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 this ‘Exploring the Path in the Direct Words of the Buddha’2 along with the introduction and vocabulary training intend to provide inspiration to practise. It is ONLY application of paṭipatti which in the end will provide 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 for 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 do pass in darkness, mankind currently encounters a remedy not only on the level of theoretical understanding and philosophical satisfaction but also as 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 — bahujanahitaya — the Buddha (the Tathagata7), an Arahant, and a disciple who is able to teach the Dhamma.
Vuttañhetaṃ — ‘this has been said’ — refers to the female slave of Queen Samāvāti by the name Khujjhuttarā in Kosambī. The name Khujjhuttarā 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 another previous life she had treated a nun like 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 when she proved fast thinking in a previous life, where she quickly presented wristlets to Pacceka Buddhas, who had trouble holding extremely hot food in their bowls.
Her main duty under queen Samāvāti 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 money for herself. This attitude changed when she listened to a discourse of the Buddha one day, which inspired her to present the correct amount of flowers to the queen. The queen was surprised by the large amount of beautiful flowers on that day and was accordingly informed about the past bad habit. But instead of rebuking Kujjhuttarā, the Queen Samāvāti 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 many the benefits — ‘bahujanahitaya’ — and merits one has gained oneself as a result of applying the Dhamma.
This desire to help other beings caused the Buddha, then as Samaṇa Sumedha, to prostate at the feet of Buddha Dīpankara and to express his aspiration to become a Sammasambuddha 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 wellbeing, which is nibbāna:
Hitāyāti taṃsampāpakamaggatthāyāti20 vuttaṃ hoti. Nibbānasampāpakamaggato hi uttariṃ hitaṃ nāmanatthi.
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:
Sukhāyāti phalasamāpattisukhatthāyāti21 vuttaṃ hoti,
tato uttari sukhābhāvato.
All this zeal of sharing one’s merits develops as the result of one’s own walking on the path of Dhamma, which in itself is beneficial, supportive and leading to welfarein 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 by starting to observe the moral principles of sīla. These benefits multiply once one starts practising the calming meditation of Vipassana and reaches one's peak in realising the fruit of nibbāna:
… ‘sāsanadhammo attano atthabhūtena sīlena ādikalyāṇo, samathavipassanāmaggaphalehi majjhekalyāṇo, nibbānena pariyosānakalyāṇ’
… ‘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’
May this first selected sutta, the Bahujanahitasuttaṃ, inspire many beings to walk on the path, realize its benefits that: — ‘ādikalyāṇaṃ majjhekalyāṇaṃ pariyosānakalyāṇaṃ’ — and may these be shared with many other beings!
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-programme and the short ‘Introduction to Pāli Grammer’.
2. This ‘Exploring the Path in the Direct Words of the Buddha’ (ETP) uses as its source the Chatta Saṅghayana 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) sasana of 2500 years is refered to in more detail at 2.1.15 Phussattheragāthā - The Prophecy of: ‘2500 Years are over!’...
4. See vocabulary of this lesson for 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 prose part of the words of the Buddha in the Itivuttakapāḷi.
The following expression: ‘tatthetaṃ iti vuccati’ —‘in connection of which this was stated’— than 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 tatha 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 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 oxen, 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 leafhut and dedicated all his time to meditation. There taking notice of the arising of the Sammasambhuddha Dīpaṅkaro (Dīpaṅkaro nāma jino, uppajji lokanāyako) he got 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. As above.
18. paramatthāya: parama + attha (dat.): best, superior + benefit, welfare.
20. taṃsampāpakamaggatthāyāti: taṃ + sampāpaka + magga + atthāyā + ti: this + causing to optain + path + benefit.
21. phalasamāpattisukhatthāyāti: phala + samāpatti + sukha + atthāya + ti: fruit +attainment + happiness + for the sake of.