Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.6.13


How to Live in Harmony and True Democracy


     …… “Tena hi bhavaṃ rājā ye bhoto rañño janapade ussahanti1 kasigorakkhe2, tesaṃ bhavaṃ rājā bījabhattaṃ anuppadetu3. Ye bhoto rañño janapade ussahanti vāṇijjāya, tesaṃ bhavaṃ rājā pābhataṃ4 anuppadetu. Ye bhoto rañño janapade ussahanti rājaporise5, tesaṃ bhavaṃ rājā bhattavetanaṃ6 pakappetu. Te ca manussā sakammapasutā7 rañño janapadaṃ na viheṭhessanti8; mahā ca rañño rāsiko bhavissati. Khemaṭṭhitā janapadā akaṇṭakā anuppīḷā9. Manussā mudā modamānā ure putte naccentā apārutagharā10 maññe viharissantī’ti.11

     “To those in your kingdom, O’King, who are occupied with farming and raising cattle, Your Majesty should bestow seeds and fodder. To those in your kingdom, O’King, who are engaged in trade, Your Majesty should bestow proper funds. And to those in your kingdom, O’King, who are employed under your service, Your Majesty should bestow appropriate support and salary. Then your subjects being occupied with their own duties will not create any harm to the country but on the other hand your revenues, Your Majesty, will be abundant. Your kingdom will be at peace, not suffer harm or damage. The people will live joyful in their hearts, dancing with their children and dwelling in open houses.”  


     The above quote12 from the Kūṭadantasutta verifies that the Buddha stressed that support and welfare of his subjects constitutes an utmost duty of a king in his royal administration. Similar to the previous selections from the Cakkavattisutta13 a somewhat rational thread indicates a plausible decline of moral standards, likely increase of immorality and development of vices in the cases where a government doesn’t respect the most basic needs of its subjects for wellbeing. But in general it seems that the Buddha favoured a society to be administered on base of democratic values rather than royal administration, if rooted in seven principles that he himself had advised the Vajjians. The present Sārandadasutta14 highlights these principles of non-decline and suggests that the Buddha himself proposed them as an ideal modus operandi towards shared involvement of all subjects in decision making and administration - what one may call ‘true democracy’.

     At one time, when King Ajātasattu intended to go to war with the Vajjan country he sent his chief minister Vassakāra to the Buddha to ask for respective advice15. But before replying to Vassakāra the Buddha first enquired with Ānanda whether the Vajjians were still upholding those wholesome principles of government as described in this Sārandadasutta. After Ānanda had confirmed that all these principles were fully maintained by the Vajjians the Buddha’s reply to Vassakāra shows that such a model of administration comes close to his ideal of a well functioning society, even so he never explicitly explained it as such: ……‘‘ekamidāhaṃ, brāhmaṇa, samayaṃ vesāliyaṃ viharāmi sārandade cetiye. Tatrāhaṃ vajjīnaṃ ime satta aparihāniye16 dhamme desesiṃ. Yāvakīvañca, brāhmaṇa, ime satta aparihāniyā dhammā vajjīsu ṭhassanti, imesu ca sattasu aparihāniyesu dhammesu vajjī sandississanti, vuddhiyeva, brāhmaṇa, vajjīnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihānī’’ti. – “At one time, Brāhmin, when I was dwelling at Vesāliyaṃ in the Sārandade cave. There I taught the Vajjians those seven principles for avoiding their decline. As long, Brāhmin, as these seven principles of non-decline are maintained by the Vajjians, as long as these seven principles of non-decline are upheld by the Vajjians, the Vajjians can expect to thrive, not to decline!”17

     The Buddha was so convinced that these seven principles constitute a healthy and wholesome base that he endorsed them for the Bhikkhus as well by adapting them respectively for the Saṅgha’s thriving. He advised them to establish the first four but substituted the last with: they should not fall prey to desires; remain devoted to forest lodgings and maintain proper awareness and mindfulness.18

     In the same way as the Buddha emphasised welfare for all, joint participation in shared affairs, collective process of decision taking, he likewise criticised a system of a society based on superiority of some over others. He criticised the established supremacy of castes19 and their imaginary difference. Repeatedly he emphasized that  one may be born into any of these castes, and regardless of what caste one may be it is still possible to perform any breakage of sīla and any kind of immoral act that is blamed and censured by the wise20. Likewise anyone from these castes could perform wholesome deeds and enter on a spiritual life. It is not the birth that qualifies the superiority of a person, not even a Brāhmin may claim his supremacy, it is the development in dhammic qualities which qualifies a person. Anyone from any caste shall be judged by his virtue alone: “Taṃ kissa hetu? Imesañhi, vāseṭṭha, catunnaṃ vaṇṇānaṃ yo hoti bhikkhu arahaṃ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojano sammadaññāvimutto21, so nesaṃ aggamakkhāyati22 dhammeneva, no adhammena. Dhammo hi, vāseṭṭha, seṭṭho janetasmiṃ, diṭṭhe ceva dhamme abhisamparāyañca.”23 “Why is this so? Because, Vāseṭṭha, anyone from these four castes who is a Bhikkhu, an Arahant, completely freed from any defilements, who has reached perfection, done what ought to be done, laid down the burden and reached their goal, who has destroyed the fetters binding them to existence and become completely liberated by his own final knowledge — anyone of these is proclaimed supreme according to the principles of Dhamma, not through non-Dhamma. Because, Vāseṭṭha, Dhamma is paramount for people in this life and beyond!”

