The Dharma is the best thing
for people in this life
and the next as well.
– The Buddha
Taught by the Buddha, the Agganna Sutta is fascinating because it demystifies many mysteries, such as how the universe, the Earth, humanity, civilisation, defilements and spirituality evolved – with practical perspectives too. During the previous cyclical contraction of the world system a long time ago, beings were mostly karmically born in the Abhassara (Brightly Radiant) heaven, where they dwelled afloat in self-radiance for a long time, feeding on bliss from meditative absorption. When the world began to expand again, most of them are reborn on Earth. After a long time, a sweet savoury earth spread over its dark waters. One of the beings tasted it on a finger out of greed, and craved for more, followed by the others, as they broke and ate pieces of it. As a result, their luminosity disappeared, and the moon and the sun ‘appeared’ (in contrast), distinguishing night and day, months and the seasons.
The more the beings ate, the coarser their bodies became. As arrogance and conceit arose when the better looking ones despised the uglier ones, the savoury earth disappeared, leading to lamentations. In replacement, a sweet mushroom-like fungus cropped up, which they ate for a long time, as they became coarser and further differentiation among themselves. With more arrogance and conceit, the fungus disappeared and was replaced by bamboo-like creepers, followed by fragrant rice free from powder and husks, which replenished itself over a day or night. After feeding on it for a long time, female and male beings developed sexual organs, as they became lustfully preoccupied with each other. Those seen indulging in sex were barred from villages for a month or two, while they built dwellings to hide their activities.
It then occurs to one of them to be lazy, to gather rice for both breakfast and supper at once instead of twice a day. Gradually, the others also gathered for more and more days. When the rice was stored, powder and husk began to envelope the grain. Where it was reaped, it did not grow again, and they had to work harder and harder to tend to it for food. Lamenting that wicked ways have become rife among them over time, which affected the changes, they divided the rice into fields with boundaries. When a greedy one stole crops from another’s plot, he was caught and reprimanded. However, he repeats stealing, which led some to hit him with fists, sticks and stones.
The beings then appointed the best-looking, most pleasant and capable one to censure and banish those who deserved it, giving him a share of their rice in return. He came to be called Maha-Sammata or ‘the people’s choice’. Thus began the ‘Khattiya’ or ‘Raja’ class, who were supposed to be ‘lords of the fields’ and ‘he who gladdens others with Dharma (Truth and the path to it)’. Some thought that they ought to put aside evil conduct (such as murder, theft, sexual misconduct and deceit) and came to be known as ‘Brahmins’ and ‘Jhayakas’, which means ‘they who put aside evil unwholesome things’ and ‘they who meditate’. They made huts for forest retreats and meditated there, gathering alms for their morning and evening meals in villages. Some who were unable to meditate settled around villages and compiled texts, and came to be known as ‘Ajjhayaka’ or ‘they who do not meditate’.
Some others paired off, adopting many trades, and came to be known as Vessa (traders), which means ‘various’. Some went hunting, and were known as ‘Sudda’ (hunters) or ‘they are base who live by the chase’. All the castes’ origins were in accordance to the ‘Dharma’ (and how it was interpreted), and not by others. Some Khattiyas, Brahmins, Vessas and Suddas who were dissatisfied with their own ‘Dharma’, renounced household life to be wandering Ascetics.
Karmically, anyone who was ill in thought, word and deed, and had wrong views would be reborn in a lower realm in suffering, while anyone who was good in thought, word and deed, and had right views would be reborn in a higher realm in bliss. Those who have mixed karma experience mixed consequences, while those properly restrained could eradicate their defilements and attain Enlightenment, becoming chief among others in accordance with the Dharma, such as the Buddha, whose wisdom and conduct is the best among humans and gods.
Despite being karmically unequal,
we can all strive to be equally liberated
from the shackles of unequal karma.
How Can A ‘Creator’ Be ‘Created’?
Complete Agganna Sutta