Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
Introduction to 1.2.0
Dullabho - So Rare!
Ye sotavanto pamuñcantu saddhaṃ;1
those are the doors of the deathless,
Let those intent on hearing deliver their faith!
This chapter is titled Dullabho2 - So Rare as it presents original texts where the Buddha himself indicates how rare it is to encounter the teaching of the Enlightened One by listening to the Dhamma (saddhammassavanaṃ) and, after hearing it, being able to actually walk the path as so generously laid out by the Buddha. Therefore, these lovely lines are chosen as introductory verses that introduce the language of the Dhammapada.
One intention of this course (‘Exploring the Path’ or ETP) is to acquaint the reader with various texts from different sources in the Tipiṭaka. While the first lesson3 chose a sutta from the Itivuttaka the current verse is selected from the most famous and most often translated book, the Dhammapada.4
The Dhammapada, in its 432 verses presented in 26 chapters, succinctly expresses the essence of the Buddha’s teaching in linguistic and poetic magnificence. Many verses appear differently in different texts. Therefore, various verses will be quoted in this course.
This verse, the fourth of the Buddhavaggo, was uttered by the Buddha to ease the despair of a king of dragons by the name of Erakapatta. This king had once in his previous life, in spite of persistent and unblemished efforts in his meditation, neglectfully broke off a leaf from an Eraka tree (hence his name: eraka – patta: leaf) when passing by boat on a river. Considering it a mere trifle5 he was therefore reborn as Erakapatta. Waiting during the entire, everlasting period of one Buddha for the next to arise, he asked his beautiful daughter to dance and sing every fortnight on uposatha days. He was in this way presenting his daughter to any suitor hoping for one who would give the proper reply to a riddle she was singing. He knew that this riddle could only be solved by someone who had encountered the teaching of the Buddha.
Finally, after the appearance of Siddhattha, the Brahmin Uttara learned the correct reply to the Buddha’s riddle and was, therefore, successful in his courtship gaining Erakapatta’s full approval for the bride. Full of inspiration, knowing that the next Buddha had now appeared, Erakapatta went to Siddhattha and weepingly expressed his sadness that he had to wait so enduringly long for the next Buddha to appear. The Buddha tried to soothe him by stating the facts expressed in this stanza.
The term saddhammassavanaṃ6 is a compound of saddhamma + savana and means ‘listening to the true, existing Dhamma’. The term saddhamma can also be derived from saddhā and dhamma and contains the following seven saddhammas: saddha (faith), sati (awareness), hiri (sense of shame), otthappa (moral sense of guilt), bahusacca (ample learning), vīriya (diligence) and paññā (wisdom). A person who desires to develop deeper in meditation should perfectly accomplish these seven saddhammas together with sīla (morality), bhojhanamattaññutā (moderation in eating), jāgariyanuyoga (wakefulness) and indriyasaṃvara (guarding the sense doors).7
1. Pāsarāsisuttaṃ, Opammavaggo, Mūlapaṇṇāsapāḷi, Majjhimanikāyo.
This was said after the Buddha was addressed by Brahma Sahampatti who requested him to teach the Dhamma to those who would be able to understand it! (see Introduction to 1.3.1 Saṅgāravasuttaṃ - The Questions of Saṅgāravo).
2. dullabho: du + l + labho — difficult + to gain, to achieve.
4. For the purpose of this presentation the Pāli as presented in the Chatta Saṅghayana Tipiṭaka published by VRI is taken as the base. ETP’s sole purpose is to stir readers to individual study of this ancient language to gain inspiration for practice. The Dhammapada exists in manifold versions in different traditions, with minor and major changes and in a great many translations. It is left to scholars to discuss its origin and original version.
6. sa + d + dhamma: with true dhamma, lit. sant pr.p of atthi: — to be, existing — by the sandhi rules it develops into sant – sat – sad + d + dhamma.
7. Most of these important qualities for a meditator will be discussed in more detail as the course progresses; for example, see 3.7.2 ālasāyanuyoge ādīnavā versus āraddhavīriyo ārakkhagocaro - Beware of the Dangers of Idleness by Keeping Up Unyielding Energy! Also see 1.4.4 Sekhasuttaṃ - Seven Befitting Qualities of an Ariyan Disciple where the Venerable Ānanda expounds these seven essential qualities in more detail.