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The Āṭānāṭiya Protection —Bhikkhu Sujato

Long Discourses 32

The Āṭānāṭiya Protection

1. The First Recitation Section

1.1So I have heard. 1.2At one time the Buddha was staying near Rājagaha, on the Vulture’s Peak Mountain. 1.3Then, late at night, the Four Great Kings—with large armies of spirits, fairies, goblins, and dragons—set guards, troops, and wards at the four quarters and then, lighting up the entire Vulture’s Peak with their beauty, went up to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. 1.4Before sitting down to one side, some spirits bowed, some exchanged greetings and polite conversation, some held up their joined palms toward the Buddha, some announced their name and clan, while some kept silent.

2.1Seated to one side, the Great King Vessavaṇa said to the Buddha, 2.2“Sir, some high spirits have confidence in the Buddha, 2.3some do not. 2.4Some middling spirits have confidence in the Buddha, 2.5some do not. 2.6Some low spirits have confidence in the Buddha, 2.7some do not. 2.8But mostly the spirits don’t have confidence in the Buddha. 2.9Why is that? 2.10Because the Buddha teaches them to refrain from killing living creatures, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and drinking alcohol. 2.11But mostly they don’t refrain from such things. 2.12They don’t like that or approve of it.

2.13Sir, there are disciples of the Buddha who frequent remote lodgings in the wilderness and the forest that are quiet and still, far from the madding crowd, remote from human settlements, and fit for retreat. 2.14There dwell high spirits who have no confidence in the Buddha’s dispensation. 2.15To give them confidence, may the Buddha please learn the Āṭānāṭiya protection for the guarding, protection, safety, and comfort of the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.” 2.16The Buddha consented in silence.

3.1Then, knowing that the Buddha had consented, on that occasion Great King Vessavaṇa recited the Āṭānāṭiya protection.

3.2“Hail Vipassī,
3.3the glorious seer!
3.4Hail Sikhī,
3.5compassionate for all beings!

3.6Hail Vesabhū,
3.7cleansed and austere!
3.8Hail Kakusandha,
3.9crusher of Māra’s army!

3.10Hail Koṇāgamana,
3.11the accomplished brahmin!
3.12Hail Kassapa,
3.13freed in every way!

3.14Hail Aṅgīrasa,
3.15the glorious Sakyan!
3.16He taught this Dhamma
3.17that dispels all suffering.

3.18Those in the world who are extinguished,
3.19truly discerning,
3.20not backbiters; such people
3.21being great of heart and rid of naivety,

3.22revere that Gotama;
3.23he who is helpful to gods and humans,
3.24accomplished in knowledge and conduct,
3.25great of heart and rid of naivety.

4.1Where rises the sun—
4.2Aditi’s child, the great circle,
4.3who in his rising
4.4dispels the night,
4.5and of whom, when sun has risen,
4.6it’s said to be the day—

4.7there is a deep lake
4.8an ocean, where water flows.
4.9So they know that in that place
4.10there is an ocean where waters flow.

4.11From here that is the eastern quarter,
4.12so the people say.
4.13That quarter is warded
4.14by a great king, glorious,

4.15the lord of the fairies;
4.16his name is Dhataraṭṭha.
4.17He delights in song and dance,
4.18honored by the fairies.

4.19And he has many mighty sons
4.20all of one name, so I’ve heard.
4.21Eighty, and ten, and one—
4.22all of them named Inda.

4.23After seeing the Awakened One,
4.24the Buddha, Kinsman of the Sun,
4.25they revere him from afar,
4.26the one great of heart and rid of naivety.

4.27Homage to you, O thoroughbred!
4.28Homage to you, supreme among men!
4.29You’ve seen us with clarity and kindness.
4.30The non-humans bow to you.
4.31We’ve been asked many a time,
4.32‘Do you bow to Gotama the victor?’

4.33And so we ought to declare:
4.34‘We bow to Gotama the victor,
4.35accomplished in knowledge and conduct!
4.36We bow to Gotama the awakened!’

5.1It’s where the departed go, they say,
5.2who are dividers and backbiters,
5.3killers and hunters,
5.4bandits and frauds.

5.5From here that is the southern quarter,
5.6so the people say.
5.7That quarter is warded
5.8by a great king, glorious,

5.9the lord of the goblins;
5.10his name is Virūḷha.
5.11He delights in song and dance,
5.12honored by the goblins.

5.13And he has many mighty sons
5.14all of one name, so I’ve heard.
5.15Eighty, and ten, and one—
5.16all of them named Inda.

5.17After seeing the Awakened One,
5.18the Buddha, Kinsman of the Sun,
5.19they revere him from afar,
5.20the one great of heart and rid of naivety.

