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. This Friday we will learn about the 38 blessings of one’s life. And the highest of these 38 blessings is making Nibbana be clearly visible, leading to the goal of the Budda’s teachings in this Dispensation. It is taking the mind to the highest point, developing the mind to the highest. Because it is leading to the goal at the end of the path for the mind. We could compare it to setting a goal of leading one’s life having the highest happiness.
But it’s not that everyone within this one life will be able to develop towards this highest goal of the teachings of the Buddha, which is Nibbana. But we can have this determination, having this as our highest determination, with it being our goal. Because if we have no goal in leading our life, then we may go about our life in the wrong direction. And going the wrong way, we get badly lost. But setting goals will differ for people of different ages or stages in their lives. And the method we use to head in the direction to that goal, we need to try to maintain it so that it is kept within siladhamma, morality and goodness. Some people have a high goal in their lives — they want to succeed in studying to the highest level, be the richest person, the most skilled person, the most excellent person — and this is not wrong. You are able to set a goal like this. But you need to see that after setting a goal like this, then we must be determined and try to get to that goal.
Like if we set the goal that we will learn to the highest and most expert level, then we must learn from those who learn and study well. We should associate with those knowledgeable people (pandita) with expertise; and have friends who have knowledge and skill, friends who are diligent and competitive, and they are determined to study sincerely. They aren’t taking us to go play around or go aimlessly here and there, to the extent that we forget our goal at this stage of our life. So as a child, we must be determined to gain knowledge, but it also must go together with goodness and virtue, or siladhamma. Because if we are just searching for knowledge, we have a lot of expertise, but we have no siladhamma, or goodness, then although we may have skill, we may be corrupt and harm others for our expertise or to gain wealth. There are many like this in society.
Beginning since childhood, a child must be instilled about virtue and goodness to go together with the goals in their life, in regards to education, knowledge of various subjects, and developing it to gain wisdom. So, the first aspect of the Buddha’s teachings on the blessings of one’s life, is asevana ca balanam. Not associating with fools, associating with the wise. (x2) So this is important. And Respect and Puja, homage, those worthy of puja. So being a young student, we respect our teachers, we respect the Sangha members, who give us teachings for us to learn. And these teachers give us knowledge, and so we respect them, and we are determined to learn and study in these various subjects. We take all of it in and are diligent in it. It’s like we are giving motivation to the teacher who is teaching us as well. So, this is having a good goal. And we are determined to do it.
And when we get older and we have finished our studies, then we have higher goals in regards to doing duties and work, in finding wealth, together with honesty and goodness. And we can’t be lazy. Whether in worldly gain or in Dhamma practice: it must be found through diligence, having patience, having truthfulness, being responsible to all our various duties, and doing them all with mindfulness, in order to get to the goal.
So we may have already invested our time and ability in ways that we have gained enough experience and can support our life well, or do business well. Yet, if we are just aiming for only one aspect, like we only want to be rich, then maybe our family may lack warmth, our health may be bad, or the relationships with the people around us may be lacking. So being only wealthy will not bring us happiness. But being someone with a good mind, being someone who helps in society, one who knows contentment (right amount), this will make the family have happiness.
So the Buddha taught about sharing to the different directions, like looking after one’s wife and looking after one’s children to have happiness. This is also a blessing of one’s life. And when we are complete with learning, various knowledges, and in our work, then we develop our minds to be higher, step by step. Like, if we are interested to build goodness and to develop our minds higher, then we practice Dhamma and bhavana, meditate. There may be someone who chants the virtues of the Buddha, in the verse “Itipiso” just once a day. Here, the motivation to chant and practice samadhi, concentration, and develop mindfulness is small. But they are still someone with faith and confidence in the Buddha Dhamma Sangha, and they have belief in goodness, and they help with work of all types, and help in society very well.
Yet when it gets to the aspect of Dhamma practice and meditation,their motivation to do it is lower. They may think they are unable to do it, or it may not have come to the right time yet. But if we associate with good friends, these friends who are wise will advise us to come back and use one’s time, like when in the kitchen or the times we are doing work but aren’t using our thinking, and try to develop our mindfulness to be better. And then we set the goal that we are determined to build mindfulness, and make our samadhi be firm, during the day, or while we are working. And while we are standing, walking, sitting, lying down, drinking, doing things, speaking, thinking, then we try to have mindfulness. We try to remember/ and be aware and dwell within the 4 foundations (bases) – the body, feelings, mind, and mind-objects. When we are determined to train like this and we do it, then we have a goal. We are fully dedicated in this (tum tee). We have effort and determination.
