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JĀNUSSONI SUTTA: DISCOURSE TO JĀNUSSONI

Collection of numerical discourses (anguttara nikāya) contain the discourses in eleven groups (nipatas), grouped numerically from one to eleven, based on the number of facts discussed by the Buddha in each discourse. The Jānussoni sutta is included in the Jānussoni vagga of the tenth group of discourses in the Anguttara Nikāya (1).

Jānussoni sutta is a discourse that the Buddha had delivered to the brahmin named Jānussoni. He was a resident of Sāvatti and was a chaplain to King Kosala, the ruler of the Kosala Kingdom. He had the habit of talking to well-known religious leaders at that time with the intention of learning their religious doctrines and also to compare them with his own views. He was an admirer of the Buddha, and has visited the Buddha on several occasions to discuss religious and spiritual matters with the Buddha which are recorded in a few other discourses as well.

Content of Jānussoni sutta

Then the brahmin Jānussoni went to the Buddha and having arrived, exchanged courtesies with the Buddha. After an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting to one side, he said to the Buddha: “Master Gotama, we are brahmins. We give gifts, make offerings saying: ‘May this gift accrue to our dead relatives and blood relations; may our dead relatives and blood relations partake of this gift’. Now, Master Gotama, does that gift accrue to our dead relatives and blood relations? Do our dead relatives and blood relations partake of that gift?”

“In the possible places, brahmin, it accrues to them, but not in the impossible places.”

“Master Gotama, what are the possible places? What are the impossible places?”

“Here brahmin, there is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in hell. He lives there, he remains there, sustained by the food of hell beings. Brahmin, it is not a possible place for that gift to accrue to him.”

[The Buddha has described the ten unwholesome actions (dasa akusala) consisting of three unwholesome bodily actions, four unwholesome verbal actions and three unwholesome mental actions which result in unhappy consequences in this life and in future lives. They are:

Three unwholesome bodily deeds:

1. Killing any living beings (pānāti pātā)

2. Stealing or taking what is not given (adinnādānā)

3. Sexual misconduct (kāmesu micchāchārā)

Four unwholesome verbal deeds:

1.False speech (musāvāda)

2.Divisive speech (pisunāvācā)

3.Harsh speech (pharusā vācā)

4.Idle chattering (samphappalāpā)

Three unwholesome mental deeds:

1.Covetousness or greed (abhijjā)

2.Ill-will (vyāpāda)

3.Wrong view (miccā ditthi)]:

What I add: A sotāpanna eradicated Micchādiṭṭhi:This is the main defilement that leads to apayas and incites one to commit the 5 apayagami actions.

1. Kill your father

2. Kill your mother

3.Kill an arahant.

4. Sow schism in the Sangha.

5. Physically harm a Lord Buddha (He cannot be killed and mentally harmed)

“Then again, brahmin, there is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the animal womb. He lives there, he remains there, sustained by the food of common animals. Brahmin, it is not a possible place for that gift to accrue to him.”

[Hell (niraya) and the animal kingdom are two of the four planes of deprivation or extreme suffering described in Buddhist cosmology into which rebirth can take place due to unwholesome actions of varying severity. They are:

1.Plane of immense suffering (niraya)

2.Plane of animals (tiracchāna yoni)

3.Plane of hungry ghosts (peta loka)

4.Plane of demons and titans (asura loka)] (2)

“Then again, brahmin, there is a certain person who abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from engaging in sexual misconduct, abstains from engaging in false speech, abstains from engaging in divisive speech, abstains from engaging in harsh speech, abstains from engaging in idle chatter, is not covetous, does not bear ill-will, and has right views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of human beings. He lives there, he remains there, sustained by the food of human beings. Brahmin, it is not a possible place for that gift to accrue to him.”

“Then again, brahmin, there is a certain person who abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from engaging in sexual misconduct, abstains from engaging in false speech, abstains from engaging in divisive speech, abstains from engaging in harsh speech, abstains from engaging in idle chatter, is not covetous, does not bear ill-will, and has right views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of devas. He lives there, he remains there, sustained by the food of the devas. Brahmin, it is not a possible place for that gift to accrue to him.”

[In Buddhist cosmology, six sensual heavens are described where rebirth can take place as devas due to wholesome and skillful actions performed in previous births. They are:

1.Cātummahārājika heaven

2.Tāvatimsā heaven

3.Yāma heaven

4.Tusita heaven

5.Nimmānarati heaven

6.Paranimmita Vasavatti heaven] (3) ( What i add: The domain of devaputta Mara is located there.)

“Then again, brahmin, there is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the realm of hungry ghosts. He lives there, he remains there, sustained by the food of hungry ghosts. But whatever his friends, companions, relatives or blood relations give dedicating to him, by that he remains there. Brahmin, while he remains there, it is a possible place for that gift to accrue to him.”

“But, Master Gotama, if that dead relative or blood relation does not arise there, who would partake of that gift?”

“Then, brahmin, other dead relatives or blood relations who have arisen there will partake of that gift.”

“But, Master Gotama, if that dead relative or blood relation does not arise there, and other dead relatives and blood relations have not arisen there, then who would partake of that gift?”

“It is impossible brahmin, it cannot be, that after such a long time, that realm is devoid of any dead relatives or blood relations. In any case, brahmin, the donor does not go without a reward.”

