Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.2.8
(What is Perception of Impermanence?)

There are various instances in the Suttas, that describe a situation, where a Venerable Bhikku, in this text the Venerable Girimānanda is found to be suffering from a certain disease. At times the Buddha is requested to visit and to support them. In this present sutta Girimānanda had become seriously ill and Ānanda requested the Buddha to visit Girimānanda to ease his illness. In this situation the Buddha refers this quest back to Ānanda and requests him to go instead and instructs him to relate the ten perceptions1 to Girimānanda which would help him, to recover immediately from his disease after having heard them: Sace kho tvaṃ, ānanda, girimānandassa bhikkhuno dasa saññā bhāseyyāsi, ṭhānaṃ kho panetaṃ vijjati yaṃ girimānandassa bhikkhuno dasa saññā sutvā so ābādho ṭhānaso paṭippassambheyya2.

Often suttas like this serve as a protective – paritta – discourse or paritta-chanting in traditional Buddhist traditions and are habitually recited in case of illness. A famous example is the three bojjhaṅga-suttas from the bojjhaṅgasaṃyutta. These three respective suttas, the Paṭhamagilānasuttaṃ, the Dutiyagilānasuttaṃ and the Tatiyagilānasuttaṃ, prominently known as the Mahākassapattherabojjhaṅga, the Mahāmoggallānattherabojjhaṅga and the Mahācundattherabojjhaṅga describes a situation, where one of the respective Venerable Elders, Mahākassapatthera, Mahāmoggallānathera or the Buddha himself suffered from serious illness. In the first two instances the Buddha himself visits Mahākassapa and Mahāmoggallāna and recites the seven bojjhaṅga to them, thus instigating them to stir up their energy and to practice these by using each of these factors to dive into the understanding of anicca, dukka and anatta, thus overcoming weakness and illness. The last instance relates a situation where the Buddha himself is suffering and requests the Venerable Mahācunda to remind him of the seven bojjhaṅga. In all situations those fully Enlightened Ones overcome their disease with the help of the practice of these factors. Likewise in this Girimānandasutta these ten perceptions need to be practiced. This present short excerpt is selected to precede the next sutta.

When reciting or reading these suttas, one has to keep in mind that they were recited to Arahants, who all had already been practicing the bojjhaṅga or the dasa saññā up to perfection and may due to illness not have been able to remember these and work with them - thus the helpful reminder through an Elder re-established their practice. It is the practical application through meditation that enables a meditator to develop each one of these factors which then will serve as a supportive tool for recovery. The practice of mere reciting and listening to these suttas will be of help only if the saññā or bojjhaṅga are applied3.

1 These ten perceptions are perception of impermanence, of non-self, non-I, of impurity, of danger, of abandonment or rejection, of dispassion, of cessation, of disgust or dissatisfaction towards this word of mind and matter, of understanding all created formations in their impermanent nature and the perception of awareness of breathing—Katamā dasa? Aniccasaññā, anattasaññā, asubhasaññā, ādīnavasaññā, pahānasaññā, virāgasaññā, nirodhasaññā, sabbaloke anabhiratasaññā, sabbasaṅkhāresu anicchāsaññā, ānāpānassati

paṭippassambheyya: would be calmed, quieted, subside

3 The commentary explains through this application with full appreciation of the liberating teaching of the Buddha the malady departs from the body as a water-drop falling from a lotus-leaf because the blood gets cleared and the physical fuel purified:—Athassa ‘‘niyyānikaṃ vata satthusāsana’’nti cintayato lohitaṃ pasīdi, upādārūpaṃ visuddhaṃ ahosi, pokkharapatte patitaudakabindu viya sarīrato rogo vinivattitvā gato. Tena vuttaṃ ‘‘tathā pahīno cāyasmato mahākassapassa so ābādho ahosī’’ti. (see also lesson 1.4.4)

Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.2.8

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Last modified: Thursday, 28 December 2023, 10:46 AM