First of the treatises in this Nikæya, KhuddakapæĨha, contains “readings of mirror passages” most of which are also found in other parts of TipiĨaka. It is a collection of nine short formulae and suttas used as a manual for novices under training, namely, (a) the three refuges (b) the Ten Precepts (c) the thirty-two parts of the body (d) simple Dhammas for novices in the form of a catechism (e) Maģgala Sutta (f) Ratana Sutta (g) TirokuĨĨa Sutta (h) Niðhikažða Sutta and (i) Metta Sutta.
Taking refuge in the Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saĩgha, by reciting the formula, “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dhamma, I take refuge in the Saĩgha,” is a conscious act of expression of complete faith in the Three Gems, not mere profession of superficial belief nor a rite of traditional piety. It implies (i) one’s humility; (ii) acceptance of the Triple Gems as one’s guiding principles and ideals; (iii) acceptance of discipleship and (iv) homage.
In the section on ‘Kumæra paņha,’ questions for young boys, the dhamma is tailored to suit the young intellect of novices:
What is the One? – The Nutriment which sustains the life of beings.
What are the Two? – Næma and Rþpa.
What are the Three? – Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral Vedanæs.
What are the Four? – The Four Noble Truths.
What are the Five? – The five groups of grasping
What are the Six? – The six bases of senses.
What are the Seven? – The seven factors of enlightenment.
What are the Eight? – The Noble Path of Eight Constituents.
What are the Nine? – The nine abodes or types of beings
What are the Ten? – The ten demeritorious courses of action.
Mahæ Maģgala Sutta, the discourse on the great blessings, is a famous sutta cherished highly in all Buddhist countries. It is a comprehensive summary of Buddhist ethics for the individual as well as for society, composed in elegant verses. The thirty-eight blessings enumerated in the sutta as unfailing guides throughout one’s life start with advice on ‘avoidance of bad company’ and provide ideals and practices basic to all moral and spiritual progress, for the welfare and happiness of the individual, the family and the community. The final blessing is on the development of the mind which is unruffled by vagaries of fortune, affected by sorrow, cleansed of defilements and which thus gains liberation — the mind of an Arahat.
The Ratana Sutta was delivered by the Buddha when Vesælø was plagued by famine, disease etc. He had been requested by the Licchavø Princes to come from Ræjagatha to Vesælø. The sutta was delivered for the purpose of countering the plagues, by invocation of the truth of the special qualities of the Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saĩgha.
The Metta Sutta was taught to a group of bhikkhus who were troubled by non-human beings while sitting in meditation at the foot of secluded forest trees. The Buddha showed them how to develop loving-kindness towards all beings, the practice which will not only protect them from harm but also will serve as a basis for insight through attainment of jhæna.
The KhuddakapæĨha which is a collection of these nine formulae and suttas appears to be arranged in such a way as to form a continuous theme demonstrating the practice of the holy life: how a person accepts the Buddha’s Teaching by taking refuge in the Three Gems; then how he observes the Ten Precepts for moral purification. Next he takes up a meditation subject, the contemplation of thirty-two constituents of the body, to develop non-attachment. He is shown next the virtues and merits of giving and how one handicaps oneself by not performing acts of merit. In the meanwhile he safeguards himself by reciting the Maģgala Sutta and provides protection to others by reciting the Ratana Sutta. Finally, he develops loving-kindness towards all beings, thereby keeping himself safe from harm, at the same time he achieves jhænic concentration which will eventually lead him to reach the goal of spiritual life, Nibbæna, by means of knowledge of Insight and the Path.