The 5 Buddhas of our current aeon, its significance to “Na Mo Put Ta Ya” and Loy Krathong Festival
Many religions tell a tale of a messiah, who in the darkest hours, will deliver us from evil and annihilation. Almost all of these religions, there is also a fundamental belief in a creator, and that surrendering yourself grants eternal bliss and redemption.
In the teachings of Buddhism, the Buddha taught that suffering and liberation are in fact borne from the desire and ignorance of man himself, and not a higher power. Through his own efforts and sacrifice, man might liberate himself from suffering and achieve Nibbana, a state of permanent bliss.
The scriptures in Buddhism spoke of such sacrifices from Gotama Buddha, where he gave up his royalty and comforts, opting instead to be forged in the fire of suffering until he learnt the secret of transcending it. Such a state may not be achieved in a mere lifetime, but may involve aeons of suffering, over countless lifetimes.
In this article, we will share with our readers, a legend in Thailand, that explores the significance of Loy Krathong and its role in honoring the sacrifices made by the Buddhas, in addition to remembering their lessons in wisdom and compassion,
We will also introduce a short katha that is useful for invoking the blessings and protection of the Buddhas.
According to the Buddhist scriptures, a universe goes through several phases; formation, duration, destruction, and then a void, awaiting the formation of the next universe. Each of these phases stretch over a very long duration known as a Kappa, or aeon. A complete cycle consisting of all these phases is called Maha Kappa.
In the Buddhist scriptures, there is a name given to each of these aeons, as well as predictions for the number of Buddhas who will appear during that time. Our current aeon is Bhadda-kappa (see footnotes 1), or the Auspicious Aeon.
Phra Puttajao Ha (5) Phra Ong
According to the Theravada
school of Buddhism, 5 Buddhas will come to pass in our aeon. The present Buddha (Gotama Buddha) is the 4th. The order of their arrival has been as such;
1. Kakusandha Buddha
2. Koṇāgamana Buddha 3. Kassapa Buddha 4. Gotama Buddha (Buddha Shakyamuni)
The next Buddha to arrive on our plane of existence will be Metteyya Buddha
The story of Phra Puttajao 5 Phra Ong in Thai mythology, references these 5 Buddhas of our current aeon.
The Legend of Phra Puttajao 5 Phra Ong
In the era of SaMai Ton PathomKup, Mae Phaya Kar Phuek
(Queen White Crow) perched herself in a Ficus carica tree beside the Kong Ka river. This place is known as Wat Phra Kerd (or “the holy birth place of the Bodhisatta”). The setting is described as one of exquisite beauty, fitting conditions for the birth of the 5 Bodhisatta (Footnote 2), each borne from an egg within her pregnant belly. Pic: Mae Kar Phuek
One day while searching for food, Mae Phaya Kar Phuek ran into a heavy storm, causing her to seek shelter for the night. This area came to be known as Wiang Kalong
, loosely translated as City of the Lost Crow.
When she returned to the roost the next day, she found her nest missing. The eggs had been blown into the river by the fury of the storm. She was devastated, and died of a broken heart.
Because of her unconditional love for her offsprings, she was reborn in Phrommalok Chan Suthawas (Pali: BrahmalokaSuddhāvāsā
) and christened “Tao Khatika MahaPhrom” (Pali: Ghatikāra Brahma). Because of this karmic link, Khatika MahaPhrom will be destined in future births to be the one who makes an offering of Atthaborikharn (8 requisites of a monk) to the 5 Buddhas during their pursuit of enlightenment.
