Two Kinds Of Lion’s Roar

Truths are only surprising
to those used to non-truths.

– Shilashanti

Two of the most important scriptures in the Pali canon are the Great Discourse on the Lion’s Roar (Maha-sihanada Sutta) and the Short Discourse on the Lion’s Roar (Cula-sihanada Sutta). In these discourses, the Buddha likens himself to a lion and equates his teaching, the proclamation of the Dhamma, to a lion’s roar…

In the Great Discourse, the Buddha’s disclosure of his own supreme qualities comes about because a former disciple has denounced him, trying to dissuade others from following the Dhamma. In order to inspire confidence in the monks, nuns, and laypeople he teaches, the Buddha reveals his qualities of self-possessed power and all-encompassing knowledge, which give him the authority to “roar his lion’s roar in the assemblies.”

The Buddha’s speech, his message, is a fearless proclamation of Truth that cannot be refuted, like the roar of a lion that silences all the other creatures of the jungle. So powerfully does the Buddha describe the ordeals that he endured on his path to awakening, which led to his attainment of enlightened powers, that one of the monks in the assembly declares that the discourse made his hair stand on end!

In the Shorter Discourse, the Buddha urges his disciples to practice the Dhamma as he taught it, and then go forth confidently and boldly, and “roar the lion’s roar” for the benefit of all beings. So there are two kinds of lion’s roar, as described in these suttas: the roar of the Buddha and the roar of his disciples.

Roar: Sulak Sivaraksa and the Path of Socially Engaged Buddhism
Matteo Pistono

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