Introduction

 

Undoubtedly the best known collection of Buddhist texts in Sri Lanka is the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi, the Text of the Four Recitals. In Sinhala the book is also known as the Piruvānā Pot Vahanse (The Venerable Recitation Book); and the Mahā Pirit Pota (The Book of the Great Safeguards).01 On any given day of the year one would not have to go very far to find a complete recital of these texts being made, usually by monks, in an all-night sitting, as the Buddhist community regards such a recital as being particularly auspicious, and believes it brings safety, peace, and well-being in its wake.

Following the Autumnal Rains Retreat (Vassa) every monastery and temple in the land has such a recital to ensure the prosperity of the temple and the community during the coming year; and throughout the year in the monasteries and temples up and down the land a selection of texts from this collection is recited to promote the safety and happiness of all those who attend such gatherings, and others to whom the chanting is dedicated to.

At auspicious times such as the inauguration of a new temple or home, or on merit-making occasions; and on inauspicious occasions such as an anniversary of the death of a loved one, there may also be a recitation of these discourses. Also in times of adversity, when ill-health or disease are close at hand, certain discourses from the collection will be recited which are thought to be particularly effective in restoring confidence and good health. Other discourses are employed when invisible forces or spirits are behaving antagonistically towards people; and at times certain of these discourses are recited as a blessing upon those who hear them.

In terms of the media it would be hard to find any other book in Sri Lanka that has so many editions available, and most homes in the Buddhist community will possess and prize a copy. The Great Safeguard, or Mahāparitta, which opens the recital has been recorded many times and can be heard morning and evening played over loudspeakers from homes and temples alike.

Enough then should have been said to give an idea of the central role these texts play in the life of Sri Lankan Buddhism, but many of these recitals are also popular in other Theravāda countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia, and there is every reason to believe that their popularity is growing in those countries where the Buddhist community forms a small but significant minority like Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and in those Western countries where Buddhism has now taken root.

As it stands the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi is something of a misnomer, as there is an additional section added, not at the end of the four recitals, but right in the middle. This is the Atireka-Suttasattāni (the Seven Supplementary Discourses) beginning with the first discourse of the Buddha, the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta, Mahāsamayasutta from Dīghanikāya; followed by four discourses from Suttanipāta mainly in verse; and ending with the Analysis of the Truths (Saccavibhaṅgasutta). Exactly when these discourses have been added to the original text is not clear, as all the evidence we have today includes this material, and it extends the text by an additional bhāṇavāra.

The recitation has been further elaborated by the addition of the Mahāparitta (Great Protection) at the beginning of the recital, which is an elaborate recitation of some of the main discourses found in the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi (the Mahāmaṅgala-, Ratana- and Karaṇīyametta-suttas), and some blessing verses.

There are many other texts used as Safeguard Recitals, which were written at some time in the Medieval period, like the Jayamaṅgalagāthā, Mahājayamaṅgalagāthā, Jinapañjara, Aṭṭhavīsatiparitta, the most common of which I have included in the Supplementary Texts (Upaganthā) at the end of the book.

This book has been prepared in order to provide a reliable and complete text of the recitals for those who would normally read or recite Pāḷi through Roman script. The discourses and other material gathered in this book are not, and should not be regarded as, magical incantations. Verbally undertaking the Training Rules, without making an effort to maintain them unbroken is likely to be ineffective. Simply listening to a discourse about friendliness (mettā), without generating and radiating mettā, will similarly have little or no effect. Therefore in preparing this book every effort has been made to promote an intelligent participation in these recitals on the part of those who recite these texts, and those who listen to them. For that reason a line by line translation of the text has been adopted which should make it possible to follow the recital and the translation at the same time.

