Animisa Lōcana Bōdhi Poojā – A Prelude to Acts of Gratitude

April 29, 2016; December 1, 2017

1. The conventional interpretation of Animisa Lōcana Bōdhi Poojā (here “lōcana” is pronounced “lōchana”) is that Buddha paid his gratitude to the sacred Bōdhi tree that gave him shade when he attained Enlightenment (Buddhahood). In current literature, it is described as the Buddha spending the second week after attaining Enlightenment — looking at that Bōdhi tree even without blinking — as an act of gratitude for sheltering him during that Noble effort.

  • It is  true that the Bōdhi tree was (and still is) a special tree, and has many unique properties which we will discuss in a future post.
  • But there is no basis to the interpretation that he was looking at the Bōdhi tree without even blinking. There the word “animisa” is incorrectly translated as “unblinking”. What he did during that week was related to his acts of gratitude that were to follow.

2. Nimisa or nimēsa is a moment, and animisa is “without pausing for even a moment”. “” is for the “lōkaya” or “world”, “ca” is for the citta (thoughts), and thus “lōcana” is basically contemplation, in this case about his long path to the Buddhhood (bōdhi is the “path to Enlightenment”, thus the name 37 Bōdhipākshika Dhamma, where “pākshika” means “relevant to” or “associated with”. The current English translation is 37 Factors of Enlightenment, which is not too far off).

  • What the Buddha did during that Animisa lōcana Bōdhi Poojā (for 7 days) was to trace back to the time that he started fulfilling the requirement for the Buddhahood (pāramitā), i.e., scanned the memory records (nāma gotta) of his previous lives to see who helped him during that whole time.
  • Records of our past remain intact basically forever; see, “Nāmagotta, Bhava, Kamma Bīja, and Mano Loka (Mind Plane)” and “Recent Evidence for Unbroken Memory Records (HSAM)“.
  • After leaving the site of the Bōdhi tree, he spent the first several years  (and even at later times) locating those who helped him during that whole time and helped them attain Nibbāna. We will discuss some cases below.

3. It is said that it took the Buddha (or rather the Bōdhisattva) a “sāra asenkkheyya kappa lakhayak” to fulfilled the requirements (pāramitā) to attain the Buddhahood.  See, “Difference between a Wish and a Determination (pāramitā)” for a simple explanation of pāramitā.

There are four asenkkheyya kappā in a mahā kappa, and  “lakhayak” is 100,000. But human beings live in kāma lōka only during one asenkkheyya kappa and during the other three asenkkheyya kappā the kāma lōkas (and some of the lower lying rūpa lōkas) are destroyed and re-formed. We will discuss this in detail later.

  • Thus in calculating the pāramitā time, “asenkkheyya kappa lakhayak” actually takes the time of a mahā kappa. I have not yet been able to find out what “sāra” means to my satisfaction even though I have come across some estimates. Thus, the time taken to fulfill the pāramitā was some number (“sāra”) of hundred thousand mahā kappā.
  • However, there are other data points that give us an idea how long that is. According to the Tipiṭaka, there have been 512,000 Buddhas that appeared in our world during the time Buddha Gotama to fulfill his pāramitā.
  • There have been only 7 Buddhas during the past 31 mahā kappā, and with the Maithreya Buddha that is expected to appear before the end of this mahā kappa, there would be 8 Buddhas in those 31 mahā kappā. Thus if we assume there is roughly a Buddha appearing for every four mahā kappā, then the time taken for our Bōdhisattva to complete the pāramitā would be roughly two million mahā kappā. If we take a mahā kappa to be about 30 billion years (see, “Saṃsāric Time Scale, Buddhist Cosmology, and the Big Bang Theory“), then this time would be around 60 trillion years!
  • Regardless of the actual time taken, it can be assumed to be truly mind-boggling. Working nonstop (that is what “animisa” means), it took the Buddha fully seven days to cover this time span (recall the nāma gotta).
  • Of course many of the key people had been with him in repeated lives; this is why it took so long (seven days) for the Buddha to go through those records.

4. When the Buddha left the site of the Bōdhi tree seven weeks after attaining the Buddhahood, he immediately started “paying back debts” to them.

5. It is said that he first wanted to pay back his most recent “teachers”: Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. Unfortunately, both had died recently and both had been born in the arūpa lōka (they had both cultivated anāriya arūpa jhānā). In arūpa lōka, beings do not have eyes or ears, and thus are unable to learn Dhamma. Thus the Buddha was not able to help them.

