Adhiṭṭhāna (Pali; from adhi meaning "higher" or "best" plus sthā meaning "standing") has been translated as "decision," "resolution," "self-determination," "will" and "resolute determination." In the late canonical literature of Theravada Buddhism, Adhiṭṭhāna is one of the ten "perfections" (dasa pāramiyo), exemplified by the Bodhisatta's resolve to become fully Awakened.
Pali Canon texts
While Adhiṭṭhāna appears sporadically in the early Pali Canon, various late-canonical and post-canonical accounts of The Buddha's past lives clearly contextualize Adhiṭṭhāna within the Theravadin tenfold perfections.
Digha Nikaya analysis
- 'Four kinds of resolve (adhiṭṭhānī): [to gain] (a) Wisdom, (b) Truth (Sacca), (c) relinquishment (cāga), (d) tranquility (upasama).'
so you too must be constantly stable in resolute determination;
going on to the perfection of Resolute Determination, you will attain Self-Awakening.
Yathā'pi pabbato selo acalo suppatiṭṭhito
Na kampati bhusavātehi sakaṭṭhāne'va tiṭṭhati.
Tathe'ca tvampi adhiṭṭhāne sabbadā acalo Bhava
Adhiṭṭhānapāramiṃ gantvā sambodhiṃ pāpuṇissasi.
Temiya the Wise
In the late-canonical Cariyapitaka, there is one account explicitly exemplifying Adhiṭṭhāna, that of "Temiya the Wise" (Cp III.6, Temiya paṇḍita cariyaṃ). In this account, at an early age Temiya, sole heir to a throne, recalls a past Life in Purgatory (niraya) and thus asks for release (kadāhaṃ imaṃ muñcissaṃ). In response, a compassionate devatā advises Temiya to act unintelligent and foolish and to allow himself to be an object of people's scorn. Understanding the devatā's virtuous intent, Temiya agrees to this and acts as if mute, deaf and crippled. Seeing these behaviors but finding no physiological basis for them, priests, generals and countrymen decry Temiya as "inauspicious" and plan to have Temiya cast out. When Temiya is sixteen years old, he is ceremonially anointed and then buried in a pit. The account concludes:
- ... I did not break that resolute determination which was for the sake of Awakening itself. Mother and father were not disagreeable to me and nor was self disagreeable to me. Omniscience (sabbaññuta) was dear to me, therefore I resolutely determined on that itself. Resolutely determining on those factors I lived for sixteen years. There was no one equal to me in resolute determination — this was my perfection of Resolute Determination.
Many, many years ago, the City of Benares was ruled by a king of the Mughapakkha caste, named Kasi. As was the custom at that time, the King had a Chief Queen and many other consorts in his court. None of his queens, however, had any children. This was a grave concern to the king and the ministers, as there was no one to carry on the royal lineage.
The Chief Queen, Chandra, who was a very virtuous and generous queen, decided that she would perform many meritorious deeds and pray that she would have a son as a result of her wholesome actions. She started in earnest to perform acts of generosity and compassion to the poor and needy. Then she aspired that she would have a son resulting from the effects of her good actions.
Before long Queen Chandra gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who was our Bodhisatta. The joyful king named the baby prince Temiya and offered the queen a boon for having given him a son. The overjoyed queen, deciding that in having a son she had everything she needed, asked the king if she could have her boon at a later date.
From a young age it was apparent that this baby was different from others. He seemed to observe and comprehend all that was happening around Him. The proud father took the baby everywhere, and so it happened that the young Prince witnessed the torture and execution of four persons who were accused and convicted of robbery.
Young as He was, Prince Temiya realized that one day, as king, He too would be expected to punish wrongdoers in this manner. A vision of a previous birth, when as king He had been instrumental in torturing wrongdoers and the resulting birth and torment of 80,000 years in an unhappy realm passed through the young Prince's mind. He knew that He did not want to be a king. But being the only heir to the throne there did not seem to be a way out.
Reflecting thus, the Prince decided that He would need to act in such a manner that the throne would not be given to Him. Pretending to be mute, deaf and mentally incompetent the Prince changed His behaviour. The promise of an heir-apparent slowly faded before the eyes of King Kasi. This child was different. But He was not extraordinarily intelligent and wise as the king had thought. He was, in the eyes of the king, a dumb mute.
The queen tenderly cared for her child, lavishing all her love on the little lost boy who could neither speak nor hear. She bathed Him and fed Him, as it was soon apparent that Prince Temiya was totally incapable of taking care of Himself.
The king, however, was ashamed of his son. Of what use was this son who could never be king? Summoning his charioteer, Sunanda, he commanded him to take the Prince, who was now sixteen years of age, to the cemetery. "Kill Him", said the cruel king, "Kill Him and bury His body. Then bring back the royal jewels that He wears."
Queen Chandra was heart-broken at his words. In tears she reminded the king of the boon he had promised her at the birth of their child. "Let Him live," lamented the queen, "I will take care of Him. Please let Him live." Amidst the pleas of the queen, the young Prince was taken to the cemetery to His death.
Stopping the chariot with the Prince at a suitable place, Sunanda started to dig a grave in preparation of Prince Temiya's death. Prince Temiya then arose from His seat and walked calmly towards Sunanda. At the sound of footsteps Sunanda set aside his spade and turned to behold a radiant and glowing Prince. "I am not a deaf mute," said Prince Temiya, "I had to act that way as my father would never have agreed to let me take the holy life. This is the only way that I could avoid my royal heritage. Take these royal treasures back to the king and queen. Let them know that their son has taken the holy life of an ascetic. Then bring them back to the forest glade where I will dwell."
As requested, Sunanda took the jewels back and consoled the grieving queen by telling her the truth. The king and queen visited their young son who had acted with such conviction and determination to avoid the unwholesome deeds He would have had to perform as king. On hearing their son speak of the effects of wrongdoing and the extremes to which He had gone to in order to avoid wrongdoing, the king changed his ways. He decided to rule his kingdom with righteousness and gave permission for the young Prince to remain in the holy life. On completing the virtue of determination the Bodhisatta declared: