Dighajanu Sutta

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The Dighajanu Sutta (Pali Dīghajāṇu sutta), also known as the Byagghapajja Sutta or Vyagghapajja Sutta, is part of the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 8.54).[1] For Theravadin scholars, this discourse of the Pāli Canon is one of several considered key to understanding Buddhist lay ethics.[2] In this discourse, the Buddha instructs a householder named Dīghajāṇu Vyagghapajja,[3] a Koliyan householder, on eight personality traits or conditions that lead to happiness and well-being in this and future lives.

Text[edit]

Dighajanu seeks householder happiness[edit]

In this discourse (Pali: sutta),[4] the townsman Dighajanu says to the Buddha the following:

'We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood; wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver.[5] May the Blessed One teach the Dhamma for those like us, for our happiness & well-being in this life ... [and] in lives to come.'[6]

Happiness in this life[edit]

In response, the Buddha first identifies four traits conducive to happiness (Pali: sukha) in this life:

  • hard-working (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), being skilled and diligent in ones livelihood;
  • vigilance (ārakkha-sampadā), protecting ones wealth from theft and disaster;
  • virtuous friendship (kalyāṇa-mittatā), associating with and emulating those embodying faith, virtue, generosity and wisdom; and,
  • balanced living (sama-jīvikatā),[7] abstaining from womanizing, drunkenness, gambling and evil friendships.

In this discourse,[8] the Buddha describes wealth worthy of the householder's protection as being:

'wealth acquired by energetic striving,
amassed by the strength of his arms,
earned by the sweat of his brow,
righteous wealth righteously gained.'[9]

Happiness in future lives[edit]

Regarding four traits conducive to happiness in future lives, the Buddha identifies accomplishments (sampadā) in:

  • faith (saddhā), in the fully enlightened Buddha;[10]
  • virtue (sīla), as exemplified by the Five Precepts;
  • generosity (cāga), giving charity and alms; and,
  • wisdom (paññā), having insight into the arising and passing of things.

This discourse ends with the following refrain:

Thus to the layman full of faith,
By him, so truly named 'Enlightened,'
These eight conditions have been told
Which now and after lead to bliss.[11]

Context[edit]

This discourse is one of the core texts in the Pali canon for understanding the Buddha's moral expectations of his lay followers.[12]

Right conduct[edit]

Bhikkhu Bodhi describes this discourse as one of "a number of texts dealing with different aspects of household life united by an emphasis on right livelihood" (Pali: sammājiva). Bodhi identifies a common thread among such texts as being an emphasis on right conduct, as exemplified by adherence to the Five Precepts.[13]

In addition to the precepts, as in the Sigalovada Sutta, this discourse also warns against the dangers of libertinism and commends the keeping of good-hearted friends.

Understanding kamma[edit]

In suttas such as this one, Bodhi identifies a second common thread to what might be referred to as the pursuit of a kammic consciousness.[14] Discussing the broader context of Buddhist ethics, Ven. Narada Mahathera states:

The question of incurring the pleasure or displeasure of a God does not enter the mind of a Buddhist. Neither hope of reward nor fear of punishment acts as an incentive to him to do good or to refrain from evil. A Buddhist is aware of future consequences, but he refrains from evil because it retards, does good because it aids progress to Enlightenment....[15]

In this sutta in particular such an awareness is underlined by Dighajanu's concern for happiness in ones future life. Bodhi notes:

For Early Buddhism, the ideal householder is not merely a devout supporter of the monastic order but a noble person who has attained at least the first of the four stages of realization, the fruition of stream-entry (sotāpatti).[16]

Wisdom[edit]

Such a realization on the Buddhist path requires more than ethical business conduct. Narada comments:

Conduct, though essential, is itself insufficient to gain one's emancipation. It should be coupled with wisdom or knowledge (pañña). The base of Buddhism is morality, and wisdom is its apex.[17]

Likewise, in his discourse to Dighajanu, the Buddha identifies wisdom as the ultimate trait for a householder to nurture and embody.

Lay Theravada Practices: For a Fortunate Rebirth

FAITH (Saddhā) GIVING (Dāna) VIRTUE (Sīla) MIND (Bhāvanā) WISDOM (Paññā)

Buddha ·
Dhamma · Sangha

Charity ·
Almsgiving

5 Precepts ·
8 Precepts

Mettā ·
Vipassanā

4 Noble Truths ·
3 Characteristics

Based on: Dighajanu Sutta, Velama Sutta, Dhammika Sutta.


