Past Vows of Sakka (Seven Habits of a Truly Superior Person)

Venue: TIMS

Just last Thursday, many Chinese here celebrated the birthday of “Thyi Kong” (YuWangDaTi or Jade Emperor) by honouring him and asking for his blessings. In the Buddhist scriptures, this powerful deity is known as Sakka Devaraja. He has many names, but Sakka is the most commonly used name in the Pali scriptures, while devaraja means “king of the devas (deities)”.

In the Samyutta Nikaya (1:11) it is said that when Sakka was a human being, he made and put into practice seven vows. As a result, he was reborn as Sakka. These are his vows:

    • As long as I live, may I support my parents.
    • As long as I live, may I respect the family elders.
    • As long as I live, may I speak gently.
    • As long as I live, may I not speak divisive words.
    • As long as I live, may I dwell at home with a mind that is generous, delighting in relinquishment; devoted to charity; delighting in giving and sharing—devoid of stinginess.
    • As long as I live, may I speak the truth.
    • As long as I live, may I be free from anger; but should anger occur in me, may I discard it quickly.

The devas of Tavatimsa called him a “truly superior person”—such were his exemplary habits.

With regards to anger, we can understand that this emotion is something that can easily arise under a great variety of circumstances. One likely chance for it to arise is when meeting with an antagonistic person. In such a situation, the Buddha prescribed four ways to dispel anger. Firstly, we can apply metta (loving-kindness) towards the person. If that doesn’t work, we should try karuna (compassion). If that too does not work, then we should use upekkha. If that still doesn’t work, we can then reflect on the fact that beings are owners of their kamma.

While it is good to honour the Jade Emperor with material things and ask for his blessings, it would be even better to try cultivating these wonderful habits of his that made him what he is. In that way, I believe he would be much more honoured, and perhaps more likely to shower you with his blessings!

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