“Would Master Gotama describe any preparation for the impossible places?”

“Brahmin, I do describe a preparation for the impossible places. Here, brahmin, there is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. But he gives food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of elephants. There he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments. It is because he took life, took what is not given, engaged in sexual misconduct, engaged in false speech, engaged in divisive speech, engaged in harsh speech, engaged in idle chatter, was covetous, bore ill-will, and had wrong views, that he arises in the company of elephants. But, because he gave food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives, that he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments.”

“There is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. But he gives food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of horses. There he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments. It is because he took life, took what is not given, engaged in sexual misconduct, engaged in false speech, engaged in divisive speech, engaged in harsh speech, engaged in idle chatter, was covetous, bore ill-will, and had wrong views, that he arises in the company of horses. But, because he gave food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives, that he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments.

“There is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. But he gives food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of cows. There he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments. It is because he took life, took what is not given, engaged in sexual misconduct, engaged in false speech, engaged in divisive speech, engaged in harsh speech, engaged in idle chatter, was covetous, bore ill-will, and had wrong views, that he arises in the company of cows. But, because he gave food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives, that he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments.

“There is a certain person who takes life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, engages in false speech, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter, is covetous, bears ill-will, and has wrong views. But he gives food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of dogs. There he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments. It is because he took life, took what is not given, engaged in sexual misconduct, engaged in false speech, engaged in divisive speech, engaged in harsh speech, engaged in idle chatter, was covetous, bore ill-will, and had wrong views, that he arises in the company of dogs. But, because he gave food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives, that he receives food, drink, garlands and various ornaments.

“Then again, brahmin, there is a certain person who abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from engaging in sexual misconduct, abstains from engaging in false speech, abstains from engaging in divisive speech, abstains from engaging in harsh speech, abstains from engaging in idle chatter, is not covetous, does not bear ill-will, and has right views. And he gives food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of human beings. There he would enjoy the five strings of human sensual pleasures. It is because he abstained from taking life, abstained from taking what is not given, abstained from engaging in sexual misconduct, abstained from engaging in false speech, abstained from engaging in divisive speech, abstained from engaging in harsh speech, abstained from engaging in idle chatter, was not covetous, did not bear ill-will, and had right views, that he arises in the company of human beings. And, it is because he gave food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives, that he enjoys the five strings of human sensual pleasures.”

“Then again, brahmin, there is a certain person who abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from engaging in sexual misconduct, abstains from engaging in false speech, abstains from engaging in divisive speech, abstains from engaging in harsh speech, abstains from engaging in idle chatter, is not covetous, does not bear ill-will, and has right views. And he gives food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he arises in the company of devas. There he would enjoy the five strings of divine sensual pleasures. It is because he abstained from taking life, abstained from taking what is not given, abstained from engaging in sexual misconduct, abstained from engaging in false speech, abstained from engaging in divisive speech, abstained from engaging in harsh speech, abstained from engaging in idle chatter, was not covetous, did not bear ill-will, and had right views, that he arises in the company of devas. And, it is because he gave food, drinks, cloth, vehicle, garlands, scents, ointments, bed, lodging, and lamps to brahmins and contemplatives, that he enjoys the five strings of divine sensual pleasures.”

“In any case, brahmin, the donor does not go without a reward.”

“It is amazing, Master Gotama, it is wonderful, how it is enough to make one want to give gifts, enough to make one want to make an offering, that the donor does not go without a reward.”

“That is the way it is, brahmin. That is the way it is. The donor does not go without a reward.”

“Excellent, Master Gotama! Excellent, Master Gotama! Just as one were to set upright what had been overturned, or what had been closed is opened, or were to show the way to one who has lost his way, or as one who holds an oil lamp in the dark so that those with eyes may see things, in similar manner, by master Gotama, in various ways, the Dhamma has been declared. I go to Master Gotama for refuge, to the Dhamma for refuge, and to the Sangha for refuge. May Master Gotama accept me as a lay follower who has taken refuge from today onwards till the end of my life.”

In the Jānussoni sutta, a brahmin named Jānussoni visited the Buddha and enquired whether the results of gifts and offerings made in the name of dead relatives and blood relations would actually go to them. The Buddha has named a few planes of existence where it is not possible for the dead relatives and blood relations to receive the fruits of those offerings and one plane of existence where it is possible. According to Buddhist teaching recorded in this discourse, those dead relatives and blood relations who are reborn in the hell, animal kingdom, human realm and the celestial worlds are not able to receive those fruits, while those reborn in the realm of hungry ghosts are able to receive them. The Buddha has said that if no relatives or blood relations from this birth or from innumerable previous births during the cycle of birth and death (samsara) have been reborn in the realm of hungry ghosts to receive those fruits, the donor will enjoy the fruits of gifts and offerings made to brahmins and contemplatives. The Buddha has also stated in this discourse that while the wholesome or unwholesome actions committed by a person will determine the realm of rebirth, gifts and offerings made to brahmins and contemplatives will result in material benefits and pleasures during that existence.

If I understand correctly, the transfer of merit is never lost no matter if our deceased loved ones are not able to receive it. The credit will go to us. Consider an Interac transfer.Even if the money does not reach the recipient, it will automatically return to our bank account. Nothing is lost. 

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