Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 1.4.3
Dhajaggasuttaṃ - Verses for Protection

The verses are extracted from the Dhajaggasutta, found in the Saṃyuttanikāyo, the last chapter of the Sagāthāvaggo, the Sakkasaṃyuttaṃ. The Sakkasaṃyutta collects verses attributed to Sakka, the ruler of the devas of the Tāvatiṃsa world, the heavenly fields of the devas. The Tāvatiṃsa world is the realm of the thirty-three, the second of the sense fields of heavenly worlds.1 Thirty-three youths were reborn there as a result of meritorious deeds in their past lives.2 Sakka attempts to rule in righteousness, full of patience and compassionate understanding, but is constantly attacked by the Asuras under their leaders Verocana and Vepacitti,3 who favour force and vengeance.

The Buddha relates here an incident in the historical past of a battle in full swing between the Devas and the Asuras. Dhajagga is constituted of dhaja + agga which means ‘banner, flag, banner; mark, emblem, sign, symbol’ + ‘top, highest point’ and can be translated as ‘top of a standard’. It refers to a banner that is held up by a leading soldier to have the army following him; ‘top of a standard’ refers to the advice of the Buddha providing a comparison for a meditator fighting his own ‘battle’. During this combat Sakka, being their king, tried to rouse the Devas and stir his army by asking them to remember his strength (or as a substitute, some of his gods4) in order to regain their strength to overcome their fear. The Buddha then compares the distress that might arise during the battle with the difficulties that might arise during meditation and encourages the meditator to recollect the qualities of the Triple Gem, whenever they find they are lacking in zeal. He refers first to the full paying of respects, homage or salutation as constitute the ‘vandana’ for the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha.5 He then concludes with these lovely verses as quoted here in the current selection. Thus any meditator should be able to overcome any obstacles, hindrances and dread that might arise during meditation. Thus inspiring ‘recollection’ of the respective qualities is also generally referred to as anussati.6

Using this historical account as an example the Buddha reveals that while full faith in the refuge of the Triple Gem would fully function, Sakka’s advice was bound to fail.

Taṃ kissa hetu? Sakko hi, bhikkhave, devānamindo avītarāgo avītadoso avītamoho bhīru7 chambhī8 utrāsī9 palāyīti.10 Taṃ kissa hetu? Tathāgato hi, bhikkhave, arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vītarāgo vītadoso vītamoho abhīru acchambhī anutrāsī apalāyī”ti.

Why is this so? Because Sakka, Bhikkhus, is himself not free from rāgo, doso, moho, he himself is fearful, frightened, terrified and runs away. Not so the Tathāgata, he is completely free from rāgo, doso, moho, he is not fearful, frightened, terrified and does not run away.


These concluding verses summarise Buddha’s encouragement for his Bhikkhus inspiring them with the qualities of the Triple Gem whenever they were lacking in zeal and overcome by hindrances in their meditation. Recollecting and comprehending the qualities will strengthen, foster and support saddhā, and when realized in this way will provide the proper base:

● for exerting effort

In the Padhāniyaṅgasutta11 the Buddha points to saddhā as one of the five necessary pre-conditions or constituents of exertion to turn one’s efforts into successful progress

saddho, appābādho, amāyāvī, āraddhavīriyo, paññavā.

… devotion, health and wellbeing, honesty, ability of putting forth unyielding effort and wisdom in perceiving the process of arising and passing.12

● For the development of the five ‘strengths’:

Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, balāni. Katamāni pañca?

Saddhābalaṃ, vīriyabalaṃ, satibalaṃ, samādhibalaṃ, paññābalaṃ.

There are, Bhikkhus, these five strengths. What are the five? They are the strength of devotion, the strength of energy or effort, the strength of awareness, the strength of concentration and the strength of wisdom. 13

Saddhā as ‘strength’ is explained by the Buddha as full confidence and devotion into his qualities

Katamañca, bhikkhave, saddhābalaṃ? Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako saddho hoti, saddahati tathāgatassa bodhiṃ– ‘itipi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vijjācaraṇasampanno sugato lokavidū anuttaro purisadammasārathi satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā’ti. Idaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, saddhābalaṃ.14

What, Bhikkhus is called the strength of saddhā? It is when a Bhikkhu is filled with confidence, has confidence in the Enlightenment of the Tathāgata: ‘Thus is the Bhagavā, an Arahant, a fully Self-Enlightened One, perfect in knowledge and conduct, having reached the final goal, seeing the entire universe, an incomparable trainer of mankind, a teacher of Gods and men, an Enlightened One, a Bhagavā’. That, Bhikkhus, is called the strength of saddhā.

