The Blessing of Respect

Venue: TIMS

Ven Kumara continues with the blessings in the Mangala Sutta.

The blessing I’m talking about today comprises only one part of the relevant stanza in the Mangala Sutta. It is the blessing of respect or garava.

What is respect?

One has respect when one does not look down on another and relates to others with politeness.

How is respect a blessing (mangala)?

Generally, people these days are having a lesser regard for respect. We see that children do not show as much respect for elders as before, and in so-called more advanced nations they show even much less. In Buddhism, however, respect is much praised and even regarded as a blessing.

Even the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, surveyed the world to try to find a teacher to revere. When he realised that there were no teachers who had surpassed his own attainments, then he proclaimed that he would live revering the Dhamma. The further one has gone along the path of the Dhamma, the more reverence one has for it, as well as for others who have practised it correctly.

In Culakammavibhanga Sutta (MN 135.15-16), we can find an explanation by the Buddha on why some people are born in low class (unrespectable, disreputable) families and some in high class ones. The Buddha said:

Some man or woman is

obsitinate and arrogant, and

does not

pay homage to one who should receive homage,

rise up for one in whose presence he should rise up,

offer a seat…,

make way…, and

honour, respect, revere and venerate one who should be honoured.…

When he/she dies, he/she reappears in a state of deprivation, in perdition, even in hell. But if he/she returns to the human state, wherever he/she is reborn, he/she is low born.

The Buddha continued to say that if a person does the opposite to the above, that is to say, one is not obstinate, not arrogant, and performs the above courtesies, one will be reborn in a heavenly realm. Or if one is reborn in the human realm, one will be highly born, i.e. born in a respected family.

Therefore, respect is a mangala (blessing).

Those worthy of respect are the Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas, the Buddha’s disciples, teachers, preceptors, parents, elder siblings, etc. They are to be respected by virtue of their wisdom, morality and age. One should also show respect for those at a higher position, such as one’s superiors at work. If you show proper respect to your boss, your good karma will ripen in the form of monetary rewards when you get a pay rise. School children should respect those vested with authority such as prefects, even if they may be younger.

Besides action, respect can also be shown through speech and through the mind. One can greet those whom one respects accordingly and have respectful regard for them.

In showing respect to those worthy of respect, whether by thoughts, speech or action, it is to be expected that one would earn corresponding good kamma, which would bear good results in this life and hereafter. Bearing that in mind, don’t you think respect is a blessing?

Even the devas spoke highly of respect. In one sutta, one deva was reported to have told the Buddha of seven things that can prevent a monk from regressing:

respect for the Teacher

respect for the Dhamma

respect for the Sangha

respect for training

respect for concentration (as in meditation)

respect for vigilance or heedfulness

respect for goodwill

In the next sutta, another deva also said the same with the exception of the last two, that is moral shame (hiri) and moral fear (ottappa). Buddha conveyed these words of the devas to the bhikkhus, and added that a bhikkhu with such qualities declines not and is close to Nibbana.

Furthermore, there’s a verse from the Dhammapada (109) which says:

For one who has the habit of paying homage,

who always respects elders,

four things increase:

life(span), beauty, happiness, strength.

So, it’s not hard to see that respect is a mangala, isn’t it?

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