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Pirith: Embodiment of ethical teachings
Pirith is a commonly-heard term at Buddhist homes today. Pirith is a performance usually carried out by either monks or virtuous laity to invoke blessings during times of trouble.
The selected discourses for recital are known as Paritta Sutta in Pali. In Sanskrit it is called Parittrana and in Sinhala Pirith. Principally Pirith means protection. From times immemorial, Pirith were recited to invoke the blessings of the unseen gods.
A monk climbing the stairs. Pictures by Saman Sri Wedage
The practice of reciting Pirith began very early. Mangala Sutta was uttered by the Buddha to explain the attainment of real blessing.
He clarified the doubts of deities when they wanted to know what the real blessing. According to Buddhist philosophy it is not something given by a divine power, but a state of well-being which arises within oneself when one lives righteously, maintains human dignity, creates a healthy surrounding or environment.
It is customary to recite Mangala Sutta on auspicious occasions.
Prosperity and well being
It is much better if the devotees can understand its meaning, recite and put into practice the noble principles. Mangala Sutta is an embodiment of ethical, moral, and spiritual teachings of the Buddha for the guidance of the devotees. The Mangala Sutta contains 38 auspicious factors that bring prosperity and well being.
Ratana Sutta was recited by the Buddha on his visit to epidemic-stricken town of Vesali, to bless victims to protect them from famine, sickness, evil spirit and all kinds of misfortune. Ratana Sutta explains the highest qualities of the Triple Gem: Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
During Buddha’s era, many benefited and misfortune was averted by reciting Ratana Sutta. It should be noted that at the end of every stanza the Buddha uttered: Etena saccena suvatthi hotu (by this truth, may all beings be happy and blissful).
The recital to radiate boundless loving kindness to relieve others suffering, which is known as Karaniya Metta Sutta, was delivered by the Buddha, to teach the monks how to practise loving kindness.
Once about 500 monks, who went to the thick jungle to meditate, were disturbed and frightened, and reported back to the Buddha.
He delivered Karaniya Metta Sutta on practising loving kindness. The monks radiated their loving kindness back in jungle. The spirits repented and paid their highest respects to the monks.
Some of the other important Suttas are Maha Jayamangala Gatha (great victory) recited for blessings and protection, Jinapanjaraya, recited to overcome sickness and disturbances and Jaya Paritta or recital for invoking victory. Jaya Piritha concludes:
Sabba Buddanu bhavena;
Sabba Dhammanu bhavena
Sabba Sanghanu - Bhavena
Sabbe te roga - sabbe te bhaya
Sabbe te antaraya
Sabbe te dunnimitta
Sabbe te avamangala
Ayu vaddhako - dhana vaddhako
(With the grace of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the Triple Gem, may all your illnesses, fears, perils, dangers, bad omens and misfortunes be destroyed. May you always be a cultivator of longevity, riches, glory, fame, strength, appearance and comfort.)
Another important recital is the Angulimala Piritha, meant for the women. It is further used to bless the drinking water of an expectant mother for an easy delivery.
Yatoham bhagini ariyaya jatiya jato
Nabhi janami sancicca
Panam jivitha voropeta
Tena saccena sotthi te
Hotu sotthi gabbhassa
(Sister, from the time of my being born in the noble birth, status of Arahath, I do not know of myself having purposely deprived any living creature of life. By this truth may you be safe, may there by safety for the child in your womb).
The Buddhists believe these recitals of Pirith produce mental well being and inner tranquility of those who listen. Such chanting has a therapeutic value.
Research done in recent years in medicine and experimental psychology, known as parapsychology, throws light on the nature of mind and its importance. It is a known fact an optimistic patient has more chances of setting well than a patient who is worried and unhappy.
The meritorious and blessed effects of chanting Pirith is laid out in Milinda Panha. It is said that reciting Ratana, Dhajjaga, Atanatiya and Mora Pirithas daily gives protection. In Milinda Panha the power of Pirith is described in the following manner.
