The minds of children are like a blank canvas and how their young minds begin to develop depends on how the adults around them ‘paint a masterpiece’ creating the good and happy future for a child.
When raising our children, we need to begin teaching them right from wrong at an early age. A good ethical education along with sound moral principles will ensure that they will grow up to be good people, not only in their own families, but also good citizens in their schools, communities, countries and in the world.
The World Peace Ethics Club, Dhammakaya Foundation, Wat Phra Dhammakaya, all other Wat Phra Dhammakaya Centers around the world and the International Buddhism Society, in support of His Holiness Somdet Phra Maharatchamongkhalachan, are very aware of the importance of early and consistent values education for all children. In response to this need, in 2008, they established for the first time the World Peace Ethics Contest (World-PEC) for Young People for International and bilingual schools.
The goal is to educate children in basic moral principles regardless of their nationality and religious belief, so that they can use these principles as guidelines in their daily life. We view Buddhism as a way of life, a philosophy for living, which can be integrated into any culture and religious practice.
I compiled this book in Thai while I was a medical student at Chulalongkorn University. At that time, the International Buddhism Society used it as the manual for the Annual Dhamma Contest ‘The Path of Progress’ for Thai youths. Each time the contest was held, the contents of the book were improved and adapted, to reflect the society at the time.
Due to its popularity, the book has been re-published many times and each time the contents have been reviewed and up-dated. It has also been translated into a number of languages and is now available in Thai, English, Mandarin Chinese and Malay. The book is a suitable guide for the worldwide World Peace Ethics Contest (World-PEC) for Young People and it is now available in both a primary school and secondary school edition.
May your good intentions in using this book bring you wisdom, true happiness and peace. May you have the ability to learn and achieve understanding (true knowledge). May your learning help you toward creating harmony and sustaining world peace, for the benefit of all of us.
17th July, 2008 (Asarnha Puja Day)
‘Values Education for Peace’ contains moral principles suitable for everyone. The contents of this book are based on the original teachings of the Buddha, found in the Mangala Sutta, known as The Discourse on Blessings. It consists of thirty-eight Blessings (mangala) beginning with the first Blessing: Not Associate with Fools; the second Blessing: Associate with the Wise, then onto the thirty-eighth Blessing, which is the Blissful Mind. The Mangala Sutta can be found in the Khuddaka Nikaya Sutta Nipatta or the first book of the Minor Collection in the Tipitaka. The thirty-eight Blessings of life are the Lord Buddha’s principles which should be studied and practiced by us all.
What are the Blessings of Life?
Many scholars say that the Blessings are the path that leads to progress, happiness and prosperity. According to the Thai Royal Institute Dictionary of the year 1982, the Blessings are the ’cause’ of prosperity. Therefore, the Blessings of Life are the cause of happiness, progress, and prosperity in life.
The Blessings: The Cause of Progress and Prosperity
Progress can be divided into three levels:
- Progress in This Life: For example when we are children, progress may refer to being successful in our education. When we grow up, developing our social status and earning a lot of money with the potential to become rich, well-known and to have a good family and job are the possible progress.
- Progress in the next life: It means that if we do a lot of good deeds and have a lot of merit, we will go to a good place after leaving this life.
- To reach Nirvana: This is the highest progress of all.
Conducting ourselves according to the principles of these Blessings will lead us to these three levels of progress. The content of these Blessings mainly focuses on how to avoid the causes of deterioration and concentrates on how to do good deeds through our body, speech, and mind at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. If we practice them, we will be mindful and wise, which is necessary to get rid of all of the obstacles of life, evil deeds and sins. The Blessings will lead us to progress in this life and our next life and finally help us to reach Nirvana.
The Blessings as a Guide to Preaching
The preaching of the Buddhist monks, especially from the well-respected ones who are well-known for giving teachings, is usually based on the thirty-eight Blessings. Among the respected Teaching Monks are:
Phramongkolthepmuni, the Abbot of the temple of Paknam Bhasicharoen in Thailand.
Phrasirimangkhlachan, a monk in the Middle Age during the reign of the King Mengraimaharat, who wrote a book about the Blessings in the Pali1 language which later became a guide for preaching. Nowadays, it is used as a textbook for Academic Buddhist study and those studying the Scriptures in the Pali language.
1Pali is an lndo-Aryan language from India. It is best known as the language of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, as collected in the ”Pali Canon” Pali Canon or Tipitaka, and as the language liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism.
From the information above, it is obvious that the thirty-eight Blessings are appropriate for studying because of two reasons:
- The Blessings are easy to understand, studying them in a systematic way will help people understand the teachings more easily.
- The Blessings are practical and they are organized from the easiest topic to the most difficult one. The people who study them can practice the Blessings step by step, similar to climbing up a staircase.
Why Do We Have to Study the Blessings?
In school when we study further, it is possible to achieve a higher level of academic knowledge and later to find a good job and earn a good living. However, at some stage we begin to realize that these things alone are not fulfilling and by doing only these; they will never help us to reach true happiness. Worldly knowledge only helps us to make a living on the materialistic level, but does not support our deeper spiritual development.
However, a human being consists of two parts: the body and mind. The body needs food for nourishment, for preventing hunger and for giving us energy. It also needs nutrients to support its growth and to stay healthy. Likewise, the mind needs sustaining ‘food’ for it to remain healthy. The highest ‘mental food’ is the Dhamma or Lord Buddha’s teachings. The Dhamma will ‘lift up’ the mind and protect it from greed, anger and delusion. The mind will experience true happiness with the input of Dhamma, so the body and mind can work in harmony for the most balanced and fulfilling life.
Therefore, it is clear that we need to study Dhamma, especially the thirty-eight Blessings of life, not only are they easy to practice and understand, but are also the most important gift for our mind.
The Origin of the Blessings of Life
Many centuries ago, people in India were very enquiring and alert in asking questions about life, spirit and the soul. The questions such as: ”Where did we come from before we were born? Where would we go when we die? How to achieve happiness in life? How can we be successful at work?” These questions were often asked and some people would gather in public parks, at city gates and near monuments in order to discuss these important questions.
When more people joined the group, more opinions and ideas were proposed. The people who put forward suggestions, tried their very best to convince others to believe them. If any of their ideas were believed by others, the person who first put proposed the idea, would become a teacher gaining many students and followers.
Public discussions were normally thriving and joyful events with many questions being discussed and witty speeches given one after another. But unexpectedly during a discussion, someone proposed a new the topic to the meeting:
”What are the Blessings of life?”
This question was considered not to be very difficult. However, when a person answered this question, his opinion was disgracefully disproved by someone else.
”Ladies and gentlemen, please listen to me. I know what the Blessings of life are.” said someone. “The things that our eyes see are the Blessings of life. Please notice, when we wake up in the morning, we see many birds flying in the sky, the sunrise, green trees and cute little children. These views are considered to be the Blessings of life.”
Right after he finished his speech, another man argued immediately. “Wait, ladies and gentlemen, don’t believe him yet. What he said is impossible. If the things that our eyes see are considered to be the Blessings of life, then if we see excrements, urine or ill people, these views are considered too to be the Blessings of life? This cannot be true.”
“The Blessings of life has to be our ears. The sounds that we hear are the Blessings of life. When we wake up in the morning, we hear bird’s singing, beautiful songs, the teasing sound of the mothers who play with their children, a nice conversation between people etc. These sounds are the Blessings of life.”
Immediately after that, another man protested: “That’s impossible. If the sound that we hear are the Blessings of life, then when we hear people scolding, yelling at each other or lying; are these sounds too the Blessings of life? It has to be our emotions. Think about it, when we wake up, we smell good scented flowers, wear clean clothes, and eat delicious food. These are the emotions we feel each day and these are the Blessings of life.”
Suddenly, there was another man arguing: “That’s impossible. If the emotions are the Blessings of life, then when we smell stinky things, touch dirty objects, or have evil thoughts, are those bad emotions too the Blessings of life?”
The discussion on what the Blessings of life were was expanded widely into the entire region into homes, Parliaments, clubs, among travelers, etc. the question about the Blessings was discussed everywhere.
Not only human beings but also angels discussed it when they heard the discussion. All types of angels, including Brahmas (Gods), discussed this topic. This topic became increasingly involved and the three worlds: human, angel and Brahma world tried to figure out the answer, but no-one could tell them what the Blessings of life are.
However, there was a type of Brahma, who when he was a human practiced meditation until he became a Non-Returner.2 Therefore, he knew what the Blessings of life were but he could not explain them in words. To help the others he announced to all the angels that in twelve years, the Lord Buddha would be born. Please wait until then and ask Him this question.
2The non-returner does not come back into human existence, or any lower world, after death. Instead, he is reborn in one of the worlds of the “Pure Abodes” in the Brahma world, where he will attain Nirvana. Such a person is partially enlightened, and on the way to perfect and complete Enlightenment.
When the Lord Buddha was enlightened, one night when he was at ]eta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery near Savatthi City, Sakka, the King of the Gods came with many angels to visit Him, and ordered one of the angels to ask the Lord Buddha what the Blessings of life are.
The Lord Buddha then taught them the thirty-eight Blessings of life. His Blessings are not concerned with materiality or any other things, but only focused on practicing how to properly conduct ourselves.
Although the principles that the Lord Buddha explained were inarguably and reasonably perfect. This did not mean that all the teachers, thinkers and leaders of doctrines would give up their own ideas and believe Him. This was due to their egos. Although they realized that they were wrong, they still insisted that their ideas were correct. Their followers continue to convinced people to believe what their teachers said. This resulted in two kinds of Blessings of life and both of them have been conducted and practiced up until now. We call them:
- The Blessings of the Thinkers: In Thai these Blessings are called “Mongkhon Mee” (the ‘Have’ Blessings.) The people who believe in this kind of Blessings will hold on to an object and consider that object as a Blessing. They feel that they are blessed by having that object. In some places, this object ts considered to be a blessing however, in other places the exact same thing may be considered to be an inauspicious object.
- The Blessings of the Lord Buddha: In Thai these Blessings are called “Mongkhon Tham” (the ‘Perform’ Blessings.) We call them, “The Discourse on Blessings”. These Blessings focus on the practice and conduct of a person as a standard. It is an unchangeable truth that whoever practices these Blessings will be rewarded in the end.
The Blessings of the thinkers, once proposed, will be easily disproved, and will be proposed again by another person like a cycle that has no end. However, the Blessings of the Lord Buddha, once explained, no one could disprove or argue against. Although the Lord Buddha always gave a chance to whoever would like to criticize it, they could do, just like the phrase in the chanting for paying respect to the Lord Buddha’s teaching:
“Ehipassiko……..please come and prove it.”
Principles of the Ten Blessing Groups
A simple and easy way to study the thirty-eight Blessings of life is to imagine ourselves as parents and ask ourselves how we want our children to be like when they grow up. Imagine if we were an older brother or sister, what we want our younger sister or brother to become. Or imagine if we were the big boss of a company, what qualifications we want our staff to have.
The answer of the perfect people who we want is that they are:
- To be good people: No one wants colleagues or friends who are wicked or bad. Good people are loved and wanted everywhere.
- To have supporting factors for self-improvement: In order to become successful in life, one needs a good opportunity and preparation to improve and develop themselves, and to practice good deeds.
- To be self-sufficient: If we only have courage to do things without knowing how to do it properly, then we will not succeed in completing our jobs. No one wants to employ this kind of people.
- To have a stable family relationship: The family members do not fight or argue with each other. The financial standing of the family needs to be clear to prevent worries and anxieties which otherwise can undermine the family stability.
- To be generous: This includes being kind and unselfish, and being willing to help others and sacrifice themselves for the benefits of the others as a whole.
These five qualities listed above are the characteristics of the people who others always welcome and want to have around. However, we do not exactly know how to improve and develop ourselves to achieve these qualities. In fact, the Lord Buddha taught us how to improve ourselves with the thirty-eight Blessings of Life being the best way towards that goal.
Blessing Group 1:
Prerequisites for a Good Person
Blessing 1: Not Associating with Fools
Blessing 2: Associating with the Wise
Blessing 3: Expressing Respect to Those Worthy of Respect
Our habits and behaviors are derived from the environment and people around us. We will gradually imitate those we admire and try to become just like them. If we have friends who like to drink alcohol, we will also start drinking. Therefore, if we would like to be a good person we should:
- Not Associating with Fools prevents us from being a fool and having bad habits and negative thoughts. We should be very selective about who we have as our friends.
- Associating with the Wise ensures the best of good and moral behavior.
- Expressing Respect to Those Worthy of Respect maintains and improves our good habits. We should honor those who act in positive and good ways. We should become more observant to our own faults and use good role models as examples to follow. Those who act habitually well and maintain the higher levels of virtues are a fine example for us all to imitate.
Blessing Group 2:
Fundamental Preparation for a Good Person
Blessing 4: Living in an Amenable Location
Blessing 5: Having Done Good Deeds in One’s Past
Blessing 6: Setting Oneself up Properly in Life
Have you ever wondered why people are so different from each other? How can it be that one person has more skills than the other even though they are the same age with a similar background? Why does this person have a high education and why are they successful in life whereas the other person experiences nothing but failure?
The answer is that the two of them are trained differently. Why is that? It is because they do not have the same opportunity and factors that support their self-improvement. Speaking of the factors, those who would like to train themselves need to have the following factors:
- Living in an Amenable Location: They should select and improve the living environments which are suitable for their self and family life.
It is like planting a bodhi tree, if we plant it in a small pot, it will always have limited growth. However, if we plant it in a large area where there is rich soil all around, soon it will become a big tree and flourish.
Likewise, those who would like to improve themselves should live in a good and comfortable environment so it will be easier for them to have good resources as they can find good teachers and they do not have to encounter too many practical difficulties. It is understood that the environment around us, including the people, will affect us as to whether we are good people or not. If the environment lacks virtue, it will hinder peoples’ spiritual growth.
- Having Done Good Deeds in One’s Past: This includes both good deeds they have done in the past and present lifetimes.
The good deeds in our past lifetime results in us being a person who is healthy, intelligent, witty and are generally always in a good mood. We will be successful in life with whatever we do.
The good deeds or positive qualities in this life such as diligence, observing the precepts3 and practicing meditation will support us throughout our life. Whoever has done good deeds in the past life, but never attempts to do new good deeds, tends to make a mistakes.
3Precepts: the minimum set of moral conduct (see Blessing 9)
For example, a person may be intelligent but very lazy. Therefore, they fail in their examination. On the other hand, if someone did not do a lot of good deeds in the past but tried to improve oneself by doing new good deeds, they will be successful. This person may only be hardly clever, but works very hard and is dedicated to their work or studies. In the end they might even get an Honor for their study. The more good deeds someone tries to do in this life to support the old ones, the faster they will be able to train themselves to make progress and be successful in life.
- Setting Oneself up Properly in Life: It means you have a clear aim or purpose in your life, whether you would like to be an engineer, a teacher, a doctor or a businessman. Firstly, you should set the goal to build up your financial status to become independent through a legal and moral occupation. Then, follow what you have decided to do. Do not procrastinate or just let things happen wherever ‘fate’ may lead you. For example, if you set your aim that you would like to be a doctor, but change your mind on the following day and want to be an engineer instead and then on the day after that, you change your mind again to be a businessman. This continual indecision will not help you to become successful in life.
The person who ‘sets themselves up’ properly in life will find what they want to do, then follow that route and train themselves according to that path. The person then will achieve his aim in the end because once he has set the aim in life; he will not be distracted and will train himself enthusiastically in order to fulfill his chosen goal.
Blessing Group 3:
Practice for Success in One’s Life
Blessing 7: Artfulness in Knowledge
Blessing 8: Artfulness in Application
Blessing 9: Artfulness in Usage
Blessing 10: Artfulness in Speech
Of all the various beings in the world, a human being is considered to be the best creature, because we can train ourselves for the benefits of both ourselves and society as a whole. The valuable people who are always needed must have:
- Artfulness in Knowledge: We should train ourselves to be fully equipped with knowledge and to always look for new things to learn.
- Artfulness in Application: We also should be skilled at what we know. If we have learned all the necessary theories, we should transform that theory into practice to allow us to earn our living.
- Artfulness in Usage: Blessing nine explains sociable application of our knowledge in our actions. We should not be so self-willed or even stubborn. We should train ourselves to have disciplines and respect rules and regulations of the group. We should control ourselves in order to make use of our knowledge in appropriate and proper ways.
- Artfulness in Speech: Blessing ten explains sociable application of our knowledge in our speech. Intelligent people, despite having the cleverness, high education and skills will not be wanted if they do not know how to control and use their words positively. Therefore, we should train ourselves to converse politely and always ensure our words are positive and harmonious.
Blessing Group 4:
Practice for Harmony in Family Life
Blessing 11: Cherishing Our Parents
Blessing 12: Raising Our Children
Blessing 13: Cherishing Our Husband or Wife
Blessing 14: Not Leaving One’s Work Undone
Harmony at home is something we have to get right if we are truly to be of a good use to society at large. It does not mean that it is necessary to have a husband or wife and children to establish success in our life but if you do have your own family, then you have to fulfill your duty to them properly.
People who would like to have a good family should follow the below:
- Cherishing Our Parents: We should be grateful to our parents and take good care of them.
- Raising Our Children: We should raise our children in a way that they will grow up to be good people. They should be like the ‘jewel’ of the family bringing positive pride and creating a good reputation.
- Cherishing Our Husband or Wife: They should know how to behave and treat each other with respect, to be considerate, and to never cheat on each other. By these actions, it will bond the two of them closer and make them more loving. The family will be warm, loving, and happy. So every time they step in to their home, they will feel as if this is their heaven on earth.
- Not Leaving One’s Work Undone: Every family has expense, whether it is for taking care of parents, children or spouse, it all costs money. Building up our own financial status by working very hard and never leaving any work undone is a good strategy. Finishing work on time and meeting deadlines will result in success and a firm financial status for both our family and ourselves.
Anybody who is able to do all four of the recommendations above will have a stable and happy family life.
Blessing Group 5:
Practice for Becoming a Good Person in Society
Blessing 15: Generosity
Blessing 16: Dhamma Practice
Blessing 1 7: Looking after One’s Extended Family
Blessing 18: Blameless Work
Besides enabling our family to be more stable, warm, and happy, we have a duty to share the benefits to society as a whole as well, this includes:
- Generosity: Properly sharing and giving what we have to people who deserve it is a way to purify our mind by getting rid of our stinginess. This merit improves our mind and creates peace with all human beings in the world.
- Dhamma Practice: Somebody may argue that this Blessing has nothing to do with becoming a good person of society at all because it does not relate to the topic. However in fact, sharing benefits to the society will never be completed if we do not practice the Dhamma. We will refer back to this point at the end of this section.
- Looking after One’s Extended Family: It means we help both our relatives of the same bloodline as ours such as older brother and sister, uncle, aunt, grandchild etc., and someone we associate with, such as people in the same town or country. The latter is considered to be our extended family also because we live on the same planet as them. Looking after them will help to improve unity in our society, thus benefiting the society as a whole.
- Blameless Work: Just like the word itself, we should do the job that is blameless and has benefits to the society such as public charity, public benefits, social welfare etc.
Now let’s see why practicing the Dhamma belongs to this group. Dhamma Practice is the practice of the Tenfold Path of Wholesomeness, which are: not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie etc.
Under a normal circumstance, people possess self-discipline (precepts) and good nature. However, if they want to work and make a contribution to the society such as in a public charity, they will encounter many differing opinions of many people because the society usually involves a number of people with contrasting level of precepts. There will also be some ill-intentioned people who try to obstruct the work or create problems. If we never practiced the Dhamma before, with the situation like this, our emotions can be very unstable and we can become very angry. In the worst case, if we unable to control our emotions, it is possible that in a ‘blind rage’ we might even kill someone. Therefore, we should practice the Tenfold Path of Wholesomeness, to practice how to control ourselves and try to solve the problems in a more peaceful way.
Sometimes working for society involves a lot of benefits. For example, if you are a minister in the government and can give an approval of big budgets, without Dhamma to control yourself, you might be tempted to cheat or keep hold of some of the money.
Working in the society offers a chance to meet all kinds of people both male and female. This can result in temptation. If you do not have Dhamma to control yourself, it is possible that you might commit adultery and this will bring major trouble to you and your family.
Dealing with society has many temptations. That is why the Lord Buddha taught us to practice the Dhamma. We can see that His teaching is perfect, inarguable, in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end.
Among the problems in our society today we may have heard the news about some charity workers whose child was addicted to drugs, or obsessed with computer games, the internet and car racing, etc. Or some workers had to file for a divorce because they committed adultery. All these problems happened because they are ignorant about the Lord Buddha’s teachings.
If we cannot fulfill our roles in our family, we will never fully serve our society. It has to begin within the family before it can reach to our society. Therefore, if we would like to help others, we must train ourselves by practicing the Dhamma according to the Lord Buddha’s teaching and then we can base our daily life on true foundations.
The first five groups of Blessings are about how to live a happy life in society and how to prepare ourselves to be valuable and be wanted in every society.
The last five groups of Blessings explain entirely on how to train our mind until we can get rid of all the defilements and can be as Arahants.
Blessing Group 6:
Preparation for a Good Mind
Blessing 19: Abstaining from Unwholesomeness
Blessing 20: Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants
Blessing 21: Non-Recklessness in the Dhamma
The first eighteen blessings are from the first half of the Mangala Sutta and all of them concerned with positively transforming our lives. It is only upon the foundation of security in life achieved in the first half of the Blessings of Life, that one can move forward to the second half of the Sutta to cultivate purity of mind in earnest. When we come to the start of the sixth grouping we are concerned with the preparation of the mind.
In order to adjust our mind to be ready to be trained, to increase morality and destroy defilements, we should practice according to the steps below:
- Abstaining from Unwholesomeness: People who do not stop committing sins will never be able to train and discipline their minds. The sins will cloud their minds so much they are prevented them from receiving the understanding of morality. Therefore, for those who wish to train their minds, they need to avoid all evil deeds, which will destroy the good quality of the mind. They should stop doing bad things they used to do and avoid all badness in the future.
- Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants: All kinds of narcotic or liquor make us lose our mindfulness; and a mind without mindfulness can never be trained. If you try to train drunk people, you can never make them understand a word of what you say or remember any of it.
- Non-recklessness in the Dhamma: Those who are careless and leave their life in the hands of ‘fate’ will never have any motive to do good deeds. They always think “that’s okay because we are still very young and when we get older we can do good deeds then” or “It’s okay, we are very healthy, we can do good deeds later” or “our life is very long and we can do it later whenever we want.” These kinds of people are careless and hold on to the idea of being so young and healthy that they are never inspired to do any good deeds, leaving it all until later.
On the contrary, those who are not reckless in the Dhamma always realize that life is uncertain. We can become ill at any time and death is unpredictable. Therefore, we should not be careless and should train ourselves by training the mind, doing good deeds, and making merit. These people are enthusiastic in training themselves and will easily be successful in life.
Blessing Group 7:
Instilling Oneself with Basic Virtues
Blessing 22: Respect
Blessing 23: Humility
Blessing 24: Contentment
Blessing 25: Gratitude
Blessing 26: Listening Regularly to Dhamma Teachings
We have already prepared our minds to be ready for training by practicing the Blessings in the sixth group. Respect, humility, contentment and gratitude are concerned with ‘softening’ the mind and making it more receptive to the seeds of Dhamma to be sown in Blessing Twenty-Six. Now in the seventh group we can start to practice basic Dhamma and this requires the following qualifications:
- Respect: Those who realize others’ strong points or morality will be able to learn these good points and morality from others. People who have no respect toward others will never see the good things in anybody. Thus, they will never learn new things from others as they do not respect or realize someone’s good points.
- Humility: Those who are humble do not show off. They know their ability and are ready to accept other people’s morality and teaching. People who are not humble, although aware of people’s abilities, they will try to seek an opportunity to compete with others all the time as they are thinking that they are as equally good. By doing so, they cannot accept or learn anything new, because they already think they know everything anyway.
An ocean can be a gathering destination of water from all directions because the ocean is below all rivers, likewise we will be able to accept or learn respect, morality, knowledge and humility from others only if we practice humility.
- Contentment: Those who are satisfied with what they have are not greedy and do not search for other things. They can easily learn morality from others. Those who are not content with what they have will have a mind that is disturbed and agitated because they are dissatisfied with what they have.
If they have a small house, they want to have a bigger house. If they already own a decent car, they will struggle to get a newer and more luxurious car. It is an endless cycle and they will never feel satisfied. A mind like this cannot be trained or absorb morality because they always think about numbers, money and are focused on how to become materially rich.
- Gratitude: Whoever feels grateful to others and tries to return the gratitude is considered to be lovable, nice and respectful. People like to pass on their knowledge to those who are grateful to them.
Although we may have respect toward others, realize others’ strong points, learn new things from them humbly and feel contented with what we learn; if we do not express or feel grateful to those who teach us, it is still uncertain whether they will teach us or not. Therefore, in order to learn new things from others, we should be grateful to them and express our gratitude. Then they will be willing to pass on their knowledge and morality to us.
- Listening Regularly to Dhamma Teachings: In addition to training our minds according to the four steps above, we should also try to listen to Dhamma teachings at every opportunity presented to us. Then, we should use the Dhamma to be our mirror to reflect our minds and see what we need to improve on according to what we see.
Blessing Group 8:
Instilling Oneself with Higher Virtues
Blessing 27: Patience
Blessing 28: Openness to Criticism
Blessing 29: The Sight of a True Monk
Blessing 30: Regular Dhamma Discussions
After we have already trained our minds with basic virtues, now to cultivate ourselves further on the Buddhist path of progress, it is necessary to instill ourselves with higher virtues such as:
- Patience: In order to learn Dhamma, we have to be patient whether it is with the weather conditions, physical and mental pain and the temptations of greed, lust, ill-will and ignorance.
- Open to Criticism: We should be patient and should humbly accept the advice of others whether they speak to us in a rude or polite way and whether they have repeated their advice over and over again. We should not argue but humbly accept and follow the advice.
- The Sight of a True Monk: We should always look for a role model.
We should be around the monks who have morality and are well behaved in thought, speech, and action.
Sometimes, we cannot accept or practice the Dhamma just by listening to it. However, if we have the role models who demonstrate the Dhamma by really practicing it ‘in action’, we will become more convinced to practice the Dhamma as well.
For example, in teaching about the five precepts, if the monk taught that the five precepts will lead to happiness, some people might argue that this cannot be true because they are many restrictions to abide by; we cannot drink, nor do some bad things such as stealing or killing insects. How can we be happy when we have to keep and live by so many rules?
However, once we see a true monk, it will make us realize how happy he is. Just by looking at him, we may think, “He looks really peaceful, graceful and has a charismatic presence, because he always practices the precepts.” Once we have seen him, his presence is beyond what words can described and this helps us to understand The Dhamma better.
- Regular Dhamma Discussion: When we see a living example of a true monk and if we have some questions, we can go and discuss them with him. He can teach us deeper levels of the Dhamma and morality to improve ourselves.
From what is mentioned above, we can see that in the seventh group of Blessings, we can learn the basic Dhamma by listening to it only. Therefore, the Lord Buddha asked us to prepare our minds by respecting others, being humble, being contented and grateful to those who teach us.
When it comes to the eighth group of Blessings, we learn deeper Dhamma by regularly discussing the Dhamma with others. Therefore, the Lord Buddha asked us to prepare our minds by adding two more qualifications: being patient and open to criticism.
After we can train ourselves to be able to tolerate to hardship physically and mentally, then we are ready to meet a true monk in order to discuss the Dhamma with them. If we never prepare our minds before, when we have a discussion with a true monk, we might be irritated or angry by his teachings if that Dhamma is the opposite of what we believe or if the monk blames our bad habits.
The Lord Buddha placed the Blessings in the most orderly way, step by step for our development, for us to appreciate them fully. The more we study them, the more we appreciate his wisdom and great compassion for all creatures.
Blessing Group 9:
Practice for the Eradication of Defilements
Blessing 31: Practicing Austerities
Blessing 32: Practicing the Brahma-Faring
Blessing 33: Seeing the Four Noble Truths
Blessing 34: The Attainment of Nirvana
Previously, the eighth group of Blessings consists of many theories which help us to truly understand the Dhamma. In the ninth group of Blessings, we will learn how to practice the Dhamma in order to get rid of our ‘badness’, by following the steps below:
- Practicing Austerities: Do good deeds until we can release all our defilements collected in the mind. We should follow the rules of Austere Practices and practice the precepts.
- Practicing the Brahma-Faring: Once our defilements are largely reduced, we should focus our minds on moralities and higher virtues before the defilements can take root again; especially by removing lust and desires, which are the origin of decay and suffering.
- Seeing the Four Noble Truths: We should practice meditation until we attain the Dhammakaya inside to see the reality of life and the world, and understand the Four Noble Truths.
- The Attainment of Nirvana: Once we see the Four Noble Truths, we should continue practicing meditation, focusing on the center of our body until we can erase all defilements. Then we can become an Arahant and finally enter Nirvana.
Blessing Group 10:
The Benefits of Having Practiced until Reaching an End of Defilements
Blessing 35: A Mind Invulnerable to Worldly Vicissitudes
Blessing 36: The Sorrowless Mind
Blessing 37: Freedom from Subtle Defilements
Blessing 38: The Blissful Mind
After we bathe, we will feel clean and refreshed. Likewise, if we train ourselves until all the defilements are gone from our mind, we can receive the positive outcome of all our hard work towards ‘cleaning’ the mind. We can describe our mind in many ways such as:
- A Mind Invulnerable to Worldly Vicissitudes: The mind, which is as firm as a mountain, can no longer be influenced by fortune, honor, praise, happiness, or the loss of fortune, gossip or any suffering.
- The Sorrow less Mind: The mind can escape from the pain of conditional love and becomes clean, clear, happy and bright.
- Freedom from Subtle Defilements: Being free from subtle defilements is a condition of the mind that allows us to ‘uproot’ all the defilements, both gross and subtle. They will never be able to re-grow because the mind will be pure, chaste and radiant as it is in the case of the mind of an Arahant.
- The Blissful Mind: This is true happiness, which is derived from being safe from ALL danger of being reborn repeatedly in the cycle of birth and death. We can escape from the ‘prison’ of the Triple World.
Our minds become totally free, clean and perfect. Those who can experience a real blissful mind are those whose mind remains still and calm in Nirvana the whole time. When they pass away for the final time, they can follow the Lord Buddha and the Arahants to Nirvana.
Blessing Group 1: Prerequisites for a Good Person
Not Associating with Fools
”Leaves wrapping a putrid fish take on the same putrescent smell of the fish.
Likewise, those associating with fools will be sullied by the same defilements possessed by the fool. “
Who Is a Fool?
A fool is someone whose mind is habitually cloudy and dull; as a result, a fool has a poor judgment, unreliable discretion, and wrong decision. That means a fool cannot tell what is right or wrong and what should be done or should not. For example, the wise knows that drinking is a bad thing because it makes you loose conscience leading to other problems later. However, a fool thinks that drinking is very cool as a good way to celebrate friendship. Or the wise considers playing card games as one of the Roads to Ruin and a symbol of disaster, but a fool will see playing card games as an enjoyment and a way to practice calculation.
Recognizing a fool is not easy because on the surface they are just like us. They might be our friends, families, spouse and teachers. They may come from good backgrounds, may be clever and highly educated, may be handsome or beautiful, and may have good jobs and even be in positions of power. Despite the fact that they are fools, we can still treat them with compassion. We should not shun them, we should simply treat them with caution.
Characteristics of a Fool
Because a fool habitually has a cloudy and dull mind, they are unable to control and direct their mind in an accurate way. There are three unconstructive features of a fool that you can observe:
- A fool thinks habitually in an evil way: Such as having constant negative thinking, harboring harmful thoughts of revenge, envy and jealousy
- A fool speaks habitually in an evil way: A fool tells lies regularly, speaks a language of a low level, uses abusive speech and constantly chatters about unimportant things.
- A fool acts habitually in an evil way: A fool will behave in an abusive ways towards others, such as bullying, and encouraging others to behave in similarly negative ways.
Why Being a Fool Is Really Dangerous
- Their unreliable judgment will bring in problems to their life.
- They suffer the loss of their good reputation.
- They are unpopular, mistrusted and lose the respect to others.
- They bring in shame and disgrace to their life.
- They attract bad deeds and harm to their life.
- They destroy their good benefits in this life and next lives.
- They destroy the good reputation of their family.
- In Buddhist belief, a foolish person will enter Hell after death.
How to Recognize a Fool
Fools often express the followings:
- They like to persuade others to do evil things. Not only does a fool persuade others to do evil, a fool is also an example of evil deeds doers for others to follow. He might persuade his friends to skip school, steal others’ money or use drugs.
- They like to interfere with things that are none of their business. Fools do not have a responsibility for their duties. They like to do what they are not supposed to and cause problems for other people.
- They like anything that is false and improper such as gambling, smoking, skipping class, talking back to teachers and parents, mistaking people who do the right thing as unwise or mistaking those who are afraid of doing bad deeds as coward.
- They get angry even when spoken to decently. A fool will not easily listen to the wise or accept advice and will fiercely reject any feedback about their behavior. A fool gets irritated and angry very quickly when wise people try to reflect to them their errors for the benefit of self-improvement.
- They refuse to comply with the rules and regulations. They are untidy and have no sense of discipline such as do not follow the traffic lights, wake up late, go to work late, and litter anywhere they want.
Definition of Association
Associating means one of the followings:
- Joining means eating, sleeping, and investing together.
- Receiving means taking someone on as one’s spouse, one’s child, one’s employee or as one’s extended family. The Point where we start to associate with them is the point where we take on them.
- Giving means that after joining them and taking them on, we give something to them. Such giving includes giving them consideration, praise, encouragement, lodging, food or payment. All of these are included in the definition of association.
Although one may be careful in these three areas, it does not mean we cannot be polite to fools or greet them or coexist with them as occasions arise.
Disadvantages of Associating with a Fool
- You are likely to be led to wrong doings.
- Your own future is at stake and your job can be seriously jeopardized.
- Viewed by the company you keep as being untrustworthy, unreliable and similar to the company you associate with.
- You will feel frustrated because even you speak nicely with, the fools are always angry.
- Your social circles are at risk of disharmony because the fools always give false promise and do not have discipline.
- You can face increased difficulties, problems and illnesses by associating with the fools.
- Your future in this life can be damaged and your future life can be in hell.
Types of Fool
- External fool: If we are determined enough, we can decide to ‘keep away’ from foolish people. This is particularly difficult when they are close family members or friends or when they are our fellow colleagues. However, for the sake of our own future life, we have to find ways in which to manage this difficult situation as appropriately as we can.
- Internal fool: This is our self when we think, speak or act negatively. We need to be aware of our own thoughts, actions, speech and the impact they have on our self and others. There is a little voice in our head, which is constantly telling us to take the easy way out or avoid taking responsibility for our actions. We need to be aware so that we can make the required changes and work hard not to continue being foolish. Although it may be easy for us to avoid getting involved with fools in the outside world, it is much harder to overcome the influence of the fool inside our own head.
How to Avoid Associating with Fools
- Be continually aware of not behaving with negative actions or speech no matter how minor they are because there is always a risk that they can lead to bigger things if we are not careful. Start from the moment you open your eyes every morning, place your thoughts on the positive side and start the day with a cheerful smile.
- Stop thinking constantly about our mistakes in the past as they have already passed. Learn from mistakes and do not repeat them. Practice forgiveness to others and yourself and continue doing good deeds.
- Practice good deeds, keep the precepts, and meditate4 regularly.
4Meditate: How to meditate see at page 308
- Avoid speaking to, listening to or reading about fools, so that we do not have a constant reminder of their foolishness. Try to accumulate good deeds, by thinking, reading, listening and speaking about positive things. This includes reading Dhamma, listening to wise monks and speaking about those who do good deeds.
- If we cannot avoid being near a fool as they may, be our colleagues or family, then we need to be aware of the dangers and be careful not to be negatively influenced by them. To prevent their influence, we must do good deeds, keep the precepts and meditate to keep our mind as clear as possible
We have to continually remind our self that there is nothing more important than striving towards the elimination of the ‘internal fool’.
The Benefits of Not Associating with a Fool
- You will not be negatively influenced to do misdeeds or wrong thing.
- You will be able to protect your previous good deeds.
- You can do even more good deeds now and in the future.
- You will not be influenced or negatively harmed by fools.
- You will be free from blames and accuses of wrong doings.
- You will be considered as a trustworthy and reliable person.
- You will have a happy and successful future.
- You will be happy within yourself and with those around you.
- You can help encourage others not to be influenced by fools, as you will be a positive role model for them to follow.
Associating with the Wise
“Cloth wrapping a fragrant object takes on the same fragrance of the object.
Likewise, those associating with the wise will be influenced by the same virtues of the wise. “
Who Is the Wise?
The wise man is one whose mind is habitually pure, clear and radiant, therefore, one can see things clearly as it really is, live their live with wisdom and the right discretion as follows:
- Knowing what constitutes good and what constitutes evil.
- Knowing what constitutes right and what constitutes wrong.
- Knowing what constitutes merit and what constitutes demerit.
Many people believe that if you are educated to a degree level or further, you are a wise person. In fact, this is not the case. The wise one can be someone from any social background, with little or no education, money or material wealth, but has a mind that is habitually pure.
The reason is that just the fact that the pure mind has a snowball effect. Pure mind sets his standards of judgment and discretion and this alone will ensure that wisdom is invested in everything he does, whether it may be thought, speech or action.
Characteristics of the Wise
Because the mind of a wise one is habitually clear like a crystal clear glass, a wise one is able to see the world clearly and live wisely. So the wise possess three special features that distinguish them from the ordinary fool:
- The wise one thinks habitually in a good way: Their thought is at least based on: non-greed, non-hatred, and Right View, and also wholesome, loving kindness, and generosity.
- The wise one speaks habitually in a good way: They do not tell lies.
They do not give divisive speech. They do not use swear words and harsh words. And they do not idle chatter.
- The wise acts habitually in a good way: They like to perform physical good deeds with an emphasis on being compassionate, earning an honest living and marital fidelity. The fool by contrast are continually killing, stealing, and committing adultery.
The Virtues of the Wise One
- Gratitude: He recognizes the debt of gratitude he has to others
- Self-Purifying: He purifies himself of all evil.
- Purity: He purifies others of all evil.
- Endearing: He makes himself helpful to society.
How to Recognize a Wise One
A wise one will habitually behave in the following ways:
- The wise like to persuade others to live their lives in a proper way. They support others to do the right thing and encourage them to reject negative habits e.g. smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs and stealing. They keep you on the right side of the law. They encourage others to think positively, do good deeds, keep the precepts, meditate, pray before bedtime, take their studies seriously and be generous.
- The wise take full responsibility for the things that are their own business. They do not interfere with other people’s business and only offer advice or reflection, if invited to do so.
- The wise favor the honest and the decent. They will speak and act with honesty. They like to have a conversation about the Dhamma. They loathe gossip and the spreading of rumors.
- The wise are not easily angered. They gladly accept the advice and feedback of others and are willing to listen. They do not feel a loss of dignity if the person giving the comments should be different to them in many ways, but feels a sense of ease if the remarks are pertinent to their self-improvement. They remain calm and steady if someone gets angry or aggressive with them.
- The wise favor self-discipline and orderliness. They display honor and integrity in upholding the discipline and regulations of the organizations they are involved in or represent. They acknowledge that discipline is crucial for the advancement and harmony of the organization and community.
How to Associate with the Wise
- Frequently meeting up with them: If you know a wise man, you should try to visit him regularly. This is the first step to true association. Without it, no association can happen
- Make yourself known to them: This means you do not only see them in some place, but you have to make yourself known to them.
- Be Sincere towards them: This is in the case that your association shares any affection; you must be sincere to one another with nothing behind your back.
- Be Loyal towards them: Where in sincerity, your association is bound through affection, in loyalty the association is bound through respect. This includes acting in a respectful way such as through positive speech.
- Help them in times of need: Whenever we see that our wise one is busy with something, if we can help them, we should do so without hesitation.
- When free, join up to talk and eat together: When the wise have free time, they come together to discuss the Dhamma and to clear up their doubts.
- Reflect on Dhamma and get down to earnest practice: This feature alone can cover up all the first six features and can be as good as true association because your association has Dhamma in common.
Types of the Wise
- The external wise one: The external wise one is an individual who behaves well, follows strong moral and ethical principles and uses one’s wisdom in everyday life.
- The internal wise one: The internal wise one is us when we; think, speak or act in good ways. In associating with wise ones we can cultivate ourselves to become good people like them, with a warm heart and positive thoughts.
The Benefits of Associating with the Wise
- Your mind will become clearer and easier to perform good deeds.
- You will increase your wisdom and be more reasonable.
- You will have Right View and an accurate discretion.
- You will be out of concerns or difficulties from your wrong doing.
- You will be respected and viewed as worthy people.
- You will be happy, calm and free from all harm.
- You can easily establish yourself and become successful in life.
- You can easily reach the attainment of Nirvana5.
5Nirvana: the state of being free from both suffering and the cycle of rebirth, the perfect peace of mind
Expressing Respect to Those Worthy of Respect
“When a new-grown tree is still a flimsy sapling, it needs a supporting stake to protect it from strong winds to blow it down or tear it up by its roots.
Similarly, one who hopes for spiritual progress in one’s life needs to express respect to those worthy of respect so those people can be a guiding light, a role model, and a protection against false view and unwholesomeness which might otherwise reappear in one’s life.”
What Is Expressing Respect?
Expressing respect means any polite and intentional action towards someone or something, both in their presence and behind their back. It is the device that demonstrates that one is really recollecting the virtues of that person or thing.
Expressing respect is a way to purify our mind because the mind of those who cannot accept virtues in others is not yet refined. Those who are too naive to understand the true virtue of those worthy of respect, can eventually understand the virtues of that person or thing if they are trained to express respect repeatedly. They will also become like those worthy of respect. Therefore, adults should teach their children to worship the Lord Buddha as a way to express respect to those who are worthy of respect.
Personages Worthy of Respect
The people worthy of respect are those who perform good deeds as if their lives depend on them and their goodness should be remembered by us. We should model their behaviors and ways of thinking. Such individuals are those who keep firm precepts and have a conscience and wisdom.
- The Lord Buddha is considered to be the wisest among all living beings. He has wisdom, purity and compassion. Such a person should be worshipped by Buddhists.
- Monks are individuals who teach themselves before teaching anybody else to ensure that what they preach is right. They are also those who can encourage others to behave well and do good things. Monks should be respected by Buddhists.
- The Monarch who uses the Dhamma6 doctrine to govern his land, he should be respected by his people.
6Dhamma has two meanings: a) the teachings of the Buddha which lead to enlightenment b) the constituent factors of the experienced world
- Parents and older relatives who are positive role models and other people, who display good behavior, are worth our respect.