5.21Homage to you, O thoroughbred!
5.22Homage to you, supreme among men!
5.23You’ve seen us with clarity and kindness.
5.24The non-humans bow to you.
5.25We’ve been asked many a time,
5.26‘Do you bow to Gotama the victor?’

5.27And so we ought to declare:
5.28‘We bow to Gotama the victor,
5.29accomplished in knowledge and conduct!
5.30We bow to Gotama the awakened!’

6.1Where sets the sun—
6.2Aditi’s child, the great circle,
6.3who in his setting
6.4closes the day,
6.5and of whom, when sun has set,
6.6it’s said to be the night—

6.7there is a deep lake
6.8an ocean, where water flows.
6.9So they know that in that place
6.10there is an ocean where waters flow.

6.11From here that is the western quarter,
6.12so the people say.
6.13That quarter is warded
6.14by a great king, glorious,

6.15the lord of the dragons;
6.16his name is Virūpakkha.
6.17He delights in song and dance,
6.18honored by the dragons.

6.19And he has many mighty sons
6.20all of one name, so I’ve heard.
6.21Eighty, and ten, and one—
6.22all of them named Inda.

6.23After seeing the Awakened One,
6.24the Buddha, Kinsman of the Sun,
6.25they revere him from afar,
6.26the one great of heart and rid of naivety.

6.27Homage to you, O thoroughbred!
6.28Homage to you, supreme among men!
6.29You’ve seen us with clarity and kindness.
6.30The non-humans bow to you.
6.31We’ve been asked many a time,
6.32‘Do you bow to Gotama the victor?’

6.33And so we ought to declare:
6.34‘We bow to Gotama the victor,
6.35accomplished in knowledge and conduct!
6.36We bow to Gotama the awakened!’

7.1Where lovely Uttarakuru is,
7.2and the beautiful Mount Meru,
7.3humans born there
7.4are unselfish, not possessive.

7.5They do not sow the seed,
7.6nor do they draw the plough.
7.7The rice eaten by people
7.8ripens in untilled soil,

7.9free of powder or husk, pure,
7.10fragrant, with only the rice-grain.
7.11They eat that food
7.12after cooking it in a ‘parrot’s beak’.

7.13Having prepared a cow with hooves uncloven,
7.14they’re drawn about from place to place.
7.15Having prepared a beast with hooves uncloven,
7.16they’re drawn about from place to place.

7.17Having prepared a woman-drawn carriage,
7.18they’re drawn about from place to place.
7.19Having prepared a man-drawn carriage,
7.20they’re drawn about from place to place.

7.21Having prepared a girl-drawn carriage,
7.22they’re drawn about from place to place.
7.23Having prepared a boy-drawn carriage,
7.24they’re drawn about from place to place.

7.25Having ascended their vehicle,
7.26that king’s servants
7.27tour about in every quarter,

7.28provided with vehicles,
7.29elephant, horse, and divine.
7.30And there are mansions and palanquins
7.31for that great and glorious king.

7.32And he has cities, too,
7.33well-built in the sky:
7.34Āṭānāṭā, Kusināṭā, Parakusināṭā,
7.35Nāṭasuriyā, and Parakusiṭanāṭā.

7.36To the north is Kapīvanta,
7.37and Jonogha lies beyond.
7.38And there’s Navanavutiya, Ambara-ambaravatiya,
7.39and the royal capital named Āḷakamandā.

7.40The Great King Kuvera, dear sir,
7.41has a capital named Visāṇā,
7.42which is why the great king
7.43is called ‘Vessavaṇa’.

7.44These each individually inform the King:
7.45Tatolā, Tattalā, Tatotalā,
7.46Ojasi, Tejasi, Tatojasi,
7.47Sūra, Rājā, Ariṭṭha, and Nemi.

7.48There is a lake there too named Dharaṇī,
7.49from whence the clouds rain down,
7.50and the rains disperse.
7.51There is a hall there too named Bhagalavatī,

7.52where the spirits frequent.
7.53There the trees are ever in fruit,
7.54with many different flocks of birds.
7.55Peacocks and herons call out there,
7.56and the sweet cuckoos too.

7.57One bird cries out ‘Live, live!’,
7.58another ‘Lift up your heart!’
7.59There are cocks and kookaburras,
7.60and in the wood the lotus-crane.

7.61The parrots and mynah cry out there,
7.62and the ‘little stick-boy’ birds.
7.63Kuvera’s pond of rushes
7.64is lovely all the time.

