Ven Aggacitta answers two questions from devotees before he continues with the blessings from the Mangala Sutta.
Question 1: I would like to do voluntary work for SBS but my family members are not supportive and think that I should do so only if I have free time to spare. If I do not go along with them they will think that I am a fanatic and have a negative attitude towards Buddhism. What should I do in such a situation?
Your first obligation is to your family. You should not use all your spare time to do voluntary work.
Question 2: It’s not easy to convince children, especially teenagers, to have faith. How do I influence children to have an open mind to learn the Buddha Dhamma?
Parents must understand that teenagers are going through a phase when they are experiencing many changes. They have a tendency to argue with and go against their parents. Thus it is not wise to force them to go to the temple as they will rebel. I remember I once had a classmate whose mother made him take piano lessons. Although he is musically inclined by nature, he developed a phobia for the piano because of the enforced lessons. Parents could try other indirect means such as
Ask his peers to influence him
Have Buddhist materials lying around the house for him to pick up and go through of his own free will
Use incentives as in the story I told a few weeks back of the boy whose father gave him money to get him to go to the monastery. Finally, the boy went to the monastery, got enlightened after listening to a Dhamma talk, and refused the money.
Ven Aggacitta continues with the next blessing of the Mangala Sutta.
The next blessing is to live one’s material and spiritual life with appamada, which is sometimes translated as ‘diligence’ or ‘heedfulness’, but which in essence means ‘ever-present mindfulness’. In the Dhammapada, in the first line of the first stanza in the section on appamada, we are told “Appamada is the path to deathlessness”. This is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings.
Appamada should also be very familiar to everyone because I say, “Appamadena sampadetha,” after every time you’ve taken the five precepts. Sampadetha means ‘fulfil’. So, appamadena sampadetha means ‘fulfil (your observance of the precepts) with appamada.
There is a story about King Asoka concerning this. One day he saw a samanera walking past his palace. King Asoka was very impressed with his composed deportment and invited him in. On being asked to take a suitable seat for himself, the samanera sat on the king’s throne. A samanera being considered more highly attained than even a king, he naturally took the highest seat in the room. Amazed at his confidence, the King asked him to tell him about Buddhism.
The samanera just recited the first line of the verse from the Dhammapada: “Appamada is the path to deathlessness” and the King immediately understood.
According to Thebyaykan Sayadaw Ashin Vasettha, there are four aspects of appamada:
In any act, if one does not have interest, one will not be motivated to act. If one is interested, but lazy, one will not act. If one is interested and diligent but does not possess the necessary skill, then one is not able to act effectively. Intelligence, initiative and creativity should also be considered significant facets of competence. Even if one possesses all these three qualities but does not have good memory, one forgets to act. Take for example, the act of meditating. If one lacks the fourth aspect of appamada, one forgets to watch the object and daydreams instead.
Let us look at the application of appamada in daily life.
<Education. A person must be interested, diligent, and competent and have a good memory to be successful in getting a good education.
Health. A person needs to apply all the four factors for good health. In the rural areas of Myanmar, for example, the people do not have the knowledge to apply the basic practices of hygiene because they have not been taught so. Thus, for example, they serve food with grimy fingernails. This also applies to addressing specific health problems in oneself. When a person is sick, he needs to be careful of his diet and to remember to take his medicine.
Business. A person who does not apply appamada will not succeed in his business.
Spiritual practice. As mentioned just now, we cannot meditate without appamada.
According to the Commentaries, the Buddha would remind his disciples of appamada daily after he had washed his feet on returning from pindapata, saying, “Appamadena sampadetha (Fulfil [the threefold training of sila, samadhi and pañña] with appamada).”
King Pasenadi of Kosala once asked the Buddha thus: “Is there anything that can bring benefit in this life as well as in the hereafter?”
Lord Buddha answered: “Yes, appamada can benefit you now and hereafter. Just as the footprints of all animals can fit into the elephant’s footprint, so also appamada is beneficial now and hereafter.”
With so much praise given to appamada, it is certainly a great blessing to have it.