FIVE RARITIES (PAÑCADULLABHA) - Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature


Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and The Noble Eightfold Path.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019



Man does not see the true nature of a phenomenon because of his own delusions. As a worldling, he has hallucinations about suffering as happiness, vanity as essence, disgust as pleasure, impermanence as permanence, impersonality as personality, etc … His mind is not quite developed in ultra-mundane knowledge due to his own past imperfection. If his past good deeds i.e. the ten Perfections were matured, he would have developed in supramundane knowledge through hearing the word of the doctrine, even as fire covered by its ashes is lighted suddenly when the wind blows.

By learning through books, we can gain much knowledge. In the world those who have been well-educated are regarded as learned or wise persons. In this connection, as an enlightened Buddhist, one will realize that such a person possesses only mundane knowledge and not spiritual ultra-mundane wisdom (paññā) for only when he has attained the spiritual ultra-mundane wisdom or knowledge, he is enable to realize the truth of reality (Dhamma); that is, he is enlightened in stages, up to the state of sainthood (Arahantship).

Man’s ultimate responsibility is to attain sainthood ultimately by his way of life, otherwise his life is not worthwhile; and even though born as a human being, he misses a glorious opportunity. So we should try to know the fact about the five Rarities. In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha insisted on the importance of those rarities. Thus, Oh! Bhikkhus, be mindful of this; in the world there are five rarities, namely:
1.    The arising of a Buddha is an extreme rarity,
2.    Being born as a human being is an extreme rarity,
3.    To have genuine faith in the Buddha; the Dhamma and Sangha is an extreme rarity,
4.    To become a genuine Bhikkhu (Buddhist Monk) is an extreme rarity,
5.    To hear the Noble Truth of the Buddha’s doctrine is an extreme rarity;

(1)       Why is the arising of the Buddha an extreme rarity?

Because any one who is considered eligible for Buddhahood has to complete a performance of three hundred perfections and it takes infinite number of world cycles. (say four or eight or sixteen Asankheyas and 100,000 Kappas). For instance, when our Buddha was in his last birth he was convinced that mortification of the body was not in keeping with his middle path. After six years of this experience, he found the middle way then he became enlightened as a Buddha.

(2)       Why is it an extreme rarity to be born as a human being?

According to Buddhism, only those who have done meritorious deeds in former births can be born as human beings?
The Buddha taught us in the Nakhupama Sutta that there are only a few out of all the beings who become human beings and compares their number to a small amount of the earth held in the hand in contrast to that of the whole globe. Even though one is endowed with the nature of being, it is still rare to be endowed with perfect organs, to be free from the pain of madness, blindness, insanity and other afflictions. The differentiation between one man and another is only due to the result of deeds done in former births, good or bad. It is nature of being to be deluded and generally delighted to do evil things, as the Buddha has said in the Dhammapada. For this reason, it is an extreme rarity to be born with the complete nature of a human being.

(3)       Why is it an extreme rarity to have a genuine faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha?

There are so many faiths in the world, that it is very rare for one to have a right understanding “in conformity with the laws of truth. But we shall have to discuss what “Right understanding is. Right understanding here means having the true knowledge of the law of Kamma; that is, there are good and bad results corresponding to their good and bad root causes.
Here, we have two categories of faiths, namely ordinary faith and genuine faith. The Buddhist devotees who have ordinary faith in the three gems do meritorious deeds, give alms, observe precepts, listen to the sermons, and preach the doctrine to others. As for those who have realized the true nature of the arising and passing away of the mind and body. Thus they are enlightened on the clear understanding of three characteristics of impermanence, suffering and non-permanence, suffering and non-personality and have attained the Path, Fruition and Nibbāna.

(4)       Why is it an extreme rarity to become a genuine Bhikkhu?

Because a Bhikkhu is one who has renounced the world in order to seek real happiness and peace. Since he is holy person, it is his duty to observe at least 227 moral rules of the Vinaya Discipline laid down by the Buddha.
There are so many rules and regulations in the holy order that one who is ordained into Buddhist monkhood should learn these rules thoroughly. Not only that, he must also observe these rules strictly even if they cost him his life. They are so strict that his position can be likened to a mustard seed balanced on the point of the needle.
So it can be said that a Bhikkhu stands nearer to the attainment of sainthood, and likewise he is also in greatest danger of falling. In the Dullabha Sangaha Commentary, it is mentioned that if a bhikkhu is not dutiful in the observance of moral discipline, it would be better for him to eat redhot balls of iron. In addition to all these, a Bhikkhu must also be able to spend all his time in reading, reciting, teaching the precious Dhamma and practicing Meditation or Insight Exercise. In the light of the above facts, it is extremely difficult for a Bhikkhu to live a well- disciplined and sinless life.
Though one can become a well-disciplined Bhikkhu, yet it is very difficult to be happy in the Bhikkhuhood for long owing to its many strict rules. It is said that only those who have found perfection, through good deeds in the past lives can be happy in the Bhikkhu’s life. So it is an extreme rarity for one to live as a true Bhikkhu.

(5)       Why is it an extreme rarity to hear the Noble Truth of the Buddha’s doctrine?

The Noble Truth or Dhamma as taught by the Buddha is so profound and subtle that only the wise or intellectual type can realize it. This kind of Noble Truth in its completeness can be discovered only when the Buddha arises in the world. Since the arising of the Buddha is an extreme rarity, it is also most difficult to have the golden opportunity of hearing the Noble Truth. During certain aeons of time, though people search for one who is able to teach them even a paragraph of the Noble Truth, yet there is no one to be found. This Noble Truth is always existing, but only the Buddhas, can discover and reveal this truth to others.

We are indeed fortunate to be born as human beings thus gaining these rarities. As the result, we can understand and realize the real preciousness of these rarities. If we can understand and realize the real preciousness of these rarities  If we were to  grow old and die in a state of ignorance in spite of our having been born during the brilliant shining of Noble Truth of Buddha’s doctrine, we would be to lose even our chance of birth as a human. So, in conclusion, I want to offer a sound advice to the readers that by observing these Five Rarities as they truely are, e should try to live the actual life of the Noble Truth without delay and attain the real happiness of Nibbāna.

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