The Enlightened One furthers provides a simile that compares the five strengths with the Gaṅges river, waters that flow towards the east

Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, gaṅgā nadī pācīnaninnā pācīnapoṇā pācīnapabbhārā15; evameva kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu pañca balāni bhāvento pañcabalāni bahulīkaronto nibbānaninno hoti nibbānapoṇo nibbānapabbhāro.16

It is, Bhikkhus, in the same way as the Gaṅges river bents, slopes and leads towards the east, a Bhikkhu, who develops and fulfils the fife strengths bents, slopes and leads towards Nibbāna.17

Likewise, grounded on the development of the five ‘strengths’ for the maturation of the five ‘dominating factors’ or ‘faculties’

Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, indriyāni. Katamāni pañca? Saddhindriyaṃ, vīriyindriyaṃ, satindriyaṃ, samādhindriyaṃ, paññindriyaṃ.

There are, Bhikkhus these five dominating factors or faculties. What are the five? They are the faculty of devotion, the faculty of energy or effort, the faculty of awareness, the faculty of concentration and the faculty of wisdom.18

Saddhā as ‘dominating factor’ or ‘faculty’ is explained by the Buddha as the first constituent that, along with the other four,     enables a meditator to achieve the state of a Sotāpanna

Yato kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako imesaṃ pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti– ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako sotāpanno avinipātadhammo19 niyato sambodhiparāyaṇo’ti20

When, Bhikkhus a Noble Disciple understands these five faculties in their true nature, how they are relished, the danger in them and the escape from them, then such a Noble Disciple is called one who is a stream-enterer, does not go to the lower realms of existence but is bound to complete enlightenment.

1. See also 1.3.7 Hirīsuttaṃ - By Sense of Shame.

2. About the lokas above the human world see especially 3.2.3 Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṃ-2 - The Four Noble Truths Have to Be Fully Realized.

3. For a short history of Vepacitti, see 3.2.0 Samuddakasuttaṃ - Sown Is the Seed.

4. These were in the order mentioned: devarāja Pajāpati, Varuṇa, and Īsāna.

5. For the vandana of the Buddha (itipi so bhagavā arahaṃ sammāsambuddho vijjācaraṇasampanno sugato lokavidū anuttaro purisadammasārathi satthā devamanussānaṃ buddho bhagavā’ti) see 1.1.0 and 1.4.0; for the vandana of Dhamma please refer to 3.1.0 Dhammānussati – Recollecting the Qualities of the Dhamma So Well Explained. Lastly, for the recollection of the Saṅgha see the previous lesson 1.4.2 Vandana: Esa Bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho – Inspiration Gained through the Ariyan Disciples.

6. The Tipiṭaka mentions different selections of anussati for which one may refer to 2.1.0 Dhammānussati – Recollecting the Qualities of the Dhamma so well Explained.

7. bhīru: timid, afraid.

8. chambhī: trembling, fearful.

9. utrāsī: fearful, timid.

10. palāyīti: palāyī: palāyati (aor.) + ti — escaped, run away + quote ending.

11. Padhāniyaṅgasuttaṃ, Nīvaraṇavaggo, Dutiyapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Pañcakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo.

12. See 3.7.3 Saṃvarasuttaṃ – How Can Right Effort Get Perfected?

13. Vitthatasuttaṃ, Balavaggo, Paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Pañcakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo.

14. Vitthatasuttaṃ, Balavaggo, Paṭhamapaṇṇāsakaṃ, Pañcakanipātapāḷi, Aṅguttaranikāyo.

15. pācīnaninnā pācīnapoṇā pācīnapabbhārā: pācīna + ninnā, pācīna + poṇā, pācīna + pabbhārā — eastern + bent down, eastern + sloping down, eastern + sloping, leading to.

16. Balādisuttadvādasakaṃ, Gaṅgāpeyyālavaggo, Balasaṃyuttaṃ, Mahāvaggo, Saṃyuttanikāyo.

17. The Buddha further explains that the way to develop and cultivate these strengths is based on:  … bhikkhu saddhābalaṃ bhāveti vivekanissitaṃ virāganissitaṃ nirodhanissitaṃ vossaggapariṇāmiṃ… (… a Bhikkhu develops the strength of saddhā founding it on seclusion, dispassion, annihilation and relinquishing…).

18. Suddhikasuttaṃ, Indriyasaṃyuttaṃ, Mahāvaggo, Saṃyuttanikāyo.

19. avinipātadhammo: a + vinipāta + dhammo — not + lower realms of suffering + states.

20. Paṭhamasotāpannasuttaṃ, Indriyasaṃyuttaṃ, Mahāvaggo, Saṃyuttanikāyo.

Last modified: Wednesday, 15 November 2023, 6:09 PM