Like chanting the verse, Itipiso Bhagava Araham Samma Sambuddho.. until Buddho Bhagavati. This is Buddhanusati kammatana, the meditation on recollecting the Buddha. Buddhanusati kammatana is for someone who has faith. And the people here are mostly those who have faith. So we can recollect one of the virtues of the Lord Buddha, or we chant in homage to the virtues of the Buddha, that are contained within the verse, Itipiso Bhagava. And we are diligent to chant it. Because we have faith and confidence, and we have the highest respect for the Buddha. We will recollect the Buddha by the repeating the meditation verse, Itipiso Bhagava Araham Samma Sambuddho till Buddho Bhagavati.
In the beginning, we may only be able to do this 1 time a day. But later on if we have good determination and we have good friends who take us to chant together, we may be able to chant it 9 times in one day. How? Because we find the time to do it. Because we have the determination to do it. We strive to do it. And later we can do 108 times. Then maybe 3 cycles of 108 times, or even 5 cycles. Or those with more faith may do 10 cycles of it. This is going over and memorising the chants and is a method for our mindfulness to be with the chanting. And when our mindfulness is with chanting like this, then our mind can be peaceful. But just do it with determination. Don’t do it in a way that one gets stressed and overly anxious, and ending up being worried and agitated. Do it along with the peacefulness of the mind, with a mind that has joy and rapture. So we set our goal like this.
For those that come to learn Dhamma: the young students or adults , we will likely have our own personal goals. Being of a young age, then set a goal in regards to learning, together with virtue and goodness. And with a mind that has self-sacrifice to help others, and be someone who is humble and respectful to those teachers that teach us and give us knowledge. And for those that are older, who are working and can support themselves, who have had effort and studied successfully already, have had diligence in their work, and maybe have their own family already, then you should practice bhavana to a higher level. This will develop your mind, according to what the Buddha taught, that one should cultivate goodness to its completion. This is training the mind to have peacefulness, which is the highest merit.
So may we have the goal that from this point onwards, we will be committed (tumtee) at the right level. We are not overly committed (tumtee). Being overly committed may lead to problems with one’s health. Being overly committed (tumtee) to playing sport, commitment to playing too much, committed to too much work, and results will arise according to our commitment. Like being fully committed to great learning, that although one may learn well, but may lose their health in the process. Or commitment to too much work, may lead to stress, and maybe even severe sickness arises in our body. Yet someone may also just do a little, just a small amount, and say that they are committed to do it but are worried they will get sick or stressed. So they step away from it, so that they are more at ease. This is called a practice that is comfortable and easy, like learning comfortably, working comfortably. This may lead to slow results.
But there are some people who practice in a difficult way for them. They are determined to study, they are not discouraged in their work, and then they can succeed and get good results. This is up to the vassana parami, spiritual merit and development of each person. Like in Dhamma practice and meditation. Everyone wants to have peace, everyone wants to have purity of mind and be liberated, and no-one wants suffering. But when we still have the causes of suffering, then suffering will still arise. So we then have to do it, bit by bit.
We know our highest goal is Nibbana which is the supreme happiness. But we must walk, step by step. Like stairs that must be climbed step by step. We try to let go of the feeling of selfishness. The feeling of selfishness , this feeling of me and mine, can be let go of with the development of mindfulness. This progresses from the start from building goodness with the giving of dana, to keeping sila, the precepts, and to meditation. We walk the path of sila samadhi panya, morality, concentration and wisdom, and we keep doing this continually. We have mindfulness, we have the foundations for it (of mindfulness). For the foundation of the body, we watch the in and out breath. We contemplate the body as breaking apart into the 4 natural elements, decaying, and then we can let go of our sense of self, bit by bit, bit by bit. Until our sila samadhi panya gathers together. The mind is bright and radiant, and we can understand clearly and profoundly into Dhamma, that all things are impermanent, all things are anatta, not self. The Buddha is within everything. And when it’s like this, then we will attain goodness, and noble virtue can arise.
So may you all, the students, those that have finished studying and are working, and those that have got everything already, come to train the mind. And even if one doesn’t have everything yet, this mind can still be trained. Because happiness and suffering arise in the mind constantly.
So may you try to train and instruct the mind following the teachings of the Buddha, and following the practices of the Arahant monks who have attained and are our inspiration. We may have a particular Arahant monk within our heart, whether from the Buddha’s time, or Ven. Ajahn Mun, or Ven. Ajahn Chah – and so we try to follow their teachings and try to understand and be clear about them. Then our mind will be able to let go , bit by bit, step by step.
And if we aren’t able to yet, then may we have the virtue of khanti dhamma, Patient Endurance. And the Dhamma of Samadhi to restrain the mental defilements in the mind. And developing it to the Dhamma of wisdom. Which may arise from time to time. So may you be determined, be patient, have effort in practicing Dhamma and meditation. And be committed. May you succeed in the world and in the Dhamma. May you all be ones having effort, having diligence and determination, and having a goal. May you succeed in your aspirations that you are undertaking. May you grow in blessings.