- Teachers, who are knowledgeable and display positive behavior, should be respected by the students.
- Virtuous employers are those who act as a positive role-model, and apply Dhamma in their daily life. They are individuals who their workers should respect.
Besides these individuals, anyone who is considered to be wise and who are in a higher positions than ourselves, are also considered to be worthy of respect.
The following items are also considered to be worthy of respect and although they are not persons, they are attached to individuals who are worthy of respect.
- The Lord’s Buddha’s Dhamma teachings, Buddha statues, or any locations associated with the Lord Buddha, e.g. his birthplace.
- Anything that is related to the monastic community, such as images of the monks.
- The moral teachings of the wise, photos of parents, teachers, virtuous employers, Monarchs who take their role as the wise seriously. They are all worthy of respect.
Three Channels for Expressing Respect
- Physical respect: Regardless of whether we are sitting, walking or sleeping, we should pay respect when being in front of images or statues representing those worthy of respect. Buddhists consider it is not enough just to ‘have respect’ for such persons and objects, but one should ‘express respect’ by bowing putting one’s hands in a gesture of prayer in greeting or by other methods.
- Verbal respect: We should show respect by sincerely saying good things when being in front of them and even when they are not present, to those worthy of respect. For example: This can be done through saying prayers to the Lord Buddha, to praise Him.
- Mental respect: We should always remember and remind ourselves of the teachings given to us by those worthy of respect.
Ways of Expressing Respect
- Homage through gifts: This refers to all material forms of paying homage whether it be putting your palms together in a gesture of respect or even speaking words of praise about a person.
- Homage through practice: This means paying homage by doing as one is taught for example, we pay respect to the Lord Buddha by doing what He taught.
Points for Consideration
It is important for students or those who practice Buddhism to keep in mind that, if we pay attention and respect to what we learn, we will always find success in our life.
On the other hand, if we do not pay respect to our teachers and believe that what we learn is not important, this will destroy our path to wisdom which is essential for us to become successful in the future.
Objects Not Worthy of Respect
We must be careful not to pay respect to things not worthy of respect. There are four categories of things we should avoid idolizing or paying respect to:
- People not worthy of respect: Do not express respect, support, or praise a fool even if they are in a high position and of a high social standing.
- Objects not worthy of respect: Do not worship anything related to fools, such as images, sculptures, or any objects that are used by fools. Also, do not follow their advice.
- Objects which lead to foolishness: Do not worship anything that is empty of virtue, such as the pictures of actors, singers or athletes who do not have moral principles. Do not decorate your house with advertising posters or anything that is related to vice.
- Objects which lead to gullibility: Do not worship anything that does not encourage wisdom, e.g. inanimate objects or animals.
Three Types of Bowing
Sometimes people confuse respect with expressing respect. However, if you express respect when your attitude is wrong you will not succeed in furthering your spiritual progress. Considering the following examples:
- Bowing out of obsequiousness: These individuals are those who bow to copy others without understanding the reason. They are behaving like sheep and just copy others. Bowing like this is a waste of time.
- Bowing out of peer-pressure: These individuals bow and pray for something inappropriate, such as asking to win the lottery or getting good grades without studying.
- Bowing in search of wisdom: These individuals hold on to the Lord Buddha’s Dhamma and follow his footsteps. They express their respect with the determination to practice themselves all the virtues represented by the object of their respect. An example of the sort of attitude in mind of someone who benefits from expressing respect is, supposing we bow three times to express respect towards Buddha:
The first bow reminds us of the wisdom of the Lord Buddha, who had supreme intelligence and had discovered by himself ways to stop suffering. The Lord Buddha also studied Dhamma and practiced meditation until he was able to eliminate all defilements. We should look up to Him and try to follow what He accomplished.
The second bow reminds us of the purity of the Lord Buddha. He was pure in body, speech and mind, because He seriously and constantly kept his precepts. He never wanted to hurt anyone or wished anyone to be hurt. He was the perfect example of a precept keeper. We should try to keep precepts as He did.
The third bow reminds us of the Lord Buddha’s compassion for preaching to so many people without thinking of his self He was able to do this, because He had a good heart and his ultimate goal was to stop all sufferings of all humans in all lives. His kindness is great and we have to be kind to others by helping in ways that we can.
Benefits of Expressing Respect to Those Worthy of Respect
- You gain Right View which is the right understanding.
- You increase your existing Right View, so you understand things better.
- You become more polite and gentle, so others respect you.
- Your mind is clear because of the constant positive thinking.
- As you express respect, you become more mindful and this helps make the right decisions in your life.
- It prevents you from being ignorant because you always remind yourself that there are those who are worthier of respect than you.
- You gain a great self-confidence which can protect yourself from any disasters.
- It is a deviating way to eradicate the fools because everyone expresses respect to the wise who are worthy of respect.
- It brings honor to the wise and allows them to be able to do their duty with more ease and benefits.
Blessing Group 2: Fundamental Preparation for a Good Person
Living in an Amenable Location
“A bonsai Bodhi tree grown in a pot will survive, but its growth will be hindered by the limited space in the pot.
However, under the same condition of caring, it is given enough space to set down firm roots, the result will be a big tree with lots of big branches.
Similarly, people who live in an unfortunate environment although they are talented, it is rather hard for them to succeed.
But, if they are talented and also live in an amenable location, their success will certainly arrive smoothly.”
What Is an Amenable Location?
An amenable location means a good environment that is not poisonous (non-toxic) to physical and mental health and also facilitates success in what we set out to do. An appropriate location that can positively support its occupant, by being a place to reside, work and build a future so that we can progress quickly and continue to develop our virtues.
An amenable location can cover a wide range of conditions, such as housing, school and educational establishments, places where we work, community in the village, town or city where we stay. This will also include the social infrastructure of the area, i.e. the roads, safety, health, utilities and general aspects of life which should be provided adequately for the town, province, country and continent.
How to Live in an Amenable Location
- By choosing a good and thriving location. It should be easy to find good schools, appropriate employment and a good locality for building a house around the location.
- By developing the location to its fullest potential. We must try with all of our effort to assist in the development of our chosen area where we live. This includes where we live, the place where we work and the community that we live in. We should keep our moral and ethical principles for the best result in developing our community.
Characteristics of an Amenable Location
- Amenable location: We should be in a place that is in a good geographical location. In terms of geography, the altitude of the land should not be too low or too high. The weather should not be too hot or too cold. Our house should be somewhere free from flooding, threat of subsidence and should be built on land that is appropriate for housing.
There should also be ample utilities i.e., electricity and water supply. The schools must be suitable and in good conditions plus there needs to be adequate and good ventilation in both public buildings and our homes. Preferably the area in which we live should be fairly quiet, with parks and sport fields for exercise and the area needs to be maintained for our safety and general health. There should be shops sited in the area of your residences and the transportation and communication links should be convenient and safe.
- Amenable food: The area should produce and supply good quality food, with markets nearby and an area where agriculture is in production so that the food will be sufficient. Clean, safe drinking water is also an essential of life and therefore we need to know that this can be supplied and that there is enough to meet our family’s needs. Our employment should provide enough of a salary to enable us to provide adequately for everyone in our family.
- Amenable neighbors: If there are gangs, bullies, criminals and hooligans in the area this will create a negative environment for everyone. So, the majority of people living in the vicinity need to have a good character, positive habits, morality, discipline and a positive outlook to the future of the community.
- Amenable Dhamma: This refers to two characteristics in this context:
Worldly sense: The area should have good educational systems, with good principals and teachers. Those who govern the land and the government who serve the people and the country should also be efficient, ethical and moral.
Dhamma sense: The area should have monks or spiritual teachers and religious students who are qualified to instruct the citizens in morality and ethical conduct. The inhabitants of the area should practice generosity, observe precepts, listen to sermons, meditate and pray regularly.
Order of Importance of the Four Amenable Location Factors
- Amenable of Dhamma
- Amenable of neighbors
- Amenable of food
- Amenable of location
Why? A shelter may not be that comfortable, but if there is good food, it will be good enough to get by. If both the shelter and food are not convenient, but the people who live there are amicable, they can adjust their food and home to be more comfortable.
For example, Japan is an island. There are regular natural disasters from hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes; there is also a lack of space. There is enough food to go around because of the diligence of the people. There are also discipline and progress. The country has good administration, strength and patriotism, which cause Japan to develop and progress, until it has become one of the greatest world economic powers as it is today.
Thailand has a very beautiful geographical location and suffers no severe natural disasters. The land is fertile but it lacks people with discipline and those who persistently give their fullest efforts. Although Thailand has the Dhamma and Buddhism in the minds of its citizens, it still sometimes can have individual who lacks focus. The Dhamma is taught by Monks and is influential in ministering to the whole country and the people are generous and kind, but maybe it lacks the focus of discipline at times.
Although Thailand is a country that is conducive to live in and the people are generous by nature, it still struggles economically behind other countries.
If people come together to develop themselves with discipline and diligence and look forward to progressing in the modern world; led by the principles of Dhamma, all countries will thrive and develop.
Points for Consideration
In many countries, there is growth in materialism, civilization consumerism, job availability and the ability to earn high salaries. Superficially, this can seem attractive for many people.
However, if we consider the fact that there is little or no presence of Dhamma, or any chance to progress the mind with understanding, then the true value of that location must be put to a serious questioning. Reflecting on this, perhaps many citizens in a country can be described like this: on waking up in the morning, their minds are full automatically with thoughts of work and not their spiritual life.
They do not have the time to think or perform merit7 making activities such as donations, preserving precepts, meditating and praying. If they ever do think of it, there are very few people around to give advice on how to perform merit making activities or their importance of them in this life.
7Merit: The term merit is used in both Christianity and Buddhism. Merit can be gained in a number of ways. (See Blessing 5) It is merit that accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts or thoughts and person’s next birth, that carries over to later in life or to a next life.
Therefore, although they are living their life, their spiritual progression as a person is as if they are already ‘dead’, especially from the lack of moral virtue.
In a country like Thailand, although commercialism and materialism lags behind other countries, the Dhamma still thrives. Thais enjoy making donations, observing precepts and practicing meditation, therefore the merit of its citizens builds extremely fast.
How to Make Your Home Amenable
- Keep your home maintained and tidy.
- Select food and cook meals that are safe and healthy. Try to be an inventive cook and prepare and serve meals that are tasty and nutritious.
- Encourage all family members to respect each other by being a good role model. Being hard working and showing generosity to each other with a kind and compassionate heart.
- Encourage others to go to the temple and make merit, observe precepts, listen to the Dhamma and to train the mind in concentration through regular meditation. Continue to encourage others by providing a plentiful supply of Dhamma books and create a special room or area in the house for prayer and meditation. By being a good example to others, you can encourage other family members to pray and meditate regularly. Discard pictures, posters, books, magazines, videos and cd’s that are inappropriate to moral integrity and use the internet carefully and wisely.
The Benefits of Living in an Amenable Location
- You will gain true happiness for both body and mind.
- You will make both worldly and spiritual progress.
- You can fully perform all merits, which are generosity, self-discipline, and meditation.
- You can receive a superb treasure, which is faith in the Triple Gem.
- You can listen to the superb Dhamma of the Lord Buddha.
- You can study the superb Dhamma of the Lord Buddha.
- You can gain a superb sight of the Triple Gem.
- You can have a superb education of precepts, meditation and wisdom.
- You can give a superb support of Buddhism.
- You can have a superb recollection of the Triple Gem.
- You will have the habit of non-recklessness as you learn from those who practice Dhamma.
- You will have the highest refuge in life through the Buddha, Dhamma and monks.
- You will receive the Noble gift, which is the Path to Nirvana.
Having Done Good Deeds in One’s Past
“The difference of a wild strawberry and a domestically breed strawberry is its pedigree.
You can water and fertilize a wild strawberry all you like, but in the end, it will only produce a lot of leaves and a few tiny bitter fruits.
By contrast, a domestic strain, even if neglected will produce numerous and succulent fruits.
Similarly, the difference between people who are successful and unsuccessful lies in the residue of the behaviors they have built up for themselves in the past.”
What Is Merit?
Merit or good deed means something which arises in the mind and causes the mind to become pure and clear without cloudiness and sorrow. Merit also means goodness and happiness. With merit, we are able to elevate ourselves beyond impure thoughts and gain positive and righteous thinking that will lead us to engage in appropriate behavior and speech.
Once the merit we have accumulated in the past comes to fruition, it improves the condition of our lives. Each one of us becomes an individual who is confident, pure, happy, warm, calm and optimistic. More importantly, the merit can accumulate everyday and reminds us of how important it is to do good deeds every day. We also produce excellent results in our work.
Because merit is a pure energy, one cannot see it with the naked eye. Regardless of this fact, we know its existence is real and we see its effects or what it does for us. When merit happens to us, we turn into a joyous and happy person. To illustrate the concept of merit, let us take electricity as an example. Electricity is not something we can see, but we know that it exists, because once it is plugged into a device; the energy produces light or cool air, and many other pieces of equipment will work for our benefit.
The Benefits of Merits
- Merit cleanses and purifies our mind and speech.
- Merit brings happiness, progress and further advancements.
- Merit follows us in this life and the next.
- Merit belongs to each individual person and therefore cannot be taken away or stolen.
- Merit brings along wealth and prosperity in numerous ways.
- Merit gives wealth when we are in the human world, the heaven world and in Nirvana.
- Merit protects us against Samsara8, which is the cycle of repeated rebirths.
- Merit helps us to attain Nirvana.
8Samsara: refers to the cycle of reincarnation or rebirth Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and other related religions
Different Types of Merits
There are two types of previously accumulated merit.
- Merit from our distant past refers to the good deeds we accumulated in past lives until the day we were conceived in the womb for this life.
- Merit from our recent past refers to the good deeds we have accumulated from the moment we were born until today.
Merits from our distant past which have become fruitful in our present life can be compared to delicious fruits, which its good quality is carried in its seed. After their seeds are planted in the soil and the tree has grown, its plants produce delicious fruits. If we have accumulated enough merit in the past, we will be in this life, happy individuals who have pure thoughts and intelligence since our childhood. We will have a good appearance, physical strength and health. If we accumulate even more merit in this lifetime, we will quickly progress and advance in the next life. However, if we disregard the performance of good deeds, we will be like a tree that does not continue to grow to its fullest potential.
Merit from the recent past can be accumulated through various routes for example, taking our studies seriously, being diligent, only befriending the wise, practicing meditation and positive thinking positively from a young age. As a result, our speech, thoughts and quality of work are improved and become purer. Once we become older, we will see the progress we have made in our lifetime. Therefore, we all should accrue merit by doing good deeds from today onwards, so that we will gain intelligence and a bright future just as the Lord Buddha did. Everything the Buddha did was good and helped him to accrue perfections in his past lives. In his final life, the Lord Buddha paid attention to his studies from a young age. When he ordained, he devoted the rest of his life to keeping precepts and practicing meditation. This was how he attained enlightenment and became the Lord Buddha at only thirty-five years old.
Benefits of Merit
When merit takes effect, we are given the benefits in four levels:
- Level of mind: This benefit takes effects very quickly. Once we do good things, our mind becomes purer. We do not have to wait until the next life, it occurs in our mind instantly.
A positive mental health includes calmness, more confidence, and being unaffected by others’ praise or criticism.
We gain pure thoughts and are able to think and solve problems quickly and accurately and are very organized and disciplined.
- Level of Personality: Those who regularly donate a part of their wealth to others, keep their precepts and meditate will have a clear and cool mind without being submerged into a depressive or sad state. They also have no wish to hurt anyone; they only want to help. Their clear state of mind can be shown by their bright personality.
- Level of lifestyle: The way we lead our life is based on the amount of merits and misdeeds we have accumulated so far. It is this combination with our positive mind and character that draws the things most wished for in life to come to us, for example: a high position, praise, rank and a good life style. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that how our lifestyle will turn out depends highly upon the old merits and misdeeds that we have made in the past. For this reason, the complexity of the concept of merit and demerit can sometimes be difficult to grasp.
For example, sometimes, bad things happen to us, such as being blamed for something we did not do or experiencing an accident. This happens even though we do good things due to retributions from our past demerits that have now caught up with us. Not being able to understand this concept clearly may discourage anyone who does good things and ‘bad’ things still happen to them. They may feel it is a lost cause and give up doing more good deeds. In truth, our merit will always come into fruition, but sometimes our demerit may be stronger than our merit and so the demerit takes control of our lives. When we make merit without being discouraged and continue not doing any demerit, we guarantee our lives to be better leading us to happiness.
- Level of society: When the fruits of our good deeds are ready to emerge into the stage of their outcome, regardless of where we are, we will be surrounded by the respect from others and it will cause us to become a leader. We will also become a person who leads others to do good things, which will bring peace and prosperity to our society.
Examples of the Merit Outcome
Long life: Because one avoided killing or harming animals in the previous lifetime.
Freedom from illness: Because one avoided treating animals badly or causing them distress.
Radiant complexion: Because one strictly observed their precepts and regularly offered robes and other necessities to the monastic community.
Powerful: Because one always rejoiced in the good deeds of others, and never allowed envy to enter our hearts.
Rich: Because one was generous in the previous lifetime.
High social standing: Because one expressed respect, to those worthy of respect.
Intelligence: Because one befriended the Wise, meditated and did not consume alcohol.
Ten Major Ways to Accrue Merit
We should always remember that every single good act we perform constitutes merit. But in order to make this concept easier to understand and put it in practice, the Lord Buddha divided the ways to make merit into ten:
- Generosity: To donate a part of our wealth and belongings to others who need them.
- Precepts: To pay attention to our behavior in body, speech and mind. Never cause distress and problems to others or ourselves.
- Meditations: To pray, meditate and read Dhamma books regularly. Meditation enables us to become wiser.
- Humility: To respect those who love Dhamma.
- Service: To assist others when they need assistance.
- Transfer of merit: To always transfer the merit we accumulate to others
- Rejoice in the merits of others: To be happy that others have done good deeds.
- Listen to Dhamma sermons: To learn that Dhamma leads to performing good deeds because it teaches people to observe the ways of wholesomeness.
- Give discourses on Dhamma: To always teach what is right to others.
- Straighten our Views: To look at ourselves and accept the things we need to change, for example personality/character.
Three Major Ways to Accrue Merits
Ten ways to accrue merits, as mentioned above, can be summarized into three groups:
- Generosity helps to dissolves our stinginess and unwillingness to help others.
- Precepts protect us from doing bad things.
- Meditation helps us to have clearer thoughts and helps us to gain intelligence.
The Fruits of Merit Are Not a Miracle
The fruits of merit are not a miracle, but can be explained with reason. Those people who are habitually pessimistic, angry, greedy, etc. always attract negative things to themselves. For example, when people are angry their hearts beat more quickly than usual, bloods runs faster throughout the body and their temperature rises. This causes a physical stress reaction, digestive problems, even depression, annoyance, loss of reason and can cause them to make very poor decisions in situations like this.
But for those whose mind is pure and constantly immersed in merit; greed, sadness and anger will never penetrate them. They will always have a clear conscience and be able to think accurately and sensitively. They will be able to know right from wrong. Their body will always function properly and be in excellent health. Their speech and manner will be very positive and they will be able to make progress in their work rapidly.
Points for Consideration
Once we know that accumulating good deeds is good for us, we should not procrastinate and neglect to do it regularly. Those who have accrued a lot of merit in the past and fail to do it in this lifetime are compared to a rice farmer who harvests all the rice without leaving seeds to plant more rice for the next season. Later on, he will no longer have any rice to sell.
Every good deed we have performed will come to fruition, even if it is not in this lifetime. Merit will come sooner or later. It will mould us into becoming someone with a good heart.
Therefore, we should hurry to perform good deeds and study the truth about life. We need to train ourselves to be hardworkers and careful in our speech, to produce quality in our work and to have a pure mind. This can be done by keeping precepts, praying and meditating regularly.
Ways to Accumulate Merits in Everyday Life
We cannot wait when it comes to accumulating merits, so that they will act as our provisions for the future by following these principles:
- Do not eat breakfast until you have made a donation.
- Do not leave your house until you have taken your vows to keep your precepts.
- Do not sleep until you have prayed and meditated
We have to persevere in doing good deeds even if we are faced with numerous obstacles. Persevere until you reach your goals.
The Benefits of Having Done Good Deeds in the Past
- We will have the things we wish for, so we can easily make more new merit.
- We will have all the benefits and comforts in life.
- Merit causes all happiness in our life.
- Merit acts as a provision for this life and the next until we attain Nirvana (enlightenment).
Setting Oneself up Properly in Life
“If the ship that must struggle to make way in the ocean waves is to reach the far shore, its captain must have a clear destination in mind and keep the ship firmly on course, not allowing the ship to drift, no less important is an aim in life to those wishing to achieve success and profit in their lives.”
What Does Setting Oneself up Properly in Life Mean?
Setting yourself up properly in life refers to setting the goal in your life tor both worldly and spiritual aspects and following that goal until you reach it. Setting yourself implies setting your body and setting your mind, but as the mind governs the setting up of the body, to set ourselves up in life means setting your mind correctly.
Building good foundations for one’s life is very important, because they are the first ‘building blocks’ in creating true happiness and prosperity in your life. If you set wrong life goals for example; the goal of life to be a thief or a drug dealer, you try to live your life with this negative goal as your focus. It obstructs the person from being able to achieve true happiness or prosperity in life. Although, that person may have many skills and talents, but they will not be of any use, because they focus their attention on negative thoughts, resulting in immoral behavior. This will bring about negative results for themselves, as well as the others.
Therefore, people who want success in life need to set a clear goal of life first before they find the ways to solve problems and continue to overcome all difficulties until they reach their goal of life.
What Is the Goal of Life?
Everyone’s goal of life can be classified into three levels:
- Primary goal of life is the goal aimed for the benefit of in this lifetime. The goal of this level is that you can stand on your own two feet through an occupation which is honest, legal and ethical. It could be any job, depending on what each person is good at, such as becoming a doctor, engineer, farmer or others types of employment. The most important thing, after the goals have been set, is to never give up until the goal is achieved.
“A little mouse has never given up for digging a hole as a house and a little bird has never given up for making a nest. Similarly, we are human, we must be able to manage our life stably, and do better than both little mouse and little bird”
- Middle goal of life is the goal aimed for the benefit of the next life. This aims not only trying to have necessities in this life, but also setting future life goals, by using every possible opportunity to act in meritorious ways. It is an investment that creates great benefits for our next life. This is because acting in meritorious ways,-according to the Buddhist belief lead us to more positive and good rebirth for our next life.
Some people, who do not clearly understand this aspect of Buddhist belief, take full advantage of this current life without any consideration for their next life. They only think about making money~ so that they have a stable supply and good life now. They forget to offer to charity, donate, keep precepts, meditate and to ‘make merit’ at every opportunity. Since they were born, they were looked after by their parents. They go to school and continue working after their graduation. They may get married and have families and children of their own. They seek to only serve their needs for worldly happiness and do not consider their next life much, if at all.
As well, take a look at the birds and crows; they were looked after by their parents since they were born. They were taught to fly and to search for food. They moved out of their parents’ nests after they grew up. And soon, they would have families and their own babies. After that, they would have to find things to bring them happiness as well. Eventually, those birds and crows would have to end their lives because of death just like human. If humans live their lives only like this, they then are worth as much as those little birds and mice.
As human beings, we have a physical body which is made for serving goodness such as merit. Therefore, it is vital that we understand that just having stable sufficiency in this entire life is not the true life goal. We should create value for our lives by dedicating ourselves to making merit, in order to collect beneficial merit for the next life. Our middle goal is an essential factor to succeed in the ultimate goal of life. If one has an aim in life which is partially material and partially spiritual, one should try to accrue merit by every available means for one’s lifetimes ahead. This is because one knows that death is not the end of the story, for as long as one still has defilements in one’s minds, then one must be reborn without end.
- Ultimate goal of life: An ultimate goal of life is aimed at the highest service for the greater good and for the benefit of everyone. It means sacrificing and dedicating oneself to studying Dhamma and putting what you have learnt into action. It means to eradicate all ‘taints’ (worldly negativities) before being able to enter the path of Nirvana following the Lord Buddha and his disciples.
Focusing on this life goal, you will deserve only the greatest happiness in this life and being born into the heavenly realm after death. Actually, everyone has to encounter suffering while the passions of our human life have not been eradicated yet. Suffering more or less depends on our Karma. We all have beer; reborn an incalculable number of times. If we could collect and combine all our tears that we have cried in each life from all our suffering, the tears would add up to be much more than the water in the ocean.-Also, all our skeletons would pile up to be taller than the highest mountain.
Whoever can enter Nirvana will end their sufferings. The people that are left behind will have to encounter the cycle of re-birth all over again, again and again. Even the Lord Buddha himself, when he was a Bodhisattva, had to be born. The difference is that he designed his goal of life accurately which was to eradicate his passions so that he could help himself and others to enter Nirvana. Consequently, he dedicated himself to practice Dhamma very determinedly for many, many lives. He never gave up to whatever the obstacles are and he would sacrifice even his life and soul to keep his goal in order to enter Nirvana.
Eventually, the Lord Buddha received his spiritual attainment on the path to Nirvana. We do not take it seriously enough if we have not yet dedicated ourselves to this level of the highest merits. Some people might not yet know that the ultimate goal of life is the path of Nirvana. Some might already know about it but are too lazy to practice, or they started and stopped. So they have to continue to suffer in the cycle of re-births again and again.
Clearly people who know the true ultimate goal of life will quickly, without delay and purposefully, choose the right goal in life, which is the path towards Nirvana. They will be generous, respectful, and will keep the precepts to maintain their body, speech and mind pure in order to remove the passions, prior to entering on the path of Nirvana. Then, all will receive infinite happiness as the Lord Buddha has.
“Do not insult merits, hurry to step forward fallowing the Lord Buddha’s path. When we help others a lot, do not forget our own goals especial/y when we know what our goals are. We should hurry towards it.”
Anyone who sets themselves up in life in a way that corresponds with these three levels of aim in life is said to be someone who has ‘set themselves up properly in life’.
Points for Consideration
Although some people do have the inspiration towards Nirvana, they have set their goal of life earlier than they can continue to focus their concentration on?
They feel like it takes such a long time to become rich, so their goals get diluted and looses strength. Eventually they decide to cheat others, resulting in their imprisonment. Or perhaps, they are people who have been made fun of or ridiculed by others for their merit making efforts and so they give up. Or someone may have kept the precepts as well as meditated, but somehow they still live their lives with ‘full on’ power of passion.
How to Keep the Goals of Life Strong
- Having faith or confidence: Be reasonable and believe in what should be believed. There are two types of belief:
With reason based on wisdom, it is called faith.
Without reason and wisdom, it is called foolish.
Types of faith or confidence:
- Confidence in the working of the Law of Kamma.9
9Law of Kamma: All living creatures are responsible for their kamma – their actions and the effects of their actions.
- Confidence in the consequences of one’s actions. It is the belief that doing good receives good and alternately that doing bad receives bad. In order to get a good result of doing things, it takes three components as follows:
Good target: This refers to having wisdom in doing things, so you can get to the core or purpose of the job.
Good attempt: This means making the right effort in order to succeed in the work.
Good amount: This means being mindful by doing things not too little and not too much, but the right amount required for the job.
- Confidence in the ownership of the consequences of one’s actions. It is a belief of merits and sin, which are the result of good and bad actions accordingly. Merits and sins ‘belong’ or are carried forward from life time to life time, with that person forever.
- Confidence in the enlightenment of the Lord Buddha.
2. Keep the precepts: At least try to keep the minimum of five precepts. (Please see Blessing 9)
3. Having heard much: Be specific. This means being diligent in the acquisition of knowledge both spiritually and worldly by listening to many teachings and putting them into practice.
4. Being a person of self-sacrifice: This means being able to sacrifice and being generous. It also means letting go all our grudges and bad temper by forgiving others and trying to stay calm.
5. Training oneself in meditation: We need to train ourselves in meditation if we want to attain wisdom and reach a peaceful mind. The factors that causes instability in the goal of life is an unclear mind, distracted by passions. Practicing meditation is to practice helping the mind to gain more energy as well as to become stronger and clearer. Having a clear, energetic and strong mind helps in keeping life’s goal straight forward. Furthermore, it helps us to gain wisdom in setting the goal of life correctly, as well as doing what is naturally wise.
These five practices are called ‘core virtues’. Anyone who practices all five virtues is considered a person with the true guts, and thus can definitely set up one’s life in a proper way.
The Benefits of Setting Oneself up Properly in Life
- You will be able to manage your life appropriately.
- You will be able to manage your life wisely and with maturity.
- You will be considered a well prepared person for your death.
- You will be considered a lucky and a good person to everyone.
- You will be considered a respectful person with integrity and high respect for The Sacred Triple Gem.
- You will be considered a good citizen for the country.
- You will be considered a good example for all generations.
- You will be considered a protector of oneself from ‘hell’.
- You will be considered a clever person who is able to use one’s life positively and successfully.
- You will be considered as a three treasure receiver, such as human treasure, divine treasure and Nirvana treasure.
Blessing Group 3: Practice for Success in One's Life
Artfulness in Knowledge
“Just as illumination is necessary to light the path ahead on a long journey, artfulness in knowledge is the pioneering virtue leading to prosperity in life.”
What Is Artfulness in Knowledge?
Artfulness in knowledge refers to being learned by having heard much both in spiritual and worldly ways. Someone who is artful in knowledge will choose to study only the things appropriate for study. All these qualities are at the trailhead of the path to wisdom. Such knowledge will lead one to succeed in their professional and personal life. It acts as the key that will unlock the door to success, financial security, worldly stability, and towards happiness in this life.
Differences between the Wise and the Learned
The wise are those who perform good deeds and display positive behaviors. Regardless of their level of knowledge, they use it to always continue improving themselves and provide assistance to others. The wise are those whose good actions bring positive outcome.
The learned are those who have much knowledge, yet, they may not always behave well. Sometimes they make wrong decisions that will have an impact on their next life too.
Types of Knowledge
- In-depth knowledge: This refers to fully understanding the topics we are learning. For example, medical doctors, who have to gain a deep knowledge of their field, will be able to tell their patients what diseases they are suffering from and will also be able to understand the contributory factors of their patients illness.
- Span of knowledge: This refers to worldly common sense which is the broad knowledge we all need to be informed about the world. This type of knowledge is all around us, for examples include prominent people, politics, economics, the environment and climate, etc.
- Thorough Knowledge: This refers not only to having knowledge around us, but also to knowing it in detail and understanding how it is connected to other issues and topics in society and in the world.
- Long-sighted knowledge: Forward thinking refers to thinking ahead of the current situation and considering what will probably happen in the future. This may include knowing the consequences of economic factors on society and the issues of climate change.
If we possess all four types of knowledge in both the worldly and Dhamma way, we will be artful in knowledge.
Qualities of a Learned Person
- Having heard or learned many ideas. They like to read, explore and listen to what is appropriate to study.
- Having retained or remembered what was learned. Those who have bad memories are due to telling lies and drinking alcohol in their past lives. Therefore, they should stop lying and drinking, and start to learn techniques that help improving their memory.
- Having frequently practiced what was learned verbally. This refers to knowing what to say without having to open their notes, especially when talking about the Dhamma, the fact that never changes. In terms of worldly knowledge, the standards and topics continue to change because technology becomes more sophisticated and research projects become more in-depth. So, only the important matters should be memorized and learned by reasoning and understanding.
- Having looked over what was learned with the mind. This refers to giving a reflection and full consideration, and also reasoning through the entire idea. Everything is clearly understood every time you recall it.
- Having thoroughly penetrated what was learned by view. The knowledge and mind are one. This quality can fully happen through dedicated meditation practice until your mind becomes bright with true wisdom, which allows you to see things clearly.
Characteristics of Those Who Cannot Be Artful in Knowledge
- Those whose learning is based on desire. They enjoy praising themselves, love compliments; pay increasing attention and care to their appearance, give excessive attention to everything else, and so they no longer have time to study. These people can be encouraged to alter their ways by reflecting on the nature of change and impermanence of everything. Therefore, they would know that there is much more in life than just focusing on themselves.
- Those whose learning is based on hatred. They easily become angry, irritated, and vengeful all the time. Their anger takes control of their senses and they are unable to think clearly. To change this, they need to keep precepts and practice forgiveness daily.
- Those whose learning is based on ignorance. They forget things easily and do not pay attention to the things they do. Their mind is not stable. They have negative thoughts and doubt the true existence of the Dhamma. They can improve themselves by practicing meditation.
- Those whose learning is based on Fear. They lack confidence in themselves and are too scared to do anything. This is because they fear criticism and they only want to be followers, not leaders. They can improve themselves by being close to those who have confidence and who are stable. They need to befriend the wise.
- Those whose learning is based on wealth. They are excessively drawn to wealth. They believe that wealth is more important than Dhamma knowledge. Thus, they fail to acquire knowledge and do not know what they should know.
- Those who do not take things they do seriously.
- Those who like to drink alcohol. They get drunk, and loose their senses as well as their chance to learn.
- Those who lack responsibility. They like to have fun all the time, like small children.
How to Become Artfulness in Knowledge
- You have to choose only what is appropriate to study.
- You have to be diligent and study hard in your chosen fields.
- You have to be eager to acquire more knowledge.
- You have to gain Dhamma knowledge along with worldly knowledge.
You have to be able to remember everything you learn and put your knowledge into practice right away.
Points for Consideration
If the knowledge we possess can only be used in the world and not in the Dhamma, there will always be an increased risk for us to take the wrong steps. An example of this is nuclear energy, which can be used either to create an alternative energy or to annihilate the entire world and bring about the end of mankind. Therefore, we need to learn about the teaching of Dhamma along with worldly knowledge. The Dhamma acts as beacon of light to help us decide what is right and wrong.
Those who only want to acquire worldly knowledge even if they are not rich or powerful will not be respected and will not be able to keep themselves safe. Please keep in mind that the knowledge gained by fools will always bring disasters because they will use what they know in the wrong way. Every one of us should seek an opportunity to acquire worldly knowledge as well as Dhamma knowledge and learn about each of the Blessing in depth. It will lead us to success in life.
The Benefits of Being Artful in Knowledge
- You can rely on yourself
- You will become a respectable leader.
- You will become courageous in any situation.
- You will attain an honorable position, wealth and happiness.
- You will receive rightful respect and praise from others.
- You will carry on your intelligence in your next lives.
- You will have good basis for creating skills, aptitudes, abilities and talents.
- You can easily attain the path to Nirvana.
Artfulness in Application
“If you plant a mango tree, the benefit you get from it depends entirely on the amount of fruit.
Even though the tree might grow a trunk, branches, and leaves, these are no more than a precursors for any benefit which may come later.
In the same way, even though a person may have learned, but this knowledge is no more than a precursor for the benefit that can happen when the knowledge is applied.”
What ls Artfulness in Application?
Artfulness in application refers to the application of knowledge and describes the individuals who can apply that knowledge fruitfully. Those who are artful in knowledge are intelligent, diligent and can understand right from wrong. Those who are artful in application know how to use what they learn and put it into practice.
People who possess knowledge will not always know how to apply it. For instance, they may know the theory of rice cooking, which includes putting the kernels into a pot of boiling water and waiting until the water is cold before eating it. However, they may not know how much rice or water to put into the pot so that they can provide for everyone who needs to eat. As a result, the rice may be too wet or burnt. These types of people do not possess skillfulness in application even though they might possess the knowledge.
This principle also applies to driving, swimming, cooking, etc. We can always ask ourselves: do we know how to apply what we know in the world?
Six Components of Artful Application
Not all performance or displays of application of knowledge are qualified as ‘artfulness in application’. You can learn skill, but it does not guarantee that using the skill will bring you merit. Therefore, before committing yourself to a skill you want to learn, you have to consider the merits of it first, for the harmony of society. The following six qualities of applied work demonstrate artistry:
- Must be refined.
- Add to the value of the raw materials.
- Product of work leads to constructive thinking, not aggressive or destructive thinking.
- Product of work does not lead to sensual obsession.
- Product of work does not lead to ill-will or vengefulness.
- Product of work does not lead to aggression.
Three Categories of Artful Application
- Artful Application in Body is to be skilled in vocational fields including: design, sculpting, mechanics, photography, gardening, farming, writing and many more jobs. Being able to express good manners, knowing what is appropriate to wear and being able to welcome visitors warmly are all examples of applying skills we learn.
- Artful application in speech is to know what language is considered as appropriate and can make others feel at ease. We should only speak when it is necessary and not use vulgar or abusive words.
- Artful application in mind is to have creative and positive thinking and use it in the right way. It is the kind of thinking that can make us feel better.
Characteristics of Those Who Can Transform Knowledge into Skills
- Believe in what we do: We have to believe that what we do is right and beneficial. We have to be committed so as to gain the correct outcomes.
- Guard our health: Do not let our effort destroy our health.
- Avoid arrogance and boastfulness: We should act with humility as without this no one will want to give us advice and help. We will not be able to hone our skills if we act with arrogance and self-praise.
- Avoid laziness: We have to learn to endure difficult situations and persevere through them.
- Cultivate wisdom: We always have to see or experience things for ourselves and become a good observer.
How to Instill Yourself with Artfulness in Application
- Be observant of yourself and the things around you: You should be an observer and seek uniqueness in ourselves and others, and in the things that are around us.
- Train yourself to do everything better than best: Practice dedication towards our responsibilities and excel in them. Do not keep putting things off till tomorrow.
- Be refined in all you do: Observe the details in our work with mindfulness.
- Always improve your work: Find ways to make it better, quicker, and cost-effective.
- Apprentice yourself to a craftsman: Search for a master in the field you chose and become an apprentice to them. Be respectful and helpful to them so that they will have compassion to push you further in the direction of craftsmanship.
- Meditate regularly: Trained mind means trained action and speech. We will gain an understanding of how to improve ourselves and feel when we do something that is wrong. Thus, we will become a person who is skillful in application.
Points for Consideration
Stop finding faults in others, as it can be a negative projection from us to someone else. If we criticize others, it may hinder us from gaining our true potential because this negative habit blocks our progress. We will not be successful and we will not learn to do new things readily.
The Benefits of Being Skillful in Application
- You will become a talented individual.
- You will be independent and can take care of yourself.
- You will become intelligent and will notice the finer details of everything.
- You will become healthy and strong.
- You will receive ultimate happiness in this lifetime and the next.
- You will progress quickly in gaining knowledge and development of the mind.
Artfulness in Usage
“If a sharp sword lacks a scabbard, it can harm even the owner. If a hand-grenade lacks a firing pin it can kill even the owner. A person of knowledge and experience can come to an unfortunate end, if he lacks self-discipline.”
What Is Artfulness in Usage?
Artfulness in usage or discipline refers to rules and regulations that people use to direct their bodily action and speech in the society they live in. Discipline helps to keep things in order and brings people together so that everyone will be contented and satisfied with the way they live. Disciplined behavior and disciplines can help to protect people and prevent disagreements.
When members of society lack discipline and everyone just does everything they want, others will get annoyed and irritation will probably happen. More people will create more problems leading to unrest and unhappiness. No one will live in peace and work on projects they are assigned to work together. Everything will be in disarray.
The concept of disarray can be illustrated by using the outward aspect of a flower garland. If the flowers are left disarranged on the table, it not only decreases their value, but it also makes things look uncared for. But if we twine them together with a thread, they will look nicer and can be used as a decoration in the house or as a gift for someone. If we compare the community members to the flowers, the thread that we used to twine the flower garland is the discipline.
Therefore, discipline is used to direct people towards positive conduct and lead the members to do what is right. Training in self-discipline, means training especially through the medium of keeping the Five Precepts the whole of the time, while conforming to the social customs and laws of the land.
Types of Discipline
As human beings we are made of two essential components: body and mind.
Our body depends on the worldly aspects such as clean air, water and nutrition.
Our mind depends upon the spiritual aspects or Dhamma.
To be healthy in both body and mind, we should live our life in ways that combine both aspects together.
Those who are knowledgeable need to study, both worldly and spiritual aspects.
Those who are skillful have to do the things they do well in both worldly and spiritual ways.
The same thing applies to those who are intelligent in usage; they must have discipline in the worldly way and Dhamma way. These will lead us to use only what is correct and will enhance our talents and skills.
- Worldly disciplines refers to codes of conduct that are written and accepted within a community to direct its members to behave in a certain way or to prevent certain negative types of behaviors. The disciplines can be divided into various categories, such as law, traditions, decree, rules, etc.
- Spiritual disciplines or Dhamma: There exist two aspects in Buddhism: the community of monks and lay people. Therefore, there are two sets of disciplines in Buddhism as follows:
Discipline for those who ordain as a monk, novice, female monk or nun.
Disciplines for those who do not ordain: This applies to laypeople both men and women.
Discipline for Those Who Choose Celibacy
The ultimate goal for monks is to eliminate all defilements, which requires them to possess a deep sense of purpose and knowledge. For them to acquire knowledge, they need to have a strong sense of concentration, which can be attained through consistent meditation practice. This depends upon their commitments in keeping their precepts. The four disciplines are for those whose goal is to remain celibate.
- Restraint according to the monastic code of conduct, for monks, is to keep the 227 precepts that the Lord Buddha observed. Refrain from the ones he forbade and practice the ones he set as the code.
- Restraining from their senses is for the monks to refrain themselves from being attracted by sounds, smells, tastes or touch. They should not watch what should not be watched, should not-listen to what should not be listened to, should not smell what should not be smelled, should not taste what should nm be tasted, should not touch what should not be touched, and should not think of what should not be thought of.
- Purity of livelihood refers to the fact that monks can make their living, which in their case, is by doing alms round as they need food to stay alive. It is against the code of conduct that monks earn wages, play lotteries, act as a clairvoyant or as a matchmaker, etc.
- Reflection on the requisites refers to monks reflecting on the four sorts of requisites before they use them. By doing so, it will decrease their attractions to clothing, food, shelter, and medicine. They eat to live, not live to eat. When Buddhism was still in its infancy, there was no emphasis on disciplines because the numbers of monks were only a few, but all were dedicating their time to practice meditation and Buddhism. They knew what was appropriate and what was not. However, as time went by and the number of monks increased, many of those behaved inappropriately. The Lord Buddha then declared codes of conduct for the monastic community to follow. For example, the first code of conduct was declared because a monk named Suthin went back to his home and slept with his wife because his parents wanted grandchildren. The Lord Buddha then declared the first code of conduct that forbids sexual relationships for all monks.
The Objectives behind Monastic Discipline
- To support the monastic community.
- To be a role model for those who disregard the disciplines and or regulations.
- To bring peace and happiness to the monastic community.
- To preserve the positive relationships between all monks.
- To prevent defilements and greed that may happen in the present.
- To prevent defilements and greed that may happen in the future.
- To maintain faith of the non-monastic population.
- To increase faith in the population who already believe and have faith.
- To maintain Buddhism.
- To continue the age of Buddhism and its traditions to the next generations.
Disciplines for those who do not pursue a celibate lifestyle and who maintain the Five Precepts.
What Are Precepts?
Precepts mean the level of virtue that is normal for human beings to have. It is a norm that distinguishes human beings from savages or from animals. Precept or self-discipline is the result of training yourself in discipline. It is a state of mind rather than a set of rules to follow.
Every being and thing needs to have its normal form or habits. For example: a horse sleeps standing. It is abnormal if they lay down; Laying down indicates that they are sick. The rainy season has to have rain. If there is no rain, it is unusual.
What is Considered Normal for Human Beings?
There are fives aspects which are considered to be normal for human beings.
- Not committing murder or killing any living creatures: Creatures that kill other beings are considered normal in the categories of tigers, bears, dogs, etc. because they attack each other regularly. However, for us as human beings, who keep the precepts, killing is not something that we are allowed to do.
- Not stealing or corrupting others: It is normal for animals to fight for food and take others’ food. Dogs fight when they are hungry but human beings are not like that. Therefore, to remain normal, human 3. Not committing adultery or any sexual misconduct: Animals normally do not know how to stay away from other animals even if the latter are not its mate. They always fight for the females, even if they belong to another, sometimes to the point of death. Human beings normality is to remain with their mates and not taking someone else’s. Therefore, the third precept involves not committing adultery or any sexual misconduct.
- Not telling lies: Animals cannot keep their mind still as they are always ready to protect themselves and to fight. As human beings, we speak to one another about problems and we are honest with one another. If we lie, we are not behaving in a good way. Therefore, we have to keep the fourth precepts of not telling any lies.
- Not consuming alcohol and intoxicants: If comparing animals to humans, the former are stronger, but they are unable to control their feelings and strength. For this reason, they cannot use their strength in a positive way. For example, they cannot go out and look for food for their parents.
With regard to human beings, even if we are not as strong, we use our conscience to guide our strength to do good things, to be respectful to our parents and to help them when they are old. Consciousness and mind is something that can stay strong and withstand difficult situations if our will is strong. If we are sick, we can maintain our mind to be conscious while fighting for our life. However, our state of mind will no longer be intact the moment we use alcohol even if it is just a half of glass; it will make us lose our senses. We may end up hurting someone who has been good to us. We will lose our ability to concentrate or accomplish our tasks. For those who drink alcohol, their behavior can be considered as negative and harmful as they become more like an animal.
Therefore, to preserve the state of morality in human beings, the consumption of alcohol and intoxicants is forbidden should not steal or corrupt others.
In summary, the five precepts consist of:
- Not to kill
- Not to steal
- Not to commit adultery
- Not to tell lies
- Not to drink alcohol or consume intoxicants knowingly
The five precepts were created before the Lord Buddha brought them practice into Buddhism. He explained the importance of keeping these precepts. We need to understand that doing so is not considered to be like regulations; rather, it is something that any thoughtful, caring person would do. In addition, precepts serve as a measurement of whether or not a person is striving for goodness or not.
The day our precepts are perfectly kept is the day we are 100 percent a good human being.
If we only keep four precepts, we are only 80 percent human and 20 percent animal
If we only keep three precepts, we are only 60 percent human and 40 percent animal.
If we only keep two precepts, we are only 40 percent human and 60 percent animal.
If we only keep one precept, we are only 20 percent human and 80 percent animal.
If we fail to even keep one precept, our state of being a human is over.
We no longer live in peace or happiness. We live life as if we are dead and can no longer perform good deeds. We will cause problems to our loved ones and to ourselves.
How to Keep Precepts for a Lifetime
To keep our state as a human being, one needs to keep the precepts seriously.
In order to be able to do so, we need a strong mind so that it will be easier for us to preserve all five precepts. However, first of all, we need to remember that:
Keeping precepts means keeping the behavior of a normal human being.
So not keeping precepts is abnormal far human beings.
Nowadays, a high number of people are unable to keep their precepts. Many even think that the concept of keeping precepts is abnormal. When this thought occurs, peace is threatened and will begin to crumble. Cases of murder, stealing, adultery will rise. The rest of the population will no longer live in peace, but will begin to live in fear.
”Who can we trust to end this type of suffering?”
Everyone can end this suffering and fear. We can end it by keeping precepts even if others refuse to do it. We can compare Thailand to a big boiling pot which in that is its population of over 60 millions fighting and having disagreements. But if each of us has precepts, it is like pulling ourselves away from those who do not. Even if that pot is boiling, it will not be because of us. When everybody pulls away from this pot, the fire under the pot will be extinguished and people will live in peace.
To keep telling ourselves to keep our precepts, we need to find ways to do just that. One way is by keeping the Lord Buddha’s image with us for the entire day. We can also put it in our hand and pray to keep our precepts.
In Medicine There are Two Types of Illness That Exist
- Body illness: This is being sick due to disease, infections, ageing, trauma and injury
- Illness that occurs because of inappropriate and wrong behaviors:
The lack of the first precept causes us to be short-lived: e.g. members of criminal gangs such as the mafia who kills a lot of people and in the end, they end up being killed themselves.
The lack of the second precept causes us to have mental illness including; depression, fear and anxiety.
The lack of the third precept can cause us to get infected with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDS.
The lack of the fourth precept causes us to become forgetful and to suffer memory loss. Those who lie all the time will end up forgetting the details of the story they fabricated. They no longer know what the truth is.
The lack of the fifth precept causes us illness associated with alcohol: cirrhosis or gastric problems and many other forms of illness too.
Therefore, keeping our precepts is considered to be giving ourselves ‘immunizations’ against being sick.
On the monks’ day or every seven days, we should keep the eight precepts which consist of:
- Not to kill
- Not to steal
- Not to commit adultery and not engage in sexual intercourse
- Not to tell lies
- Not knowingly to drink alcohol or consume intoxicants knowingly
- Not to take meals after midday and dawn
- Not to indulge in romantic entertainment or immodesty such as using cosmetics, jewelries and perfume
- Not to sleep on a high bed (non luxurious)
Precepts 6-8 aims to prevent sexual intercourse of those who keep the eight precepts Additional benefits include:
- To prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- To prevent competition in terms of beauty or wealth and is to help lead a simple life.
- To make our mind peaceful so that we can attain a higher Dhamma.
The Benefits of Precepts
- It will bring wealth to us and we will be able to use it fully. We will not have to worry about anyone taking it from us.
- It will bring us happiness and we will not have to live in fear of anyone.
- It will bring us respect from others and will make them trust us well.
- It will make us strong as compared to others.
- It will help keep our memories intact.
- It will bring us peace and lead to heaven after our death.
- It will help us attain enlightenment and enter Nirvana.
The Benefits of Disciplines
The combination of worldly and Dhamma disciplines:
- Discipline will bring us higher. This means that it will make us better as individuals.
Street children who go to schools (learn discipline) will become students. Village children who ordain and keep their 10 precepts will become novices. A novice who ordain and keeps 227 precepts will become a monk.
If we have discipline, we can control our mind as well as our speech and actions easier. We can reach our goals only through disciplines.
- Discipline will give us a greater understanding of those around us. Discipline will help us reveal true qualities of people, so we know who is reliable.
- Discipline helps us to see differences. Disciplines help us understand people and see their habits and who they really are. Those who like to be around weapons and prepare themselves for fighting with disciplines are soldiers. They are considered to be the protectors of the country. But if they are without disciplines, we call them gangsters or those who can destroy the morality of the country they live in. Those who have responsibility for the nations discipline are policemen, as without them we would have criminals and those who make problems for others. Those who keep 227 precepts and go on alms rounds are monks. But if they are without their precepts, they could be called beggars. We have to step towards happiness and progress in life. We have to become pure and maintain our order and disciplines.
Artfulness in Speech
“A fish can have a long life dependant on its mouth which it uses to feed. However, because of the same mouth and its greed for bait, it swallows the hook which brings its life to an end.
In the same way, if we use our mouth for artful speech, it can bring us success and prosperity in life, but sometimes even a word of unwholesomeness speech from the same mouth can cost us our lives.”
What Is Artful Speech?
Artful speech means speech that has been carefully filtered and distilled by the mind as good, before it is allowed to pass our lips. Nature gave us two eyes to see the world around us. We also have two ears which we use to listen. But, we have one mouth which is used in at least two ways: to eat and speak. This means that nature wants us to listen and see things more than using our mouth to speak. We should be careful in both our speech and the food we consume. If we want to speak, we should speak in ways that are good to us and the listeners.
Characteristics of Artful Speech
- Speech must be true: This means that what we say cannot contain lies. Our aim in saying anything is not to create any misunderstandings or misinterpretation.
- Speech must be polite: This refers to the use of soft and respectful words. Words should not be vulgar, sarcastic, or hurtful to the listeners.
- Speech must be useful: This refers to speech that creates positive effects on both the speakers and listeners. Even if the speech is truthful and polite, if it is not useful, it should not be said.
- Speech must be compassionate: This refers to speech that aims to make others feel better and not to make others feel worse about any situation. It should provide them with encouragement and strength. Similar to the third point, even if it is a truthful, polite and useful speech, you should not speak especially when the speaker is angry. The listeners may not be able to accept it and just one negative sentence can cause a friendship between people to end.
- Speech must be appropriate in time and occasion: This means that even what we want to say meets the four above components; it should definitely be avoided if it goes against someone’s culture or customs. This type of speech may cause rumors and may be hurtful to everyone involved including our self.
Speaking at the right time means that we know what and when to say something and when talking needs to be avoided. This includes knowing how long we should talk for. We should also be aware of the outcome of what we say to others.
Speaking in the right place means knowing if the place we are in is appropriate for what we want to say.
For example, even if we have good intentions to tell our friends to stop drinking alcohol, but we tell them when they are drunk with their friends, it may make them embarrassed and they will feel humiliated. In the future, they may no longer listen to us.
Qualifications of a Peace Envoy
- You should listen to others’ opinions without interrupting them.
- You should be able to get others’ attentions while speaking.
- You should keep what we say to the minimum, while communicating the main points to the listeners.
- You should be able to remember what we want to say.
- You should understand the details of what we have to say.
- You should be able to make others understand our speech.
- You should be able to make a speech that is useful.
- You should not persuade others into arguments and fights.
Consequences of Insulting Those of Virtue
Those who verbally abuse the monastic community or the Lord Buddha will meet with eleven consequences as follow:
- They will never attain inner Dhamma.
- They will destroy their chance to attain inner Dhamma.
- Their mind will be gloomy and clouded.
- They will become a person who believes he has attained Dhamma inside even though this is not true.
- They will become someone who does not want to join the monastic community.
- They will become depressed.
- They will leave the monastic community.
- They will suffer a serious illness.
- They will have a mental illness.
- They will lose their mind when they know they may die.
- They will enter the hell realm after death.
Characteristics of Unworthy Speech
- A speech describing faith by those who have no faith.
- A speech describing the goodness of precepts from those who do not keep precepts.
- A speech praising the benefit of education from one who has never studied.
- A speech praising the benefit of charity from one who is stingy and not generous.
- A speech praising the benefit of wisdom from those who are unwise.
Characteristics of a Great Man’s Voice
One who practiced verbal wholesomeness over lifetimes will possess the voice of a Great Man. The characteristics of a Great Man’s voice are as follows:
- Energetic and cheerful
- Clear and articulate
- Soft and gentle
- Endearing to hear
- Thoughtful and deep
- Reflective and echoing
The Benefits of Being Artful in Speech
- You will become a charming person who everyone adores.
- You will gain progress in worldly and Dhamma ways.
- You will become skillful in negotiations.
- You will only listen and hear good things.
- You will not enter the hell realm.
Blessing Group 4: Practice for Harmony in Family Life
Cherishing Our Parents
“A full-grown tree that has been cared for with the right amount of water and fertilizer can bloom and give fruits to its owner.
Likewise a person, who has been raised, always wants to pay their debt of gratitude to both parents and any benefactors.
Just as you can tell the difference between a gold-plated object and one that is solid gold, by passing it through a flame, you can tell if someone is truly virtuous by how they cherish their parents.”
The Debt of Gratitude to Our Parents
Lord Buddha taught that if we were to carry both parents, one on each shoulder, for one hundred years, spoon-feeding them and allowing them to urinate and defecate on us, it would still be not enough to fully repay our debt of gratitude to them.
Another well-known proverb says that if we were to use the sky as our paper, the tip of Mount Sumeru as our pen and the water from all the oceans as our ink to write the virtues of our parents in the sky until the sky runs out of place to be written on, the mountains all wear down, and the seawater runs dry, we would still not have completed the list of the virtue of our parents.
The reason a child is indebted to his parents can be summarized as the followings:
1.Parents serve as the physical mold. A mould increases a material’s value. For example, a piece of clay can be molded into a doll, which increases the clay’s value because it can be used for home decoration. Yet the same piece of clay, if it is used to mould a Buddha, will increase more in value because people would then be able to pay respect to it. By this reasoning, the value of a piece of clay depends upon its mold.
Similarly, animals such as elephants, horses, cows and buffalo are born with certain levels of intelligence. However, they cannot make merit to its fullest:. We are lucky to be born as humans and have this form of a body rather than that of an animal. This body allows us to make all types of merit because we accumulate great knowledge and ability. All these benefits come from the grace of our parents who give us our physical mould.
- Parents serve as the spiritual mold. They foster and nurture, teach and educate us in both moral and worldly aspects. Our debt of gratitude to our parents for giving us a physical mould is enormous. But if they raise and teach us, serving as our spiritual mould, our debt of gratitude to them is infinitely multiplied.
Illustrative Examples of Parents
Our parents can be compared to a saint, one’s first guardian angel, teacher and Holy being.
- Parents as God: They are compared to God or Brahma because they exhibit all the underlying virtues, which are also exhibited by a God and their virtues are:
Loving-kindness: Parents have a never ending wish that their children should be free from all types of suffering.
Compassion: Parents make every effort to diminish the suffering of their children and never neglect their child.
Sympathetic joy: Whenever the child experiences success or happiness, the parents experience that success and happiness as if it was their own.
Equanimity: When the child has their own family and is able to look after their own affairs, the parents no longer interfere. If the children make mistakes, the parents refrain from saying “I told you so”, but give their opinion when asked.
2.Parents as one’s first guardian angel: They are the first people the child knows and they offers their full protection to the child.
3.Parents as our first teacher: Parents are the first people known to the child to teach and train the child in every aspect. This includes: how to walk, talk and cultivate good manners
4.Parents as a Holy being: Parents also exhibit these four qualities:
1.They bring great benefit to the child. The parents fulfill the challenging duty of caring for the child in every way.
2.They command respect but are endearing. Protecting the child from all dangers, they also manage to bring gentle warmth to the child’s life.
3.They are the child’s field of merit. They have complete and pure intentions towards their children, making them f1, worthy object for the child’s merit-making.
4.They are worthy of being paid respect to. A child should express respect to his parents.
We owe an overwhelming debt of gratitude to our parents, which we must repay by firstly appreciating our parents. We should know how good they are and have been to us. Additionally, we must repay that debt of gratitude to them and in Buddhism, this concept is described in these words: katannu and katavedi, which expresses the pride and dignity of a child.
Katannu means appreciating the debt of gratitude we owe our parents with all of our heart and mind. They are truly kind and they love us not only with words but also with their devotion to us as their child. Our debt of gratitude to our parents can be seen from how they raise us; and how much they give and do for us.
Our parents are unlike anybody in the world. Mostly, other people will only help us when they see that they can get something out of it for themselves or share something in common with us. Only when they are certain that their investment will bring about a return, will they give a hand.
However, our parents’ care and protection come from a loving and true heart without any guarantee of return, with merely a sense of unconditional love. We were born naked and came without clothes or the means to make them. Our parents could not know if we would be healthy or mentally well and moreover, they could not know whether or not our personality would be compatible or different to theirs. They had no confirmation, contract, or even promise from us but they still completely sacrifice their lives to protect us.
If they are poor, they may have to borrow money from others and such actions are born from love to care for their child. Such thorough consideration of our debt of gratitude to our parents is called katannu, which is a fundamental virtue. The more you realize, the clearer and brighter your mind will become.
Katavedi means repaying our debt of gratitude to our parents. This can be expressed in two ways:
- Announcing the goodness of our parents
- Repaying our debt of gratitude to our parents
Announcing the Goodness of Our Parents
This concept is not new and has been performed in many ways by our ancestors; but the most common and modern way of doing this is at our parent’s funeral, by writing a biography and giving it as a souvenir. It is not a bad thing to do, but it hits only the tip of the iceberg. A good way to praise the goodness of our parents is through our own behavior during our parent’s lifetime. We are like a ‘representative’ of our parents because we receive their blood, flesh and may have inherited some of their habits. We can best express the goodness of our parents to those around us, by behaving in a good way towards them and others, not just by using the funeral book when they have died.
If we write in the funeral book that our parents had good manners and morality, but we then behave in the opposite manner by becoming intoxicated and corrupt? Whenever we fail to observe even only one precept, we are certainly being hypocrites, as we do not represent our parents rightfully.
By behaving like this, the value of our proclamation will diminish. It is as if, we put all the efforts to announce the goodness of our parents through paper, printer and staff, yet we insult our own parents through our behavior. This says that our parents did not teach us well.
We love our parents, so we must announce the goodness of our parents by practicing those virtues in us, starting from now, while they are still alive. If we do so, we bring happiness to our parents. However, for the praise of parents, which is written in funeral books, it means very little.
Whether or not we intentionally want to announce the goodness of our parents, our actions speak for themselves. Do we want to make ourselves worthy of our parents’ legacy or do we want to insult them by behaving improperly?
Think about it.
Repaying Our Debt of Gratitude to Our Parents
This can be done in two stages.
- While our parents are still alive: We can help them in their work, take care of them when they are ill and provide them with clothing, housing, medicines and other necessities.
- When our parents have already passed away: Apart from taking responsibility for organizing a proper funeral, we should perform meritorious deeds on a regular basis and dedicate the merit for their benefit.
Although we can follow all of the above virtues, it is still modest when compared to the debt of gratitude we have towards our parents. A good person who wants to repay the debt of gratitude to his parents should follow these guidelines:
- Inspire our parents to have faith in the Triple Gem.
- Invite them to give to charity but if they are not yet willing, at least invite them to rejoice in the merit of others.
- Persuade them to observe the five precepts.
- Teach them how to meditate.
Having faith in the Triple Gem, practicing generosity, observing precepts, and meditating on a regular basis are the internal support which directly brings great benefit to our parents because they will be given heaven as their destination after death.
The Benefits of Cherishing Our Parents
- You will become a patient and tolerant person.
- You will become a prudent person.
- You will become a more reasonable person.
- You will become free from suffering.
- Your wealth will come readily.
- You will be safe from all dangers.
- You will be protected by the angels.
- You will be praised by all.
- You will be successful.
- You will have good children.
- You will be happy and will feel great.
- You will set a good example for the next generation.
“By taking good care of your parents, you will be praised by the wise in this world and after passing away, they will rejoice in heaven.”
Raising Our Children
“If a tree bears bad fruit, it will only be cut down.
On the other hand, if its fruit tastes sweet and delicious, the owner will want to take care of it for as long as possible.
Likewise, if a child is good, honor and praise will go to their parents.
But if the child is bad and troublesome, others will blame on the parents.
Therefore, the blessings of the parents depend upon their children”.
The Importance of Good Upbringing
One day we will grow old and die and one thing that we all want is the pleasure of keeping our life fresh for as long as possible. Enjoyment happens only when we see the result of good work and deeds that we have performed. The better the work, the fresher our heart feels and the longer and healthier the life we will have.
The ultimate masterpiece of a meditator is the complete eradication of defilements from the mind.
The ultimate success of a house-holder is good offspring.
Having a difficult child is more miserable than being pounded in a meat-grinder. It is heartbreaking to raise a child who cannot be good to others.
Expectations of Parents
- Their child will look after them in their old age.
- Their child will perpetuate the good work in society, which their parents have already started.
- Their child will carry on the good name of the family
- Their child will use the family’s wealth in a good way.
- When they pass away, their child will perform funeral rites and continue to dedicate the positivity of their good deeds towards their parents.
- Based on these five listed expectations, parents desire to give birth to a child.
The True Meaning of the Word ‘Child’
The word ‘child’ has two meanings:
- One who purifies the family name
- One who brings joy to the heart of his parents
Types of Children
According to their level of virtue, children can be categorized into three types:
- The child whose virtue exceeds that of his parents, and who brings more prosperity to the family than during the time of his parents.
- The child whose virtue equals that of his parents and who brings the same degree of prosperity to the family with that during the time of his parents.
- The child whose virtue is less than that of his parents and who brings less prosperity to the family than during the time of his parents.
How to Raise a Good Child
- The parents must be the role-models of goodness: They must perform as many meritorious deeds as possible so they are able to have good children. This can be compared to a species of tree that gives good fruit. While the mother is pregnant, the expected child’s virtue will equal the parents’ virtue and parents who want to give birth to a good child, must put in effort to perform as many meritorious deeds as possible.
- Good upbringing: This will be discussed later in details.
How to Raise Your Children
There are two categories of raising your child: worldly and spiritual, and both ways must be taught and trained fully together.
A Worldly Way to Raise Your Children
- Not allowing your child to succumb to wickedness means to prevent and protect your child from evil at all costs. Conflict between parents and children is expected because of misunderstandings between them and the reasons for misunderstandings come from three factors:
- Conflict of the point of view
- Conflict of the need
Conflict of point of view refers to seeing the same thing in different ways and aspects. For example: outings for teenagers are good because it is a social and mind-opening event. However, for parents, outings until late at night are detrimental to studies and may cause danger due to association with false friends. When a child is prevented from going out, the parents are called old-fashioned.
The child should listen to the parents’ opinion based on these two simple reasons: All parents wish only the best for their children and are more experienced than them. We cannot guarantee that the love from all the friends around us equals that of our parents and we have all mistaken bad things for good things before. Listening and believing what our parents teach and advice us, will always help us to avoid evil. For parents, when telling or asking a child to do something, you should do it in a reasonable way and avoid the emotions.
Conflict of needs refers to different ages having different tastes and styles. Older people prefer peace and quiet at home for happiness. Young people, on the other hand, like to dress up and go out with their friends. The child and parents must bring their hearts to meet at love and find the angle of love between each other. They have to learn to moderately give and take. Raising teenagers is like ‘flying a kite’: one has to give and take a little depending on the situation or as “the wind pulls the kite this way or that way.”
Defilement can occur in both the parents and children. When they are angry, selfish, stubborn or immersed in other defilements, they find it is almost impossible to talk to each other. Each needs to be calm and talk reasonably to each other. Parents need to practice morality and self-control too. They should teach their children to have reason and to be sensible, starting from a young age, so that any problems that arise can soon be sorted out between each other in a positive and loving way.
- Teach your child to be established in virtue. Parents must put emphasis on the development of the child’s mind, as the mind is the center of all thoughts. The word “good upbringing” simply means training the child’s mind to be good. There are two kinds of material things: things we eat and things we use. Things we eat are the same for everyone because we have to eat to maintain our body, but things we use can vary according to our needs. For example: a farmer needs to use a plough, and a clerk needs to use a pen.
Spiritual wealth can also be categorized into two groups:
- Dhamma is the food for the mind.
- Knowledge is the tool for the mind.
Normally our body feels weak when it lacks food and our mind feels weak when it lacks moral teaching. Dhamma is its fuel. We have to eat food by ourselves and no one can eat it for us. This is unlike tools which can be shared by many different people: i.e. a knife can be shared in the same household. Our mind needs to take fuel by itself; it has to have Dhamma.
The parents cannot assume that, just because their minds already have Dhamma, their child does not need to have their own store of it. Having knowledge is similar to having a tool and we can choose to train for a profession or trade. If we need some help, we can borrow tools or ask for help from other people. The mind without Dhamma is like the body without food and the mind without knowledge is like a man without his work tools.
The parents’ task is to teach and train a child to acquire both qualities and only then a child is considered to have had a good upbringing; the following examples express how to achieve this:
- Set a good example to your child
- Choose good friends far your child
- Choose good books for your child
- Choose good teachers for your child
3.See that your child is well educated. So they are capable of supporting themselves in the future. The parents need to supervise their children by having regular talks and meetings with the school to discuss their child’s progress. They should know the school schedule, their grades and all the costs involved for the child at school. The parents who have their children studying far from home and without a supervisor, need to pay more attention. The child should only live in a dorm if the people in charge of the dorm are reliable and with strict regulations.
4.Help in arranging your child’s marriage. The parents have two important duties:
- Finance their children s marriage
- Advise in the final decision of their children s choice of spouse.
The latter role of the parents may bring many conflicts between the parents and children because it is a very serious decision, so it requires careful consideration. The problematic issues that can arise are as follows:
- The advantage and disadvantage of the parents’ intervention
- Who should make the final decision?
In regards to the first issue, if looked upon with reasonable consideration there are more advantages when the parents intervene. Disadvantages arise in the case of the parents who lack reason and overstate themselves. However, working together is always a wise choice because children are more innocent and inexperienced. They can easily make wrong choices and mistakes. Problems in marriage can have long and complicated results that are hard to correct.
The latter issue, who should decide whether or not the marriage will take place? The question of readiness and who to marry can be best discussed by both the parents and children together. The parents’ role is to give advice and not to interfere. That a son or daughter leaves the final decision up to their parents is one way of repaying their debt of gratitude towards them. In any case, parents should use moderation and discretion in all dealings with their children.
“The marriage partner, who we don’t like but our child loves, is better than a partner we love, but our child doesn’t like”.
The only circumstances which may cause friction between the two generations is when one’s son or daughter falls in love with a criminal o:r someone who is damaging to the child’s future.
- Pass your legacy onto your child. The parents should give their legacy to their child only when they are ready for it, not before. If they are still young and do not know the value of money, the parents have to wait until they grow old enough to understand it. If the children’s behavior is seriously bad or they commit evil deeds, the parents must wait until they are able to make positive changes in themselves first.
In Buddhist culture there are reciprocal duties between parents and children. The child does not become completely independent and ‘leave’ their parents when they reach adulthood. The children will continue to look after their parents when they are older and this in turn gives meaning to parental duty of passing on their legacy to their children before they die.
Spiritual Ways to Raise Your Children
- Take your children to the temple to study Buddhist teachings.
- Teach them to chant every night before bedtime.
- Teach them how to make merit: offering alms and observing precepts.
- Meditate with them every night.
- Love the child but do not spoil them as otherwise they can get into bad habits. The reasons why parents spoil their children:
They love the child so much they do not dare to punish them.
They feel regret they do not spend enough time with the child.
- Use moderation about the rules and do not be too ‘fussy’;
- Spend enough time with the children. No matter how busy you are, try to find time for them or you may regret it later
- Offer discipline immediately when seeing your child doing something wrong. However, be reasonable and do not loose your temper and praise them when they do something good to encourage them to keep doing good things.
- Train the child to work from an early age. Do not let them just sit idly.
Do not help them with things a child of their age should be able to do. Teach them to depend upon themselves as much as possible.
- Giving food, clothing, shelter, and medicine is not enough; parents must also give their child Dhamma.
The Benefits of Raising Our Children
- The parents will be rewarded with pride in life;
- The family will be at peace;
- The nation will have good citizens;
- Good role models for the generations to come are set.
“Wise people always wish to have their children whose virtues are higher or equal, but not lesser than them, as they can hurt the family.
Children, who are without stinginess and have faith, observe precepts and use wise speech will shine through the crowd, just as the moon shines when newly revealed from behind the clouds.”
Cherishing Our Husband or Wife
”In chewing food, if our tongue and teeth do not 1vork in harmony, we can bite ourselves and then cry in pain.
Likewise, in a marriage, if a husband and wife do not cherish each other and share mutual understanding, not only will they be unsuccessful in life, they will also hurt each other and end up shedding lots of tears.”
The Meaning of Husband and Wife
A husband is a married man or a woman’s spouse in marriage.
A wife is a married woman or a man’s spouse in marriage.
The Marriage is a union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Seven Types of Spouse
- A Rival: Such a spouse uses all sorts of abuse and violence; may even look for the opportunity to kill. Such a spouse can be physically cruel to their partner and can enjoy feeling superior with no thoughts of gratitude to their wife or husband, instead of the feeling of being loving and compassionate.
- A Robber: Such a spouse is full of greed and deviously tries to extract as much partner’s wealth as possible for their own self-interests, i.e. gambling or being selfishly extravagant.
- A boss: Such a spouse can threaten your honor. They may be lazy and constantly waiting for the chance to sit or lie down and rest instead of helping with their respective duties. They lack helpfulness, use threats and insult their partner to make them do the work instead of sharing and being helpful for each other.
- A Mother: Such a spouse will forgive their partner for anything they do wrong just as how a mother has limitless love for her child. For example, if the partner is ill or handicapped, they will look after their partner with the same care as a mother to a child. This is also true of a spouse whose partner dies while their children are still young. They carry on raising their children single-handedly without thinking of taking a new partner.
- A Sister: Such a spouse is almost the same as the motherly spouse, but is a little more playful. The spouse can be emotional yet at the same time truthful, honest and faithful.
- A Friend: Such a spouse is a person of similar background, tastes and education to their partner. Their level of morality will be similar and they can live quite happily together.
- A Slave: The intelligence of such a spouse may be less than that of their partner. They can be honest and they may want to serve their partner to the utmost but still may make mistakes. They tend to allow themselves to be abused as their self-worth is low. They can put up with the abuse without becoming angry or revengeful and without blaming their partner. Sometimes, they believe they actually deserve this type of relationship with their spouse and it is actually their fault.
It takes a period of time in marriage to categorize which type of spouse we have. There are two periods in a marriage:
Before the marriage when each one tries to show their best qualities so that they appear better. This includes the physical body, aspects of personality, character and qualities, so they appear a good marriage prospect for their partner.
After the marriage when each person has his or her duty to perform. This is when the advantages, disadvantages, skills and behaviors of each partner will become much clearer as you spend time together every day.
Virtues of Compatibility
In order for a couple to stay together for a long marriage, it is necessary that they are compatible in terms of the level of virtues they possess – particularly the following the four “virtues of compatibility”:
- Faith: Husband and wife should have the same level of spiritual faith and the same “aim in life”;
- Self-discipline: Husband and wife should have the same standard of precepts, manners and etiquettes towards one another;
- Self-sacrifice: Husband and wife should have the same level of self-sacrifice in selflessly devoting themselves to generous deeds and/ or helping others;
- Wisdom: Husband and wife should have the same level of wisdom and creativity, empathy and common sense. They should be on the same communicative “wavelength” so that neither suffers from misunderstandings.
Maintaining a Marriage
Conflicts cannot be avoided in a marriage. The secret of a happy marriage relies on keeping open the channels of communication so any issues can be resolved easily. Maintaining good channels of communication according to the principle recommended by the Lord Buddha is to maintain a healthy “Emotional Bank Account” with one’s marriage partner. There are four ways of maintaining a healthy “EBA” (Emotional Bank Account) with your partner:
- Giving resources: If two people are going to live together they must be able to share what they have with their partner. Any place that lacks generosity will be “parched like a desert”. Once married, all the property that was once individually owned should become shared. To “keep back” something as an individual asset will only create suspicion and this can ruin a marriage. Thus, it is important to keep open channels of communication between each other, whereby one partner can consult the other if they are having problems with anything in the marriage.
- Endearing Speech: A husband and wife should care to always address each other with polite speech, even if there may be something of less than positive reflection to be said to each other. Sometimes if things become too informal, it can be easy to impact the other partner and disturb their peacefulness and the whole family. When one is married, one should use the same standard of polite speech as used before the marriage.
- Helpfulness: A husband and wife need to lend each other a helping hand. Also if one of the partners learns something new concerning spiritual knowledge, they should share it with their spouse. When a conflict arises in the marriage, there is a huge temptation to put all the blame on the other partner instead of taking collective responsibility. However, if both are well-versed in spiritual teachings, the couple will tend to deal with the problem directly instead of merely looking for someone to blame.
- Consistency: Both husband and wife have implicit duties in the marriage to the degree that they must live up to those duties in order to avoid suspicion from their partner. If a family has decided that the wife should take responsibility for the running of the house, the husband should not interfere in the household affairs. Sometimes “appropriateness” is not immediately evident in every situation, and sometimes it is hard to sense what your partner expects of you. If both partners meditate on a daily basis, they will easily ‘tum:’ into a more consistent and harmonious level of behavior.
In conclusion, both partners should follow the principles of generosity, sharing, observing precepts; to use endearing speech and meditate regularly; this includes listening to sermons so that our mind will be bright, clear, and easily keep what is appropriate for every situation.
Five Duties of a Husband to His Wife
- He must praise and be kind to his wife: He should not keep his wife as a ‘secret’ from anyone. Once a man is married he should be proud to be married to such a lady and ‘show off’ his wife to the public and have a proper, lawful registration of his marriage. He should be careful to treat his wife with respect and not to criticize her personally in front of others.
- He must never look down or be demeaning to his wife: Even though a couple is married, it does not mean that a husband will have an attitude of respect towards his wife. Sometimes he may look down on her or even treat her like a slave or something ‘like’ a pet. If a husband restrains himself from looking down on his wife at all times, this shows he takes his responsibility for the dignity of others seriously.
- He must never be unfaithful: Because a husband is a man of virtue it goes without saying that he refrains from the Four Defiling Actions: killing, stealing, adultery and telling lies. He will never be unfaithful to his wife because doing so, would destroy his own honor and integrity and the dignity of his wife.
- He should trust his wife with her own responsibilities: To demonstrate his sincerity and trust for his wife, a husband must give his wife freedom with the organization of the household and family without interfering. If his wife is a “working mother” it does not make her less responsible for the affairs of the home and the family. Both husband and wife will need to come to an agreement, according to the principles of the “EBA”, so she can manage to do all of her domestic work without being overloaded.
- He should regularly bring his wife gifts: Gifts express the love of a husband for his wife and his appreciation of her virtues. Such generosity can mend many marriages and breathe new air into a relationship. A husband should take his wife to shop for things she wants and he should support her in doing things she wants to do and encourage her to meet her friends and family regularly.
Five Duties of a Wife to Her Husband
- She takes care of the family: A wife should see to it that the family and the home become like a ‘heavenly mansion’ where all family members feel happy and peaceful. Plus appropriate and homely things for the taste, age and the health of the family members are to be made available.
- She must take good care of her ‘In-laws’: The wife must look after her in-laws especially well. She must be careful what she says to them because a few wrong words can have serious consequences.
- She must never be unfaithful: Because a wife is a woman of virtue, it goes without saying that she refrains from the Four Defiling Actions: killing, stealing, adultery and telling lies. She would never be unfaithful to her husband, because doing so would destroy her own honor and integrity and the dignity of her husband.
- She must take good care of the shared wealth and resources: A responsible wife should look after the shared wealth and resources of the household by being neither extravagant nor stingy. As the husband may already be going out to work, he entrusts his wife with the money for the mutual administration of the family finances.
- She must be conscientious in her responsibilities: Having been entrusted with responsibility in both household and family affairs, she should see to it that these duties are properly fulfilled; rather than being distracted or negligent in her responsibilities.
At a wedding ceremony in Thailand, when the bride and groom receive the water that has been blessed, they will wear a sacred cord that connects them together around their heads. It represents the unbreakable connection between the couple, so that they will never be parted.
Lord Buddha taught that the husband and wife are connected, not with the cord but with the heart. When the husband and wife are sharing and helping each other, it will create two circles in their hearts: one in the husband’s and the other in the wife’s heart. If they can follow these principles, no matter who tries to take them apart, they will never be parted. Death can only part them physically, but spiritually they will stay still together forever.
Ten Further Principles for a Happily Married Life
The following is the ten-fold advice given to Lady Visakha by her father Dhanancaya on the day of her wedding:
- Do not let the fire inside go outside: Do not go spreading the secret problems of the house to the people outside it.
- Do not let the fire outside come inside: Do not bring the gossip and problems from outside into the house, especially gossip that is of no benefit to the welfare of family members.
- Give to those who give to us: Help those who have helped us in the past, especially the partners of both the husband and wife. Let them borrow things. If you lend things to people and they return them you can lend things to them a second time.
- Do not give to those who give nothing to us: Do not lend things to people who never return them, return them late, or to those who in the past have refused to help us even though it is within their capability to do so.
- Whether they give or not, be generous anyway: Whether they have helped us before or not, if they are our relatives and they have fallen on hard times, we should help them anyway. It does not matter if they return the money given or not because their inability to return it is usually through circumstances beyond their control.
- Make sure that the food is amenable: Make sure the meals served to your family are nutritious. You may have to eat after your children have finished their meal, but if the whole family is well provided for, there will be no problems when it comes to food.
- Find and appropriate place to sit: This means the wife must know relative level of respect due to others for example it would be insulting to sit on a higher level than her in-laws.
- Find an appropriate place to sleep: You should make sure that the sleeping place of everyone in the family is comfortable. Be prepared to get up before anyone else in the family and go to sleep when anyone else has already gone to bed.
- Keep the fire going: That is to take special care of the in-laws and husband when they are “on fire” (in a bad temper) even if they should speak in an unpleasant way towards you. It is necessary to keep silent instead of answering back, since saying the right thing at the wrong time will only make the situation worse. Sometimes the wife must wait until things have ‘calmed down’ before explaining the real reason for a given situation.
- Be respectful to the angels: Congratulate one’s husband and in laws when they do something good or have experienced good luck. Our words of encouragement should lead them to even better good deeds.
The Benefits of Cherishing Our Husband or Wife
- You will ensure long lasting love.
- You will create harmony in the family.
- You will keep the family peaceful.
- You will receive praise from all.
- You will set a role model for generations to come.
“A marriage that has the wrong approach to it can be a nightmare, turning the closest of lovers into the worst of enemies.
By contrast, a properly fulfilled marriage will be long lasting, avoiding the bitterness of divorce and creating blessings all far that couple, their children and society as a whole.”
Not Leaving One’s Work Undone
“The dung on the tail of a pig, will accumulate as the days pass, making it increasingly difficult for the pig to feel happy with its lot in life.
The work a person leaves unfinished can impede one’s prosperity.
A person’s value is proportional to the work they complete. The work they leave undone detracts from their value.”
Why Work Is Left Unfinished
- Wrong timing: This refers to doing work at the wrong time. For example, someone who does not study when they have the opportunity, may have to complete their studies when they maybe more forgetful and find it difficult to remember much of what they have learnt.
- Wrong technique: Work is not organized systematically. For example: when cleaning the house, one begins to clean the floor before the ceiling. Essentially, you start with the ceiling and then finish with the floor, instead of having to clean the floor twice.
- Never getting started: This means setting one’s priority incorrectly or having too many excuses. For example: waiting for a good time to start working. Lord Buddha said whenever we are doing a good thing, we are doing it at the right time. Therefore, we do not need to wait.
“Benefit will pass fools who always wait for propitious moment Benefit is the propitious moment of itself even the stars cannot bother it.”
Recipes for Success
Lord Buddha taught the following four principles called the “Four Foundations of Success”
- Aspiration: To work, you need the willingness to get down and do the work. Without this, you will never get down to doing it! Do not wait for the ‘mood’ to come or wish for it to happen accidentally. Look for ways to create the right mood.
The boss who gives orders needs to create a harmonious atmosphere and enthusiasm in his workers. Also, he has to help his team realize the positive and negative outcomes of things. The boss, who always uses harsh speech to his staff, makes a big mistake; as this will only discourage them.
- Perseverance: Assertion is a moral aspect of the mind that can also be called “bravery”. The reason for calling it bravery is seen clearly in the opposite word of perseverance: laziness. A lazy person is a coward as every time they have to work, they use excuses, such as: it is too cold, too hot; they are too hungry, too full, too sleepy or too tired. A lazy person dies many times a day.
Victory over laziness is called perseverance or bravery. Perseverance can only happen when we can avoid all of the Roads to Ruin.
Observation of people working together shows that it takes diligence on both the part of the employer and employee to be successful. The employer is very important because if he is lazy and takes advantage of his employees, soon his employees will feel undervalued and leave. However, if the boss is hard working he will inspire his employees to work hard as well.
- Thoughtfulness: Dedication to your work. Usually adults are responsible for their work and it is rare that they ignore their work, as the mind naturally likes to think of many things including their work. On the other hand, it is very difficult to stop the mind from thinking. The only negative part is that the mind likes to think about other people, i.e. criticize, interfere, etc. and forgets about itself. Thus Lord Buddha taught us to be thoughtful while in our work:
“One should be thoughtful in both finished and unfinished work.”
- Examination: The secret to successful work is in this principle. When working, we do not only work well physically but we also need to think wisely. Whether or not we love to work, we must work hard and dedicate ourselves to it. Without the wisdom to investigate and test it, the work could not be completed and we may never finish it.
Also, one who does not think wisely and tries to work on things they cannot finish could become a slave to their work. The following story of ”Peta who arranges head and foot” gives us an example. Peta was given an order from his superior to look after the sleeping passengers at a resting area at night. First, he checked the sides of the heads of each passenger and set them in a neat order, then he checked the sides of their feet. Once he finished the sides of the feet, he went back to check the head again and kept arranging each over and over again. This is because he did not realize that humans are different in height and therefore, he could never finish arranging their feet and heads.
People who work wisely must have the following traits:
- Right timing
- Right technique
In conclusion, success in work comes from a mind that is willing, determined, concentrated and intelligent. The best way to train our mind is by practicing generosity, observing precepts and meditating. In this way we help teach our mind to be bright, so that it sees things more clearly and understands how to work efficiently.
Obstacles for Successful Work
The main sources of unfinished work come from the Six Roads to Ruin:
- Addiction to intoxicants
- Roaming the streets at unseemly hours
- Frequenting shows
- Indulgence in gambling
- Association with bad companions
- Habits of idleness
Roads to ruin might not be obvious because they are only the entrance to paths that ruin. However, Lord Buddha taught us this:
Although the entrance we see seems to lead to prosperity it actually leads to suffering, just like how the smooth road ahead of the prison deceive us. The entrance of a deep fountain may look clean and normal, but the bottom of the fountain has caused the death of many people by drowning them. The path to a cliff may be covered with green grass, but its deep bottom can be treacherous and can claims many lives.
Similarly, the Roads to Ruin may not seem dangerous! Roaming the streets at night appears fun and gambling seems entertaining. Yet both cause work to be undone and are a disgrace to our reputation. Anyone who is involved with these forms of behaviors is considered one who is ruining their life.
Qualities of a Good Employer
- Assign work that is appropriate to each employee.
- Reward employees in accordance to their ability, quality of work and output.
- Provide good benefits for their staff.
- Share extra profits with employees.
- Give suitable vacation time.
Qualities of a Good Employee
- Start working before employer.
