Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa
This short and rather easy Pāraṅgamasutta once more terminates with the opening verses that were to define the concept of this section: ‘appakā te manussesu…’. And once more they invite the reader by using the shortcut …’pe’… to refresh one’s memory with the constituents of the ‘ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo’.
When the text opens with the following abbreviation: ‘sāvatthinidānaṃ’ which refers to the longer phrase: ‘Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā sāvattiyaṃ viharati jetavane anāthapiṇḍikassa ārāme’—‘At a certain time the Bhagavā was dwelling at Jeta’s Grove in Anāthapindika’s Park near Sāvatti’. The word: ‘nidāna’ means literally: ‘tying down to, ground, foundation’ and is used in the accusative to denote the reason for something. Here it means the background and the circumstances that resulted in the delivering of this discourse of the Buddha in Sāvatti.1
Sāvatti was the main city in the Kāsī-Kosala country and had derived its appellation from a sage by the name of Sāvatta. The commentary also explains that, because for merchants there was everything available: —‘sabbaṃ atthi’— and also everyone else could get, whatever one desired: —‘sabba atthi’— and thus the name Sāvatti got established.
According to the scriptures it is a natural course of event, that any Buddha would teach the Dhamma only when requested. The following reply to a respective question by King Milinda by the Venerable Nāgasena2 explains that two conditions must be fulfilled for a Fully Enlightened One to disseminate the teaching:
One is the internal cause: —‘ajjhatika nidāna’— the immense feeling of compassion of the Buddha for the world and the suffering in ignorance, and the second one is the external cause: —‘bāhira nidāna’— the request of the highest being, mostly respected in the world: —‘lokagaru’.
“Api ca, mahārāja, sabbesaṃ tathāgatānaṃ dhammatā3 esā, yaṃ brahmunā āyācitā dhammaṃ desenti. Tattha pana kiṃ kāraṇaṃ?
Ye tena samayena manussā tāpasaparibbājakā4 samaṇabrāhmaṇā, sabbete brahmadevatā honti brahmagarukā brahmaparāyaṇā, tasmā tassa balavato yasavato ñātassa paññātassa uttarassa accuggatassa5 onamanena sadevako loko onamissati6 okappessati7 adhimuccissatīti8 iminā ca, mahārāja, kāraṇena tathāgatā brahmunā āyācitā dhammaṃ desenti.”
“This is an inherent necessity with all Tathāgatā, that they teach Dhamma only on request of a Brahma. And what is the reason for this?
It is because at those times, all mankind including all hermits, recluses, all Sāmaṇas and Brāhmiṇs, worship Brahma, revere Brahma and adore Brahma. Then if therefore such a powerful, glorious, well known, wise, high and mighty being pays his respect then the whole world including devas will feel inclined, trust and take courage to pay respect in the same way, that is why, great king, a Tathāgatā proclaims the Dhamma only when requested by a Brahma.”
1. The commentary in general expresses introductory explanatory notes also with the term: ‘nidānaṃ’.
2. Dhammadesanāya, Appossukkapañho, Meṇḍakapañho, Milindapañhapāḷi, Khuddakanikāye.
The Milindapañha is a selection of ‘dilemmas’, ‘doubts’ and questions that King Milinda presents to challenge his opposite, the Venerable Nāgasena. Further verses will be presented in the next lesson: 1.3.4 Catutthavaggo - The Few and the Many
For a more detailed reference to Milindapañhapāḷi see the introduction to 3.7.0: Right Effort – Sīlalakkhaṇapañho – Proceeding Further on the Path - the Wholesome Base of Sīla is only a Precondition!
3. dhammatā: inherent necessity
4. tāpasaparibbājakā: tāpasa + paribbājakā: ascetic, hermit + recluses
5. accuggatassa: very high, lofty
6. onamissati: onamati: (fut.) bend down
7. okappessati: okappeti: (fut.) put one’s trust in
8. adhimuccissati: adhimuccati: (fut.) inclined to