Commentary on Tirokuddanakanda Suttam

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Khun Mae had explained that the Tirokuddakanda Sutta, where the excerpt is sometimes chanted during transference of merits have a special significance.  As I was able to locate a commentary from a chanting book, I’ve decided to include it here for better understanding about the act of transferable of merits.

Commentary on Tirokuddakanda Sutta (The Discourse Outside the Wall)

The Story of those Petas (ghosts) who had once been King Bimbasara’s relatives.

Question: Who delivered this Tirokuddakanda Suttam? Where, when and on what account?

Answer: The Buddha gave this religious discourse on the second day of his arrival at Rajagatha, in appreciation of the meritorious deeds done by King Bimbasara. Herein is the sequence of the narration:

Ninety two kalpas (world cycles) ago, there was a city named Kasi, which was ruled over by King Jayasena. His chief queen was called Sirima. The embryo named Phussa was conceived in her womb and in due course of time, he attained Supreme Englightenment and became a Samma Sambuddha (Supremely Enlightened Buddha).

King Jayasena said, “My son renounced the world and now became a Supreme Buddha. This is my Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha only” attended on the Buddha personally without allowing others to do so.

At that time Buddha Phussa’s three younger half-brothers said to themselves: “Buddhas arise for the benefit of all mankind; they will not arise for the welfare of a single person. Our father does not allow others to attend on the Buddha. What shall we do so that we may be able to attend on the Buddha?” Then the thought “we shall use a tactic” arose in their mind. These three younger half-brothers caused a sham rebellion in the suburb of the city.

When the king heard about the rebellion, he sent for his three sons and sent them to the suburb of the city to suppress the rebellion.

Then the three brothers returned to the city after suppressing the rebellion, the king was much pleased and granted them a boon saying, “take any kind of reward you like.”

They submitted: “We desire to attend on Buddha Phussa.”

The king replied: “ask for any other reward.”

Then the three brothers said they did not desire other reward, the kind said: “Well then, you may attend on the Buddha by fixing a period.”

They then asked for a period of seven years. The king did not agree to their proposal. Then they reduced the period to six years, five years, four, three, two, one year, seven months, six months, five months, four months and finally to three months. To it the king gave his assent.

The three brothers being much pleased with this reward, approached the Buddha and having paid their obeisance to Him, addressed Him as follows: “Venerable Sir, we desire to attend on the Exalted One for a period of three months. May the Exalted One be pleased to spend the Vassa (the three month Season of Rains) here.”

The Exalted One accepted by His silence.

After that, the three brothers sent the following message to their royal agent in the suburb: “We shall attend on the Buddha for a period of three months. Kindly do the needful beginning with the building of a Vihara (monastery).” That royal agent accordingly accomplished his task and sent a reply to the three brothers to that effect. They put on yellow robes and together with two thousand five hundred attendants approached the Buddha, and having conveyed Him to the Vihara in the suburb of the city, requested him to reside there.

Their treasurer and his wife had great sadha (faith) in the Buddha, and they respectfully made offerings to the Sangha headed by the Buddha.

The royal agent sent for that treasurer and caused him to respectfully make offerings to the Sangha headed by the Buddha with eleven thousand men. Some of these people from the suburb have corrupt minds. They caused danger to dana (almsgiving) by partaking on the gifts themselves and by setting fire to the dining hall.

After performing the Pavarana (the ceremony performed at the termination of the Vassa), the princes paid their respects to the Buddha and went to their father’s palace with the Buddha at their head. In due course of time, Buddha Phussa attained Mahaparinibbana.

As time passed, the king, the princes, the royal agent in the suburb, the treasurer and the 2,500 attendants died and were reborn in the heavenly abodes. Those people who had corrupt mind were reborn in hell. These two groups wondered, one, from one heavenly abodes to another, and the other, from one hell to another. Thus they went on for ninety two kappas (world cycles).

During Buddha Kassapa’s time:

When Buddha Kassapa arise in this Badda Kappa (Badda- good world cycle), those people who had corrupt minds were reborn in the peta (hungry ghost) world.

At the time people made dana (almsgiving) for the sake of their deceased relatives who were reborn in the Peta world, with the definite intention: “may this dana be also that of our relatives.” Those petas attained happiness accordingly. When the petas (of Buddha Phussa’s time) saw this, they approached Buddha Kassapa and said: “Venerable Sir, can we not attain such happiness?”

