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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Parithrana, the greatest blessing

Parithrana, the greatest blessing

Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama Buddha emerged for the happiness and emancipation of humanity. The universal truth He discovered was a meaningful message to the mankind. He proclaimed that happiness was supreme among all belongings and His most sincere wish was the happiness and well-being of all living beings alike. This was nothing but love and compassion (Metta) boundless, extended to all without limitation. He saw life in reality.

His ultimate aim was “May all beings be happy safe and relieved from evils of life, sufferings of Samsara and attain Nibbana.” This is clearly stated in His teachings. The gist of Buddhism are the thoughts of Buddha himself. Buddhism is what has sprung form His intellect, to bless the people. The great Master’s parithrana recitals are an outstanding example.

Blissful message

In Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings a high position is accorded to Parithrana Desana. It is invariably a part and parcel of His teachings. The Buddha being a fountain of compassion spent all His time journeying from place to place in North India purely for human welfare for their intellectual awakening. These words of the Fully Awakened One was in Pali, the common dialect of the region, probably the language used by Him also widely understood by His disciples all over.

These discourses preserved in pali, the ancient language the Buddha spoke, is continued up to this day and it is a widespread Buddhist practice and ceremony to conduct Parithrana Desana. Early Buddhist literature reveals that people sought the advice and assistance of the Buddha who was widely known as a healer and a saviour at various times, when they were stricken with disaster and misfortune.

Through overwhelming love and compassion Parithrana was first evolved as a protection from great perils and upheavals such as disease, epidemics and terror caused by evil spirits.

Sakyamuni Buddha believed that a healthy environment filled with Dhamma fragrance will be a solace to the fear stricken stressful minds in minimizing the tension caused. The Buddhas approach to these problems and the soothing effect of Parithrana on human mind was of no small significance and it was soon realized to be the greatest blessing on earth.

Contents of Parithrana

The ancient Buddhist chant is derived from the discourses of Buddha himself, the very words of intellect selected to suit different situations.

The discourse on blessings (Mangala Sutta – from the Sutta Nipata) composed of 12 stanzas is said to have been delivered by the Buddha to clear the doubts of the Devas (Gods) when they were anxious to know the true meaning of “Blessings”. The great Master explained that it is not something transmitted from a divine source but a state of sublime peace and wellbeing, that develops in one’s mind due to righteous living, adhering to Dhamma, maintaining human dignity.

The Sakka the king of Devas is said to have requested them to radiate there loving kindness towards human beings and protect them. Because every stanza ends with the original words of the Buddha ie. “This is the Supreme Blessing” (Etam Mangala Muttamam) as being most noble and worthy, with its soothing effect on human mind.

Ratana Sutta - the Discourse on Jewels another discourse from Sutta Nipata, is said to have been delivered by the Buddha when the royal family and the people of the ancient city of Vesali requested the Buddha to save them, from the three menacing epidemics (plaque) disease, famine and evil spirits (Thun Biya – which Veedagama Maha Thera illustrates in convincing poetic language in his Buduguna Alankaraya) a valuable literary work on the virtues of the Buddha.

The Buddha expressed the above sutta, emphasising the spiritual values of the Holy Triple Gem Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha as a remedial measure to bring back normalcy to Vesali. After the recital of the Parithrana, water was sprinkled around the city to be protected by the healing power of this powerful Ratana Sutta.

At the end of every stanza the Buddha blessed everyone saying – by this truth may all beings be happy and contented (Etena sacchena suvathi hotu).

Here too, Sakka the divine king instructed his retinue to listen carefully and fulfill their religious obligations to avert human misery. After grasping the sutta, he had got so delighted that he had added the last three stanzas on his own, in veneration of the Triple Gem.

Karaniya Metta Sutta

The discourse on universal goodwill is yet another discourse also from the Sutta Nipata, consisting of 10 stanzas, based on a meditative theme on loving kindness as the name suggests, which had been delivered during Buddha’s own lifetime. Sakyamuni Buddha came to the aid of 500 monks who had gone to the forest, to practise meditation. They had been disturbed and scared by evil spirits.

They approached the Buddha for a solution upon which he advised them to go back to the same place fully armed with ‘Metta’ for their safety. The Buddha then delivered this Sutta to allay their fears and practise loving kindness.

The main objective of this popular discourse was to instill strength and create self-confidence, which was a great success. The evil spirits having repented paid their due respect to the monks. This is therefore considered to be a very powerful and an important Sutta to achieve peace and happiness.

This is terminated with the expression “By the firm determination of this truth may I or you ever be well”. During Buddha time the entire humanity was benefitted, many disasters, misfortunes and human misery was done away with by reciting Paritta Suttas describing the highest qualities of the Buddha. This was first recited in early Sri Lanka to save the people from famine and plaque during the reign of King Upatissa (362 AD – 409). The recitation of Parithrana had gradually become a common practice and it is said that Attakatha had formulated a ritual to be followed in conducting monks to a house for Parithrana recitals. These Parittas, too numerous to be mentioned here handed down in Pali, spreading its sacredness is recited islandwide in most Buddhist homes for greater blessings.

Benefits

The ancient Buddhist chant is supposed to be of therapeutic nature when it is conducted with pure love and compassion, it can absolutely bring peace, tranquility and healing to others. Every meaningful word of Buddha when recited, its soothing effect on man’s mind creates inner peace, serene joy, devoid of hatred and jealousy.

All unwholesome thoughts would disappear when undivided, absolute attention and concentration is given to the melodious chant and its vibration within its precincts. Since it is chanted in unison by an entire congregation of Bhikkhus in a serene tone, the impressive atmosphere thus created drives one to be completely free of evil thoughts and be filled with mindful spiritual virtues.

One may reap a stress free mind with protection from unforeseen danger and mental relaxation for better concentration on Buddha Dhamma – the key to Nibbana. Let the Motherland be blessed with Parithrana for Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi.

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