- Leave work after employer.
- Take only things given by employer.
- Improve quality of work.
- Praise the employer’s virtue.
The Benefits of Working with Love
- You will increase the status of yourself, your family and country.
- You will have happiness.
- You will be independent and self-dependent.
- You will be dependable in the eyes of others and one becomes dependable.
- You will bring chances for more merit.
- You will improve your intelligence and knowledge.
- You will be protected from a harmful after life.
- You will be led to good places after life.
- You will carry good habits from life to life. 10. You will be praised by all.
“Anyone who withstands the hot and cold weather, like how grass on the ground does, and does his mission with might will not fail to be happy”.
Blessing Group 5: Practice for Becoming a Good Person in Society
“A tree that yields fruit and shade, will not on/y be called a beneficial tree, it will also receive great care.
A person who gives, will not only be named a beneficial person, they will also be praised and helped by all.”
The reasons why we have to know how to practice the virtue of giving to others before moving onto higher virtues are:
- Giving to others is the first step on the ladder towards heaven because it is an easy virtue to put into practice.
- Giving to others is a way of providing for yourself in the future without having any untoward side effects, helping you for as many lifetimes as you have to journey through the cycle of existence.
- Giving to others uplifts you directly in the direction of Nirvana by helping one to cultivate the Perfections in many ways.
It is a supreme way of helping you to break free of the cycle of existence.
For anyone to break free from the cycle of existence, one needs to have a basis of faith and wisdom. Being generous gives fruits that are quick to take effect and allows one’s faith to grow further while making it easier to cultivate wisdom in other ways.
In conclusion, ignorance and pain follow in the footsteps of poverty. However, generosity protects us from poverty and saves us from pain and ignorance too. This is why we cannot overlook the importance of practicing generosity.
What Is Generosity?
Generosity means sacrificing your own possessions for the benefit of other people, wholeheartedly; with the intention to honor the virtue of that person’, or to assist a person of similar social standing, or to help someone who is worse off than ourselves.’
Generosity is the foundation of human virtue. It is an indispensable prerequisite and a ‘pillar of society’. Without the generosity of our parents in raising us, we would not have been able to survive the beginning from the first moment we were born.
If a husband and wife do not share their possessions, their marriage will not last.
If our teachers do not teach or give us knowledge, we will remain unknowledgeable.
If we are angry and never forgive each other, the world would be full of angry, sad and hurt people.
Therefore, generosity is the first priority of our lives; without the generosity of others we would not survive. We would not know how to do things and world peace could never happen.
Categories of Generosity
- Practical generosity: Giving useful material objects.
- Abstract generosity: This is divided into two kinds:
Giving worldly knowledge such as vocational skills
Giving spiritual knowledge such as Dhamma
- Forgiveness: This refers to when you are angry at someone and you decide to put an end to all the anger and forgive them; for all the things they may have done to cause you to feel hurt and sadness.
Giving spiritual knowledge is considered the ultimate of all generosities and creates the most merit to the giver. This is because teaching other people the knowledge of how to eradicate defilements will be useful not only in this lifetime but also in future lifetimes. Other ways of giving will not last for as long as this act of great generosity and wisdom.
“The giving of spiritual knowledge surpasses all other types of giving.”
Reasons for Giving
- Giving in hope of getting something in return: Rather than giving for the sake of giving, they give to keep good relationships with the people around them and increase their favor in the eyes of others. This is the sort of giving which politicians like to do in order to win votes. This technique is also used by shops wanting to boost their sales by giving away free gifts. The merit from such giving is very little compared to the following two.
- Giving in order to help others: Giving help and support out of compassion i.e. parents raise their children, teachers teach students, or wealthy people give donations to help poor children.
- Giving in order to repay a debt of gratitude: We owe debts of gratitude to many people around us, like parents and teachers, so we should repay our debt of gratitude to them by showing respect through our speech, action and thought. Also we should give material things to them, for example, when they are sick we help pay for the doctor, medicine, and help to look after them. Moreover, we should give respect to those who teach us to reach peace in life and to stay away from sufferings. We should give these spiritual teachers the four basic requisites so they can continue practicing Dhamma and teaching others to the best of their ability.
Points for Consideration
When we die we cannot carry anything with us. The only way you can take wealth with you is by giving your wealth away in order to make merit.
Giving to others brings benefits especially to those who are getting older or having either sickness or death waiting for them. This is because giving away your wealth to help others is like ‘securing your wealth’. It is akin to the owner of a house that is on fire trying to secure his wealth by removing it from the house so that the secured wealth is still of benefit. The wealth that has not been removed from the house will be burnt in the fire and rendered useless.
Objects Unsuitable for Giving
- Alcohol and all intoxicants
- Weapons, especially when two people are in the middle of a fight
- Shows or entertainment
- A female animal to a male animal or vice versa
- Matchmaking services to find a partner for others
- Erotic person or sensual pictures or materials
How to Get the Maximum Merit from Giving
There are four parts of purity involved in the act of giving that we do. If all the four parts are fulfilled, the act will bring the maximum amount of merit to us:
- Pure gift: The thing which we give must be something we have obtained in an honest way or bought with money that is honestly earned.
- Pure intention: The intention of giving is to reduce the stinginess in your mind, or to reduce the number of defilements in the mind or to cultivate your perfection of generosity and loving kindness. Pure intention is divided into three periods of time.
Before giving: Make sure that you come to the act of giving wholeheartedly
During the act of giving: Give with respect and a mind full of faith and without any trace of irritability.
After giving: Make sure that the mind is still joyous, not regretting what you have given it away.
- Pure recipient: The more pure the person receiving our gift, the more merit we will accrue. If the recipient is a spiritual teacher, they should be someone who keeps the code of discipline, not just someone who is masquerading as a spiritual teacher. If the monk is a Saint, who has no further defilements, then he is a supreme field of merit.
- Pure giver: The giver must be pure and keep precepts so we can make the most merit possible.
Results of Giving
Generosity is all about peace of mind. One who always gives will always have peace in their mind. In a society that its dwellers often give to others, people will live happily because the members of the society will compassionately help each other. Furthermore, the merit from giving will be accumulated in our mind and it will powerfully attract wealth to us. The more you give and sacrifice, the more power it has to bring in wealth. But if one is stingy when giving, the power to attract wealth will be lessened. We find an old saying: “one who gives a lot will receive a lot”.
Lord Buddha praised generosity in many ways, such as follows:
Fools will not admire those who give.
Giving wholeheartedly and faithfully, your gift is never modest.
The merit of the giver always brings progress.
The giver always creates a welcoming union.
The giver will be loved by all. AN.III.41
Wise men who give happiness will receive happiness.
“Giving food is giving strength; giving cloth is giving a good complexion; giving transportation is giving happiness; giving light is giving outstanding eyesight; giving shelter is giving everything; giving Dhamma is giving the ultimate knowledge.”
“Give pleasant things, you will receive back what is pleasant. Give excellent things, you will receive what is excellent to you. Give good things, you will receive what is good to you. Give supreme things, the giver will attain a supreme status. A person, who gives excellent things, good things and supreme things, wherever they were born, will have a long life and power at that place. “
The Benefits of Generosity
- It creates the origin of wealth.
- The giver will receive happiness.
- The giver will be loved by all.
- The giver always creates a welcoming union.
- The giver will become more charming.
- It invites an association with good people.
- The giver will smoothly attain social status.
- The giver will become brave and confident in any situation.
- The giver will receive good reputation.
- The giver will be in the heaven realm after life.
“Dried sandal wood is still fragrant, squeezed sugar cane is still sweet, refined salt is still salty, a wise man, even in crisis, still practices Dhamma.”
Often by the time we can tell the difference between what is a good or bad behavior, we may have already made a lot of mistakes, which we later regret. Unfortunately, even though such behaviors might have been mistakes, they have retribution attached to them, which will eventually catch up with us. The only ones, who are safe, are those who have never erred into doing anything unwholesome at all.
The only way to make sure that we accumulate positive retribution for ourselves is to practice the Dhamma.
What Is Practicing Dhamma?
Dhamma practice means the practice of good deeds or correct practice.
The Buddha chose to put “Dhamma Practice” as the sixteenth blessing (before “Looking after the extended family”  and “Blameless Work” ) because looking after one’s extended family and blameless work are concerned with our dealings with wider society (the members of which have a wide variety of individual characteristics and personalities), which can be ‘minefields’ for conflict. If we are not mindful enough in our dealings, we run the risk of spoiling our good intentions or coming into conflict.
Before embarking on the works of “social value,” we have to prepare ourselves by studying the right approach to our worldly and spiritual work, so as not to bring harm inadvertently to ourselves or to others. In this blessing we will discuss the two categories of Dhamma practice:
- Pure practice is behaving in accordance with purity. This means we have a clear understanding of ‘purity’ and do not allow impurities, defilements and temptation to interfere with what we know is good and fair. Pure practice instills respect and dignity in yourself and others. It includes: avoiding the Six Roads to Ruin, fulfilling one’s duties in the Six Directions, refraining from bias.
There are four forms of bias:
- Bias because of desire: Parents who do not love their children equally, due to bias based on desire, will treat their children unfairly.
- Bias because of hatred: Teachers suffering from bias based on hatred or anger will behave unfairly towards certain students; maybe acting in a discriminatory way towards them or perhaps giving them a grade that is less than they deserve.
- Bias due to ignorance: Someone who suffers from bias because of ignorance may make a decision based on lack of information or mindlessness. They may put someone totally unsuitable or even someone ‘bad’, in a position of responsibility.
- Bias because of fear: Someone who is biased because of fear might bear false witness against someone they knows is innocent, because they are afraid to tell the truth.
Anyone who can abstain from the Four Forms of Bias is someone who abides by justice. They will be someone who follows strictly the guidelines which are deemed to be fair.
“Whoever can refrain from bias because of desire, hatred, ignorance, and fear, bas a dignity which is as outstanding as outstanding as the waxing moon in the sky every night.”
- Practice for purity: There are many ways of practicing good deeds for your own benefit, but here we emphasize the groupings of good deeds, which boost our sense of responsibility for our own human dignity. Practice for purity can be attained by following the Tenfold Path of Wholesomeness.
Anyone with these sorts of behaviors is truly pure in body, speech and mind during the whole time:
- Not killing: Not killing people, fishing, hunting, or practicing cruelty towards animals. The purpose of this path is to solve the problem in a peaceful way without taking the lives of others because one knows that killing always creates cruelty in the mind. The mind will become cloudy and negative, plus the killer will receive retribution from their deed at some stage. They will also be aware that the relatives of the people they killed may come to take revenge.
- Not stealing: Not thieving, mugging, shoplifting, corrupting and deceiving. The purpose of this path is for everyone to rightly earn their living, so they can spend their earnings freely without fear.
- Not committing adultery: Faithful to one’s spouse and refraining from rape and pre-marital sex. The purpose of this path is to elevate our mind and be responsible for other people’s dignity. This keeps society at peace.
- Not lying: Not telling lies, exaggerating and committing forgery. The purpose of this path is for everyone to be honest and brave in facing the truth with dignity.
- Not gossiping: Not giving malicious speech, divisive gossip, turning one person against another, or ‘mud slinging’. The purpose of this path is to avoid the habit of taking sides or gossiping. Avoidance of this behavior will bring harmony to the society.
- Not speaking harshly: Not calling names or swearing. The purpose of this path is be thoughtful of your own words and do not disturb other people with what you say.
- Not chattering idly: Avoid purposeless babble, ranting or boasting. The purpose of this path is to be responsible for what we say.
- Not thinking of taking others’ possessions: Not considering getting something one wants through a dishonest manner and not coveting other people’s possessions for corrupt purposes. The purpose of this path is to respect others’ possessions and retain a peaceful mind from desires for other people’s goods. Be generous and willing to help society in every way possible.
- Avoiding vengefulness: Do not want to take revenge or get back at someone. The purpose of this path is to forgive others by avoiding destructive thoughts, so the mind is at peace and can become more creative.
- Possessing the Right View: Reflecting that good and evil exist, accepting your debt of gratitude towards your parents, knowing that death is not the end of the story and believing in the Law of Kamma. The purpose of this path is for us to have a wholesome mind with right thinking, high standards, to be considerate and live by all good principles. This will influence others’ thoughts to be on the right path as well.
”I do not see anyone who walks on single path that and creates as marry good deeds as those that have begun with and follow the Right View throughout their life”.
The Tenfold Path of Wholesomeness is necessary for every person, especially for those in a position of power.
“Dhamma will protect those who practice Dhamma. Whoever wishes for happiness, success, and a position of power must practice Dhamma.”
The Benefits of Practicing Dhamma
- It creates substantial core of wholesomeness.
- You will become a diligent person.
- You will become an honest person.
- You will become a leader who helps in the advancement of Buddhism.
- You will be happy both in this life time and afterlife.
- You will have no enemies.
- You will become a person who follows advice from the Wise.
- You will make peace for yourself and other people.
- You will build the path to the realm of human, heaven, Brahma and Nirvana.
“Those who practice Dhamma will have happiness.”
Looking after One’s Extended Family
“The trees that stand together in the forest will help each other provide shelter against the gales, storms, sun and rain.
By offering each other shelter, each tree is protected from being uprooted.
On the other hand, the largest tree (the king of the forest) in the forest must endure the strong winds alone and in the end it cannot survive every storm.
In the same way, if anyone has sufficient family and friends who can help them in times of need, they are bound to overcome all difficulties that cross their path.”
Definition of One’s Extended Family
One’s extended family is all of our acquaintances and can be put into two groups:
- Worldly group: There are two types:
Our blood relatives apart from our immediate family: e.g. aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.
Our trusted friends: those we trust and have concern for, i.e. close friends (but may not be those who are no more than acquaintances or colleagues).
- Spiritual group: These people become our extended family because of the following three reasons:
They ordain as monks, nuns, novices; live a celibate life.
They study and practice the Dhamma.
They assist in teaching us Dhamma.
Finding Out Who Your Extended Family Is
As for your extended family, usually the degree of commitment is less, as you do not see them everyday or have to live with them. At times there can be some lapse of time between visits, which will naturally impact on the type of relationship you may have with these relatives.
It may be only occasionally that you have the opportunity to help a member of your extended family or trusted friend, but when you do have the chance, it is important to make a good job of it.
Otherwise, it may make your previously good relationship feel more awkward or can break it altogether. Because you have not ‘chosen’ your extended family voluntarily or intentionally, the expectations of how much support you can give them may be less. It is usually expected to be ‘conditional.’ By giving support, something is expected in return. Thus, when we talk of looking after our extended family, we mean giving assistance according to the “Emotional Bank Account” on a conditional or on ‘one-off’ basis.
Choosing the Sort of Family to Help
- They make an earnest effort to help themselves first and are not the sort who comes running to you every time there is a minor problem and is a difficulty in trying to solve their own problems.
- Those that are of good conduct, grateful, humble and courteous. They are not involved with the ‘Roads to Ruin’.
Appropriate Times to Help
- When our extended family falls on hard times and is without refuge.
- When our extended family needs investment to set them up in life.
- When our extended family needs to travel but has no means of transportation.
- When our extended family lacks necessary equipment for pursuing their livelihood.
- When some of our extended family is ill.
- When there is some special occasion, e.g. funeral, wedding or ordination.
- When our extended family is unjustly accused of something they did not do.
- When our extended family is affected by natural disasters.
Looking after one’s extended family needs caution as we need to strike a good balance between helping others and ensuring our own family’s needs are met too. It seems simple, but it can be complicated. Some people ignore all their extended family and completely ‘fail in life’ while some help their family so much that they are in trouble. We need to help our extended family in appropriate ways, at the right time and not at the expense of our self or our immediate family.
Emotional Bank Account as the Basis of Help for One’s Family
The purpose of looking after one’s extended family is to maintain harmonious relationships with one’s family. There are four ways in which you can assist your extended family. We called these the Four Bases of Sympathy:
- Helping by offering resources: Giving or lending anything which is useful to our extended family and is something we can spare. We should set aside what is needed for our family, thus when we share things with them we will not: think of receiving a payback.
- Endearing speech: Speaking in a way that is not at all upsetting to our extended family and also not looking down on them.
- Lending a helping hand: Helping our extended family out when they have work to be done. Even if you do not have money to lend, you are still strengthening the bonds of friendship within your extended family by giving them a helping hand.
- Being consistent with one’s duty: Giving others warmth, being trustworthy and confident in not doing things that create suspicion. You need to conduct yourself in a way that befits your status in the ‘eyes’ of your extended family.
Spiritual Ways to Help Your Extended Family
Apart from helping people with material things, we can also help people by giving Dhamma teachings. Invite them to make merit by giving, keeping precepts and meditating.
Points for Consideration
Those who look after one’s extended family are blessed; however, they have to do it the ‘right way’. Do not allow your willingness to help your family, to interfere with your own responsibility or ruin your reputation.
The family who receives help must be very careful and thoughtful when asking help from the extended family. If you truly love your family, you should never ask your family to do things incorrectly or unfairly just for your own sake.
Notice that Blessings 11, 12, 13 are about Cherishing our Parents, Raising our Children, and Cherishing our Husband or Wife. However, Looking after One’s Extended Family is not Blessing 14. Lord Buddha taught it in Blessing 1 7 after teaching us on how to earn living (Blessing 14), Generosity (Blessing 15), and Dhamma Practice (Blessing 16). The reason behind this is that by following this we will have enough morality in our minds to protect us from our extended family asking us to ~o unfair things based on our responsibility to help them.
The Benefits of Looking after One’s Extended Family
- You will have firm foundations that protect us from groups of bad people.
- You will have a powerful foundation to expand family businesses.
- You will make more merit.
- You can create strong bonds in the family.
- You will help the family to be much closer to one another.
- You will create unity in the family.
- You will increase loyalty in the family.
- You will establish a large family.
- You will have many relatives in every lifetime.
- You will set a role model for generations to come.
- You will help maintain a good environment for the sake of the world.
- You will bring about World peace.
“Any family who can create unity and have strong bonds will be respected and be able to protect themselves from all bad people in the same way that, a dense grove of bamboo with thorns around it cannot be easily cut down. It will grow beautifully, like how the lotus flowers in a pond, always offer a pleasurable sight for us.”
“Just because a factory can make a large amount of products, does not mean that it is a good factory.
The items it makes must be of good quality, be useful and have durability for a long life.
In the same way a person who works hard and long is not always a good person, unless he chooses to do blameless work.”
What Is Blameless Work?
Blameless Work refers to work that does not create difficulties for others or bring harm to others. Blameless work is beneficial to both the person doing the work and other people. There are two levels of working quality: Job done and job rightly done.
- Job done: Finishing the work without being that interested in the quality.
- Job rightly done: Finishing the work with the result being of the best of the quality possible.
Job done implies doing things you want to do even though the way to get the result may not be ethical. Some people want a high position and will do everything to get it, even if they have to obtain it through unethical or illegal ways. This is merely a primary level of working ability.
Good people will go to the next level and do the job well and with integrity. Persons of virtue should have two qualities: not only do they get the job done, but also perform it in a right way. They can choose whether or not to perform the work, but they will never choose to work unethically or without integrity.
The first type can be compared to a baby who just learns how to eat. The child can only put things in his mouth, swallow it. The child is able to eat but not to understand why they must eat as he is still a baby. If the nanny does not pay attention, the infant might accidentally put poisonous food into his mouth, which can cause illness and even death. Those who have the correct knowledge of how to eat will only eat what they should. Likewise, a very good worker must know what good work is and what the opposite is, before he starts working.
Judging the Ethical Value of Work
Often when people are looking to measure the standard of the work they do, they may rely too heavily on the amount of praise or criticism they receive from others. However, different people have different points of view, so you have to measure the quality of your work based on reason.
The Buddha taught four standards for judging “blameless work”: the first two are the worldly standards and the latter two are spiritual standards.
1.Legal: Restrictions set by nations or international law is unavoidable. Doing illegal things is worthy of blame. Although something may not be immoral, e.g. building a house in a municipal area without permission or in doing so, by breaking the law we fall into unavoidable trouble.
Lord Buddha insisted that both monks and lay people must strictly follow the law. Lord Buddha didn’t teach anyone to do anything that was illegal. Buddhism teaches us to love peace, respect the law and under no circumstance should we ever go against the law.
2. Keeping in with tradition: Some actions do not break the law, but are out of keeping in with local customs or traditions. These actions may bring you into conflict with others, e.g. weddings, greetings, dining and respecting seniority. So how can you tell if a custom is worth respecting or not? Wherever we go, we should learn the local customs and make adaptations as much as we can. If it will bring us difficulties for upholding our dignity, we should avoid it.
3.Not breaking the Five Precepts: Precepts are the foundation of all good deeds. Precepts are the heart of Buddhism as is said in the Threefold Training:
1.Precepts are the basis of meditation.
2.Meditation leads to wisdom.
3.Wisdom is a way to enlightenment.
People who want to do good deeds without keeping precepts are like those who want to build a mansion in thin air. Buddhists should consider if that work is against the Five Precepts every time before acting. If it is, we must not do it. Lord Buddha said
“We should regular reflect on our actions, as to whether we have any imperfection in keeping our precepts and whether or not those who are better than us can blame us for our imperfection of the precepts.”
4.Does not compromise your virtues: In Buddhism, virtue means correctness and goodness. When working, we have to carefully think of the virtue taught by the Lord Buddha. Some doings might not break the law, tradition, or precepts, but they may not be wholesome according to Buddha’s teachings. For example:
Having revengeful thoughts compromises the Tenfold Path of Wholesomeness.
(See Blessing 19)
Being lazy is not conducive with the Four Foundations of Success.
Being a robber or gambler is compromising the six ‘”Roads to Ruin10”.
10Roads to Ruin: means all the wrong livelihood that concerns with dealing in slaves and running a brothel, dealing in weapons, selling animals to slaughter, dealing in alcohol, and dealing in poisons.
Thus, whether we are in the act of physical, verbal, or mental work, we must do it in the right way and follow the law, tradition, precepts and virtues. A problem might occur when some people want to do blameless work, but later realize that they are doing the opposite. We need to ensure that the work we do is blameless beforehand so we do not make this mistake.
How We Can Know Beforehand
“Think carefully before one starts.”
Unfortunately, working this way is not in favor with most young people because they are impatient. After a youngster submitted his project to the boss and was told “Let me think about it”, he may assume that the boss is indecisive and lacks courage in his convictions.
In fact, the employers’ action implied something opposite to what the younger employee think. Taking time to decide indicates that the boss utilizes a process of careful considering and reflective thinking as he is thinking before doing, not doing before thinking.
How can we know of the true nature of the work before doing it?
The best answer is that we have to have humility and to ensure our ego is lessened by reflecting on how much we do not know rather than how much we think we do! We are not the cleverest person in the world and we need to be open to all learning. There are people who may know a great deal more than us and it is important that we are open to learning from them regardless of their age.
Whoever can reduce their overconfidence in their knowledge and increase their humility will learn things in the right way and be more mindful of their thinking and actions.
Helpful Tips for Charitable Workers
We should always do our best at work, without overloading ourselves with too many projects all at the same time. Before we help the public, we need to first train ourselves and to let go of bad habits we have, by learning and practicing the Dhamma. This will help prevent us from coming into conflict with the people we work with. Also, it will help us to reach the goals and objectives of our work not for our reputation or our own fame but for the benefit of society as a whole.
We need to understand that in working for charity, the person who receives the most benefit is our self. We will get the result from all the good deeds we have done and will also have good habits that will be carried on into the lives to come. We create a good environment for ourselves and for others. Plus, we will be happy and will not need anyone to reward or praise us because we are able to feel good and joyful just by thinking and acting in the right way.
Moreover, charity workers need to train themselves to keep the Eight Precepts so they can learn to have balanced emotions, as working for society requires many varying skills in taking care of people. You can easily come into conflict with other people, which can lead to disharmony for everyone.
Although you may have good intention, any misdeeds already committed will still be carried forward with you. Finally, before working for society, you have to prepare your own family in advance. If you have children, you must allot enough time for them, as when your own family is happy, you can work more efficiently and be free of worries.
Examples of Blameless Work
- Observing the precepts and meditating.
- Helping others to do blameless work.
- Building a place for meditation retreats.
- Planting trees to give shade to others.
- Building bridges for the convenience of other people.
- Creating water resources to provide water for the public.
- Offering drinking water containers.
- Contributing to building shelters for others.
- Following good deeds or the Tenfold Path of Wholesomeness.
The Benefits of Doing Blameless Work
People who do not do blameless work will gain equal advantages and disadvantages like a shadow chasing the body. The more work they do, the more suffering they get.
On the contrary, people who do blameless work will advance to true success and happiness quickly. Although they may not be rich with material wealth, they are rich in virtue.
People who do blameless work will be able to sleep well, wake up on time and have no regret or fear for anyone because they do work that is useful t:o society. They are literally paying back the debt of gratitude to the world they live in and in finishing their work, they receive peace of mind in return.
“Integrity comes to a diligent and mindful person who works fairly, thoughtfully, purely and with wisdom.”
Blessing Group 6: Preparation for a Good Mind
Abstaining from Unwholesomeness
“Before we dress up beautifully, we need to shower off all the dirt. Similarly, before we purify the mind far a higher virtue, we need to abstain from all kinds of unwholesomeness.”
What is Unwholesomeness?
Unwholesomeness refers to the malfunctioning of all types of objects. For example, a rundown house, a broken-down car or rotten food. The words: rotten, out of order, broken, perished, decayed, moldy are all references to a condition of malfunction. They represent unpleasant qualities of objects and things.
Malfunctioning of the mind can be described in many ways: such as sadness, irrationality, cruelty, meanness, depression, etc. These words indicate the malfunction of the mind in many aspects. Anything that causes unpleasant: qualities of mind is “unwholesomeness”. The “unwholesomeness” refers to anything that detracts the mind from its good qualities, regardless of the angle it is looked upon from.
Origin of the Unwholesomeness
Due to the adeptness of Lord Buddha’s meditation practice and his enlightenment, He was able to see through and correctly understand the nature of defilement as being the origin of all that which is unwholesome. Lord Buddha discovered how to completely rid one’s self of all defilements. The Lord Buddha clearly summarized the origin of unwholesome as follow:
“No unwholesomeness accrues to those who do no unwholesome deeds.”
“Unwholesomeness accrues to those who do unwholesomeness deeds.”
“Those who do no unwholesome deeds remain pure.”
These proverbs from the Buddha regarding the fact that sin is personal and is not transferable are evidence of the enlightenment of the Lord of Buddha. The person who commits the unwholesome deeds will subject them self to their respective unwholesome consequences. The person who does not commit sin will not be subjected to sin.
“When the father eats, the father will then be full. But if his children do not eat, they will be left hungry. Likewise, the child who eats will be full while the father who does not eat will be hungry. It is impossible that while a father who finishes a meal at home; his child, who is on the top of the mountain, will also be satisfied”.
This is because it is a personal course of action. The person who does unwholesome deeds shall be subjected to those unwholesome consequences on his own.
Therefore from the Buddhist perspective, sin belongs to the person who commits it. The sin will stay in the mind of the person who commits it and the minds purity and quality will be decreased, leading to suffering.
Purifying One Self from Unwholesomeness
The perspective of the origin of unwholesomeness is different from religion to religion. Buddhism bases its view on causes of actions, in order to reduce the effects of unwholesomeness. The Lord Buddha said that:
“Purity or impurity is individual. No one can rescue others from sin or purify others completely.”
These proverbs of the Lord Buddha give us a clear direction that the sin committed by a person cannot be changed by another person.
Buddhism has a rational strategy for correcting the entire unwholesome deeds one has unintentionally committed in the past:
Assume that we have one spoon of salt added into a glass of water. Upon stirring, this glass of water will taste “salty”. If we pour this glass of salty water into a bucket of water, it will taste “less salty.” If we pour this bucket of “less salty” water in to a big tank and taste it, it will be “absolutely tasteless.”
“Does the salt disappear?” “No. The same original amount of salt is still in that big tank of water.” ”Why is the water not salty?” It is because there is a much greater amount of water that completely dilutes the taste of the salt. So, we can not feel the salty taste on our tongue anymore. The salt still exists but its effect is lesser or diluted.”
This same principle applies in Buddhism. The only way to reduce the effect of unwholesomeness is to abstain from doing unwholesome deeds and do as many good deeds as you can, thereby diluting the relative amount of unwholesomeness in your karmic history. Doing good deeds is like adding the pure water and doing unwholesome deeds is like adding the salt into the tank. Unwholesomeness which we have accrued for ourselves will stay with us until it gives its retribution. No one can rescue the effect of the unwholesomeness you have accrued. The only way to reduce the unwholesomeness effects is to do as many wholesome deeds in order to dilute or to eliminate the effect of the unwholesomeness to give it retribution.
What Is Abstaining from Unwholesomeness?
Abstaining from unwholesomeness means giving up and avoiding all unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind that could reduce the quality of the mind
Tenfold Path of Unwholesomeness
- Killing or torturing people and animals.
- Stealing, robbing, fraud and corruption.
- Adultery or sexual intercourse outside marriage.
- Lying, exaggeration and false witness.
- Malicious gossiping and mudslinging.
- Harsh speech, sarcasm and cursing.
- Idle chatter, negative speech and criticism.
- Greed in taking the possessions of others.
- Vengefulness, maliciousness, vindictiveness and revenge.
- Wrong view; such as not believing in the existence and fruit of good and bad deeds, ungratefulness towards one’s parents, not believing in life after death, not believing in the Law of Kamma.
Strategies for Abstinence
Human beings consist of a body and mind. The mind controls what the body does and does not do. The Lord of Buddha stated:
“Mind is the principle for all accomplishments. If a person has an unwholesome mind that person will also have unwholesome speech and action. Those unwholesome deeds will stay with that person and give retribution, just like the cartwheel that crumbles up the foot print of the cow in front of it pulling the cart.
A person with a purified mind will have wholesome action and speech. The happiness that follows that person is like an arc of light that never separates from the body.”
Therefore, anyone who is seeking happiness and prosperity must train the mind to abstain from unwholesomeness by cultivation of two additional virtues. Namely, be ashamed of unwholesomeness (Hiri) and fear of the consequences of unwholesomeness (Otappa).
Developing Conscience as Protection from Unwholesome Behaviors
- Hiri means being ashamed of unwholesomeness. Even if others do not see what we are doing, but we still bear witness to our own unwholesome deeds it will cause us to be discontented, to feel regret or to have an impure mind, so we must abstain from doing unwholesome deeds.
- Otappa means fear of the consequences of unwholesomeness that will follow us if we commit unwholesome deeds. Therefore, we abstain from doing unwholesome deeds
Assume that we see a sheet of iron smeared with excrement. We do not want to touch it in fear of the excrement staining on our hand. This feeling can be compared to hiri, which is shame of unwholesomeness.
Assume that we see an iron stick that is glowing of heat. We are afraid to touch it in fear our hand will get burned. This feeling can be compared to otappa, which is being afraid of the consequences of the unwholesome deeds.
“A person who abstains and avoids unwholesomeness will embrace the refined Dhamma and will be considered as a person with great virtues.”
Shame of Unwholesomeness Can Be Developed by Recollecting
- Your own human status and that of your family. Remember that you are a human being and not a savage. Having attained such a noble birth, how can we kill, steal or commit adultery?
- Your own age. Remind yourself that at your age you ought to know better than to be around any sort of immorality.
- Your own past good deeds. Think of how you can avoid spoiling the good deeds you have accrued from the past.
- Your own knowledge. Think of how reckless it would be to do this unwholesome deed in spite of all you have learned from the Buddha’s teachings.
- The Lord Buddha. Realize how hard the Lord Buddha had to pursue Perfections in order to attain enlightenment and how hard the He tried teaching the world.
- Your own teacher. Think of your Dhamma teachers and think how they would feel about what you are doing.
Fear of the Consequences of Unwholesomeness Can Be Developed by Recollecting
- Criticism: If we were to do an unwholesome deed it would not be worth doing it because others would criticize us and we could lose our reputation.
- Retribution: If we were to do an unwholesome deed it would not be worth doing it because we would only be punished later on by receiving the demerit retribution.
- Hell realms: If we were to do an unwholesome deed it would not be worth doing it because we might be reborn in the hell realms.
Points for Consideration
Doing unwholesome deeds is like walking along the stream. It is easy to follow and everybody is ready to follow the streams of desire. If we cannot properly control ourselves, we could be a slave to our desire. Doing things according to the power of these desires involved, will in the end lead to us suffering.
Doing wholesome deed is like walking against the stream. We must be patient, be determined and be careful not to slip or fall over. Doing wholesome deeds is to act against our desires by not acting as we normally would, based on right and wrong. Trying not to be a slave of our desires is difficult, we need to be cautious and persevere in order to attain inner happiness at the end.
Being neutral is like remaining still in the stream, sooner or later we will float away with the stream. Such a person thinks that “I am happy where I am, I never bring anyone trouble, and I am not interested in doing good deeds.” This means that they do neither good nor bad deeds. They do not study the Dhamma or drinking alcohol, but soon they will have a chance to commit unwholesome deeds since the nature of the mind is always ready to deteriorate driven by desires. Thus, a person with this attitude is a reckless person.
Therefore we do not only have to abstain from unwholesome deeds that reduce the good quality of the mind, we also have to elevate the mind consistently by trying to cultivate as many good deeds as possible as being generous, keeping precepts and meditating.
The Benefits from Abstaining from Unwholesomeness
- You will be free from retribution and danger.
- You will receive more good retribution.
- You will be free from disease or illness.
- You will be a careful and a non-recklessness person
- You will have a greater faith in the teaching of Buddhism
- You will gain a stronger and brighter pure mind with a higher level of virtues.
“A wise person, who foresees the danger of entering the hell realms, should abstain from all unwholesome deeds and observe the precepts with perseverance. The wise should not kill or torture other people or animals. They should not tell a lie, nor should they take the possessions of others without permission. The wise person should be content with his spouse, not commit adultery or have sexual intercourse outside their marriage. Neither should one consume intoxicants which lead to the deterioration of the quality of the mind.”
Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants
“Just one match can burn down an entire city.
Just a small amount of intoxicants can destroy all that we have”.
What Is Restraint from Drinking Intoxicants?
Intoxicants in this Blessing refer to anything absorbable by the body that clouds the mind. In general this means alcohol, but it also refers to other substances such as addictive. It also means liquids that are drunk or injected or dry substance like tobacco that are smoked
Drinking in this context means drugs to be absorbed into the body through drinking, inhaling, insertion, spraying, smoking, and injection.
Restraint in this context means total abstention. It is only in exceptional circumstances such as medical use that careful use of alcohol may be considered
Buddhism is a reasonable religion. Other religions are aware of the danger of intoxicants, so rather than only prohibiting the drinking of the intoxicants, they prohibit the usage of intoxicants for medical purpose and also prohibit any physical contact with the intoxicants. Even a corpse is not cleaned with alcohol or chemical than contains any alcohol, to avoid the sin of any physical contact to the intoxicant.
In Buddhism, Lord Buddha did not prohibit us from all usages of alcohol, yet he saw both the danger in the intoxicants and also some medical benefits of the intoxicants. For example: Morphine can help reduce the pain and some medicines can be extracted or mixed with alcohol to induce their medicinal effect yet neither the taste nor smell of the alcohol remains. Intoxicants for medical purposes are not prohibited in Buddhism, but some people make the excuse of using alcohol for medical purposes so they can consume alcohol at leisure.
In conclusion, we must be mindful of taking intoxicants and be alert to the precautious when using the intoxicants for medical purposes and also totally abstain from any usage of harmful and addictive drugs.
Damage from Drinking Intoxicants in This Life Time
Lord Buddha summarized the damage of taking intoxicants into six categories:
- Destroys wealth: Causes loss of money. Rather than buying drinks only for themselves, they also pay for others to drink with them as well. Usually, they do not go to work. Even millionaires can go bankrupt if they are alcoholics.
- Destroys friendship: Causes fights as drunkards lose control of themselves and it is quite often seen that violence always arises in a group of drinkers. Even close friends can argue and fight with each other, shortly after drinking or taking intoxicants.
- Destroys health: Causes multiple diseases. For example, kidney failure, gastritis, heart disease, stroke, malfunction of the nerve system, cirrhosis of the liver and many other conditions.
- Destroys respectability: Causes disgrace. One can get involved with all unwholesome deeds. They can also be insulted and distrusted by others.
- Destroys your honor: Causes embarrassment. Drunkards regularly embarrass themselves without even knowing it. Sleeping on the street, screaming or exhibitionism in public is one of many embarrassments committed by drunkards.
- Destroys intelligence: Causes brain malfunction while intoxicated and afterwards. They cannot think thoroughly about any subject, nor do they read or speak properly. The heavy drinker can lose his mind, lose his memory, and develop brain disorders such as Wernicke Korsakow Syndrome.11
11The Wernicke Korsakow Syndrome (WKS) is mentioned for the criteria for the alcohol amnestic disorder. It is a brain-organic disease mainly due to chronical alcoholism.
Alcohol destroys everything: including earning a living, wealth, friendship, health, honor and wisdom. Drinking may bring happiness to the person who is addicted to it, but it is just an unreal type of happiness based upon unrealized suffering. Alcohol can bring enjoyment, but it is the enjoyment that tries to cover sadness. When the effect of the alcohol or other intoxicants decreases, depressive feelings may arise.
Damage from Drinking Intoxicants throughout Many Lifetimes
The danger of drinking does not occur only in this life time, but will accumulate and takes effect throughout many lives after the death of the drinker.
- Speech impediment: Reborn as a deaf person. These are people who were drunk and dead in the past. They were drunk and took intoxicants until they felt unconsciousness and unable to speak, only able to murmur noises. After they passed away, they went to the hell realm. When they are reborn as a human, the demerit retribution was still attached to them and made them deaf as a result.
- Madness: Reborn as people with psychosis. These people, in the present or past life, drank or took intoxicants until seeing hallucinations (delirium). The demerit retribution followed them and made them to be reborn as a person with mental diseases who always hallucinates or hears someone whispering in their ears or they think someone is trying to kill them (paranoia).
- Mental deficiency: Reborn as a mentally retarded person. These were heavy drinkers who cannot think through any matter. The demerit retribution of drinking made them reborn as a retarded person.
- Reborn as a crawling animal: These people drink so heavy that they crawl along the floor. When they are reborn, the demerit retribution of drinking made them to be reborn as a crawling animal.
How to Give-up Drinking Intoxicants Definitively
- See clearly the dangers of alcohol
- Make up your mind to give up drinking by making a resolution to yourself and a respectable person.
- Stay away from contact with anything that induces drinking, Advertisements and samples of liquor should be discarded from the household
- Be aware of your self-dignity as it will help you to successfully give up drinking
- Give up associating with your drinking friends; otherwise they will persuade you to drink again. This is quite important, as long as you are friends with drinkers; it is difficult to give up drinking.
- Try to teach your family members about the consequences of drinking alcohol and taking intoxicants.
The Benefits of Not Drinking Intoxicants
- It allows us to be sane and conscious.
- It prevents us from being a fool.
- It prevents us from brawls or fights.
- It allows us to see circumstances in the past, present and the future.
- It prevents us from rebirth as a mad man, a deaf, or a mentally retarded person.
- It provides happiness and we are respected by others.
- It provides a good reputation and admiration.
- It reminds us not to hurt our benefactors.
- It allows us to be ashamed of and afraid of the unwholesomeness.
- It allows us to have Right View and great wisdom.
- It allows us to attain easily Nirvana.
Non-Recklessness in the Dhamma
“To construct a building, a main support pillar is required.
To accumulate wholesome deeds, non-recklessness is required.”
What Is Non-Recklessness in the Dhamma?
Non-recklessness means being in control of oneself the whole time whether one is thinking, speaking or acting. Never allow yourself to slip into unwholesomeness, and never let the opportunity to do good deeds pass by.
You need to focus on the things that need to be done and be aware of any unwholesome deeds you need to abstain from. You have to be aware of and be responsible for your duties, not take things for granted and search for spiritual progress all the time.
Non-recklessness is a crucial virtue. We can see that the teaching of Lord Buddha can be condensed to teach us how to be non-reckless. As we can study from the Lord Buddha’s last sermon:
“All monastic monks, now I like to remind all of you that the body is uncertain and subject to deterioration. May all of you maintain complete non-recklessness.”
Dhamma in this context means the Lord Buddha’s teaching, which explains the causes of outcomes. The teachings of the Buddha describe the laws of cause and effect. For example, perseverance leads to prosperity, laziness leads to deterioration. Non-Recklessness in the Dhamma also refers particularly to “being careful” regarding the causes that will lead to good outcomes.
Three Characteristics of Being Reckless
- Those who do not do anything good but expect good results: They are lazy. For example, they never pay attention to studies, but expect to pass their exams. They are not productive at work, but expect promotions. They never assist others, but expect to be assisted by others. They never practice generosity, never keep precepts, or meditate, but expect to go to heaven or attain Nirvana.
- Those who do only wicked things but expect fortunate outcomes from their actions: They do things their own way and expect great outcomes.
For example, they cause lots of problems in their work, but expect a double increase in salary. They gossip behind other’s backs, but expect everyone to like them.
- Those who do very few good deeds but expect significant and good results in their life: They do nothing more than light up three sticks of incense on the shrine to pay respect to the Buddha image, but expect an afterlife in the heaven realms with a celestial mansion. They spend only one hour reading a book, but expect to get the top grade in the exam. They do others very small favors like giving someone a meal, but expect to be treated like royalty for the rest of their life.
A non-reckless person will have views contrary to those of a reckless person. They must not underestimate the importance of earnestly investing the effort in doing good to deserve and expect good effects. A non-reckless person will always be mindful.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is always being aware and being able to tell the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. It is the motivation to think, speak and act in the proper way without forgetting oneself, without distraction and with wise reflection.
The nature of mind is to think continuously. The thinking process without mindfulness is like an absent mind, taken over by mood swings and feelings which do not serve any useful purpose. If the thinking process is conducted with mindfulness, there will be no ‘swinging’ of the mind and we will be in control. We will not let our mind ‘wander around’ and let ourselves become caught up with in any sensory stimuli that we come into contact with.
Functions of Mindfulness
- It allows us to be careful and to protect ourselves from potential dangers by being suspicious of things worthy of suspicion and to be careful to protect ourselves from any possible dangers.
Suspicious means aware of or afraid of the potential danger. For example, the person who is driving in the rain, on a slippery road, must be aware of the potential accident or another car over taking from another lane. We call this; “defensive driving”.
Being careful means preventing or protecting from any potential danger to occur. For example, the driver slows the car down and pays more attention to their driving.
- Tells us where to draw the line: It helps us guard against the unwholesome path and it helps to prevent us from falling into the causes that bring about suffering or danger. For example: in being asked to go out to drink with a friend, we are mindful to withdraw ourselves, knowing that it is not the right thing for us to do.
- Give us a timely reminder to cultivate wholesome deeds: We cannot be indifferent, taking things for granted or being lazy. We have to do positively helpful things with our lives instead of doing nothing useful.
- Acts as a catalyst: Stimulates us to do wholesome deeds with earnestness. Not to be sluggish or just do good deeds when we feel like it.
- Makes us aware of our responsibilities to know what should or should not be done: It also help us to identify what has been done and has not been done.
- Encourages thoroughness: We can work without recklessness, not underestimate the thing that can cause future damage.
Metaphors for Mindfulness
- A main supporting pillar is like a mindful person will always be aware of their actions.
- A door keeper acts as a filter for every stimulus that impacts our five senses and allows us to see how they impact the mind. It will also decide what is allowed to pass by and always question whether or not to stop or adjust before allowing it to pass by.
- A treasurer makes sure that both the income and outcome are in balance. It measures the balance of merit and demerit in the account while never allowing any limits on merit side of the account. So there is no limit for doing merit and making demerit should be completely avoided.
- A Ship’s rudder will guide the direction of our life toward success, achieving goals, while not straying out of the line as a rudder helps to prevent the ship from obstacles or being stranded.
Benefit of Mindfulness
- Mindfulness controls the state of mind to make sure our mind remains in the state we require it to be. This is done by examining our thought, keeping only the matter we want to think of and cutting out the thing we do not need to think about.
It helps us to organize the mind to easily focus and remain still. For example, when reading, we can concentrate solely on reading throughout the session without distraction. When meditating, we can easily still the mind deeper and deeper, while not wandering. Therefore, if there is mindfulness, there will be concentration; if there is concentration, there will be mindfulness.
- Allows the body and mind to be independent and not under the influence of feelings, such as anger. In this way the mind is relaxed and happy, in the state to encounter any situation and is therefore able to manage it correctly and appropriately.
- Mindfulness will allow our thoughts to enlarge outwardly without limitations. Without the influence of defilement, the mind can think freely and powerfully but remains still under mindful control. Like a ship that has a good rudder, it can be directed to the destination without getting lost.
- Mindfulness will allow us to consider things with full strength of wisdom. An effective systematic thinking process will strengthen wisdom to its full capability.
- Will purify all actions of body, speech and mind by not getting caught up in any unwholesomeness, every cause of action we take will generate true wisdom and right thought.
How to Become a Non-Reckless Person
- Remind ourselves to abstain from the three kinds of evil action in body, speech and mind: Be alert to see the retribution of unwholesome deeds and refrain from these actions.
- Remind ourselves to do the three good actions in body, speech and mind the whole time: Be alert to see the retribution of wholesome deeds and try to perform them at every opportunity.
- Remind ourselves of the suffering of the hell realms that await us in the event that we do evil: Having awareness of the pain and suffer in the hell realms, we refrain from doing unwholesome deeds to avoid falling in to the hell realms after death.
- Remind ourselves of the suffering that arises from birth, sickness, old age and death in this circle of existence (Samsara): Always remind ourselves that we still have to be reborn in this “cycle of existence”, the suffering of birth, sickness, old age and death. Thus, we should seek every opportunity to practice meditation in order to enter Nirvana.
If we always keep this in mind, we will not fall into the trap any of defilements, such as greed, anger and delusion, which still exist in all of us who are not enlightened human beings.
- Be careful to remember our objective of meditation the whole time: This means the mindfulness to keep your mind free from the bias of greed, hatred, delusion and fear the whole of the time. In order for one to do a good or a bad action is dependent on the strength of the mind. If the mind is strong; enough it can overcome the desires. The best way to train the mind is to meditate, so we have to practice meditation regularly.
Things in Which We Cannot Afford to Be Reckless
- Time: Remind ourselves not to overlook the passing of time. ”What are we doing with our lives?” Do not be involved with matters that are nonsense such as: gambling, gossip, boasting and trends in fashion. We should work in earnest and not waste our time “time and tide do not wait”.
- Youthfulness: Remind ourselves not to overlook that even though we think we are young, we wander about and play around each day. If we take into consideration our age starting from many previous lifetimes until the present, each of us has already aged considerably!
- Health: We want to be healthy throughout the whole lifetime.
Therefore as we are in good health, we should strive on cultivating wholesome deeds as sickness is an unavoidable part of life.
- Long-life: We cannot overlook the fragility of human life. Do noc think that we still have plenty of time to do good deeds, because we can pass away any time and we do not know when. So we should be eager to abstain from unwholesomeness, accumulate good deeds and purify the mind in every way and on every occasion.
- Work: Remind ourselves to do the best in our work assignments by being dedicated to them. Do not be reserved, do not delay, do not postpone and do not give up!
- Knowledge: Remind ourselves to acquire all necessary knowledge. Ii: there is anything that you need to study or memorize do not delay, do it now; Value the importance of knowledge which is the key to solve life’s problems.
- Practice meditation: Remind ourselves to practice meditation regularly and tirelessly. We should start now and early, not waiting until we get old before practicing meditation, when our ears are not in a good condition anymore to listen to the sermon, or our body is too painful to sit still for meditation.
We should persistently and diligently strive to practice meditation regularly. By knowing that the happiness in this lifetime and next lifetime can be attained through meditation, we can achieve our goals. Meditation is the only way that allows us to attain the ultimate goal of life, Nirvana.
The Benefits of Non-Recklessness in the Dhamma
- We will gain great merit.
- We will be considered as having a moral foundation.
- We will not go to the hell realms.
- We will be relieved from suffering.
- We will be delighted and will not give up doing wholesome deeds.
- We will not have recklessness, which leads to further causes for wholesome deeds.
- We will have a happy life.
- We will be alert and non-reckless in pursuing perfections.
- We will be free from all unwholesomeness.
“The wise men who converted recklessness into non-recklessness are considered to have reached the top of the castle of wisdom and are free from sorrow. They are able to see the people who are still caught up in stupidity and sorrow a like. They are reaching the top of the mountain and are able to see the people who still standing on the muddy, dirty ground.”
Blessing Group 7: Instilling Oneself with Basic Virtues
“Before we can receive the benefit of an item) we need to know the beneficial quality of that item.
Likewise, before a person can receive benefit from others, they need to have respect to the virtues of those people.”
What Is Respect?
Respect means open up sincerely to the ways in which others are (in truth) more valuable or important than yourself and by expressing sincere and humble praise deserved by others with body; speech, and mind whether or not you are in their presence.
Materials on earth have their own properties. If someone knows the true properties of a material, the material can be very beneficial. For example, a scientist who knows the properties of Radium can use it to help cure cancer.
However, it is very difficult to know the true property of materials and it is in the nature of a wise man or sage to know the true value of things.
Likewise, people have different levels of goodness. Some have more or less than others. The person who realizes the goodness of others can truly benefit from cultivating that goodness in oneself.
Seeing the goodness in others is even more difficult than seeing the property of a material, because we are veiled by our own perceptions, also the impurities in our minds such as disparaging thoughts, ignorance, or arrogance. It makes us unable to see the goodness in others and think that nobody else is good.
These people have eyes and yet cannot really see. They are blind to the goodness in others because they lack observation. They cannot spot the goodness in others and therefore, cannot cultivate the goodness of others in themselves.
Therefore, the people who are wise enough to acknowledge the goodness in others are truly special because their minds are in a higher level that is free from arrogance. They are open and ready to cultivate the goodness of others in themselves. These people are people worthy of respect.
Objects of Respect
In this world, there are many people, animals, objects, events, work and an incalculable amount of other things that are related to us. However, the Lord Buddha advised us to show respect to and realize the value of seven things:
- The Buddha
- The Dhamma
- Respecting the Buddha means becoming aware of His goodness or virtues which in short, is His wisdom, purity and kindness. One can pay respect as follows:
When the Lord Buddha was still alive, disciples would pay respect by:
- Going for audience with the Buddha three times a day: morning, midday and evening.
- Not wearing shoes when the Buddha was bare-foot.
- Not walking in a place higher than where the Buddha was standing.
- Not sitting in a place higher than where the Buddha was sitting.
- Not wearing one’s robe in a manner as to cover both shoulders when within the Buddha’s sight. To cover both shoulders in the time of the Buddha was the style of dressing used by leaders. Thus if the Buddha was already sitting as president of any event in any particular place with one shoulder ‘open’, it would not be suitable for others to keep both shoulders covered.
- Not wearing shoes within the Buddha’s sight.
- Not opening an umbrella or parasol within the Buddha’s sight.
- Not passing urine or defecating within the Buddha’s sight.
When the Buddha entered Parinirvana12, one pays respect by:
12Parinirvana is the final Nirvana, usually understood to be within reach only upon the death of the body of someone who has attained complete awakening.
- Respecting pagodas containing the Buddha’s relics.
- Paying respect at the four holy sites of Buddhism: where the Buddha was born, enlightened, gave his first sermon and passed away into Parinirvana.
- Paying respect to Buddha images, as objects that remind us of the Great Teacher.
- Paying respect before the main shrine of a temple.
- Not wearing shoes on the ground of a pagoda.
- Not opening an umbrella within the grounds of a pagoda.
- Not chattering while walking within the grounds of a pagoda.
- Putting down one’s umbrella and removing one’s shoes when entering the grounds of a temple and maintaining modesty and respect from the time one enters the temple grounds until leaving it.
- Practicing what the Lord Buddha taught.
2.Respecting the Dhamma means becoming aware of the great benefits of the Dhamma, the Lord Buddha’s teachings, and paying respect by:
- Listening to Dhamma teachings when the opportunity arises
- Listening to Dhamma teachings attentively and peacefully.
- Not falling asleep, chattering or daydreaming while listening to Dhamma teachings
- Not putting books containing Dhamma teachings at inappropriate locations and taking respectful care of the books.
- Not making fun of the Dhamma.
- Carefully and accurately teaching the Dhamma to others.
3.Respecting the Sangha means becoming aware of the goodness in the Sangha who have trained themselves well and prolonged the life of Buddhism. One may pay respect them by:
- Bowing and saluting with serenity.
- Sitting appropriate and with composure rather than sitting and hugging one’s knees.
- Not putting on shoes or opening up umbrellas in the middle of a monastic community.
- Not making exaggerated gestures such as waving one’s arms and legs immodestly when in the presence of monks.
- Not boasting of Dhamma knowledge unless specifically invited to do so by the senior monk.
- Not answering questions on Dhamma unless specifically invited to do so by the senior monk.
- Not walking, standing, or sitting in a way that impedes or encroaches upon monks.
- Looking after the monks’ needs with a faithful heart.
- Giving hospitably to monks with appropriate gifts of the four requisites.
4.Respecting education means becoming aware of the value of education and expressing respect by studying sincerely in both spiritual and worldly ways. If you study a subject then try to get to the core of the subject you are studying. Be sincere in your studies, do not be reckless and support your studies in both a spiritual and worldly way.
5.Respecting meditation means becoming aware of the great benefits from meditation and expressing respect by practicing meditation regularly for as long as you can.
Meditation is vital to the cultivation of virtues and it is the way in which we can train ourselves. Meditation is needed for knowing the real meaning of the Dhamma as explained by the heart of Buddhism which is the Threefold Training:
- Self-discipline (precepts)
The Lord Buddha once said that self-discipline is the foundation to practice meditation easily. Meditation is in turn the foundation of wisdom which will lead to the liberation of Nirvana. We cultivate self-discipline in order to allow our mind to enter into meditation easily and avoid the evil that might otherwise cloud the mind. Wisdom takes its origin in meditation. Therefore, meditation is the main principle to cultivate all the virtues as well as the removing of defilements from the mind and enter Nirvana.
Some people refuse to meditate but try to attain enlightenment by exclusively reading about it or listening to Dhamma teachings. No matter how much they read they have no chance of coming closer to enlightenment because all their theoretical knowledge from reading is just the basic knowledge. An inner sphere of knowing will arise only when meditation is put into practice.
Some people even say that practicing meditation is superfluous to Buddhist practice or it is a waste of time. If you meet such person, you should know that person is contradicting the Buddha’s own words and he may thinks he is better than the Lord Buddha.
6.Respecting non-recklessness means becoming aware of the benefits of being mindful during activities and expressing respect by regularly practicing the mind not to be reckless by meditating regularly.
7.Respecting hospitality means becoming aware of the benefits of hospitality and how it encourages good relationships with others by sharing.
Naturally, we cannot be perfect and please everyone as we all have flaws within us. Hospitality helps by giving us an opportunity to offer care to others and allows us to make new friends. We should comfort our guests in the following two ways:
Material hospitality: receiving people with material things such as a snack and drink.
Spiritual hospitality: receiving people with Dhamma, such as talking about the Dhamma or suggesting the Dhamma to each other.
In addition to know the importance of hospitality, people in the house also need to know how to welcome guests. If you know how to make your guests feel really welcome and offer hospitality, it can promote good relationships with all and your reputation can be enhanced.
These seven objects of respect is the core of respect. Once you become aware of the value of these seven, you will clearly and deeply realize the goodness in other things so that you recognize the true knowledge and know how to act.
After we trained ourselves in respect, other people’s mistakes will slowly disappear whenever we meet anyone, we will only look at their virtue. Then we will not be able to think of bad deeds and only think of good deeds and how to perform virtue.
What Is Paying Respect?
Paying respect means expressing the awareness of the good deeds of ‘the people we truly respect seen in their actions and speech. For example: making a path for them to travel on, standing to welcome them, giving up one’s seat to them, bowing while having a conversation, asking for permission prior to action, saluting, etc.
Paying respect spiritually means expressing respect because we are truly aware of the good deeds done by a certain person. A student bowing to a teacher because he is afraid of loosing marks or being disciplined is not respectful. A soldier saluting the senior soldier because he is afraid of disciplinary action is not about respect, but just following rules.
Points for Consideration
As mentioned previously, respect means honestly becoming aware of the true virtue in other. The person who can realize the virtue in others must have wisdom and right consciousness as the qualifying foundation.
After we express respect, the receiver will know immediately that we have virtue, respect to others and wisdom. Then they realize our virtue and will express respect in return.
On the contrary, a person who receives respect but does not return the respect should be blamed for having arrogance and ignorance.
It is a big mistake for the people who do not pay or return respect because they misunderstand that expressing respect reduces the glory in themselves and loose it to others.
The Benefits of Being Respectful
- It enables you to be well mannered, polite and happier
- You will become happier and feel joyful.
- You will not to suffer in life, to feel distress or under threat.
- It is easier for you to copy the good deeds of others.
- Good role models help you improve your levels of virtue.
- Your awareness and sensitivity are improved.
- You will have true knowledge, and know how to use it wisely.
- You will be born into a family of high social status in future lives.
- You will attain enlightenment and entering Nirvana will be easier.
“The Oceans is the lowest lying of all the waterways in the world, as such all the waters of all the rivers of the world must flow towards it.
In the same way the deference shown by a humble person will lead all the virtues exemplified in other people in the world to flow towards him.”
What Is Humility?
The original word in Pali of Humility in this Blessing means someone who is without air. A humble person is someone who is not inflated by their own self-importance. They are to be modest, not having pride, not being snobbish, not looking down on other people and not being arrogant.
The Difference between Respect and Humility
Respect is virtue based on the way we see others. A respectful person is someone who actively looks for the good virtues in other people instead of finding fault in them. A respectful person is also someone who is able to estimate peoples’ worth according to reality and someone who expresses respect in his deed, word and thought.
Humility is a virtue based on the way we see ourselves. To be a humble person is to reflect on one’s own vulnerabilities, observe one’s character traits and how they may be improved upon and being realistic about oneself. A humble person is not someone who boasts, but one who is able to show deference to others in order to maximize the amount of goodness received from them.
A respectful person is not necessarily a humble person. For example, a person may realize the virtue in others and they have aspects of respectful behavior towards them. However, the same person may not be able to show any respect to virtuous people. Moreover, they like to compare themselves with others, saying; “Even though you’re the best at this, I’m the best at that – so that makes me as good as you!”
Some people, instead of being humble tend to think that they are superior. They often consider themselves as superior on the basis of:
- The family background: Some tend to think that they are better than others, as belong to influential families who have connections to high level people and become proud.
- Wealth: Some tend to think that they are superior to others because they are extremely wealthy.
- Beauty and physical appearance: Some tend to think, “I am more attractive than anyone else. My skin is so fine, and my eyes are so beautiful that even Miss Universe should try comparing with me!
- Their knowledge and experience: Some take their education or the lack of it, into account for the reason to feel superior and proud. Some people can look down on uneducated people and feel better than them.
- Their rank or position: In any society there are certain ranks and positions that are considered higher than others. In some instances those who hold such positions, can become proud and arrogant and use their position to gain personal benefit and to feel better about themselves by putting others ‘down’.
- The number of followers: Some tend to become proud and arrogant because they have many friends and followers. Some may think, “I have so many friends and followers in my gang that no-one would dare to mess with me.”
Although people get carried away by the above mentioned factors, they do not realize that those things can change at any time. Good looking people are no longer good at the age of 60 or 70. Rich people can become poor and wealthy people may make mistake in their business so they become poor overnight.
Even if they are wealthy all their life, they cannot take the wealth with them to the afterlife destination. No matter how much money they have, if they do not make enough merits, they cannot escape sufferings. The richer they get the: more worries they have as they worry about making money and keeping it.
The number of followers or friends we may have had; cannot stay with us forever either. Everything is uncertain and it does not truly belong to us anyway. The only thing that stays with us for sure and is able to help us escape from suffering is the goodness in ourselves.
Does being arrogant make you better? It does not even make people respect you. Actually, it makes people dislike you.
In fact, great people who receive respect from others must be humble. Therefore, a wise person should not measure their worth from these factors and hence become arrogant.
Consequences of Arrogance
- Damage to yourself: By being arrogant, you lose kindness and respect from others. If you think you are better than others and become arrogant, nobody would like to advise you even if you are doing something wrong. Sometimes others may not like to be friendly with you either.
- Damage to others: Arrogant people can hurt other people by their words and deeds. Their life achievements will never reach high because they will not proceed far in teamwork; like a pagoda with a narrow base which cannot be built very tall without toppling over.
- Damage to society at large: Some times arrogant people break the law and social stability can be affected, creating problems for the whole of society.
If humility prevails amongst people in society, conflicts are less likely to occur. Even if conflicts do arise, people will be able to resolve them without letting them ruin the harmony of society.
In a society where an attitude of arrogance is rife, it will be difficult for any lasting harmony to come about; for example, the caste system in India in the olden days, in some castes arrogance was common place and even seemed to be encouraged.
People in higher castes washed their eyes if they saw a person from a lowest caste, as they were afraid that even a glimpse of them would bring them misfortune. Because of the history of the caste system, religious beliefs and the levels of arrogance, even when enemies were at the door, they did not unite to defend themselves against invaders.
The people in the lower castes thought that it would teach the arrogant superior castes a good lesson, while the people of the higher castes thought themselves too superior to deal with the practicality of national affairs. The people of different castes kept on arguing amongst themselves, even though there were billions of people in the country, they failed to defend themselves, for example, when the British Empire came and with only a small troop.
- Associating with the wise: We need to associate with those who car and are willing to point out our false views and delusions on a regular basis. Such friends could help us to honestly assess what we do and point out our areas of difficulties and they can help us to improve our habits. At the same time, we should not associate with those who just flatter us, as this will lead us down the wrong path. In addition, we should pay respect regularly, to those worthy of respect so we are reminded that people worthy of our respect exist.
- Being thorough and think carefully before you do things: You have to think thoroughly before doing anything. Think that you cannot live forever no matter how great you are, you will die one day just like everybody else. You are not superior to others. At the same time you should consider factors that encourage an arrogant attitude, such as family name, wealth, appearance, ranking, or number of followers; and know all of these to be impermanent and know that nothing stay with us forever.
Characteristics of a Humble Person
A humble person is a person who knows their own worth based on reality. They are characterized by three distinct features:
- Humility in action: A humble person is not arrogant either in their body language or their manners – but at the same time they are assertive, clear and have warmth. They know how to make themselves endearing to others by their behavior.
They will be good-mannered to seniors and subordinates alike and they give due respect to those who deserve respect. They are consistent in their cultivated manners no matter what walk of society they are dealing with. They are humble but at the same time they have confidence in themselves.
- Humility of words: Their speech is endearing. Their words express the purity and good intention in their heart. Their words are gentle rather than being provocative or boastful. They do not use their verbal skills to ‘put others down’ and if they should be responsible for a mistake, they will be quick to apologize. If they receive praise from others, they will be quick to thank them for the compliment. They do not make threats or tease others for making mistakes. If someone else does a good deed, they praise them.
- Humility in mind: A humble person is modest even in their thoughts. They may be soft and gentle in their approach to all things, but it does not mean that they are weak or indecisive. Never complacent about their abilities, they will always be looking for ways to improve.
They do not assume that they are always right – they are open to others’ opinions and they believe different people have the right to have their views and thoughts. They do not get angry if they do not get their own way, but look for ways to adapt their thinking to the need of others and any given situation.
Illustrative Examples of Humility
Once in a monastic assembly presided by the Lord Buddha, a monk accused Sariputta saying that in spite of being one of the two chief disciples of the Buddha, he purposely bumped into him. The Buddha thus asked Sariputta whether the accusation was true or not.
Sariputta explained to the Buddha, ”A monk who is not mindful of the body will certainly bump into a fellow monk without an apology. However, I am willing to behave with the humility of earth, water, fire, wind, a wiping rag that encounters clean and dirt regularly, an untouchable child who blunders into the village or a bull with broken horns.
I have no opportunity to indulge in self-importance. I am bored to take care of this disgusting rotten body that I have to care for. I am mindful of the body with just the same care that a man would carry a tray with nine holes filled to the brim with oil causing the oil to leak constantly. I therefore do not have the mind of acting arrogantly to anyone.”
Even before renouncing the world, Sariputta was already so gifted that he had attained no less than eighteen scholastic degrees. After ordination he became an Arahant13“, He was the right-hand chief disciple of the Buddha – yet look at how humble he could be – comparing himself to a rag, a broken-horned bull or an untouchable child who was the lowest caste in India at that time.
13An Arahant is someone who became enlightened with the help of the Teachings of the Buddha.
Sariputta had no trace of self-importance or arrogance. If such gifted monks in such an elevated position can be so humble – then who are we, such an ordinary person to look down on others?
After Sariputta had explained, the accusing monk could not stay silent any longer and was quick to apologize to Sariputta and admitted to the monastic that he wrongly accused him.
The Lord Buddha praised Sariputta that “He has the mind as stable as Earth or the pillar of the dam. He is consistent and well-mannered. He is pure and free of defilement like water without dust or mud. He certainly shall not remain in Samsara.”
The Benefits of Humility
- You will live happily without enemies.
- You will receive respect from others.
- You will create harmony in society.
- You will have good friends.
- You will have ability to emulate the goodness of others.
- You will have refuge in this life and next lives.
- You will not be reckless and remain firm in Dhamma.
- You will attain enlightenment and enter Nirvana easily.
“A drop of water can fill a glass, but rivers can never fill the ocean.
In the same way, even a small amount of money can make a difference to the person who knows contentment.
On the contrary, no matter how much wealth a person may have, for those who do not know contentment, it will only add to that person’s discontentment.”
What Is Contentment?
Contentment means happiness with oneself and one’s possessions. More precisely, it means becoming satisfied with what you have. Contentment is a concept which can be misunderstood by some people. Some think that the idea of contentment makes people unstimulated and this can be something which blocks economic progress. So we should understand the real concept of “contentment” including its benefits and dangers.
Characteristics of Contentment
The people who are content with themselves must have these three characteristics.
- Contentment with what we already have: Even though we do not have all the things that we would like to have, we should learn to be happy with what we already have. This does not necessarily mean that we should stop thinking about making further progress. Without using illegal or corrupt methods, people should strive to achieve further progress.
The shoe mender who work in the gutter, taking pride of and earnestly working at his job; he is mindful and detail-oriented giving good impressions to his customers. So he is able to save some of his income, become well established and expand his business. This is a good example of this type of contentment.
When a person is content with what they already have, they focus on making progress and yet this contentment gives us the encouragement to expand our efforts on the things we come into contact with. Discontentment will cause us to feel tired and unmotivated.
- Contentment with what you get: This means we should be able to accept the outcome of our actions, even though they are not exactly what we expected. People who lack this type of contentment may tend to assume that they are destined to misfortune. They tend to ‘blame’ themselves, instead of being contented with the success they have already achieved, tending to be negative and think a great deal about what they have not achieved yet.
A fisherman lacking such contentment will always think that the fish that escaped his net are larger than the ones he has caught! So he ends up ‘hating’ the fish he caught and focuses his attention on the ones that escaped his nets. In the end he spends his whole life eating the fish he is disappointed with. Thus he never enjoys his fish to his dying day, because he always thinks that the most delicious ones are those that he did not catch.
- Contentment in being modest: In practice, this means not feeling overwhelmed when you are either, content or discontent and trying to remain neutral and practice equanimity in all things.
Types of Contentment
There are three types of contentment.
- Contentment with what we receive: We should not be disappointed when the outcome is not as we expected, but instead we should increase our efforts to achieve our objectives. For example, a civil servant who is working hard expects to get promoted in two steps, but ends up getting only one step. Instead of becoming disappointed, he should work harder to improve his performances hoping that it will help him to achieve his goal.
- Contentment with what is appropriate to our potency: We all have different levels of potency in both physical and mental capacity and we should know our own strengths and accept what is appropriate for us personally. Do not misjudge yourself or compare yourself to someone with a different potency. For example, if you know that your capabilities are only good enough to take the responsibilities of a Minister in the Parliament, do not strive to be the Prime Minister.
- Contentment with what is appropriate to our status: I tis important for our health and happiness that we can feel contented with what we have and what we receive. We can be a monk, householder, senior, junior, teacher, student, military general, lieutenant, sergeant, director or a clerk – and still be satisfied with ‘our lot’. Even if you are a manual worker this is still an important role in society and there is no need to show off or boast about our life style or possessions. When people act like this it can cause jealousy and some negative impact on relationships in the work place.
All type of contentment has to be based on morality. Even if something is appropriate to our status and potential, but if it is inappropriate to the level of precepts we observe, then such things should be avoided. If it will discredit us or compromise our dignity to receive something, then we should not be contented to receive that kind of thing. For example, stolen objects, an illegal salary earned, so that we do not caught up with the greediness of taking the possession.
Wrong Notions on Contentment
In some instances people misunderstand ‘Contentment’ thinking that what it means is being satisfied with what they have and do nothing or very little.
The Buddha never taught his disciple to be lazy, or to avoid work or to be unresponsive in a way that impedes progress and prosper. On the contrary, this blessing emphasizes that when each person understands their own strengths and weaknesses and their place in society, contentment will arise of its own accord.
Such contentment will ensure that everyone will be happy with what they have, what they receive and what is appropriate to them, thus eliminate the tendency to compete mercilessly with one another over material possessions creating jealousy and selfishness.
Social progress requires both contentment and the investment of effort. Effort without contentment could be like a car without brakes that cannot be controlled.
Thus contentment is one of the most vital virtues for the progress of an individual, family and even a nation. The mind of a person verse in contentment is best to instill other higher virtue. Those who know contentment will be able to actively cultivate the virtues with the most honest of intentions. Society progresses slowly not because people are content but because there is lack of feeling of contentment among people.
Factors Contributing to Discontentment
In general there are four types of factors contributing to discontentment among people:
- Greed for power: People like to have power because those who have power can control others. When those who would like to have power do not get power, they become discontented.
- Greed for possessions: We live in a world where people in general would like to have more and more materialistic things because they have the notion that those things bring happiness to them. Those who live in small houses, even if they are adequate for their needs would crave for a bigger house. Someone who has a million dollars would like to have a billion dollars.
- Greed for food: People in general would like to have better food than what they have. A simple meal at home or in a simple restaurant does not meet their need. They strive to dine in luxurious or high-end restaurants.
- Promiscuity: Those who already have their own spouses go in search of others.
To be happy and progress in life, firstly, we should be contented with what we already have and then perform our duties to the best of our abilities without hankering unduly after other things.
For example, if you are the ‘Head of Department’ at the place you work and would like to have job satisfaction and progress in the career, firstly, you should be contented with the position you have and perform the duties to the best of your abilities. Then happiness and progress in your career will come to you automatically.
Similarly, a husband or a wife who expects to have a happy marriage should be contented with their partner and perform the duties to the best of their abilities to gain happiness. Running around looking for a new spouse might not be the solution, because such behavior might create more problems and eventually bring unhappiness.
There is an old metaphor that illustrates this: a stray, starving dog went into a house and the owner feed it with the rice milk. But after a week, the dog wants to eat rice, so the owner feeds it rice. But after a week, the dog wants to eat meat, so the owner feeds it meat, but one week after that, the dog attempting to climb up on the table competing with the owner for food from the owner plate. So the owner has no alternative but to chase the dog away, because it is the sort of dog that never know when enough is enough! Some people male or female, rich or poor, educated or not, can have this kind of discontentment.
Forms of Happiness
There are at least two different forms of happiness:
1.Happiness dependent on external stimuli: Such happiness is dependent on pleasure coming through sense organs such as eyes, ears, nose, mouth and body. This type of happiness may be superficial, because such happiness is temporary and in some instances eventually lead to unhappiness. Such happiness has the following characteristics:
- The object of the happiness can be obtained only as a result of considerable effort and difficulty because they are rare and limited in quantity.
- The object of the happiness, once obtained has to be closely guarded.
- Inability to obtain such happiness could lead to aggression and acts of vengeance.
2.Inner happiness: This type of happiness is independent of external stimuli and arises directly from inside when the mind has the following characteristics:
Purity: occurs when the mind is free of defilements.
Peacefulness: occurs when the mind is free from stress and anxiety.
Freedom: occurs when the mind is kept away from various things that intrude and bother you.
Radiance: occurs when the mind is filled with wisdom and seeing things according to reality.
Fulfillment: occurs when the mind has no further feeling of lacking/ insufficient, not detract from its wholesome quality, no feeling of loneliness, but only the delightfulness and self-contentment in itself.
Inner happiness is the true happiness; it is happiness that creates no conflicts of interest. It is a happiness that helps to diminish other problems. Those who are to find inner happiness must first cultivate a state of mind that is peaceful and free from discontent.
Earning One’s Living Contently
The purpose of earning a living is nothing more than to procure sufficient of the basic requisites of life to maintain one’s physical body, so that one can pursue the perfections in every ways and at every opportunities. Buddhism has never taught us to hanker unduly after unnecessary things or to accrue material assets to satisfy our desires.
The success of the social or economic development of a country is not measured by the level of the material or financial wealth alone, but by the absence of poverty and the quality of life of the people.
Principles for Administering One’s Possessions
- Acquisition: When acquiring assets, you should earn them in a scrupulous way without taking advantage of other people, by not breaking the law, breaking the custom, breaking one’s precepts or breaking the virtues.
- Expenditure: When using your wealth, you should not be stringy or extravagant. You should not be reluctant to use what you have earned for your own welfare and those close to you. At the same time, you should practice generosity sharing with others, and use the wealth to benefit of the society.
- Attitude: One should not worship money but should see it as a means or tool by which one can lead a contented life.
Types of Poverty
There are two types of paupers in the society.
- Material paupers: They are the people who suffer from lacking of financial resources. They are temporarily poor because if they can find an appropriate way to earn their money, they will be able to escape from poverty.
- Spiritual paupers: They are people who never become contended with their financial resources. They belong to ‘permanent poor’ category. They are wealthy people who never contended with their wealth because they always think that they need more to gain satisfaction.
Thus, contentment means ‘knowing moderation’. It is a miraculous virtue which can stop people from competing mercilessly with one another, stop extravagance, stop pretentiousness, stop recklessness, stop wars and help to make people self-sufficient with their socio-economic status.
“Contentment is the ultimate wealth”
Ways to Achieve Contentment in Everyday Life
- Daily reflections on the impermanence of life: The reality of life is that we grow old, get sick, eventually die and we cannot escape from this. If we can habitually reflect this process in life, our greediness will disappear and contentment will arise. No matter how much wealth we accrue, we cannot take it with us when we pass away.
- Know moderation in eating: We should have the motto ‘Eat to live rather than live to eat’. This is the basic level of contentment that we should practice every day.
- Practice generosity: If we often give things to others, it will help us to overcome our greediness.
- Observe eight precepts: Eight precepts help to engender many aspects of contentment. For example, the third precept of abstaining from sexual relations trains us to overcome indulgence in sexual pleasure. The sixth precept of not taking food in the evening helps us to overcome our excessive desire for food.
The seventh precept of not wearing jewelry or make up, trains us to be contended with our natural beauty.
The eighth precept of not sleeping on a luxurious bed trains us to overcome the desire for comfort.
- Meditate regularly: When we meditate regularly, the mind becomes refined and we can think more clearly.
Training in Contentment of Thai Society
Since ancient times, Thai society has had efficient way of training in contentment by the ordination. Even it is just a temporary ordination; one Buddha lent period (three months).
However, it gives the ordinants the chance to experience inner happiness that is independent to material object, the happiness that comes from knowing contentment and the subtlest states of inner peace. This inner happiness is difficult to experience in normal daily life of the laypeople.
Those who ordain as monks are allowed to use only the bare minimum of material requisites, namely three robes, one bowl for alms round and other eight requisites. The ordinants will experience a simple life without worries or being attached to material wealth. They will experience freedom of mind which gives rise to the subtlest states of inner happiness that are different from superficial happiness they experienced as laypeople. The monkhood will encourage the person to understand the importance of their happiness and of attaining contentment in life.
The Benefits of Contentment
- You will be free from worries.
- You will be free from negative thoughts, speech and actions.
- You will be free of mind and body.
- You will be free from making errors or mistakes.
- You will find it easy to cultivate virtues.
- You will be free from suffering and threat.
- You will make progress and achieve prosperity in life.
- You are viewed as someone who prospers in Buddhism.
“A blind man will not see the world, no matter how brightly the sun shines.
In the same way, an ungrateful person will never show gratitude no matter how much help and compassion is received from their benefactor.”
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude means recognizing the benefit brought to us by others who have done a kind deed towards us, no matter what the favors are such as: feeding, teaching, sheltering or providing us with a job etc. Knowing that we are able to recognize and appreciate them without ever forgetting their generosity towards us.
Additionally, gratitude also means recognizing the latent benefit of the merit accumulated by our past actions. Realizing that we are free from any threat, any demerit retribution, and able to live a happy life is due to the merit retribution of good deeds we have accumulated from the past. It is vital that we never forget the benefit of the merit we have performed and continue to cultivate more merit with every thought, word and deed.
In conclusion, gratitude means recognizing the benefits given to us from others, plus recognize and appreciating the merit without ever forgetting our need to show gratitude. For people who are grateful, even though their eyes cannot see, their mind is as pure and radiant as the sun and the moon combined.
People and Things That Are Worthy of Gratitude
- Gratitude to people, any person that has helped us, no matter how many or in what ways; it is important to recognize them with appreciation. We should find every opportunity to return their good deeds and show our thankfulness for them. This applies especially for the Lord Buddha, or monks, our parents, teachers and a king who reigns their country with “The Ten Virtues of the King14“.
14The Ten virtues of a King are generosity, morality, making sacrifices for the good of the people, honesty and integrity, kindness and gentleness, restraint of senses and austerity in habits, non-hatred and non-violence, patience and tolerance, non-opposition and non-enmity.
- Gratitude to animals means the beasts of burden that are beneficial to us such as elephants, horses, cows, dogs, and the water buffalos. We should use them appropriately with care, not to overuse their labors and also making sure they have enough food, rest and sleep. An example of gratitude towards animals is as follows:
Before the Buddha era, one day, the king of the “Rajah Kruge city” visited the Royal Park and fell asleep. A cobra was crawling in to attack the king; a tree shrew screamed to awaken the king and chased away the cobra. The king had gratitude towards the tree shrew for saving his life.
So the king, as a reward, bestowed the shrew with food everyday and prohibited anyone to endanger the shrew in the royal park. In later time, the park turned into Veruwan Vihara, the first Buddhist temple.
- Gratitude to inanimate objects means any object that is beneficial to us, such as Dhamma books, text books, schools, temples, trees, forest or any equipment that we use to earn a living. We have to treat them properly, not disrespect or cause damage to them. For example, the carrying pole that once was used to carry goods for selling, even after the owner became rich and well established, the owner never discarded it, but still appreciated the benefit of the carrying pole as a part of his life that helped create his wealth. He layered and embossed it with gold and kept it as a memento of his life.
Not only the people who shelter us, but even the tree that provides us with shade, we should not break its branches, stems or leaves of the tree. The person who is sheltered by the shade of the tree, but still breaks the branch, the stem, the leaf, the node or the root, will be considered as a person who is capable of breaking friendships and an ungrateful person who always will encounter misfortune in the future.
- Gratitude to merit because merit brings all forms of success and happiness into our lives so we can have a longer lifetime, good health, good complexion, intelligence, progress and material comfort. The merit also enables us to enter the heaven realms and enables us to attain Nirvana. Merit is every success, so we have to be grateful of the merits we accumulated in the past, and the merit that we cultivated in this lifetime. It is important to always acknowledge the merit we accumulated in the past and mindful in cultivating more and more merit.
- Gratitude to yourself means realize that our body is the vehicle to cultivate good deeds to attain happiness and prosperity in life. So we have to take good care of our body instead of trying to destroy it by drinking, taking intoxicants, going out late all night. Do not use the body as a tool to perform any bad deeds, such as killing, stealing or womanizing.
Gratitude in the Cultivation of Virtue
It is difficult for a person to have the right thought to persistently cultivate good deeds and virtues for themselves. But more difficult than that, is to keep one’s encouragement for the cultivation of good deeds going indefinitely, not to backslide or give up in the middle of the course.
It is the nature of cultivating virtue that one must always come up against obstacles and hindrances, sometimes problems from our immediate surroundings, sometimes inner problems from the influence of the defilements. In order to survive and not to succumb to those hardships or obstacles, we need to cultivate the virtue of gratitude.
When we go to school to study, sometimes, it is so difficult that many times we want to give up. Some friends try to keep us away from studying, but we have to acknowledge gratitude to our parents that they brought us up by working very hard to support our education. Our parents also place their hopes on us, hoping that we will develop and grow up with prosperity and progress in our life. When we realize that, gratitude will naturally arise, we will have the strength and inspiration to work hard.
No matter how exhausted we are, we still keep striving, studying harder to get good grades and make progress. Never fall into the unwholesome path to destroy the reputation of the family and disappoint our parents or teachers. Even among the Dhamma practitioners, who earnestly perform the duties of spreading the Buddha’s teachings; they always encounter conflicts with others. Different people have different points of view. They all have good intention to work, but their ability is different.
Sometimes people’s attitude toward others, thinking that “I don’t care that you are the top, I am also as good as you”, so they do not compromise each other. Conflicts arise because we cannot overcome defilements therefore, if we cannot control our mind, conflicts can arise.
When they are outside to spread the Buddha teachings, they encounter many people who do not understand, going against them, cursing or even insulting them. Therefore, many of the Dhamma practitioners and the persons who are spreading Dhamma and devoting themselves to helping society, become fed up, succumb or give up in the middle of their courses. If the persons who have given up still have the virtue of gratitude in mind, whenever they are discouraged or exhausted, they can keep themselves on track by reminding themselves of their gratitude to the Lord Buddha. Remembering how fortunate they are to learn the Dhamma teaching of the Buddha, learning how to cultivate good deeds and how to live a wholesome life.
The Buddha had dedicated his life to attain enlightenment of the ‘Four Noble Truths’ that the Buddha taught all the disciples, so we should remind ourselves of the Buddha’s difficulties and the great effort in pursuing the perfections for the period of 20 incalculable and a hundred thousand kalpas.
The duration of ‘1 kalpa’ is measured by assuming that there is a gigantic cube of rocky mountain, 16x16x16 kilometers. An angel takes a small piece of celestial cloth and wipes the mountain once every 100 years until this mountain smoothes down to the same level of the ground.
‘1 incalculable’ is a period equal to 10140 kalpas (one followed by 140 zeros). We also have to recognize the gratitude of all the Dhamma teachers who had earnestly passed on the Buddha’s teaching until this present day. If we can appreciate this, all the discouragement and tiredness will disappear, not even fear of death will overcome our progress and we will have more strength towards self-betterment. Gratitude is one of the most important virtues that will inspire us to develop higher virtues in the future.
The Benefits of Being Grateful
- It enables us to maintain the existing virtues within.
- It enables us to cultivate more virtues.
- It allows us to be mindful and not reckless.
- It enables shame of unwholesomeness and fear of the consequence of unwholesomeness.
- It enables patience.
- It keeps the mind pure and optimistic.
- We will be admired by good people.
- We will attract good people to associate with us.
- We will supported by people and angels.
- We will be free from demerit retribution and danger.
- Facilitates us to achieve good things or outcomes.
- It enables us to become enlightened and attain Nirvana.
Listening Regularly to Dhamma Teachings
“The mirror can help reflect beauty and ugliness of the body.
In the same manner, listening to the Dhamma teaching can help reflect the virtues and imperfection of the mind.”
What Is Listening Regularly to the Dhamma?
Listening regularly to the Dhamma teachings means to seek out opportunities to hear Buddhist teachings and make time to listen to the Dhamma teaching from knowledgeable teachers in order to elevate one’s mind and wisdom.
Having heard the Buddhist teachings, we can use the virtues learned as a mirror to examine the presence or absence of those virtues in ourselves and to see how much further we can improve upon the virtues we already have. For example, having heard the teaching about “gratitude,” one could use that knowledge to measure the level of gratitude in oneself. In other words, having listened to the Dhamma teaching, you will know instantly which virtue you have room for improvement in.
Appropriate Times to Listen to the Dhamma
- On Buddhist Holy Days: We should listen to the Dhamma teaching once every seven days. Usually, even if the person is impressed or inspired by a Dhamma teaching or the teaching of parents or teachers, they will remember that teaching for only a few days, but at the end of seven days, they will have forgotten what they have learned. For example, if your teacher recommends that you study conscientiously, perhaps you will become a conscientious student for a few days, but by the end of the week you will be back to your own lazy routine. So, it is better to listen to the teaching every seven days to re-charge up our morale, before we start to revert to our old bad behavior.
- Whenever the mind is preoccupied by unwholesome: This means whenever there are unwholesome mental preoccupations arising in the mind that makes the mind become obscured, depressed and distracted. It does not matter if it is in the morning, late morning, afternoon, in the evening, on the Eve of the Buddhist Holy day, on the Buddhist Holy day or any day; try to find the opportunity to listen to the Dhamma without delay.
There are three types of unwholesome mental preoccupations that arises in the mind to make it unskillful
- Preoccupation with sense-pleasure: When your mind is filled with desire, especially sensual temptation being attached to what we love.
- Preoccupation with vengefulness: When you feel that you would like to steal from people, or damage their reputation or even when you are angry.
- Preoccupation with violence or cruelty: When you want to hurt or take advantage of others.
Whenever these three preoccupations arise in the mind, we should find the opportunities to listen to the Dhamma without delay, otherwise, we might get caught up with unwholesomeness and suffer from its consequence.
- Whenever there is a sermon being given: Whenever the person or monk who has full knowledge in Dhamma is giving the sermon, you should not hesitate to listen to that sermon. It is so unusual or difficult to have a person who fully understands the Dhamma of the Buddha and be able to give a sermon. There must be the Lord Buddha born in the world first to attain the Dhamma within, and the person studying those Dhamma teachings of the Buddha till they fully understand and able to communicate in order to pass the Dhamma to us. Therefore, whenever there is a sermon being given by the person who has full knowledge of Dhamma, you should not delay to listen to them.
Marks of a Good Dhamma Teacher
”Ananda, teaching Dhamma is not an easy task. The person who is good at teaching must embrace/adhere to these five Dhamma”:
This is the proverb of the Buddha to Venerable Ananda regarding the five qualifications of a good Dhamma teacher
1.Expound the Dhamma sequentially: Not as a roundabout, not skip-ping over any of it but becoming gradually profound and to expound Dhamma sequentially and profoundly requires that the Dhamma teacher:
- Have a real understanding of the subject of that Dhamma
- Have the skill of communication and the technical ability to convey the subject and to learn what is appropriate for the listener
- Must have prepared and planned how and what to teach, not just to speak ‘off the top of one’s head’
- Must have these three characteristics to be able to give a sequentially profound sermon
2.Gives reasons to the Dhamma teachings: The teacher must thoroughly understand the Dhamma items being taught, not just what is memorized from the textbook or from the Scriptures. He must be able to explain cause and effect, give description or examples, clearly differentiated and able to address on the issue being asked by the listener.
3.Teaches out of sincere compassion for the listener: Even if the listener cannot follow through or is not intelligent enough to absorb, the Dhamma teacher will not be exhausted and not give up in the middle of the course even if he has to repeat and explain it over and over again. The teacher must have a good intention or goodwill for the listener.
4.Teaching without the motive of gaining something in return: This means not expecting fame, praise, flattery or material compensation, but instead expound diligently regardless of whether there will be compensation in return or how many listeners there are.
A bad example is diligently expounding the Dhamma if the host of the event is a famous or powerful person, but not diligently expounding the Dhamma if the host of the event is an ordinary person. The person who teaches Dhamma with the motive to gain compensation in return will be considered as a servant of the listener, because the teaching will sound favorable to be flattery to the listener (e.g. maybe one’s employer).
5.Teaching without bringing conflict to yourself or others: This means not taking the opportunity to show off oneself or highlight someone’s mistake to demonstrate as an example in order to vilify/ revile someone.
Not just to boast about one self or to criticize others, the teacher must have a good intention to explain the Dhamma, when an example is required for easy understanding, making sure the example being made will not cause anyone a problem. To use preaching sermons as an opportunity to reject someone’s view who may be against the principles of the Buddha teachings.
As we can see that the Lord Buddha had mindfully established the guide-lines of spreading Buddhism for his monks, so that they never teach in a way that brings Buddhism into conflict with other religions. Instead of trying to attack other religions, the Lord Buddha had precisely stipulated the qualifications of the person who is teaching the Dhamma and this is a very important distinction of how the teachings of Buddhism have always been spread.
Marks of a Good Listener to the Dhamma
1.Not look down on the level of knowledge of the teacher: Do not think that because the monk maybe young, you are older than the monk and you have listened to the sermons of senior well-known monks many times, therefore there is nothing you can learn from the young monk. Always pay respect and encourage the monk to teach Dhamma so he or she can increase their self-confidence.
The Buddha warned that there are four things which you should never underestimate the importance of:
- A young king: some kings have reigned since they were at young age (e.g. Alexander the Great reigned over half of the world and he was not yet twenty years old).
- A small poisonous snake: you can die from the bite even of a small snake.
- A small fire: even a small fire can burn down an entire city.
- A novice: some have become Arahants at the age of seven.
2.Not being conceited: Do not think that you are more knowledgeable in Dhamma than the monk, only because you have a Bachelor, Master or Doctor Degree and more worldly experience than the monk. If you assume that you are better than the Dhamma teacher, you will miss the opportunity to gain the knowledge through listening to the Dhamma teaching.
Like “Uruvela Kassapa” who always believed that he was an Arahant and superior to the Lord Buddha, so he never listened to the teaching from the Buddha. Until the end, when the Buddha warned him to stop being conceited that he is an Arahant, he finally repented and diligently listened to the Dhamma teaching from the Buddha with respect until he attained the Dhamma within and became Arahant.
3.Keep concentrated, not trying to find faults in the teachings: The better your mind is concentrated as you listen to the Dhamma, the more you will understand. If you are always looking to find faults with the teacher, you will lose your concentration, and not be able to follow through and never gain any knowledge or understanding of the Dhamma.
4.Be wise; means be intelligent: You should be able to deliberate upon and analyze the Dhamma as you listen ingeniously so that you can understand the Dhamma profoundly with ease. For those who have difficulty to understand the Dhamma, do not look down on yourself that you are not intelligent enough to acquire the Dhamma knowledge. Although you cannot understand the Dhamma right now, but at the very least, this will become your predisposition in the next life when you hear the Dhamma items again, you will be able to understand it with ease.
5.Not look down on the subject of Dhamma being taught: Never think that “It is too easy for me, I already understand it thoroughly, and I don’t need any further explanation”.
Listening to Dhamma teaching will bring many benefits to us. Even though it maybe that we have some knowledge already, but listening to that Dhamma items again will allow us to be more proficient/ masterful in the Dhamma subjects. Like Venerable Kappina who at the first time of listening to the Dhamma from the Lord Buddha, attained the level of Stream Enterer. Having listened to the same Dhamma teaching from the Lord Buddha again, he finally became an Arahant.
Predispositions Acquired through Listening to the Dhamma Regularly
Predispositions refer to our behaviors or familiarities from the past that will gradually become our predispositions for the future.
Listening to the Dhamma teaching is a way to cultivate the virtue as the “capital asset” of life and as a predisposition for our future existence. It can also help us to progress and to attain the Dhamma within, with ease. As The Lord Buddha taught us that the person, who regularly listens to the Dhamma, puts the effort to learn and to comprehend, or even try to learn the Dhamma by heart even without profound comprehension, the person will gain these four meritorious deeds:
- After passing away, in the subsequent existence, one will be in the heaven realm. One will have the comprehensive wisdom to understand quickly the Dhamma by one self, able to quickly recollect the Dhamma, and to practice the Dhamma till attaining the path and fruit of Nirvana with ease.
- After passing away, in the subsequent existence, one will be in the heaven realm. When a celestial Buddhist monk with supernatural power arises to teach the Dhamma, one will be able to recollect the Dhamma and attain the path and fruit of Nirvana with ease.
- After passing away, in the subsequent existence, one will be in the heaven realm. When an angel teaches the Dhamma, one will be able to recollect the Dhamma and able to attain the path and fruit of the Nirvana with ease.
- After passing away, in the subsequent existence, one will be in the heaven realm. Even without the celestial Buddhist monk with supernatural power or the angel to expound the Dhamma, but after listening to the other angels colleague’s word of advise, one will be able to recollect the Dhamma and able to attain the path and fruit of the Nirvana with ease.
Those who regularly perform their Morning and Evening Chanting, although they might not understand the meaning of those Pali terms, it is certainly not a waste of time because at the very least it will bring the stillness of mind and familiarity with the Pali terms or phrase.
Thus, in the future existence even overhearing the sound of chanting or sermon, one will put effort to get the opportunity to listen to the Dhamma teaching and be able to understand it with ease as a result of the past disposition they have built up, and enable them to attain the path and fruit of Nirvana with ease.
The Benefits of Listening to the Dhamma
- Hearing things never before heard: Because the Dhamma teacher will always put in the effort to find new items of Dhamma for the listener, if we attend a Dhamma sermon, we will be hearing something we have never heard before.
- Clarifying things already heard: If the subject of the sermon is what we have already heard before, at the very least, it will allow us to revise and deepen what we already know and raise our mastery to a new level, allowing us to memorize it better.
- Dispelling one’s doubts: If one still has some reluctance to give up some unwholesome habits or strive for some new wholesome habits, after hearing the Dhamma sermon, all the doubt and reluctance will be dispelled. One will give up unwholesomeness and strive for wholesomeness in no time.
- Straightening one’s view: In the course of our everyday life as we journey in pursuit of virtue, we could be influenced by the defilements and many obstacles which might conspire to infiltrate our thinking with ‘false views’.
Such false views can eventually lead our spiritual cultivation to deviate from the objectives we have set. The advantage of regularly hearing Dhamma teachings is that we will be able to identify the working of False View in our mind and to uproot these by cultivating the Right View.
- Purifying the mind and bringing happiness: Hearing a Dhamma sermon will help remind us to keep our mind out of distraction with sensuality, vengeance and aggression. It makes it clearer to us where our weaknesses lie and raises up our morality giving us the ways to overcome those weaknesses definitively and ultimately attaining the path and fruit of Nirvana.
“O! you who see the danger in the cycles of existence [samsara], in whatsoever era15 the Noble Disciples hear the Dhamma, listen to the marrow of their bones, listen to the innermost part of their mind, and who muster all their encouragement, bending their ears to listen in earnest-in that era their Five Hindrances16 will be overcome and their Seven Factors of Enlightenment17 [bojjhanga] will be brought to completion through the power of their meditation.”
15An era is the highest level for the organization of the measurement of time. An era is a commonly used word for long period of time.
16The five hindrances are negative mental states that impede success with meditation and lead away (Buddhism)” enlightenment. These states are: sensual desire, anger or ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worries, doubt.
17The Seven Factors of Enlightenment are mindfulness, investigation energy, joy, relaxation, concentration and equanimity.
Blessing Group 8: Instilling Oneself with Higher Virtues
“Grass may be small in size, but because of its tenacity, it can be found throughout the world.
People who may not have a lot of property, power, or knowledge, but with tolerance, they will be able to train themselves towards happiness and success in life.”
What Is Patience?
Patience means maintaining one’s normal state no matter whether shaken by tempting or unpleasant stimuli. In the face of such circumstance, a patient person remains steadfast. Every task in this world, no matter how big or small it is, can be accomplished not only based on wisdom but also on another fundamental virtue which is patience. Without patience, no task can ever be accomplished.
Patience is the virtue to resist impatience and sadness. It motivates you to be diligent and see the barriers as the challenge to your capability. That means all of the achievements of your work in both business and spiritual life, are built due to your monument of patience.
Characteristics of the Right Patience
- Resist and control yourself: If insulted by a fool, just let it go. If you are provoked, just pretend you do not see it. Control your emotions. Pay attention to the things that make your life flourishing, such as improving your precepts, meditation and wisdom.
- Avoid being cruel: One is able to keep one’s temper under control, rather than getting angry, violent or being threatening. Those who lose their temper easily show a lack in their development of patience. There is a proverb coined by Sakka18, the king of heaven that:
18Sakka is the god of War and Weather, also the King of the angels and Lord of Heaven.
“Those angry in response to the angry provocation of others are the worse of the two; those who don’t respond angrily to angry provocation have won the battle which is hard indeed to win.”
- Not bringing tears to others: Even if we dislike people we should avoid bringing suffering or mental hurt to them.
- Maintain a joyful mind the whole time: One should not allow one’s mind to fall away from contentment rather than being vengeful or putting the blame outward, we should try to do all our work with a care-free mind.
The characteristic of patience is what the ancestors taught their children with the short proverb as follows:
“Close both ears, both eyes, and your mouth sometimes, so you’ll be fine while resting and sitting down.”
When someone is reluctant to work or to study: this person is just inactive and thinks that he is practicing perfect patience. This is the wrong understanding of patience. Patience does not mean accepting at one’s circumstance eternally for instance:
The poor ones are content to continue being poor and are unmotivated to work. These people are apathetic.
The foolish ones are content to continue being foolish, they do not adhere to anyone who tries to teach them. These people are stubborn.
The evil people are content to continue doing bad and do not listen to anyone who tries to stop or help them. These people are obstinate.
The most important characteristic of patience is during the entire period of being patient; the mind has to be clear and not distressed. The patience can be summarized as follows:
- Be patient enough to withdraw from and avoid all evil activities.
- Be patient enough to continue developing your virtues.
- Be patient enough to keep your mind clear and not be distressed.
Types of Patience
Patience can be divided into four types:
- Be patient with difficulties: This is the patience of the natural environment such as the weather, coldness, heat, rain or the sun. You will be patient and continue working without blaming nature or claim them as the cause of not working.
- Be patient with suffering: This is the patience of sickness, the uncomfortable body, the pain or the stiffness. The person who does not have patience with suffering will moan, ramble, be irritable or be quick tempered when they have sickness. They get angry easily when the nurse does not serve them fast enough or if the nurse displeases them. These people will eventually double their sickness: their body becomes sicker and their mind becomes more ill.
- Be patient with resentment: This is the patience for anger, displeasure and offense, which comes from unkind words, bad manners of other people, the pressure from bosses, colleagues and subordinates, the unfairness in society, the inefficiency of the working system, etc.
People in the world are so different because of their habits and the chance to gain contentment may not be possible. When a group starts to grow to two people or more, we should prepare ourselves to be patient and protect our minds from resentment.
- Be patient with power of sensuality: This is the patience with the feelings of passion and desire. Be patient with the activity linked to desire, which is not the right thing to do such as wandering around, gambling, taking drugs, accepting bribes, corruption, sexual abuse, infatuation with honors, infatuation with power, pomposity, bragging, showing-off, boastfulness and others.
The patience that is the most difficult is as the ancestors said:
”If someone abuses you and you don’t get angry, this is difficult to do.
If someone admires you and you don’t smile, this is more difficult to do.”
The Method of Practicing Patience
- Consider Hiri-Ottappa: If you feel ashamed to sin and are afraid of sin, then patience will rise in you. When the Lord Buddha was still pursuing perfection in one of his lives as the Bodhisattva, he was born as a Prince named Temi. When he was 6- 7 years old, he saw his father (the king) put a thief to death by having him burned alive at the stake.
With all of the Perfections he had accumulated over a long period of time, he knew that in his past life he had been a king who had put thieves to death. As a result, he went to hell for a very long time and he thought if he became the king again, he would have to kill thieves again and he would have to go to hell for many lifetimes.
Since that day, he pretended to be deaf, crippled and immobile, so everyone thought that he was disabled. In this way, he did not have to be the king. Even though his father was trying to tempt him with desserts, putting biting bugs on him, putting fire around him, poking him with an elephant tusk; he was still quiet.
Once he grew to be a young man, his father tried to motivate him with nice, beautiful girls, but still he was quiet. Because he was fully aware of the suffering in hell, shame and fear of sin or Hiri-Ottappa completely occurred to him and helped keep him patient and motionless.
For a long time, the father considered that he was a misfortune to the kingdom. So, he decided to put him to death outside the kingdom. Once he was taken out of the kingdom, Prince Temi declared that he was not disabled but completely healthy and later he then ordained. Later, his father, the king, his relatives and residents ordained and followed him and they attained absorption numerously.
- Consider the improvement of controlling one’s emotions: Thinking that it is good that they did that to us for example, someone abusing you is better than they hit you. Someone hitting you is better than they kill you. The wife committing adultery is better than she kills her husband. The husband committing adultery is better than he kills his wife. An example of this method is as follows:
Venerable Punna was a resident of the Sunaparanta town before his ordination. He traveled to the town of Sawatti for business and got an opportunity to listen to the Lord Buddha’s teaching until he wished to ordain. After ordination, he did not make any progress with meditation because he was not familiar with the location. He thought the weather in his town was more appropriate for him. So, he asked the Lord Buddha to go back to his town.
The Lord Buddha asked him, “Are you sure, Punna, Sunaparanta residents are so violent and barbarous? Can you endure them?”
“Punna, if they abuse you, what will be your plan?”
“I will think that if they abuse me it would be better than they are beating me with their hands, Sire.”
”What if they beat you, Punna?”
“It is better than if they throw rocks at me, Sire.”
”What if they throw rocks at you, Punna?”
“I will think that it would be better than they hit me with wood, Sire.”
”What if they hit you with wood, Punna?”
“It is better than they jab me with a blade, Sire.” “Let see, if they kill you with the blade, Punna?” “I will think that it is GOOD, Sire.”
“How is it GOOD, Punna?”
“If someone really wants to die; they may waste their time trying to find a weapon to commit suicide. But I got luckier than those people in that I don’t have to spend any time finding the weapon like them.”
“That is fabulous, Punna. Your thought is marvelous. It is okay. I allow you to go and stay there for your meditation endeavor at the town of Sunaparanta.”
Venerabla Punna went back to Sunaparanta and concentrated on his meditation. After a short time his mind became still, and he attained the Dhammakaya until he became an Arahant. This is the story of Venerable Punna, the model of the patient person by increasing the control of his emotions through a deep level of understanding and practice of patience.
- Consider concentrating on the practice of meditation: Both patience and meditation are virtues that support each other. In order for your patience to be firm; it must be supported with meditation. In order for meditation to improve; it must be supported with patience. Patience is like the left hand and meditation is the right hand. In order to wash your hands, both hands have to help washing each other so that the hands can be properly cleaned. An example of an outstanding patient person is Venerable Lomasnakatera.
Venerable Lomasnakatera was a monk who meditated to the point where he was able to recall his past lives; even though he had not removed all of his defilements completely. One day, he meditated outdoors until noon and the sun made him sweat profusely. His student asked him, “Dear Sir, would you like to sit under a tree? The weather there is cool and good.” He said, “I sit here because I am afraid of the heat.” He, then, kept sitting there and concentrated on hell because he was there for many lives and he realized that hell was many thousands of times hotter than where he currently sat. Therefore, he did not change his seat, and continued his meditation until he finally attained Dhamma and became a Buddhist saint.
The Benefits of Being Patient
- You will acquire all kinds of merits to you.
- You will become attractive and be loved by all people.
- You will cut off all roots of sin.
- You will be calm and happy in every gesture.
- You will be recognized as a wise person.
- You will be firmer with keeping your precepts and meditation.
- You will become easily attain enlightenment and enter Nirvana.
”People can be patient with criticism from superiors out of their fear; they can be patient with criticism from their peers out of competitiveness; but if they can be patient with criticism from subordinates; the Noble ones praise them as the ultimate of patience”.
Openness to Criticism
“A person who has been paralyzed, even though surrounded by many useful things, but they are all useless to that person, as the paralyzed person cannot pick any of them up to make use of the benefits.
In the same way, if a person is stubborn, even though they might have an Arahant as a teacher, they are unable to absorb any of the knowledge and goodness for themselves.”
What Is Openness to Criticism?
Openness to Criticism refers to someone who learns easily and is gen de in response to being taught. When a person of knowledge teaches them something useful out of compassion, they will follow the advice given with respect and humility, they will do what they have been advised without showing reluctance, without retaliating and offer no excuses of any kind.
Some people can tolerate all forms of physical hardship, physical suffering, mental suffering, mental anguish and temptation, but they cannot tolerate when anyone gives them any advice. They will impatiently tum their back on the person and refuse the advice offered, because they have the seeds of stubbornness in them.
If that person has no intelligence, he would have great difficulties to improve himself.
If the person has some intelligence, he will be so stubborn to be taught. They are the type of people with an impaired mind and they are not able to cultivate any form of virtue from the others’ well intended advice. Therefore, we should be a person with openness to criticism and feedback who can learn easily and gently in response to hearing teaching.
Characteristics of Those Open to Criticism
The person who is open to criticism will have the following eleven characteristics.
- Does not answer back when warned or given advice. They will not criticize someone back, not protest in return or make excuses when they are given advice, but accept that advice with humility.
- Will not turn deaf ear when given advice. They will make improvement and follow through the advice received.
- Has no intention to find the negative motives of the person who has given them the advice. They will not trying to find faults, but accept the advice from the person who has given them the advice.
- Facilitates further teaching. They will follow the advice, acting on what they have been told in a way that will give the advisor encouragement and compassion to pass on further advice to them.
- Has the highest respect for what they have been taught and for the person who has given the advice. They realize that anyone who comes up to give them advice is taking a great risk of an unfavorable response from them. They accept that the advisor must really have compassion and great intention to them, so they value the advice and respect the adviser.
- Will show the greatest humility. They will respond to the criticism without expressing stubbornness and without being conceited, pretending as if they already knew better.
- Will express their happiness and gratitude at having received advice. They would express appreciation. They feel really thankful to the adviser that they help identify areas that need proper improvement and it is as if they had found a hidden treasure, so they never stop expressing their appreciation toward the adviser.
- Not being stubborn to follow the advice to an appropriate extent. Not being obstinate or self-assertive to continue to err, even though they know it is wrong. Once they accept that they are wrong, they will correct and follow the advice to an appropriate extent according to the Dhamma teaching.
- Has acceptable and polite behavior. They will be open to criticism and able to resist any temptation to burst into a tantrum or be unpleasant to the person given the advice.
- Invite advice and feedback from others. They listen with intention to all sides of advice given without answering back and also invite the person to speak up again, if they ever notice anything else in their behavior that needs further improvement.
- Are tolerant even to advice that comes in the form of unpleasant speech. They always show tolerance to the adviser, because they appreciate the passion and intention the advisor has toward them.
These eleven characteristics can be summarized down to three maim characteristics of those open to criticism as being able to:
- Hear out the advice: They will not criticize someone back, not protest: in return or make excuse when they are given advice and not trying to find fault of the person who give them the advice.
- Follow the advice: They will not express any resistance. They will not hesitate or postpone making an improvement and will follow through the advice received.
- Appreciate the goodwill of the person who has given the advices. They will not be unpleasant or be conceited to the person giving the advice. They are able to tolerate advice that comes in the form of unpleasant speech even though the advisor is;
Superior: which could make it easy for them to accept the advice received.
In equal level: which could make it difficult for them to accept the advice received.
Inferior: which could make the most difficult for them to accept the advice received.
Three Categories of Those Open to Criticism
In general we usually think that one who listen to others without resistance and follow the advice is a person who is open to criticism. But this is not quite correct, because they can be differentiated into three different categories according to their hidden motives for being open to criticism:
- Materiality-motivated: Some people make themselves very compliant, because they seek for some material reward in return. For example, the children are so obedient to the parents because they want to receive a legacy from them, the subordinate obedient to the boss for the chance of being promoted. They are not really a person with openness to criticism, but they are only trying to be compliant and obedient for rewards.
- The gullible: They are obedient because they lack self-confidence, they lack any intelligence to think for themselves and they lack any initiative of their own. If you tell them to go to school, they will go, or you can either tell them to skip school, to go drinking, to go gambling, or to go to the temple, they will do anything they are told. They are not really persons with openness to criticism, but they are the gullible and just go along with everything they are told anyway.
- Spiritually motivated: They have the Dhamma as their principle of life. They will accept the constructive criticism as treasure that helps them make improvement towards the goal of perfection. Only this last category of people is really open to criticism.
Reasons for Stubbornness
There are sixteen possible traits that create stubbornness in the face of criticism
- Determination to do evil: Some people will wish for success in the most evil things. For example, some want to get rich, so they become a drug dealer, smuggling heroin, or gambling. Some want to gain good rank and title at work by ‘mudslinging’, trying to make themselves look better than their colleague. Even others try to correct them, but they never listen.
- Self-conceited: Some people make overestimation of themselves that they are superior to everyone else. They are so arrogant that they do not listen to any criticism or advice.
- Losing one’s temper easily: They always lose the temper with the person giving them advice. They are likely to have no second chance of getting a helping hand.
- Vengefulness: They are not only angry with others for the moment, but even long after the event they still hold a grudge for that person for several years. They do not know how to put a smile on their face, showing displeasure on their face all day to everyone.
- Inability to control oneself when angry: Not only unable to control their facial gestures when angry, they also physically express their anger aggressively e.g. stamping, slamming doors or spitting etc.
- Those who want to have the last word when criticized: They are impatient when criticized, they would be content to have the last word, are not careful of their word in responding back. For example, when someone told them that they dress inappropriately for the temple, they will answer back “Does it bother anyone?”
- Those that have an excuse for everything: When others try to help correct their flaws, they will find every excuse for doing whatever they like e.g. they dress inappropriately to visit their elders and when it is pointed out, they will response that “I rather dress this way as I am expressing myself”.
- Those who give others the brush-off: Whenever someone tries to give them advice, they will chase them away saying something like “Aren’t you just spending all your time catching my faults?”
- Those who find a callous way of answering hack: Instead of accepting the advice and showing enthusiasm to follow it, they will always find a way of answering back to the person who gives them advice in a way that will hurt them. They will say something like, “Don’t worry about me, instead use your time more efficiently and worry about your own husband and children”
- Those who change the subject to avoid speaking about the matter: When they are being criticized over their mistakes, they will try to conceal by changing the subject being discussed, because they do not want to admit their mistakes and do not want to lose face.
- Those who become suspicious of the person who advises them: They tend to be pessimistic and suspicious on the intention of people criticizing them and never listen to others.
- Those who persecute everyone who tried to advise them in order to hide their faults: They keep some hidden mistake to themselves, if someone brings up any tiny matter to them, they will be so anxious, frighten and afraid that others will find out their mistake, so they are always paranoid, not able to concentrate on anybody’s words of advice or criticism.
- They are ungrateful persons who do not appreciate the favor received from others: They like to disparage or humiliate the person who gave them favor in order to make themselves look superior, because they feel disgraceful to own any debt of gratitude to the inferior person or who they think, is not worthy of showing gratitude to.
- Those who are extremely jealous and selfish: They are so narrowed minded that they are unable to receive any advice from others, afraid that others will be better off than them.
- Those who are boastful and arrogant: They are boastful about their goodness and talents so often that they feel they are already superior to others. They can never listen to any word of others.
- Someone who has views which deviate severely from reality: They have faulty attitude toward the world. They disobey, not compromise and disrespect others, also will resist any word from others.
How to Avoid Stubborn Habits
All above sixteen characteristics are the habits that are causing stubbornness which hinders us to correct our weakness. In order to become a person who is easy to teach, we can try to lessen and get rid of the above sixteen habits by:
- Reflect on the harm you bring to yourself by your obstinacy: The obstinacy does not allow us to acquire any goodness from others, like a paralyzed person who is surrounded by good things but cannot make use of those things. If we are so stubborn, nobody will render any advice or is willing to teach us. We will have to live a foolish life associated with unwholesomeness.
- Train yourself in respect and in being optimistic: Whatever criticism you might receive from others, extends a heart of gratitude towards them, because the trouble they have taken to criticize us shows that they have high expectations of us.
Whether the matter is accurate or not, hear out the feedback first instead of rushing to answer them back or pick a fight with them. Reflect upon the Buddhist proverb that “he, who gives us personal advice and criticism, is the one who points the way to the treasure.”
- Invite criticism from others: This means open the opportunity for others to criticize us whether the person is older, equal or younger than you, for example, it is a monastic disciplines that on the last day of the Buddha lent, there will be a meeting for the monastic monks, senior monks or junior monks. They will invite criticism from one another. This principle can also be applied to lay people, such as in the organization, in the household. When we practice them often, we will be accustomed to it and become our habit.
- Meditate often and regularly: When the mind is pure, not distracted, we will be able to reflect wisely on the advice given to us by others. When the mind is still and calm, we will be able to identify our weaknesses and apply such advice to help improve them.
Categories of Stubbornness
There are basically three categories of stubborn people in the world:
- Stubborn because of ignorance: They are stubborn because of their foolishness and laziness. They like to take orders and will do whatever they are told to do, but they are not able to take any advice because their ignorance cannot absorb the advice and they try not to listen to the advice.
- Stubborn because of intransigent views: In fact they are intelligent people, but they are not aware that they are only intelligent in the subjects they have studied and there are many more things that they are not yet knowledgeable of. They assume that they already know everything there is to know.
They do not like to accept any order or enforcement to do something, so we should clearly explain how it would be useful to them. If the person is not too arrogance, they should be able to accept the advice and follow through. However, if the person is too arrogance, not taking any advice or criticism, we will have to leave them alone and let them learn from their own mistakes.
- Stubborn because of short-tempered: They will lose their temper upon hearing the slightest thing they disagree with. It is very hard to expect any kind of cooperation from these types of stubborn people. They are likely to cause disharmony in any community. Leave them alone in the hand of psychiatrist.
Dealing with the Stubbornness of Other People
In dealing with the stubborn subordinates in the work place, if you ordered them and taught them and they still do not respond, the next step would be to punish them, e.g. by reducing their salary, take a probation leave or any means that is appropriated.
But if they still do not respond, we might use the punishment known in Buddhist tradition as the ‘Brahmadanda punishment’ or what people call a boycott as in the following story.
In the time of the Buddha, when he left the palace to ordain, he went together with a horseman called Channa. Channa also ordained at that time, but from that day to the time when the Buddha entered Parinirvana, he could make no progress in the teachings of Buddhism. The reason is because he was so stubborn; being arrogance that he had accompanied Prince Siddhartha. He never listened to anybody’s advice but the Buddha himself.
Venerable Ananda asked the Buddha to help correcting Venerable Channa. The Buddha advised Venerable Ananda that after His entering Parinirvana he must perform the Brahmadanda punishment to Venerable Channa by having the monastic monks refrain from associating with him, as if Venerable Channa would not exist, and allow him to do anything as he wants. Soon after that, he became an odd monk in the monastic community. Venerable Channa felt guilty and confessed to the monastic community that he would no longer be stubborn.
Therefore, in any workplace, school, or household when there is a stubborn child who is difficult to receive criticism and advice, the parents can exercise the ‘Brahmadanda punishment’ to cease the stubbornness efficiently; But if instead it is the parents who are stubborn, the child would not be able to exercise the ‘Brahmadanda punishment’, but he should consider the most appropriate way on each individual basis.
The Benefits of Being Open to the Criticism
- You will attract other’s compassion and kindness to give us advice.
- You are able to listen to the Dhamma.
- You are able to cultivate the virtues of Dhamma which are the refuge in life.
- You are free from the unwholesome retributions.
- You are able to attain higher level of Dhamma.
“We should perceive the wise one who points out faults and who reproves us, as a person who guides us to a hidden treasure.
We should associate with that kind of wise one, because being associated with them; we will always be better and never worse”
The Sight of a True Monk
“Children need a good role model from both parents and teachers alike.
Likewise, the people of the world also need a good role model from a true monk.”
The Importance of Seeing a True Monk
There are two kinds of happiness that can be found in this world.
- Happiness arising from sensual pleasures or worldly pleasures is an outward happiness for example: seeing beautiful artwork, listening to good music, smelling fine fragrances, eating good food, touching the softness of velvet etc. These are examples of an external happiness that can be easily attained.
- Happiness arising from the inside through meditation practice can be attained through meditation to gain inner peace and inner wisdom; this is the inner happiness of those who attains the Dhamma within. The inner happiness arising from inner peace is true happiness and more pure than any other forms of happiness, but yet difficult for one to attain and to comprehend.
Happiness that arises internally is beyond one’s ability to comprehend, it is only known from personal experience. Only those who practice the Dhamma and meditation can experience this true happiness and those who do not practice the Dhamma will not be able to understand the feelings of happiness by just reading about it from the book.
As the monk once said, ”A person who observes the precepts will have a clear and delightful mind”. For those who never practice Dhamma may disagree with the above statement because they believe that people who practice the Dhamma must be continuously aware of what they are doing and try not to violate the precepts.
Unlike people who do not observe the precepts, they could drink alcohol; go out at night, gamble or have a party, which they consider to be much more fun than those who are practicing the Dhamma.
When someone meets a person who has obtained inner happiness or a person that observes the precepts properly, who is graceful and of cheerful appearance, always speaking politely and never in an angry mood; then they may start to believe that it is true, that the person who had obtained inner happiness looks different from other people that have not so far.
Even though he does not yet believe in this fact, he might wish to follow the practice of those who have attained inner happiness as they are a fine example. He might still hesitate to practice but at least he will get the urge to do some good deeds
A true monk.is the one who has attained inner peace and therefore anybody who gets a chance to see him will become inspired to practice the Dhamma teaching. You are like a bomb that has been ignited and cannot wait to explode all your wisdom, knowledge, and expertise to making good deeds to the fullest potential.
Who Is A True Monk?
A true monk means peaceful one and refers to an ascetic who fully cultivates dudes of monastic observances which includes keeping the precepts, concentrating on meditation and reflecting on the Lord Buddha’s teaching to gain inner wisdom. Their body, speech and mind are at peace and they abstain from any demeritorious deeds. Every true monk must be an ascetic, but some of the ascetics are not qualified as a true monk
“One cannot be a true monk simply because he is ordained.
A monk who ignores the monastic observances should not be considered as a true monk.
The person who I, “Tathagata19”, shall call him as a true monk must be the one who abstains from all means of de-meritorious actions.” 25 / 29 / 50
19The Lord Buddha called himself the Tathagata, which means the one who has found the truth.
Descriptions of a True Monk
- A true monk must be peaceful in action. He must be careful, not be impetuous and free from any provocative actions such as not to carry weapons, pick fights with others, walk in any demonstration, competing for fame/ popularity or in earning a living. These are the actions of the person who does not have inner peace. A true monk will be graceful and charismatic in his presence and never cause any harm to others in any situation.
The Lord Buddha praised the Venerable Moggallana that even though Venerable Moggallana has supernormal power, but he never caused any harm to others. Even when he went on an alms round he would accept an appropriate portion that would not cause any harm to the person who offers the food. Like a bee that only drinks the pollen but never hurts the flower. In addition, a Samana20 also has to act appropriately for the purity of the monk hood.
20Samana : the name for certain wandering ascetics from India, one of whom was Gautama Buddha.
- A true monk must be peaceful in speech: He must be completely free from malicious gossip, slander or boastfulness for example, arguing among monks, or among laypeople or talking badly about other religions. He must give useful speeches that are related to the Dhamma teaching of the Lord Buddha. He must not give malicious speech that intends to hurt or embarrass others or speech that is not appropriated to the disposition of monkhood, such as discussing politic matters.
- A true monk must be peaceful in mind: He must maintain the stillness of his mind and inner peace, refrain from de-meritorious actions and always reflect on the Dhamma. A true monk is filled with kindness and never causes any harm to others. The peacefulness in his body, speech and mind allow the true monk to be graceful in his presence.
There are two different terms to praise the beauty of the person. For the householders we use the word “beautiful”. For the monk we use “graceful” because the true monk is graceful and refined. The true monk will have confidence in the virtues he has cultivated and be contented in the Dhamma he has practiced. This is a good example of the fruits of cultivation of good virtues and good practice of Dhamma.
“These general practices of a true monk are the guiding-standard practice that all the householders should fallow”
Behaviors which Qualify a Monk as a True Monk
- Must be of no danger to anyone: Nothing about a true monk in body, speech or mind can cause any danger to others.
- Must not be biased by the temptations of wealth: Keeps the perseverance of purifying the mind, keeping the precepts and attaining the Dhamma within, through meditation. Maintains the contentment of practicing the Dhamma and is not just concerned about the food for a living.
- Must practice the Dhamma of a Peaceful One: He must train himself and practice the duties of the monkhood such as doing morning and evening chanting, studying the monastic regulations and discipline.
- Must practice austerities: He must attempt to be rid of the defilements, in order to become a ‘soldier’ in the Dhamma troop, to defeat defilements by the way of meditation.
Ways of Seeing a True Monk
There are three different depths of ‘seeing a true monk’.
- Seeing with the eye means seeing the outward graceful and peaceful appearance of a true monk.
- Seeing with the mind means seeing the outward behavior, observing and appreciating the good manner and conduct of the monk through the channel of our mind, and being able to reflect and presume according to what we see.
- Seeing through meditation means seeing the monk through our ‘vision of truth’ the inner wisdom we attain from meditation, that enables us to identify the true monk and the level of inner attainment of that monk.
How to Receive a Full Benefit of Seeing a True Monk
- Associate with him: Find as many opportunities as possible to visit a true monk to learn the knowledge of Dhamma from a true monk.
- Offer requisites: Help release the daily burden of the monk such as cleaning the place and offering him the requisites, so that the true monk can have more time to teach Dhamma.
- Listen to his teaching: Attentively listening to Dhamma teaching of the true monk.
- Memorize his teaching: Memorize his graceful conducts and Dhamma teaching. Always review and consider on his Dhamma teaching.
- Reflect on his teaching: Always reflect on his teaching and his virtue of conduct with your wisdom and thought, and try to follow his practice with endeavor.
Benefits of Having a True Monk Visiting Our Home
We can gain full benefit of seeing a true monk, if we invite a true monk to our home; the Buddha gave us clear guidance on how to offer appropriate hospitality, which can bring five distinct merits to the owner of the house, because:
- Looking on him with respect will bring steadfast faith in mind, as seeing the conduct of a true monk will give that household the chance to practice the path to heaven.
- Preparing his seat will give the householder the chance to practice the path to birth in a noble family.
- Putting aside the impurity of the mind especially a lack of generosity or stinginess can be overcome by offering refreshment to a true monk to drink and gives the householder the chance to practice the path to attainment of honor.
- Offering him requisites such as offering a donation to a true monk gives the householder the chance to practice the path to attain wealth.
- Conversing on the Dhamma and listening to the teachings gives the household the chance to practice the path to attain inner wisdom.
Proper Manners When Interacting with a True Monk
- Offer any requisites suitable for the monks to use, for example: a glass of water.
- If there is no suitable requisite available then bow three times on the ground to the monk using the five-point bow to express your respect.
- Join your hands in a gesture of respect and if it is not convenient for you to bow, then join your hand in a gesture of prayer to pay respect to the monk.
- If it is not convenient for you to join yours hands in a gesture of respect, at least stand respectfully or find some other way of expressing your respects, such as make way for him to pass.
- If you cannot do any of the above, at least look at the monk with faith and respect.
Illustrative Tales of Benefits of Seeing a True Monk
Venerable Sariputta was originally named Upatissa, when he was a noble son in a wealthy family. He had studied the mundane knowledge and achieved eighteen diplomas. After he had finished all the study of mundane knowledge, he decided to pursue Mokkhadhamma (Dhamma that helps people to get free from defilements and sufferings).
He ordained and became an ascetic in the school of Sanjaya Velatthaputta. The Dhamma of the Lord Buddha was not available in this school, so even though he finished all his knowledge from this Abbey, he still lacked the knowledge to end the defilements, so he made a journey to search for an Arahant to study the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha.
Later, Venerable Sariputta met an Arahant called Assaji who was going on his alms round. Venerable Sariputta was impressed by the graceful conduct and the peacefulness of Assaji, so he accompanied Assaji and helped setting up the table for the meal. He waited until Assaji finished his meal, then approached Assaji and bowed in respect before saying,
“Sir, you have a graceful appearance, radiant complexion, to whom did you dedicate your merit of the ordination to? Who is your master? Whose Dhamma do you observe?”
Assaji replied, “I am ordained in the school of Gautama Buddha who is the son of the Sakya Kings. I am ordained by Gautama Buddha. Gautama Buddha is my master. I am observing the Dhamma of The Gautama Buddha”
”And what does your master teach, Sir?” Venerable Sariputta asked. Assaji replied that “I am still newly ordained, and I am still newly to the teaching of the Buddha, I am not able to elaborate much on the Dhamma teachings, but I can tell you that “Everything arises because of a cause, the Tathagata( Lord Buddha) will show the cause of that arising and the falling away of that thing”
Despite of the shortness of the sermon, Venerable Sariputta was able to reflect on it and could attain sotapanna (Stream-Enterer) at that place.
If the householder had listened to the Dhamma Assaji expounded, they might not have fully understood and not been able to captivate the Dhamma being given. This is because in many past lives they had already seen many Buddhist monks, but did not really pay attention to them. They just saw them with their eyes, but did not reflect upon with the mind and had not yet seen through the virtues of the monk with the vision of truth.
However, Venerable Sariputta was more extraordinary than the ordinary householder; He had seen many Buddhist monks in many past lives and he did not only physically see the monk, but he always thought through and saw through to the virtues of the monk and tried to reflect until he understood the Dhamma expounded by the monk. So in this life, after he had listened to only the briefest of Dhamma expounded by Assaji, he attained sotapanna. This is the merit retribution of seeing a true monk from the past and present life.
Focused on the virtues of the two great persons we can see that Venerable Sariputta was a mindful and tactful person. He first took care of Assaji until Assaji had finished the meal before beginning the Dhamma conversation with him.
Assaji was a person of great humility and even though he was an Arahant, he was still humble himself as a newly ordained monk, new to the teachings of the Lord Buddha. Thus, he found himself not to be able to elaborate much on the Dhamma teachings and therefore was able to give only a brief explanation.
Therefore, everybody who thinks them self to be very smart, talented and excellent, should ask themselves if they really have those qualities to be so proud of. Everybody should practice and cultivate the virtues and be humble like Assaji and be respectful when seeing a true monk just as Venerable Sariputta was.
The Benefits of Seeing a True Monk
- You will be aware of your responsibilities to cultivate meritorious deed.
- You will be inspired to follow the good manner and conduct of the true monk.
- You will have the right view and greater wisdom in life.
- You will become a non-recklessness person.
- You will be seen as a person who fully pays homage to the Triple Gem.
- You will be able to attain the threefold treasure: mundane treasure, celestial treasure and Nirvana treasure.
- You will be able attain the path and fruits of the Nirvana.
Regular Dhamma Discussions
“Just as the sharing exchange of ideas at conference helps to foster academic progress, regular discussion of the Dhamma will bring wisdom, that path way to the liberation of suffering.”
Why Do We Have Regular Dhamma Discussions?
“Wisdom is the gem of the people.”
This is a proverb the Lord Buddha taught, reflecting the precious value of wisdom. The foundation of human life is based on a great number of problems and therefore, we must rely on wisdom as a solution to these problems.
Wisdom can be achieved in two ways:
- By listening to Dhamma from a knowledgeable person
- By thinking over, considering, or reflecting back upon knowledge
Participating in regular Dhamma discussions are ways to gain wisdom more quickly. This is also a natural way to discipline oneself to listen, to speak and to reflect on the topic discussed.
What are Dhamma Discussions?
Dhamma Discussions are conversations consisting of question and answer sessions on the subject of the Dhamma, between two or more people. They are intended to increase or achieve wisdom with a pure and clear mind.
In Buddhism, the word ‘Dhamma’ has two broad meanings:
- Dhamma is the natural truth, i.e. all humans have to be born, get old, get hurt, and all will eventually die.
