GREAT VIRTUES OF THE BUDDHA

The Buddha was an embodiment of all great virtues. In Him was the embodiment of the

highest morality (Sila), deepest concentration (Samadhi) and penetrative wisdom

(Panna) – qualities unsurpassed and unparalleled in human history. These great noble

qualities were mentioned in the sacred texts dealing with the discourses of the Buddha.

Buddhists all over the world recite and contemplate on the nine sublime virtues as

contained in the Pali formula, in their daily devotional exercises. Although the Buddha

possesses various other noble qualities, here in this formula, only nine are depicted. It is

not out of place to mention that in certain other schools of Buddhism, the followers have

introduced diverse Buddhas by alluding to some of these great qualities of the Buddha.

However, whatever may be the manner used to introduce the Buddha, it is a fact that all

those historical Buddhas who appeared in this world, from time to time, were imbued

with the same virtues and the same enlightenment. There should, therefore, be no

differentiation in paying respects to any particular Buddha, if the designated Buddha is a

real Buddha. Consequently, there should be no argument as to which Buddha is more

powerful or superior to another Buddha:-

The following verses, in Pali, relate to the nine intrinsic virtues of the Buddha which

Buddhist devotees recite when they pay homage to the Buddha:-

“ Itipi So Bhagava Araham Samma-Sambuddho

Vijja-Carana-Sampanno Sugato Lokavidu

Annutarro Purisa Damma-Sarathi Sattha Deva-

Manussanam Buddho Bhagavathi. ”

The authenticity of this passage is unquestionable since it was derived from many

important texts of the Tipitaka in the Buddhist cannon as well as from amongst the forty

methods of Samatha Bhavana – tranquil meditation on Buddhanussati, i.e. Meditation on

the virtues of the Buddha.

A brief translation of the Pali passage is as follows:-

“ Such indeed is the Araham – perfect and worthy of homage, Samma sambuddho

– omniscent, Vijja-carana-sampano – endowed with clear vision and good conduct,

Sugato – well done, well spoken, Lokavidu – wise in the knowledge of the world,

Anuttaro Purisa-damma-sarathi – peerless trainer of the untameable ones, SatthaDeva-Manussanam

– teacher of gods and men, Buddho – enlightened and

showing the path to Enlightenment, Bhagavathi – Blessed.”

1. Araham

The Buddha is depicted as an Arahant in five aspects, namely:-

• He has discarded all defilements;

• He has suppressed all the enemies connected with the eradication of defilements;

• He destroyed the spokes of the wheel of existence;

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• He is worthy of being given offerings and paid homage;

• He withheld no secrets in his character or in his teachings.

The Buddha was the greatest figure in human history, with a life perfect, infallible,

blameless and spotless. At the foot of the Bodhi tree, He conquered all evil and attained

the highest stage of sanctity. He put an end to all sufferings with His attainment of

Nibbana. He was the World Honoured One so worthy of homage in all respects. His

teaching contains no mysteries or secrets and is like an open book for all to come and

see.

2. Samma-Sambuddho

The Buddha was designated as Samma-Sambuddho because He comprehended the

existence of the world in its proper perspective and He discovered the Four Noble Truths

through His own comprehension. Born a Prince, He renounced the world and strove for

six long years seeking enlightenment. During this period, He approached all the

renowned Teachers of the day and tried all the methods His teachers could teach Him.

Having achieved the attainment even equivalent to that of His teachers, He still could not

find the elusive goal of enlightenment. Finally, basing His research on rational

understanding and treading a middle path, thus departing from the traditional way of

legendary religious beliefs and practices, He found the final solution to the universal

problems of unsatisfactoriness, conflict and disappointments ( Dukkha) . He discovered

the Law of Cause and Effect which He assessed as the reality of the world, thereby

becoming the Supreme Enlightened One.

3. Vijja-Carana-Sampanno

The term ‘Vijja-Carana-Sampanno’ , meant that the Buddha was endowed with perfect

clear vision and exemplary good conduct. It has two significant aspects as indicated in

the threefold knowledge and eightfold wisdom. The threefold knowledge is listed as

follows:-

• Firstly, the Buddha could recall His past birth and trace back His previous existence

as well as that of others.