  • Next, he thought about the five ascetics ( Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahānāma, and Assaji ) who had attended to him while he was practicing austerities for six years. It is those five ascetics that the Buddha delivered the first and second discourses at the Deer Park at Isipathana: Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta and the Anatta Lakkhana Sutta (Anatta is the third of the Tilakkhana: anicca, dukkha, anatta). They all became Arahants after the two discourses.
  •  Then the Buddha sought out and preached Dhamma to Yasä, a son of a wealthy brahmin, who lived nearby. Yasä and 54 friends of his became Bhikkhus and soon attained the Arahantship.

6. It is also important to note that most of those who helped the Bōdhisattva in in his efforts, had also filled versions of pāramitā to be major disciples of the Buddha. They themselves had worked towards liberation (Nibbāna) in previous lives.

  • This is why most of them were able to attain the Arahanthood or various stages of Nibbāna in short times.
  • Even these days, it is easier for some than others because of their past efforts. Thus no one should be discouraged in their efforts. The efforts will pay off in time, possibly even later in this life or in future lives.

7. By the time the Buddha left  Isipathana, there were thus 60 Arahants in his Sāsana. After sending them in different directions to propagate his message of liberation, the Buddha himself left towards Uruvela, to meet the three Kassapa brothers and their followers who had been with him in numerous lives in the long past.

  • On the way there, he intercepted 30 young wealthy men who were looking for a woman who had robbed them of their valuables. That was not an accidental meeting either. All 30 of them had encounters with the Buddha in previous lives and were ready to comprehend the Dhamma. They all attained Arahanthood shortly.

8. Upon arriving in Urevala, the Buddha had to spend a considerable time and effort to convince the Kassapa brothers that were not Arahants. They were yōgis who were under the impression that they had already attained liberation, and were very reluctant to embrace the Buddha Dhamma. Finally, they became disciples of the Buddha and all 1000 of them attained the Arahanthood upon hearing the Aditta Pāriyaya Sutta.

  • Then the Buddha traveled with those 1000  Arahants to Rajagaha, the capital of the Kingdom of Magadha. King Bimbisara became a Sōtapanna and offered the Buddha his first monastery, the Bamboo Grove in Rajagaha.

9. While the Buddha was residing in the Bamboo Grove two brahmins, Upatissa and Kolita, met Assaji Thero (who was one of the five ascetics), and became Sōtapannas upon hearing a single verse from the Asssaji Thero. Then  they came to see the Buddha and requested to become bhikkhus, and attained the Arahanthood within two weeks.

  • Of course they became the two chief disciples of the Buddha: Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana.

10. Then the Buddha, accompanied by the bhikkhus, made the way to Kapilavatthu, his father’s Kingdom. Here, he was able to help numerous people who had been together with him many, many lives in the past.

  • By the way, it is those who have mutual debts to each other who are born into the same family and share common relatives and friends. Thus one’s obligations are mostly in that order. Of course one is most indebted to one’s parents.
  • Just so this will not convey the wrong message, this is not to condone the common practice of “giving perks” to family and friends by misusing government resources, done by many politicians today. One should give only things of one’s own.

11. Thus the first several years of Buddha’s life was dedicated to helping those who had been with him and helped him in many ways through multiple rebirths in his endeavor to become a Buddha. Of course, neither a Bōdhisattva (until becoming a Buddha) nor his helpers “knew” that was the case beforehand. That is how nature works. The next post in this series discusses this issue.

12. King Suddhodana, Prince Siddhartha’s father, attained the Arahanthood just before passing away about five years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha.

  • The Buddha, as a mark of gratitude to his mother who was born as a dēva in Tavatimsa dēva realm, preached the Abhidhamma to his mother together with other dēvas continuously for three months. The principal topics of  Abhidhamma were then repeated by the Buddha to Venerable Sariputta, who subsequently worked with his clan of 500 bhikkhus to compile the  Abhidhamma Piṭaka that we have today.
  • Of course, both Princess Yasodhara and Prince Rahula entered the monastic order and attained Arahanthood too.
  • Numerous other relatives entered the monastic order and attained various stages of Nibbāna.
  • A fairly good book that goes through this timeline is “The Life of the Buddha” by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. It is important to note that the Tipiṭaka itself does not show the actual timeline of events; it is categorized according to other criteria.

13. Sometimes, it is not only those who help each other, but also arch enemies that follow each other through the cycle of rebirths (samsāra). While almost all other relatives of the Buddha (Prince Siddhartha) were able to attain Nibbāna, there were a few who could not overcome their deeply-embedded hatred towards the Buddha.

  • The best examples were dēvadatta and King Suppabuddha, who were the brother and father, respectively, of Princess Yasodhara. They both eventually ended up in the niraya (hell) for committing violent acts towards the Buddha.

Next, “Pāramitā and Niyata Vivarana – Myths or Realities?“, ……

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