Venue: Mrs. Koay’s House
Last night I received a surprising challenge from Bhante Aggacitta when he suddenly informed me at 7.00 pm that I would be giving a talk here this morning. After contemplating for some time for a topic, Bhante finally suggested that I speak on “A Layman’s Welfare”, based on Dighajanu Sutta (AN 8:54), to which I agreed.
This sutta was first expounded more than 2,500 years ago. One day, when the Buddha came to a market, a layperson called Dighajanu of the Koliya clan approached him. He said that as he was a householder with a wife and children, enjoying sensual pleasures—that is the many worldly enjoyments in life—he humbly requested the Buddha to explain how he could live a good life now and in the hereafter.
The Buddha then explained that there are 4 deeds which, when performed by a layman, will lead to a good life in the present and 4 deeds which will lead to a good life hereafter.
(I) How to conduct oneself in order to enjoy a good present life
The four deeds leading to a person enjoying a good life in the present are:
1. Being diligent
A hardworking person will always strive to perform well in whatever he undertakes to do and always sets his affairs in good order.
2. Being one who takes care of his property and wealth
In the past, a man protected his property from the elements of nature like flood, fire etc. Nowadays, he can wisely keep his wealth in the bank. He knows enough to deal only with people who have good morality (sila) when doing business.
3. Associating with the wise
A wise and good friend is one who has faith in the Buddha Dhamma and keeps his precepts well.
4. Being one who spends within his means
The Buddha teaches us to divide our wealth into four portions:
(i) half for use to generate further wealth
(ii) a quarter for use in emergencies
(iii) a quarter for enjoyment and charity.
There are, however, 4 kinds of action that will drain our wealth:
(iii) gambling – there are very few people who actually strike it rich whenever they gamble and these are usually not the norm but exceptions to the rule. They usually strike it rich also because of the ripening of some past good karma.
(iv) associating with the unwise, with evil friends.
These 4 unwholesome actions drain our wealth just like a water tank that has one inlet hole at the top but four outlet holes at the bottom. It can never fill up and in fact would most probably drain dry rapidly.
(II) How to conduct oneself in order to ensure a good future life
There are 4 deeds that will ensure a good life in the hereafter. This refers to our future rebirths. As explained by Venerable Suvanno, there are 31 planes of existence and we must be careful that we find a rebirth not in the hell, ghost or animal worlds where beings suffer immensely.
- Having faith in the Buddha, which in turn will help you to understand the Dhamma better.
- Keeping the precepts well.
For the layperson, this refers to the basic 5 precepts. Some people make the extra effort to observe the 8 precepts on the first and fifteen days of the Chinese lunar month.
- Offering dana.
A lot of people have the “I want more” attitude in life and this contributes greatly to making life more of a burden. To do dana is to “let go”, to lighten your load in life. When you are reborn in the heavenly worlds, even the celestial beings there will look up to you. Generosity is indeed a virtue.
- Cultivating wisdom.
There are 3 types of wisdom. The first is derived when you study or listen to the Dhamma, the second when you use your own ingenuity to think and the final one is when you meditate and understand the 3 characteristics of life, namely anicca, dukkha and anatta.
Your future rebirths depend greatly on how well you have practiced these 4 deeds in this life. If you practice them only every now and then, you might be reborn as a human but living in dire conditions, e.g. suffering famine in Africa or in war-torn countries, which is a form of living hell. If you practise them moderately, you might be reborn as a wealthy and happy human being with the Midas touch in everything you do. If you practise them diligently, you are guaranteed to be reborn at least in one of the heavenly planes.
I would like to end my talk today by saying that as I am still a samanera, I may not be capable of expounding the Dhamma as well as a bhikkhu like Bhante Aggacitta here. Therefore if I have said anything that is incorrect, it is probably because I have yet to fully understand the Dhamma or to explain it clearly. If I have done well today, then I have to thank Bhante as I owe it to him for his invaluable guidance to me.
Conclusion by Venerable Aggacitta
Ven Balacitta has given a very lively talk today. If he can do so well as a mere samanera, imagine how much he can teach us when he becomes a bhikkhu—he will probably become famous worldwide!
Mrs. Koay’s dana here today is a thanksgiving dana. Lay Suan, her daughter recently succeeded in her admission interview to Universiti Malaya and she would like to thank us for chanting and radiating metta towards her earlier. However, I would like to stress that Lay Suan’s success is not due so much to our chanting as to her own past good karma, which has now ripened.
Today’s topic is chosen because it is suitable for Lay Suan to apply it in her daily life when she leaves home for life as an undergraduate at the university.
- She can practise diligence in her studies and be skilful in all that she undertakes. She should have presence of mind (wisdom) in her work.
- She must learn to take care of the things, material or otherwise, given to her by her parents for her use away from home.
- She must learn to associate with wise and good friends—those who have faith in and practise the Dhamma. It is the trend nowadays for youngsters to frequent Internet cafes or spend most of the night and even early hours of the morning chatting at mamak stalls. This is neither wise nor healthy.
- She must learn to budget the allowances given by her parents. I heard from one of our committee members that his son spent a fortune on his handphone bill, which amounted to more than his father’s handphone bill.
Ven Balacitta gave the simile of the water tank when talking about the actions that will drain our wealth. Thus you should avoid sexual misconduct (do not flirt around with members of the opposite sex), intoxicants (don’t imbibe alcohol or other hard drugs like Ecstasy Pills), gambling and associating with the unwise.
The environment and people we mix with is very important because if we are not wise, firm and virtuous enough, we tend to be led astray. However if we are very strong in our wisdom, we can instead help lead people along the right path.
With regards to the 4 deeds that will lead to good in the hereafter, you should keep your faith in the Buddha Dhamma, practise your precepts, be generous (even though you are still dependant on your parents for money, you can always practise good Buddhist economics) and cultivate wisdom. Pañña-sampada means being accomplished in wisdom. You have practiced meditation before in Taiping and if you continue doing it, you will eventually grow in spiritual wisdom and understand the rising and passing away of phenomena.
Last week, Ven Tejaniya told us that meditation helps us to relieve stress. So, whenever you are too stressed out in your studies, you can always steal some time to watch the rising and falling of the abdomen. This will help calm you down and rejuvenate you. We have also taught you metta meditation and you can apply it when people you don’t get along with disturb your peace. Just send thoughts of metta to them. You can also practise chanting and meditation every morning. It is entirely up to you as the life you wish to lead depends on the amount and kind of effort you put in.