The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The Perfection of Resolution (adhitthana-parami) 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 on Pāramitā. 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).

(8) Eighth Pāramī: The Perfection of Resolution (adhiṭṭhāna-pāramī)

The Pāli word ‘adhiṭṭhāna’ is usually translated as ‘resolution’. (Then the author goes on to explain the Myanmar word, which is a translation, not only of adhiṭṭhāna but also of samādāna used in observing precepts. As the author’s explanation, though elaborate, is chiefly concerned with the Myanmar word, we left it out from our translation.) If one fulfils adhiṭṭhāna as a Perfection, one has to establish it firmly and steadfastly in one’s mind. That was why when the Bodhisatta Sumedha reflected on adhiṭṭhāna-pāramī, he likened it to a rocky mountain which is unshaken by strong winds but remaining firmly rooted at its own place.

From this comparison, it is clear that adhitthana means bearing in mind without wavering at all, as regards what one is determined to do. Therefore, if one intends to attain the knowledge of the Path and Fruition or Omniscience (i.e. if one is determined to become a Buddha) one’s determination to practise for achieving them must be borne in mind as firmly as a rocky mountain.

Various Resolutions

Resolution has thus been likened to an unshaken mountain and there are various kinds of resolution as described in the texts.

Resolution concerning Uposatha

The Uposathakkhandhaka of the Vinaya Mahāvagga mentions three kinds of Uposatha: Sangha Uposatha, Gaṇa Uposatha and Puggala Uposatha. Sangha Uposatha is the one that is observed at the meeting of minimum four bhikkhus in a sima on full-moon and newmoon days. There, the pātimokkha is recited by one bhikkhu to whom others listen respectfully. Such an observance is also called ‘Sutt'uddesa Uposatha’ (Uposatha observance with a brief recitation of the Text of the disciplinary rules).

If there are only two or three bhikkhus, they observe Gaṇa Uposatha because the word Sangha is used for a meeting of at least four bhikkhus; when there are only two or three bhikkhus, the word “Gaṇa” is used. If the number of bhikkhus is three in a Gaṇa Uposatha, a motion is put first and if it is two, no motion is needed. Then each of the bhikkhus declares in Pāli that he is free from any offences. Therefore, it is also known as Parisuddhi Uposatha (Uposatha meeting where bhikkhus declare their individual purity).

If there is only one bhikkhu, he observes Puggala Uposatha. But before doing so, he should wait for other bhikkhus to join him, provided there is still time. When the time has passed without other bhikkhus arriving, he is to observe the uposatha alone. The Buddha had enjoined that he is to resolve: “Today is my uposatha day.” This means that he is mindful of this day constantly. Such an uposatha is known as Adhiṭṭhāna Uposatha (Uposatha kept firmly in one’s mind.) This is the resolution concerning uposatha.

Resolution concerning The Robe

Bhikkhus are required to perform adhiṭṭhāna or vikappana concerning the robe within ten days after its acquisition. If the robe is kept more than ten days without performing either, it is to be discarded according to the Vinaya. The bhikkhu concerned also commits thereby a Pācittiya offence: Therefore, within ten days of its acquisition, he must resolve saying: “I undertake to put on this robe.” Then the robe is not to be discarded and he does not commit the offence. Resolution concerning the robe means making up one’s mind firmly to use the robe either as a lower garment, or an upper garment or an outer garment or for general use. (Paṭhama Sikkhāpada, Nissaggiya civara Vagga, Vinaya Pārajika.)

Resolution concerning The Bowl

Similarly, when a bhikkhu acquires a bowl, he should resolve within ten days of its acquisition, saying: “I undertake to use this bowl.” If he does not do so in ten days, he has to discard it as required by the Vinaya. He also commits a Pācittiya offence. Resolution concerning the bowl means determining firmly that “this receptacle is my bowl.”

Adhiṭṭhāna in these three cases is used as a technical term belonging to the Vinaya. It has nothing to do with the following three cases.