This implication has a much deeper philosophical meaning, akin to providing the necessities of life (such as clothing, food etc) in order to aid the Buddha in the pursuit of enlightenment, for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The 5 Buddhas
As eggs were swept into the water and whisked downstream, they each awaited a different fate:
The 1st egg was picked up and cared for by Mae Kai
The 2nd egg was picked up and cared for by Mae Nakarach
(Queen of the Phaya Nak),
The 3rd egg was picked up and cared for by Mae Tao
The 4th egg was picked up and cared for by Mae Kho
The 5th egg was picked up and cared for by Mae Rachasri
(Mother Lion). Pic: Mae Nakarach (Phaya Nak)
Picture Credit: Chaikom/Shutterstock.com Pic: Mae Rachasri
Picture Credit: likovaka/Shutterstock.com
When the eggs hatched, 5 charming human beings with handsome features emerged. These 5 Bodhisatta grew up in the care of their respective stepmothers. The 5 filial children fulfilled their duties to their stepmothers until they were 12 years old, when they decided to live vagrant lives in the forests as wandering hermits, in a quest to perfect their Baramee in the pursuit of Buddhahood (a process known as BamPen Baramee Phra Potiyan
Their stepmothers each understood the magnitude of their child’s destiny. They christened each of them before they left on their respective journeys;
1) Mae Kai named her child “Phra Kakusantho
2) Mae Nakarach named her child “Phra Konakhamano”,
3) Mae Tao named her child “Phra KassaPoh”,
4) Mae Kho named her child “Phra Khotamo
5) Mae Rachasri named her child “Phra Sri Ariyamettraiyo”,
From that day on, a specific katha emerged, used to honour the 5 Buddhas. The katha goes like this:
Na Ma Pa Ta
Ja Pa Ka Sa
Na Ma A U
Padjayo hotu satu
The short representative katha goes like this:
Na Mo Put Ta Ya
Na – represents Phra Kakusantho
Mo – represents Phra Konakhamano
Put – represents Phra KassaPoh
Ta – represents Phra Khotamo
Ya – represents Phra Sri Ariyamettraiyo
Thus the word “Na Mo Put Ta Ya” invokes the blessings of the 5 Buddhas of this aeon.
Pic: (left) Na Mo Phutta Ya written in Khom, (right) example of Na Mo Phutta Ya drawn as a yant
The Meeting of the 5 Hermits
The 5 wandering hermits applied themselves fully to their meditation practice and achieved a level known as ApinyaSombat. Up to this point, however, they had never met each other.
One day they were looking for food. With their newfound supernatural powers attained through meditation, they were able to levitate themselves in search of fruits suspended in the forest canopy. As fate would have it, their paths would cross, in the shade of massive Banyan tree in a forest called Pah Doi Singh Kuttara
. The tree where they met, came to be known as Ton NiCroth.
They related stories of their childhood to each other and found similarities. Their stepmothers had all found them as eggs, and raised them as their own.
Curious about whether they shared a birth mother, they recited a special prayer called Sajja-Arthitan
, hoping to reveal her true identity. See Also
Because of their mental purity, the strength of their prayer resonated to Phrommalok, where their mother was now residing. She had been reborn in Phrommalok as Tao Khatika MahaPhrom. Upon her hearing their prayers, Tao Khatika MahaPhrom manifested herself as a white crow to the wandering ascetics. They instantly recognised her as their mother.
Woefully, their mother related the story of their birth and the tragedy that had befallen her. She related to them how she was reborn as a MahaPhrom
in heaven named Suthawas, at the level of Phrommalok, and now lived in a golden castle.
After hearing of her story, the 5 hermits were touched by the boundless love and sacrifice their mother had for them, and they prostrated themselves before her in deference. They asked for a keepsake from their mother, and she gave each of them a wick called “Dai Faan Teen Kar
” closely resembling a crow’s leg. Thus began the practice of forming similar wicks out of cotton, and igniting them during Uposatha days in remembrance of their mother. (see footnotes 3) Pic: Dai Faan Teen Kar
Picture Credit: GUNDAM_Ai/Shutterstock.com
After that, they continue to perfect their Sila, Samadhi and Panna continuously till the day they passed away. They were reborn infinite times until their Baramee 30 Tad is perfected. Before they take their last birth to attain Buddhahood, they will be reborn in TewaLok Chan Dusitpipob(Tusita Heaven
) due to the merits of their perfected virtues. Once any of the hermits take their last birth to achieve Buddhahood, Tao Khatika MahaPhrom will arrive to offer them the Atthaborikharn.
