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Exhortation to worship the seven past Buddhas?

dn32
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#1

I’ve been to a couple of “pujas” (offering-ceremonies) in a monastery where there were seven lined-up Buddha statues, each labelled for a past Buddha that it represented. Each statue had offerings of food, tonics, and medicine placed before it. Later on after the puja, I asked a monk who had conducted it, as to why that ceremony was done. He simply explained that “the seven Buddhas should be worshipped”. I neither accepted nor rejected this, and now I’m trying to find a Sutta reference to back that up.

I’m wondering if there is a Sutta (or anything from the Vinaya) which contains an exhortation by the Buddha to lay people or monks to formally worship (and not just mentally revere) the seven Buddhas (perhaps periodically and methodically).

You can see these Seven Buddhas mentioned by name in “The Āṭānāṭiya Discourse”, DN 32.

I suppose it’s conceivable that (with reference to the protective chant the Sutta contains) when any offensive yakkhas are making a threat (meaning “with a wicked mind should come near a monk or a nun or a layman or a laywoman while they are going, or stand near while they are standing, or sit near while they are sitting, or lie near while they are lying”), when the chanter begins to chant, and requests that the threatening yakkha “reveres” each of the seven Buddhas (and then assumedly back off), this could be construed (removing the chant from its context) to mean “everyone should worship the seven Buddhas, regardless of whether there is an imminent yakkha attack or not”.

Here’s how the chant starts (and please also read the original Sutta from the start to see the story leading up to when this chant gets recited):

May you [the threatening yakkha] revere Vipassī,
the glorious Visionary,
may you [the threatening yakkha] revere Sikhī,
who has pity on all beings,

May you [the threatening yakkha] revere Vessabhū,
the austere one, cleansed (of corruptions),
may you [the threatening yakkha] revere Kakusandha,
who has crushed Māra’s army,

May you [the threatening yakkha] revere Koṇāgamana,
the accomplished brahmin,
may you [the threatening yakkha] revere Kassapa,
who is free in every respect.

May you [the threatening yakkha] revere Aṅgīrasa,
the glorious son of the Sakyans,
he who preached this Dhamma,
which is the dispelling of all suffering.

“Those who are emancipated in the world,
who have insight (into things) as they are,
those people free from malicious speech,
who are great and fully mature,

“They will revere that Gotama,
who is of benefit to gods and men,
who has understanding and good conduct,
who is great and fully mature.

Does this seem to be the likely origin and basis for these “7-Buddha pujas”?


#2

to tell the truth i’ve never had any yakkha, gandhabba, kumbhanda or naga approach me period, let alone approach with a wicked mind

so i probably wouldn’t have had a reason to chant these chants

BTW, bhante, you could’ve inquired the monk as to why they should be worshipped and maybe ask for a textual reference


#3

(LXNDR:) BTW, bhante, you could’ve inquired the monk as to why they should be worshipped and maybe ask for a textual reference

LXNDR, apparently you are a Westerner, and not an Asian.

In Asian culture, it would be seen as confrontational and very rude, to even so much as call their puja ceremony into question. It would very likely be something which is thought to be literally unquestionable, to that monk. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way in other cases.

Had I pressed the issue further (as you suggested), I felt I would have very likely gotten a strongly emotionally-defensive response, then a grudge would likely be harboured against me behind my back, and probably circulated. These sorts of fragile emotional responses are the natural outcome for anyone who has very rigidly-held, tightly-held views. This line of questioning instead needs to be indirectly done, as I’m doing now. That’s the more Asian way of doing things (notice how I’m not mentioning the monk’s, nor monastery’s name).

The scriptures and Vinaya also specifically advise a monk to act how I acted: when any monk says something that doesn’t seem to be in conformance with the Dhamma or Vinaya, you don’t confront them then and there, on the spot. You “neither approve nor disapprove” of their words, then you go back and compare their words, as exactly as you can, against the Dhamma and Vinaya. This respects Asian’s culture’s deeply-held need to be non-confrontational. That way nobody loses any face. Not losing face is a paramount value in Asian culture as well.


