Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 1.1.0
Bahujanahitasuttaṃ - For the Benefit of Many
Jāge jāge dharama kī vāṇī
Maṅgala mūla mahā kalyānī
Maṅgala mūla mahā kalyānī
Jāge jāge dharama kī vāṇī
May the words of the Dhamma arise,
Those roots of great happiness and wellbeing,
Those roots of great happiness and wellbeing,
May the words of the Dhamma arise!
—Hindi dohas by S. N. Goenka during his 10-day courses1
The renowned meditation teacher S. N. Goenka labelled pariyatti, the study of the words of the Buddha, the original Pāli suttas the ‘gold’ that embellishes the ‘gem’ of paṭipatti, the beneficial practice of meditation. In this sense all quotes, suttas, and selections of pariyatti in Exploring the sacred, ancient path in the original words of the Buddha,2 along with the Introduction and vocabulary training, intend to provide inspiration to practise. It is ONLY the application of paṭipatti that, in the end, provides all real, concrete and palpable benefits for oneself, with pariyatti rendering encouragement, motivation and thrill.
For providing thrill, the first chapter of this collection endeavors to point out the rarity of something that seems far too natural: the good fortune of human beings in the present period of existence being able to encounter the magnificent, result-oriented and beneficial teaching of the Enlightened One!
While aeons after aeons pass in darkness, humankind currently encounters a remedy not only on the level of theoretical understanding and philosophical satisfaction but also as a real and applicable practice through the ‘gem’ that is so generously presented in Vipassana.3
After the Buddha had ordained his first five disciples, the noble youth Yasa and his friends, the number of Arahants had grown to sixty-one. Before the first rains retreat the Buddha encouraged them with the following words to spread the Dhamma:
Caratha, bhikkhave, cārikaṃ bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya lokānukampāya atthāya hitāya sukhāya devamanussānaṃ; mā ekena dve agamittha; desetha, bhikkhave, dhammaṃ ādikalyāṇaṃ majjhekalyāṇaṃ pariyosānakalyāṇaṃ sātthaṃ sabyañjanaṃ kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ4 parisuddhaṃ brahmacariyaṃ pakāsetha.5
Wander forth, Bhikkhus, for the wellbeing of many, for the happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, the welfare and happiness of gods and men. No two should wander together in the same direction. Proclaim, Bhikkhus, the Dhamma which is beneficial in the beginning, beneficial in the middle, and beneficial in the end, with correct wording full of meaning, complete in itself, utterly pure and displaying the holy life.
The opening text of this Pāli learning program, the Bahujanahitasutta, is selected from the Itivuttakapāḷi, a collection of all suttas that begin with vuttañhetaṃ (‘this has been said’).6 It is the fifth sutta from the chapter under the title tikanipāto (‘things with three’). The three things described in this sutta are the three individuals who arise for the benefit and welfare of all beings (bahujanahitāya): the Buddha (the Tathāgata),7 an Arahant, and a disciple who is able to teach the Dhamma.
Vuttañhetaṃ (‘this has been said’) refers to the female slave in Kosambī of Queen Sāmāvatī by the name of Khujjuttarā. The name Khujjuttarā was given to her because she had been born with a deformed back (khujja—bent). It is said that in one of her past lives she had imitated a Pacceka Buddha, who was a hunchback. Despite her position as a slave girl (because in a previous life she had treated a nun as her servant girl), she had the capacity of quick understanding and the ability to memorize whatever she heard. This was a result of a situation in a previous life where she quickly solved a problem by presenting wristlets to Pacceka Buddhas, who had trouble holding extremely hot food in their bowls.
Her main duty under Queen Sāmāvatī had been to procure a fresh bouquet of flowers every day. It had been her habit to buy only half a bunch of flowers and to keep the other half of the money for herself. This attitude changed when she listened to a discourse of the Buddha one day, which inspired her to present the correct number of flowers to the queen. The queen was surprised by the large number of beautiful flowers on that day and was accordingly informed about the past bad habit. Though instead of rebuking Kujjuttarā, Queen Sāmāvatī instructed her with a new task: from then on she had to go and listen to the discourses of the Buddha and to repeat them to her every day.
When the inherent qualities of Dhamma mature within one who treads the path as described by the Buddha then the value of ehipassiko8 usually manifests within. One develops the zeal of sharing with others the benefits (bahujanahitāya) and merits one has gained as a result of applying the Dhamma.
This desire to help other beings caused the Buddha, then known as Samaṇa Sumedha, to prostate at the feet of Buddha Dīpaṅkara and to express his aspiration to become a Sammāsambuddha himself. This desire to help other beings had been the singular reason to relinquish the possible enlightenment for himself with the thought:
What is the use if I alone should cross, a man seeing my powers?
Once I will have reached omniscience, I will help all beings including devas to cross to the other shore.
It was his desire to help and enable other beings to realise the ultimate benefit, which is nibbāna.
It was his desire to help other beings to obtain the path that, once applied, enables one to reach the highest well-being, which is nibbāna.
