How The Buddha Relieved A Triple Disaster 佛陀如何救济三大灾难

Whatever beings are assembled here,
terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute
the Buddha, the Tathāgata (Verse 15) /
the perfect Dharma (Verse 16) /
the perfect Saṅgha (Verse 17) /
honoured by gods and humans.
May there be happiness.

– Śākyamuni Buddha
(Ratana Sutta)

According to a commentary on the Ratana Sutta (Jewel Discourse)《宝石经》, Vesāli was hit by a famine, which caused the deaths of many. With openly decaying corpses of the poor, the city was disturbed by evil spirits, while a pestilence followed. With the triple disaster of starvation, hauntings and epidemic (or pandemic), its people sought the Buddha for help. Once arriving from Rājagaha with many monastics, by the power of their collective meritorious virtues, heavy rains fell, which swept away the bodies and purified the air.

The Buddha then taught the Ratana Sutta to Venerable Ānanda, instructing him to tour the city with the Licchavi citizens while reciting it to offer protection. Ānanda also sprinkled blessed water from the Buddha’s alms bowl while doing so. Thus were the evil spirits exorcised as the pestilence subsided. Upon return with everyone to the public hall, the Buddha repeated the same teaching for benefiting all gathered.

Essentially, the teaching praises and asserts the great virtues of the Triple Gem (or Three Jewels: Tiratana), of the Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha, to use the great meritorious virtues created to ‘dilute’ the negative karma that prolong suffering. It also beseeches terrestrial and celestial gods to protect humans with loving-kindness, who have been making offerings to them. The Ratana Sutta had since become a Paritta or scriptural protection chant.

This sutta’s practice is a form of mindfulness of the Triple Gem. In essence, with the Buddha being the teacher of the Dharma (which is the path to the Deathless), and the leader of the Ariya (i.e. noble) Saṅgha (who are his disciples who have attained the Deathless, thus surely worthy of offerings), the Buddha can represent the Triple Gem in a three-in-one way. Below are the sutta’s verses of praise to him, as translated by Piyadassi Thera.

Verse 3: ‘Whatever treasure there be either in the world beyond, whatever precious jewel there be in the heavenly worlds, there is nought comparable to the Tathāgata… Verse 12: ‘As the woodland groves though in the early heat of the summer month are crowned with blossoming flowers, even so is the sublime Dharma leading to the (calm) of Nirvāṇa, which is taught (by the Buddha) for the highest good… Verse 13: ‘The Peerless Excellent One, the Knower (of Nirvāṇa), the Giver (of Nirvāṇa), the Bringer (of the Noble Path), who taught the excellent Dharma… This precious jewel is the Buddha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.’

However, the easiest way to be mindful of any Buddha (who is also interconnected to every other Buddha), who also represents all of the Dharma and the Saṅgha, is via his name. As attested by the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师) through two examples based a similar situation of an epidemic, here is his ‘Second Reply Letter To Layperson Mù Zōngjìng’ (复穆宗净居士书二):

‘You should in the village within and in nearby villages proclaim, that regardless of the old or young, males or females, all should eat as veg(etari)ans, and be mindful of “Námó Guānshìyīn Púsà” (i.e. “Homage To And Refuge In Guānyīn Bodhisattva”, who is also an ancient Buddha, or [“Námó] Āmítuófó”: [南无]阿弥陀佛).「当于村中及近村宣告,无论老幼男女,通皆吃素,念南无观世音菩萨。」

Everyone should, with each person at each person’s home within, along the way when doing things, along the way be mindful. When walking, standing, sitting and lying down, being constantly mindful, one definitely will not encounter epidemics (and pandemics).「大家各人在各人家里,一路做事一路念。于行住坐卧中常念,决定可以不遭瘟疫。」(Of course, there should be other sensible measures taken to prevent infection too.)

The year before the last (1933 C.E.), everywhere was with hullera (虎列拉: cholera) that was extremely severe. Near Shǎnxī’s Chéngchéng county’s Sìqián town, several hundred people died. One disciple in his village within, with fifty to sixty families, had all people enabled to be mindful, only having two evil persons’ deaths, with the rest all without sickness.「前年各处虎疫甚剧,陕西澄城县寺前镇附近,死数百人,一弟子村中有五六十家,人皆令念,只死两个坏人,余均无恙。」

In Gānsù’s Gāngǔ county, layperson Hé Hóngjí promoted mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha’s name (i.e. Āmítuófó). At all places where there was mindfulness of Buddha, the epidemic did not enter the county.「甘肃甘谷何鸿吉居士提倡念佛,凡念佛处,疫不入境。」

Your inviting of Pure Land friends to be mindful, is the smaller method. Teaching the whole village within’s old and young, males and females to be mindful, is the greater method. It is most excellent to eat as pure veg(etari)ans. If they are not able, they also must eat less meat. If yet to eat as veg(etari)ans, they also must be mindful (of the Buddha’s or Bodhisattva’s name).’「汝邀净友念,是小办法。教全村中老幼男女念,是大办法。顶好吃净素,如其不能,亦须少吃。即未吃素,亦要念。」


Eating veg(etari)an protects your own body,
likewise able to protect sentient beings’ bodies.
Being mindful of Buddha purifies your own mind,
likewise able to deliver sentient beings’ minds.

– Sisyphusian

– Onyx
(First contributed to TheDailyEnlightenment)

Related Articles:

As Already Warned By A Great Master
(Staying Safe In Current Times)

The Buddha’s Advice For Vanquishing Fear

Ratana Sutta: The Jewel Discourse

Can Being Veg(etari)an And Practising Mindfulness Of Buddha Avert Pandemics?

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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