Āṭānāṭiya Sutta: The Āṭānāṭā Protective Verses

32. Āṭānāṭiya Sutta: The Āṭānāṭā Protective Verses

1. Thus have I heard:

Once the Lord was staying at Rājagaha on Vultures' Peak.

And the Four Great Kings, with a great array of yakkhas, of gandhabbas, of Kumbaṇḍhas and of nagas, having set up a guard, a defensive force, a watch over the four quarters, as night was drawing to a close, went to see the Lord, lighting up the entire Vultures' Peak with their radiance, saluted him and sat down to one side.

And some of the yakkhas saluted him and sat down to one side, some exchanged courtesies with him before sitting down, same saluted him with joined palms, some announced their name and clan, and some sat down in silence.

2. Then sitting to one side, King Vessavaṇa said to the Lord:

'Lord, there are some prominent yakkhas who have no faith in the Blessed Lord, and others who have faith; and likewise there are yakkhas of middle and lower rank who have no faith in the Blessed Lord, and others who have faith.

But, Lord, the majority of yakkhas have no faith in the Blessed Lord. Why is this?

The Blessed Lord teaches a code of refraining from taking life, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from lying speech, and from strong drink and sloth-producing drugs.

But the majority of the yakkhas do not refrain from these things, and to do so is distasteful and unpleasant to them.

Now, Lord, there are disciples of the Blessed Lord who dwell in remote forest glades, where there is little noise or shouting, far from the madding crowd, hidden from people, suitable for retreat.

And there are prominent yakkhas living there who have no faith in the word of the Blessed Lord.

In order to give these folk confidence, may the Blessed Lord learn the Āṭānāṭā protective verses, by means of which monks and nuns, male and female lay-followers may dwell guarded, protected, unharmed and at their ease?'

And the Lord consented by silence.
3. Then King Vessavaṇa, noting the Lord's consent, at once recited these Āṭānāṭā protective verses:

'Glory be to Vipassī,
The splendid one of mighty vision.
Glory be to Sikhi too,
The compassionate to all.
Glory be to Vessabhū,
Bathed in pure asceticism.
To Kakusandha glory be,
Victor over Mara's host.
To Koṇāgamana glory too,
Brahmin fully perfect he.
Glory be to Kassapa,
Liberated every way,
Glory to Angīrasa,
To the Sakyas' radiant son,
Teacher of the Dhamma he
That overcomes all suffering.
And they who from this world are freed,
Seeing to the heart of things,
They who are so mild of speech,
Mighty and of wisdom too,
To him who helps both gods and men,
To Gotama they offer praise:
In wisdom trained, in conduct too,
Mighty and resourceful too.

4. "The point from where the sun comes up,
Āditya’s child, in mighty arc,
At whose arising shrouding night
Is dispelled and vanishes,
So that with the risen sun
There comes to be what folk call Day,
There too this moving watery mass,
The deep and mighty ocean swells,
This men know, and this they call
Ocean or The Swelling Sea. '
This quarter is the East, or First:
That is how the people call it.
This quarter's guarded by a king,
Mighty in power and fame is he,
Lord of all the gandhabbas.
Dhataraṭṭha is his name,
Honoured by the gandhabbas.
Their songs and dances he enjoys.
He has many mighty sons,
Eighty, ten and one, they say,
And all with but a single name,
Called after Indra, lord of strength.
And when the Buddha greets their gaze,
Buddha, kinsman of the Sun,
From afar they offer homage
To the Lord of wisdom true:
"Hail, o man of noble race!
Hail to you, the first of men!
In kindness you have looked on us,
Who, though not human, honour you!
Often asked, do we revere Gotama the Conqueror? —
We reply: 'We do revere Gotama, great Conqueror,
In wisdom trained, in conduct too,
Buddha Gotama we hail!'"

5. 'Where they whom men call petas dwell,
Abusive speakers, slanderers,
Murderous and greedy folk,
Thieves and cunning tricksters all,
This quarter is the South, they say:
That is how the people call it.
This quarter's guarded by a king,
Mighty in power and fame is he,
Lord of all the Kumbaṇḍhas,
And Virūḷhaka is his name.
Honoured by the Kumbaṇḍhas,
Their songs and dances he enjoys...
(continue as 4).

6. 'The point at which the sun goes down,
Āditya’s child, in mighty arc,
With whose setting day is done
And night, The Shrouder, as men say,
Comes again in daylight's place,
There too this moving watery mass,
The deep and mighty ocean swells,
This they know, and this men call
Ocean, or The Swelling Sea.
This quarter is the West, or Last:
Such is how the people call it.
This quarter's guarded by. a king,
Mighty in power and fame is he,
Lord of all the nāga folk,
And Virūpakkha is his name.
Honoured by the nāga folk,
Their songs and dances he enjoys...
(continue as 4).

