Lofty Blessings

Venue: SBS

We would like to extend a warm welcome to all the members of the Bukit Mertajam Buddhist Meditation Centre to SBS. We are especially happy that Ven Mahañano has taken the trouble to bring all of you here to pay his respect to a senior monk.

In the Mangala Sutta, there is a stanza that says

Gāravo ca nivāto ca 
Santutthi ca kataññutā 
Kālena dhammassavanam 
Etam mangala muttamam

This stanza tells us that respect, humility, contentment, gratitude and timely listening to the Dhamma are one of the highest blessings.

Being a student educated in the English medium of instruction, I was brought up with western ideas of freedom and equality. I felt I was not inferior to anybody. On the other hand, I believe the Chinese mainstream students are better ingrained with respect for elders in school from young. When I was a varsity student at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, I had the opportunity to attend a Dhamma talk by a Luangpor (“Reverend Father Monk”) at MBMC. When Luangpor came into the hall, everyone stood up and paid their respect. I, on the other hand, remained seated and silently questioned the rationale of having to anjali (put palms together and raise them as a sign of respect for) him when we are both humans at par with each other. I did not yet have nivato (humility) then. It is good to teach our youth from young to pay respects to their elders and those considered their seniors. With such a custom, we also learn to practice humility.

What does it mean to be contented? In life, we have to have both a mundane and spiritual purpose. First of all, a layman has to take care of his family. In Pattakamma Sutta (AN 4:61), the Buddha teaches us how to utilise our earnings to

    1. practise charity at home by taking care of
      1. ourselves (personal health and happiness)
      2. our family (spouse, children, parents)
      3. our staff and/or servants
    2. save for a rainy day
    3. make 5 kinds of offerings to
      1. guests
      2. relatives
      3. departed ones (e.g. during Qing Ming and 7th Lunar Month Festivals)
      4. devas
      5. the government (as in taxes)
    4. give alms to monks and priests with sila and restraint.

Upon fulfilling his mundane duties, a person is said to be contented if he is satisfied and happy and doesn’t covet for more and more. However, he should not be too complacent in his search for spirituality and should strive on.

In Piti Sutta (AN 5:176), Anathapindika and 500 followers visited the Buddha who advised them that although they had supported the Sangha with clothing, food, shelter and medication, they should not be contented with that and become complacent. They should, at every available opportunity, aspire to develop and maintain pavivekapiti (rapture born of seclusion). Ven Sariputta added that there is neither worldly nor unwholesome happiness or suffering in a person who has developed and maintains the rapture of seclusion. Neither is there suffering connected with wholesome deeds (such as disappointment in the practice of generosity, morality and meditation).

When we do anything for the good of others, we should be happy with the knowledge that we have done something good and have gained merits. We should not expect any returns. In this way, we will not be disappointed because of ingratitude. However, when we are the recipient of others’ charity, we should always be grateful. Such a person is said to have gratitude.

During the Buddha’s time, there was a very old Brahmin named Radha who wished to become a monk. He asked for permission from the Sangha. All the senior monks refused to accept him because he was too old and they would have a hard time taking care of him. Only Ven Sariputta agreed to be his upajjhaya (preceptor). When the Buddha inquired why he alone among others agreed to ordain Radha, Ven Sariputta replied that he wished to repay the kindness of Radha with gratitude for there was an occasion when Radha had offered him one single scoop of rice during pindacara (almsround). Not long after, Radha succeeded in becoming an arahant.

Lastly, at this present moment, you are listening to a Dhamma talk, which is considered one of the highest blessings as well. With that, all of you here have fulfilled the qualities of the above stanza today and have achieved some of the highest blessings.

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