Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.4.1
sammāvācā — right speech 

(Words like those of a Flower)

Kiccho manussapaṭilābho, kicchaṃ maccāna jīvitaṃ
Difficult it is to attain human birth, Rare to live a life as a mortal1

Chapter 3.4 of this `Exploring the Path´ has commenced with the above verses from Dhammapada for good reason. Human existence enriches mankind with the unique ability amongst beings to opt not only for honest, healthy and wholesome lifestyle but also to aim for spiritual growth. Determined endeavor of making resolved use of these tools, enrich mankind with the possibility of maintaining noble speech and enabling communication that can foster harmony, support upright collaboration and allow participation in knowledge and wisdom. Sammāvācā further facilitates noble conduct and proper livelihood that promotes peace and nurtures welfare. However, it remains the choice of each individual to choose a path to mental and physical wellbeing:

Cattārome, bhikkhave, puggalā santo saṃvijjamānā lokasmiṃ. Tamo tamaparāyaṇo, tamo jotiparāyaṇo, joti tamaparāyaṇo, joti jotiparāyaṇo.” – “There are, O’ Bhikkhus, four kinds of persons to be found in this world. There is one kind that is heading from darkness to darkness, another kind is heading from darkness towards brightness, the next kind is heading from brightness towards darkness and the other from brightness towards brightness.”2

The verses that open this chapter on sammāvācā are from Pupphavaggo of the Dhammapada and are related to beings that, during the time of the Buddha made that very honest choice. Both are connected to King Pasenadi of the Kosala-country. The first two verses refer to Queen Mallika3 and were uttered by the Buddha after Ananda had reported back about the different effect that the teaching had on the two chief queens of King Pasenadi. Ananda had been invited by the king to give talks on Dhamma to the two queens Mallika and Vāsabhakhattiyā instead of the householder Chattapāṇi, who had refused the same invitation by pointing out that this was only proper for a Bhikkhu to do so. While Queen Mallika absorbed every discourse of Ananda that was held to both in the royal chambers and tried to put the teaching into practice, Queen Vāsabhakhattiyā hardly applied the teaching.

The last verse relates to Vishākā, who was the daughter of the treasurer Dhanañjaya, also known as Migāramāta4. He had been asked, with permission of King Biṃbiṃsara, by King Pasenadi to move from his homeland Maghada to Kosala. While during those days five extremely rich families lived in Maghada, in Kosala existed not even one. So Dhanañjaya settled with his family at a location that was later called Sāketa, a city especially established for him, which was seven leagues away from Sāvatti, the capital of the state. There Vishāka got married to Puṇṇavaḍḍhanakumāro, the son of the treasurer Migāra from Sāvatthi and moved to her parent-in-laws’. Already in her early years Vishāka had developed the wisdom of a sotāpanna and in the process of her life in Sāvatthi she managed slowly and wisely to inspire all the members of this family to adopt the teaching of the Buddha. Her father-in-law as well as her mother-in-law later attained the state of a sotāpanna as well. Harmony and peace prevailed in this family and all, but especially Vishāka, dedicated their life and wealth to support the Saṅgha. She initiated and donated for the erecting of the Migāramātupāsāda monastery in the Pubbārāmapark at the western entrance to Sāvatthi while the Jetavana monastery donated by Anāthapiṇdaka lay on the southern entrance of this ancient city5.

1. See lesson 1.2.0

2. See 1.3.6 Tamotamasuttaṃ - From Darkness or Brightness to Brightness or Darkness

3. See lesson 3.3.12

4.  A more detailed description of how Vishākā came to be known as Migāramāta is related in 1.4.6: Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ - Free from Prattle and Chatter is this Assembly.

5. Later another monastery close to Jetavana, named Rājakārāma, was built by King Pasenadi. The erection had originally been intended to be for the use of other ‘heretical’ groups but then built for the benefit of the Saṅgha.

Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.4.1

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Last modified: Thursday, 28 December 2023, 10:44 AM