This Friday, we learn Dhamma about the condition of the world in this present day situation. As human beings, we live together in societies. There are the various societies that we are a part of, like living together in families, in villages, in communities, in suburbs, in districts, in regions, or in countries, or at the workplace, or being a Sangha of monks living together in a monastery. And in all these societies there is the likelihood of having conflicts and clashes with each other. Like if we have to drive our car, go out to buy things, go to get medical treatment, need to get vaccinated, or have duties that we have to travel to fulfil, there may be troubles, or conflicts that come up during travelling, while driving, or in going about one’s livelihood. Or at the workplace there will be competitiveness from others as normal. But when we people have a feeling of ‘I’ and ‘me’, we separate between ‘me’ and ‘them’, and we only seek benefit for ourselves more than benefit for others, then this is lacking metta–loving-kindness, and karuna–compassion. Then there will be harm to each other, because of only thinking of oneself and not thinking of others. So one will lack metta and karuna. In doing all types of activities and work, if there is no harmony, then the results that arise won’t be complete and fulfilled. So instead of all the work and activities succeeding well, and because of a lack of harmony with each other and selfishness, then when working together there will be obstacles coming up. They won’t be able to gain success and good results in that work or activity, if every person does not self-sacrifice.

But if every person self-sacrifices, and hopes for that work to go well, through doing it without getting tired, having true sacrifice, and with the purpose to be of benefit to oneself, benefit to the company, and a benefit to humanity, and having the expectation that our financial return may not be high. Like in the present day examples of those who have sacrificed and invented and produced the vaccines to fight against Covid-19 virus. If we people have sacrifice and expectations like this, then living together in this world will have meaning and happiness.

Our world is livable together because of metta and karuna. But if there is no metta and karuna anymore, the world will come ablaze, and we will be unable to live together. This is because of not having Dhamma, which are just these qualities of metta and karuna. So metta and karuna are dhammas that support the world. They support the family and they support the work and activities in the company to go well.

So we can take a look at this harmony. If it is a large species of animal, like elephants that we know, we can see the harmony of the elephants who stay together as packs. They have harmony and sharing. And we can see this clearly. But have we seen the tiny living beings who have the heart of an elephant? How is this so? These small living beings I’m talking about, can’t be anything else, except for being ants. Tiny ants, but with the heart of an elephant. The heart of an elephant means having self-sacrifice, having harmony, and being determined to do their work with quality. These ants will think towards the hot season, and work all through the cold season. They will think towards the cold season, when working all through the hot season. The ants don’t ever give up their effort and diligence, even though they are just small insects. And it is amazing as well, this one thing. Just one drop of water on a leaf and there are 16 ants. They split up into 4 groups, 4 ants to a group , and each take a side and drink the water. They don’t let this drop of water fall to the ground. This is the intelligence of the ants. This is cooperation.

This is not competing with each other and being in harmony. Then each of them can drink the water droplet. All of them. This is a good lesson that teaches our hearts about harmony well. Even though they are just tiny ants, but each of their hearts has self-sacrifice. They know they are small, and if they dispute over it, the water may fall down and no one will get the water. But if everyone sacrifices, each of them have metta to each other, then everyone will be able to drink the water, in the times they have suffering like this.

Like in the present day society, in each country we can see they are lacking in everything. There is a lack of basic necessities, lack of food, lack of medicines to treat diseases. And the most important medicines are the present day medicines to treat the Covid-19 virus. There is lack of medicines to treat, or the vaccines that are injected. When each person disputes, each person does things for themselves, each person is selfish, then it is very chaotic. Here they can’t beat an ant. The heart of a person, of a human being, must be higher than an ant by millions of times. That is if they have virtue and goodness. But if they have no virtue and goodness, they are selfish, disputing, fighting, then they can’t beat the heart of a tiny ant. And the heart of a little ant has self-sacrifice, has true harmony, following rules. 