Resolution concerning Jhāna

In the case of jhāna, when for instance, the first jhāna has been attained, one should cultivate and develop it in five ways of vasīhāva; so it is said in the Pathavikasina Niddesa and in other places of the Visuddhi-magga. “Vasīhāva”, a Pāli word, means 'mastery'. So five way of vasīhāva are five kinds of mastery. When the first jhāna has been attained, one is to continue practising it until one gains complete mastery of the jhāna in all five kinds.

The first kind is Āvajjana (reflection), i.e. reflection as to what factors are contained in his first jhāna and as to which factor is of what character. At the beginning, he does not discern them easily. There may be a delay, for he is not yet skilled in reflecting. As he gains experience, he discerns them more easily. Then, he is said to be endowed with mastery of reflection.

The second kind is Samapajjana (absorption), jhāna consciousness being absorbed into the stream of one’s consciousness, (i.e. jhāna consciousness continuously arising in the stream of one’s consciousness). After mastering reflection, he has to gain mastery of absorption. He can do so by repeatedly developing the jhāna he has attained (just as by repeatedly reciting, one can master the literary piece that one has learnt by heart). If he tries for absorption before attainment of such mastery, jhāna consciousness does not arise easily in the stream of one’s consciousness. This becomes easier only after mastering the development of jhāna. Then he is said to be endowed with mastery of absorption.

The third kind is Adhitthana (resolution), i.e. determining as to how long he wants to remain in jhāna. If he tries to determine the duration of absorption before mastery of resolution, jhāna consciousness may occur for either longer or shorter period than that of his determination. Suppose he resolves: “Let jhāna consciousness constitute my stream of consciousness for one hour,” the jhāna attainment may break off before or after one hour. This is because he is not yet skilled in making resolution. Once he is skilful enough, he can remain in jhāna for the exact length of the time he has resolved, Then he is said to be endowed with mastery of resolution.

The fourth kind is Vutthāna (rising from jhāna). [‘Rising from jhāna means change of jhāna consciousness to life-continuum (bhavaṅga-citta).] Mastery of rising from jhāna at the exact time of his determination is called ‘Vutthāna-vasībhāva’.

The fifth kind is Paccavekkhanā (reviewing) i.e. recollecting all the factors contained in the jhāna. In thus recollecting, as in the kind of āvajjana, they do not become manifest to him easily for lack of mastery on his part. Only when he gains mastery, they become manifest more easily. (Reflection (āvajjana), is a stage in the process of reviewing (paccavekkhaṇā-vithi), and reviewing (paccavekkhanā) is the stage that immediately follows the stage of reflection. If he has mastered āvajjana, he has mastered paccavekkhanā as well. Therefore, he who is endowed with mastery of reflection is endowed with mastery of reviewing; so it is stated in the texts.)

Among the five kinds of mastery, what we are concerned with here is adhiṭṭhānavasibhāva (mastery of resolution).

Resolution concerning Iddhi

[Ten kinds of iddhi (supernormal power)]

Of these ten iddhis, the first, Adhitthāna Iddhi, is the power of resolution to project images of oneself by the hundred or by the thousand, such as the power possessed by the Venerable Cūla Pathaka and others. Ordinary people who are not possessors of such power make similar resolutions; but because they lack the basic factor of jhāna or samādhi, they do not realize what they have resolved; on the other hand, possessors of such power have their resolution fulfilled because their jhāna or samādhi is strong enough to help them.

Adhiṭṭhāna preceding Nirodha-samāpatti

When an anāgāmin or an arahat who is endowed with all eight samāpattis is about to enter upon nirodha-samāpatti, he resolves thus: “During the period of my absorption in the samāpatti, let no destruction befall my belongings that are kept apart from me. If the Sangha wants my presence, may I be able to rise from my samāpatti before the messenger comes to me. Promptly, may I be able to do so when the Buddha summons me.” Only after resolving thus he enters upon samāpatti.

