GUIDE TO TIPITAKA – CHAPTER 8: KHUDDAKA NIKAYA
Of the five Nikayas, Khuddaka Nikaya contains the largest number of treatises (as listed below) and the most numerous categories of dhamma. Although the word “Khuddaka” literally means “minor” or “small”, the actual content of this collection can by no means be regarded as minor, including as it does the two major divisions of the Pitaka, namely, the Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka according to one system of classification. The miscellaneous nature of this collection, containing not only the discourses by the Buddha but compilations of brief doctrinal notes mostly in verse, accounts of personal struggles and achievements by theras and theris also in verse, the birth stories, the history of the Buddha etc., may account for its title.
The following is the list of treatises as approved by the Sixth International Buddhist Synod.
(a) Vinaya Pitaka
(b) Abhidhamma Pitaka
(c) Suttas not included in the first four Nikayas
(1) Khuddaka Patha
(11) Niddesa (Maha, Cula)
(12) Patisambhida Magga
(15) Cariya Pitaka
(18) Milinda panha
(1) Khuddakapatha Pali
First of the treatises in this Nikaya, Khuddakapatha contains readings of mirror passages” most of which are also found in other parts of Tipitaka. it is a collection of nine short formulae and suttas used as a manual for novices under training, namely, (a) the three refuges (b) the Ten Precepts (c) the thirty two parts of the body (d) single Dhammas for novices in the form of a catechism (e) Mangala Sutta (f) Ratana Sutta (g) Tirokutta Sutta (h) Nidhikanda Sutta and (i) Metta Sutta.
Taking refuge in the Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha, by reciting the formula, “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dhamma, I take refuge in the Samgha,” is a conscious act of expression of complete faith in the Three Gems, not mere profession of superficial belief nor a rite of traditional piety. It implies (i) one’s humility; (ii)acceptance of the Triple Gems as one’s guiding principles and ideals; (iii) acceptance of discipleship and (iv) homage.
In the section on ‘Kumara panha, questions for young boys, the dhamma is tailored to suit the young intellect of novices:
What is the One? — The Nutriment which sustains the life of beings.
What are the Two? — Nama and rupa
What are the Three? — Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral Vedanas.
What are the Four? — The Four Noble Truths.
What are the Five? — The five groups of grasping.
What are the Six? — The six bases of senses.
What are the Seven? — The seven factors of enlightenment.
What are the Eight? — The Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
What are the Nine? — The nine abodes or types of beings.
What are the Ten? — The ten demeritorious courses of action.
Maha Mingala Sutta, the discourse on the great blessings, is a famous sutta cherished highly in all Buddhist countries. It is a comprehensive summary of Buddhist ethics for the individual as well as for society, composed in elegant verses. The thirty eight blessings enumerated in the sutta as unfailing guides throughout one’s life start with advice on avoidance of bad company and provide ideals and practices basic to all moral and spiritual progress, for the welfare and happiness of the individual, the family and the community. The final blessing is on the development of the mind which is unruffled by vagaries of fortune, unaffected by sorrow, cleansed of defilements and which thus gains liberation – the mind of an Arahat.
The Ratana Sutta was delivered by the Buddha when Vesali was plagued by famine, disease etc. He had been requested by the Licchavi Princes to come from Rajagaha to Vesali. The sutta was delivered for the purpose of countering the plagues, by invocation of the truth of the special qualities of the Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha.
The Metta Sutta was taught to a group of bhikkhus who were troubled by non-human beings while sitting in meditation at the foot of secluded forest trees. The Buddha showed them how to develop loving-kindness to wards all beings, the practice which will not only protect them from harm but also will serve as a basis for insight through attainment of jhana.
