Dana, Sila and Bhavana

Venue: Teh Residence

Today’s dana is held for 2 auspicious reasons—the installing of a new Buddha image and the full moon celebration of Mr and Mrs Teh’s newborn grandson.

As usual, before any dana or Dhamma talk, we chant the Tisarana and the Pañca Sila. This is be-cause when we chant the Tisarana, we are seeking refuge and protection in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. All of us are lucky enough to be born in a world cycle where there is a Buddha. In our tradi-tion we believe that in this present kappa (a kappa is the length of time it takes for a person to wear down a solid block of granite 1000 cu. km. in size if he were to take a silk cloth and wipe it once every 100 years), there are only 5 Buddhas. Gotama Buddha is the 4th Buddha and Metteyya (Maitreya), the last Buddha in this present kappa, will only appear in the extremely far future after our death. So if any one comes and tell you that so and so is a Buddha you should understand that our tradition will not accept it. We Buddhists, besides taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, should try our very best to do dana, guard our sila and practise bhavana everyday for our growth in happiness.

    1. Dana (giving)
      There are 3 types of dana: –

        1. Material – in the form of food, money and other tangible items.
        1. Service – such as doing charitable work. One of the best kinds of service is to renounce to learn, practise and eventually teach the Dhamma.
      1. Body – this is one of the highest forms of dana and involves giving a part of our physical self such as donating blood or pledging our organs after death.

      A dana that is well offered has the following qualities:

        1. Personally offered instead of delegated.
        1. Respectfully offered.
        1. Of a suitable nature.
      1. Offered to the correct recipient.

      The merit of the dana increases manifold with the sila and spiritual attainment of each recipient, such as starting from a layman, a practising yogi/monk, an ariya (through all the 4 stages), a Pacceka Buddha and culminating in the highest of them all, a Sammasambuddha.


    1. Sila (precepts)
      If a person is very charitable but has no sila, it is highly likely that he will be reborn in a lower plane of existence but will not be short of material comforts; such as being reborn as the beloved pet of a rich householder. On the other hand, a person who has sila but is not charitable finds it hard to have material comforts even though he might be born in a higher plane of existence. A person who is both charitable and virtuous has it all. If he is reborn in heaven, he will appear extremely luminous and ra-diant.

      The basis of sila is the Pañca Sila, (Five Precepts) which entails abstention from

        1. killing
        1. stealing
        1. sexual misconduct
        1. lying
        1. indulging in intoxicants which dull the mind and makes one behave stupidly.
        1. Whenever possible, we should also strive to observe the 8 precepts. The additional 3 precepts are to abstain from:
        1. food after noon
        1. entertainment (which blurs our mental acuities) and adornments (that increase our vanity)
      1. sleeping on a high, luxurious bed.

      It is especially virtuous to keep the 8 precepts on Uposatha days. According to traditional beliefs, on such occasions Sakka Devaraja will come down to witness and bless us for our efforts. A person is encouraged to seek the blessing of a monk when he wishes to observe these extra precepts for 2 reasons:

        1. He will have to make good his promise and make sure he observes the precepts properly. It will act as a deterrent for him and prevent him from straying from what he has pledged to observe.
      1. After giving his blessings, a monk will normally transfer merits for such a meritorious act.


  1. Bhavana (mental development)
    This is the development of wisdom. There are three levels of wisdom:

      1. wisdom gained through hearing
      1. wisdom gained through thinking or pondering like those of philosophers
    1. wisdom gained through meditation.

Nowadays there are many types of teachings and to listen to all of them without an intelligent, inquiring mind will cause the listener to be confused. Therefore it is important for everybody to listen to good Dhamma. In our tradition, we believe that good Dhamma can be found in the 4 Nikayas.

As for the wisdom gained through thinking or pondering, it is good if one bases one’s thinking on right view by listening to good Dhamma first. Otherwise if it is based on wrong view, one could be a dangerous person to oneself or others.

When one gains the right view of anicca, dukkha and anatta through meditation, that moment can be equivalent to the mental attitude of one who has attained the fruit of liberation. Every Saturday evening in SBS, Bhante Aggacitta will give instruction to those who want to cultivate wisdom through meditation. If you are interested you are all welcome to participate. There are volunteers who will drive you up to SBS starting at about 8.00 pm from the Tiger General Shrine at the foothill.

Before I conclude, I would like to introduce you to a particular sutta, which I first read in 2001 when I was still a layman. This is the “Mangala Sutta Vannana” by the late Venerable K. Gunaratana, first published in 1956 by Mahindarama Buddhist temple. I can still recall the joy that arose in me as I read all 36 verses of it. So great is the virtue of this sutta that in Myanmar, children are taught it in school. This is the sutta that was uttered by the Buddha in Jetavana, Anathapindika’s monastery, when a radiant heavenly being sought his advice on what is auspicious and good.

In conclusion, it is my hope that after listening to this Dhamma talk, all devotees will go home, memorise the important points, reflect on them and put them into practice.

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