We have come to the concluding verse of the Mangala Sutta, which goes like this:
Having performed such things as these,
Wherever they go,
they go undefeated and safe.
That is the highest blessing for them.
If you remember, the Mangala Sutta was expounded by the Buddha when asked by a deva what constituted the highest blessings. Let us have a brief review of the blessings we have talked about.
Not associating with the foolish; associating with the wise. These are the first two blessings. Foolish here refers to those who do not keep the precepts, regardless of whether they are aware of them.
Honour those worthy of honour. One should honour such people in various suitable ways.
Suitable dwelling place. It is important that the place where you stay can bring you into contact with good company. Where you now stay you are in contact with Buddhist friends. When you leave (such as to further your education or to work elsewhere), then you should choose your dwelling place wisely. If you are among good people, you will be more influenced to lead a good way of life. We are such that we tend to follow the ways of the people we are in constant contact with.
Having done good deeds. You may wonder why some people make a lot of money although they are cheats. This is because of the ripening of their past good deeds. So, don’t get jealous. Make merits.
Keeping oneself in the proper way. The important thing here is to know what is correct for us to do; knowing we are going in the right direction and have a willingness to follow that path.
Knowledge and skills. Knowledge is of two kinds — worldly and spiritual. Worldly knowledge provides us with the means to live; equips us with the necessary skills and knowledge to make a living. Spiritual knowledge teaches us the way to live and thus gives meaning to our life — something you do not learn in school. Life is not just about making money. If your life is so, at the end of the day, you may wonder, “What has my life been all about?” As for skills, whether we are householders or renunciants, we need to equip ourselves with some specific skills for our own benefit and others’ too.
Discipline. This strength enables us to control our desires and aversions. Without this inner strength, one will not be able to control oneself. When a person of good discipline reaches the end of his life, he can have a clear conscience that he has not done anything bad, and dies in peace and without fear.
Well-spoken speech. Ideally, this means speaking words that are truthful, useful and pleasant.
Supporting one’s parents. It is a necessary and important duty for one who has been raised by his parents to support his parents in return. Usually, it is only when a person becomes a parent that he comes to fully realise his parent’s sacrifices to bring him up.
Supporting one’s wife and children. For one who has a family to support, it is his duty to take care of his family well, so that all family members may live happily.
Unconfused work. One should be smart in his occupation, whether as a boss or worker. One needs to manage it well so that it is not confusing and the goods and services can be provided in a professional manner.
Generosity (Dana). This is one blessing which all of you know so I will not elaborate on that.
Righteous Living. To live righteously is to live without causing harm to others — the most basic of which, for a lay person, is to observe the five precepts.
Supporting one’s relatives. Sometimes, our relatives need our help. We should offer it. If you give support to your relatives when they are in need, then they will do the same for you when you are in need of support. This conduces to a good and happy relationship.
Avoiding evil. The Buddha once exhorted his monk to avoid evil, assuring them that it is possible. He furthermore told them that doing so brings benefit and happiness. Let’s trust the Buddha.
Not taking intoxicants. Someone pointed out that this is not mentioned in even one of the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path. Why is it so? A good answer is this: It is a prerequisite. If you are intoxicated, you cannot even think straight. How then can you be mindful enough to have right speech and action, much less to meditate?
Respect and humility. They go hand in hand as blessings. We have to be humble to respect others. Doing so brings much profit for us. Our only loss is pride, which is a good thing, isn’t it?
Contentment. This does not mean that we should not strive to better ourselves. It means that we should be happy with what we have, rather than fret over things we lack or be envious or jealous of what others have.