The Khuddakapatha which is a collection of these nine formulae and suttas appears to be arranged in such a way as to form a continuous theme demonstrating the practice of the holy life: how a person accepts the Buddha’s Teaching by taking refuge in the Three Gems; then how he observes the Ten Precepts for moral purification. Next he takes up a meditation subject, the contemplation of thirty two constituents of the body, to develop non-attachment. He is shown next the virtues and merits of giving and how one handicaps oneself by not performing acts of merit. In the meanwhile he safeguards himself by reciting the mingala Sutta and provides protection to others by reciting the Ratana Sutta. Finally, he develops loving-kindness towards all beings, thereby keeping himself safe from harm; at the same time he achieves jhanic concentration which will eventually lead him to reach the goal of spiritual life, Nibbana, by means of knowledge of Insight and the Path.
(2) The Dhammapada Pali
It is a book of the Tipitaka which is popular and well-known not only in Buddhist countries but also elsewhere. The Dhammapada is a collection of the Buddha’s words or basic and essential principles of the Buddha’s Teaching. It consists of 423 verses arranged according to topics in twenty six vaggas or chapters.
Verse 183 gives the teachings of the Buddha in a nutshell: Abstain from all evil; Promote (develop) what is good and purify your mind. Each stanza is packed with the essence of Truth which illumines the path of a wayfarer. Many are the Dhammapada verses which find their way into the writings and everyday speech of the Buddhists. One can get much sustenance and encouragement from the Dhammapada not only for spiritual development but also for everyday living.
The Dhammapada describes the path which a wayfarer should follow. It states (in verses 277,278 and 279) that all conditioned things are transitory and impermanent; that all conditioned things are subject to suffering; and that all things (dhammas) are insubstantial, incapable of being called one’s own. When one sees the real nature of things with (Vipassana) insight, one becomes disillusioned with the charms and attractions of the Five Aggregates. Such disillusionment constitutes the path of purity (Nibbana).
Verse 243 defines the highest form of impurity as ignorance (avijja) and states that the suffering in the world can be brought to an end only by the destruction of craving or hankering after sensual pleasures. Greed, ill will and ignorance are described as dangerous as fire and unless they are held under restraint, a happy life is impossible both now and thereafter.
Avoiding the two extremes, namely, indulgence in a life of sensuous pleasures and, the practice of self-mortification, one must follow the Middle Path, the Noble Path of Eight Constituents to attain perfect Peace, Nibbana. Attainment to the lowest stage (Sotapatti Magga) on this Path shown by the Buddha is to be preferred even to the possession of the whole world (v. 178). The Dhammapada emphasizes that one makes or mars oneself, and no one else can help one to rid oneself of impurity. Even the Buddhas cannot render help; they can only show the way and guide; a man must strive for himself.
The Dhammapada recommends a life of peace and non-violence and points out the eternal law that hatred does not cease by hatred, enmity is never overcome by enmity but only by kindness and love (V. 5). It advised to conquer anger by loving-kindness, evil by good, miserliness by generosity, and falsehood by truth.
The Dhammapada contains gems of literary excellence, replete with appropriate similes and universal truths and is thus found appealing and edifying by readers all the world over. It serves as a digest of the essential principles and features of the Buddha Dhamma as well as of the wisdom of all the ages.
(3) Udana Pali
An udana is an utterance mostly in matrical form inspired by a particularly intense emotion. This treatise is a ccllection of eighty joyful utterances made by the Buddha on unique occasions of sheer bliss; each udana in verse is accompanied by an account in prose of the circumstances that led to their being uttered.
For example, in the first Bodhivagga Sutta are recorded the first words spoken aloud by the newly Enlightened Buddha in three stanzas beginning with the famous opening lines: “Yada have patubhavanti dhamma, Atapino jhayato brahmanassa.”
For seven days after his Enlightenment, the Buddha sat at the foot of the Bodhi tree feeling the bliss of liberation. At the end of seven days, he emerged from this (Phala Sampatti) sustained absorption in Fruition-mind, to deliberate upon the principle of Dependent Origination: When this is, that is (Imasmin sati, idam hoti); this having arisen, that arises (Imassuppada, idam uppajjati); when this is not, that is not (Imasmim asati, idam na hoti); this having ceased, that ceases (Imassa nirodha, idam nirujjhati).
