We should contemplate that having been born, what is the cause that makes us have suffering, difficulties and troubles? We can see that people differ, having a lot or a little, having a lot of wisdom or little wisdom. We are born and have differences according to our merit, vassana, parami, and spiritual development and accumulations. There are differences in leading one’s life, in learning, in the opportunity to learn, and the opportunity to get good work. Some people study in schools or universities that are renowned, and have a chance to get a better job. Whereas the ones who lack mindfulness and wisdom, they may have less access to education, but can still complete their education and gain enough money to support their life.
But the thing that makes us suffer is wanting, desire. This makes us struggle and make an effort. And it makes us compare ourselves to others constantly, which brings us suffering. But it’s not that we don’t make an effort at all. We do exert effort, persevere, and are determined. We have inner-confidence, firm intention, self-respect, and self-belief that we will be successful. We challenge and not get discouraged in the face of obstacles. We need to have this. This is called having a high level of effort and determination, then we will be able to make all things succeed. We can succeed in our studies, and our work will get better. And this is even more likely to happen if there is someone who will impart knowledge to us, reproach us, rouse us, and then we can change and remedy what is needed. Then our work will get better.
So if we are a child, a student, and there is a teacher who imparts knowledge to us and advises us, then our studies will improve. But if others aren’t interested in us and they just leave us alone, they are not concerned with our studies, and there is no-one to oversee us, then it will be difficult for our studies. And this applies to all levels of education, and also to learning in various arts. These days the world is more open-minded and so one is better able to learn various arts and humanities. And if we have a mentor who teaches and advises us and we have built up inner skill, then we may be able to work and gain knowledge in that art well. But if we are lazy, idle and not determined, then even if there is a mentor who advises us and people who want to help us, we don’t want it. And then our studies will definitely not meet with success. And our work won’t be able to become prosperous according to our dreams. It is just being lost in dreams then. Why is this? Because of taṇhā, desire.
And venerable Ajahn Chah said in an extreme way about what taṇhā, desire, craving is like. He said it’s like we have a container or a house that is all open. It’s left open, and whatever comes in, it will welcome it all. There is just pleasure in receiving everything that comes in. This is called taṇhā. It is open. The doors are open. The doors in the big house are open. It is like this in our heart. We want everything. We are lost in dreams of everything. This can then lead to failure, and it is the cause for suffering and inner torment. We continue to admire other peoples’ wealth. So instead, when other people receive success, we should think, “alright, that is something good.” We have mudita, sympathetic joy. We are happy that they have received it, that they got something good. They have knowledge, good education, or skill at the level of the locality, province, region, country, continent or even the world. So this is according to their skill, which is composed and made up from our efforts.
So we have to make an effort, exert and be diligent to train and practice, so that we must be able to make it good. This is inner progress. But this tanha is a significant factor. It is always making comparisons. Like if we have a low position, we are a person who is poor and underprivileged, then it’s normal and natural that all of us want to be rich. We want to have money, gold, and want to spend money like others. Being a child, you want to have a bicycle like everyone else. You want nice adornments, nice clothing, have a good house, have good food, just like everyone else. Why is this? It’s because of the feeling that if we don’t have it, we feel bad and inferior, that we don’t have it like our friends.
So this is the first noble truth of suffering as well. But if a person sees that not having these things is a big deal for them and that they need to acquire it by any means possible, then they must put forth effort to get it. They must be able to discipline and direct themselves to be able to achieve it. So with this feeling, they put in a lot of effort and persevere. Their determination is high. And then even though they have been born in a poor family with few opportunities, and it is hard and difficult for them, they are able to succeed.
Is this called taṇhā, desire? We have to understand that taṇhā is the cause for suffering to arise. So if we don’t do anything and we have only desire, we have no effort and application, then suffering keeps coming up. But when we have effort, application and are determined, then this lies within sila-dhamma, morality and goodness. It is not that we just say that everything is desire, and whatever we do is all desire, so then we don’t need to do anything at all. Then we just stay someone who is poor and underprivileged as always. We have no expertise, we have no knowledge. We don’t have a good reputation in society, not being someone who is recognized. So it is not like this. We put in effort and perseverance, and this is correct in terms of sila-dhamma. We are determined to learn well. We are determined to gain skill and knowledge. If we don’t know, then we stay close to those who do know. And these days there are many who are interested in teaching and advising us. That is, if we do have the determination and have sufficient skill, then we will be able to do it.
And so if whatever we do, we aren’t interested in it and we don’t improve ourselves, then there is only desire coming up. It’s like we want someone to cast a spell on us, from someone who doesn’t have and is poor and underprivileged, to being rich. So if we are then rich like this, would we be satisfied? Would we have wisdom? We wouldn’t have the wisdom to maintain that richness. Maybe people cheat you, maybe friends cheat you. These days there are many people who cheat others in the online world that we use regularly.
So if we have no wisdom, then our wealth will quickly disappear. So the important wealth is wisdom, which can look after our mind, and look after our wealth. If we were able to come from being poor to being super rich, then we need to have the wisdom to get that. But if someone came and lifted us up to being super rich, and we didn’t have wisdom, then would we be able to maintain that wealth? We wouldn’t be able to. It would just get wasted away.
So wisdom is the quality that will maintain our minds and to maintain our wealth as well. So we need to search for wisdom. So how does wisdom arise? Only by building and creating parami, spiritual goodness, can it arise. Then we will know the word ‘enough’. We will know already that, “alright, I am content with what I have now.” It’s not that we just keep struggling to get more, more and more, and in the end going bankrupt.
