An Auspicious Gathering


Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha was staying in the city of Rājagṛha, on the mountain called Gṛdhrakūṭa, together with a great assembly of twelve thousand monks, all of whom were arhats whose corruption was at an end, who were free from the confusion of desire, who had achieved their own goals, shattered the bonds of existence, and attained complete mental discipline.

Their names were Ājnātakauṇḍinya, Mahākāśyapa, Uruvilvakāśyapa, Gayākāśyapa, Nadīkāśyapa, Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākātyāyana, Aniruddha, Kapphiṇa, Gavāṃpati, Revata, Pilindavatsa, Bakkula, Mahākauṣṭhila, Nanda, Sundarananda, Pūrṇamaitrāyaṇīputra, Subhūti, Ānanda, and Rāhula. All of them were great arhats, known to the assembly. There were in addition two thousand others, both those who had more to learn and those who did not. The nun Mahāprajāpatī was there, together with her six thousand attendants; and also the nun Yaśodharā, Rāhula’s mother, together with her attendants.

Our vast assembly opens with a wide-pan revealing twelve-thousand monks (Bhikshus) who were arhats. Arhat in Sanskrit means “worthy-one”, one who has destroyed all afflictions and all future causes for rebirth and thus “will Pass Go” and go directly to nirvana upon death. In this sense within Early Buddhism they are recognized as the highest of saints. Accompanying them were nuns, among them was Yaśodharā, the wife-turned-nun of Siddārtha Gautama and the mother of their son, Rāhula.

There were also eighty thousand bodhisattva mahāsattvas, all of whom were irreversible from highest, complete enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksabodhi). They had obtained the dhāraīs, were established in eloquence, and had turned the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. Each had paid homage to countless hundreds of thousands of buddhas, planted roots of merit in their presence, and had always been praised by those buddhas. They had also cultivated compassion within themselves, skillfully caused others to enter the wisdom of a buddha, obtained great wisdom, and reached the other shore. All of them were famous throughout countless worlds and had saved innumerable hundreds of thousands of sentient beings. They were Manjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara, Mahāsthāmaprāpta, Nityodyukta, Anikipta dhura, Rat na pāni, Bhaiajyarāja, Pradānaśūra, Ratnacandra, Can dra prabha, Pūra candra, Mahāvikramin, Anantavikramin, Trailokya vikrama, Bhadra pāla, Maitreya, Ratnākara, and Susāthavāha. There were altogether eighty thousand such bodhisattva mahāsattvas.

bodhisattva mahāsattvas: the term means quite an advanced Bodhi-Being, the likes of Manjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara; both included in this dignified list.

anuttarā samyaksabodhi: the new Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism defines this thus:

In Sanskrit, “unsurpassed (anuttara), complete (samyak), and perfect enlightenment (SAṂBODHI)”; the enlightenment (BODHI) of a buddha, superior to all other forms of enlightenment. The term is often used to distinguish the enlightenment of a buddha from that of an ARHAT, with the former deemed superior because it is the result of the sustained practice of the BODHISATTVA path over the course of many eons (KALPA) of lifetimes. According to Mahāyāna schools, in anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi, both of the two kinds of obstructions, the afflictive obstructions (KLEŚĀVARAṆA) and the obstructions to omniscience (JÑEYĀVARAṆA), have been completely overcome. Although ARHATS also achieve enlightenment (BODHI), they have overcome only the first of the obstructions, not the second, and thus have still not realized anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi. This enlightenment, which is unique to the buddhas, surpasses all other types of realization and is thus unsurpassed, complete, and perfect. 

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez (2013-11-24). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 4206-4208). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

dhāraīs: the root of this word means “to hold” or “to maintain”. Hence, when retained as a verbal formula in the mind it functions as a “mnemonic-device”; such is the full import of these highly-mystically-charged formulas that when intoned, render all enemies of the Buddhadharma shell-shocked, literally being “held-fast” and spellbound.

The great significance of these Maha-Dharma Protectors should never be taken lightly. They are ready at a moment’s notice to intervene in any situation whenever their divine-aid is invoked.

At that time Śakra, king of the devas, was also there, attended by twenty thousand devaputras. Candra, Samantagandha, and Ratnaprabha, and the great devas of the four quarters were there, together with a retinue of ten thousand devaputras. The devaputras Īśvara and Maheśvara were there, attended by thirty thousand devaputras. Brahma, the lord of the sahā world, as well as the great Brahma Śikhin and the great Brahma Jyotiprabha were there, together with a retinue of twelve thousand devaputras. The eight nāga kings—namely, Nanda, Upananda, Sāgara, Vāsukin, Takaka, Anavatapta, Manasvin, and Utpalaka—were also there, each of them surrounded by several hundreds of thousands of attendants. 

There were four kings of the kinaras whose names were Dharma, Sudharma, Mahādharma, and Dharmadhara, and each had several hundreds of thousands of attendants. The four kings of the gandharvas were there. They were Manojna, Manojnasvara, Madhura, and Madhurasvara, each of them also with several hundreds of thousands of attendants. There, too, were four kings of the asuras, called Bain, Kharaskandha, Vemacitra, and Rahu, each with several hundreds of thousands of attendants. Mahātejas, Mahākāya, Mahāpūra, and Maharddhiprāpta, the four kings of the garuas, were there together with several hundreds of thousands of attendants. Finally, King Ajātaśatru, Vaidehī’s son, was also there with several hundreds of thousands of his attendants. Each of them, after having bowed at the Buddha’s feet, withdrew and sat to one side.

Devas: the name means “shining-ones”, heavenly being, and lower-gods of the salutary heavens…

Devaputras: sons of gods. It also needs to be mentioned that this can undertsake a dark connotation, as in “Devaputra-Mara”—yes, Mara is the evil son of a deva-god, and soon became the personification of all evil itself.

Nagas: these are my favorite of all the mystical beings here in attendance. Their significance is very rich indeed as they are the ancient protectors of the Buddhadharma. They are serpentine-like beings and in Chinese Lore they are referred to as the ancient dragons of old.

Kinaras: this is a class of heavenly-beings that resemble birds with humanoid heads.

Gandharvas: a class of heavenly beings famed for their musical skills. They are often in attendance and provide the musical-ambience for such Buddhaic-gatherings. They are also known as “fragrance-eaters”, since they are known as subsisting on fragrances

Asuras: these are demigods, or Titans. In Vedic-Mythology they were fierce opponents of the gods. Within Buddhist-Cosmology they occupy one of the six-modes of being on the diurnal-wheel of samsara.

Garuas: Large, bird-like beings. It’s interesting how this particular entity is sitting side-by-side with the Nagas in the assembly, since in Indian Mythology they like to consume nagas for dinner. <g>

This august-gathering, filled with such myriad beings, is truly a wonder to behold. This is always an indication that the Buddhadharma is not just meant exclusively for humans, but for every-variety of sentient-being extant within the cosmos.

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