15. “Whatever beings (non-human) are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute the Buddha, the Tathagata (the perfect One), honored by gods and men. May there be happiness
16. “Whatever beings are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute the perfect Dhamma, honored by gods and men. May there be happiness.
17. “Whatever beings are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, come let us salute the perfect Sangha, honored by gods and men. May there be happiness.”
I left these 3 verses to the last.
The last 3 verses was recited by an ancient God, named Sakka! This was a testimonial affirmation by a King of celestial beings, that the Triple Gems are precious. Yes, even the celestial beings honored the Buddha. They constantly seek Buddha for advice and teachings too.
Just for a recap.
Ratana sutta was recited to exorcise evil (Famine, disease and evil spirits) from a city (Vesali). Sakka and his retinue had accompanied Buddha to the city of Vesali. Buddha instructed Ananda (his attendant monk) to recite the Ratana sutta while walking around the city; while Ananda was reciting the verses, he would sprinkle water that was in Buddha’s alms bowl around the city. Thus purifying the city of evil energy. The city recovered from famine, diseases and evil spirits after that.
At the conclusion of verse 14, Sakka (a celestial King) recited this 3 verses in exultation.
Buddhist have confidence that they have the support of celestial beings. In Buddhism, we do not dishonor any Gods or religion that promotes good. We believe that since Gods are epitome representations of Good, we just have to practice good to gain their support. Our spiritual position is further strengthened by our mind training. Our right views and understanding offers us wisdom. Buddhist wisdom makes us precious.
I think this Ratana sutta sets a precedent of using water as a medium of purification in blessings and exorcism ceremonies in Buddhism.
It is noteworthy that the inhabitants of Vesali had held massive prayers and offerings to the Gods to ask for help but to no avail. The king of Gods was actually with Buddha and accompanying Buddha. The night before Buddha reached Vesali, a major thunderstorm had occurred suddenly and washed the city clean.
So who is Sakka?
According to Buddhist cosmology, Sakka / Sakra is the king of the 33 heaven. This heaven is the highest heaven in the realm of physical form. That means the beings there have a material body. This heaven is on top of Mount Sumeru.
If we assume the Gods in various culture and religion are the same and try to draw a parallel amongst them; Then Sakka (Sakra) is equivalent to the Jade Emperor (Taoism), Zeus (Greek religion), Indra (Hinduism). And modern believer of aliens believe they are civilisation of other planets (will talk about that another day)
Back to the sutta
In conclusion, Ratana Sutta reminds us of the precious qualities of the Triple Gems. It gives us the confidence that Gods also support Buddha. If all supernatural aspect of happiness is already taken care of, when we have faith in the Triple Gems; What is left for us to do is to focus on our practice and becoming enlightened. In this sutta, the Buddha introduced the lowest attainment (Stream winner) Being enlightened is the only way to ultimate happiness and freedom from sufferings.
May all be well and happy.