So it is important that when gathering together and living together, everyone needs to help by striving to do duties that need to be done and fulfil them. Being a monk in a monastery, everyone there is like an abbot. It is not just one abbot. If anyone sees something not good, that hasn’t been done right, say, if the hall is not clean, or they see somewhere in the uposatha hall that is not clean, they can go tell the abbot, or if they clean it themselves, it’s good. If there is work or an activity to do then everyone gathers to help and give their strength of body and mind. For the chanting pujas, then everyone gathers to chant, because it’s the time to chant. When it’s the time for work/activities, to sweep leaves, to pick up leaves, then gather together. Then whatever activity it is, it will succeed. This is like when we have heard before, that everything has been completed successfully with harmony. 

So we can learn various fundamentals through programmes such as learning through being boy scouts or girl scouts. Or when gathering together in groups, then train to have harmony with each other. Even if it is in the various fields of the army, they need to have harmony in the activity they are doing so they will succeed in it. 

So we all have a good brain, that is higher than all other animals, and higher than ants. So we should take the ants as an example. We can take them as our teacher, in order to train our minds to have diligence and striving, to have sacrifice, and to have unity and harmony with each other. Because if there is no unity and harmony, and there is selfishness, then it will be difficult and troublesome to be with one another.

And I have a story to share with you, from a teaching that Ven. Ajahn Chah had given before. He said that before there were 7-8 monks in Wat Nong Pah Pong. And there were about 7 portions of food received, and each monk took a portion, but some took more than one portion. So when the food got to the novice at the end of the line, there were no more of those food portions. The novice didn’t get any. The novice felt wronged. Why did the monks lack metta and karuna? Usually the novice would have a mind of self-sacrifice and respect to the senior monks.

After he would finish eating, he would take the senior monk’s bowl to wash and wipe the bowls cleanly as a regular duty. But when some of the monks lacked metta, the novice refused to wash the monks’ bowls anymore. Ven. Ajahn Chah noticed something out of the ordinary. Why were the monks and novices not doing the monastic duties and practices? He noticed and saw it was because some of the monks were selfish. Because they had taken too much food. They didn’t share it so that it would reach the novice. So Ajahn Chah taught them by having all the food offered to the novice first. They had the novice take the food first. But it so happened that the novice and the monks did not dare to take the food first, and offered all the food to Ajahn Chah. And Ajahn Chah ate it himself. He did this for about 3 days, which was a teaching. So that they could realise that these things arise because of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, so why do you all not sacrifice and share it? The lay people have taken food to give us. They have sacrificed it away already. If you do not self-sacrifice, then your hearts have fallen lower than the laypeople. The lay people at least have sacrificed. So if we lack harmony, then working as a team and gathering together will inevitably have problems, because there is a lack of sacrifice and sharing. 

So this is the Dhamma in regards to helping each other out in times of difficulty and suffering like this. Of having metta and karuna, and helping out with one’s body, with one’s speech, or one’s heart. This is using one’s mindfulness and wisdom one has to help others. Then society will be able to continue on. Whatever we have, we share. Especially these days, we have to share medicine and share food. Those who have a lot, share to those who have little. 

And we can take the ants as an example, which is amazing, that the 16 ants can separate into 4 groups to drink the water so that one drop of water doesn’t fall down. So take this to see that if we can share, then we can live in this world with happiness, with metta and karuna to each other. So may you be determined that in this life, with this crisis of the economy and the pandemic, that it is a good opportunity for us to train the mind. So we have sacrificed what we have for the society around us. And this may lead us to gain a feeling of inner satisfaction in our hearts. We may have inner joy and fulfilment coming up, that at this one time in our lives when people are in difficulties, we have helped. Some have difficulty with breathing, lacking oxygen, so if we have then we share. Some people lack food, so we share with them. We help to look for a hospital bed or help to find a hospital for them, according to our ability. We strive to help, not just staying still, which is lacking metta. Having upekkha–equanimity without doing anything, when other worldly beings are in suffering, this is equal to us lacking metta and karuna. So may you try to help during this time, by taking the ants as our teacher. Ants that have harmony, have sharing, have diligence and effort, and helping each other out. 

Striving to help and doing wholesome activities that help others is a great merit. We recollect it again and it is merit. Having done goodness, then whenever we recollect it, it is merit and goodness. So here, we have to practise goodness first, do it regularly, and then it will be a merit that supports us and looks after our hearts, and which will also look after our world to live with happiness. May you all set your hearts on this, and may you all grow in the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha.