We have just recited some verses from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (DN 16) that have particular relevance to an occasion like this. Here is a paraphrase translation:
“Where a man of wise disposition dwells,
he should invite and feed
virtuous, restrained monks
and dedicate the offering to the devas there.
When these devas are thus honoured and cherished by the occupants,
they will reciprocate by honouring and cherishing the residents.
A person who has the sympathy of devas
will always have good fortune.”
Today is the house-warming for Sukhi Hotu (in Pali, this means “May you be well and happy”), a not-for-profit company, which has moved from Air Itam to their new premises in Gottlieb Road, Penang. This is a much better location and more suitable for the purpose of propagating the Dhamma to the masses, as it is just opposite the Penang Chinese Girls’ High School.
The second verse of the Mangala Sutta talks about the importance of residing in a suitable location. Materially, this means getting to stay in a place with prospects for a prosperous, successful life. Spiritually, such a locality should give easy access to the Triple Gem. We have heard of many Buddhists from traditional Buddhist countries like Myanmar and Thailand, who have left their motherland in order to earn a better living in developed countries where Buddhism was not as widespread. When they do this they obtain the blessing of a more suitable location for material prosperity. But it is at the expense of their spiritual well-being. However, through their strong faith and steadfastness, eventually they begin to form Buddhist communities, pooling their resources together to set up their own temples and centres for Buddhism.
Most of these were initially set up by the Chinese, Sri Lankans, and later on the Thais, Myanmar, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, and so on. Through the sacrifice and efforts of those early Buddhists, the later generations now have a suitable place with access to the Triple Gem and the opportunity to associate with monks who act as their spiritual guides and counsellors. This then opens up the further opportunity to be able to listen to the Dhamma and put it into practice.
Malaysians are lucky to have access to locally printed Dhamma books which are distributed free due to the generosity of local Buddhist supporters. However, in the West, the spirit of dana is not as strong and Dhamma books from there have to be bought. Sukhi Hotu has taken the initiative to procure such books and make them readily available to the public here. It is hoped that, in future, apart from propagating the Dhamma through books and gifts, Sukhi Hotu, Penang, will be able to provide other spiritual activities such as meditation classes, Dhamma talks and desktop publishing services for Buddhist publications, like their counterpart, Sukhi Hotu in Petaling Jaya.
One may wonder why there are also non-Buddhist items displayed for sale here. The Dhamma is universal and no one particular individual or organization has any monopoly over it. In fact, the Buddha never called his teachings Buddhism. He called it the DhammaVinaya (Dhamma=law of natural phenomena, Vinaya=discipline). As Christian Humphreys, a Buddhist scholar from the United Kingdom put it, “The Buddha didn’t teach Buddhism; he taught the Four Noble Truths!” Some Theravadins, who are by nature fanatical in their views, think that the Dhamma belongs only to the Buddha and to Buddhists only. This is not true. You can find the Dhamma in the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and other religious books as well. It is just a matter of which particular spiritual system has a more complete structure or presentation of the Dhamma. Then again, the amount of good Dhamma in any particular religion is not relevant if it is not understood and put into practice by the devotees.
Sukhi Hotu also sells books on health, for example, books on ayuverda, qigong, yoga and taichi. One might ask what has health got to do with Dhamma? Many people venture into Buddhism because of their interest in meditation. In fact, many Buddhists think that the mind is the most important—if you can manage the mind, then the body is not a problem. With that idea, they have scant regard for the condition of their physical health. The fact is that the body and the mind are interrelated. If your mind is strong enough, it can help you to overcome diseases that cannot be overcome by conventional means. A book entitled “Dhamma Therapy” describes cases of yogis meditating under the Mahasi tradition in Burma who cured themselves of so-called incurable maladies. However, these are exceptional yogis who have very strong samadhi (mental focus or concentration). For the rest of us, we have to look after our body in order to meditate well.
At the first retreat I conducted in Taiping in 1999, there were some yogis who could not meditate well because they were disturbed by health and psychosomatic problems. However, when they practised qigong first, and later on proceeded with meditation, they made better progress. Many years back when I was staying in the forest in Burma alone, I did not pay much attention to my health and suffered many severe problems. Later, when I returned to Malaysia and started practising qigong and yoga regularly, I find that my health has improved tremendously and I no longer suffer any serious or major illnesses. With good physical health, your mental development will progress. This is a holistic approach. Therefore, do not neglect your health as it is a crucial foundation for your strong spiritual development.
In conclusion, I would like to wish for Sukhi Hotu to be successful in its noble quest to propagate the Dhamma and may Sukhi Hotu and all of us present be blessed and protected by the devas!