Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Thirty-two Characteristics of a Great Man (Dvattimsa Mahāpurisalakkhana)


In the traditional knowledge of Brahmanism, the knowledge of bodily features or characteristics of great man was one branch of knowledge. PAli passages that explain the knowledge of educated Brahmins say that they were well versed in thirty-two characteristics of a great man (mahApurisalakkhanesu anavayo). Brahmin texts had declared that one who has thirty-two characteristics of a great man will either be Enlightened One or the universal monarch (wheel rolling monarch). Brahmin Sela said to have uttered the following when he first came to know the word ‘Buddha’.

Ghosopi kho eso dullabho lokasmiM yadidaM buddhoti. AgatAni kho pana amhAkaM mantesu dvattiMsamahApurisalakkhanAni, yehi samannAgatassa purisassa dve gatiyo bhavanti aJJA. sace agAraM ajjhAvasati rAjA hoti cakkhavatti. sace anagAriyaM pabbajati arahaM hoti sammA sambuddho loke . . .

=Even the sound ‘Buddha’ is rare in the world, thirty-two characteristics of a great man came in our hymns, to the person who possesses them there will be two existences, if he lives the household life will be the wheel rolling monarch. If he leaves for homeless life he will be the Worthy One, the Fully Enlightened One in the world.”

Although these characteristics are always heard from Brahmins the concept of great man is common to entire religious world in India. The religious societies, practitioners anticipated that a great man will emerged from their religions and in the secular world too. There was this belief of coming of a great monarch and the greatest human being among their society it is that in the time to come in their anticipation was the Buddha in the religious sense. In the secular sense that being was universal monarch or wheel rolling monarch (cakkavattirAja). Every religion had its own theories on these two historic figures. There are many discourses in the Pali canon that talk about the characteristics of a great man. Those who knew them wanted to observe those qualities in the Buddha, they found thirty but not two. The ßelasutta of the SuttanipAta says that the Buddha let them know to those who are interested with physical powers. They two are the male organ is existing in covering and another is that he can cover his face with his tongue.

Despite the fact that they are recorded in Brahmin literature and mostly spoken by Brahmins, the LakkhaNasutta of the DN records one incident where the Buddha addressed monks at JetavanArAma describing about the thirty-two characteristics of the Buddha. According to that record, the thirty-two characteristics of a great man are as follows.

1.  ßuppatiTTThitapAdo – well established foot
2.   HeTThA pAdatalesu cakkAni jAtAni, sahassarAni, sanemikAni, sanAbhikAni sabbakAra paripuNNAni – there are wheels on sole with thousand spokes internal and round centre and complete in every sense.
3.   ĀyatapaNhi – long heel
4.  ∂IghaGguli – long finger
5.  µudutalukahatthapAdo – having soft hands and feet
6.   JAlahatthapAdo – net like hands and feet
7.  üssaGkapAdo – having tall upper side of foot
8.  ENijaGgo – calf equality built
9.   Thitakova anomananto ubhohi pAdatalehi jannukAni parimasati parimajjati – he touches and rubs knees with two palms standing without bending knees
10. Kosohitavatthaguyho – male organ existed in a covering
11. ßuvaNNavaNNo hoti kaJcanasannibhattaco – the skin is golden colored
12. ßukhumacchavI hoti, sukhumacchaviya rajojallaM kAye na lippati – he has very soft skin, because of soft skin no dust remains on his body
13. Ekeka lomo hoti, ekekAni lomAni loma kUpesu jAtAni – there are body hairs singly and in each hair hole one’s of body hairs are born
14. üdagga lomo hoti. udaggAni lomAni jAtAni nIlAni aJjanavaNNAni kuNDalAvattAni padakkhiNAvattaka jAtAni – body hairs are straight (lively). The lively hairs are blue or deep dark in color, circled, circles are born clock-wise
15. Brahmujjugato – body is straight that of µahAbrahmA
16. ßattussado – seven places are well grown (2 hands, 2 legs, 2 thighs and upper body)
17. ßIhapubbaddhakAyo – upper body is like of a lion
18. CitantaraMso – back side of the upper body is well grown
19. ñigrodhaparimaNDalo, yAvatakvassa kAyo tAvatakvassa byAmo, yAvatakvassa byAmo tAvatakvassa kAyo – body’s growth like similar to banyan tree,  height is as hands stretched and hands stretched is like height
20. ßamavattakkhandho – well built neck
21. ®asaggasaggI – internal neck is well built
22. ßīhahanu – jaw is like of a lion
23. CattAlIsadanto – he is having forty teeth
24. ßamadanto – equal teeth
25. åvivaradanto – teeth are without space
26. ßusukkhadATho – very white teeth (purple white)
27. PAhutajvho – wide tongue
28. Brahmassaro karavIkabhAni – having nobles voice like of a Kokoo bird
29. åbhinIlanetto – one who has deep blue eyes
30. Gopamukho – eyes like of calf
31. üNNabhamukhantare jAtA hoti odAta mudutAlu sannibhA in between the eyebrows  there is a special hair like cotton (white and soft)
32. üNhīsasIso – very white forehead

Although these characteristics are given in a number of discourses in PAli cannon there are some places that interpret the concept of µahApurisa with reference to spiritual characteristics of great personalities. The Tissametteyyasuta of SN says the following:
KAmesu brahmacariya vA - vīta taNho sudAsato,
saNkhAya nibbuto bhikkhu - tassa na santi iJjitA.

= Being celibate in sensual pleasure having given up craving,
Being ever mindful the bhikkhu is freed from defilements to him there is no trembling

ßo ubhinnamabhiJJAya - majjhemantA na lippati,
taM brUmi mahApurisoti - sodha sibbani maccagA.

=He having known both ends (two extremes), does not stick in the middle path,
I call him a great man, He here has surpassed craving.

According to this occurrence in the Samyuttanikaya the concept of mahapurisa has been interpreted in the light of spiritual qualities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Bookmark Digg Bookmark Bookmark Facebook Bookmark Reddit Bookmark StumbleUpon Bookmark Yahoo Bookmark Google Bookmark Technorati Bookmark Twitter Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...