Hitāyāti taṃsampāpakamaggatthāyāti20 vuttaṃ hoti. Nibbānasampāpakamaggato hi uttariṃ hitaṃ nāma natthi.
It was his desire to help and enable other beings to realise that very happiness through the successful attainment of entering the stream towards nibbāna.
All this zeal to share one’s merits develops as the result of walking on the path of Dhamma, which in itself is beneficial, supportive and leads to welfare in three ways:
ādikalyāṇaṃ majjhekalyāṇaṃ pariyosānakalyāṇaṃ.
beneficial from the very beginning, in the middle and beneficial all through to the very end.
One starts realising that enormous benefits are already derived through observing the moral principles of sīla. These benefits multiply once one starts practising the calming meditation of Vipassana and reaches one’s peak by realising the fruit of nibbāna.
… sāsanadhammo attano atthabhūtena sīlena ādikalyāṇo, samathavipassanāmaggaphalehi majjhekalyāṇo, nibbānena pariyosānakalyāṇo.
… sīlasamādhīhi vā ādikalyāṇo,
The beauty of Dhamma presents itself in the truly enlightened Buddha, in a Dhamma that is pure, and a Saṅgha that practises uprightly.
… buddhasubuddhatāya vā ādikalyāṇo, dhammasudhammatāya majjhekalyāṇo, saṅghasuppaṭipattiyā pariyosānakalyāṇo.
1. It was the aspiration that this benevolent wish of S. N. Goenka should be fulfilled which was the basis for the preparation of this Pāli learning program and the short ‘Introduction to Pāli Grammar’.
2. This ‘Exploring the sacred, ancient path in the original words of the Buddha’ (ETP) uses as its source the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Tipiṭaka based on the Burmese version as published by Vipassana Research Institute: www.tipitaka.org.
3. The prophesy uttered by Thera Phussa that the current period of the second half of the sāsana of 2500 years is referred to in more detail in lesson 2.1.15 Phussattheragāthā - ‘2500 Years Are Over! ...’.
4. See the vocabulary of this lesson for the translation.
5. Mārakathā, Mahākhandhako, Mahāvaggapāḷi, Vinayapiṭake.
6. Similar to the opening vuttañhetaṃ, the expression etamatthaṃ bhagavā avoca (‘The Bhagava explained this matter’) in general concludes the prosaic part of the Buddha’s words in the Itivuttakapāḷi.
The following expression tatthetaṃ iti vuccati (‘in connection of which this was stated’) then introduces verses that are added in this connection to summarise the meaning in verse.
7. The expression tathāgato is a term that the Buddha uses whenever he talks about himself. It can be derived from tathā gata (having gone thus; i.e. having gone the path to enlightenment from the beginning to the end) as well as from tathā āgata (having come thus; i.e. having attained the state of enlightenment by the path he and all the Buddhas have proclaimed). For more details of the qualities of tathāgato refer to Lokasuttaṃ and Kāḷakārāmasuttaṃ in the Aṅguttaranikāyo, Catukkanipātapāḷi, Paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Uruvelavaggo.
8. ehipassiko: ehi (imp. of eti) + passiko — come + seeing: that which invites to come and see (quality of Dhamma).
9. asaṅkheyye: lit. not to be calculated; incalculable, an immensely long period of time.
10. kappa: a fixed period of time, of individual as well as of cosmic life: an aeon. A simile compares a kappa to a period not exhausted even after someone was to take out one seed every hundred years from a cube-like granary of one yojana in length, breadth and height, filled with tiny mustard seeds.
yojana: this was the traditional measurement of length and distance, usually understood as the distance a yoke could be drawn by an ox, about seven miles.
11. satasahasse: sata + sahasse — hundred + thousand.
12. Sumedhapatthanākathā, Buddhavaṃsapāḷi, Khuddakanikāye.
13. In this town, also called Amaravatī, lived the bodhisatta Sumedho: ‘Nagare amaravatiyā, sumedho nāma brāhmaṇo’… From there Sumedha left for solitude into the Himalayas, where he dwelled in a leaf hut and dedicated all his time to meditation. They're taking notice of the arising of the Sammāsambuddha Dīpaṅkaro (Dīpaṅkaro nāma jino, uppajji lokanāyako) he became thrilled and immediately made his way to pay homage.
14. tiṇṇa: pp. of tarati — cross, overcome.
15. thāmadassinā: thāma + dassinā — strength, power + seeing.
16. santāressaṃ: santāressāmi: (fut., caus. of tārati) — I will make cross.
17. Same source as note 12.
18. paramatthāya: parama + attha (dat.) — best, superior + benefit, welfare.
20. taṃsampāpakamaggatthāyāti: taṃ + sampāpaka + magga + atthāyā + ti — this + causing to obtain + path + benefit.
21. phalasamāpattisukhatthāyāti: phala + samāpatti + sukha + atthāya + ti — fruit + attainment + happiness + for the sake of.