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. Every person having been born, at every stage of life, whether in childhood, of studying age, middle age, the age of working and supporting one’s own life, or towards the end of one’s life, will have problems arising. We are aware that every person in society – whether children, siblings, father, mother, or grandparents – they all must have problems coming up in their life. And when they have problems or have suffering arise, then each person will search for a way to overcome that suffering. And there are different methods to go about overcoming this suffering. The Buddha said that one who has the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha as their highest refuge, will have a permanent way to overcome suffering.
So we need to have the Buddha Dhamma Sangha as our refuge. And although it is true that the Buddha Dhamma Sangha has supreme, immense value, but if we don’t humble our heart (น้อมใจ) to find the Buddha, we don’t humble ourselves to find the Dhamma and Sangha, and we don’t take the ways of practice (korwat patipada) and teachings of the Buddha and take it and apply it, then we won’t be able to be freed from suffering. It’s like we are walking in the middle of the desert and it is hot. We are hungry and thirsty. If we wait for water to come to us to drink, then we may die first. But if we try to find water, and we do find it, then we can drink that water, we can bathe in it, and then we can overcome death. So in this way, we need to humble (noom jai) our hearts to find the Dhamma. It’s not that we bend the Dhamma to come to our hearts. Because the Dhamma is something high, so we need to humble (noom jai) our hearts to have the Dhamma as its highest refuge.
And those without Dhamma or without a refuge may lose the way. They may have been born with everything materially, complete in all ways, but if they don’t practice following the principles of Dhamma, then they will get lost and deluded in their wealth, and deluded in all the praise they get. They may lose their way and become addicted to gambling, indulging in entertainment, go out late at night, and they use their wealth carelessly. In the end, all the vast money they got is gone. And they become someone with difficulties (poor) again. At the end of their life, they aren’t able to overcome the misfortune (vikrit) in their life.
But some people are the opposite of this. They are born with hardships and difficulties of all sorts. They are poor in the basic requisites. They have little mindfulness and wisdom to learn and we could say that they are like the kid at the back of the class. They receive criticism and bullying because they don’t have mindfulness and wisdom. They aren’t able to learn different subjects, like science and maths well. And this is the cause that they aren’t interested in learning at all. This may have come about because the parents are wealthy and they spoil the child with whatever they desire. They give the money to their child and the money becomes their refuge. The child gets this money and gets pleasure. They use the money without restraint, carelessly. They aren’t interested in learning and studying. And in the end, they become someone without any knowledge or skills to have an occupation.
But when they fall to the lowest point, their merit and parami, the spiritual accumulations from the past, may push them to gain success. They may like a certain arts or craft (ศิลปะ), which is in their heart. And they can find a refuge to support them in their life. So when this is the case, they may end up being successful. From being the kid at the back of the class, who is criticised and bullied by their fellow students and friends, but after seeing the suffering, hardships and difficulties, they get motivation and determination. They see that they have been wasting away their time by not learning and studying, and that this was a cause that they fell lower, suffered and received criticism. When they see the fault in this, it becomes a motivation for their heart to find knowledge and skills. They look into it until they know what arts or craft they are interested in. And that one particular art or craft they are interested in, they are able to progress and improve their knowledge and skill in it. Like, they may have the interest to be a plumber, mechanic, painter, designer, sculptor, photographer, printer, or other various skills. Or they may be skilled in doing other occupations, like farming, gardening, growing plants, growing vegetables, or writing books, etc. Or they may have the craft of learning and doing acupuncture. Or some people who may have bad eyesight, they have problems with their eyes, they may have skill in massage and physiotherapy. And they are able to support their own life and family.