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ PTS Pali = A.iv.284
  2. ^ See, for instance, Bodhi (2005), pp. 110-1, and Narada (1995), Ch. IV. Saddhatissa (1987), Ch. 6, primarily references the Sigalovada Sutta for the Buddha's lay follower's duties towards family, friends and associates; and, paraphrases at length the Dighajanu Sutta for the lay follower's duties in conducting and managing ones business or professional work.
  3. ^ "Dīghajāṇu" is the householder's given name and literally translates as "Long Knee." His family name, "Vyagghapajja" (sometimes Romanized as "Byagghapajja," as in Bodhi, 2005, and Nyanaponika & Bodhi, 1999), can be translated as "Tiger Paw" or "Tiger Path." See Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, entries for "dīgha" (p. 323), "jāṇu" (p. 283), "byaggha" (p. 492), "vyaggha" (p. 652) and "pajja" (p. 387); as well as, Narada (1997), nn. 2, 3; and, Thanissaro (1995) text and n. 1.
  4. ^ English translations of this sutta include: Bodhi (2005), pp. 124-6; Narada (1997); Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), pp. 221-3; and, Thanissaro (1995). (Bodhi, 2005, and Nyanaponika & Bodhi, 1999, both omit the discourse's final summarizing verse, part of which is included in this article.) A Romanized Pali version of this sutta is available at www.metta.lk (undated).
  5. ^ The "wearing of garlands, scents, & creams" would be inappropriate for a Buddhist layfollower only on Uposatha days (see, for instance, the Dhammika Sutta and the seventh precept of the Eight Precepts). In Buddhism, the "handling of gold & silver" is one of the first distinctions made between a lay disciple and a monastic, as represented by the main difference between the lay disciple's Eight Precepts and the novice monastic's Ten Precepts.
  6. ^ Thanissaro (1995).
  7. ^ Bodhi (2005), pp. 124, 125, and Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999) both translate sama-jīvikatā as "balanced living," Narada (1997) translates it as "balanced livelihood," Thanissaro (1995) uses "maintaining one's livelihood in tune," and Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25) translates it as "living economically" (p. 681), each of which could be justified by the original extended text.
  8. ^ The Buddha's description here of appropriately gained wealth is also repeated in, for instance, AN 4.61 (Bodhi, 2005, pp. 126-7) and AN 4.62 (Thanissaro, 1997).
  9. ^ Bodhi (2005), p. 124. For Bodhi, p. 111, "righteous wealth righteously gained" brings to mind the Noble Eightfold Path's pursuit of "right livelihood."
  10. ^ The text used in this discourse to describe "faith" in the enlightened Buddha is part of a formula used throughout the Pali canon and that is also used even today by Theravada Buddhists in their daily chanting:
    Thus indeed is the Blessed One:
    He is the Holy One,
    Fully Enlightened,
    Endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct,
    Sublime, the Knower of the worlds,
    The incomparable Leader of men to be tamed,
    The Teacher of Gods and men,
    Enlightened and Blessed. (Indaratana, 2002, p. 3.)
    An audio version of this chant in Pali is available at http://www.buddhanet.net/filelib/mp3/05-chant-05.mp3.
  11. ^ Narada (1997).
  12. ^ See, for instance, Narada (1995), Ch. IV. The other texts explicitly identified by Narada are the Dhammapada, Dhammika Sutta, Mangala Sutta, Karaniya Sutta, Parabhava Sutta, Sigalovada Sutta and Vasala Sutta.
  13. ^ Bodhi (2005), pp. 110-1. Similar well-known texts addressing laypeople and commending the Five Precepts include the Dhammika Sutta and the Sigalovada Sutta. For other canonical texts explicitly identified by Bhikkhu Bodhi, see Bodhi (2005), Ch. IV.
  14. ^ Bodhi (2005), pp. 110-1.
  15. ^ Narada (1995).
  16. ^ Bodhi (2005), p. 111.
  17. ^ Narada (1995), Ch. IV.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi (trans.) (1999). Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0-7425-0405-0.
  • Saddhatissa, Hammalawa (1987). Buddhist Ethics. London: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-053-3.