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The Progressive Path

Ven. Pitiduve Siridhamma Thero

The Progressive Path
Ven. Pitiduve Siridhamma Thero

ISBN - 978-955-1610-76-0

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The Progressive Path
Our lives are subject to ascendance as well as downfall. We
can avoid the pitfalls only if, we correctly understand the causes
for downfall. Parabhava Sutta dwells on the causes for one’s down-
fall in the society.

Life is full of problems, and obstacles. If we can clearly identify

the obstacles then we possess the means to avoid or work around
them. This sutta considers 21 such obstacles that affect life on the
human plane, the study of which facilitate not only avoidance but
also enable one to positively prepare an environment conducive to
one’s well being.

Parabhava Sutta is included under the Khuddaka Nikaya. The sutta

provides a deep analysis on what causes a person’s downfall. We
too can achieve progress both mundane and supramundane, by study
and correct practice of the sutta.

Buddha Dhamma is not for preparation for after life, it is meant for
use this very life. We must study the teachings embedded in the
sutta diligently and put to use our learning in day to day affairs.
Only then will Buddhism become a practical way of life.

Let’s not be satisfied with mere reading or listening, to experience

these in day to day life and to open the way for the others too, to
benefit from the teaching is how we can make Dhamma glow.

The preaching of the Parabhava Sutta was for the human gods
(deva), that is, for beings belonging to the deva clan. Study of its’
contents clearly reveal that it is important and relevant to human
beings and not to the deity.

The sutta beigns with the following question posed to the

Enlightened One.

Parabhava tammpurisam – mayam puccama gotamam
Bhagavamtham puttu magamma – kin parabhava tho mukham

The simple meaning of this is:

Who in this world is the declining man? What cause his downfall?

To which, the Buddha replies, thus:

Suvijano bhavam hoti – suvijano parabhavo

Dhamma kamo bhavam hoti – dhamma dessi parabhavo

We can differentiate the one who prospers from the one who decline
by analyzing their preferences. The lover of Dhamma prospers
whereas, the hater of Dhamma declines.

Herein, the Buddha points out despising Dhamma as the first cause
for one’s downfall.

Now we must consider what is meant by Dhamma. If a person is

destined to hell (woeful states) due performance of unwholesome
acts, what prevents him from falling into to the hell realm is
Therefore, everything that prevents a human from being destined
to hell can be considered to be Dhamma. Not only that, what paves
the way for birth in human and higher realms and for attainment of
Nibbana is Dhamma. The real progress of a person whether
mundane or supramundane is thus, based on Dhamma.

Some state that one cannot progress by just means it is the unjust
that achieve progress. Such thinking is fermented by treating wealth
as the measure of progress. If one is unhappy, is thinking and
repenting about means used to amass wealth and living in constant
fear of losing one’s wealth and even life, then how can that be
cousidered as progress?

Real progress therefore, is achieved by one’s economic and spiritual
development. The two factors should be at equilibrium and at rest
as the plates of a weighing scale.

Any person who obstructs or helps to obstruct the performance of

moral, righteous, and wholesome deeds, the Buddha states as bound
to decline.

Having comprehended the first cause for one’s downfall, Lord

Buddha is requested to explain the 2nd cause for downfall, by
following stanza:

Ithi hetham wijanama – patamo so parabhavo

Duthiyam bhagava bruhi – kin prabhavatho mukham

In reply, the Blessed One explains 3 causes for the decline of a


Asanthassa piya honthi – santhe na kuruthe piyam

Asatham dhammam rochethi – tam parabhavatho mukham

If vicious are dear to him, doesn’t like the virtuous, and approves
the teachings of the ill natured, such a person shall suffer decline.

To begin with, we shall separately identify the vicious from the


Virtuous are those who teach us the righteous path of Dhamma

such as, Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas, Arahants, and good, caring
friends (Kalyana mitta).

Any one despising the virtuous shall never comprehend the truth
or Dhamma. Hence, associating with the virtuous and replicating
their practice is the way to realizing Dhamma. If we strike an

allegiance with those who are unjust and unfair, we too shall soon
become one of them, fond of the immoral and followers of their
doctrine, which will be the cause of our downfall.

“We understand as explained the 2nd cause for decline. Do elaborate

on the 3rd cause, the Blessed One.” In reply Lord Buddha stated:

Niddhaseeli sabhaseeli – anutta thaca yo naro

Alaso kodha pannano – tam parabhavatho mukham

The man, (a) fond of sleep, (b) fond of company, is verbose, (c)
inactive, (d) lazy and (e) manifesting anger is bound to decline.
Sleep is essential for all creatures. However, there should be a limit
to sleep. 5-8 hours sleep per day is sufficient for a normal person
from a health perspective. Sleep is habit forming and this is the
danger of sleeping regularly.

Waking up is more important than sleep itself. The mind should

awaken with the body in a fully energized mode. Some though
awake bodily continue to slumber. Such persons can never be
productive or efficient. First and foremost it is the mind that should
wake up followed by the body. This is the method to adopt in order
to spend a fruitful day. One indulging in excessive sleep will not

To chatter incessantly without a rhyme or reason is a cause for

downfall. Some simply cannot stop talking and engage in frivolous
talk that is neither beneficial for this life or after life. To waste
valuable time resource in such a manner is detrimental in terms of
wealth and energy and lead to one’s downfall.

At times unnecessary talk can lead to complications resulting in

lifelong problems.

We should develop the ability to listen more and talk less. As a

result we may be able to learn things not heard of before.
Indulging in pointless talk is also to expose our foolishness to the
world. Water in a vessel filled to the brim stay motionless whereas
water is in motion in a half filled pot. The ocean is huge, even so
the noise it makes proportionate to the size is minute. A human
being should be like the ocean, deep in thinking capacity yet silent.

