Ven. Aggacitta continues with his sermon on the 38 blessings mentioned in the Mangala Sutta. Today he talks about 3 more blessings:
suitable dwellings, merits from past lives, and the ability to change oneself for the better.
The people of Taiping have the blessings of a suitable dwelling place. A suitable dwelling place, from a spiritual point of view, is one where the residents have the opportunity to take refuge in the Triple Gem, listen to the Dhamma, perform dana and meet with well-behaved monks. Besides SBS, there are many temples in Taiping which give people the opportunity to be so blessed. He noted that while many people from out-of-town came to visit SBS, many locals are not even aware of it.
From a materialistic point of view, a person may be blessed with material wealth, but may lack spiritual blessings. He cited the example of Asian communities in the West, which initially felt this spiritual lack. They eventually built monasteries in and around big cities and invited monks to stay there. This shows that people need group support, for even if one is spiritually inclined, one will regress in the Dhamma in the absence of a supportive spiritual environment.
The second blessing is having accumulated merits from past lives. A person having merits accumulated from the good deeds of past lives will be reborn under favourable conditions, such as being endowed with good looks and many opportunities in life. Such a one is reaping the fruits of his good deeds.
The third blessing is the ability to accept criticism and correct oneself. Reflecting on the Dhamma can give rise to such awareness as well. Through meditation too, one can identify and let go of defilements.
These 3 blessings are further illustrated in the Tamotama Sutta (AN IV.85), which speaks of 4 types of people:
Those who move from darkness to darkness
These people are born poor, ugly and dull. They are raised in families that are not spiritually inclined. Thus they have no opportunity to improve themselves materially or spiritually. In the absence of the three blessings mentioned above, they take rebirth in the lower worlds when they die.
Those who move from darkness to brightness
These people are born poor, ugly and dull. But they have the opportunity to live in a suitable environment conducive to material prosperity and spiritual growth. In a sense, this is a result of the merits from their good deeds done in the past (previous lives). They meet with virtuous people from whom they learn the Dhamma. Then they try to put the Dhamma into practice by refraining from doing unwholesome deeds and doing wholesome deeds. With these three blessings, they are reborn in favourable realms after their death.
Those who move from brightness to brightness
These people did a lot of good in past lives and are now reborn in wealthy families. They are good-looking, intelligent and are blessed with a suitable environment conducive to material prosperity and spiritual growth. Making good use of these blessings, they continue to improve themselves. These fortunate people are bound for favourable destinations after their death.
Those who move from brightness to darkness
These people are born in well-off homes and are good-looking and intelligent as a result of their past good kamma. They are then spoilt by their parents and do all sorts of unwholesome deeds, such as disregarding the five precepts and indulging in sensual enjoyment. Although they may have the time and opportunity to frequent religious centres, they are not interested. Lacking knowledge and the willingness to improve oneself spiritually, they squander away the first two blessings. The unwholesome actions of these materially rich but spiritually poor people will propel them to take rebirth in unfavourable destinations after their death.