerañjarā, as the name of a river, is derived from nelajala, ‘nela’ meaning ‘faultless’ and ‘jala’, ‘water’; hence ‘the river with pure clean water’.

Another derivation is from ‘nīlajala’, ‘nīla’ meaning ‘blue’ and ‘jala’, ‘water’. ‘Blue water’ signifies ‘clear water’. Hence, ‘the river with clear blue water’.

Yet another derivation is from ‘nari jarā’ meaning a kind of musical instrument which produces the sound similar to that of the flowing waters in a stream.

Notes on Prophecy

Under the heading, the author discusses not only the Myanmar word for prophecy but also other Myanmar words or phrases. The word prophecy in Myanmar language, is commonly held to be derived from the so called Pāli word ‘byādita’. But there is no such word as ‘byādita’ in Pāli. It appears to have been formed by ancient scholars in imitation of the Pāli words, ‘byākaraṇa’ or ‘byākata’, says the author.

With reference to the phrases ‘stepping out with his right foot’ and ‘honouring him with eight handfuls of flowers’, the author has the following to say:

‘Stepping out with his right foot’ is the translation of the Pāli phrase dakkhiṇam pādam uddhari. Buddha Dīpaṅkarā departed not only stepping out with his right foot first but also keeping Sumedha on his right. This mode of departure from the presence of an honourable person is a very ancient Indian custom of showing high esteem.

“Honouring him with eight handfuls of flowers” in Pāli is aṭṭahi pupphamuṭṭīhi pujetvā which occurs in the Jātaka Commentary and the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary. Over this phrase there has been a controversy whether a living Buddha should pay respect to a Bodhisatta who would become a Buddha only many aeons later. Even if one argues that Buddha Dīpaṅkarā was paying homage not to the person of Sumedha the Hermit but only to the Sabbaññuta-ñāṇa (Supreme Wisdom), that he would attain, this argument also is unacceptable as it is inappropriate that the present possessor of Omniscience should pay respect to the Omniscience yet to be attained by a Bodhisatta.

The whole controversy rests on the translation of the word pūjetvā which is connected with pūjā. The Khuddaka-pātha Commentary explains that pūjā means sakkāra (treating well), mānana (holding in esteem) and vandanā (salutation, homage, or obeisance). The author gives his view that in honouring Hermit Sumedha with eight handfuls of flowers, the Buddha was not saluting or paying homage or obeisance (vandanā), but He was merely giving good treatment (sakkāra) to Sumedha and showing the high esteem (mānana) in which He held him.

The text mentions the prophetic phenomenon which took place on the day the planet Visākhā conjoined with the full moon. That day is reckoned in the Myanmar Calendar as full-moon day of Kason (April-May). The day is regarded usually to be auspicious being the full-moon day of the first month of the year.

All the previous Buddhas received their prophecies of becoming a Buddha on the fullmoon day of Kason. So when Sumedha received the prophecy on the same auspicious day, devas and Brahmas were quite positive in their proclamation that Sumedha would definitely become a Buddha.

The author further mentions that, the full-moon day of Kason is not only the day on which the prophecy was received but also the day on which Bodhisattas took their last birth in the human world;it is also the day on which they attained Perfect Self-Enlightenment and the day on which they passed away into Nibbāna.

The full-moon of Kason is so auspicious in the traditional customs of Myanmar that kings of the past have had themselves anointed and crowned on this particular day.

Devas proclaimed 32 Prophetic Phenomena

These thirty-two prophetic phenomena occurred on the day Sumedha received the Prophecy. These phenomena were different from those that took place on the days of Buddha’s Conception, Birth, Enlightenment and Teaching the First Sermon. They will be dealt with in the chapter on Gotama Buddhavaṃsa.

Notes on Prophetic Phenomena

‘Prophetic phenomena’ is the rendering into English of the Pāli word nimitta, ‘nimit’ in Myanmar which means a phenomenon foretelling a good or evil event that is likely to take place.

The author then gives a mine of information on the Myanmar synonyms, quoting various sources from Myanmar literature. We have left them out from our translation. End of Anudīpanī on the Prophecy.

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