3.6.8 Introduction to Maṅgalasuttaṃ - The householder’s wholesome blessings

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.6.8

Maṅgalasuttaṃ - The householder’s wholesome blessings 

‘‘Bahū devā manussā ca, maṅgalāni acintayuṃ;

Ākaṅkhamānā sotthānaṃ, brūhi maṅgalamuttamaṃ

“Many devas and men have pondered on welfares,

Yearning for happiness – Please explain what is the highest welfare!”

 

What is a good omen? What is a bad omen?

Is it a good omen if a black cat crosses your path at night or a good omen if you come across a black dressed chimney-sweeper early morning? Is the early morning-vision of a talking bird1 a good omen of the seen, the mention of a beneficial star constellation a good omen of the heard2 or the lovely fragnace of a lotus-flower a good omen of the sensed? 3  

The fascination of finding solace in specualtive replies through various kinds of portents, prophecies and superstition seems to be an integral constituent of mankind’s desires – in our modern times as in times past. It is said that during the times of the Buddha discussion arouse in the whole of Jambudīpa about what a good omen might be. Different positions were maintained without people getting reconciled: Tattha ekadivasaṃ4 maṅgalakathā samuṭṭhāsi ‘‘kiṃ nu kho maṅgalaṃ, kiṃ diṭṭhaṃ maṅgalaṃ, sutaṃ maṅgalaṃ, mutaṃ maṅgalaṃ, ko maṅgalaṃ jānātī’’ti. 5 – In the course of this one day a talk arouse: “And what now is a good omen? Is the seen a good omen, is it the heard or the sensed? Who is there that knows what a good omen is?”

It is further said that this discussion without consensus nor agreement was upheld and, what the commentary calls maṅgalakolāhalaṃ - ‘a good-omen-rumour’6 not only developed amongst mankind but also spread to the worlds of the devas and lasted and continued for twelve years: ‘Evaṃ yāva dasasahassacakkavāḷesu sabbattha maṅgalacintā udapādi. Uppannā ca ‘‘idaṃ maṅgalaṃ idaṃ maṅgala’’nti vinicchayamānāpi7 appattā eva vinicchayaṃ dvādasa vassāni aṭṭhāsi. Sabbe manussā ca devā ca brahmāno ca ṭhapetvā ariyasāvake diṭṭhasutamutavasena tidhā bhinnā. Ekopi ‘‘idameva maṅgala’’nti yathābhuccato8 niṭṭhaṅgato9 nāhosi, maṅgalakolāhalaṃ loke uppajji.’ – ‘In this way speculation about what a good omen might be spread up further to the ten thousand world-systems. The discussion having spread there and in spite of various definitions offered: “A good omen is this, a good omen is that!” no final agreement was achieved and all kept going on for twelve years. Besides the Noble Disciples all mankind, devas and Brahmas remained divided into three groups according to the seen, the heard and the sensed. Not a single one came to a conclusion here and that is how the good-omen-rumor arouse in the world.’

Finally it was decided to question Sakka, the ruler of the gods – devānaminda. Sakka was surprised to hear that in spite of the fact that the rumour first occurred in the human world no-one had ever considered to ask the Enlightened One who was dwelling there and commanded a certain deva to do so: …ekaṃ devaputtaṃ āṇāpesi ‘‘taṃ bhagavantaṃ pucchā’’ti.

The deva then appeared before the Buddha and entreated the Enlightened One to solve the riddle with the stanza that is quoted above: ......bhagavantaṃ abhivādetvā ekamantaṃ ṭhatvā maṅgalapañhaṃ pucchanto gāthāya ajjhabhāsi ‘‘bahū devā manussā cā’’ti.

 

This is the opening of the famous, often quoted and translated Maṅgālasutta10. In his reply to the deva the Buddha offers a pragmatic approach to achieve the - maṅgalamuttamaṃ - highest blessings for a householder. The Buddha immediately eradicates all base for speculation and presents a logical and practical method that enables every householder to live a righteous, responsible and happy life11. It enables him not only to perform his worldly responsibilities in a sensible and righteous way but also points beyond: - to the path of spiritual development. Those who embrace these maṅgala will accept all vicissitudes with a balanced and unshaken mind, sorrowless, stainless and secure: Phuṭṭhassa lokadhammehi, cittaṃ yassa na kampati; asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ, etaṃ maṅgalamuttamaṃ.

The Buddha starts from the necessary prerequisite of avoiding evil company12 but keeping good friendship.13 The Buddha further emphasizes the importance of being able to live in an area where the base for righteous livelihood in a peaceful environment exists in a way that gathering of merit is at all possible: …… ‘catasso parisā14 vicaranti, dānādīni puññakiriyavatthūni vattanti’ – …… ‘where the four kinds of assembly dwell so the base for achieving merit that start with the giving is available.’ The Buddha then proceeds with a step by step development of wholesome qualities that will establish every lay follower deeply in the path:

·      One should get disciplined by body, speech and mind. One needs proper education and training so maintaining a livelihood that is honest, morally upright and devoid of - parūparodhavirahitaṃ15 - injuring other living beings in any way16 is established on a suitable base. This also requires noble speech that avoids lying, offensive or harsh words and gossip17 but expresses amiability, empathy and honesty18.

