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 about a Dhamma topic which is a teaching of the Buddha. The Lord Buddha, he was one imbued with boundless kindness and compassion. Here the Buddha was the Supreme Teacher in this world, with no1 greater than him. Being like this, the Buddha had the course of thought of whom he should respect? Because ‘It is painful to dwell without reverence and deference. The Buddha thought of what ascetic or brahmin can I honor, respect, and dwell in dependence on?’ Then it occurred to the Buddha, ‘If my sila, virtuous behavior, were incomplete, for the sake of completing it I would honor, respect, and dwell in dependence on another ascetic or brahmin. However, in this world with its devas, Māra, and Brahmā, (among this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its devas and humans,) I do not see another ascetic or brahmin more accomplished in sila than myself whom I could honor, respect, and dwell in dependence on.
The Buddha thought, if my (aggregate of) samadhi, concentration were incomplete, for the sake of completing it I would honor, respect, and dwell in dependence on another ascetic or brahmin.
For the sake of completing my (aggregate of ) wisdom, if it was incomplete.
For the sake of completing my (aggregate of) liberation, if it were incomplete.
And for the sake of completing my Perfect Insight of Liberation (vimutti nyana dassana), if it were incomplete,
But the Buddha contemplated this and did not see another ascetic or brahmin more accomplished in samadhi, accomplished in wisdom, accomplished in liberation, accomplished in Perfect Insight of Liberation (nyana dassana), more than the Buddha, in this world with its devas, Māra, and Brahmā, among this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its devas and humans, there was not another that he could honor, respect in regards to samadhi, wisdom and liberation.
So the Buddha contemplated on how the Buddhas in the past were in this regard. And it occurred to the Buddha that the past Buddhas respected and honored the Dhamma. So the Buddha respected and honored the Dhamma to which he had become fully enlightened to.
We can see that even the Buddha, who was the highest, the Supreme Teacher, was complete in all ways and qualities, but his mind still inclined to have homage and respect. But he could not find anyone whom he could respect, in regards to sila, in samadhi , in wisdom, in liberation, among the human, deva, Brahma worlds, from all the Maras and Brahmas. He could not find any individual. So the Buddha respected and honored the Dhamma. And the past Buddhas after becoming Enlightened, respected and honored the Dhamma. And the future Buddhas who will attain Enlightenment, will respect and honor the Dhamma.
And there is one story in regards to respecting the Dhamma, which makes this subject clear.
There was on one occasion in the late afternoon, when the Buddha came out of retreat and went to the assembly hall. He stood outside the door waiting for the Dhamma talk to end. The story was that Ven. Nandaka Thera, who was one of the 80 great disciples of the Buddha, was giving a Dhamma talk to the monks inside the assembly hall. The Buddha went there with Ven. Ananda, and stood and listened outside the door. He listened to the Dhamma for about 4 hours for the first watch of the night. Then, Ven. Ananda notified the Buddha that it was past the first watch of the night already, but the Buddha stood and continued to listen to the Dhamma. And then another 4 hours went by, passing the middle watch of the night. Then, Ven. Ananda notified the Buddha that it was past the middle watch of the night. And the Buddha continued to listen to the Dhamma. Until morning, passing the last watch of the night, the Buddha stood and continued to listen. The Buddha had stood and listened to Dhamma for 12 hours.
Being the Samma Sambuddha, the Rightly Self-Awakened Buddha, he had no need to listen to the Dhamma. The Buddha himself had attained to the Dhamma, and taught the Sangha of monks till they attained to arahantship. But out of respect for the Dhamma, he stood in front of the door of the hall in Jetavana Monastery.
Here, after the Dhamma talk was finished, the Buddha knocked on the door. The monks opened the door, and were all surprised. Ven. Nandaka was also surprised. He thought how long had the Buddha been standing there listening to the Dhamma talk.
Then the Buddha, knowing that Nandaka was embarrassed, praised him, “Good, good, Nandaka! It is appropriate for ones like you, who have gone forth in faith from the lay life to homelessness, to meet together, discussing and teaching Dhamma. It is good and appropriate to behave like this. The Buddha taught that, When you’re sitting together you should do one of two things: discuss the teachings or keep noble silence the way of a samana, (Dhamma of Ariya puggala).
The Buddha said, monks, you have listened to the Dhamma at the appropriate time, expounded the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, in regards to sila, expounded the Dhamma that is good in the middle, in regards to samadhi, and expounded the Dhamma that is good in the end, in regards to wisdom and liberation. By expounding the Dhamma like this to the monks, they will become liked and approved by the Supreme Teacher. Ven. Nandaka received approval and praise from the Buddha. By listening to various Dhamma teachings, monks will have inspiration in the Dhamma and this will have many benefits.
In summary, there are five benefits to this.
(of listening to the teachings at the right time and discussing the teachings at the right time. What five?)
A monk (bhikkhu) teaches the monks the Dhamma, and they become liked and approved by the Supreme Teacher.
A monk teaches the monks the Dhamma, and they will feel inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma.