7. 'Where lovely Northern Kuru lies,
Under mighty Meru fair,
There men dwell, a happy race,
Possessionless, not owning wives.
They have no need to scatter seed,
They have no need to draw the plough:
Of itself the ripened crop
Presents itself for men to eat.
Free from powder and from husk,
Sweet of scent, the finest rice,
Boiling on hot oven-stones,
Such the food that they enjoy.
The ox their single-seated mount,
Thus they ride about the land.
Using women as a mount,
Thus they ride about the land;
Using men to serve as mount,
Thus they ride about the land;
Using maidens as a mount,
Thus they ride about the land;
The Āṭānāṭā Protective Verses
Using boys to serve as mount,
Thus they ride about the land.
And so, carried by such mounts,
All the region they traverse In the service of their king.
Elephants they ride, and horses too,
Cars fit for gods they have as well.
Splendid palanquins are there
For the royal retinue.
Cities too they have, well-built,
Soaring up into the skies:
Āṭānāṭā, Kusināṭā,
Parakusināṭā,
Nāṭapuriya is theirs,
And Parakusitanāṭā.
Kapīvanta's to the north,
Janogha, other cities too,
Navanavatiya, Ambara- Ambaravatiya, Āḷakamandā, city royal,
But where Kuvera dwells, their lord
Is called Visāṇā, whence the king Bears the name Vessavaṇa.
Those who bear his missions are
Tatolā, Tattalā,Tototalā,
then Tejasi, Tatojasi,
Sūra, Rājā, Ariṭṭha, Nemi.
There's the mighty water Dharani,
Source of rain-clouds which pour down
When the rainy season comes.
Bhagavatī’s there, the hall
That is the yakkhas' meeting-place,
Round it ever-fruiting trees
Full of many kinds of birds,
Where peacocks scream and herons cry,
And the cuckoo gently calls.
The jīva-bird who cries: "Live on!"
And he that sings: "Lift up your hearts!",
The pheasant-cock, kulīraka,
The forest-crane, the rice-bird too,
And mynah-birds that mimic man,
And those whose name is "men on stilts".
And there for ever beauteous lies
Fair Kubera’s lotus-lake.
This quarter is the North, they say:
That is how the people call it.
This quarter's guarded by a king,
Mighty in power and fame is he,
Lord of all the yakkha folk,
And Kuvera is his name.
Honoured by the yakkha folk,
Their songs and dances he enjoys.
He has many mighty sons,
Eighty, ten and one, they say,
And all with but a single name,
Called after Indra, lord of strength.
And when the Buddha greets their gaze,
Buddha, kinsman of the Sun,
From afar they offer homage
To the Lord of wisdom true:
"Hail, o man of noble race!
Hail to you, the first of men!
In kindness you have looked on us,
Who, though not human, honour you!
Often asked, do we revere Gotama the Conqueror? —
We reply: 'We do revere Gotama, great Conqueror,
In wisdom trained, in conduct too,
Buddha Gotama we hail!'"'

8. 'These, sir, are the Āṭānāṭā protective verses, by means of which monks and nuns, male and female lay-followers may dwell guarded, protected, unharmed and at ease.

If any monk or nun, male or female lay-follower learns these verses well and has them off by heart, then if any non-human being, male or female yakkha or yakkha-offspring,

or a chief attendant or servant of the yakkhas, any male or female gandhabba,... kumbhanda,. . . nāga,. . .

should approach that person with hostile intent while he or she is walking or starting to walk, standing or rising to stand, seated or sitting down, lying down or starting to lie down, that non-human being would not gain any honour or respect in village or town.

Such a being would not gain a footing or lodging in my royal city of Āḷakamandā, he would not be admitted to the yakkhas' assembly, nor would he be acceptable for taking or giving in marriage.

And all the non-human beings, full of rage, would overwhelm him with abuse. Then they would bend down his head like an empty bowl, and they would split his skull into seven pieces.

9. 'There are, sir, some non-human beings who are fierce, wild and terrible. They heed neither the Great Kings, nor their officers, nor their attendants.

They are said to be in revolt against the Great Kings. Just as the bandit-chiefs whom the King of Magadha has overcome do not heed him, or his officers, or their attendants, so too do they behave.

Now if any yakkha or yakkha-offspring,... gandhabba,... should approach any monk, nun, male or female lay-follower...with hostile intent, that person should alarm, call out and shout

to those yakkhas, the great yakkhas, their commanders and commanders-in-chief, saying: "This yakkha has seized me, has hurt me, harmed me, injured me, and will not let me go!"

10. 'Which are the yakkhas, the great yakkhas, their commanders and commanders-in-chief? They are:

Indra, Soma, Varuṇa,
Bhāradvāja, Prajāpati,
Candana, Kāmaseṭṭha,
Kinnughaṇḍu and Nighaṇḍu,
Panada, Opamañña,
Devasūta, Mātali,
Cittasena the gandhabba,
Naḷa, Rājā, Janesabha,
Sātāgira, Hemavata,
Puṇṇaka, Karatiya, Gula,
Sīvaka, Mucalinda too,
Vessāmitta, Yugandhara,
Gopāla, Suppagedha too,
Hirī, Netti and Mandiya,
Pañcālacaṇḍa, Āḷavaka,
Pajunna, Sumana, Sumukha,
Dadimukha, Maṇi too,
Then Mānicara, Dīgha,
And, finally, Serissaka.

These are the yakkhas, great yakkhas, their commanders and commanders-in-chief who should be called upon in case of such an attack.

11. 'And these, sir, are the Āṭānāṭā protective verses by means of which monks and nuns, male and female lay-followers may dwell guarded, protected, unharmed and at ease.

And now, sir, we must go: we have many duties, many things to do.'

'Do so, Kings, when you think fit.'

And the Four Great Kings stood up, saluted the Lord, passed by on his right side, and vanished.

And the yakkhas stood up, and some saluted the Lord, passed by on his right, and vanished, some exchanged courtesies with the Lord, some saluted him with joined palms, some announced their name and clan, some remained silent, and they all vanished.

12. And when the night was over, the Lord said to the monks: 'Monks, this night the Four Great Kings...came to see the Lord...(repeat the whole of verses 1—11).

13. 'Monks, you should learn these Āṭānāṭā protective verses, master them and remember them. They are for your benefit, and through them monks and nuns, male and female lay- followers may dwell guarded, protected, unharmed and at ease.'

Thus the Lord spoke. And the monks were delighted and rejoiced at his words.