Monday, 28 March 2011

Cattaro Mahapadesa (Four Great Authorities)


In our previous discussions we came to know some measures taken in the Buddha’s time to protect the dhamma and vinaya for future. The four authorities are further similar styles advocated by the Buddha to preserve the purity of the teachings. They show us on which ground we can accept some teachings as the true words of the Buddha. These teachings especially considered occasion and times where and then the Buddha is absent. If a disciple happens to hear a particular teaching as the Buddha’ words, he is advised neither to take it at once and nor to reject it. Instead he is directed to scrutinize it before accepting it.

The µahApadesa are given in the µahAparinibbAnasutta of DN and CattukanipAta of AN as follows.

1.  BuddhApadesa the Buddha as authority
2.  ßaGhgApadesa the community as authorities
3.  ßambahulattherApadesa the many elders authorities
4.  EkattherApadesa the one elder as authorities

1."O monks! In this dispensation you may have some teaching as the preacher directly heard it from the Buddha.” You should neither accept nor reject it; instead you compare its pada and vyaJjana with dhamma and vinaya (suttee otAritabbAni vinaye sandassatabbAni), if you are convinced that the preacher is wrong according to the dhamma and vinaya should not reject and if it match too the listener should not accept it as he thinks this the correct teaching he should discuss with the preacher there itself.

“…tAni ce sutte otAriyamAni vinaye sandassaiyamAnAni suttaJceva otaranti, vinaye ca sandissanti niTThametaM gantabbaM addhA idaMtassa bhagavato vacanaM arahato sammAsambuddhassa, tassa ca therassa suggahItaM
                                                          (µahAparinibbAnasutta, DN)

=when they are compared with the dhamma and vinaya if they are similar to them surely they are to be taken as certainly they are words of the Blessed one, the worthy one, the fully enlightened one and that thera has taken them certainly.

2. “O monks! In this dispensation you may hear some teachings as the preacher heard it from the community and has accepted …” In this case also the both listener and preacher should do as before.

3.  “O monks! In this dispensation you may hear some teachings as the preacher directly heard it from the many elder monks who were educated and holders of dhamma and vinaya…” In this occasion also the listener and preacher do same as before.

4. “O monks! In this dispensation you may hear some teachings as the preacher directly heard from one elder who was educated and holder of dhamma and vinaya…” in this case also should do the same as before.

These four directions predict about four ways by which the words of the Buddha would be polluted. Therefore the Buddha keeps informed before hand so them to be careful about some pollution. If some teachings are to be accepted as the Buddha’s word they should well compared with the dhamma and vinaya. These teachings further suggest that disciples even can enrich the teachings with the limit of dhamma and vinaya. If such new things said by the disciples are similar to or according to dhamma and vinaya, they are to be accepted. Problem occurs only if they go against the dhamma and vinaya. Apart from µahApainibbAnasutta of DN and µahApadesasutta of AN II also contains this set of teaching.

The µahApadesas are important in the sense that they lead the students to critical thinking, correct evaluating and perfect thought with regard to the dhamma and vinaya. As in the KAlamasutta of AN, this advice also direct the student to search the knowledge through proper examination. They further establish the freedom of thought allowed by the Buddha.

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