A monk teaches the monks the Dhamma, and they see the deeper meaning of that Dhamma with wisdom.
A monk teaches the monks the Dhamma , and their spiritual companions regard them more highly, thinking, ‘For sure this venerable has attained or will attain.’
A monk teaches the monks the Dhamma, and there may be monks in training present, that have not yet attained to Arahantship, and they rouse energy for its attainment. And the Arahants present on hearing that teaching, it lets them live happily in the present.
So Teaching Dhamma has many benefits. Because the Buddha said that those who take this Dhamma to practice with, will gain much benefit.
And Dhamma has 2 aspects – the dhamma that is meritorious, and the dhamma that is demeritorious. Those who practice the dhamma that is demeritorious, will lead that person to the lower realms – the hell, ghost, asura, and animal realms – that have suffering and misery. Cycling through birth and death.
But it’s the cycling of birth and death in the lower realms than humans. They lose the chance to see and know the Dhamma. And to rise beyond the hell, ghost, asura, and animal realms is difficult. But those who practice Dhamma, and have merit, like through dana, sila, bhavana, they like to learn Dhamma, like to discuss the Dhamma, and recite the Dhamma (สาธยายธรรม). They chant and meditate, chanting the praises of the virtues of the Buddha Dhamma Sangha. If we praise the virtues of the Dhamma, we chant Svakkhato Bhagavata Dhammo, Sanditiko, Akaliko, Ehipassiko, opanyiko, paccatam vedittabho vinnuhi, – and we should already understand its meaning of this, that the Dhamma is well expounded by the Buddha. We contemplate it and the mind can become peaceful.
But we could reflect on what topics did the Buddha expound well? Then we learn and practice following it. The dhamma of the demeritorious side, we don’t do it, we give it up in terms of body, speech and mind. The dhamma that is kusala, goodness, goes to brightness, and we practice it in terms of body, speech and mind. And it has many benefits, as we know.
Like in Thailand, there are many people who drive carelessly. And there was this one woman who saw that her driver was driving too fast, and that danger was coming to her soon. So she chanted. And the vehicle had a big accident, but she had the mindfulness to knock on the window to call out for help. Later, she retold that she was able to escape, because of her chanting. From Reciting auspicious verses (sataya mon). So she had mindfulness. And the Dhamma protects those who practice the Dhamma. So that they could be safe from dangers. (9:46)
And there was one monk from Wat Marp Jan, who started a new monastery in 1985. During that time, the monastery water supply came from rainwater stored from the roof. When it was coming to the rainy season, there were many leaves on the roof. So the monk needed to go up onto the roof of the kuti, dwelling, to clean the leaves off it, so that the rainwater could be used as it was difficult to come by. But the roof was slippery with water and when he stepped on it, he slipped and fell down. He was going down head first to the ground but his foot got caught on the roof tiles. So he didn’t fall down yet. It was like there were 2 motions, where his foot got caught, and then a moment, before he fell down. And so he had time to stretch his arms out to land properly. And he ended up safe and in no danger. The monk said later that when he was climbing up to the roof he was chanting the Patimokkha – yo pana bhikkhu bhikkhunam sikkhasaajiva sama panno. He was chanting the Patimokkha. The Dhamma protects those who practice the Dhamma. He was supposed to fall, but he didn’t fall. It was amazing. The devas likely looked after him to keep him safe.
And there is another story of one layperson who went to see a Doctor and was told that she was going to die, her life would end soon. So she went to keep sila and practice in Wat Marp Jan. She was sitting meditation in her kuti. And on that day, while she was sitting, there was a big storm. The winds were very strong. And one big tree came down. Its circumference was about 2 armspans (เท่ากับทั้งสองคนโอบ). The tree broke and came down onto the kuti, but there was a small tree which broke the fall of the big tree. It made the big tree shift its axis and instead of falling onto the kuti, it fell onto the stairs instead. When I saw after what had happened, it was certain that if the big tree fell onto the kuti, this person inside it would have died for sure. And this laywoman who was sitting inside, said she saw that it was like there was a person with a curved body catching the tree. And so she could be safe, by practicing the Dhamma, or by building goodness – in dana, sila, and bhavana.
So those who practice Dhamma will be protected by the Dhamma – not fall to suffering and misery. They are able to be safe, because the Dhamma protects them. And there are many more examples like this.
So we have come to practice Dhamma regularly. We chant praises of the virtues of the Buddha. We give homage to the Dhamma. We chant and listen to Dhamma, discuss Dhamma, we ask questions on Dhamma, and so we gain clarity in the Dhamma. Our minds are more joyous and radiant. And at the time we are listening to Dhamma, we may know the Dhamma more, bit by bit . Until we understand more clearly into dana, sila, and bhavana. Giving respect to the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, this is our highest blessing. So may you be determined to practice and train in Dhamma. Doing group chanting pujas, meditating by developing a meditation object, chanting, doing bhavana, and discussing Dhamma. This shows then that our life being born here we have much merit and goodness. May you all grow and prosper in the Dhamma.