#4

but it’s a good method of creating layers upon layers of suppressed emotions and troubling issues, which can either make a person miserable and dissatisfied or create conditions for imminent emotional breakdown or both, unless one learns to be detached from personal preferences and interests

not judging the way you went about it, just saying

in fact in the West too, questioning someone’s authority or beliefs, even indirectly, can be taken as confrontational, only that it’s not taboo

ok suppose you found out that this practice had no base in the DhammaVinaya, what’s then? you still get “confrontational”, in their terms, should you share your findings and be persistent about it

the eastern way of resolving disagreements seems to be not so much about seeking common ground but submission to the authority, to the elders’ opinion, to the tradition


#5

I’m just trying to learn how to live harmoniously with my fellow monks. Lay people such as yourself have more control over whom you live with, and which friends you decide to hang out with. But when you’re a monk, you really need to learn to get along, even with people who are not like you at all, let alone people from radically different cultures.

Say what you will, but until you become a monk yourself, you’ll never really understand what it’s like. I’d thank you kindly to keep your comments on topic, and save the psychoanalysis.

As an example, my previous comment was an elaboration and example on the whole “neither approve nor disapprove” thing, which you do find in the scriptures.

No, I’m not going to be confrontational (with any others around me) about whatever gets concluded here. It’s just that it’s very helpful to me to understand where these traditions come from, which at face value seem way out in left field sometimes, for a Westerner. This understanding in and of itself brings a measure of psychological ease, because at least then it seems partially less out-of-conformance with my “normal” reality.


#6

i’m not sure that shying away from and avoiding direct and candid, not necessarily confrontational, conversation (as you said it’s them who’d view it in this light) is a way to harmony, rather it’s a way to a facade thereof, where people can feel alienated without daring to show and/or admit it

societal relationships aren’t confined by the monastic setting, Sangha is just an isolated case of human society, and i doubt in this respect Sangha is something radically different from any collective of humans

at school, at my workplace i don’t have choice over the makeup of my schoolmates and colleagues so it’s no different from the monastery except for the fact that monks have to spend longer with each other

neither approval nor disapproval is right when one doesn’t know one way or the other, but when one finds out, the mind is going to have to be made up

to be sure witnessing Buddhist pujas with the knowledge of them being presumably later inventions and having little to do with the Dhamma may not be problematic unless one’s forced to participate in them


#7

Thanks to both for the interesting discussion!

As far as the textual references go, in the Khandhaparitta (AN 4.67, also Ja 203) it says,

Sohaṃ namo bhagavato,
Namo sattannaṃ sammā­sambud­dhā­nan

“I worship that Blessed One, I worship the seven fully awakened Buddhas”.

Which is probably as good a canonical endorsement as you’d hope to find.

The Khandha paritta is a fascinating text, because its a protection chant, something that would normally be associated with later developments, yet linguistically it includes Magadhan forms (locative plural in -ehi), something usually associated with early texts.

The last couple of verses come out of nowhere: the rest of the text has the monk developing metta for creatures, and suddenly we’re into devotion? They also seem to me to have metrically nothing to do with what came before—if they are actually metrical at all. They also lack any Magadhan forms. So I’m wondering whether they’re part of the original text.

And lo and behold, the Sanskrit version at SF 258 lacks them completely. So I think we’re on pretty solid ground to conclude that the devotional verses, including the admonition to worship the seven Buddhas, is a late interpolation.


#8

A masterful analysis, Ajahn. Seriously. :smiley:


#9

I came across a good sutta reference for this, in case anyone is interested: AN 4.180: “The Great References”. It’s on page 545 of the Wisdom Publications Anguttara Nikaya.


#10

Iti hetaṃ, bhikkhave, chaḍḍeyyātha.


#11

Links to suttas hosted on “http://metta.lk” never work for me. They take me to a “404 not found” page. Does this link work for anyone else?


#12

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara2/4-catukkanipata/018-sacetaniyavaggo-e.html