     The Aggaññasuttaṃ further relates the historical evolvement of how the castes came into being simply by distribution of responsibilities and work. While originally all beings dwelling on earth were mind made, after the arising of craving towards and consumption of food their bodies became coarse. With more substantial nutriment gender and sexual organs developed with the result of increase of passion and indulgence in sexual activities. Finally a situation developed where based on laziness towards the need of daily gathering of grains the idea of storage arose; possession was one result and theft followed thereafter. Protection of property was needed so a group of guards was given the responsibility for safeguard.24 In this way the first group, the Khattiyā developed with the duty to guard and censure misdeed. Similarly those who did not engage in worldly affairs constituted the Brāhmiṇs, those who engaged in trade the Vessā, those who engaged in hunting the Suddā. But independent how this differentiation of diverse modes of adopting various lifestyles or professions from separation of diverging duties may have developed, the Buddha kept emphasising that all classes were the same, all could perform misdeeds but all could likewise aim to restrain from physical, verbal and mental unhealthy actions, to develop the seven factors of enlightenment and to attain Nibbāna in this very life: …… kāyena saṃvuto vācāya saṃvuto manasā saṃvuto sattannaṃ bodhipakkhiyānaṃ dhammānaṃ bhāvanamanvāya diṭṭheva dhamme parinibbāyati.

     Is this all only a fancy? It is up to each and every one to engage in wholesomeness and to refrain from evil; Buddha has given sufficient guidance that makes it easy even in today’s world to follow a prosperous path! May today’s world enable all beings to live a healthy and wholesome life, for the benefit of others and all!

1 ussahati: be able, to endeavour

2 kasigorakkhe: kasi + gorakkhe: farmer + cowherd

3 anuppadetu: (imp.): give, bestow

4 pābhataṃ: money, capital

5 rājaporise: raja + porise: king + man: in service of the king, government

6 bhattavetanaṃ: bhatta + vetanaṃ: food + wages

7 sakammapasutā: sa +kamma + pasutā: one’s own + activities + intend upon, busy with

8 viheṭheti: (fut.) harass, annoy, harm

9 akaṇṭakā anuppīḷā: a + kaṇṭakā anu + p + pīḷā: not + harm + not undergoing + suffering, injury

10 apārutagharā: apāruta + gharā: open + house

11 Mahāvijitarājayaññakathā, Kūṭadantasuttaṃ, Sīlakkhandhavaggapāḷi, Dīghanikāyo

12 The Buddha refers here to an advice given to a king named Mahāvijita, who enquired how a great sacrifice should be done properly. The Buddha identifies himself with the king’s counsellor in one of his previous births.

13 see previous lesson: 3.6.12 Cakkavattisutta - The Duties of a Righteous King

14 The sutta is called after the location, the Sārandada-vihāra where the Buddha dwelled. It was one of the five sanctuaries he liked to visit around Vesāli, beautiful and refreshing natural spots of former shrines, once dedicated to local deities. The Sārandada-vihāra was named after the Yakka Sārandada.

15 Mahāparinibbānasuttaṃ, Dīghanikāyo, Mahāvaggapāḷi

16 aparihāniye: not + connected with decay, loss

17 Vassakāra, who intended to report back to Ajātasattu truthfully what the Buddha had said still was convinced that the intention to go to war by Ajātasattu remained in place and thought of other means to win the war inspite of these principles of wholesome administration: Akaraṇīyāva, bho gotama, vajjī raññā māgadhena ajātasattunā vedehiputtena yadidaṃ yuddhassa, aññatra upalāpanāya aññatra mithubhedā. Vassakāra then, with the support of Ajātasattu went to the Vajjians who invited him to teach their children. During the following three years Vassakāra managed to spread disharmony amongst the children which then was extended to the parents. When Ajātasattu was informed that the union and concord of the Vajjians had been wiped out, he could then easily conquer the Licchavis.

18 Bhikkhuaparihāniyadhammā, Mahāparinibbānasuttaṃ, Dīghanikāyo, Mahāvaggapāḷi : ‘‘satta vo, bhikkhave, aparihāniye dhamme desessāmi, taṃ suṇātha, sādhukaṃ manasikarotha, bhāsissāmī’’ti. ‘‘Evaṃ, bhante’’ti kho te bhikkhū bhagavato paccassosuṃ. Bhagavā etadavoca –

‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū abhiṇhaṃ sannipātā sannipātabahulā bhavissanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni. ‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū samaggā sannipatissanti, samaggā vuṭṭhahissanti, samaggā saṅghakaraṇīyāni karissanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni. ‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū apaññattaṃ na paññapessanti, paññattaṃ na samucchindissanti, yathāpaññattesu sikkhāpadesu samādāya vattissanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni. ‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū ye te bhikkhū therā rattaññū cirapabbajitā saṅghapitaro saṅghapariṇāyakā, te sakkarissanti garuṃ karissanti mānessanti pūjessanti, tesañca sotabbaṃ maññissanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni. ‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū uppannāya taṇhāya ponobbhavikāya na vasaṃ gacchissanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni.

‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū āraññakesu senāsanesu sāpekkhā bhavissanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni. ‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhū paccattaññeva satiṃ upaṭṭhapessanti – ‘kinti anāgatā ca pesalā sabrahmacārī āgaccheyyuṃ, āgatā ca pesalā sabrahmacārī phāsu vihareyyu’nti. Vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni.

‘‘Yāvakīvañca, bhikkhave, ime satta aparihāniyā dhammā bhikkhūsu ṭhassanti, imesu ca sattasu aparihāniyesu dhammesu bhikkhū sandississanti, vuddhiyeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni.

19 The four castes are: Cattārome, vāseṭṭha, vaṇṇā – khattiyā, brāhmaṇā, vessā, suddā.

20 …… Khattiyopi kho, vāseṭṭha, idhekacco pāṇātipātī hoti adinnādāyī kāmesumicchācārī musāvādī pisuṇavāco pharusavāco samphappalāpī abhijjhālu byāpannacitto micchādiṭṭhī. Iti kho, vāseṭṭha, yeme dhammā akusalā akusalasaṅkhātā sāvajjā sāvajjasaṅkhātā asevitabbā asevitabbasaṅkhātā naalamariyā naalamariyasaṅkhātā kaṇhā kaṇhavipākā viññugarahitā, khattiyepi te idhekacce sandissanti. ……

21 for the vocabulary of: - khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṃyojano sammadaññāvimutto - see Lesson 1.4.6, Ānāpānassatisuttaṃ - Free from Prattle and Chatter is this Assembly

22 aggamakkhāyati: aggaṃ + akkhāti (pass.): highest, supreme + to be proclaimed

23 Quote from Catuvaṇṇasuddhi, Aggaññasuttaṃ, Pāthikavaggapāḷi, Dīghanikāyo, but see also: Cūḷaassapurasuttaṃ, Mahāyamakavaggo, Mūlapaṇṇāsapāḷi, Majjhimanikāyo: here the Buddhacompares anyone from any of the four casts who can taste, practice and thrive in Dhamma to an exhausted wanderer from any of the four directions who quenches his thirst by the pure water of a clear pond: Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, pokkharaṇī acchodakā sātodakā sītodakā setakā supatitthā ramaṇīyā. Puratthimāya cepi disāya puriso āgaccheyya ghammābhitatto ghammapareto kilanto tasito pipāsito. So taṃ pokkharaṇiṃ āgamma vineyya udakapipāsaṃ vineyya ghammapariḷāhaṃ…pe… pacchimāya cepi disāya puriso āgaccheyya…pe… uttarāya cepi disāya puriso āgaccheyya…pe… dakkhiṇāya cepi disāya puriso āgaccheyya. Yato kuto cepi naṃ puriso āgaccheyya ghammābhitatto ghammapareto, kilanto tasito pipāsito.

Also see Madhurasuttaṃ, Rājavaggo, Majjhimapaṇṇāsapāḷi, Majjhimanikāye: Here Mahā Kaccāna in his conversation with King Avantiputta of Madhurā likewise emphasises that there is no difference. Anyone from any caste could perform an evil deed and he would reappear in lower worlds after being penalized with the same punishment by the state. Likewise if anyone from the castes would go into homelessness he would be respected as recluse: ‘‘Taṃ kiṃ maññasi, mahārāja, yadi evaṃ sante, ime cattāro vaṇṇā samasamā honti no vā? Kathaṃ vā te ettha hotī’’ti? ‘‘Addhā kho, bho kaccāna, evaṃ sante, ime cattāro vaṇṇā samasamā honti. Nesaṃ ettha kiñci nānākaraṇaṃ samanupassāmī’’ti. Similar exposition can be found at: Esukārīsutta; Assalāyanasutta both Brāhmaṇavaggo, Majjhimapaṇṇāsapāḷi, Majjhimanikāye.

24 ‘Evaṃ, bho’ti kho, vāseṭṭha, so satto tesaṃ sattānaṃ paṭissuṇitvā sammā khīyitabbaṃ khīyi, sammā garahitabbaṃ garahi, sammā pabbājetabbaṃ pabbājesi. Te panassa sālīnaṃ bhāgaṃ anuppadaṃsu. Mahājanasammatoti kho, vāseṭṭha, ‘mahāsammato, mahāsammato’ tveva paṭhamaṃ akkharaṃ upanibbattaṃ. Khettānaṃ adhipatīti kho, vāseṭṭha, ‘khattiyo, khattiyo’ tveva dutiyaṃ akkharaṃ upanibbattaṃ.


Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.6.13

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Last modified: Tuesday, 9 August 2022, 7:09 PM