• Secondly, apart from being able to recount the past, He had the unique foresight of

being able to see into the future and visualised the whole universe at any single

moment.

• Thirdly, He had that deep penetrating knowledge pertaining to Arahanthood.

On the eightfold wisdom, the Buddha was listed as having the unique gift of insight, the

power of performing supernormal feats, a divine ear, the power of reading others ‘

thoughts, various physical powers, ability to recollect past births, a divine eye, and

exquisite knowledge pertaining to a life of serene holiness.

With regard to the word “Carana” or good conduct, this aspect is divided into fifteen

different categories or types of virtues which were fully imbued in the Buddha. These

additional virtues are being classified as restraint in deed and word, restraint in the

absorption of sense effects, moderation in the consumption of food, avoidance of

excessive sleep, maintenance of crystal clear vision in faith, realization of shame in

committing evil, realization of fear in committing evil, thirst for knowledge, energy,

mindfulness and understanding – the four trends pertaining to the material sphere.

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Panna and Karuna are reflected as wisdom and compassion, both of which are the basic

twins whilst Karuna bestowed him with compassion to be of service to mankind. He

realized through his wisdom what is good and what is not good for all beings and

through His compassion He led His followers away from evil and misery. The great

virtues of the Buddha enabled Him to shower the highest degree of dispensation to

brotherhood and sterling qualities to all beings.

4. Sugato

The Buddha was also designated as Sugato which meant that His path is good, the

destination is excellent and the words and methods used to show the path are harmless

and blameless. The Buddha’s path to the attainment of bliss is correct and pure,

uncurving, direct and certain.

His words are sublime and infallible. Many well known historians and great scientists

have commented that the only religious teaching which has remained unchallenged by

science and free-thinkers is the Buddha-word.

5. Lokavidu

The term Lokavidu is applied to the Buddha as the one with exquisite knowledge of the

world. The Master had experienced, known and penetrated into all aspects of worldly

life, physical as well as spiritual. He was the first to make the observation that there

were thousands of world systems in the universe. He was the first to declare that the

world was nothing but conceptual. In His words, it is regarded pointless to speculate on

the origin and the end of the world or universe. He was of the view that the origin of the

world, its cessation and the path to the cessation thereof is to be found within the fathom

– long body – the human being with its perception and consciousness.

6. Anuttaro Purisa-Damma-Sarathi

Anuttaro means matchless and unsurpassed. Purisa-damma refers to individuals to

whom the gift of the Dhamma is to be endowed whereas Sarathi means a leader. These

three terms taken together imply an incomparable leader capable of bringing wayward

men to the path of righteousness. Amongst those who were persuaded to follow the

path of the Dhamma and to shun evil were notorious murderers like Angulimala, Alavaka

and Nalagiri, hundreds of robbers, cannibals and recalcitrants such as Saccake. All of

them were brought into the fold of the Dhamma, and some even attained sainthood

within their life-time. Even Devadatta, the arch-enemy of the Buddha was rehabilitated

by the Buddha through His great compassion.

7. Sattha Deva-Manussanam

The Translation of this term is that the Buddha was a Teacher of devas and men. It is to

be noted that ‘ devas’ as used in this context refers to beings who, by their own good

Karma, have evolved beyond the human stage which is not regarded as the final stage

of biological evolution. Devas in the Buddhist context have no connection with ancient

traditional theological myths. The Buddha was a remarkable Teacher who was flexible

and capable of devising diverse techniques suited to the calibre and different mentalities

of devas and human beings. He instructed everyone to lead a righteous way of life. The

Buddha was indeed a universal Teacher.

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8. Buddho

This particular epithet, Buddho, would appear to be a repetition of the second in this

category, although it has its own connotation. Buddho means that the Master, being

omniscent, possessed extraordinary powers of being able to convince others of His

great discovery through His exquisite art of teaching others His Dhamma. His

techniques were unsurpassed by any other Teacher. The term Buddho has its

secondary meaning translated as ‘ Awakened’ since the ordinary state of man is

perpetually in a state of stupor. The Buddha was the first to be ‘awakened’ and to shake

off this state of stupor. Subsequently He convinced others to be awake and to steer

clear from the state of lethargic samsaric sleep or stupor.

9. Bhagava

Of all the terms used to describe the Buddha, the words ‘ Buddho’ and ‘ Bhagava’, used

separately or together as ‘ Buddho Bhagava’ meaning the ‘ Blessed One’ are most

popular and commonly used.

Deserving awe and veneration, Blessed is His name. Therefore, the word ‘ Bhagava’

had various meanings as suggested by some commentators. The Buddha was termed ‘

Bhagava’ or the “ Blessed One’ because He was the happiest and most fortunate

amongst mankind for having managed to conquer all evils, for expounding the highest

Dhamma and for being endowed with supernormal and superhuman intellectual

faculties.

These nine great qualities of the Buddha could serve as a subject for meditation if the

various interpretations of each particular term are carefully scrutinized and their real

intent and the essence grasped and absorbed. Mere utterance of the passage, without

its full comprehension could not be considered effective even as a devotional tract. The

best method would be to recite repeatedly and at the same time comprehend the full

meaning of these utterances. Whilst so doing, one should also concentrate on these

sterling qualities as true virtues to be emulated by all followers of the Buddha.

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GREAT VIRTUES OF THE DHAMMA

By Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda

The Buddha’s teaching is generally called the Dhamma or Dharma. It is neither a

revelation nor a legendary speculation with a theological twist. It is the Truth ever

prevailing in the Universe, and a unique discovery by a great enlightened religious

teacher. However, Buddhism is the modern term used for the Dhamma and named after

its discoverer. Gautama, the Buddha, realized the Truth and proclaimed it to the world.

There is no doubt that it is difficult for ordinary people to comprehend it properly, since

their minds are invariably clouded with illusion.

There are many virtues of the Dhamma that make it sublime and perfect in the highest

meaning of the term. However, there are three aspects of the Dhamma which are to be

noted. The first aspect is the theory that should be learnt in its pristine purity. The

second aspect is the sincere application and practice of the precepts and the living in

accordance with the teachings of the Buddha, by abstaining from all evil, doing good

and purifying the mind. The third aspect is to develop wisdom and to attain full

understanding of the realities of all phenomena.

Amongst the many virtues of the Dhamma, there are six salient characteristics

mentioned in the most authoritative texts. These particular Dhamma virtues are chanted

by Buddhists during their daily devotional observances. The popular Pali verse

expounding these Dhamma virtues is as follows:-

Swakkhato Bhagavata Dhammo, Sanditthiko, Akaliko, Ehipassiko, Opanayiko and

Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi Ti.

A detailed description and explanation of these six salient characteristics are given

hereon:-

1. Swakkhato Bhagavata Dhammo

This term means that the Dhamma was discovered and well-proclaimed by the Blessed

One. This is considered as the common virtue of all the three aspects of the Teaching,

namely the theory, the sincere practice and full realization while the rest of the terms are

connected with the supramundane (Lokuttarra) which consists of the eight stages of

sanctity and Nibbana – considered as the Summum Bonum of Buddhism.

The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Master. It is excellent at the beginning, excellent

in the middle, and excellent at the end. It has no contradictions and interpolations and it

does not deviate from its straight route. Just as every drop of water in the ocean has

only one taste, the taste of salt, the Dhamma has one and only one taste at any time, the

taste of Nibbanic bliss. The Dhamma is genuine in both letter and spirit. The subject

matter of the Dhamma starts with Sila which is equated to right conduct, on which ‘

Samadhi ’ , a sense of tranquility of the mind is based. Panna or wisdom follows suit

after ‘ Samadhi ’ is firmly established.

The acquisition of Dhamma knowledge should commence with the study of the Dhamma

by listening to learned lecturers expounding its intricasies and by understanding the

correct methods for its practical application. Through constant practice, we should be

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able to suppress mental defilements which results in the mind becoming serene, calm

and blissful. The achievement of such a mental state will pave the way for the

acquisition of higher knowledge which is called insight or ‘ Vipassana ‘. This insight

knowledge when developed steadily would be the crowning glory of a brilliant

achievement which can occur even within this lifetime.