Those who are unable to attend a recital of these texts may still find much of interest in this collection, which includes the first discourse of the Buddha (Dhammacakkappavatanasutta), one of the most important discourses in the canon, together with an Analysis of the Truths (Saccavibhaṅgasuttaṁ), which was made by Venerable Sāriputta, one of the Buddha’s leading disciples. There are many discourses here that deal with various aspects of popular ethics, including the discourses on the Great Blessings (Mahāmaṅgalasutta), the Advantages of Friendship (Mittānisaṁsā), and the causes of Ruin (Parābhavasutta) among others. We may also mention here other pieces like the Reflections (Paccavekkhaṇā), which encourages frugality and contentment; and the recollection of the Thirty-Two Parts of the body (Dvattiṁsākāra), which is intended to counteract the lust, hatred, and delusion that arise in consequence of being overly attached to the body.

The two long discourses, Mahāsamayasutta & Āṭānāṭiyasutta, together with a number of shorter discourses in the first recital (see nos 13-16), should give the reader a fairly good outline of Buddhist cosmology. There are a number of discourses on mettā meditation, including the justly famous Karaṇīyamettasutta; and the Girimānandasutta outlines ten perceptions, or contemplations, that can be undertaken by those who are intent on training the mind.

At the end of the book there is an appendix on the correct Pronunciation of Pāḷi; and a short essay on the Prosody, which includes an outline of the metres that are used in the verse sections of the book, and which hopefully will help towards an appreciation of the aesthetic aspect of these texts.

Whenever these texts are recited let it be for the safety, peace, and happiness of all living beings. Having secured their lives on a firm foundation, may all beings then take steps to develop themselves further, until such time as they arrive at the complete cessation of suffering!

Dukkhappattā ca niddukkhā, bhayappattā ca nibbhayā,
May those who suffer be without suffering, may those who fear be without fear,

sokappattā ca nissokā, hontu sabbe pi pāṇino!
may those who grieve be without grief, may all living creatures be so!

 

About The Text

 

1: Authorities

The text of Catubhāṇavārapāḷi printed in the main section of this book has been prepared through a comparison of the following authorities, which are given here along with the abbreviations used in the variant readings. The texts and their recitation are as found in the Sinhalese tradition, note that there are sometimes different ways of reciting these texts in Burma and Thailand:

CBhp: Catubhāṇavārapāḷi, edited by Ven. Siri Sumanatissa Nāyaka Thero. Simon Hewavitarane Bequest Pāḷi Text Series Vol VII. 1956, reprinted Colombo, 1992.

MPP: Maha Pirit Pota, edited by Ācarya Sri Vācissara Devundara Nāhimi, new edition by Makaladuve Sri Piyaratana Nāhimi. Colombo, 1995.

PPV: Piruvānā Pot Vahanse, edited by Attudāve Rāhula Sthavira. Taiwan, 1994.

PPV2: Piruvānā Pot Vahanse, edited by Bodāgama Candima Nāhimi. Taiwan, 2000.

The Commentary on Catubhāṇavārapāḷi, Sāratthasamuccaya, published in the Simon Hewavitarane Bequest Aṭṭhakathā Series Vol XXVII, 1929 (reprinted 1992), was also consulted.

 

2: Variant Readings

There are some variations in the text which, as they make little difference in recital have not been noted in the variant readings, but which may usefully be outlined here: Variant readings have only been recorded for the main part of the text (the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi), and not for the Mahāparittaṁ or Avasānaṁ.02

CBhp, PPV2 sometimes print for the more usual n, as in nibbāṇa, pahāṇa, sayaṇhasamaya.

CBhp sometimes has for l, as in antaḷikkha, piḷakā.

PPV2 sometimes has l for ḷ, as in Veluvane.

MPP sometimes prints n where we normally find ṇ, as in utuparināma, pisuna.

PPV, PPV2 quite often have for ñ, and occasionally in place of other nasals, which is simply an alternative way of representing these sounds.

None of the books are entirely consistent in their usage, which may not be the fault of the editors, but because this is a collection of texts that was originally passed down in different manuscript traditions. However, in this edition I have preferred to prepare a text which is consistent, as far as that is possible.

Printer's errors, like printing as the quotation marker, have also not normally been noted, though where they amount to the omission of a word or line they have been included.

Owing to the Sinhala typeface used in MPP & PPV it is impossible to tell the difference between u & ū when in combination with certain letters, so that e.g. bhikkhu & bhikkhū are indistinguishable, except by context, and it was therefore not possible to note the variants in this regard.