A person who chants Pirith is guarded and protected from Reptiles. They are not attacked by robbers. They are guarded from fires. If they consume poison, unknowingly it will turn into nectar. By chanting Pirith, sicknesses fades away. Chanting Pirith brings protection, peace, happiness and prosperity.
Buddhism in literature
In Buddhist literature, there are three books that are venerated in the highest order. They are Pirivana Poth Vahanse, Pansiyapanas Jataka Pothvahanse and Dhammapada the treasury of Truth. Out of these three books Pirith pothvahanse takes pride of place.
The famous Attanatiya Sutta recited by the monks early morning is extracted from Digha Nikaya. They believe that Atanatiya Sutta expels the spirits. If you take a count carefully, there are 116 verses from Dasadhammasutta to Dhajagga. From Dhajagga to Isigili Suttas, there are 96 verses.
From Isigili to Atanatiya Patama Bhanavara and Atanatiya Dhutiyaka Bhanavara there are 48 and 60 stanzas respectively. Altogether there are about 500 stanzas in the Pirith Pothvahanse. Most of these Suttas chanted at Monastery of Anathapindika
In analyzing the Suttas, it is clear crystal, most of the Pirith Suttas were chanted at Savatthi, when the blessed one was residing at the Monastery of Anathapindika in Jethavana grove.
One of the Buddha’s most famous lay disciples, Sudatta, a millionaire always ready to donate the hungry, the homeless or the dispossessed. He was known as Anathapindika, the feeder of the poor.
He purchased a pleasure park about one-kilometre south west from the walls of Saratth, which belongs for Prince Jeta, built living quarters, Assembly Hall. From the age of 60, Buddha spent every rainy season in Jetavana Monastery. This was the reason that most of Pirith Suttas were chanted at Jetavanaramaya.
The Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta delivered to the first five disciples consists of 18 stanzas. Eleven benefits accrued by loving kindness is mentioned in Mettanisansa Sutta, specially meant to the householder. There are 10 verses or stanzas in the Sutta.
The Mora Piritta (Peacock) consists of only 4 stanzas and Dhajjagga (Flags), has 21 stanzas. Girimahanda and Isigili suttas consists of 18 and 21 plus another 9 stanzas respectively. Mahasamaya sutta has 52 stanzas.
In the Duthiyaka Bhanavara section, there are three important Pirith recitals namely, Mahakassapa Thera Bhojjanga (16 stanzas), Mahamoggallana Thera Bhojjanga (16 stanzas), Mahachulladatta Thera Bojjanga (13 stanzas or versions). These recitals were made when Mahakassapa Maha Thera, Moggallana Maha Thera and the Blessed One fell sick. Mahachulla Thera, recited the Mahachulladatta Thera Bhojjanga, to bless the Enlightened One.
These three Pirith Suttas will be a soothing balm to those who are sick. By reciting and listening these three Suttas, they believe will be a great relief to those who suffer from sickness. These three Suttas are basically recited to Bless the sick ones.
The Sinhala connection
Pirith is closely linked with the beginning of the Sinhala Race. The Chronicle Mahavamsa records, during the King Upatissa I, end of the 4th century, Ratana Sutta was recited as the country was faced with a severe drought, famine and disease.
The first reference to the chanting of Pirith at a ceremony was mentioned during Aggabodi IV regime spanning from 658-674 AD. Today, Seth Pirith is chanted in all important ceremonies in Sri Lanka. In recent times many Ministers, Secretaires, Chairmen and other Heads of Departments invoked the Blessings of Pirith while assuming duties. We go to bed with the soothing sound of Pirith from all Radio Channels in the night. We begin our day also listening to Pirith in all our electronic media.
Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Rajagaha in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika’s monastery. On that occasion after the meal, on returning from collecting almsfood, a number of bhikkhus had gathered together in the kareri-tree pavilion when this topic of conversation arose.
