Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part I, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(12) Dhananjhani and Metta-jhana

When Dhananjhani, the Brahmin, was on the threshold of death in his sick-bed, a request was made at this instance to invite Ashin Sariputta. Ashin Sariputta responded to the invitation and came over to see Dhananjhani. Ashin Sariputta asked him how he was getting on, or to put it in another way, whether he was feeling better or not, and then, preached as follows:

To a question that was first put as: “Which of the two, viz: Hell or animal realm is better than the other, etc.? Dhananjhani answered, tiracchana i.e., animal is better than hell, etc. Questions and answers which followed thereafter, related to the comparisons made between animal and peta, peta and uuman. Human beings and catummaharajika, etc., and then the conversation went on extending up to the paranimmitavasavatti, the highest of devalokas. Later, a question was put as to whether the life of devas in the Abode of paranimmitavasavatti was better than Brahmaloka or not. On hearing the name of ‘Brahmaloka’, Dhananjhani became encouraged and asked with an exultant feeling, “Do you, my Reverend Ashin Sariputta, really mean to say ‘Brahmaloka’?”. This question made Ashin Sariputta realise that Dhananjhani was mentally inclined towards Brahmaloka, and therefore, he stated that he would explain the practice of the path leading to Brahmaloka, and then started preaching as follows:

Idha Dhananjhani bhikkhu mettasahagatena cetasa ekam disam pharitva viharati. Tattha dutiyam. Tattha tatiyam. Tattha catuttham. Iti uddhamadho tiriyam sabbadhi sabbattataya sabhavantam lokam mettasahagatena cetasa vipulena mahaggatena appamaneyna averena avyapapjchena pharitva viharati. Ayam kho Dhananjhani brahmanam sahavyataya maggo. – (Majjhima Pannasa – 405)

Dhananjhani – Dhananjhani Brahmin, Idha bhikkhu – a monk in this noble Sasana, – mettasahagatena cetasa – with the mind which occurs with a feeling of metta that radiates happiness, nay, with a mind well-wishing others to become happy, ekam disam – towards one region, nay, towards all beings living in one region or place, pharitva viharati – remains shedding his loving-kindness. Tattha dutiyam – likewise remains spreading his feeling of metta to the second region. Tattha tatiyam Tattha catuttham – and in the same way radiates the light of metta to the third and fourth regions. Iti – In this manner, uddham – to all beings in the higher region, adho – to all beings in the lower region, tiriyam – to all beings in the opposite directions of the corners of the four regions, sabbadhi – and in all regions, sabbattataya – and regard all such beings as his equal, with every loving-thought that arises, sabhavantam lokam – to all other beings in the entire universe, mettasahagatena cetasa – develops the mind wishing happiness to others, vipulena – and spread the mind covering all areas extensively; mahaggatena – with the lofty mind of mahaggatta jhana, appamaneyna – which is boundless or unlimited, averena – and with the mind free from hatred, avyapajchena – along with the mind free from unpleasantness, pharitva viharati – radiates loving-kindness. Dhananjhani – Dhananjhani Brahmin, ayam – the practice of diffusing or radiating metta, loving-kindness, brahmanam sahavyataya – is for the purpose of staying in the company of Brahmas as a companion, nay, it is a path – maggo – leading one to become a Brahma.

The gist of it is that radiating the feeling of metta, loving-kindness, to all beings in the ten regions is the way or the path of practice to ascend to the Brahma World. The manner of shedding the light of compassion – karuna, rejoicing with others happiness – mudita, and illumination of the feeling of indifference – upekkha, has been preached in the same manner. After benevolently preaching the said Dhamma, Ashin Sariputta returned to the monastery. Later, he respectfully informed the Lord Buddha of the speech and preaching delivered by him to Dhananjhani. Thereupon, the Exalted One reprimanded Ashin Sariputta as: “Is this the way you have instructed Dhananjhani so as to enable him to ascend to Brahmaloka which is obviously inferior as compared to Nibbana, and then, made your way back here despite the fact that there is a better method of practice to be exercised to achieve ariya-magga-phala which is much nobler than the brahma-vihara-jhana?” Buddha then went on to say that Dhananjhani was now dead and gone and had already reached the Brahmaloka after his demise. Having received this admonition from the Buddha, Ashin Sariputta was said to have visited the Abode of Brahmas and delivered his sermon to Dhananjhani Brahma. From that time onwards, when preaching was made relating to a gatha or verse, consisting of four stanzas, it has been stated in the commentary that it was always done without departure from, or rather, without omitting the Four Noble Truths.

In this connection what is really intended to be known is that Dhananjhani, the Brahmin, had been asked to develop metta, etc., and had thereby attained jhana within a short time of about half-an-hour before his death. By virtue of this jhana, he had reached the World of Brahmas. It should therefore be remembered that in the absence of any other special kusala; merits, on which one can make reliance on the verge of death, the development of metta will prove to be an asset or a virtue on which reliance can be made. The best is, of course, to contemplate and note, and become aware of all obvious phenomenal occurrences as in case of those who are benefited by the Vipassana method of contemplating on mindfulness.

Furthermore, the highly beneficial effect of metta bhavana – developing metta through meditation – had been explained by the Buddha in the Nidana Sanyutta Okkha Sutta (455) in the manner described below:

Developing your mind with metta for a brief period of time involved in milking a cow once in the morning, once in daytime and once at night time, or smelling a fragrance for once only, is far more advantageous than the offering of meals by cooking a hundred big pots of rice, once in the morning, once in the daytime and once at night time, which would, of course, tantamount to feeding about 3000 people in all.

It is therefore quite evident that developing metta only for a moment and deriving much benefit thereof, is really precious and invaluable without incurring expense and without involving time and labour.

Moreover, the advantages of metta bhavana have been taught in the Anguttara Pali Ekadasanipata Metta Sutta (542) as herein after mentioned.

“Mettaya bhikkhave cetovimuttiya asevitaya bhavitaya bahulikataya yanikataya vatthukataya anutthitaya paricitaya susamaraddhaya ekadasanisamsa patikankhaka. Katame ekadasa, sukham supati, sukham patibhujjhati, na papakam supinam passati, manussanam piyo hoti, amanussanam piyo hoti, devata rakkhanti, nassa aggiva visam va satham va kamati, tuvatam cittam samadhiyati, mukhavanno vippasidati, asammuhlo kalam karoti, uttari appativijjhanto brahmalokupago hoti.”