·      One should take care of one’s parents, who foster their children a lifelong with all dedication desiring their wellbeing19; One should also support one’s wife and children by maintaining spheres of work that need to be free from conflict20 and devoid of negligence, unprofitable action, laziness and delay: ‘Patirūpakārī dhuravā21, uṭṭhātā vindate dhana’’nti’ – ‘one of decent actions, who is responsible and rising early will increase his fortune.’

·      Based on such wholesome criteria one proceeds with generosity in giving and maintains a life in accordance with Dhamma;22 one supports one’s relatives and performs blameless deeds supportive for the Uposatha-factors, performs social services, plants gardens and groves, builds bridges and such like.23

·      One leads a life where evil is properly comprehended as evil24 and gets completely shunned: …… ‘ārati nāma pāpe ādīnavadassāvino manasā eva anabhirati. Virati nāma kammadvāravasena kāyavācāhi viramaṇaṃ’ – …… ‘Ceasing, shrinking is the mental non-delight of one who recognizes danger in evil. Shunning, abstaining is the act of abstinence in the two doors of action: body and speech.’ Also intoxication is out of question because diligence in upholding the Dhamma and righteous conduct can be maintained only without carelessness, negligence or heedlessness but full of resolution, zeal and interest.

·      Respectful, humble and fully content one gets desirous in hearing, understanding and developing the Dhamma as one turns deeply grateful. One is aware that such gratefulness is a rare quality: Āha ca ‘‘dveme, bhikkhave, puggalā dullabhā lokasmiṃ. Katame dve? Yo ca pubbakārī yo ca kataññū katavedī’’ti.25 This gratefulness is also based on knowledge through recollection of whatever assistance one has received, little or much by whomsoever and by recollection of merits. One gratefully appreciates the welfare of being able to encounter and hear the Dhamma.26

·      By developing the quality of khanti - patience and forgiveness it gets easy to accept criticism and guidance - sovacassatā. With meek humbleness when corrected one gets desirous discussing one’s behaviour and conduct with those who have reached a position to guide him, who have gone forth and whose defilements are stilled. Their criticism and guidance is a beneficial jewel, their instruction in Dhamma a great boon.

·      This all escorts to a state where one gets eager to practice Dhamma in depth, to lead a life of purity and proceed closer to the realisation of the Noble Truths and Nibbana!

 

May more and more people get enabled to lead such a life!

May the application of these maṅgala strengthen their practice of Dhamma!

May their lives be filled with blessings, may their lives be secure and calm and unshaken by the vicissitudes everyone has to encounter!

 



[1] vuṭṭhāya cātakasakuṇaṃ vā passati - diṭṭhaṃ nāma abhimaṅgalasammataṃ rūpaṃ - having risen (early) one sees a speaking bird – what is seen is approved being the best omen.

[2] ajja sunakkhattaṃ - sutaṃ nāma abhimaṅgalasammato saddo – ‘today is a good contellation’ – what is heard is approved being the best omen.

[3] vuṭṭhāya padumagandhādipupphagandhaṃ vā ghāyati - mutaṃ nāma abhimaṅgalasammataṃ gandharasaphoṭṭhabbaṃ - having risen (early) one smells the fragnace of a flower like a lotusflower – fragnance, taste or touch is approved being the best omen.

[4] ekadivasaṃ: one day: People were gathering and sitting together due to various reasons

[5] This and the following quotes are from the commentary: Maṅgalapañhasamuṭṭhānakathā, Maṅgalasuttavaṇṇanā, Khuddakapāṭha-aṭṭhakathā

[6] The commentary mentions the existence of five great rumours that circulate for a long time: kappakolāhalaṃ, cakkavattikolāhalaṃ, buddhakolāhalaṃ, maṅgalakolāhalaṃ, moneyyakolāhalanti – Romours about the great aeon; the wheel turning monarch; the apprearance of a Buddha; about the good omen and about stillness.

[7] vinicchayamānāpi: vinicchaya + māna + āpi: investigation + measure + and

[8] yathābhuccato: in this case

[9] niṭṭhaṅgato: niṭṭha + aṅgato: completion, agreement + come to, go to

[10] The presented translation here is taken verbatim from the inspiring booklet: ‘Gem Set in Gold’ that was prepared with dedication and perseverance by my dear Dhamma Brothers S.N. Tandon, Bill Hart and Rick Crutcher and published by Pariyatti and VRI. May their merits be shared with many!