A novice monk setting off for his alms round
“An almsfood-collecting bhikkhu, friends, while walking for almsfood, from time to time gets to see agreeable forms with the eye, from time to time gets to hear agreeable sounds with the ear, from time to time gets to smell agreeable odours with the nose, from time to time gets to taste agreeable flavours with the tongue, from time to time gets to touch agreeable tangible objects with the body.
An almsfood-collecting bhikkhu, friends, when he walks for almsfood, is respected, revered, honoured, venerated, and given homage. Come, friends, let us all be almsfood-collectors, and we too from time to time will get to see agreeable forms with the eye… to touch agreeable tangible objects with the body.
And we too will be respected, revered, honoured, venerated, and given homage when we walk for almsfood.” And this conversation of those bhikkhus continued without coming to an end.
Then the Lord, emerging from seclusion in the evening, went to the kareri-tree pavilion and sat down on the seat prepared for him.
Sitting there, the Lord asked the bhikkhus: “What were you talking about just now, bhikkhus, while gathered here together? What was the topic of discussion that you had left unfinished?”
“After the meal, revered sir, on returning from collecting almsfood, we had gathered here in the kareri-tree pavilion when this topic of conversation arose: ‘An almsfood-collecting bhikkhu, friends, while walking for almsfood, from time to time gets to see agreeable forms with the eye… to touch agreeable tangible objects with the body. And we too will be respected… when we walk for almsfood.’ This, revered sir, was our discussion that was left unfinished when the Lord arrived.”
“It is not right, bhikkhus, that you sons of good family who have gone forth out faith from home to the homeless state should talk on such a topic. When you have gathered together, bhikkhus, you should do one of two things: either engage in talk on Dhamma or maintain noble silence.”
Then, on realizing its significance, the Lord uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance:
The devas hold dear such a bhikkhu
Who collects his food on alms round,
Self-sufficient, supporting no other,
But not if he is intent on praise and fame.
Evolution of Buddhist journals
Ever since its inception in India Buddhism has been searched and researched by numerous scholars. Journals are a foremost result of such endless research into the Buddha’s teachings.
Gautama Buddha had once remarked: “He who helps in the spread of Dhamma will shine like a full moon in the sky of my Dhamma”.
Buddhist traditions gave way to unique literature
This is applicable to the great Buddhist savant of Bengal Venerable Karmayogi Kripsaran Maha Thera (June 22, 1865 - April 30, 1926). Dharmankur and Jagajjyoti were two prominent jewels this great Buddhist savant endowed the Buddhist posterity by dint of his self-struggle for the same of the Dhamma.
In fact Ven. Kripsaran Maha Thera became the full moon in the sky of Dhamma, which had been the state religion of India up to the 10th century AD for a significant period. The outstanding leadership provided by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC is still a matter of profound interest to readers and researchers.
In the ‘Discovery of India’, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru addressed this question and went on to elaborate it in the following manner:
“How did Hinduism succeed in absorbing, as it were, a great and widespread popular religion, without the usual wars of religion which disfigure the history of so many countries? What inner vitality or strength did Hinduism possess then which enabled it to perform this remarkable feat? And does India possess this inner vitality and strength today?” (Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘Discovery of India’, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, New Delhi, 1982, 178pp).
In his comments on the theme of the disappearance of Buddhism from India, Jawaharlal Nehru emphasizes two aspects of the matter. First, Hinduism was at no time wholly displaced by Buddhism and there was no violent extermination of Buddhism in India.
Second under Asoka’s state patronage, Buddhism spread rapidly and became the dominant religion of India and spread to other countries along with the Indian culture to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Java, Myanmar, Thailand, Afghanistan and then to Central Asia, China, Korea and Japan in later times. In these new lands of Buddhism, it became domesticated adapting itself to indigenous traditions and ideas.
Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka founded the Maha Bodhi Society in 1891, with the sole objective of reclaiming the control of Buddha Gaya Mahavihara for Buddhists from the total control of Hindu Mahanta. In 1892 Dharmapala published the first Buddhist journal in India, ‘The Maha Bodhi’.