In accordance with his resolution, during the period of his absorption in the samāpatti, his personal effects kept apart from him cannot be destroyed by the five kinds of enemy. When the Sangha wants him during that very period, he has already arisen from his samāpatti before the messenger’s arrival. No sooner has the Buddha called for him, then he emerges from his samāpatti. No damage can be done by the five enemies to his possessions, such as robes, etc. that are on his body because of the power of his samāpatti even though he has not resolved previously for their safety.

Three Kinds of Adhiṭṭhāna

Resolution is of three kinds, according to context:

(1) Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna (Resolution made so that portending signs appear before something happens);
(2) Āsisa Adhiṭṭhāna (Resolution made so that one’s dream comes true); and
(3) Vata Adhiṭṭhāna (Resolution made so that one’s duties are fulfilled).

(1) Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna

This kind of Adhiṭṭhāna may be understood from the Campeyya Jātaka of the Vīsati Nipāta and other stories. The extract from the Campeyya Jātaka in brief is: When the Nāga King Campeyya told his Queen Sumana that he would go to the human abode to observe precepts, the Queen said: “The human abode is full of dangers. If something happens to you by which signs should I know?” The Nāga King took her to the royal pond and said: “Look at the pond. Should I be caught by an enemy, the water will become dark. Should I be caught by a Garula, the water will boil. Should I be caught by a snake-charmer, the water will turn red like blood.” After that the Nāga King left for the human abode to observe precepts for fourteen days.

But the King could not return home even after about a month for he was caught by a snake-charmer. Worried about his safety, the Queen went to the pond and saw the surface of the water turned red like blood.

This resolution of the Nāga King Campeyya is Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna because he made the firm determination beforehand for the appearance of portending signs.

Similarly, according to the Introduction to the Jātaka Commentary, when Prince Siddhattha renounced the world, he cut off his hair and threw it up into the sky resolving: "May this hair remain in the sky if I would become enlightened; if not let it fall back to the ground." The hair hanged in the sky like a festoon. This resolution, too, made to know in advance whether or not he would become a Buddha is Pubbanimitta Adhitthana.

Again, after six years of strenuous asceticism, after He had eaten the milk-rice offered by Sujātā on the bank of the Nerañjarā, He set the golden bowl afloat on the river with the resolution: “If I would become a Buddha, may this bowl go upstream; if not, may it go downstream,” and the bowl went upstream until it reached the Nāga King Kāla. The resolution in this account also is a Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna.

Similarly, any resolution made in the world to know beforehand by portent whether one’s wish will be fulfilled or not is Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna. This kind of adhiṭṭhāna is still practised today and is thus well known. Some people are used to lifting the stone placed at a famous pagoda or at a nat (spirit) shrine after resolving: “If my plan would materialise, may the stone be heavy; if not may it be light,” or vice versa. After lifting the stone, they read the omen whether they would succeed or not from the feel of the stone’s weight.

(2) Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna

Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna is a resolution made so that one’s wish gets fulfilled. This kind of resolution may be known from the Vidhura Jātaka.

(Vidhura, the Minister, was taken away from King Korabya by Punnaka the ogre, who had won the game of dice.) It is stated in the commentary on Verse 197 of this particular Jātaka: Having valiantly thundered: “Of death I am not afraid,” Vidhura resolved: “May my lower garment not go off against my wish.” Reflecting on his Perfections, he tightened his garment and followed Punnaka by catching hold of the tail of his horse fearlessly with the dignity of a lion-king. This resolution made by Vidhura is Āsisa Adhiṭṭhāna.

In the Nalapana Jātaka of the Sīla Vagga, Ekaka Nipāta, eighty thousand monkeys headed by their king, the future Buddha, found it difficult to drink the water from a pond that was protected by a wild water-demon. The monkey king then took one of the reeds that grew around the pond, made an asseveration that the reed be rid of the joints and blew air into it. The reed became hollow throughout, with no joints. He thereby made it possible for his followers to drink the water through the hollow reeds. But there were too many monkeys and the king was unable to provide each with a hollow reed. So he resolved: “Let all the reeds around the pond become hollow.” This resolution made by the monkey king to fulfil his wish to let the monkeys drink the water individually is Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna.