The Buddha’s explanation of the living being and the world constitutes the last word in

human thought. Basing His findings on rational understanding, quite apart from

traditions and legends of the day, the Buddha delved deep into the core of the Dhamma

and emerged with his discovery of the realities underlying all phenomenal existence.

Without being dictatorial or monopolistic, He proclaimed the Dhamma – a teaching which

superseded all other teachings.

The Dhamma owes no allegiance to any so-called supreme power but was introduced

by the Buddha on an individual basis, i.e. from man to man allowing freedom to the

individual concerned to assess and think for himself the means to attain his own

salvation without seeking any external aid. The Dhamma is universal and is of vital

interest to mankind in any part of the world at any time.

Significantly, He gave His own rational and scientific interpretation to all the

philosophical terms before they were used in His teaching of the Dhamma. For

instance, Kamma which only denoted action prior to the Buddha, was given a new

meaning as volition behind the action.

The noble Dhamma consistently denounced social injustice such as the rigid castesystem,

human slavery and discriminatory low status accorded to females. The Buddha

was never a dictator but a Teacher of spiritual democracy.

Starting with the Tisarana ( three refuges ) and culminating in the attainment of nibbanic

bliss, a follower of the Buddha finds himself supremely secure under the guidance and

protection of the Dhamma which was well proclaimed – Svakkhato.

2. Sanditthiko

Sanditthiko conveys the meaning that if the Dhamma is well studied and put into sincere

practice, its beneficial results would be visible here and now. For instance, even if a

wicked man, who happens to be a veritable curse to himself and to society, were to take

refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma and commence a new life, all his troubles and

miseries would come to an end. As shown by the life of Emperor Asoka, after

embracing Buddhism he was transformed from being a wicked ruler known as

Candasoka into a righteous one, Dhammasoka.

3. Akaliko

Akaliko implies that the beneficial effects to be derived from the practice of the Dhamma

would not be delayed. The Dhamma, despite the length of time that has elapsed since

its pronouncement, remains ever fresh and unchallenged. It runs parallel even with the

latest scientific thought. If there is truth, that truth can never become old. Dhamma is

that Truth which cannot grow old with age since it depicts the reality underlying all

phenomenal existence in Samsara. Briefly, the Dhamma states that the world is

unsatisfactorily and that greed happens to be the inevitable cause of this state of affairs.

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The remedy for this unsatisfactoriness is the eradication of greed to be achieved through

the practice of eight skilful factors known as the Noble Eightfold Path.

4. Ehipassiko

Ehipassiko constitutes an open invitation to all to come and see, to inspect, to scrutinize

and if need be, even to criticize the Dhamma before accepting it because there is

nothing mythical or mysterious about it. The Dhamma is pure and crystal clear. It is as

pure as solid gold. The Buddha Himself declared: ‘ Do not accept what I say through

mere respect towards me. Just as purity of gold is ascertained by melting or rubbing on

a touchstone, likewise the Dhamma should be accepted only after very close scrutiny ‘.

This fearless assertion of allowing the teaching to be closely examined marks the

greatness of the Buddha and the unwavering truth of the sublime Dhamma.

5. Opanayiko

Opanayiko means that all sincere adherents of the Dhamma would be treading along the

path that leads to eternal peace and happiness. The Dhamma states that there are four

stages of a sanctity and fruition worth achieving by means of gradual development. The

Dhamma leads its adherents from one stage to another until they find themselves fully

liberated from all bonds and fetters of existence.

6. Paccattam Veditabbo Vinuhi Ti

This phrase ‘ Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi Ti ‘ implies that the Dhamma is to be

comprehended individually by the wise. No one can absorb the Dhamma on behalf of

another person, just as no one can quench the thirst of another person by himself taking

a drink. It can be observed that there are two significant aspects in this term: firstly, the

attainment of enlightenment is individualistic in character and secondly, the Dhamma

can only be comprehended by the wise.

The Buddha is not a saviour but an instructor – a Teacher who showed the path for

others to tread. It is left to the individual concerned to observe Sila, right conduct and

practise ‘ Samadhi ‘, right concentration and subsequently try to develop ‘ Panna ‘, the

intuitive wisdom which enables the individual to work out his own emancipation through his own efforts.

By Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda

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