In the first watch of the night, when the principle of the origin of the whole mass of suffering was thoroughly grasped in a detailed manner in the order of arising, the Buddha uttered the first stanza of joy.
“When the real nature of things becomes clear to the ardently meditating recluse, then all his doubts vanish, because he understands what that nature is as well as its cause.”
In the second watch of the night, his mind was occupied with the principle of Dependent Origination in the order of ceasing. When the manner of cessation of suffering was thoroughly understood, the Buddha was moved again to utter the second stanza of jubilation:
“When the reel nature of things becomes clear to the ardently meditating recluse, then all his doubts vanish, because he perceives the cessation of causes.”
In the third watch of the night, the Buddha went over the detailed formula of the principle of Dependent Origination, Paticca Samuppada, in both the orders of arising and ceasing. Then having mastered the doctrine of Dependent Origination very thoroughly, the Buddha uttered the third stanza of solemn utterance:
“When the real nature of things becomes clear to the ardently rneditating recluse, then like the sun that illumines the sky, he stands repelling the dark hosts of Mara.”
(4) Itivuttaka Pali
The Fourth treatise contains 112 suttas divided into four nipatas with verses and prose mixed, one supplementing the other. Although the collection contains the inspired sayings of the Buddha as in Udana, each passage is preceded by the phrase ‘Iti vuttam Bhagavata’, ‘thus was said by the Buddha,’ and reads like a personal note book in which are recorded short pithy sayings of the Buddha.
The division into nipatas instead of vaggas denotes that the collection is classified in ascending numerical order of the categories of the dhammas in the nipatas of the Anguttara. Thus in Ekaka Nipata are passages dealing with single items of the dhamma:
“Bhikkhus, abandon craving; I guarantee attainment to the stage of an Anagami. if you abandon craving.” In Duka Nipata, each passage deals with units of two items of the dhamma: There are two forms of Nibbana dhatu, namely, Sa-upadisesa Nibbana dhatu, with the five khandhas still remaining, and Anupadisesa Nibbana dhatu, without any khandha remaining.
(5) Suttanipata Pali
As well-known as Dhammapada, Sutta Nipata is also a work in verse with occasional introductions in prose. It is divided into five vaggas: (i) Uraga vagga of 12 suttas; (ii) Cula Vagga of 14 suttas; (iii) Maha Vagga of 12 suttas; (iv) Atthaka Vagga of 16 suttas and (v) Parayana Vagga of 16 questions.
In the twelve suttas of the Uraga Vagga are found some important teachings of the Buddha which rnay be practised in the course of one’s daily life:
“True friends are rare to come by these days; a show of friendship very often hides some private ends. Man’s mind is defiled by self-interest. So, becoming disillusioned, roam alone like a rhinoceros.”
“Not by birth does one become an outcast, not by birth does one become a Brahmana;”
“By one’s action one becomes an outcast, by one’s action one becomes a brahmana.”
“As a mother even with her life protects her only child, so let one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings.”
Parayana Vagga deals with sixteen questions asked by sixteen Brahmin youths while the Buddha is staying at Pasanaka Shrine in the country of Magadha. The Buddha gives his answers to each of the questions asked by the youths. Knowing the meaning of each question and of the answers given by the Buddha, if one practises the Dhamma as instructed in this sutta, one can surely reach the Other Shore, which is free from ageing and death.
The Dhamma in this sutta is known as Parayana because it leads to the Other Shore, Nibbana.
(6) Vimana Vatthu Pali
Vimana means mansion. Here it refers to celestial mansions gained by beings who have done acts of merit. In this text are eighty five verses grouped in seven vaggas; in the first four vaggas, celestial females give an account of what acts of merit they have done in previous existences as human being and how they are reborn in deva realm where magnificent mansions await their appearance. In the last three vaggas, the celestial males tell their stories.
The Venerable Maha Moggallana who can visit the deva realm brings back these stories as told him by the deva concerned and recounts them to the Buddha who confirms the stories by supplying more background details to them. These discourses are given with a view to bring out the fact that the human world offers plenty of opportunities for performing meritorious acts. The other objective for such discourses is to refute the wrong views of those who believe that nothing exists after this life (the annihilationists) and those who maintain that there is no resultant effect to any action.
Of the eighty five stories described, five stories concern those who have been reborn in deva world having developed themselves to the stage of Sotapanna in their previous existences; two stories on those who have made obeisance to the Buddha with clasped hands; one on those who had expressed words of jubilation at the ceremony of building a monastery for the Samgha; two stories on those who had observed the moral precepts; two stories on those who had observed the precepts and given alms; and the rest deal with those who have been reborn in the deva world as the wholesome result of giving alms only.
The vivid accounts of the lives of the devas in various deva abodes serve to show clearly that the higher beings are not immortals, nor creators, but are also evolved, conditioned by the results of their previous meritorious deeds; that they too are subject to the laws of anicca, dukkha and anatta and have to strive themselves to achieve the deathless state of Nibbana.
(7) Peta Vatthu Pali
“The stories of “petas” are graphic accounts of the miserable states of beings who have been reborn in unhappy existences as a consequence of their evil deeds. There are fifty one stories, divided into four vaggas, describing the life of misery of’ the evil doers, in direct contrast to the magnificent life of the devas.
Emphasis is again laid on the beneficial effects of giving; whereas envy, jealousy, miserliness, greed and wrong views are shown to be the causes for appearance in the unhappy state of petas. The chief suffering in this state is dire lack of food, clothing and dwelling for the condemned being. A certain and immediate release from such miseries can be given to the unfortunate being if his former relatives perform meritorious deeds and share the merit with him. In Tirokutapeta Vatthu, a detailed account is given on how King Bimbisara brings relief to his former relatives who are unfortunately suffering as petas by making generous offer of food, clothing and dwelling places to the Buddha and his company of bhikkhus and sharing the merit, thus accrued, to the petas who have been his kith and kin in previous lives.
(8) The Thera Gatha Pali and (9) The Theri Gatha Pali
These two treatises form a compilation of delightful verses uttered by some two hundred and sixty four theras and seventy three theris through sheer exultation and joy that arise out of their religious devotion and inspiration. These inspiring verses gush forth from the hearts of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis after their attainment of Arahatship as an announcement of their achievement and also as statement of their effort which has led to their final enlightenment.
It may be learnt from these jubilant verses how a trifling incident in life, a trivial circumstance can become the starting point of spiritual effort which culminates in supreme liberation. But for some of the theras, the call has come early to them to forsake the homelife and take to the life of a homeless recluse. Their struggle has been hard because of the inner fight between the forces of good and evil. They have had a good fight and they have won by dint of resolution and ardent determination. The crippling bonds of greed, hatred and ignorance have been broken asunder and they are freed. In sheer exultation, they utter forth these inspiring verses, proclaiming their freedom and victory. Some of these theras reach the sublime height of poetic beauty when they recount their solitary life in the quiet glades and groves of forest, the beauteous nature that form their surrounding, and the peace and calm that have facilitated their meditation.
Although the verses in the Theri Gatha lack the poetic excellence and impassioned expression of love of solitude that characterise the verses in the Thera Gatha, they nevertheless reflect the great piety and unflinching resolution with which the theris have struggled to reach the goal. One distinguishing feature of the struggle of the theris is that many of them receive the final impetus to seek solace in holy life through emotional imbalance they have been subject to, for example, loss of the dear ones, as in the case of Patacari, or through intense personal suffering over the death of a beloved son as suffered by Kisa Gotami.
Both the Thera Gatha and the Theri Gatha provide us with shining, inspiring models of excellence, so consoling and so uplifting, so human and true to life, leading us on to the path of the holy life, stimulating us when our spirit drops, our mind flags, and guiding us through internal conflicts and set-backs.
