From Darkness to Light

Venue: Hokkien Tiong Pavilion
Today’s talk is based on Tamotama Sutta (AN 4:85) which describes four types of people. One can be reborn as a human being and move from:

    1. darkness to darkness
    2. darkness to light
    3. light to darkness
    4. light to light
        1. From darkness to darkness
          There are people who are born poor and disadvantaged, with low intellect and possessing no charm or finesse and are also physically ugly or deformed. They find it a tough challenge to advance in life. Added to this, they also do not practice good morals by observing the precepts of right thought, speech and action. Such a person will be reborn in a miserable plane of existence in his next life. He is said to be moving from darkness to darkness
        2. From darkness to light
          When a person is born into an inferior existence but practices good values of right thought, speech and action, he will have the opportunity to be either reborn as a human once again but in a more advantageous situation or in a celestial plane of existence. Such a person moves from darkness to light.
        3. From light to darkness
          The third kind of person is a stupid person. He is reborn with a silver spoon in his mouth, clever, charming and physically attractive but chooses to live a life devoid of good morals. Instead of taking advantage of his good birth, he squanders it away. He will be reborn into a miserable plane of existence; thus moving from light to darkness.
        4. From light to light
          A person moves from light to light when he is born advantaged and uses his good fortune to do good through right thought, speech and action. He is assured of a better rebirth into a higher plane of existence. As such, a wise man should keep a tight hold on his precepts through right thought, speech and action.

          • Actions
            A wise man will try, at all cost, to avoid:

            1. killing (taking of a life whether directly or indirectly)
            2. stealing (taking what does not belong to him without permission)
            3. sexual misconduct (for those who observe the 5 precepts, this includes adultery and having sexual intercourse with a minor or someone under the guardianship of another. For a yogi and those who uphold the 8 precepts, even if this is done only on Uposatha days, this includes total abstinence from sex. Spouses even, are not encouraged to sleep together in the same room.)
          • Speech
            There are 4 types of wrong speech:

            1. Lying
            2. Slandering
            3. Harsh/Foul Speech.
              This one carries comparatively lighter akusala kamma and includes 4-lettered words, sarcastic words and rebukes.
            4. Frivolous talk
              This includes words spoken which serve no purpose and which can lead to greed, hatred and delusion.

            On the other hand, there are five qualities of good speech which we must all try to abide by and practise. Words are well spoken when it:

            1. is spoken at an appropriate time
            2. is truthful
            3. is gentle
            4. is beneficial, e.g. Dhamma talks
            5. is spoken with metta.
              It is said that even the gods in heaven will want to listen to such words
          • Thoughts
            There are 3 kinds of wrong thoughts:

            1. Covetousness
              Only an arahant has absolutely no greed. For the rest of us mortals, greed is not eradicated yet e.g. our desire to earn more money. This kind of greedy thought, wanting and desiring to have more, does not result in the breaking of our precepts but will contribute to our continuous rebirths in the cycle of samsara.

              The covetousness mentioned here is, however, more serious and refers to greed that leads to the breaking of the precepts, e.g. if you plot to kill someone just to get at his property. This will result in dire consequences and could even result in rebirth in hell.

              Greed can arise either:

              • Automatically, as a result of our being constantly conditioned to expect/desire for more because of the upbringing and lifestyle we lead. To overcome this, one has to put in effort to be aware of greed when it arises, and to abandon it immediately
              • Deliberately, as in when you actively pursue after something. This kind of greed is usually more intense.
            2. Ill-will
              Simply put, this means being “black-hearted’. You wish ill of others as opposed to wishing them well.
            3. Wrong view (miccha-ditthi)This is the most serious of the three. There are many types of wrong views. One example is the belief that everything in life is pre-determined and pre-arranged. A person who has this kind of wrong view will not make any effort to do good and will not hesitate to do evil. There are also people who do not believe in the importance of being responsible to one’s own parents.

              On the contrary, a person with right views will always walk the righteous path. The belief in kamma vipaka and rebirth are examples of right views.
        5. All of us need to put in effort to avoid committing evil through thought, speech and action. If you aspire for rebirth as a human or in the heavenly realms, it is not enough just to give dana. You have to keep your precepts as well. And if you truly wish to reach an even higher level than merely heavenly rebirths, then you have to meditate too and gain wisdom.
          At this moment, there is a 10-day retreat going on up in SBS. This gives the opportunity for practising yogis to meditate and in doing so, enables them to

                • clarify their minds so as to achieve the wisdom to ‘see’ things clearly
                • understand and take control of their minds.

          I would strongly encourage those who have the time to make use of this precious opportunity to begin meditation or to continue to make progress in your meditative efforts. For others who do not have the opportunity to attend such retreats, do at least make an effort to keep the basic 5 precepts and occasionally the 8 precepts on Uposatha days.

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