 

3: Comparison

Although Catubhāṇavārapāḷi is a collection of material drawn from the five Nikāyas, there are some significant differences between the suttas and other material in the collection and in the source. Below is a synopsis of where these works are originally found, together with a brief outline of the differences that are found (whenever they exist) for reference. It should be noted that variant readings are not mentioned here, but only major differences affecting either the title or contents:

 

1:

Saraṇagamanaṁ (Mv I [Vina. Mahāvaggo]; Khp 1):
Mv I: no title; Khp: Saraṇattaya.

2:

Dasasikkhāpadāni (Mv I [Vin. Mahāvaggo]; Khp 2):
Mv I: no title; Khp: Dasasikkhāpadaṁ, also has the word samādiyāmi (I undertake) at the end of each precept.

3:

Sāmaṇerapañhaṁ (Khp 4):
Khp: Kumārapañhaṁ.

4:

Dvattiṁsākāraṁ (Khp 3).

5:

Paccavekkhaṇā (MN 2, passim):
MN 2: no title.

6:

Dasadhammasuttaṁ (AN 10:48):
AN omits the nidāna (introduction) and the conclusion from Idam-avoca... onwards.

7:

Mahāmaṅgalasuttaṁ (Khp 5; Sn 2:8):
Khp: Maṅgalasuttaṁ.

8:

Ratanasuttaṁ (Khp 6; Sn 2:1).

9:

Karaṇīyamettasuttaṁ (Khp 9; Sn 1:8):
Khp, Sn: Mettasuttaṁ.

10:

Khandhaparittaṁ (Cv V [Vin. Cullavaggo]; AN 4:67; cf. Jātakaṁ
03):

Cv V: no title, has different opening upto Na ha nūna..., replaces Idam-avoca Bhagavā, idaṁ vatvā Sugato athāparaṁ etad-avoca Satthā, with Evañ-ca pana bhikkhave kātabbaṁ

AN omits Idam-avoca Bhagavā...Satthā.

The verses recurr in the Jātakaṁ, but the prose there, although telling essentially the same story, is very different.

11:

Mettānisaṁsasuttaṁ (AN 11:16):
AN omits nidāna, starts at Mettāya bhikkhave...; also omits Idam-avoca Bhagavā...to the end.

12:

Mittānisaṁsaṁ (Jātakaṁ 538):
Jātaka has no title.

13:

Moraparittaṁ (Jātakaṁ 159):
Jātaka has no title.

14:

Candaparittaṁ (SN 2:9 [Devaputtasaṁyuttaṁ]):
SN has simply: Sāvatthiyaṁ viharati. Tena kho...etc.

15:

Suriyaparittaṁ (SN 2:10 [Devaputtasaṁyuttaṁ]):
SN omits the nidāna entirely, begins with Tena kho...

16:

Dhajaggaparittaṁ (SN 11:3 [Sakkasaṁyuttaṁ])
SN has simply: Sāvatthiyaṁ viharati, followed by Bhūtapubbaṁ...etc.

17:

Mahākassapattherabojjhaṅgaṁ (SN 46:14 [Bojjhaṅgasaṁyuttaṁ]):
SN title: Gilāna 1.

18:

Mahāmoggallānattherabojjhaṅgaṁ(SN 46:15 [Bojjhaṅgasaṁyuttam]):
SN title: Gilāna 2.

19:

Mahācundattherabojjhaṅgaṁ (SN 46:16 [Bojjhaṅgasaṁyuttam]):
SN title: Gilāna 3,
omits the line: sāyanhasamayaṁ patisallānā vuṭṭhito.

20:

Girimānandasuttaṁ (AN 10:60):
AN omits Evaṁ me sutaṁ.

21:

Isigilisuttaṁ (MN 116):
MN reads simply: Ariṭṭho nāma bhikkhave Paccekabuddho, (as does PPV cf. variant readings).

22:

Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṁ (Mv I [Vin. Mahāvaggo]; SN 56:11 [Saccasaṁyuttaṁ]):
Saṁyuttaṁ has title as: Tathāgatena vutta 1 (but section title is Dhamma-cakkappavattanavaggo); abbreviates the list of devas by reading Brahmakāyikā devā instead of the full list.

