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Daily Buddhist Devotions - The Value Of Paritta Suttas

Recent research in medicine, in experimental psychology and what is now called parapsychology has thrown some light on the nature of the mind and it's importance in the world. During the last forty years, the conviction has steadily grown amongst medical men that many causes of disease, organic as well as functional, are directly caused by mental states. The body becomes ill because the mind controlling it either secretly wants to make it ill, or because it is in such a state of agitation that it cannot prevent the body from becoming sick. Whatever its physical nature, resistance to disease is unquestionably related to the psychological condition of the patient.

The mind not only makes one sick, it also cures. An optimistic patient has more chances of getting well than a patient who is worried and unhappy. The recorded instances of faith healing include cases in which even organic diseases were cured almost instantaneously.

In this connection, it is interesting to observe the prevalence in Buddhist lands of practice of listening to the recital of the Dhamma for protection and deliverance from evil as well as promoting welfare and well-being. The selected discourses for recital are known as Paritta Suttas. Paritta in Pali, Paritrana in Sanskrit and Pirit in Sinhala, all mean principally 'protection'. They are used to describe certain suttas or discourses of the Buddha as affording protection and deliverance from harmful influences. The practice of reciting and listening to the Paritta Suttas began very early in the history of Buddhism. It is certain that their recital produces mental well-beings in those who listen to them with intelligence and confidence in the Truth of the Buddha's words. Such mental well-being can help those who are ill to recover. It can help to induce the mental attitude that brings happiness to overcome negative states of mind.

Originally in India, those who listened to Paritta understood what was recited; and the effect on them was correspondingly greater. The Buddha Himself had Paritta recited for Him and He also requested others to recite for His disciples when they were ill. This practice is still in vogue in Buddhist lands.

The Buddha and the Arahanta (Saints and Consummate Ones) can concentrate on the Paritta Suttas without the aid of someone who does the reciting. However, when they themselves are ill, it would be easier for them to listen to what others recite and thus be able to focus their minds on the Dhamma (truth) of the Sutta. There are occasions, as in the case of illness which weakens the mind, when hereto-suggestion has been found to be more effective than auto-suggestion.

According to the Dhamma, the mind is so closely linked to the body that mental states affect the body's health and well-being. Some doctors even say that there is no such thing as a purely physical disease. Unless these bad mental states are caused by previous evil acts (Akusala Kamma-Vipaka) and so are unalterable, it is possible to change them so that mental health and physical well-being will follow.

The vibratory sounds the Paritta produces are soothing to nerves; produce peace of mind and bring harmony to the system.

How can a bad influence springing from evil states be counteracted by listening to the recitation of Paritta Suttas? Well, as they are the result of evil thinking, they can therefore be destroyed by the good states of mind - a product of listening intelligently and confidently to Paritta sayings. The power of concentration that is generated through listening attentively and whole-heartedly to the truth of the saying dispels the bad influence arising from the evil states.

Paritta Sutta recital is a form of Sacca-Kiriya, of depending on the truth for protection, justification or attainment. The saying:"The power of truth protects the follower of the truth" (Dhammo Have Rakkahati Dhamma Carim) is the principle behind these sutta recitals. If it is true that virtue protects the virtuous, then a person who listens to these sayings with complete confidence in the truth of Buddha's words, which spring from the complete enlightenment, will acquire so virtuous a state of mind that he will be able to conquer any evil influence.

The recital of the Paritta Suttas also results in material blessings through the mental states caused by concentration and confidence in listening intelligently to the recital. According to the Buddha, Right Effort is a necessary factor in overcoming suffering (Viriyena Dukkham Accheti). Listening to one of these recitals in the proper way can also generate energy for the purpose of doing good, and following the path of worldly progress with diligence.

It is understood that listening to these Paritta Suttas must produce in the intelligent and confident listener only wholesome states which can cure and prevent illness. There is no better medicine than truth (Dhamma) for both the mental and physical ills which are the cause of all suffering and misfortune.

Ven. Piyadassi Thera   

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