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
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
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.