And this art and craft is not something that everybody can learn. It’s up to one’s spiritual accumulations. It’s up to one’s underlying character and past causes built up. But no matter how much knowledge they have learnt, they still have not gained any benefit yet from it. It needs to be put into practice first. And they need to be clever in practicing and doing it. This is called the true knowledge in that craft. They have intelligence in doing it. They have true knowledge and then they are able to support their livelihood. Like, some people have some craft, which is not considered difficult. Like knowing how to cook rice. They know how to put the rice in the pot, boil the rice, and they can make rice well and it tastes good. This is an art as well. Or cooking food, one has an art in cooking food. They are able to become a cook that gains a good reputation and becomes famous in the country or around the world. Like there was one man, who had learnt various subjects, but he didn’t have much knowledge or skill. He was never really interested in learning, and didn’t do it with his heart. But in the end, he became a young man who was determined. He opened up a restaurant and a bakery that made croissants. And it became a famous restaurant. The people who wanted to eat there would have to wait for weeks to get a reservation.
And for other people they may have some particular knowledge that is able to support their livelihood. They may have intelligence in (skill) speaking well, and this is an art too. And so there is intelligence by way of body, like in doing one’s work, and intelligence by way of speech, like intelligence in knowing what to say. Having the art of speaking. And one can have intelligence in their mind, like they have thoughts that are intelligent, clever, and have mindfulness and clear comprehension. They have skill in controlling their thoughts to go in a good way, and thoughts that are creative. They are able to raise the level of their mind.
In summary, an art or craft means knowing how to think, knowing how to speak, knowing how to do it, and progressing to being someone who is excellent.
Ven. Ajahn Chah said something in regards to this as well. He said that monks who stay together should be an expert in one certain thing. They should excel more than the other monks in the group in one particular thing. He gave the example that there was one monk, who wherever he went would go polish and clean the Buddha statue until it was beautiful. He always did this. Whichever monastery he would go to he would do this. It was his way of practice or custom. And he was the most excellent in this.
So we, the monks, novices, or students, try to learn and train in a subject of expertise. In your group, try to be the best at one particular thing. Then you will be accepted in that group you live in. A person who has an art and craft, and is able to be excellent at it, they must do it in a detailed, refined, and beautiful way. They make that thing that is there, grow in value. Whether it is a material thing, or food, it gains a higher value. And we need to have the determination to be creative with it. And that thing that we do, we should do it and we get inner peace, coolness, and happiness as well from doing it.
We do it and it is free from ill-will to others. We do it, and it doesn’t harm others. Like, there are some people who like to sculpt Buddha statues or other sacred statues. They may not have learnt it before at all , but their heart thinks they really like the art of sculpting. And when this thought comes up, they have the motivation to do it. This is something that is hidden within the heart coming up. It pushes the heart to have these feelings. It’s something that has been built up from the past. And when they do it, they want to do it with refinement and detail. They want to make it the most beautiful, so that this thing has great value. They are creative to make something very good. And when they do it, their heart has contentment and joy. There is ease in the mind arising. They have no ill will or wishing to harm others. The mind is so at ease, and content. They can work at it for a looong time. This is something that is hidden within the heart. But when it has been pushed out of the heart, they can do it with success, even if they had never done it before in the past. They are able to do it. (10:13) It may be those who have never cooked before, but when they have this feeling, they can develop themselves to be a cook that has great cooking skills.
So someone who has an art or craft needs to have certain inner qualities. They need to have faith (saddha). They need confidence in whatever they are doing. They believe that it is something truly good, and that it really has benefits. They have a heart that loves to do what they are doing. They are determined and firm to do it until they succeed. And they have good health, and good concentration (dtang man). But even if they don’t have very good health, but they are determined to do it well, their sickness can lessen and subside. And they can be one who doesn’t boast, who does not speak idly and gossips. But they can get themselves to listen to someone who is expertly skilled and can advise them. They can do it. And they are someone with diligence , with pride, with effort, with patience, and with the wisdom to contemplate and skillfully observe. They can succeed in having these qualities.