- Dhamma is the good and the right way, i.e. generosity (giving), observing precepts, and having respect for others are all good ways of behavior. One who follows these is considered as a Dhamma practitioner.
Proper Dhamma discussions include talking about the good things to do, as well as discussing wrong doings, so as not to practice the wrong doings.
Dhamma discussions also include talking about the natural truths and accepting the fact that the truth is the truth.
The Difficulties of Having a Dhamma Discussion
Having a discussion on Dhamma should be regarded as normal, similar to having a simple conversation with friends or family. Those who disregard and de not participate in Dhamma discussions often cannot hold or sustain a conversation on the topic for long and eventually break apart from the conversation.
1.The person speaking about Dhamma must be able to communicate effectively with the group. The speaker needs to have a firm understanding of the topic to be discussed as well as use respectful and accurate language. In this way the listener will not become offended nor misunderstand what is being said.
- The topic must to be true.
- Speak using polite vocabulary.
- The topic must be useful and productive.
- Speak with a good intention.
- Speak at the right time and place, on the right occasion, and in the right situation.
When having a conversation on Dhamma one must focus on the truth as a basis for all learning and wisdom as well as refrain from showing bias or being opinionated. For example:
It makes no sense to find fault and pick on each another. ”You have a bad attitude, and you did this and that wrong.”
This will lead to an argument and both sides will end up with ill feelings and the possibility of carrying grudges. It is important to be aware of the atmosphere and dynamics within the group and maintain a moderate balance during Dhamma discussions
2.The person listening to Dhamma seems to have the easiest part. Just listen and is that all? In reality, listening to Dhamma correctly is to listen and to analyze at the same time. One obtains the most benefit from listening to Dhamma by absorbing the key points. This is why it is said that listening to Dhamma is more difficult than speaking it.
It is also difficult to keep your mind on the subject, since listening to Dhamma is not as entertaining as watching a movie or listening to your favorite music.
It is difficult to accept some of the material of Dhamma. The teachings might conflict with the daily lifestyles, ego, or the habits that people are accustomed to. Thus, they do not want to change, find changing too difficult or they are not clear how the Dhamma can be applied to their daily lives.
Those who are able to listen to Dhamma without difficulty must put more effort into listening and absorbing the material, so that the teachings become so familiar to them that they eventually form the basis for how they live in the world. In addition one should also practice to be a respectful person. This includes not looking down on others, not being superior to others, not depending on others and being a grateful person. All of these will help in understanding Dhamma.
3.During a Dhamma discussion one must be able to engage actively in the conversation. One needs to follow the rules of polite conversation that include both respectful listening and speaking. You talk, I listen; I talk and you listen; type of scenario. Sometimes, there may be moments when you do not want to hear what is being said, but since that person is talking then you must listen.
At other times you may want to say something, but there is no chance to do so, then you must hold on to your comment until an appropriate moment, to interject and present your opinion. During a discussion on Dhamma, there are times when one may be offended, criticized, corrected, or perhaps praised. If one cannot keep a steady and peaceful mind during a discussion, then anger, ill feelings, grudges or worse may arise.
Those who are able to hold a conversion on Dhamma must be able to tolerate any negative comments or remarks from the other person. Naturally, if both persons hold the same view on Dhamma and are able to control their temper, then it makes the conversation so much easier.
There once was a saying that speaking Dhamma is like throwing a punch out into the open air. You can do it as many times as you like and you will not get hurt. Listening to Dhamma is like throwing a punch at a sand bag; you will get hurt once in a while. But having a conversation on Dhamma is like being in a boxing ring, giving and taking punches.
Things to Practice before Holding a Conversation on Dhamma
- Keep up the precepts for at least three days in advanced. For example, one should not be intoxicated and have a conversation on Dhamma at the same time.
- Practice meditation consistently, preferably right before the conversation. This will allow one to have a fresh and clear mind, free from unwanted thoughts.
- Wear the appropriate attire; one should not be half naked while discussing Dhamma.
- Be well mannered and in a calm state.
- Use polite vocabulary, including not speaking too loudly or acting in a superior to others. Also, if you don’t know something, say, “I do not know.” Give praise when necessary and point out mistakes when needed.
- Do not speak against or deny the teachings of the Lord Buddha. It is okay to express a personal opinion.
- Do not use language that may upset or offend others.
- Do not express anger when one is spoken against. Instead take it in for consideration. It could be a misunderstanding, or a matter of interpretation such as; some things are correct in one situation but incorrect in another.
- Do not have the intention to take advantage of the situation to draw attention to yourself, to be popular, to appear to be a ‘big shot’, to be a ‘Mr. Know It All’, or to try to prove someone else wrong.
- Have a mindset to communicate Dhamma so that people can gain wisdom and exchange knowledge.
- Do not speak outside the present case or issue that is up for discussion. Doing so may lead to the wrong path. For example, if you are discussing generosity, then bringing up other people and saying that this person or that person does not contribute to charity is irrelevant to the discussion.
- Do not go on and on and on … so that it becomes boring. Even though the discussion maybe interesting and fun, it still should have limits depending on the situation. For example, when you are eating your favorite meal, even though it is delicious and you don’t want to stop eating, when you are full it is time to stop.
Strategy for Dhamma Discussions
Write a summary of the key points for Dhamma Discussions:
- Discussing in Dhamma: Do not get off topic and talk about non-Dhamma topics. For example, if you are talking about not doing bad things, end the topic on not doing bad things. Do not go on and gossip about this or that person who may be doing bad things.
- Discussing with Dhamma: Do not be biased when discussing Dhamma. Do not show signs of superiority if you are more knowledgeable than the other person. Praise others sincerely when appropriate and point out errors when necessary. The intention is not to embarrass or put the other person down.
- Discussing for Dhamma: The purpose of the discussion is to expand your and the other person’s knowledge, not to be a ‘showoff’.
How to Choose a Discussion Partner
There are two basic criteria for choosing a discussion partner.
- Your partner must be a person who has the desire to learn and expand their knowledge of Dhamma. Also their must be a person with a calm demeanor or manner.
- The topic being discussed must be suitable in some way for that person. For example, discuss meditation with a person who has some experience in practicing meditation.
Discussing Dhamma within the Family
In the past, in a traditional Thai family, discussing Dhamma was a regular occurrence. The parents would go out to work in the fields while the grandparents stayed at home with the children. The grandparents would call the children over to tell a story about Dhamma and then when the parents came home from work the whole family would have dinner and they would talk about Dhamma.
This was regular and as repeated practice served to educate the children within the family. In this way the children would become more knowledgeable and be able to figure out what is good and what is bad for them.
Sometimes the wrong doings of the children were corrected immediately, if they were caught in the act, and sometimes correction did not occur till the wrong doing seemed to become a habit.
Today, the traditional Thai family practices have changed and it is no longer so common for a family to get together and discuss Dhamma. It is more likely that everyone goes off and watches TV or a movie or does his or her own things after dinner.
For parents: if you want your children to be good people, do not neglect the importance of discussing Dhamma with them on a regular basis.
To those parents; who believe that keeping their children happy by giving them money and material things while neglecting to teach them Dhamma; be aware that the chances that your children will grow up to be bad people are much more likely.
The Benefits of Discussing Dhamma
- It fills your mind with merit.
- Your intention is positive.
- You become more intelligent and wise.
- You have more opportunities to gain additional knowledge of Dhamma.
- Eventually any misunderstanding of a Dhamma topic will become clearer.
- It will clear up misconceptions or suspicions.
- Gain more correct thinking and ideas.
- It is a way to practice keeping a pure mind.
- It is part of keeping the Buddhist tradition.
- You are following in the footsteps of a philosopher.
Blessing Group 9: Practice for the Eradication of Defilements
The Practice of Austerities
“The tiger is used to forest, the fish is used to water, and our mind is accustomed to defilements which always ready to burn our heart with the temptations in our mind.
Therefore, we need to practice Austerity to burn away all the defilements before they burn down our heart.”
Why Do We Have to Practice the Austerities?
Once passing the thirty steps of Buddhist practice, we should find that we still have many impurities that can be improved upon. Consequently, we may be able to improve such impurities as; having a hot temper, greed, jealousy, condescending attitude etc. However, many impurities still remain such as selfishness, sexual abuse, vanity, laziness, complacency, depression. Therefore, we need better solutions to help improve such impurities, but always keep in mind:
1.The cause of these defects comes from defilements hidden within our minds.
2.The reason that we cannot remove these impurities from our minds is:
- We cannot see the defilements. We can only see the symptom of them that makes us unable to realize that we are getting attacked by them.
- Our minds become accustomed to impurities like the tiger adapts to the forest and fishes get used to water. If the fish is taken out of water, it will battle for its life to find a way back to the water. Most of us are the same, we feel that defilements are part of us and we become dependent on them.
Alcoholics love alcohol, if someone pulls the bottle of alcohol out of their hands, they may kill them. Alcohol becomes the heart of their being so that they will not let it go. The hot tempered one that gets angry easily when people displease him, he would admit it and be proud of himself. “That is the way it is supposed to be, people should know me. Otherwise, they will not be courteous.” He is proud of his defilement within himself. That is how it is.
3.Lack of appropriate methods to clean the impurities and if the Lord Buddha was not born, we would not know how to get rid of the defilements. We may know the existence of defilements; even though, we do not know how to clear them out. We may find the wrong solutions such as; worshiping deities or fire and such like.
In this blessing, the Lord Buddha teaches us the proper way to quickly clean our impurities permanently with the principle of ‘The thorn splinters, use another one to remove it’.
When the defilements burn our hearts so badly, we must also use fire to burn it back because only the internal flame can burn out the internal defilements.
The word used for ‘practicing austerity’ in the Pali is ‘tapa’ which literally means to make something hot. It can mean to roast, to boil, to grill or to smoke anything that burns or heats something. It is not same as ‘tapas’ better known as a small savory dish to be found in Spanish bars. If you can burn out the defilements all that will be left is the unblemished mind. Such a pure mind is wise, not susceptible to anger etc. It is like heating up crude ore to extract the pure metal that can be used for something valuable and useful.
In order to banish something, we would have to make sure that we do not serve its needs. Like when you want someone out of the house, you would not give them money if they wanted money, would not give them food if they wanted it, and would not give them shelter if they wanted it.
That means you have to force them to leave and they have no reason to stay. The same thing happens when we want to banish impurities from our minds; the main thing is to avoid providing for its needs. This is called the ‘intensive removal of defilements’.
Thirteen Forms of Intense Austerity
In Buddhism there are thirteen practices monks usually decide to conduct in order to deny the needs of defilements and expel them out of our minds. It is called ‘dhutanga’ practice in Pali. Monks who practice the dhutanga are called ‘monk on pilgrimage’. Anyway, this dhutanga practice is not only for the monks, laypeople can also practice it too.
The Buddha placed the most common bad habits of people into four major categories: habits concerning dress, habits concerning food, habits concerning accommodation and habits concerning laziness. There are thirteen different forms of the dhutanga practice and they address these four major types of bad habits.
Habits Concerning Dress
- Rag robe wearer’s practice: Wearing only robes made from rags retrieved from a dust heap or from a funeral ground.
- Triple-robe wearer’s practice: Only three robes are allowed for monks to use, this is the upper robe, the outer robe and the waistcloth. These three robes are supposed to be adequate to keep monks warm even in the coldest of weather. If you practice dhutanga, only three robes are allowed.
Take a look at what we have been practicing so far, how much the impurities have been damaged. The showy person, egocentric person or vain person who is never satisfied with the amount of clothes they have will find these two practices to be very challenging.
Habits Concerning Food
- Alms food-eater’s practice: No matter who offers fancy food to the temple, monks who practice dhutanga will not eat it. They will only eat food that has been received on his alms round.
- House-to-house seeker’s practice: For this practice, you are only allowed to go for alms rounds along prescribed routes. You may not go on alms rounds to places where you think you might get better food. You cannot just go down a street where you know plenty of rich people live who might give you appetizing food.
- One meal eater’s practice: Once you finish eating and stand out of your seat, you will not accept any food for the rest of the day. That means you only eat one meal per day.
- Bowl-eater’s practice: This practice entails eating all your food mixed up together. In a single bowl all the food will be mixed up, no matter whether it be rice, chocolate powder, fish soup or whatever. You will not eat food from other containers. You will eat only food within your bowl.
- Late-serving refuser’s practice: This practice entails not accepting further offerings of food once you have already started eating.
Those five practices in the second category are about food, it is to reform the habit of being self-indulgent about food. We do not even talk about stealing of food, being fraudulent about getting food, or even getting too much fancy food or eating too often. People who are so extremely picky about their food allow their impurities to force them to do wrong. These people will find the following these five practices to be very challenging.
Habits Concerning Accommodation
- Forest-dweller’s practice: Living only in shelters in the forest and never using accommodation in the town.
- Tree-root dweller’s practice: Living in the forest under the trees, not living with any building for shelter, staying under a tent or a mosquito net only:
- Open-air dweller’s practice: Living out in the open, not even using the trees for shelter. This is to reduce your luxury sense desire.
- Funeral-ground-dweller’s practice: Living only in a graveyard. You can sit or sleep on top of coffin. Or you can stay in the tent under the tree in the cemetery.
- Any-bed-user’s practice: You will stay at any place where someone provides it for you. You will not select any places to stay. We are not talking about the corruption of lands, defrauding the title deed; this is all about the residence. Only the habits of staying in dwellings, becoming dependent on soft comfortable beds, luxurious houses, comfortable facilities that are referred to in the five practices mentioned above will allow your impurities to get out of control.
Habits Concerning Idleness
- Sitter’s practice: This practice only allows three body gestures: standing, walking and sitting without lying down. If you are very sleepy, you can stand, walk or sit to sleep. But you cannot lie down. Your back cannot touch the ground.
The forth category is to destroy the idle habit of people who love sleeping in the morning, afternoon, evening and night. The idle habit will go away. If someone has the habit of procrastination, you can try practicing this category for one day, 3 days, 5 days, or 7 days depending on your capability.
For the meditating person, when your mind is still and you keep only three gestures, it will speed up your experience tremendously. If your meditation progress is good, you will not fall asleep. Some monks can continue this practice for 3 months, 7 months, or for their whole life. For example, Venerable Maha Gassapa, who lived at the time of the Lord Buddha, could keep this practice for his whole life without falling asleep. The Lord Buddha admired him as the master in Dhutanga practice.
All of the above are 13 practices of ‘Dhutanga’ practice which is the main focus of ”tapa” or austerities in Buddhism. The purpose of practicing this is to eliminate the impurities within the mind completely. In practice, you can select 1 to 13 practices out of those 13 practices. You can practice them within any period of time you feel convenient; then, you make a commitment to do it.
Practicing Austerities in Daily Life
Some of us may be in doubt of how to practice these austerities while we are laypersons who still work and can hardly practice it in real life. The most we can do within a certain period of time or over the weekend or summer time would be to go out and stay a tent in the forest. How about practicing in daily life, can we still practice it? The answer is ”Yes”.
The purpose of practicing austerities in daily life is to prevent the impurities from rising inside us again.
There are two ways to do this as follows:
- Restraint of the senses
- Commitment to meditation
1. Restraint of the Senses
This is to be calm and take control over your mind and soul using your consciousness. How do you compose yourself? Let us focus on the following:
All of us have six channels by which we can improve or damage the quality of our minds and lives. There are six entrances to connect the mind with the outside world, they are as follows:
It is like a house with doors and windows that connect to the outside.
Human beings are like the house with six doors or windows that can absorb things from the outside. It is good if we can keep the mind calm and clear from these six gates however, these gates can also make the mind muddled or distracted. This is why the six gates are so important and that we should know the nature of them.
The Lord Buddha compared the sensory-doors to animals.
- The eyes are like a snake. Snakes do not like flat places, they like hidden places. Like the eyes that do not like looking at flat things, but like looking at the gorgeous and complicated things, especially hidden things. If it is published, not secret, then curiosity lessens.
- The ears are like a crocodile. The ears like to hear flattery or the flowery speech of others.
- The nose is like a caged bird. The bird likes to fly through the air and find the source of any pleasant smell it detects.
- The tongue is like a mad dog. The tongue likes tasting food especially delicious food every day. It is always looking for delicious food all day long.
- The body is like a fox. It likes warm and soft places like cuddling on the lap of one person and later cuddling on the lap of another. Snuggling with one person and later snuggling up with another.
- The mind is like a monkey. It likes to be mischievous and is always thinking of many things. Sometimes, thinking of the past, dreaming of castles in the sky, dreaming about the future. It will never stop thinking and it does not like resting.
We should restrain the senses by carefully safeguarding the six gates once we understand their nature. The consciousness can help safeguard them. Whatever you should not watch, you should not watch. Whatever should not be heard, you should not listen to. Whatever should not be smelt you should not smell. Whatever should not be tasted, you should not taste. Whatever should not be touched, you should not touch. Whatever should not be thought of, you should not think of. If you cannot avoid watching something and you’ve already looked at it, you should not get obsessed about it i.e.: he is very handsome or she is very beautiful. You must not think of it as the whole body is gorgeous. You must not think too much about any part of body like that person has beautiful eyes, beautiful arms, or beautiful legs or anything like that.
The restraint of the senses is extremely important as it is the battle with the impurities by restraining your six senses that determines whether or not you will win or loose. If you have enough control over your senses, it is difficult for the defilements to attack you. The virtues that you intend to keep can be practiced for as long as you wish.
Even though you do not lock the drawers or the cabinets within the house, as long as you lock the doors and the windows firmly, it will be safe from the thief. However, if you do not have control over your six senses such as watching what you should not watch, listening to what you should not be listening to, smelling what you should not smell, tasting what you should not be tasting, touching what you should not touch.
Even though you intend to keep your precepts and morality indeed, we still have a chance to make a lot of mistakes. It is like the house without locking doors and windows. Even though, you lock the drawers and cabinets inside safely, it is still not safe because the thief can get into the house and steal your possessions.
The way to succeed in restraint of the senses is to practice inhibition or “Hiri-Ottappa” in Pali. The word “Hiri” means you feel ashamed to make a sin. The word “Ottappa” means you are afraid to sin. By being respectful of ancestors, age, academics, teachers, institutes, etc. explained in Blessing 19 will help you in practicing the inhibition or Hiri-Ottappa.
The Lord Buddha describes the chain of Dhamma as follows:
Hiri-Ottappa (inhibition) brings the restraint of the senses.
The restraint of the senses brings the precepts or self-discipline.
The precepts bring meditation (right concentration).
Meditation brings wisdom.
When the person restrains their senses completely, their precepts will be purified, and their meditation will improve easily and firmly. Their inner wisdom will arise as the brightness within them and they will see things in their true form and see the impurities hidden inside, so they can destroy the impurities completely. We all have to practice the restraint of the senses until it becomes part of us.
2. Commitment to Meditation
Most of us know what is good and want to bring the good to ourselves but it is rarely accomplished due to a lack of commitment. Without the commitment, the virtues cannot be fully realized.
“The person can overcome suffering through commitment.”
The Lord Buddha mentioned about the cause that make monks idle and the cause that make monks commit to meditation, which may bring some thoughts to us.
The Cause of Making Monks Idle
- A monk knows that his task (or responsibility) exists but may be afraid of getting tired of doing it. So, he decides to rest to regain his energy. He does not make a commitment to meditate and enlighten the Dhamma that he never attains.
- The monk’s task (or responsibility) is done and the monk feels so tired that he sleeps and does not commit to meditation.
- The monk knows the existence of the path but thinks that traveling is tiresome. So, he decides to sleep and keep his energy for traveling and does not commit to meditation.
- The monk has traveled already but he feels tired, so he decides to sleep and does not commit to meditation.
- The monk asks for alms and does not get as much food as he wants. He thinks getting too little food makes him weak and may not have good experience in meditating, so he decides to sleep without committing to meditation.
- The monk asks for alms and gets a lot of food. He feels so full that he gains weight and is not ready to work, so he decides to sleep and not commit to meditation.
- The monk gets a little bit sick. He thinks he has enough reason to claim that he is afraid of getting sicker. So, he decides to sleep without committing to meditate.
- The monk recovers from sickness. He feels that he has jus: recovered and does not have the energy to work. He feels that the sickness may return, so he decides to sleep and not commit to meditation.
The Cause of Commitment of Monks
- A monk knows that his responsibility exists and he thinks it is nm convenient to meditate while working. He still has some time now, so he commits himself to meditate to attain the Dhamma.
- When the monk’s task is done, he thinks he cannot meditate well while he is working. Since he has already finished the job, he feels he has time and so he decides to meditate.
- The monk knows the route that he needs to travel and he thinks it is not convenient to meditate while traveling. Because he has not traveled yet, he decides to start meditating at that time.
- The monk has finished traveling and he thinks he cannot meditate well while traveling, so he decides to meditate right away after traveling.
- The monk asks for alms and does not get much food as he thinks he needs. He thinks he ate so little today that it made him feel lighter and more comfortable at work. So, he decides to meditate immediately.
- The monk asks for alms and gets a lot of food. He thinks he is full, so he decides to meditate while he has enough energy.
- The monk gets a little sick. He thinks he may get sicker later and that: he should meditate right away while he is only a little bit sick.
- The monk recovers from sickness. He feels that since he has just: recovered and may get have a chance to be sick again, so he should spend this valuable time while he is recovered to meditate.
We should use these principles to compare with ourselves to see where we have idleness or commitment. Should we indulge in the six senses or try to improve them?
“Even though my own flesh and blood is dried out and there remains only skin, tendon and bone, as long as I do not attain the enlightenment that I can attain with my energy, commitment and perseverance, I shall not stop meditating.”
(The resolution of the Lord Buddha he made on his enlightening day.)
The Benefits of the Restraint of the Senses
- You will permanently give up self-indulgence.
- You will bring all virtues inside.
- You will bring all blessings inside.
- You will be able to attain Nirvana easily.
“Endurance is the resistance. It is the utmost austerity.”
Practicing the Brahma-Faring
“Soon after removing the weeds from the field, the farmers have to plant the new crops so the weed does not overgrow it.
Similarly, for those who had practiced Austerity until their defilements lessened, they should not wait to cultivate the practice of chastity as a 1vqy to further purify your mind before the defilements return.”
What Is Brahma-Faring?
Brahma-faring or holy life is sometimes referred to as celibacy or chastity. It practically means conducting yourself like a god (Brahma). And how does a god conduct himself? A god conducts himself strictly in accordance with the practices of Buddhism to elevate the state of mind until there are no further defilements remaining there. An elevation of mind has to develop step-by-step according to the planes (level) of the mind
Planes of the Mind
The Lord Buddha discovered that the mind can be categorized into four levels according to the degree to which the mind is elevated, purified, or made free of thought.
- The sensual plane of mind: This is the level of mind that is wandering because of sensual pleasure. The human mind attaches itself to the temptation of sensual pleasures. This is the plane of ordinary human beings.
- The ‘form’ plane of mind: This is the level of mind that is wandering in ‘form’ state. Minds are happy and content to absorptions at the form level. It is the plane of those who practice meditation enough to attain absorptions at the form level. They are not interested in sensual pleasures. This state of mind is happier than the sensual plane mind.
- The ‘formless’ plane of the mind: This is the level of mind that is wandering in the ‘formless’ state. Minds here are content to the formless level. This is the plane of those who practice meditation and attain the formless level which is finely happier than the ‘form’ level.
- The supramundane plane of mind: This is the plane of mind beyond the reach of worldly constant changes. This is the plane of the mind of an Arahant who has come to an end of defilements. They are content to delicate, refined and profound happiness.
In the sensual plane, happiness and sorrow are both swinging up and down. Anyone in the formless plane can fall down to the sensual plane, if they are negligent and do not concentrate on the practice of.
On the other hand, anyone in the sensual plane can step up to the form and formless plane if they concentrate on the practice of meditation. The step can be upwards or downwards according to the amount of merit gained and dedication to the practice of meditation.
Happiness in the level of the sensual plane is happiness with suffering.
For example, the idea of having family surrounded with children seems to be happy, but actually it is sometimes troublesome. Living in the summertime with a wish for happiness in the rainy season, and looking forward to the comfort o; winter while in the rainy season, without discovering where the true happiness is.
Monks compare sensual happiness with the mirage of the sun. Looking far away in summer, the horizon is full of mirages or the road seems to be full of water, when we go closer, but instead we find nothing there. The sensual plane is very similar, we wish for happiness, but finally it turns to sufferings.
Therefore, in Buddhism the word ‘samsaracitta’ means the wandering mind of anyone in the sensual plane. The mind is wandering around grasping for happiness. Since sensual happiness is an illusion, the mind is tricked. It is significant to note that sensual happiness can go away when we chase it. It escapes as soon as we reach it, and we chase after it in vain.
Notice that no sensual happiness is the supreme happiness. One might become the First Lieutenant with a wish of being a Second Lieutenant, seeking to become an army Captain and upwards to Major or even Lieutenant Colonel. Or even becoming a Colonel, people are seeking for more happiness ahead all the time.
If we are chasing and grasping at happiness over days, nights, years and throughout our lives we may acquire a little sensual happiness along the way, together with the sufferings but the suffering will amount to more than the happiness. More importantly, it is easy to make a mistake while the mind is wandering and confused. Like a man who is running forward haphazardly, he can easily tumble down.
Minds like these are characterized by; chasing things and wandering carelessly; one can collapse, be in jail or fall deep down to hell.
The Objective of Practicing the Brahma-Faring
The purpose of practicing the Brahma-faring (holy life) is to eliminate the mundane level, to release all attachments and bonds in order to head forward to the supramundane level. The first thing to be done is to practice the Eightfold Path in order to detach sensual feelings, further to detach form and formless feelings, consecutively.
Sensual feelings are the most important bondage for mind development and cause defilements to increase in ordinary people. Anyone who detaches sensual pleasure gets the chance in the development of Dhamma practice. Therefore, practicing the Brahma-faring emphasizes mainly on detachment of sensuality.
Metaphors of Sensual Harm
- Sensuality is ‘like a hungry dog chewing a dry bone with no flesh and blood’. The more it chews the more the hungry dog tires and gets hungrier without satiating its appetite and this mistake can eventually break its teeth. The illusion of love and marriage is the same. They seem to be happy but in reality, nobody feels real happiness within married life. They have to encounter; displeasure, petulance that causes distress, anxiety, worry, possessiveness and jealousy on an everyday basis. In severe cases, some people commit suicide by jumping into the water or hanging themselves. Happiness in love and marriage life is as short lived as when a dog chews a dry bone.
- Sensuality is ‘like a piece of meat fought over by vultures’. Vultures will fight over a piece of meat that is not for one’s sole possession. Love is competitive. When more than one person desires the same mate, they may kill each other and cause terrible suffering as we often notice in the news around us.
Struggles with their lives, through the battle of love and marriage and afterwards, they cannot even be sure that their spouse will be with them or that somebody else will not entice them away from them. The more handsome or beautiful the spouse, the more danger one has to encounter in this type of relationship.
- Sensuality is ‘like carrying a torch of fire while walking into the wind’. We have to throw down the torch after a while or else it will burn our hand. The burning fumes and smoke blow into our face and we endure sufferings, People who fall into sensuality are like this. They endure sufferings from sensual pleasure; work hard for earning a living to support their spouse and children; keep worrying about the children’s education and their behavior; also worry about the potentiality of theirs wives’ adultery and dissatisfaction. They will not live together forever and one of them will eventually pass away, sometimes by accident, sickness or getting older to death. Life on earth is so short ‘like a grass torch that goes out quickly’.
- Sensuality is ‘like a pool of burning fuel’. People, who love their life, knowing that if they fall in the burning pool they will be seriously hurt or even, die. It can be compared to having fog covering their eyes; this hidden force keeps on pulling them down to that burning pond. As monks teach, “wherever there is love, there will be suffering”, they seem to believe in that teaching.
Once stepping out of the chapel and confronting other attractive men or women, they immediately forget the teachings. When they get married, their mind is full of how beautiful and attractive their brides or grooms are. They have no idea about the sufferings from sensuality and married lives.
- Sensuality is ‘like a dream’. In your dream, everything seems to be glorious and beautiful, but not for long, when you wake up you see nothing, you only feel sorry for the lost dream. People in sensual pleasure are just the same, they have sweet talks in the beginning, but not for long, they get into arguments with their partner instead. Some actually physically beat and hurt each other. Workloads are double or tripled and still increasing adding to the pressure. No true happiness is in a dream and sensuality is only a dream. Therefore, we prefer to be in a dream instead of being in reality by practicing meditation.
- Sensuality is ‘like borrowed treasure’. The borrowed treasure looks elegant at a show. People admire and appreciate that treasure. However, one can possess things only for a short time without any real confidence and will eventually mourn when the real owner comes to get the treasure back. Sensuality is just the same. People are proud to have a proper, beautiful or handsome mate as they would be gold or jewelry. Soon though, the woman gets old while the man gets bald and fat. The physical beauty will pass away as time passes by.
- Sensuality is ‘like a tree full of fruits in the forest’. People passing by the fruit tree, desire the fruit and they try every way to get the fruits by climbing, using long sticks or even cutting the tree down. When the tree falls down, people on the tree may be injured or even killed. Sensuality is just the same; people are faced with being kicked, fighting or even being seriously injured during their courtship with beautiful people as it is like trying to pick plenty of delicious fruits from the trees in the forest.
- Sensuality is ‘like a steak hammer’. Whoever involves themselves with sensuality, is risking his or her life to fall into pieces. Sensuality bears physical and mental sufferings like chopping blocks bear sharp knives and steak hammers.
- Sensuality is ‘like a spear’. Sensuality is sufferings that pierces through the heart and causes severe pain. Whoever is involved with sensuality cannot escape from pain. It is like spears that pierce through the body and cause pain.
- Sensuality is ‘like a viper’s head’. Sensuality is dangerous and creates suspicion one cannot trust or clear his or her mind of sensuality that is adventurous. It is like a viper’s head that can strike anyone to death at any time without warning.
These are metaphors of sensual harm taught by the Lord Buddha. In reality, sensuality causes much more harm than what has been described in these examples. As we learn about the enormous harm of sensuality, it is better for people, who are single and have not entered marriage, to practice meditation from now on.
Once our minds are in peace and serenity and we attain the inner light, we will experience the happiness that is far deeper than sensual happiness. The thought of seeking for sensual pleasure will decline. No need for people who are in a marriage life to divorce, but it is better to stay with one wife and stop seeking for others. The Eight Precepts can be practiced to support self-discipline even within marital relationships.
Ways to Practice the Brahma-Faring
First level of the Brahma-faring practice: For married people, wives and husbands should keep the Five Precepts, content only with their spouse and not betray the ones they are married to.
Middle level of the Brahma-faring practice: For married people, keep the Five Precepts and occasionally practice the Eight Precepts.
High level of the Brahma-faring practice: For people who are not in a marriage, the laypersons should keep the Eight Precepts all their life and abstain from sexual relations. Monks should practice meditation and follow all Buddhist teachings available to the utmost.
All levels of the Brahma-faring practice will persist on the basis of the mediation practice.
”Man enters the kingship with the first level of chastity; become angels with the middle level of chastity and purified with the highest level of chastity.”
Practical Knowledge about Ordination
It is a Buddhist tradition for all young men to ordain temporarily as monks at the age of 20 years old. This is the best way to practice chastity and we should know some practical knowledge as follows:
1.The age of ordination: The young male who can dedicate his time should ordain as a novice at a certain time between the age of 12 and 20 years old. The reason is that this age has less responsibility and worry so that one can fasten one’s progression of meditation. Otherwise, one should find the appropriate time to ordain when he turns 20-25 years old or any other age.
The point is that he should not wait until he gets too old to ordain because of the inconveniences of the older body. With an older body, it will be difficult to sit and stand or even to practice meditation. Furthermore, when people get older they usually get more conviction, and are harder to teach ‘like the old tree that cannot bend’.
2.The period of ordination: It is usually 3 months of Buddhist Lent, summer session for 1-2 months, for a vocation, or for their entire life. But the period of ordination should be at least 1 month, so that there should be enough time to study the discipline of Dhamma.
3.The selection of the ordination institution: This is the most important part of the ordination process. The level of attainment depends upon the ordination institution. The selection should be focused on the institution that is the most thorough with meditation and discipline. The good institution should have a preceptor who teaches the new monk closely. They should motivate the new monk to concentrate on meditation until this becomes his entire main focus.
If any institution fails to teach properly while ordaining or does not pay attention to the newly ordained, this is not considered as good. Some of the institutions never let the newly ordained talk to the preceptors; this means it is useless to ordain. The purpose of ordination is to adhere to the preceptor’s teachings in order for him to teach and practice meditation for the newly ordained. If the preceptor does not pay attention to the newly ordained, the ordination will not gain much merit.
4.The preservation of monk’s discipline: We should always think that we would become monks because of how much we admire the monk’s discipline. If we become ill-disciplined, we would not be considered a monk anymore; even though we may still wear the monk’s robes and still have a shaven head.
Not only being considered as a non-true monk, but also being called the ‘thief who stole Buddhism’. Thus, we should study the monk’s discipline thoroughly and maintain it firmly. Otherwise, once you have disrobed, you may feel sorrow for not being a good monk at that time.
5.The meditation practice: We should spend time studying the discipline intensively and concentrate on meditating continuously. We should try not to engage in idle conversation.
6.Supporting society: The monk who ordains for three months should concentrate on his individual benefit, which is the meditation as a core benefit. Further, supporting the community part time but still should not fail in his commitment to meditation.
In order to support laypeople, you should concentrate on being a good monk, preparing for an alms offering in an orderly way, walking with consciousness which can help support the faith of laypeople. The laypeople will see you as a model to follow as an example of discipline and knowing sense-restraint.
The Benefits of Practicing the Brahma-Faring
- You will gain clear conscience and have no worry and no mistrust.
- It sets you free like the birds in the air.
- You will have more time to perform good deeds.
- You will receive respect from wise and ethical people.
- You will make progress with the practice of the precepts, meditation, and wisdom without a step backwards.
- You will attain nirvana easily.
“Every type of sensuality has many disadvantages, little satisfaction and causes fighting with many sins.”
Seeing the Four Noble Truths
“Without seeing the shore, those who fell in the ocean would have to keep on swimming around and around without knowing where the destination is.
Likewise, without seeing the Four Noble Truths, those who were born in the life cycles will continue the cycle of birth and death with no ending.”
The Blueprint of Religion
Each country in the world has a constitution as the blueprint for the laws of the country to lay their foundations on and expand upon. Similarly, every religion has its teaching, which is the blueprint for its dissemination. And the blueprint of Buddhism is The Four Noble Truths.
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Truths have many meanings:
- It is the noble, precious truth.
- It is the truths that make those who attain it become the noble ones.
The Four Noble Truths are the Truths which have existed as long as the Earth or longer, but no one ever noticed them. Their discovery had to wait for many aeons until the Lord Buddha became enlightened and discovered that they are fourfold and consist of:
- The Noble Truth of Suffering
- The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering
- The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
- The Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering.
If we compare The Four Noble Truths to our system of curing illness, you can compare:
- Suffering to the condition of being ill.
- The Origin of the Suffering to the pathogen, bacteria or virus.
- The Cessation of Suffering to the condition of being healed from the illness.
- The Path to the medicine that can cure the illness.
Everybody in this world experiences suffering and is ill with the disease of suffering. It is as if everyone is the patient but does not really know what is the cause of such disease, and therefore, cannot really know how to cure themselves.
In this Blessing, we will have an opportunity to learn the core of life and. the real nature of suffering including how to relieve ourselves from it so we do not continue to suffer anymore.
The First Noble Truth: Suffering
Suffering is the feeling of ‘awkwardness’ or ‘discomfort’ of body or mind. The Lord Buddha saw the reality that every single being is plagued by suffering, regardless of their status. No matter if they are millionaires, Prime Ministers, Presidents of their country or even an Emperor; all have to experience suffering. All suffer in a greater or lesser extent. The Lord Buddha analyzed the suffering into its components. There are eleven major categories of suffering under the two headings of inevitable and miscellaneous suffering:
1.Inevitable Suffering: This is the suffering that one cannot escape. It is the common nature for all beings that once we are born, we are accompanied by it. There are three kinds of this suffering, which are:
Those who have never studied Dhamma in Buddhism may think that aging, illness, and death are sufferings where birth is considered as a blessing from God. However, the Lord Buddha, by contrast, pointed out that birth is suffering because it is the starting point for all the other sorts of suffering. For example, when a baby is in the womb, he has to suffer from an internment in the womb.
When he is about to be born, the womb will squeezes the baby in order to force the baby out. His head may be squeezed until the shape of his skull is misshapen and he suffers miserably. Therefore, once the baby is out, the first thing he does is loudly cry out. These pains and suffering all come from being born and it will lead to other sorts of suffering. That is why birth is considered to be suffering. If we can stop being born, we will never have to suffer ever again.
Moreover, people usually misunderstand that being old is around 60- 70 years. However, in reality we are always getting old, we are getting older from the very minute that we were born, and then we continue getting older and older from birth onward. The cells in our body are always changing and we should keep in mind that we are aging in every moment of our life.
2.Miscellaneous Suffering: This suffering is not permanent. Everybody will have it in different levels and it is uncertain. It is caused when the mind is lacking clarity and cannot deal with the situation at hand. Those who train their minds will be able to escape this suffering, or at lease can reduce their misery. There are eight types of this suffering which are:
- Sorrow: This is the ‘dry-minded’ suffering; for example, that of a mother with a new baby who cannot take her baby to work, but must leave the baby in the crèche or with a maid.
- Lamentation: This is sorrow that drives you to tears.
- Pain: This is physical suffering such as illness, accidents and injuries.
- Feeling slighted: This is when one has a ‘chip on one’s shoulder’ (to be aggressively sensitive about a particular thing or bear a grudge.)
- Despair: This is a suffering when you give up hope of success in something that you may have set your heart on.
- Exposure to hateful things: This is the sort of cloudiness of mind, grief resulting from coming into contact with those things to which we are averse.
- Separation from loved ones and treasured things: This is the suffering from being departed from someone or something that one loves dearly.
- Disappointment: The suffering which results from not getting things one desires or wants.
This is the realization of Suffering that the Lord Buddha analyzed and pointed out for us to see. He is like a doctor who diagnoses the ‘diseases’ for us to understand in a very clear way.
The Second Noble Truth: The Origin of Suffering
The origin of Suffering is the cause for all the sufferings mentioned above. Those who are ignorant of the real cause behind their suffering and cannot find the cause of it, usually blame anything that they can think of, but not themselves. Some blame Gods and Deities, some say it is the punishment of God, or Devils. If these were real, the Devils would be so cruel since they bully so many people.
However, in the case of the Lord Buddha, his mind was pure and free from all taints. He could see the truth clearly that the cause of suffering actually comes from craving which resides in our minds. There are three types of craving which are:
- Craving for sense-pleasure: This is when the mind is under the influence of greed or desire. For example, desire to have money, gold, a second wife, to have fun or to be praised by others. It is the greed for the objects of the senses such as images, sounds, fragrances, tastes and touch.
- Craving for the Form realms: The desire to be someone or something for example, the desire to be Prime Minister, wanting to be rich, wanting to be a general or a noble lady.
- Craving for the Formless realms: The wish not to be someone or something such as not to be poor, elderly or sickly.
Humans were born with these cravings and we are used to them so much that they become habits and our ‘friends’. Sometimes we are so used to them that we are afraid to lose them because we are losing pleasures, we used to have. However, these cravings are just ‘false friends’ who bring nothing but sufferings and laugh behind our backs.
The Lord Buddha is just like a professional doctor. He diagnoses the cause of the disease or the cause of suffering for us and points them out for us to see which virus or defilements that is torturing us.
The Third Noble Truth: The Cessation of Suffering
The cessation of Suffering is the condition of the mind that is purified from all defilements, which rooted from craving. The Buddha found that craving can only be overcome if craving is extinguished. The way that craving can be extinguished is by eradicating the defilements in the mind. If defilements are reduced, craving is reduced. If you can bring craving to an end, there is nothing to cause you to be reborn any more. It there is no birth anymore, then that will eradicate suffering at its roots.
When the mind is free from all defilements, it becomes still and focused at the center of the body. Those who can attain this will experience only true happiness. Those who hardly practice meditation or practice in the wrong way and cannot attain Nirvana yet will not know how to really get rid of the suffering. They usually misunderstand that living in heaven is the only way to put an end to the suffering. In reality, however, even in six levels of the heavens there are still some sufferings because all the angels are doomed to be in Sensual Sphere.
There are also sufferings in the sixteen levels of Form Sphere and four levels of Formless Sphere, which are above the heavens. If one really wants to get rid of all the sufferings, one must train oneself, until they can put an end to all the cravings, ambitions; and then they can attain Nirvana in the end.
The Forth Noble Truth: The Path to the Cessation of Suffering
The path to the cessation of Sufferings is the way to get away from all the sufferings. Normally, those who are in suffering cannot see the cause of suffering. Therefore, they usually blame that their suffering derives from a supernatural power far beyond their understanding, or even a punishment of God.
They try to find the way to get rid of their suffering in the wrong way; some of them arrange some ritual ceremony for the Gods to help them. This is as if one suffers from malaria, instead of trying to cure the disease at its cause, he listens to others who told him that he has the disease because the ghosts or the monsters from the forest have given it to him and he will only be cured by worshiping or arranging some rituals for those ghosts. This is clear it is not the way to cease his suffering at all.
The Lord Buddha is just like a doctor who can clearly see the cause of suffering. He teaches us that we suffer because we have cravings which are like viruses. If we want to be cured, we must get rid of these viruses and he gives us the medicines to cure the diseases. This is called ‘The Path’; they are practical methods to lead our mind to a standstill and cease our suffering.
This path is called the Eightfold Path which consists of eight components as follows:
- Right View: Having the right understanding about things such as; knowing that we should have gratitude towards our parents; believing that there is more that one life and in fact many lives; that we are able to see the suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the how to get rid of suffering.
- Right Intention: This means having the wholesome intention to remove oneself from the influence of sensual desire, vengefulness and aggression by being generous and keeping oneself from causing trouble to others.
- Right Speech: Avoiding telling lies, divisive speech, harsh speech and idle chatter or boasting.
- Right Action: This means refraining from killing or cruelty towards all living beings; stealing and sexual relations outside marriage or partnerships.
- Right Livelihood: This means refraining from earning one’s living by doing any business which is wrong or troublesome to others and to start earning a living in a right and moral way.
- Right Effort: Avoiding evils not yet done; breaking any bad habits; the development of virtues not attained so far and maintenance of virtues already mastered.
- Right Mindfulness: This means keeping our mind on wholesome thoughts without any deviation, especially by practicing meditation until attaining one-pointedness of the mind.
- Right Concentration: The still mind will lead to the attainment of the higher state of absorption and insight and finally one can eradicate defilements completely.
