What follows is a rough transcript of a Dhamma talk. One can listen to the talk here.
Homage to the Blessed One, Noble One, the Rightly Self-Awakened One
Welcome to all the monks and novices and blessings to all the laity. Today we learn Dhamma about the highest blessings that the Buddha taught. There is one important aspect, that is, training in discipline. Being well-trained in discipline (Vinaya) will be a blessing in one’s life. This is an important teaching of the Lord Buddha. And we can see the state of the pandemic in the present day, that the numbers infected with the Covid-19 virus has increased significantly. One part that has led to the rapid spread of the virus, comes from people not having discipline (Vinaya), and not being truthful to oneself, not truthful to society and to the greater public. And when there is also concealing of our information then there is great damage done. Not being contained in rules and discipline comes from following one’s own thoughts, one’s own moods and likes, which is just not having sila-dhamma, moral conduct. The world is fighting against the pandemic disaster, but there are people in the world who have no discipline, they do not follow the advice of the medical professionals and health officials by protecting against infection, as we are aware of. There is concealing of information. There are people travelling to different places, and people following the paths that lead to decline. Like going out at night, watching shows, gambling, going to bad places, drinking intoxicants, and going down different paths of decline. And this makes the spread of the infectious virus go vastly more out of control, more than what can be managed by doctors and nurses.
If we have a little bit of kindness, then we think a bit deeper that our actions can lead to harm to ourselves, harm to others as well. And how does it harm ourselves? We think we are going to find enjoyment and fun. We aren’t interested in the results. And we go drink alcohol, go out at night, go watch shows, enjoy and have fun, and we don’t know that it is a big danger. That is, pain, sickness and death are coming closer with each moment. Delusion is like this. And delusion leads to great damage to our lives. And it’s not only like this. It may make our father, mother, brothers, sisters, close friends sad. Or we have friends that we take to go with us, and this spreads the damage out even more. So we need to be careful. At this period of time, we need to take up the moral precepts. Have sila, morality, have discipline. Make sure to have the 5 precepts first. So that it will protect us from falling to a place that is a lower realm. A place that is in the lower realms is uneasy, uncomfortable (ill at ease) in the present moment. It’s not that it happens after we die then we are uneasy. It’s in this present moment.
And our Sasada, and all the religions’ Sasadas, their founders, would have wanted us to have happiness and be free from suffering. But we may go blame our Sasada on why he didn’t protect us. Then this is an even greater misunderstanding. Because our Sasada taught us not to be heedless. For us to know how to control ourselves, and on having forbearance. And so in the times of disaster, during this world pandemic, we have to be careful. We have to have the 5 precepts to protect and look after our minds. And when we have sila, this sila will protect us to not fall to a place where we will receive suffering, difficulties and troubles. So we should know that being well-trained in discipline is one of the highest blessings of our life.
And in the Buddha Sasana, who was the one who was well-trained in discipline? In the Buddha Sasana, the one who truly learnt the Vinaya, the monastic discipline, and remembered the Vinaya well was Venerable Upāli Thera. He was one of the 80 great disciples of the Buddha. And there is the story in the Theravada tradition, that we may have learnt, that he was the son of a barber for all the royal lineage of Sakyan princes. He was an attendant and looked after the ornaments of all the Sakyan princes. He was close to all of the Sakyan princes. Here, the 5 Sakyan princes wanted to go to ordain. There was Ven. Bhaddiya, Ven. Anuruddha, Ven. Ananda, Ven. Bhagu, Ven. Kimbila, and another related Sakyan prince, Ven. Devadatta. They had a desire to renounce and ordain following the Lord Buddha. So they took off all their ornaments and gave it to Upali to take back. But Ven. Upāli had a lot of mindfulness and wisdom, and asked to ordain as well. But the 6 Sakyan princes didn’t want him to go. They didn’t give him permission. But Ven. Upāli contemplated that all this wealth has value, and the Sakyan princes could throw it away just like spitting out saliva. So why should I take it? Shouldn’t I search for that of more value? So he took all the valuable ornaments and placed them at a tree. And he followed to go ask for ordination as well. This is the history of Ven. Upāli in the Theravada tradition. And after ordaining, all the Sakyan princes saw that they were of the Sakyan lineage, and they had ego and conceit of being the caste of royalty. So to put down their ego and conceit, they had Ven. Upāli ordain first. This is from the Theravada suttas. But let us also look at what the Mahayana Suttas say about this as well. Let us learn together:
The monks who went forth to ordain, in the Theravada tradition, know it as: Ven. Bhaddiya, Ven. Anuruddha, Ven. Ananda, Ven. Bhagu, Ven. Kimbila, Ven. Devadatta. But in the Mahayana tradition there is also the minister Kāḷudāyi. So this is learning that the Theravada suttas are like this, the Mahayana suttas are like this. It is not contradictory. But we look at the one who is skilled and foremost in learning the Vinaya, who is Ven. Upali Maha Thera. And that the Buddha lowered the ego and conceit of those who had high status and rank, those who had power and parami, by having Ven. Upali ordain first. This is the important heart of it, and both the Theravada and Mahayana are the same in this. And about the difference on who ordained and went forth together, we learn it and let it add to our knowledge.
So, what arises for the one who is well-disciplined? They will have truthfulness and honesty, will not cheat oneself or others, will be responsible, will have determination to work, and will follow up on the results of their work well. They will respect the rights of others, and follow the rules and laws in society. If we can practice being disciplined like this, then we will be able to overcome the adversity of the current pandemic, for the benefit of ourselves, society, and for our family too.
And a person who is well-disciplined will be a leader, they have ability to lead, they can overcome problems, and they can fulfil well the duties and work of the group so as to get to the goal that has been set. And it is important that we be on time, and know the proper time and occasion for things. When we are well-disciplined like this, then we will have inner courage, and have inner power as well. We will have patience (endurance), we have effort and diligence, our mind is strong, and we will not fall to any obstacles. We know to self-sacrifice, we feel for others, and we are responsible for the things we do. And here, the Buddha praised Ven. Upali Thera, as being foremost in the Vinaya. And he was a very important monk who learnt the Vinaya thoroughly, and could overcome various issues that came up skilfully. After the Buddha’s parinibbana, Ven. Upali Maha Thera could answer questions about the Vinaya, which is what we learn of in the present day, because of Ven. Upali Maha Thera upholding the Vinaya.
May you all have a mind beautiful and complete. May you all have good health and strength always.