Eight excellent and wonderful things in the great ocean and the Sasana

Bhikkhu Seelananda

The simile method of teaching in the Dhamma is one of the most influential methods of communicating the Dhamma adopted by the Buddha. This method has been used in many discourses. The discourse of the simile of the Ocean ( A. N. ii.47.Paharada Sutta)is one such a discourse. Here the Buddha expounded eight characteristics in the Order which are parallel with the Ocean. According to the Sutta once Paharada, a chief of the Asura (demi-gods "titans" who are hostile towards the gods and often engage in battle with them) came to the Buddha and having saluted the Buddha sat down at aside. After their courteous greetings the Buddha inquired about how many excellent and wonderful things do they perceive in the great Ocean. So Paharada pointed out eight excellent and wonderful things in the great Ocean. He said " There are ,Ven. Sir, eight excellent and wonderful things which we again and again perceive in the great Ocean and therefore take delight in it."

These are the eight:

  1. The great Ocean, slopes away gradually, falls gradually, inclines gradually, and not in an abrupt way like a precipice.
  2. The great Ocean is stable and does not overflow its boundaries.
  3. The great Ocean does not tolerate a dead body, a corpse. If there is a dead body in it the great Ocean will quickly carry it to the shore cast it on to the land.
  4. When these mighty rivers, like the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Aciravati and the Sarabhu etc reach the great Ocean, they lose their former names and designations, and are reckoned just as the great Ocean.
  5. Though all the streams of the world flow into the great Ocean and rains falls into it from the sky, yet there appears neither a decrease nor an increase in the great Ocean.
  6. The great Ocean has only one taste, that of salt.
  7. In the great Ocean there are many and variegated precious things: There are pearls, gems, lapis, lazuli, shells, quartz, corals, silver, gold, rubies and cats-eyes.
  8. The great Ocean is the abode of vast creatures, the timi, the timingala, the timirapingala, Asuras, Nagas and Gandhabba. There are, in the great Ocean beings one hundred yojanas long or two ,three, four, five hundred yojanas long.

When the chief of Asura, Paharada said so, explaining the nature of the Order the Buddha said that there were eight excellent and wonderful things in the Order(Teaching and discipline) which the monks again and again perceive and therefore find delight in it. They are as follows:

The Buddha said

  1. " Just as the great Ocean slopes away gradually, falls gradually, inclines gradually, and not in an abrupt way like a precipice, even so Paharada, is this teaching and discipline: there is a gradual training (anupubbasikkha), gradual practice(anupubbakiriya), gradual progress (anupubbapatipada); there is no penetration to highest knowledge in an abrupt way. (It means that taking a leap like a frog, without practicing from the very beginning i.e. the fulfillment of morality(sila) concentration(samadhi) and wisdom(panna) respectively, there is no attainment of Arahantship. One has to practise the Dhamma in due order, No concentration can be gained without morality and there is no cultivation of wisdom without concentration of mind).
  1. Just as the great Ocean is stable and does not overflow its boundaries, even so when I have made known a rule of training to my disciples ,they will not transgress it even for life's sake.
  2. Just as the great Ocean will not tolerate a dead body, a corpse, but quickly carries it to the shore and casts it on to the land; even so the Order will not tolerate a person who is immoral, of bad character, of impure and suspicious conduct, secretive in his actions, not a true recluse but rather a sham-recluse, not chaste but pretending chastity, rotten to the core , lustful and of vile behaviour. (in such a case) ,the Order quickly assembles and expels such a person. Even if seated in the midst of monks' assembly, yet he is far from the assembly, yet he is far from the Order and the order is far from him. (Regarding this, in this period of decadence of the Sasana we all can see, and have to accept that there are certain bad elements in the order today. They really are impediments to the Order. They commit even grave offences. But there is no immediate assemble of the community of monks and expulsion. Undoubtedly stern actions are to be taken by the Head of the monks and the regime in power in order to purify the Sasana).
  3. Just as the might rivers like Ganga and yamuna, on reaching the great Ocean lose their former names and designations and are just reckoned as the great ocean; even so when members of the four castes -nobles, brahmins, burghers, and menials go forth from home into homelessness life in this teaching and discipline proclaimed by the Buddha, they lose their former names and lineage and are reckoned only as recluses of the Son of the Sakyas (samana sakyaputtiya).
  4. Just as in the great ocean neither a decrease nor an increase will appear thought all the streams of the world flow into it and rains fall into it from the sky; even so in the Nibbana element that is without a remainder of substrata of existence; there is no decrease nor increase even if many monks enter it.
  5. Just as the great ocean has only one taste, that of salt ; even so has this teaching and discipline only one taste, the taste of liberation.
  6. Just as in the great ocean there are many and variegated precious things as pearls, gems, etc, even so there is in this teaching and discipline much that is precious; and there are the precious things init; the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the five spiritual powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, the noble Eightfold Path.
  7. Just as the great ocean is the abode of vast creatures the timingala... etc; even so is this teaching and discipline the domain of great beings; the stream-enterer (sotapanna),and he who practises for the realization of the fruition of stream entry(sotapattiphala),the once-returner (sakadagami),and he who practises for the realization of the fruition of once returner(sakadagamiphala),the Nonóreturner (Anagami) and he who practises for the realization of the fruition of Nonóreturn (Anagamiphala); the Arahant and he who practises for Arahantship.

According to this discourse in the Dhamma, it is crystal clear that there is a gradual training, gradual practice and gradual progress in the Sasana. This is very important in the context of practicing the Dhamma. One should be wise enough to understand the nature of the Dhamma. It is impossible to realize the Dhamma in a hasty manner.

There are three aspects to be followed namely Sila (morality) samadhi(concentration) and wisdom(panna). In keeping with the prtactical side of them, the Buddha had explained the significance of practicing all three simultaneously, which means that all three mutually support each other. There is little or no possible of reaching the goal (Nibbana) by developing only one aspect of the triad. Therefore let us strive to understand the Dhamma properly and practise it gradually in our daily life.

Paramita International Buddhist Centre
N0.7.Balumgala,
Kadugannawa,
Kandy.