[11] See also 3.6.3 Parābhavasuttaṃ. This ‘twin-sister’ of the Maṅgalasutta was preached to the very same deva after his report to Sakka about the maṅgalasutta. Sakka then also wanted to hear about the causes of downfall from the Buddha, so the deva had to appear before the Buddha again to ask the questions related there!

[12] The commentary replies to the question, why the Buddha especially starts with: - ‘asevanā ca bālānaṃ - avoidance of fools’ - as the very first maṅgala? Next to the fact that their company in general seduces to all kinds of unwholesome activities (see 3.6.5 Siṅgālasuttaṃ) the commentary explains that the reason that such a misleading rumour and false view about good omens occurred was due to foolish and ignorant people: ……yasmā imaṃ diṭṭhādīsu maṅgaladiṭṭhiṃ bālasevanāya devamanussā gaṇhiṃsu, sā ca amaṅgalaṃ

[13] See previous suttas on the importance of good friendship: 3.1.8; 3.6.6 and 3.6.7.

[14] These are: bhikkus, bhikkhunis, and male and female layfollowers.

[15] parūparodhavirahitaṃ: para + ūpa + rodhana + virahitaṃ: others + obstructing + bereft of, exempt from

[16] Sippaṃ …… Tattha agārikasippaṃ nāma yaṃ parūparodhavirahitaṃ akusalavivajjitaṃ maṇikārasuvaṇṇakārakammādikaṃ, taṃ idhalokatthāvahanato maṅgalaṃ

[17] Subhāsitā vācā nāma musāvādādidosavirahitā

[18] For the characteristics of subhāsitā vācā refer to chapter 3.4 on Samma Vācā: - especially see 3.4.2 Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ; 3.4.3 Vācāsuttaṃ and 3.4.14 Buddhānussatikathā.

[19] Here the commentary refers to the samacittavaggo – the sutta points so the boundless gratitude and the debt towards one’s parents which can hardly ever be repaid except by establishing them in sīla, samādhi and paññā (see under the chapter of dāna: 4.2.12 - samacittavaggo)

[20] Anākulā kammantā nāma kālaññutāya patirūpakāritāya analasatāya uṭṭhānavīriyasampadāya, abyasanīyatāya ca kālātikkamanaappatirūpakaraṇasithilakaraṇādiākulabhāvavirahitā kasigorakkhavāṇijjādayo kammantā – The spheres of work that are said to be without any conflict are those like working in the fields, cattle-keeping, trade and suchlike. They result from punctuality, decent conduct, industriousness, perseverance of energy in early rising and freedom from malpractices that are devoid of such un-profitableness as delay, improper action, inaction, tardy action and the like.

[21] dhuravā: bearing one’s burden

[22] Dhammacariyā nāma dasakusalakammapathacariyā. Yathāha – ‘‘tividhā kho gahapatayo kāyena dhammacariyā samacariyā hotī’’ti evamādi: A life of Dhamma is a life with one’s conduct established in the ten courses of wholesome actions as it is said: ‘There are, householder the three kinds of bodily conduct that are in accordance with the Dhamma, fair conduct.’ - For the ten courses of wholesome action compare lessons 3.4.5 Upālisuttaṃ- 1; 3.5.3 Upālisuttaṃ- 2; and 3.4.6 Cundasuttaṃ-1; - 3.5.4 Cundasuttaṃ-2; and 3.7.7 Cundasuttaṃ-3.

[23] Anavajjāni kammāni nāma uposathaṅgasamādānaveyyāvaccakaraṇaārāmavanaropanasetukaraṇādīni kāyavacīmanosucaritakammāni.

[24] Pāpaṃ nāma yaṃ taṃ ‘‘pāṇātipāto kho, gahapatiputta, kammakileso, adinnādānaṃ…pe… kāmesumicchācāro…pe… musāvādo’’ti evaṃ vitthāretvā: ‘Pāṇātipāto adinnādānaṃ, musāvādo ca vuccati; Paradāragamanañceva, nappasaṃsanti paṇḍitā’’ti’ – Evil is understood and given in detail thus: ‘Killing living beings, O’ householder’s son, is an unwholesome, defiling action; taking things that are not given is an unwholesome, defiling action and undergoing sexual misconduct is an unwholesome, defiling action and speaking falsehood is an unwholesome, defiling action’. This is summarized in this way: ‘‘Killing living beings, taking what is not given and speaking falsehood, getting involved with the wives of others, these action as the wise ones do reject!” - see 3.6.5 Siṅgālasuttaṃ - part one.

[25] See lesson 1.2.3 Dullabhasuttaṃ

[26] Kataññutā nāma appassa vā bahussa vā yena kenaci katassa upakārassa punappunaṃ anussaraṇabhāvena jānanatā..

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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.6.8

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Last modified: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 3:32 PM