At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesāli, in the peaked hall in the great forest. Then, in the early morning the Blessed One put on the robes and taking his almsbowl and double-robe he entered Vesāli for alms. On that occasion five hundred Licchavī had assembled at the Sārandada shrine and were sitting down together when this conversation arose: “Five treasures are rare and hard to get in the world. What five? The elephant treasure, the horse treasure, the jewel treasure, the woman treasure, and the householder treasure. These five treasures are rare and difficult to get in the world.”
Then those Licchavī stationed a man on the road [saying]: “If, good man, you should see the Blessed One, come and tell us.” That man, seeing the Blessed One from afar, and having seen him, approached those Licchavī, and having approached them said: “Sirs, the Blessed One, the worthy, Fully Enlightened One, is coming; now is the time to do whatever you see fit.”
Then those Licchavī approached the Blessed One, and having approached the Blessed One, they paid homage and stood at one side. Standing at one side the Licchavī said to the Blessed One: “It would be good, venerable sir, if you would approach the Sārandada shrine out of compassion for us.”
The Blessed One consented by remaining silent. Then the Blessed One approached the Sārandada shrine, and having approached, sat down on a seat that had been prepared. Sitting there, the Blessed One said to those Licchavī: “What were you talking about, Licchavī, when you were sitting here? What was the topic of your conversation?”
“Venerable sir, as we were sitting down together here this conversation arose: “Five treasures are rare and hard to get in the world. What five? The elephant treasure, the horse treasure, the jewel treasure, the woman treasure, and the householder treasure. These five treasures are rare and difficult to get in the world.”
“Being intent on sensual pleasures, the Licchavī were talking about sensual pleasures. Five treasures, Licchavī, are rare and difficult to get in the world. What five? The arising of a Tathāgata, a worthy Fully Enlightened Buddha is rare and difficult to get in the world. A person who teaches the Dhamma and discipline made known by the Tathāgata is rare and difficult to get in the world. A person who understands the Dhamma and discipline made known by the Tathāgata when it is taught is rare and difficult to get in the world. A person who, having understood the Dhamma and discipline made known by the Tathāgata, practises in accordance with that Dhamma is rare and difficult to get in the world. A person who is grateful and appreciative is rare and difficult to get in the world.
Thus have I heard. At one the Blessed One was dwelling at the Sārandada shrine. Then, on that occasion five hundred Licchavī approached the Blessed One, and having approached the Blessed One, they paid homage and sat down at once side. As the Licchavī were sitting there the Blessed One said to them:–
“Licchavī, I will teach you seven conditions of non-decline. Listen and pay careful attention, I will speak.”
“Very good, venerable sir,” those Licchavī replied to the Blessed One. The Blessed One said:–
“What, Licchavī, are the seven factors of non-decline?
“As long, Licchavī, as these seven factors of non-decline are maintained by the Vajjī, and as long as the Vajjī are well-established in them — so long may the Vajjī be expected to prosper and not to decline.”
1. This discourse is repeated to Venerable Ānanda in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta when Vassakāra, a minister of King Ajātasattu of Magadha, approaches the Blessed One to find out if their army will be able to defeat the Vajjī in battle. He concludes that they will fail, unless they can sow discord among the Vajjī. There, the Buddha goes on to teach the factors of non-decline for monks.
2. Whilst most other countries at that time were kingdoms, the country of the Vajjī, of which the Licchavī were one confederate clan, was ruled by a group of noble warriors (khattiya), who assembled regularly to discuss matters. It would be wrong to think that it was a Democracy as the rulers were not elected by the people.
3. Modern parliaments are often full of discord, not concord. In some of them fights break-out. The adversarial approach with one party in government and another in opposition does not lend itself to concord. The decisions of the Saṅgha, in most cases, must be unanimous with the assembled members consenting to the decision by their silence. In some cases, a majority verdict is enough.
4. Conservative rather than liberal, at least in its constitution.
5. Respect for elders is best for social stability.
6. In the Buddha’s time, arranged marriages seem to have been the norm, and love marriages the exception. Young women were carefully protected by the family. However, it is clear that, forced marriage is contrary to the Buddha’s advice. In the Soṇa Sutta he describes the ancient practises of Brahmins, one of which was co-habitation by mutual affection, not through some financial arrangements. In the Siṅgala Sutta, one of the duties of parents is to arrange a suitable marriage for their sons. No mention is made of their duties to daughters, but since this discourse was given to a young man, perhaps we can assume that parents also have a duty to arrange a suitable marriage for their daughters. One assumes that good Buddhists will have great compassion for their children and not force them into unwanted relationships, and will give their support and consent to love marriages as long as they are not unsuitable.
8. Buddhist monastics.