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Four Discourses of the Buddha

The Discourse on Blessings [1]

This famous text, cherished highly in all Buddhist lands, is a terse but comprehensive summary of Buddhist ethics, individual and social. The thirty-eight blessings enumerated in it, are an unfailing guide on life's journey. Rightly starting with "avoidance of bad company" which is basic to all moral and spiritual progress, the Blessings culminate in the achievement of a passion-free mind, unshakable in its serenity. To follow the ideals set forth in these verses, is the sure way to harmony and progress for the individual as well as for society, nation and mankind.

"The Maha-Mangala Sutta shows that the Buddha's instructions do not always take negative forms, that they are not always a series of classifications and analysis, or concerned exclusively with monastic morality. Here in this sutta we find family morality expressed in most elegant verses. We can imagine the happy blissful state household life fattained as a result of following these injunctions." (From The Ethics of Buddhism by S. Tachibana, Colombo 1943, Bauddha Sahitya Sabha).

Maha-Mangala Sutta

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Exalted One was dwelling at Anathapindika's monastery, in Jeta's Grove,[2] near Savatthi.[3] Now when the night was far spent, a certain deity whose surpassing splendour illuminated the entire Jeta Grove, came to the presence of the Exalted One and, drawing near, respectfully saluted him and stood at one side. Standing thus, he addressed the Exalted One in verse:

"Many deities and men, yearning after good, have pondered on
blessings.[4] Pray, tell me the greatest blessing!"

"Not to associate with the foolish,[5] but to associate with the
wise; and to honour those who are worthy of honour — this is the
greatest blessing.

To reside in a suitable locality,[6] to have done meritorious
actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course [7] — this
is the greatest blessing.

To have much learning, to be skillful in handicraft,[8]
well-trained in discipline, [9] and to be of good speech [10] — this
is the greatest blessing.

To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to
be engaged in peaceful occupation — this is the greatest blessing.

To be generous in giving, to be righteous in conduct,[11] to help
one's relatives, and to be blameless in action — this is the greatest

To loathe more evil and abstain from it, to refrain from
intoxicants,[12] and to be steadfast in virtue — this is the greatest

To be respectful,[13] humble, contented and grateful; and to
listen to the Dhamma on due occasions [14] — this is the greatest

To be patient and obedient, to associate with monks and to have
religious discussions on due occasions — this is the greatest

Self-restraint,[15] a holy and chaste life, the perception of the
Noble Truths and the realisation of Nibbana — this is the greatest

A mind unruffled by the vagaries of fortune,[16] from sorrow
freed, from defilements cleansed, from fear liberated [17] — this is
the greatest blessing.

Those who thus abide, ever remain invincible, in happiness
established. These are the greatest blessings."[18]

(Derived mainly from the Commentaries)

[1] This Sutta appears in the Sutta-Nipata (v.258ff) and in the Khuddakapatha. See Maha-Mangala Jataka (No. 453). For a detailed explanation see Life's Highest Blessing by Dr. R.L. Soni, WHEEL No. 254/256.

[2] Anathapindika, lit., 'He who gives alms to the helpless'; his former name was Sudatta. After his conversion to Buddhism, he bought the grove belonging to the Prince Jeta, and established a monastery which was subsequently named Jetavana. It was in this monastery that the Buddha observed most of his vassana periods (rainy seasons -- the three months' retreat beginning with the full-moon of July). Many are the discourses delivered and many are the incidents connected with the Buddha's life that happened at Jetavana. It was here that the Buddha ministered to the sick monk neglected by his companions, advising them: "Whoever, monks, would wait upon me, let him wait upon the sick." It was here that the Buddha so poignantly taught the law of impermanence, by asking the bereaved young woman Kisagotami who brought her dead child, to fetch a grain of mustard seed from a home where there has been no bereavement.

[3] Identified with modern Sahet-Mahet, near Balrampur.

[4] According to the Commentary, mangala means that which is conducive to happiness and prosperity.

[5] This refers not only to the stupid and uncultured, but also includes the wicked in thought, word and deed.

[6] Any place where monks, nuns and lay devotees continually reside; where pious folk are bent on the performance of the ten meritorious deeds, and where the Dhamma exists as a living principle.

[7] Making the right resolve for abandoning immorality for morality, faithlessness for faith and selfishness for generosity.

[8] The harmless crafts of the householder by which no living being is injured and nothing unrighteous done; and the crafts of the homeless monk, such as stitching the robes, etc.

[9] Vinaya means discipline in thought, word and deed. The commentary speaks of two kinds of discipline -- that of the householder, which is abstinence from the ten immoral actions (akusala-kammapatha), and that of the monk which is the non-transgression of the offences enumerated in the Patimokkha (the code of the monk's rules) or the 'fourfold moral purity' (catu-parisuddhi-sila).

[10] Good speech that is opportune, truthful, friendly, profitable and spoken with thoughts of loving-kindness.

[11] Righteous conduct is the observance of the ten good actions (kusala-kammapatha) in thought, word and deed: freeing the mind of greed, ill-will and wrong views; avoiding speech that is untruthful, slanderous, abusive and frivolous; and the non- committal acts of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.

[12] Total abstinence from alcohol and intoxicating drugs.

[13] Towards monks (and of course also to the clergy of other religions), teachers, parents, elders, superiors, etc.

[14] For instance, when one is harassed by evil thoughts.

[15] Self-restraint (tapo): the suppression of lusts and hates by the control of the senses; and the suppression of indolence by the rousing of energy.

[16] Loka-dhamma, i.e. conditions which are necessarily connected with life in this world; there are primarily eight of them: gain and loss, honour and dishonour, praise and blame, pain and joy.

[17] Each of these three expressions refers to the mind of the arahant: asoka: sorrowless; viraja: stainless, i.e. free
from lust, hatred and ignorance; khema: security from the bonds of sense desires (kama), repeated existence (bhava), false views (ditthi) and ignorance (avijja).

[18] The above-mentioned thirty-eight blessings.

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