Dhammapada Verse 204: Good health; Contentment; a Trustworthy Relationship; Nibbana

Venue: TIMS

Recently I went to KL to see an ex-varsity course mate who is suffering from leukaemia. As early as six months ago, she had informed me about her sickness and asked me for advice. I replied her email telling her about some methods of meditation and of some meditation centres around KL, as well as encouraged her to practise qigong. Unfortunately, she did not receive it. I called to ask her to check again so that I could forward it once more, if necessary, but she never contacted me.

Lately, someone informed me that she was in hospital in ICU. When I went down to see her, I found her in a very serious condition. She is a single parent with two children—one in university and the other in college. I went with one of our devotees who is also a qigong instructor. He told me that he recently attended the funerals of two other cancer patients. He proceeded to teach her a little qigong and to share good qi with her. Her daughter told me her mother rejected conventional western medical treatment and has been relying on Chinese herbs, qigong as well as meditation. However, as she was so sick that she could barely talk, I couldn’t find out what sort of meditation she had been doing. It was also difficult to ask her to do qigong as she was then too weak. Thus, the only refuge was in the Dhamma. Since she has meditated before, she has to fall back on internal reflections.

These circumstances made me recall one verse from the Dhammapada.

Good health is the greatest gain
Contentment is the greatest wealth
Having a trustworthy relationship is the best relative
Nibbana is the highest bliss.

Good health is the greatest gain

Nowadays, disease is rampant and we don’t know whom or when it will strike. There are many causes. Stress is one of the major factors. Environmental conditions and the food that we eat are also contributory factors, e.g. we tend to eat less fresh products and more preserved stuff. We have lost control of our desires and there is more lobha, dosa and moha. Many mundane achievements in life give us pleasure but they also bring about more stress. If you value life and want to have a good death, you must prepare for it early just as one must learn how to swim first before attempting to cross the sea on board a boat which may capsize at any time. Death is unpredictable. We can prepare for it by learning to meditate and practising qigong for health.

In vipassana meditation, you don’t just watch the rise and fall of the abdomen. You also watch the six sense doors (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking). Even if you are immobile on the hospital bed, you can still watch these six sense doors and you won’t feel bored or restless. In my recent trip to PJ, I watched a video on the practice of qigong without using bodily movements. It made use of a lot of visualisation to mentally absorb good qi around us into the different organs of the body. You can use this type of qigong as well when you are immobile. I am told that in China, some cancer patients use qigong to heal themselves without resorting to conventional treatment but they have to practice for eight hours daily. When a person is at death’s door and values his life, I am sure he will find the necessary zest to do this.

Contentment is the greatest wealth

Some people are wealthy but keep hankering for more. In order to achieve that, they have to work yet harder and thus put more stress on themselves. When you fall seriously ill, no amount of wealth will be able to help you. Being contented however, doesn’t mean being complacent. You still have to earn enough to support yourself and your dependents.

A trustworthy friend is the best relative

There is a saying which goes, “We cannot choose our relatives but we can choose our friends.” Certain kinds of relatives leave much to be desired. Therefore the greatest types of relatives are those friends who are trustworthy, share your joys and sorrows, and can be counted on in times of trouble. It is stated in Mangala Sutta that it is a blessing when you associate with the wise for they can influence you to walk the Noble Eightfold Path, which will lead to Nibbana, the end of suffering.

Nibbana is the highest bliss

In this mundane world, success and wealth can bring happiness. During meditation, we can also be happy and peaceful. These are all worldly happiness. However, the bliss of Nibbana is the greatest bliss. But it is difficult to explain because very few people are enlightened enough to experience it. Nibbana is something that is not connected to the senses. Most people understand the happiness experienced through the five senses. They say that since Nibbana is nothing, how can it be blissful? As such, they cannot understand Nibbana. I have a good simile to illustrate this. If you are having the most restful sleep of your life (representing Nibbana or the total disconnection from the five sense doors) and someone wakes you up to offer you something wonderful to eat (representing the five sense doors), you wouldn’t want to wake up, for the deep slumber (the bliss of Nibbana) is far superior.

I hope all of you will appreciate the Buddha’s teaching and take good care of your health; exercise, practise restraint of your desires and meditate so that you can control lobha, dosa and moha as and when they arise. With less lobha, dosa and moha, there will be less suffering.

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