They try to train themselves to be someone who skillfully observes the important details around them. They are determined to do it to the best of their ability. They do not criticise things, and they are not lazy to work. They are determined to do it with refinement and detail. And they can succeed in it. They keep learning like this continuously. And in the end, they are someone who is excellent and the most skilled in this particular craft. They get the resulting benefits (anisong) that come from what they do. They are able to do something better than others, and they can support their own life and their families. They are one who notices details, and they have intelligence and cleverness, and, wealth and prosperity arises. They are fulfilled and become someone acknowledged within society. They will get good benefits in their heart .
So don’t judge people too easily. Some people may come from darkness. They have no knowledge or skills since childhood or middle age, but later they are able to improve to be someone good. And in the end they have a better occupation and they can progress to be someone who has knowledge and skill in one thing, one aspect, in a craft. They have higher knowledge. And they practice and bhavana, develop their mind, at the same time. And they can succeed.
So people born in the world may be different. Some people are experts at calculating, using their brain, they are experts at science, maths, or law. But some people like arts and academics. They learn and strive in it. But after they learn, they don’t just succeed in it immediately. Like, if we have planted a fruit-tree already, we have the trunk, have the flowers and leaves, we still have to wait for the fruits to grow and ripen. Those who learn arts are like this. After they have learnt it, they will take that art, and train and practice in it until they can have knowledge and skill in it, and become an expert in that art. This is someone who may have come from darkness but goes to light. They have virtue. They have knowledge in the world and in Dhamma. But some people may have knowledge since the beginning, and can use that knowledge together with virtue, until their heart goes to brightness as well. This is the person who is the best. Someone with merit and spiritual development. But there are also many who come from darkness and go to darkness. They aren’t interested in learning or working. And in the end, the inheritance that the parents gave is gone. Because they have no virtue to look after that wealth.
And practicing Dhamma is the same. In the beginning we may have known nothing at all. We just followed our moods, following causes and conditions. But once we know, we flip over. We change, we learn and find knowledge. The mind becomes concentrated, peaceful and at ease. It is cool and at ease. Like there was this one village elder named Nuu, from Geng Wai monastery. From when he was born till he was 60 years old, he did not really know anything about Dhamma. He just did it out of tradition. But after going to the monastery after it was built, his mind was at ease. He could stay in the monastery all day. He had a lot of satisfaction and contentment. He had a lot of happiness. And later, he got sick to the point where he wouldn’t survive, but his mind was peaceful and calm, and he practiced bhavana for around 6 months. His mind was happy and content. And in the end, he passed away. After he died, many people saw him sitting listening to the monks chanting, and sitting listening to the monks giving Dhamma talks. After he died, his son and wife saw him in a dream, telling them not to worry, that he had gone to a good destination already, and there was no need to worry about him. They saw he had a divine, crystal body. This was someone who was born from darkness and went to brightness. He had virtue.
So we here have a good opportunity to learn Dhamma. Like the students who come to learn Dhamma each Friday are considered to be very fortunate. So may you be determined in learning and study too. Have virtue, and practice Dhamma in unison with leading your life. Have patience, have effort , have determination , have siladhamma, practicing like this together with leading your life. And may you search and find knowledge, and see what you are an expert in. See what you like to do, and then go do that thing. Like this you will gain success in learning, in your occupation, and in practicing bhavana.
Like when we practice bhavana, if we are a faith character, then we use chanting, “Itipiso bhagava araham samma sambuddho” and we may use the translation as well so that we understand it clearly. And when the mind is peaceful, then we may just use one word, Buddho, the one who knows, the one who is awakened, the one who is radiant. And what did the Buddha know, awaken, and become radiant to? The Buddha knew, awakened, was radiant, because all things are impermanent, they are not a self, not me or other. So we humble our hearts to the Dhamma, we contemplate Dhamma , and we humble our hearts to go find the Buddha’s teachings. And then we will understand the Dhamma and our heart will be freed from suffering, step by step. May you all grow in Dhamma.