These gathas may be enjoyed simply as beautiful poems with exquisite imagery and pleasing words or they may be contemplated on as inspiring messages with deep meaning to uplift the mind to the highest levels of spiritual attainment.
“Rain gods! my abode has a roofing now for my comfortable living; it will shield me from the onset of wind and storm. Rain god! Pour down to thy heart’s content; my mind is calm and unshakable, free from fetters. I dwell striving strenuously with untiring zeal. Rain god! Pour down to thy heart’s content.” (Verse 325)
The bhikkhu has now his “abode” of the five khandhas well protected by ‘the roofing and walls’ of sense restraints and panna. He lives thus comfortably, well shielded from the rain and storm of lust, craving and attachments. Undisturbed by the pouring rain, and whirling wind of conceit, ignorance, hatred, he remains calm and composed, unpolluted. Although he lived thus in security and comfort of liberation and calm, he keeps alert and mindful, ever ready to cope with any emergency that may arise through lack of mindfulness.
(10) Jataka Pali
Birth-stories of the Buddha
These are stories of the previous existences of Gotama Buddha, while he was as yet but a Bodhisatta. The Jataka is an extensive work in verses containing five hundred and forty seven stories or previous existences as recounted by the Buddha, (usually referred to in Burma as 550 stories). The treatise is divided into nipatas according to the number of verses concerning each story; the one verse stories are classified as Ekaka Nipata, the two verse stories come under Duka Nipata etc. It is the commentary to the verses which gives the complete birth-stories.
In these birth-stories are embedded moral principles and practices which the Bodhisatta had observed for self-development and perfection to attain Buddhahood.
(11) Niddesa Pali.
This division of Khuddaka Nikaya consists of two parts: Maha Niddesa, the major exposition which is the commentary on the fourth vagga (Atthaka) of the Sutta Nipata and Cula Niddesa, the minor exposition which is the commentary on the fifth vagga (Parayana) and on the Khaggavisana Sutta in the first vagga. Attributed to the Venerable Sariputta, these exegetical works contain much material on the Abhidhamma and constitute the earliest forms of commentaries, providing evidence of commentarial tradition many centuries before the Venerable Buddhaghosa appeared on the scene.
(12) Patisambhida Magga Pali.
This treatise, entitled the Path of Analysis, is attributed to the Venerable Sariputta. Dealing with salient teachings of the Buddha analytically in the style of the Abhidhamma, it is divided into three main vaggas, namely, Maha Vagga, Yuganaddha Vagga and Panna Vagga. Each vagga consists of ten sub-groups, named kathas, such as Nana Kathas, Ditthi Katha etc.
The treatment of each subject matter is very detailed and provides theoretical foundation for the practice of the Path.
(13) Apadana Pali
It is a biographical work containing the life stories (past and present) of the Buddha and his Arahat disciples. It is divided into two divisions: the Therapadana giving the life stories of the Buddha, of forty one Paccekabuddhas and of five hundred and fifty nine Arahats from the Venerable Sariputta to the Venerable Ratthapala and Theripadana with the life stories of forty theri Arahats from Sumedha Theri to Pesala Theri.
Apadana here means a biography or a life story of a particularly accomplished person, who has made a firm resolution to strive for the goal he desires, and who has ultimately achieved his goal, namely, Buddhahood for an Enlightened One, Arahatship for his disciples. Whereas the Thera Gatha and the Theri Gatha depict generally the triumphant moment of achievements of the theras and theris, the Apadana describes the up-hill work they have to undertake to reach the summit of their ambition. The Gathas and the Apadanas supplement one another to unfold the inspiring tales of hard struggles and final conquests.
(14) Buddhavamsa Pali
History of the Buddhas
Buddhavamsa Pali gives a short historical account of Gotama Buddha and of the twenty four previous Buddhas who had prophesied his attainment of Buddhahood. It consists of twenty nine sections in verse.