After the demise of Anagarika Dharmapala in 1933, Devapriya Valisinghe became the editor of this journal. Ven. Jinaratana Thera became the editor of the Maha Bodhi afterwards, and remained so until his death in 1983. The centenary of the Maha Bodhi was celebrated in 1992.
The second oldest Buddhist Journal in India is Jagajjyoti (The Light of the World) that was founded in 1908 as a monthly journal in Bengali by Ven. Krpisaran Maha Thera, the founder of the Baudha Dharmankur Sabha (The Bengal Buddhist Association).
Since 1980 it is being published as a quarterly in English and Bengali under the editorship of Hemendu Bikesh Chowdhury. Dharmankur is a term which signifies seeding of the Dhamma. Dharmankur is a nickname of the Bauddha Dharmankur Vihara founded in 1901, and inaugurated in 1903 by Ven. Kripsaran Maha Thera.
Even prior to the establishment of this august Vihara, the Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha (October 5, 1892), was known as the Bengal Buddhist Association. It was registered in 1915.
The Dharmankur Vihara thus emerged into an extraordinary forum for deliberations of socio-religious issues irrespective of caste, creed and religion under the auspices of the Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha (The Bengal Buddhist Association).
Bengal was surging under the Swadeshi movement. This was a movement for the rejection of futile and self-demeaning mendicant politics in favour of self-help through Swadeshi industries, national schools and attempts at village improvement and organization.
These hallowed goals found expression through the ventures of Prafulla Chander Roy, Nilratan Sircar, Satischandra Mukherji’s journal Dawn and his Dawn Society, which exercised a seminal role in the national education movement.
Above all, Rabindranath Tagore, the greatest poet, painter and writer of India, in his Swadeshi Samaj address in 1904, had already sketched out a blueprint for constructive work in Indian villages, through a revival of the traditional age-old Hindu Samaj or community. Swadeshi Bandhava Samiti of Ashwinikumar Datta in Barisal (Bakargunj) had settled 523 village disputes through 89 arbitration committees.
Nearly thousand village Samitis were functioning in Bengal, as recorded in a pamphlet dated April 19, 1907. However, this slow and time consuming development through self-strengthening had no appeal to the excited youth of Bengal who had by then reached to a sense of political extremism to gain independence to India from the British overloads, who had their capital in Calcutta, Bengal.
The journals like New India of Bipin Chandra pal, Bande Mataram of Aurobindo Ghosh, Sandhya of Brahmobandhab Upadhyay and Yugantar of Bhupendranath Datta, gave the clarion call for a struggle for Swaraj (self-rule). They all condemned the road of peaceful ashrams and swadeshism and self-help. In contrast they urged for relentless boycott of foreign goods, officialized education, justice et al.
BSP wins Uttar Pradesh assembly by-poll
June 7th, 2010
LUCKNOW - Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Monday registered a sweeping victory in the bye-election for the Domariyaganj assembly constituency, retaining the seat by a huge margin.
The BSP nominee, Khatoon Taufique secured 44,765 votes to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Prem Prakash Tiwari (28,923) by a margin of 15,842 votes. The Samajwadi Party and the Congress nominees suffered humiliating defeats, coming fourth and fifth and forfeiting their deposits.
The bye-election was necessitated following the death of sitting member, the BSP’s Taufique Ahmed. The BSP then fielded his widow, Khatoon Taufique.
A sympathy wave led to her victory with a margin nearly 15 times that of her late husband’s in the 2007 assembly election. His victory margin was 1,049.
This bye-election’s biggest surprise was the third position bagged by newly formed Peace Party - a regional outfit - claiming to champion the cause of Muslims. It had fielded a Hindu candidate Sachchidanand, who polled 26,336 votes.
The Samajwadi Party’s Kamal Yusuf - who had lost in 2007 - and the Congress’s Ashok Kumar Singh polled 21,924 votes and 19,206 votes, respectively.
“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” - Albert Einstein
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