Significance to the Loy Krathong Festival
During the Loy Krathong festival, which takes place on Keun Sip Ha Kam
(the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai calendar), Thais light candles and float them down rivers. Besides giving thanks and asking for forgiveness from Phra Mae Kong Ka(the guardian of water), this practice also reminds and gives significance/remembrance/pre-eminence to the White Crow (Tao Khatika MahaPhrom) and the Buddhas. Pic: Loy Krathong festival (Picture Credit: left, CRStudio/Shutterstock.com, Right, ArisaraPunyawi/Shutterstock.com)
In the Buddhist scriptures, Ghatikāra Brahma was said to have offered the 8 requisites of a monk to Bodhisatta Gotama when he sneaked out of the palace and decided to lead an ascetic life, in pursuit of true enlightenment.
Having practised extreme austerity for 6 years, the Bodhisatta collapsed due to starvation and fatigue. He was nursed back to health by Sujātā
, who brought him food daily. Pic: A statue of Bodhisatta Gotama reduced to skin and bones from practising austerity (Picture Credit: wimammoth/Shutterstock.com)
The legend goes that one day, Bodhisatta Gotama ripped a small piece of cloth from his robe and twisted it into a wick (reminiscent of the legend where Ghatikāra Brahma appeared as Mae Kar Phuek to give the 5 aspiring Buddhas-to-be a keepsake) and placed it in his bowl.
He then ignited the wick, and set the bowl down into the river. As the candle floated downriver, he declared; “If I am to attain enlightenment, may this bowl flow upstream.” At this exact moment, the bowl began to be pushed upstream by a rogue current, all the while, remaining in the centre of the stream (which symbolizes the middle path as taught by Gotama Buddha when he attained enlightenment).
In remembrance of this incident, candles are floated downriver during Loy Krathong. (see footnotes 4)
1) In Theravada Buddhism, a Kappa is defined as a single phase of a World Cycle. The World Cycle, otherwise known as Maha Kappa, comprises the phases of formation, duration, destruction and a void awaiting the formation of the next universe. These cycles may be further divided into 2 categories; Suñña-Kappa
(an aeon in which no Buddhas appear) and Buddha-Kappa (where one or more Buddha appears)
There are 5 types of Buddha-Kappa;
in which only one Buddha appears,
2. Manda-kappa, two Buddhas appear
3. Vara-kappa, three Buddhas appear
4. Saramanda-kappa, four Buddhas appear
5. Bhadda-kappa, five Buddhas appear
2) In Buddhism, it is taught that a living being goes through an endless cycle of suffering, death and rebirth. Through the teachings of the Buddha, a being is offered a chance at respite from cosmic torment by escaping this endless cycle.
The birth of a Buddha on Earth, however, is a rare occurrence. In order to become a Buddha, one requires many Kappas to perfect their Paramis
In Mahayana Buddhism, someone who aspires to be enlightened as a Buddha is called a Bodhisatta. However, in Theravada Buddhism, a Bodhisatta means “Future Buddha”.
In Theravada Buddhism, there are 8 conditions to be fulfilled before one can be considered a Bodhisatta;
- Being human,
- Must be a male,
- Fulfilled conditions to be able to achieve Arahantship in that lifetime,
- Must meet with a living Buddha (to receive a prophecy that the Bodhisatta will achieve Buddhahood in future),
- One who believes in the Law of Kamma, or be in the order of monks during the dispensation of a Buddha,
- Mastering the 8 jhanas (levels of super concentration) and achieving the 5 supernatural powers (see Apinya),
- Must be prepared to lay down his life for the sake of the Buddha,
- Must possess the strong will/wish for Buddhahood that cannot be broken throughout the woefulness of countless rebirths
When these 8 conditions are fulfilled, and one receives verbal confirmation from a Buddha, he may be considered a Bodhisatta. In Theravada, a term “Paramo”
(highest) is used to describe a Bodhisatta, these beings are endowed with extraordinary virtues, skills, supernatural prowess (described as the ability to “shake World Systems” in the Mahayana Sutras) and having the ability to achieve Nibbana peace, yet choosing to postpone it out of compassion for others, by guiding them out of the cycle of endless births, deaths and rebirths.
3) Uposatha days – In countries that practise Theravada Buddhism, Uposatha is observed about 4 times a month, in accordance with the four lunar phases: the new moon, the full moon, and the two-quarter moons in between. In some communities in Asia, only the new moon and full moon are observed as Uposatha days.