7.65From here that is the northern quarter,
7.66so the people say.
7.67That quarter is warded
7.68by a great king, glorious,

7.69the lord of spirits;
7.70his name is ‘Kuvera’.
7.71He delights in song and dance,
7.72honored by the spirits.

7.73And he has many mighty sons
7.74all of one name, so I’ve heard.
7.75Eighty, and ten, and one—
7.76all of them named Inda.

7.77After seeing the Awakened One,
7.78the Buddha, Kinsman of the Sun,
7.79they revere him from afar,
7.80the one great of heart and rid of naivety.

7.81Homage to you, O thoroughbred!
7.82Homage to you, supreme among men!
7.83You’ve seen us with clarity and kindness.
7.84The non-humans bow to you.
7.85We’ve been asked many a time,
7.86‘Do you bow to Gotama the victor?’

7.87And so we ought to declare:
7.88‘We bow to Gotama the victor,
7.89accomplished in knowledge and conduct!
7.90We bow to Gotama the awakened!’”

8.1This, dear sir, is the Āṭānāṭiya protection for the guarding, protection, safety, and comfort of the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.

8.2The monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen should learn this Āṭānāṭiya protection well and completely memorize it. 8.3If anyone who does so is approached while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down by any non-human being with malicious intent—including males, females, boys, girls, ministers, counselors, and servants among the spirits, fairies, goblins, and dragons—8.4that non-human will receive no homage or respect in any village or town. 8.5And they will receive no ground or dwelling in my capital of Ālakamandā. 8.6Nor will they get to go to the conference of the spirits. 8.7In addition, the non-humans would not give or take them in marriage. 8.8They’d heap personal abuse on them, 8.9drop an empty bowl on their head, 8.10and even split their head into seven pieces!

9.1For there are, dear sir, non-humans who are fierce, cruel, and violent. They don’t obey the Great Kings or their men or their men’s men. 9.2They’re said to be rebelling against the Great Kings. 9.3They’re just like the bandits in the king of Magadha’s realm 9.4who don’t obey the king, his men, or his men’s men, 9.5and are said to be rebelling against the king.

9.6 9.7 9.8If any non-human being with malicious intent—including males, females, boys, girls, ministers, counselors, and servants among the spirits, fairies, goblins, and dragons—approaches a monk, nun, layman, or laywoman while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, 9.9one ought to yell, cry, and scream to the spirits, great spirits, generals, great generals: 9.10‘This spirit’s got me! This spirit’s entered me! This spirit’s annoying me! This spirit’s harassing me! This spirit’s hurting me! This spirit’s harming me! This spirit won’t let me go!’

10.1To what spirits, great spirits, generals, great generals?

10.2‘Inda, Soma, and Varuṇa,
10.3Bhāradvāja, Pajāpati,
10.4Candana and Kāmaseṭṭha,
10.5Kinnughaṇḍu and Nighaṇḍu,

10.6Panāda and Opamañña,
10.7and Mātali, the god’s charioteer.
10.8Cittasena the fairy,
10.9and the kings Nala and Janesabha,

10.10Sātāgira, Hemavata,
10.11Puṇṇaka, Karatiya, and Guḷa;
10.12Sivaka and Mucalinda,
10.13Vessāmitta, Yugandhara,

10.14Gopāla, Supparodha,
10.15Hiri, Netti, and Mandiya;
10.16Pañcālacaṇḍa, Āḷavaka,
10.17Pajjunna, Sumana, Sumukha,
10.18Dadhimukha, Maṇi, Māṇivara, Dīgha,
10.19together with Serīsaka.’

10.20 10.21

11.1This, dear sir, is the Āṭānāṭiya protection for the guarding, protection, safety, and comfort of the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. 11.2Well, now, dear sir, I must go. I have many duties, and much to do.”

11.3“Please, Great Kings, go at your convenience.”

11.4Then the Four Great Kings got up from their seats, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on their right side, before vanishing right there. 11.5And before the other spirits present vanished, some bowed and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on their right side, some exchanged greetings and polite conversation, some held up their joined palms toward the Buddha, some announced their name and clan, while some kept silent.

11.6The first recitation section is finished.

11.72. The Second Recitation Section

12.1Then, when the night had passed, the Buddha told the mendicants all that had happened, repeating all the verses spoken. Then he added: 12.2 12.3

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13.1“Mendicants, learn the Āṭānāṭiya protection! 13.2Memorize the Āṭānāṭiya protection! 13.3Remember the Āṭānāṭiya protection! 13.4The Āṭānāṭiya protection is beneficial, and is for the guarding, protection, safety, and comfort of the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.”

13.5That is what the Buddha said. 13.6Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what the Buddha said.