The Eightfold Path can be expanded into all 84,000 teachings of the Buddha or contracted into the Threefold Training which are:
1.Self-discipline correlates to
Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood
2.Meditation correlates to
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration
3.Wisdom correlates to
Right View and Right Intention
All of these aspects of the Eightfold Path can be practiced at the same time. If one practices all of them, the mind will become clear and is finally able to attain the Four Noble Truths and can get rid of all sorts of suffering. There is no need to pray or ask for help from any Gods or supernatural powers as the truth comes within us all.
Seeing the Four Noble Truths
At this point we know how many sorts of suffering exist, what is the cause of suffering, how to get rid of them, and know all of the Four Noble Truths. However, this does not mean that we fully understand or have attained the Four Noble Truths; so far they have just been seen and recited.
To attain the Four Noble Truth, we must see each of them three times (cycles). There are four of them; therefore, it adds to be twelve times in total. We call this ‘Twelve Characteristics of the Four Noble Truths.’
Seeing the Four Noble Truths is different from seeing other things because seeing them, one’s self is transformed by the act of seeing. This means we see it and we can act according to it.
For example to see the origin of Suffering: we can see that the real cause of suffering is ‘craving’. Therefore, we immediately will extinguish craving and having extinguished it, we see that we have done so. It can be compared to the knowledge of medicines, if we have a perfect knowledge about it, we will:
Know that this is a medicine.
Know that this medicine should be taken.
Know that the medicine has already been taken.
Likewise, seeing the Four Noble Truths is to see all. The Lord Buddha taught us that if we see one of the Noble Truths, we will see the rest of them. When we see Suffering, we will see the Origin of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering and the Path to the Cessation of Suffering respectively. Also, if we see the Origin of Suffering, we will surely see the Cessation of Suffering and the Path to the Cessation of Suffering.
This is possible because it is not the physical eye or imagination; but the Eye of Truth.
Seeing the Four Noble Truths vs. Three Cycles with Twelve Characteristics
The Four Noble Truths
The Origin of Suffering
The Cessation of Suffering
The Path to the Cessation of Suffering
The first cycle, we see
Knowledge of the existence of suffering
Knowledge of the existence of the origin of suffering
Knowledge of the existence of the cessation of suffering
Knowing of the existence of the path to the cessation of suffering
The second cycle, we should see
Knowledge of what should be done in relation to suffering
Knowledge of what should be done in relation to the origin of suffering
Knowledge of what should be done in relation to the cessation of suffering
Knowledge of what should be done in relation to the path to the cessation of suffering
The third cycle, we should know that
Knowledge that what needs to be done has been done (by us) in relation to suffering
Knowledge that what needs to be done has been done (by us) in relation to the origin of suffering
Knowledge that what needs to be done has been done (by us) in relation to the cessation of suffering
Knowledge that what needs to be done has been done (by us) in relation to the path to the cessation of suffering.
The Benefits of Attaining the Four Noble Truths
The attainment of the Four Noble Truths cannot be done by human eyes; it can only be attained by the Eye of Truth. When we can attain them by the Eye of Truth, we then understand the true facts of the world and life that when we say we are happy, sometimes it is just the light suffering, not really a true happiness. Once we can attain the Four Noble Truths we will be able to realize the values of merit, the disgust of sin and this is the real and true understanding.
When we suffer or we are doing something wrong, we can see how the sin creeps in and covers our mind, it makes our mind dull and dark. Our mind is just like a crystal ball which is covered by dirt and dust.
When we do good things such as giving; following the precepts (self-discipline) and practicing meditation, we can see how the merit cleanses and purifies our mind, making our mind pure and bright. Like a crystal ball that had been cleaned becomes more shiny and pure once again.
Realizing this, we will continue to do good things, following the Four Noble Truths, making our mind focused and still until we reach the true wisdom. We will see things the way they really are. Our defilements will be gradually peeled away until we are purified and become arahants who are beyond the ‘imprisonment’ of the Triple World.
“You and I have to travel endlessly in the prison of the Trip le World because we cannot see the Four Noble Truths.
Now that we can see them, we are no more under the cravings, which drag us to the state of bodily existence.
We can eradicate our sufferings at its roots.
Now there is no more existence (for both you and me).”
The Attainment of Nirvana
“Is there anywhere that suffering cannot access?…….No.
Why did Prince Siddhartha decide to enter the monkshood then?
….. To find the place where suffering cannot access.
Did he find it?…….Yes.
Where is it? ….. Nirvana.
Has there been anybody who followed him there?………Plenty.
And where is Nirvana?……..That’s a good question.
That is why we are here to study the path that leads to that place.”
What Is Nirvana?
The word ‘Nirvana’ (or nibbana in Pali) has a variety of meanings. It can be translated as:
Extinguishing of defilements or of sufferings
Escape from suffering or from the three prisons of the Triple World
Nirvana is the place where suffering cannot access. It is above the rule of the Three Characteristics. In Nirvana, there is no birth, getting old, suffering from disease, death or rebirth. It is a place where everything is certain and unchangeable. The highest state of happiness, which is derived from practicing meditation and doing good deeds, exists here. There are many Buddha’s sayings, which are related to Nirvana for example:
”Nirvana is the highest state of happiness.”
“The ‘soldiers’ are always safe from all the weapons of their enemies if they are in air raid-shelters. Likewise, those who have their mind focused on Nirvana will always be safe from all suffering.”
The Categories of Nirvana
- Nirvana as a state of mind is our living experience of Nirvana. It is Nirvana that we can attain while we are alive in our human body. Those who practice the Noble Eightfold Path properly will be able to touch upon Nirvana during their living experience. It is a Nirvana for those who have purified themselves from all defilements and live their lives for the sake of self-sacrifice for all living beings in the world. The Lord Buddha had attained this Nirvana on the day he was enlightened.
This kind of Nirvana is just like the sanctuary in our body. When we encounter suffering from diseases or anything, if we draw ourselves to the center of our body where this Nirvana is located, all the suffering will be gone. It is the place, which is beyond the reach of suffering. The Arahants who have their mind at the Nirvana all the time will no longer experience any kind of suffering.
- Nirvana as a realm of ‘existence’ exists as a realm of existence outside of our body and mind. This is the Nirvana which we can attain only when we die. It is an empty area outside the Triple World which is beyond the reach of suffering. Only Arahants whose five aggregates are broken up (the body is destroyed) will attain this Nirvana.
Who Can Attain Nirvana?
Those who can attain Nirvana are noble individuals, which are divided into four levels according to the state of mind: a stream-enterer (one who has attained the first stage of Holiness), a once-returner (one who has attained the second stage of Holiness), a never returner (one who has attained the third stage of Holiness), and an Arahant (one who has attained Nirvana) including a Gotrabhu (an ordinary person who becomes a noble one from a glimpse of Nirvana).
There are those who may argue this because they claim that only those who can purify themselves from all their defilements will actually attain Nirvana. However, according to the list above, a Gotrabhu who cannot get rid of all their defilements yet, also can attain Nirvana. Do the two facts here contradict each other?
The answer is ‘No’. Although a Gotrabhu cannot get rid of all their defilements, when they draw their minds to the center of their body where the Nirvana is located, all their suffering is gone. Thus, the defilements cannot affect them. However, they cannot make their mind stay with Nirvana all the time. When their minds are drawn out of Nirvana, they will be affected by suffering once again. It is the same way as guests who are invited to stay at a big castle. They are happy during their stay there. However, they cannot stay forever since they are not the owners of the castle. When the time is over, they must return to the world outside again.
Change of lineage knowledge can see Nirvana but cannot get rid of all the defilements
“Although change of lineage knowledge one can see Nirvana before the Noble Eightfold Path we will not call that intuition. However, because they can see it only, without yet being able to get rid of all defilements, which is the thing that they should do.”
Change of lineage knowledge can temporally get rid of the defilements.
Can we attain Nirvana?
The answer is ”Yes, we can” by practicing meditation until we reach a Change of lineage knowledge and become a Gotrabhu. To keep practicing until we reach the state of a noble one.
When we reach the higher levels of the Noble Truths, we will see and will attain Nirvana more profoundly and finally become an Arahant at last. This is possible for us to do; otherwise there would not have been millions of Arahants during the Buddha era.
If the Lord Buddha is the only one who can attain Nirvana, then it is too difficult. However, there are many people who followed the Lord Buddha’s teachings, and practiced meditation until they were enlightened and attained Nirvana in the end. Therefore, it is not too difficult to do, but at the same time not too easy. If it was too easy, we would be able to have attained Nirvana a long time ago.
Therefore, if we keep practicing meditation, one day we will reach Nirvana. We cannot attain Nirvana because we have not started yet. Do not be discouraged or afraid, as this can be a barrier to our start on the Path. If we start to practice meditation we are closer than before and we will be able to achieve it.
The Benefits of Attaining Nirvana
- A Mind will become invulnerable to worldly constant changes.
- A Mind will become free from sorrow.
- A Mind will become free from subtle defilements.
- You will attain a blissful mind.
Blessing Group 10: The Benefits of Having Practiced until Reaching an End of Defilements
A Mind Invulnerable to Worldly Vicissitudes
”Rocky Mountains will never be shaken by strong winds.
Likewise, those who can attain Nirvana, will have minds so invulnerable that worldly vicissitudes can never affect them.”
Definition of a Mind Invulnerable to Worldly Vicissitudes
The mind means our good quality of mind.
Invulnerable means (1) not being upset by the unwanted consequences such as loss of fame, loss of possessions, or loss of loved ones. It also means (2) not being elated by desirable consequences.
Vicissitudes of the world means the uncertainty and constant changes in the world which no one can avoid. There are eight types of vicissitudes in the world and they are divided into two groups:
- Wealth: Things that we gain such as: money, profits, spouse, possessions, lands, houses or jewelry.
- Honors: Receiving promotions to better positions or status; being given more power.
- Praise: Receiving compliments, flattery or tributes.
- Happiness: Receiving comfort or convenience of body and mind.
The four vicissitudes listed above are desired by the general public. Those who still do not have them, spend years worrying about having them.
Once they have got them, they are possessive and scared that they will lose them one day. These are the states of mind which are struggling to find and possess the things they want to have and are referred to as; a mind that is swayed by vicissitudes in the world.
- Loss of wealth: to lose what one used to own, such as money, house, land, children, spouse, or jewelry.
- Loss of honors: Demotion, being fired, loosing face, being humiliated or having one’s power withdrawn.
- Malicious gossip: Being criticized, gossiped about or having false allegations against one.
- Suffering: Pain or torture of the body and mind.
These four vicissitudes are undesirable for everybody. No one wants these things to happen to them in their life. When these things have not yet happened people are worried that they will happen one day. Once they really do happen, people become very worried and pray for them to go away. When they are gone, people are still afraid that they might come back.
What Is a Mind Invulnerable of Worldly Vicissitudes?
A mind invulnerable to worldly vicissitudes is the state of mind of those who can attain Nirvana. Their minds are very stable and as firm as mountains. They can maintain neutrality and the changes cause no disturbance to their minds.
When they encounter loss of wealth, honor, malicious gossip, or suffering, these minds are not afraid or disappointed. When experiencing; wealth, honor, praise, happiness, these minds are not elated.
This is because they are aware that these changes are not certain and nothing is real. If we gain wealth, we can lose wealth, the honor is not always ours, and we will have to encounter both: gossip and praise, happiness and suffering. These are all under the law of the Three Universal Characteristics.
The Three Universal Characteristics
The three universal characteristics or the three common characteristics refer to the unique characteristics of all things in the world.
Every single thing or material in the world has its own characteristics. For example, gold has a yellow color and sparkles. Glass is transparent and a diamond is hard. Likewise, people have their own characteristics in their mind, life and we think differently. However, for all the differences between us, there are three characteristics that are shared by all things in the world:
The first characteristic is impermanence. Things always change. For example, one day our house will need repair or become shabby. Likewise, people yesterday, today and tomorrow are not the same. It is the shared common factor that things always change.
The second characteristic is suffering. Normally we think of suffering as pain or something that makes us cry. However, in this case it refers to the quality of things that cannot keep their own condition by nature and have to decay until they are fully gone. One day our house will collapse and people will die. Even the ever-changing earth we are currently living in will one day be destroyed.
The third characteristic is ‘non-self’. It means that nothing in the world has implicit identity. There is nothing that we can control and nothing that is ours. For example, we cannot stop our body from getting older and not to be sick. We cannot control the fact that our house will deteriorate as time passes by. Moreover, if we really analyses our body, it is nothing but blood, flesh and bones. We cannot find the real ‘self’ from it. Our body is a figure which temporarily combines the elements together. Once they are destroyed, our body is nothing. It is not our real self.
People in the world are normally unaware of these three universal characteristics. That’s why they are attached, affected by worldly vicissitudes and always continue to suffer.
Those who can attain Nirvana, which is above the law of the three universal characteristics, are happy because their minds are stable and invulnerable. They are happy in Nirvana where everything is certain, unchangeable and beyond the circle of life and death. Therefore, their minds are not elated or disappointed by worldly vicissitudes which are still under the law of the three universal characteristics. When a mind like that experiences wealth, honor, praise, and happiness their minds are not elated by the experience.
When they encounter loss of wealth, malicious gossip, or suffering, the minds are not afraid or disappointed.
When somebody gets sick, they usually suffer both physically and mentally. However, for those who can attain Nirvana, their minds are always focused on Nirvana. Therefore, the suffering of illness affects only their body, but will never reach their minds because they have Nirvana to shelter their minds from all sorts of sufferings.
Points for Considerations
It is once said that if we want to see how a person can be affected by vicissitudes in the world, we should see how they react to the things they encounter. If they are happy when they get something pleasant and overly express their feelings, such as laughing very loudly, when they encounter suffering they will surely also cry out loudly.
On the other hand, if they are happy and express their feelings by smiling and nothing else, it is quite certain that when they encounter suffering they can suppress their sadness. Perhaps they may show their feelings by being still and quiet for a moment; that is all. From this we can learn that if we are happy, we should express our feelings by smiling a little bit. When it comes to suffering, we do not have to cry out loud.
Therefore, no matter whether we encounter the vicissitudes or not we should continue doing good deeds. By staying neutral when encountering more bad things, the quicker it will all be over. Moreover, we should practice meditation until our minds are stable and still. Then we will reach great wisdom and, in the end, attain Nirvana. At that stage our minds will truly become invulnerable to the worldly vicissitudes.
The Sorrowless Mind
“All kinds of animals, even the great lion, when trapped by a hunter’s snare, will be tortured and lose its power.
Likewise, although one may have lots of power, when trapped by the snares of passion, will certainly lose power and be filled with sorrow and torture.”
What Is a Sorrowless Mind?
The word ‘sorrow’ means dryness. A sorrowful mind refers to a mind that feel, dry and cracks like dry leaves or the earth in a land of drought. In some cases, it can be a result from disappointment in love. The mind will become dry, gloomy, longing for something, finally become dull and not want to know anything or do anything.
“Sorrow is caused by things that are dear to us.”
J.iii 162, DhA.iii.277
Whether it is love for people, animals or objects it can be a cause of sorrow, especially if it is a relationship between a man and a woman.
Normally, our minds are as naughty as monkeys, constantly changing. We sometimes think about one thing, then changes quickly to think about something else. Sometimes we are in a good mood, sometimes we are not. One minute we want to listen to beautiful music, the next we want to have snacks instead. When we are full, we think it is better to sleep, but later we might think it is better to go out. When looking at our minds, we can see that it is always changing and cannot stay in one mood for a long time.
Strangely enough, once our minds become attached to the “mood of love” they suddenly stop changing. They are stuck as monkeys by birdlime or gluten.
What is birdlime? It is a kind of resin which becomes sticky like glue. It is usually applied to trees or other places for the purpose of catching birds or other animals. When animals touch this they will be stuck there.
When monkeys find birdlime, usually they poke it with their leg out of curiosity. When the leg gets stuck, they will use another leg to push on the tree.
Then, both of their legs become stuck to the tree. They will then try to use their hands and both of their hands will become stuck to the tree. Finally even their mouths become stuck to the tree and they eventually become completely stuck to the tree.
Human beings are also like this. Once we are in love, whether a boy loves a girl or a girl loves a boy, first we may think that it is just flirting for fun. However, when time passes by, we submerge ourselves deeper and deeper into the relationship, and finally, we are stuck in love. It can even get to the point that if we do not see our lovers, we are not able to eat anything.
The word charms means sticky rubber or birdlime. If we say “hey, this girl is really charming”, please be aware that this woman has a really sticky birdlime to use to catch us with. Do not get too close to her, otherwise you might get stuck just as a monkey does to birdlime and therefore cannot escape or do anything else.
When we love each other, this is fine enough. If we love someone but that person does not love us back or he/ she cheats on us, or passes away, our minds will become very sad and dry. Before we used to enjoy having many moods yet now we get easily annoyed when we hear someone singing or when our friends ask us out. We will be annoyed by everything around us. We do not want to eat, do not want to play, sing, or dance. Our minds are dry, dull, and cannot put up with our own emotions. This condition of the mind is called a ‘sorrowful mind’.
Some may think that a sorrowful mind is certain because conditional love means the same as being doomed. What if we have a happy conditional love, in this case we will never be sorrowful. Unfortunately, in reality, this is not possible. Everything in the world is under the law of the Three Characteristics.
Things are always changing and will one day be destroyed. Therefore, no matter who or what we love, whether it be a person, animal, or object we must be prepared for sorrow, as one day it is sure to change or perish. If we love them dearly, we will be sad dearly. If we love them a little, we will be sad a little. If we love lots of things, we will be sorrowful many times. It is the way things are. Therefore, it has been said:
“If you love 100, you will have 100 measures of suffering.
If you love 90, you will have 90 measures of suffering.
If you love 80, you will have 80 measures of suffering.
If you love 40, you will have 40 measures of suffering.
If you love 20, you will have 20 measures of suffering.
If you love 10, you will have 10 measures of suffering.
If you love 5, you will have 5 measures of suffering.
If you love 4, you will have 4 measures of suffering.
If you love 3, you will have 3 measures of suffering.
If you love 2, you will have 2 measures of suffering.
If you love 1, you will have 1 measures of suffering.”
Here is an old saying about love:
“The more your possessive love, the more the sorrow.
The less your possessive love, the less the sorrow.
If you have no possessive love, there will be no sorrow.
The more your possessive love, the more the tears.
The end of possessive love is the end of tears.”
Things We Should Do
Those who attain Nirvana have minds that are focused on Nirvana and conditional love cannot have access to or disturb them. Therefore, they can get away from the pain of conditional love and their minds will never be dry or sorrowful.
We, as ordinary people, cannot totally get away from the pain of conditional love nor can we cut the love out of our lives. However, if we practice meditation and think of death often, conditional love cannot have any influence upon us. Our minds will become more stable and we will be less sorrowful than other people.
When we think of death our mind will be detached from love which is a cause of sorrow. When we think that death is unpredictable and we will have to die some day, we will be more reasonable and have more time to reflect on the truly important matters of life. We will become more careful about life and will try to do more good deeds.
With this, our minds will gradually detach from love. When we practice meditation, we will be able to attain Nirvana. Finally, we can cut the conditional love, which is the cause of sorrow, out of our minds and our minds will become sorrowless.
Points for Considerations
“Sorrow, longing for something and suffering in the world is the result from the love we give to people, animals and objects. When there are no animals or other beings for us to love, the sorrow, longing for something and suffering will never happen again.
Those who have no animals or beings in the world that they are attached to, will be happy and will never experience sorrow. Therefore, whoever wants to be free from sorrow and purified from passion should never submit conditional love to any animal or being in the world.”
Freedom from Subtle Defilements
”Lotuses have leaves that a drop of water cannot cling to Likewise, those who can attain Nirvana will have the mind that not even subtle defilements can stain it.”
What Is Freedom from Subtle Defilements?
Defilements are like dust or impurities found in our mind. The subtle defilements, which absorb and slightly cover our minds, cause the mind to Jose its radiance. If we do not really notice it, we will never see it.
A Mind that is free from subtle defilements means a condition of the mind that can absolutely uproot all the defilements, both gross and subtle ones. They will never be able to grow back. This causes the mind to be pure, chaste, and radiant, as it is the case for the mind of an Arahant.
Classification of Defilements
There are three major categories of defilements: greed, hatred, and delusion.
Each group has its own levels, starting from a really gross one; like trash, medium size; like powder or really subtle; like particles of dust. Some of them are so small that they cannot be recognized as defilements. They are as follows:
1.Greed group is the desire for objects such as people, animals, things or emotions. It starts from the grosser levels to the subtle ones as follow:
Open covetousness: This is a desire for something so strong that you can no longer keep the desire to yourself. You have to show your desire openly by staring or even stealing the thing you want.
Discrete covetousness: This is the desire for something which is strong, but not so strong that you cannot conceal it from others such as the desire for other people’s property or relationships.
The desire for things in a dishonest way. This is the desire which if given the opportunity, would cause one to use dishonest ways to get the object of desire.
Lust: This is being attracted sexually to the opposite gender. It is a desire for sexual pleasure both through sound, smell, taste, touch and mind-object.
Grasping for the Form realms: This is when you still have some attraction for the pleasures of the form absorptions. It is for the ones who meditate until they attain the first absorption or higher.
Grasping for the Formless realms: This is an attraction for the: pleasures of the formless absorption. It is for those who meditate until they can attain formless absorption.
Lust, grasping for the form and formless realms are considered to be subtle defilements, which is viewed as ‘small dust’ of the greed group.
2.Hatred group: These are thoughts of hatred, destroying or expression of aggression towards others who make one become very angry. These are both gross and subtle defilements which are:
Vengefulness: This is anger, grudges, resentment and unforgiving feelings or the wish to destroy others that is so strong that it can be carried over from ones past existence into this life and next life. The example is the case of venerable Thevathat who was vengeful towards the Lord Buddha from his previous life, until the life that he met the Lord Buddha.
Directed anger: This is the thought of destroying or harming others such as killing, kicking, insulting, burning somebody’s house, discrediting others by false allegations etc.
Undirected anger: This again is also a kind of anger, but only a thought, not yet thinking about putting anger into actual actions.
Irritability: This is only the feeling of friction in one’s mind. It is not an anger, but frustration leading to being irritable.
Irritability is considered to be a subtle defilement which is ‘small dust’ in the hatred group.
3.Ignorance group: This is a delusion or drunkenness of the mind, which causes us not to know the difference between what is good or bad. This does not include the lack of worldly knowledge because one can be well educated and might have many degrees or graduate certificates. Thus, if that person does not know what is good or bad or what should and should not be done, that person is considered to be in this group. The delusion comes in the following varieties:
Wrong view: It is the belief that good is evil and evil is good such as not believing in the debt of gratitude to our parents, there is no merit or sin, this life or next life do not exist.
Delusion: This is delusion which obstructs our understanding of the difference between right and wrong.
False view of individuality: This is the view that our individuality is real such as our body is real and truly belongs to us.
Doubt: This is doubt in practicing meditation, as to whether the Law of Kamma really works or if we practice meditation, we will destroy all of our defilements for real or not.
Adherence: This means being caught up in superstitious rites and rituals such as believing in fortune tellers, spirit worship or believing in other forms of superstition.
Conceit: Assuming ourselves to be superior to others or being conceited leading to arrogance.
Absent-mindedness: This is restlessness of mind. The mind cannot stand still or completely focus on something.
Ignorance: This is the lack of the true knowledge such as where we are coming from; why we are here or where will we go when we die.
The defilements from False view of individuality to ignorance are subtle defilements of the ignorance group.
In conclusion, we have the three groups of subtle defilements and there are ten of them in total which are:
- False View of Individuality
- Grasping for the Form Realms
- Grasping for the Formless Realms
These ten defilements are called Ten Fetters.
Stream-Enterers can let go False View of Individuality, Doubt and Adherence. They will not have any doubt about the Triple Gem as for Once-Returners, they can let go the first three fetters, just like Stream-Enterers but the other fetters are less serious.
For Never Returners, they can let go two more fetters which are Lust and Irritability.
Only Arahants can let go the whole Ten Fetters and really have complete and undisturbed pure minds.
The Degrees of Damage Characteristics of the Three Different Defilement Groups
- Desire has the characteristic of not being very damaging but requiring a long time to recover from its negative effects. For example the love between husband and wife: they love each other. There is nothing against: them living together. However, if they start to cheat on each other, that’s another case. The damage of the desire is not really serious, but takes time to cure the damage. If they love each other but never have a chance to see or meet, they will be really sad and tortured. Sometimes when both of them die, their love still lingers to the next life. It is really difficult to stop this kind of feelings.
- Hatred and anger are very damaging but it does not take long to recover from them. For example, when someone gets angry, that person can kill another person. Sometimes it is so bad that one can kill one’s own parent, which is considered to be the most terrible sin of all. However, when the anger is decreased, if that person gets an apology from the one who makes him angry, he might forget about it and the anger will soon be gone.
- Ignorance has the character of being very damaging and also it takes a long time to remedy its action. Those who do not know the true Dhamma can lead them to great damage and make them commit lots of sin and finally go to hell. We must be born and reborn over and over again in the circle of life and death because of ignorance. One who does not know what is right and what is wrong, takes more time to be recovered from ignorance. Some even have to wait for the Lord Buddha to guide them. However, in the worst case, they cannot get away from ignorance even after hearing the Lord Buddha’s teachings.
Things We Should Do
We should be aware that these three categories of defilements can develop and grow. For example, somebody may be not greedy at first however, when they are tempted by honor or benefit, they may feel greedy and are willing to commit sins. Someone at first may be a calm person but if they get stimulated quite often, their anger can be stronger until they become hot-tempered or easy to be irritated. There may be some people who are good people, they may doubt a little bit about sin and merit, but are still ordinary people. However, when they associate with bad people, it is possible for them to be influenced into false view, not believe in merit and sin, refuse the belief of hell and heaven or even have no gratitude towards their parents
Therefore, we should be careful and continue to do good deeds, practice meditation with great effort. One day when our mind stands still, we will reach an inner wisdom, the Noble Truths and can attain Nirvana. We can finally get rid of all the defilements from our minds, which will turn us to be Arahants and we will experience great and complete happiness in the end.
“Those who can get rid of greed, the greed will be away from their minds just like a drop of water that falls from lotus’s leaves.
Those who can get rid of hatred and anger, hatred will be gone like a ripe palm fruit that falls from its tree.
Those who can get rid of ignorance, ignorance will be gone just like the darkness that is driven away by the light of the Sun.”
The Blissful Mind
“Once those who are chained in prison are freed from their confinements, they will be free and happy.
Likewise, those who can attain Nirvana and are free from all defilements will have a blissful mind just like those who are free from their incarceration.”
The Dangers for Human
From the minute that we were born, we immediately encountered lots of dangers which can destroy us every single second. It is as if we are swimming in the darkness in the middle of the cruel sea with no compass or refuge. These dangers can be mainly categorized into two types, which are:
1.Built-in dangers: Everyone without exception co-exists with dangers since the day they were born. These dangers, which are always around us, are:
Behind: the danger of birth
Right hand side: the danger of old-age
Left hand side: the danger of illness
In front: the danger of death
These dangers surround us on every side. They are unavoidable.
2.External dangers: There are plenty of them for example:
The dangers from people: Such as fools, false friends, cruel husbands, exploitative wives or bad neighbors
The dangers from natural disasters: Such as floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or lightning
The dangers from evil retribution: When the retribution of evil deeds we have done in our past or present lives eventually catches us, we will have to face the consequences. For example, if we used to harm or kill animals, we will be ill or handicapped. If we used to lie a lot, we will have amnesia. If we used to steal things, we will end up being punished in prison.
Why Do We Have to Suffer from These Dangers?
The reason why we find ourselves surrounded on every side by sufferings and why we cannot break free of these, being born only to die, life after life, is because we are shackled by bonds or shackles which imprison us in the three realms of existence. There are four of these bonds:
- The shackle of sensual-indulgence: This is a pleasure from sensual sphere. It is our desire to listen to beautiful music, to taste delicious food, to wear fine clothes, to see beautiful images, to touch soft things, to have an attractive boyfriend or girlfriend or to furnish our houses with valuables. This shackle will tightly bind us, ensuring that we will never escape from it.
- The shackle of attachment to the absorptions: This shackle occurs when we become attached to our mental attainments at the level of the form and formless absorptions. As soon as a person breaks free of the shackle of sensual indulgence, they will usually be tied up to this one instead. If they die while their minds are still caught in this shackle, they will be reborn in the Brahma Realm, which is still not safe because when their fruit of merit comes to an end, they will have to be reincarnated. This is more like the second shackle.
- The shackle of views: This is being entrenched in one’s own erroneous views – such as the belief that one has no debt of gratitude to his or her parents, a belief that the world has no origin and there is no world for life after death, and the belief that one can escape suffering by praying and performing rites. Such views add more darkness to the mind to hold on to them. This is like the third string twisted together with the other two.
- The shackle of ignorance: This is the ignorance of Dhamma to attain enlightenment and Lord Buddha’s teachings. The mind’s light is not bright enough to perceive the ultimate truth of Dhamma and the way to self-liberation out of deadly dangers. This is the fourth string twisted together with the other three to form a strong piece of rope.
These four thick strands of shackles, binds us into the realms of existence, causing endless reincarnations. They bind us so tightly that we cannot escape from them at all.
What Is the Blissful Mind?
The blissful mind means a condition of the mind which is totally free from defilements. The four twisted ropes of shackles have been cut out and completely destroyed. The mind is thus free – with no further limitation, encroachment or awkwardness. No further danger can threat or force the mind anymore. Those who can have the real blissful mind are those whose mind remain still and calm in the Nirvana all the time. That is those who attain the highest level of meditation called Arahants.
The Arahants’ minds are not only free from defilements, but are also capable of gaining supernatural force and abilities as follows:
The Sixfold Mental Powers
The sixfold mental powers are supreme knowledge beyond imagination or rational logic of natural law.
- Magical power: The ability to perform certain miracles, such as floating in the air, enlarging or shrinking oneself or making oneself invisible.
- Supernormal audition: Being able to hear sounds inaudible to human beings.
- Reading the minds of others: Knowing what others are thinking.
- The ability to recollect one’s own previous existences: Recalling and discovering who one is and what she or he has done in the past lives.
- The ability to recollect the previous existences of others.
- The knowledge to eradicate all defilements: Be able to get rid of evils and defilements completely.
For all the six fold mental powers, the first five are worldly supreme knowledge, but the sixth alone is transcendental knowledge. These powers can be gained only by meditation, not by replicating or learning from listening to others’ experiences. Once attained or accomplished this level, one will realize by him or herself.
The Threefold Supernormal Knowledge
The threefold supernatural knowledge is insightful wisdom acquired during the final stages of enlightenment. They consist of the intuition or the insight, the highest level of wisdom deriving from meditation or wisdom resulting from mental development.
Those who would like to be Arahants can be enlightened only by gaining this wisdom. The Lord Buddha sacrificed his life by meditating to purify his mind and finally gained such wisdom or the Threefold supernormal knowledge on the enlightenment day. The threefold includes the following three sorts of knowledge:
- Recalling one’s own previous existence
- The ability to recollect the previous existences of others
- The knowledge to eradicate all defilements
The Eightfold Supreme knowledge
The eightfold supreme knowledge is an enlightening wisdom which is listed as follows:
- Intuitive insight: This wisdom is acquired when the purified mind can perceive the truth of physical body by using the Three Universal Characteristics.
- The magic power of the mind: Be able to perform many miracles, such as floating in the air, transmuting, enlarging or shrinking oneself or making oneself invisible.
- Magical powers: The ability to perform certain miracles to do with changing the nature of objects such as floating in the air, transmuting the body, enlarging or shrinking oneself, or making oneself invisible.
- Supernormal audition: Be able to hear sounds inaudible to human beings.
- Reading the minds of others: Be able to know what others are thinking.
- The ability to recollect one’s own previous existence: Be able to recall and discover who one is and what he or she has done in the past lives.
- Supernormal sight: Be able to gain divine eyes.
- The knowledge to eradicate all defilements
The Fourfold Analytical Insights
The fourfold analytical insights are powerful mental abilities to teach the Dhamma to others as follows:
- Analytic insight into consequences: This masterful wisdom allows one to enlarge upon any subject of the Dhamma.
- Analytic insight into causes: This masterful wisdom allows one to summarize any subject of the Dhamma without losing the core meaning.
- Analytic insight into language: This masterful insight into language allows one to know the meaning of all forms of human and animal communication.
- Analytic insight into wit: The gift of quick-wittedness in expounding on Dhamma allows one to ‘think on one’s feet’ and answer questions ‘on the spot’.
Practicing Dhamma has a lot of advantages. Therefore, we should try to put all thirty blessings into practice. If we actually practice them, we will sooner or later become aware of the true knowledge of Buddhist principles at its core, as well as the supernormal power, in the footsteps of the Lord Buddha and all of the Arahants.
Contrary to popular Buddhist opinion, meditation is not reserved for Buddhist monks, nuns or old people, but it is for anyone of any age who wants to be peaceful and happy. Of course, ice-creams and candies can make you happy for a short period of time but it also cost some money and can give you sensitive teeth. Going to a rock concert might be fun if you don’t mind the hustling, bustling and sweating. Real happiness is free and without unwanted side-effects.
Meditation is accessible to everyone as a way to train and develop the mind to become more stable, focused and effective. Meditation is not just for Buddhists but can be practiced by those of all religions or even those who have no religion. It is importance to practice meditation first-hand because it is not by reading about it or discussing it that practitioners will get results.
The meaning of the word “meditation” can depend on whether it is meant as a practice or as the result of practice to bring about a sense of peace, ease and purity. At its simplest, meditation is the ability of the mind to stay in a single mood extendedly without wandering. It is the settling of the mind to continuous peace and unity exhibiting only purity, radiance, brightness and giving rise simultaneously to encouragement morale wisdom and real happiness.
Meditation means stability of mind at a single point or a state of mind unwavering from its point of focus of mind. It is a practice to still our mind at the center of the body, to gently bring the mind back inside our body at ease, to prevent the mind being scattered by various emotions and thoughts, whether it be thoughts of family, study, amusement or any other thought to unify the mind on a single object within the body.
The human being is composed of a physical body and a mind. A human body without a mind is a corpse. A mind without a body is a ghost. Humans are different from other forms of life because human beings are able to meditate.
The mind is a kind of spherical-shaped living element, based inside the physical body for as long as a person is alive. The mind is not identified with the heart because the heart is merely a muscle in body, but the mind is a kind of energy, ethereal and invisible to the eye or any type of instrumentation. Otherwise someone who get a new heart would become a totally other person.
The mind deals with one topic at a time, working even with remote subjects and controlling the movement of the body. The permanent base of the mind is at the center of the body. The mind is like an element of consciousness and coordinates with the five external senses.
The mind can be compared to a form of energy like light which has its own aura. If there is no focus for the mind, the energy is scattered giving off a dim. However, if like a light focused by a lens, the mind is brought together at a single point it can be much more powerful.
The mind is of a nature of being easily distracted, hard to keep in one place or otherwise control. The mind is restless and cannot remain with the same emotion for long, but jumps from one to the next just as a monkey jumps from branch to branch.
The mind struggles to fulfill desires and succumb to emotions just as a fish out of water struggles to get back in. It is as hard to get the mind to stay in one place or to stay still without thinking as it is to get an infant to stay still. To prevent the mind from thinking about particular things can be as hard as keeping back cows from grazing a pasture.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is highly relevant to daily life and everybody can benefit from meditation, but most people don’t realize it.
Meditation serves to bring the mind together in a single point allowing it to work with greater efficiency. When our mind comes to a standstill, our vision becomes clear.
The mind becomes stable and steadfast in a single state. The mind will develop the characteristics of purity, stability and workability.
When your mind is at its natural home or the center of your body, it feels great. It feels on the top of the world. You might feel free like a bird that is just released from a cage. The peace and happiness that is outpouring from the center of your body when your mind is at a standstill is unlike anything else in the world. So, whether you are rich or poor, average or gifted, overweight or gorgeously slim, have a girlfriend/boyfriend or without one, you can be happy if your mind rests still at the center of the body.
Sometimes, we are annoyed that the people whom we love do not understand us. But we too haven’t seen our own mind. We will begin to understand ourselves truly when we bring our mind to a standstill. We cannot see our reflection in the water when the mirror-surface of that water is shaking or moving or when it is muddy. We can see our reflection in the water only when the surface of that water is still, clean and clear. Similarly, we cannot see our mind if it is muddied with thoughts and worries all day long. We can see our mind only when it rests still at the center of the body, which is two finger-widths above the navel.
Meditation cleanses your mind so that not only you can understand yourself better, but you can also understand other people better. Regular meditation practice sharpens your mind and improves your ability to concentrate better and you will understand school lessons quicker and remember them longer. Cleaning your mind is also an act of merit. While it takes some time to bear fruits, the resulting merit will serve like a magnet that attracts positive things into your life. The cleaner your mind is, the more you will think, speak and act in the right way and refrain from the opposite. You will have the courage to do what your intuition says to do even when your peers disagree.
Sportsmen whose mind is calmed can perform better and also the quality of the work of artist is much better. When we meditate can control ourselves better makes life more bearable as we cannot avoid contact with words, places, people and situations we have to put up with.
A calm mind is essential for thinking things through clearly, reflections, remembering things’ learning considerate speech and every sort of task because the tranquil mind is fastidious and inspired.
Therefore, meditation is of great importance for daily life. We should practice it every day and train our mind to be balanced and effective even during our working day. As soon we can maintain a mind of meditation throughout the day, our mind will reach new heights of capability and effectiveness.
How to Meditate
Meditation is simple and a natural thing like breathing. You get the best results when you feel fresh and relaxed. For most people the best time to meditate is the early morning right after they’ve waken up or after they’ve taken a shower in the evening before bedtime.
Sit cross-legged with your right leg on your left leg and your right hand on your left hand. If you find this position uncomfortable, you can sit on a cushion or a chair. In any case, your right index should touch your left thumb. Close your eyes very gently as if you are about to sleep. Empty your mind of all kinds of thoughts. Breathe in deeply and gently exhale a few times. Relax every muscle in your body.
Imagine that the inside of your body is hollow, clear and transparent with no internal organs. Rest your mind at the center of the body, which is located inside at the level of two fingers width above the navel.
If you find it hard to bring attention to the center of the body, you can rest your mind elsewhere inside the body where you feel most comfortable. Calmly and silently observe whatever image that arises- whether it is darkness or bright light or anything else just accept it without any thought.
When resting your mind at the center of the body or anywhere else inside the body, make sure not to strain the eyes. In meditation, we see with the mind, not with the physical eyes; that’s why we close them. You can get good meditation results only if you feel completely relaxed and comfortable and not when you try too hard.
If your mind wanders, you can use visualization to help keep your mind still. To do so, imagine that a crystal ball is floating in the middle of your stomach. You can use other neutral objects that you’re familiar with such as an orange, a football or the moon. But don’t force to imagine anything. Do it only when it is convenient for you. And even it is unclear it is still okay. Do not use your eyes to force an image, it will only bring on stress or give you a headache, which beats the purpose of meditation. Try to see with your mind and not with your physical eyes. The main point is that you feel completely relaxed and comfortable.
When your mind still wanders you can recite the mantra ‘Summa Arahung’ which means virtuous path, away from impurities of the mind. Recite the word softly in your mind.
Depending on the degree of stillness and clarity of your mind, after a while you will experience a sense of peacefulness and refreshing joy as if you’ve just come out of an inner spa.
All the while, quietly observe whatever there is to see at the center of your body without any thought or question. Even if all you see is darkness it is ok. Your mind will brighten up by itself as it is slowing down towards the relaxed state of stillness.
Spread Loving- Kindness
After showering your mind with peace and happiness from meditation, let’s share it with your family and friends, and even with those whom you dislike or who you think do not like you.
Spreading loving-kindness is a good practice of forgiving, seeking forgiveness and cultivating compassion. The merit you’ve gained from meditation will not lessen through sharing it with others. It’s the same as lighting a candle and then using that candle to light others’ candles.
There might be times when you do not feel comfortable or ready to speak to another person. After a row with your schoolmate, you might not feel ready to speak to him the next morning. Meditation can give you the courage to be the first to speak and make up with your friend whereas spreading your emotional currents of peace and happiness will prepare your friend’s mind for the positive thing to come.
Sometimes, your friends or your family members need emotional support when going through a difficult time. Just because they are not in the mood to talk with you does not mean they do not welcome your tender loving care. In fact, they need it more than ever. Besides gentle talks and caring acts, you can also express your love and support by spreading loving-kindness to them after meditation. Think of their faces at the center of your body, and with the power of your merit, wish them good health, happiness and success in whatever they’re trying to achieve. The cleaner and stiller your mind is, the more intense the currents of love, peace and happiness you are spreading out. Like everything else, the more you practice spreading loving-kindness, the more you become good at it.
Outside your immediate circles of family and friends, there are many more people whom you wish to help than you can actually help. Spreading loving-kindness is one way you can share your love, peace and happiness to these people a teacher who has fallen ill, a child beggar on the street or the cyclone disaster victims whom you saw on TV
While spreading loving-kindness, say in your mind something like ”With all the merit I made today, may my family, my teachers, my schoolmates, friends and all living beings in the world be safe, healthy and happy. May those crying, starving or in physical pain, get the help they need. May all human beings regardless of their nationality, race and religion share in the merit that I made today and live together in peace and harmony with compassion towards each other”. You can come up with your own version of a goodwill message.
Make Your Wishes Come True
Merit is like a magic wand that can make your wish come true-if you know the proper way to make a wish. What you need to make your wishes come true after making merit is to maintain the focus of your mind at the center of your bod; Again, don’t force your mind to be at the center. As in meditation, it is good enough if you bring your attention to the middle of your stomach.
You can make a wish silently in your mind or speak it out. Start with recalling all the good things that you did today at school, at home or anywhere else. Then, say your specific wish or wishes. For example, “I meditated in the morning and spread good wishes to my family and friends, my pet dogs, the soldiers who are protecting my country, and the Cyclone survivors. At school, I picked up a piece of trash I saw on a pavement and put it in the bin. I taught my classmate how to solve a mathematical problem. I helped Mom to prepare dinner and wash the dishes. With the merit I earned from doing all these good thing’s today, may I have the strength to resist the temptation to think, speak or do bad things. May this merit attract good people, good things and good events into my life. May I do better at my studies and be the son/ daughter my parents are proud of. May I be able to teach myself to think, speak and act morally, always…”
There is no limit to the number of wishes you can make. As long as they are harmless and morally good wishes, they are fine. When and whether your wishes will be fulfilled depends on the amount of merit you have accumulated. Once the amount of merit you’ve gained equals what is required to fulfill your wish, your wish will come true. We use merit everyday and all the time, whether we realize it or not-to commute to school and return home safely, for example. That’s why we need to keep accumulating merit through thinking, speaking and acting morally.