In the Kukkura Jātaka of the Kurunga Vagga, Ekaka Nipata, it is mentioned that leather straps of the chariot of King Brahmadatta of Bārāṇasī were gnawed by the dogs bred in the inner city. Under the wrong impression that the leather-eating dogs were owned by the citizens living in the outer city, royal servants chased to kill them. So the dogs dared not live in the city and gathered at a cemetery. Knowing the true reason of the trouble and realizing that the leather straps of the royal chariot could have been eaten only by the dogs of the inner city, the leader of the pack, the Bodhisatta, asked them to wait while he went to the palace. While he entered the city, he concentrated his thoughts on Perfections, and diffusing his mettā, he resolved: “May nobody be able to hurl stones or sticks at me.” This resolution, too, made to fulfil his wish that the dogs of the outer city might be safe from harm is Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna.

In the Mātaṅga Jātaka of the Visati Nipāta: During the reign of King Brahmadatta of Bārāṇasī, the Bodhisatta was born into a lowly caste of candala and named Mātanga. The daughter of a wealthy man of Bārāṇasī was named Ditṭha Maṅgalikā because she believed in auspiciousness of pleasant sights. One day, she went to a garden to amuse herself with her maids. On the way, she saw Mātaṅga who went into the city. Though he kept himself aside as he was of a low birth, the sight of his person aroused displeasure in Diṭṭha Maṅgalikā, who, therefore, returned home thinking that it was not an auspicious day for her. Her followers were also annoyed. Saying: “Because of you, we will have no fun today,” they beat him until he became unconscious; thereafter they departed. When Mātanga regained consciousness after a while, he said to himself: “These people of Diṭṭha

Maṅgalikā have tortured an innocent man like me.” Then he went to the house of Diṭṭha Maṅgalikā’s father and lay at the entrance with a resolution, “I will not get up until I win Diṭṭha Maṅgalikā’s hand.” This resolution of Mātanga made to humble Diṭṭha Maṅgalikā’s pride is also Āsīsa Ādhiṭṭhāna.

In the Commentary on the Mahāvagga of the Vinaya, too, it is said thus: Just after His Enlightenment, the Buddha stayed for seven weeks at seven different places in the vicinity of the Bodhi tree spending a week at each place. At the end of the last seven day’s stay at the foot of a rajayatana tree, the brothers, Tapussa and Bhallika, came to him and offered some cakes. The Buddha considered how to accept the offer of cakes. (The bowl offered by Brahmā Ghatikāra disappeared the day the Buddha accepted the milk-rice offered by Sujātā.) Then the Four Deva Kings presented the Buddha with four emerald bowls. But the Buddha refused to accept them. The Deva Kings then offered the Buddha four stone bowls having the colour of kidney beans. To strengthen their faith, the Buddha accepted the bowls and resolved: “May the bowls merge into one.” Then the bowls became one with four concentric brims. This resolution of the Buddha also is Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna.

Difference between Adhiṭṭhāna and Sacca

Its seems that Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna and Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna of this section on Adhiṭṭhāna and Icchāpūrana-sacca of the section on Sacca are one and the same because all these are concerned with fulfilment of one’s wish.

With regard to Icchāpūrana-sacca, when Suvanna Sama’s mother, father and Goddess Bahusundari made their respective resolutions, they all wished the disappearance of the poison of the arrow that struck Suvanna Sama; with regard to Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna, too, when the Bodhisatta made his resolution, throwing up his cut-off hair to the sky, he had wished that the hair would hang in the sky if he would become a Buddha; with regard to Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna, too, when Vidhura made his resolution, his wish was to keep his dress intact. The connection of these resolutions with their respective wishes makes one think that they all are the same. That is why some people nowadays combine the two words, Sacca and Adhiṭṭhāna, into one, saying, “We perform sacca-adhiṭṭhāna.”

In reality, however, sacca is one and adhiṭṭhāna another of the Ten Perfections. Therefore, they are two different things and their difference is this: As has been said before, sacca is truth whether it is of good or evil nature. A wish based on that truth is Icchāpūrana. But when one’s wish is not based on some form of truth, the determination made of one’s own accord to have one’s wish fulfilled is Adhiṭṭhāna.

To explain further: In the Suvanna Sama Jātaka, when his parents made an asseveration, they said: “Sama has formerly practised only righteousness” (which is the basic truth). And they added: “By this truthful saying, may his poison vanish” (which is their wish). Thus expressing the wish based on what was true is Icchāpūrana-sacca.

When the Bodhisatta threw up his cut-off hair to the sky resolving: “If I should become a Buddha, may the hair remain in the sky,” he did so without any basis of truth. His truthfulness was made for portending signs which would let him know beforehand of his coming Buddhahood.

The resolution made by Vidhura when he was about to follow Punnaka by holding on to the tail of his horse, “May my dress remain intact,” is also Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna because it has no truth as a basis and is, therefore, a mere determination of his wish, Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhāna.

Thus the difference between Sacca and Adhiṭṭhana lies in the presence or absence of the basis of truth.

(3) Vata Adhiṭṭhana

These habits and practices include those of a bull (gosīla and govata): cattle eat and discharge faeces and urine while standing; in imitation of cattle, some ascetics (during the lifetime of the Buddha) did the same, believing that by so doing they would be purified and liberated from saṃsāra. (That is not to say that cattle had that wrong view, but only those ascetics who imitated cattle had.) This practice (vata) is connected with evil.

But adhiṭṭhāna has nothing to do with such wrong practices, for it belongs to the noble practice of Perfection. Here vata refers to observances of such noble practices as generosity, morality, etc. When one resolves to observe these Practices, such an action may be termed Vata Adhiṭṭhana, but mere resolution and mere designation do not mean fulfilling the Perfection of Resolution. The reason is that adhiṭṭhāna does not belong to the past nor does it belong to the present. One fulfils the Perfection of Resolution when one observes in the future exactly as one has resolved firmly now. However ardently one resolves at present, if one fails to observe later, one’s resolution is useless and meaningless. This idea is expressed in the Kavilakkhaṇā Thatpon. A line in it reads to the effect that resolution should be compared to the horn of a rhinoceros, a beast which has one horn, not two. Just as a rhinoceros has only one horn, so should one stick to his resolution steadfastly and firmly, but not waveringly. This line of the Kavilakkhanā agrees with such saying as “yathā pi pabbato selo” as mentioned in the Buddhavaṃsa. Its meaning has been shown above.

The different resolutions as classified before, such as adhiṭṭhāna concerning uposatha, adhiṭṭhāna concerning the robe and adhiṭṭhāna concerning the bowl, cannot be included under Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna, Āsisa Adhiṭṭhāna and Vata Adhiṭṭhāna, for they are the resolutions made as required by the Vinaya rules. On the other hand, the adhiṭṭhāna of one of the five vasībhāvas and the adhiṭṭhāna that precedes Nirodhasamāpatti and that belongs to the ten iddhis are Āsīsa Adhiṭṭhānas.

The Future Buddhas and The Three Kinds of Adhiṭṭhāna

Of these three kinds of adhiṭṭhāna, the future Buddhas practise Pubbanimitta Adhiṭṭhāna and Āsisa Adhiṭṭhāna not for fulfilling the Perfection of Ādhitthana, but for meeting some requirements under certain circumstances. On the other hand, it is this Vata Adhiṭṭhāna that they practised to fulfil the Perfection of Adhiṭṭhāna that leads to the attainment of the arahatta-magga ñāṅā and sabbaññuta ñāṇa.

