Mangala Sutta: Imperturbability When Encountering the Eight Worldly Dhammas

Venue: TIMS

We’ve been talking on the Mangala Sutta for a few months now and today we have come to the second-last verse of this sutta. If a person meets with any of the Eight Worldly Dhammas and his mind remains unperturbed, unsorrowful, untainted and peaceful, then that is a high blessing.

What are the Eight Worldly Dhammas?

They are:

  • Gain and Loss


  • Fame and Infamy


  • Condemnation and Praise


  • Happiness and Sorrow

How are they worldly Dhammas?

They are worldly because everyone will meet with them – whether you are a monk or a layman, whether you are rich or poor.

If a person has trained his mind to a level of achievement whereby he can maintain equanimity of mind in the face of these worldly Dhammas, it is a high blessing.

Acquiring of things through the generosity of people who want to make merits is a form of gain for a monk — one of the eight worldly Dhammas.

People believe that if you give dana to a monk your returns will be manifold. Some may even hope to strike it rich in gambling. It is because of this belief that people give freely to monks. Consequently there are those who take advantage of this and, dressed as monks (whether or not they are genuine), they stand in market places and offer amulets and good luck charms in return for money from people who give indiscriminately. Every Sunday the monastics of SBS also go to the market places in and around Taiping in order to educate people on the correct way of pindacara. Our kappiyas (lay attendants) accompany us to advise people to offer food instead of money.

The Buddha’s experience

On our pindacara, we receive much more than we need. We do not take all these things up to SBS. We take whatever we need and the remainder will be donated to those who are lacking in such things.As all of you know, the Buddha is a very highly attained person, respected by humans and devas. If the Buddha were to be around today, he would also find it difficult, as he would receive so much that he wouldn’t know what to do with all that he is given.

However, there were times when the Buddha encountered the experience of not getting what he needed, which can be considered a form of loss, which is the opposite of gain. Once during vassa, he was near a place called Veranja where there was famine because of a drought. On their alms rounds, they did not get anything nutritious to eat. They got only meal meant for horses. Since monks were not allowed to cook, they just ground up the meal and mixed it with ghee. That was their diet for three months. Ven Moggallana asked the Buddha’s permission to use his psychic power to go into the ground to get oja, a form of nutriment. The Buddha refused, saying that if they meet with such circumstances they should exercise forbearance.

Most times the Buddha was never short of requisites, but even when he did meet with adverse circumstances, he was not perturbed.

Others’ experiences

There was an incident in Myanmar regarding a forest monk by the name of Pongyi U Thila. He practised metta meditation and walked from village to village on his alms rounds. In Myanmar at that time, many monks did not meditate, but preferred to study and perform rites and rituals for lay people. Being jealous of this meditating monk, they warned their supporters not to give food to this forest monk or else they would be fined. Consequently, Pongyi U Thila could not get any food to eat. He went to a farm, sat beside a stream and drank the water. On seeing this, the farm owner’s wife was afraid that if she allowed the monk to die of hunger, she would surely go to hell. So she risked being fined and gave food to the monk. On seeing this, the neighbours also followed suit and soon the monk’s bowl was overflowing.

Thus, loss and gain are two of the eight worldly Dhammas that can happen to anyone. Pongyi U Thila, when he was faced with this, remained unperturbed. Nor did he blame anyone. The moral of this story is that Pongyi U Thila was not affected by gain and loss or fame and infamy.

There is another story of a Zen monk staying alone in a temple near a village in Japan. The daughter of a shopkeeper in the village although unmarried, became pregnant. When pressured by her parents to identify the father of the unborn child, she named the monk living alone in the temple. When accused by the girl’s parents, he neither admitted nor denied the accusation, but just answered, “Is that so?” As a result, his reputation was tarnished and he lost most of his supporters. Later, after the baby was born, the grandparents brought the baby to him and said, “This is your baby. Take care of him.” Unruffled, the Zen monk said, “Is that so?”and accepted the baby and looked after it. After some time, the mother of the child could no longer bear the injustice and confessed to her parents that the baby’s real father was not the monk, but the village fishmonger’s son. Quickly, the girl’s parents went up to the monk, apologised profusely and asked for the baby back. The monk said, “Is that so?” and calmly handed the baby back to them. If this were to happen to you, can you be like the monk?

Equanimity in the face of the worldly Dhammas

Thus if you can train your mind to such a level that even when you meet with these worldly Dhammas, you can preserve your equanimity, then that is a high blessing. Whether you meet with favourable or adverse conditions, you can maintain your equanimity if you meditate and learn to watch your mind.

So in TIMS, a meditation society, you meditate and should learn to watch your mind so that when you meet with the eight worldly Dhammas, you can note your mind and remain calm.

I hope all of you can have the wisdom to attain this blessing.

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