Some people have 100 million, and they want to have a billion. They have a billion and then they want even more than that. They keep wanting to have more and more. Ultimately they look for a way to get more wealth, which does not have sila-dhamma, morality and goodness. In the end they need to go to jail, go to court, because of killing others, harming others, and cheating others. This is not right. The Buddha taught about giving up evil, cultivating merit, and purifying the mind, before it can be made right.
So we need to build the knowing of enoughness. We cultivate our mind to have knowledge and the skill to know enough. This is to be satisfied and content. Being satisfied means that we are satisfied with whatever we can get, and being content means that we are content with whatever we have. But it’s not that we don’t strive. If we can do it and can strive for it, then we do it. And one part of what we get, we make merit. One part is given as charity, to be stored, consumed, to look after one’s family, and to assist relatives, friends, and society. And this is applicable in the present situation.
So this is a person with wisdom who is able to build wealth and can learn various knowledges. The Buddha, in some of his past lives, was able to use the wisdom he had to to look after his mind, to look after his household, and to look after the city. There were people who could have argued and killed each other, but didn’t. Why? Because the Buddha could make them have unity and harmony. So can we see that they didn’t have to use weapons, because wisdom is a weapon. Wisdom is one of the noble truths, right? There is sila, samadhi and panya, morality, concentration and wisdom, which is the excellent path for us to get rid of the mental defilements; that is, we can get rid of tanha, the desire to have. Then suffering won’t arise within us.
But if we don’t develop, train, put forth effort and apply ourselves, then it won’t be possible that we can be free from suffering. And even in our education, we won’t succeed. In doing our work, we won’t be able to be recognized like others at all. This is because we don’t have wisdom. So we do need to try to strive for this.
But don’t forget that we need to have wisdom that is imbued with sila-dhamma. There are some people who don’t have this type of wisdom, but they are good people. They don’t harm the lives of others. They don’t harm the minds of others. They don’t take others’ love to be their own love. They are someone who is honest, with a good mind, and they speak directly. They have little intoxication with alcohol, and then can quit it. So this is having wisdom. So don’t just look at wisdom in the ways of the world that makes one rich. We must look at wisdom in the way of Dhamma, which arises in the mind. These 2 aspects are important. To find wealth, not just on the outside, but to find inner wealth as well. These are done in parallel.
So here we can compare, that before we weren’t well off and we didn’t have mindfulness and wisdom, but we know that now we are better off than others, better off than before. So then we will assist others who don’t have. Because we can see the suffering and its drawbacks, so we assist those who aren’t well off. And we can also contemplate that the cause that makes our minds to suffer and be distressed is because of constantly comparing in this world. I am better than them, I am equal to them, I am lower than them. Then there are lots of distress and troubles arising. This is because of clinging, or mana, conceit and pride, which is in the hearts of every person. Then we will for sure cling to ourselves being important of one sort. The importance that we are better than them, we are equal to or we are lower than them. And it may be that we are actually lower than them, but we cling to that we are higher. But some are higher and have everything complete, but feel that they are lacking in some things and aspects in themselves and they think that they are lower than others. So this is not right. But it is natural for thoughts and views to be like this.
We can look carefully and see what is it that every person that is born has equally? We have this breath that nature has given us equally. Whether we are sleeping on the side of the road, sleeping in a small house, sleeping in a big house or a mansion, every person needs to breathe. They need oxygen, right? And wherever they lack oxygen, they will die right? We can see in this present pandemic, if one lacks oxygen, their lungs have problems, or they don’t have the ventilator producing oxygen, then every life cannot survive. So when we are born, we have what nature has given us by being born as human, which is oxygen. Water we can find easily, right? Then it’s just food, just housing, and clothing left. This you need to be diligent, put effort in, be determined to find it, and determined to learn. This is for the purpose of 1. To not be a burden on society, 2. To be able to help ourselves, and 3. We are able to help others. How good then is this?
So be diligent in our studies. We will be able to overcome the suffering in our hearts, and we can see that these days what makes us suffer is making comparisons. So we make our mind be at ease and relaxed. If that person has a bicycle and we have to walk, then we can think about it in a good way. We are able to exercise and it can make our body strong. If we see others working hard and we are also working hard, then this can also be exercise. And if we are doing it with mindfulness, then we will gain a lot value in doing it. Maybe our work does not require us to use our brain, but we use our physical labour, then we have mindfulness in doing our work. If we are sweeping and cleaning the house, mopping the floor, or we are a housewife, then we have mindfulness with it. We don’t need to use much thinking, so it’s equal to us doing bhavana, meditation. That is, if we have wisdom. But those who have wisdom, and need to use their mental capacity at work, they may get very exhausted, and aren’t able to do meditate like that.
But whatever our situation and circumstance, don’t compare yourself with others. But if you do compare, then you can compare in order to develop oneself to be higher and better. But don’t compare in a way that makes you feel bad, low, suffering, depressed, and miserable. Then this is not right. So may you exert effort and persevere. Be determined not to make comparisons. Be content with what you have. Develop yourself to have effort and competitiveness. Have determination in what you are doing, in your learning, and in your work. Then we will gain success in our life. We can be rich or super rich. So try to find your strong points. Find the skills inside yourself. What aspects are we strong in, what aspects are we skilled at? Then we are dedicated to learning in that field, working in that field, and we develop ourselves in that aspect, and then we will succeed easily. May you all set your hearts on this.