In order to mention a little of the way, they practise (this particular adhiṭṭhāna), here is an extract from the Cariya Piṭaka:

Nisajja pāsādavare evaṃ cintes' aham tadā
Yam kiñ ci mānusam dānaṃ adinnam me na vijjati
Yo pi yāceyya maṃ cakkhuṃ dadeyyam avikampito

Sāriputta, when I was King Sivi, I thought to myself while in the palace: ‘Of the kinds of dāna that people give, there is nothing that I have not given. Should somebody ask for my eye, unshaken I will give it to him.’

By this, King Sivi meant to say that he had firmly resolved, “If someone comes to me today and begs for my eye, without hesitation I will offer it to him.”

When Sakka, in the guise of a brahmin, went to ask for one eye, true to his resolution, he gave away both eyes to him unhesitatingly. This resolution of King Sivi is with reference to Dāna.

In the Chapter on Bhuridatta’s Practice, it is said:

Caturo ange adhiṭṭhāya semi vammikamuddhani
chaviyā cammena maṃsena nahāru atthikehi vā
yassa etena karaniyam dinnaṃ yeva harātu so

This describes how the Nāga King Bhuridatta resolved when he observed the precepts. It means: “Having resolved with regard to four components of my body, namely, (1) skin, thick and thin, (2) flesh and blood, (3) muscles and (4) bones, I lay on the top of the anthill. He who has some use for any of these four components, let him take it, for I have already made a charity of them.” Wishing to promote his observance of the precepts, King Bhūridatta resolved: “I will guard my morality at the sacrifice of the four components of my body.” This resolution of King Bhuridatta is in connection with sīla.

In the Campeyya Jātaka of the Visati Nipata, too, the Nāga King Campeyya went to observe the precepts after telling his Queen of the signs that would show when he was in danger in the aforesaid manner; it is mentioned in the Commentary: “Nimittāni ācikkhitvā cātuddasī uposatham adhiṭṭhāya nāgabhavanā nikkhamitvā tattha gantvā vammikamatthake nipajji.——Having told of signalling signs and having resolved to observe the precept on the fourteenth day of the new moon, Campeyya left the abode of nāgas for the human world and lay on the top of an ant-hill.” This resolution of Campeyya was purely for observing sīla.

In all these stories, dāna or sīla is one thing and adhiṭṭhāna is another thing. King Sivi’s dāna occurred the moment he gave his eyes, but his resolution took place when he resolved to do so before the actual giving. Therefore, resolution came first and it was followed by the act of giving. In the case of sīla observed by the Nāga Kings, too, the resolution was first and then came the act of observance of sīla. In the secular affairs, too, it is natural to do things only after making up one’s mind “I will do like this.”

Prince Temiya’s Adhiṭṭhāna

The future Buddha was once son of King of Kāsi and named Temiya. (He was so named by his father because on the day he was born it rained heavily in the whole country of Kāsi and people became wet and happy.) When the prince was one month old, while he was in the lap of his father, four thieves were brought to the King, who ordered them to be punished. The Prince was shocked to see this and became sad, thinking: “What shall I do to escape from this palace.”

The next day, while he was staying alone under the white parasol, he reflected on his father’s action and was scared to become a king. To him, who was pale like a lotus flower crushed by hand, the guardian goddess of the parasol, who was his mother in one of his previous births, said: “Do not worry, son, if you want to escape from this royal residence, resolve to pretend to be dumb, deaf and mute. Your wish will be fulfilled.” Then the Prince made a resolution and acted accordingly.

For sixteen years the Prince was tested by various means, but he remained firm without deviating from his resolution. Then the father ordered: “My son is really dumb, deaf and mute. Take him to the cemetery and bury him there.”

Although he was variously tested and presented with difficulties for sixteen long years, he remained resolute, like the example of a rocky mountain mentioned in the Buddhavaṃsa. His firm, unshaken determination is an act of tremendous resoluteness. Only when one fulfils one’s Vata resolution with the kind of determination of Prince Temiya, with all might and valour and without wavering, will one be carrying out the fulfilment of the Perfection of Resolution as observed by Bodhisattas.

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