The first section gives an account of how the Venerable Sariputta asks the Buddha when it was that he first resolved to work for attainment of the Buddhahood and what paramis (virtues towards perfection) he had fulfilled to achieve his goal of Perfect Enlightenment. In the second section, the Buddha describes how as Sumedha, the hermit, being inspired by Dipankara Buddha, he makes the resolution for the attainment of Buddhahood, and how the Buddha Dipankara gives the hermit Sumedha his blessing, prophesying that Sumedha would become a Buddha by the name of Gotama after a lapse of four asankheyya and a hundred thousand kappas (world cycles).
From then onwards, the Bodhisatta Sumedha keeps on practising the ten paramis namely, almas-giving, morality, renunciation, wisdom, perseverance, forbearance, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness and equanimity. The Buddha relates how he fulfils these paramis, existence after existence, and how each of the twenty four Buddhas, who appeared after Dipankara Buddha at different intervals of world cycles, renewed the prophesy that he would become a Buddha by the name of Gotama.
In sections three to twenty-seven are accounts of the twenty five Buddhas including Gotama Buddha, giving details about each of them with regard to birth, status, names of their parents, names of their wives and children, their life-span, their way of renunciation, duration of their efforts to attain Buddhahood, their teaching of the Dhammacakka Sutta in the Migadayavana, the names of their Chief Disciples and their chief lay disciples. Each section is closed with an account of where the Buddhas pass away and how their relics are distributed.
In the twenty eighth section is given the names of three Buddhas, namely, Tanhankara, Medhankara and Saranankara who lived before Dipankara Buddha at different intervals of the same world cycle. The names of other Buddhas (to Gotama Buddha) are also enumerated together with the name of the kappas in which they have appeared. Finally there is the prophesy by the Buddha that Metteyya Buddha would arise after him in this world.
The last section gives an account of how the Buddha’s relics are distributed and where they are preserved.
(15) Cariya Pitaka
This treatise contains thirty five stories of the Buddha’s previous lives retold at the request of the Venerable Sariputta . Whereas the Jataka is concerned with the Buddha’s previous existences from the time of Sumedha, the hermit, till he becomes Gotama Buddha, Cariya Pitaka deals only with thirty five of the existences of the Bodhisattas in this last world cycle. The Venerable Sariputta, a object in making the request is to bring out into bold relief the indomitable will, the supreme effort, the peerless sacrifice with which the Bodhisatta conducts himself in fulfilment of the ten paramis (virtues towards Perfection).
The Bodhisatta has, throughout innumerable ages, fulfilled the ten paramis for countless number of times. Cariya Pitakas records such performances in thirty-five existences, selecting seven out of the ten paramis. and recounts how each parami is accomplished in each of these existences. Ten stories in the first vagga are concerned with accumulation of virtues in alms-giving, the second vagga has ten stories on the practice of morality and the last vagga mentions fifteen stories, five of them dealing with renunciation, one with firm determination, six with truthfulness, two with loving-kindness and one with equanimity.
(16) Netti and (17) Petakopadesa
The two small works, Netti, made up of seven chapters, and Petakopadesa, made up of eight chapters, are different from the other books of the Tipitaka because they are exegetical and methodological in nature.
(18) Milindapanha Pali
Milindapanha Pali is the last of the books which constitute Khuddaka Nikaya. It records the questions asked by King Milinda and the answers given by the Venerable Nagasena some five hundred years after the Parinibbana of the Buddha. King Milinda was Yonaka (Graeco-Bactrian) ruler of Sagala. He was very learned and highly skilled in the art of debating. The Venerable Nagasena, a fully accomplished Arahat, was on a visit to Sagala at the request of the Samgha.
King Milinda, who wanted to have some points on the Dhamma clarified, asked the Venerable Nagasena abstruse questions concerning the nature of men, his survival after death, and other doctrinal aspects of the Dhamma. The Venerable Nagasena gave him satisfactory replies on each question asked. These erudite questions and answers on the Teaching of the Buddha are compiled into the book known as the Milindapanha Pali.