The Four Great Kings (Cattāro Mahārājāno) who are believed to have guarded the four directions (Dhatarattha of the East, Virūlhaka of the South, Virūpakkha of the West, and Vessarana of the North (D.ii.207f; iii.194f)) and have protected Buddha since his conception and then later his followers, visited Buddha once while he was meditating at the Griddhkuta. Great King Vessavana told the Buddha that a group identified as Yakkhas (a sub group of people in their retinue) did not, for the most part, believe in the Buddha for the reason that they did not find it pleasant or agreeable to abstain from the things which he had declared to be evil - such as ending once life, theft, etc. And in order that the Buddha's disciples, haunting lonely and in remote parts of the forest where the Yakkhas dwelt, might find protection from them, Vessavana suggested that the Buddha,
"Bhante, may the Blessed One learn the Atanata protection so that the displeased Yakkhas may be pleased, so that the monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen, may be at ease, guarded, protected and unharmed."
The Buddha agreeing, Vessavana proceeded to recite it.
"Homage to Vipassī (the Buddha) possessed of the eye (of wisdom) and splendor. Homage to Sikhi (the Buddha) who is compassionate towards all beings.
Beginning with Vipassī It offers homage to the seven Buddhas, Vippassi, Sikhi, Vessabhu, Kakusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa and Sakyaputta, The remainder of the discourse contains a list of the gods and other superhuman beings, the Four Great Kings heading the list;
The sun rises from the east that is from the east of the Mahaneru (also termed Mahameru) where there is an ocean. Dhatarattha is the lord of that direction. To the south of Mahaneru is Virulha who is the lord of the South; On the west is Virupakkha and on the north is Vessavana. All the four great kings have ninety one sons each, and all those illustrious sons are of the same name 'Inda'. Even these sons worship the Buddha.
He would not give residence to any bad yakkha in his kingdom. Nor would his fellow yakkhas allow such a person to get married. If any non-human was a nuisance to any monk, nun, male lay devotee or female lay devotee, he or she should shout and say that he or she is being disturbed, to the great Yakkhas (whose names are mentioned).
The discourse ends with,
"These are the Yakkhas, mighty Yakkhas, the commanders, the chief commanders to whom (the molested one) should inform, cry aloud and shout saying: 'This Yakkha is seizing me, takes possession of me, is harassing me, assailing me, is harming me, and harming me intensely, and this Yakkha would not let me go!'
"This, Happy One, is the Atanata protection whereby monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen may live at ease, guarded, protected, and unharmed.
Ātānātiya Sutta that is now regarded as a Paritta (protection) was delivered by the Buddha at Griddhkuta. Paritta are the collection of suttas that as per the Pali sources were recommended by the Buddha to recite for warding off the evil fortune or unfavorable situations and for gaining health and happiness. Such recitation is also part of auspicious occasions (The Milinda-Pañha (p.150f)). Parittas is, to this day, more widely known by the laity of the Theravada countries and is generally used in times of danger or of sickness, both individual and national. Thus, Sena II., king of Ceylon, urged the community of monks to recite the Paritta and by sprinkling the water blessed with Paritta he made the people free from illness, and so removed the danger of plague from the country.
Since the Buddha's days, Paritta chanting has become a common practice to shield the followers from the influence of evil spirits, misfortune and sickness. More importantly, chanting the text reinforces the mind’s confidence in the Buddha and the Dhamma, and encourages us to remain virtuous and compassionate in our conduct.
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