Mv I has no title, and also abbreviates the list of devas by reading Brahmakāyikā devā instead of the full list.

23:

Mahāsamayasuttaṁ (DN 20).

24:

Ālavakasuttaṁ (SN 10:12 [Yakkhasaṁyuttam]; Sn 1:10):
SN has the title Ālaviṁ omits the line beginning Atha kho... before the verses, includes an extra line Asmā lokā paraṁ lokaṁ evaṁ pecca na socati at end of verse 7; omits the prose found after the verse.

25:

Kasībhāradvājasuttaṁ (SN 7:11 [Brāhmaṇasaṁyuttam]; Sn 1:4):

Sn is the same as here. SN, however, has the title as Kasi; omits the first 3 prose lines after verse 5, replaces Kasībhāradvāja's request for ordination, and subsequent attainment with a request to be accepted as a lay disciple.

26:

Parābhavasuttaṁ (Sn 1:6).

27:

Vasalasuttaṁ (Sn 1:7).

28:

Saccavibhaṅgasuttaṁ (MN 141).

29:

Āṭānāṭiyasuttaṁ, pt 1 (DN 32):
DN has the title as -suttantaṁ.

 

4: Layout & Punctuation

a) In prose lines the text and translation normally start parallel to each other at the side of the page, e.g. from the Dasasikkhāpadāni:

Pāṇātipātā veramaṇīsikkhāpadaṁ.
The training rule of refraining from killing living creatures.

b) Some prose lines have been indented for emphasis, e.g.

Idam-avoca Bhagavā,
The Gracious One said this,

c) Some prose lines have been centred, example from Saraṇagamana:

Buddhaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
I go to the Buddha for refuge

d) In verse lines the Pāḷi is indented in relation to the translation, and each metre is distinguished by the layout (for the details on this see the 2nd appendix on prosody) example from Mahāmaṅgalasutta:

Bahū devā manussā ca maṅgalāni acintayuṁ
Many are the gods and men who have thought about the blessings

e) Owing to the different grammatical structure of the languages it has occasionally been necessary to take two lines of Pāḷi together for the purposes of translation, this is indicated by the sign o appearing at the beginning of a line of translation.

Acknowledgements

My advisors for the arrangement and correct procedure in this book have been Ven. Melpitiye Vimalaratana Mahāthera (M.A.), Chief Incumbant at Veluvane Pirivena, Pallepola & Ven. Ambagamuwe Saṁvuta Nahimi, Head Monk at the Vipassana Meditation Centre, Sinhapura, Polonnaruwa.

At an early stage Ven. Paññānanda of England, and at a later stage Ven. Ñāṇatusita of Holland both made excellent reviews of this work which has helped me make a number of corrections and clarifications. Ven. Ñāṇaramita did an excellent job in proof-reading the manuscript.

For the time and patience that these monks have worked on this book I am very grateful. Any mistakes that remain, of course, are entirely my own fault.

Note to the 2nd Edition

After the publication of the 1st edition a number of minor mistakes were brought to my notice, chiefly through the careful reading of the text made by Mr. Kariyawasam, late editor at B.P.S., and corrections have been included in the 2nd edition.

Note to the 3rd Edition

In reviewing the 3rd edition Ms. Goh Poay Hoon picked up a few more typos, and also made some good suggestions for changes, which have now been inluded.

In this edition I have added an Upaganthā, or section of additional texts, which are also found in the Sri Lankan chanting books. Note that many of the texts found in these books were previously included in the Mahāparittaṁ and the Avasānaṁ, the former of which I have shortened, and the latter of which I have now dropped.

Note on the Mahāparittaṁ

The Mahāparittaṁ as presented here contains all the material necessary for a complete recital. I compared five published recitals, and included all the material I found on those CDs, but there is no standard edition and sometimes, according to different traditions or circumstances, material may be added to - or omitted from - the texts as given here. It will probably then be found in the Upaganthā.

Revised and Enlarged 3rd Edition
Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
2014/2557