Buddha extolled the virtues of silence if not engaged in a Dhamma

talk. Incessant chatter can cause a person to be marginalized by the
society and decline.

To remain inactive is also contributory for one’s downfall. Every

human being has some inherent ability and is capable of performing
meritorious and wholesome deeds. Not to use one’s abilities by
not being industrious is to allow talents to go waste. Lack in effort
and endeavour can reduce a person to a failure within the society.

Lord Buddha’s teaching is full of references as to the importance

of mindful application of strenuous effort, in absence of which an
individual has to frequently give way. The Enlightened One always
strived to instill exertion of effort in his disciples and Arunawathi
Sutta embedded in Samyutta Nikaya is a good example of this.

Arahatha nikkamatha yunnjatha buddhasasane

Dhunatha maccuno senam nalagaranva kunjaro
Yo imasmim dhamma vinaye appamaththo vihessati
Pahaya jati samsaram dhukkakkandassakarissati ta

Initiate! Go forth! Engage! Just as a powerful elephant demolishes

a house made of reeds destroy the forces of mara (cankers). Any
disciple acting without procrastination shall terminate birth and
samsara and be released of suffering (dukka).
The above can be likened to a speech made by a Commander-in-
Chief to strengthen and ready his forces to battle. By such preaching,
Gotama Buddha strived to instill exertion of effort in his followers.

Any person acting without effort shall suffer spiritual decline. In
the discourse Viyagga pajja, in discussing the background required
for progress in this life, Buddha made mention of effort as essential
to success. Any person cultivating this quality shall achieve
economic success and stability.

Hence, development in terms of mundane and supramundane, is

inseparably linked to striving and application of effort. A person
removed from this virtue shall decline according to the Buddha.

Laziness is mentioned as the next reason leading to the downfall

of a person. In Sigalovada Sutta, Buddha elaborated on 6 qualities
of one who is lazy.
The lazy, procrastinates stating:

1. Its’ too cold now

2. Its’ too hot now
3. Its’ late evening
4. Its’ too early in the morning
5. I am very hungry
6. I am too full

The normal tendency of man is to procrastinate and the more he

remains lazy, success moves further away from him.

If a person wishes to be a success in the society, that person must

get rid of laziness.

The final reason according to the stanza is manifesting anger. A

person susceptible to anger can never lead a successful life.
All beings below the state of an Arahant are not rid of anger. Anger
tends to grow over time and explode as rage. This is very dangerous
because it first destroy the person in whom it manifests. When a
person is moved to anger, he is unable to reason and lose track of
time, place and persons present. Patience is the best remedy to
combat anger in oneself, and one who practices patience is the best
monk on earth. “khanthi paramam tapo titikka” – in Buddha’s
words, patience is the best form of monkhood.

Let us be clear, patience is not cowardice. At times we remain patient

due to our inability to react. Sometimes we practice patience even
when we can react. According to Buddhism, one who remains
patient, even though powerful enough to react, is a successful
person. Vepacitti Sutta in Samyutta Nikaya is exemplary in this

The Blessed One addressed the disciples thus: “Monks, a state of

war manifested in the past between the Gods and the Asuras. Sakka
addressing the gods from Tavtimsa said “If we are victorious in
battle and Asuras lose, bring Vepacitti asura to me bound in 5 places
to his neck.”

Monks, the Gods were victorious. The Asuras lost. Tavtimsa gods
approached Sakka with Vepacitti asura bound as instructed.
Vepacitti vent his wrath on Sakka using abusive speech, on stepping
into the Sudham Sabha where Sakka held court.

Mathali, the driver of Gods addressing Sakka by stanza inquired

“Lord Sakka, why do you keep silent? is it due to fear? Or is it due
to weakness?”

In reply, the Sakka stated “My non response to Vepacitti is neither

due to fear nor weakness. How can one as wise as me fight a
weakling. In absence of intervention, fools do battle. The wise defeat
the foolish by subjecting them to rigorous punishment. To remain
calm and patient in presence of this raging fool I consider a victory.”

To this Mathali retorted, “Lord Sakka, the fool thinks, he remains

silent because he fears me. I think this is a flaw of patience. Just as

a runaway bull is trampled by a stampeding herd, the patient one
rides over the fool.”

“What he thinks of is of no consequence to me if it works for my

well being. Patience is the greatest. Where the powerful exercise
patience against the weak that to me is best patience. The weak are
always patient. If power one possesses is foolish, then that power
is powerless. None can talk against power conditioned by Dhamma.
Anger does ill to the angry. To remain calm is in itself a victory
over the invincible to an angered man. Not to lose temper on
confronting one in rage is beneficial to self as well as others. One
who works for the well being of self and others is taken for a fool
by those not in mastery of Dhamma.”

Monks, the Sakka, the Lord of Gods residing in tavtimsa by the

power of accumulated merits too speaks of the quality of patience.
If you who have gone forth have cultivated patience then this Sasana
(Buddha’s ministry) too is beautiful.”

Hence, we too should practice patience as a means to subdue anger.

The Buddha describes a person on the decline as one who is unable
to suppress anger by developing patience.

Having learned the 3rd cause for downfall, he queries the Blessed
One as to the 4th cause.

Yo mataram va pitaram va – pinnakam gatha yobbanam

Pahusantho na bharathi – tam parabhavatho mukham

Whoever being affluent, does not support his mother and father
who are old and past their prime, that is the cause of his downfall.

Mahasala Sutta in Samyutta Nikaya illustrates the position granted

in Buddhism to caring for one’s parents. A Brahmin dressed in
soiled tattered clothing approached the Buddha when he was