Buddha Kassapa replied: “You can not get such a bliss now. But in the future Buddha Gotama will arise in this world. At that time there would be a king named Bimbasara. That king was your relative ninety two world cycles ago. He will make offerings to the Buddha with the object of sharing his merits with you. Then you will attain such a bliss.”

Buddha Kassapa’s words appeared to them as if they would attained that bliss the next day.

During Buddha Gotama’s time:

After the interim period between the arisings of the two Buddhas had expired, Buddha Gotama arose in this world. The three princes and their 2,500 attendants having passed away from the heavenly abodes were reborn in the world of men as Brahmanas of Magadha. Subsequently, they led an ascetic life and become known as the three ascetics of Gayatisa. The treasurer become Visakha, the millionaire. His wife became Dhammadinna, the daughter of a millionaire. Similarly the rest of the attendants become the king’s retinue.

After attaining the Supreme Enlightenment, Buddha spend His “seven weeks period” and went to Benares to deliver His First Sermon to the group of Five Ascetics at Sarnath. (He then went to Gayasisa and delivered the Great Fire Sermon to the three ascetics and their 2,500 followers). Thence He went to Rajagatha with the three ascetics and 2,500 followers of theirs. On the very day of his arrival at Rajagatha, He delivered a discourse, at the end of which King Bimbasara and one hundred and eleven thousand inhabitants of Magadha-Brahmanas, bankers and commoners became Sotapannas (Stream winners).

Then King Bimbasara invited the Buddha to the morning meal on the following day and He accepted the invitation. On the second day He entered Rajagaha and went to the king’s palace to accept the great offering made by the king. The Sakka, king of Devas accompanied the Buddha going ahead as His guide and uttering the following stanza:

“Danto dantehi saha puranahatilehi,

Vippamutto vippamutehi


Rajagaham pavisi bhagava ti.”

(One who had tamed himself, One who is absolutely free from all defilements and One whose complexion resembles the colour of Singani gold- enters Rajagaha along with former ascetics who have been tamed and are free from all defilements.)

The above mentioned petas surrounded (the king’s palace) and stood with the expectation “the King will make dana for our sake; the king will now aim at us in making his dana.”

After presenting his gifts to the Buddha, the king’s mind was occupied with only one thought: “Where should the Buddha stay?” He did not make his offerings for the sake of anybody. When the petas found out that their hope has been frustrated, they went to the king’s palace at night and make a dreadful noise. When the king heard this, he was frightened, startled and striken with fear.

The next morning, he went to the Buddha and said, “Venerable Sir, I heard such a noise. What will happen to me?”

The Buddha replied: “O king! Nothing will happen to you. In fact, your former relatives were reborn in the peta-world. During the interim period between the arising of the two Buddhas, they wondered with the hope: “The king will make an offering for our sake; but you did not specify them when you made your offering the other day. Their hope having been frustrated these petas made that dreadful noise.”

“Lord, can they attain happiness if I make an offering now?”

“Yes, O king!”

“May the Exalted One be pleased to accept this morning’s meal from me. I shall offer it for their sake.”

The king returned to his palace and having made all preparations for the offering, invited the Buddha. The Buddha went to the palace and sat on the seat specifically prepared for Him.

With the hope: “Today’s offering may be for us” those petas stood outside the wall, etc (tirokudda). The Buddha made the king see them clearly.

Then the king poured the water of liberation and shared his merits with the petas saying: “May this offering of mine be for the sake of my relatives (who are reborn as petas).” At that very moment there appeared for them ponds of water covered with lotuses. They bathed in them and drank the water from them. They satisfied their thirst, and became free from anxiety and distress. Their complexion changed into a golden colour.

The king offered eatables for their sake. At that very moment there appeared for them nectar and ambrosia. They ate the food and regained vigour.

The king offered clothes and seats for their sake. At that very moment there appeared for them celestial apparel, celestial vehicles, celestial mansions, celestial lodgings, etc. The Buddha made theming see all their prosperity clearly. The king was very pleased.

Then the Buddha having finished His meal and said that He did not require anymore, uttered the verse beginning with “tirokuddesu titthanti”, so that the king (of Magadha) might rejoice at his offering.

With these words, the question “Who delivered this Tirokkuddakanda Suttam? Where, when and on what account?” has been fully explained.

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