Venue: Mr. Chuah Teong Seng’s residence, Taiping
Many of you have listened to many Dhamma talks, and now you are listening to another. I suppose you see the benefits of doing this, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. It is also mentioned in the Mangala Sutta (Khp 5) that timely listening to the Dhamma is one of the highest blessings. When we find something good, especially something that benefits us spiritually, it is good to share or introduce it to others. Doing so would also be to our own benefit.
Today I would like to highlight the five advantages of listening to the Dhamma based on the Dhammassavana Sutta (AN 5.202).
Learn new things
On each occasion that a person listens to the Dhamma, he is likely to be exposed to new information and knowledge. This is especially so for a new student of Buddhism. But even for those who may have heard the subject before, listening to it again can bring about a new perceptive and perhaps even deeper understanding.
The Buddha’s teachings are unfortunately not taught in schools here in Malaysia, unlike Islamic Studies, which is a compulsory subject for all Muslims attending schools. At most, non-Muslims are only given a general subject called Moral Education, which, from what I’ve not heard, is not of much benefit to anyone. So, it is necessary to deliberately expose young people to the Dhamma in a skilful manner.
For adults, there are various kinds of courses on how to get the most out of life: many of them very much oriented to the material side, while some are genuinely more spiritual in nature. Usually, you have to pay big money to attend those type of courses. We, however, do it for free!
Clarify what we have learnt
The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. Listeners who are fairly knowledgeable in the Dhamma often need to clarify their understanding of it. A good example is the first precept: to abstain from killing. Is accidental killing of an insect killing? Is smoking considered as breaking the fifth precept?
Rather than being passive, it is good to ask questions during Dhamma talks and to forward your queries on what is unclear to you. This gives you a great opportunity to increase the depth of your knowledge in the Dhamma and enhance your wisdom.
At times, we are doubtful about certain aspects of our understanding or practice. For example, can Buddhists pray to deities or should they do as Christian converts often do: throw out their images? Should Buddhists make food offerings to their departed relatives?
If you listen to enough Dhamma, you are sure to come across topics that address such issues and you can then dispel any doubt or misgiving that you may have on such topics.
Straighten our views
There are a number of false views that occur among people. One such view, for example, is that there is no rebirth, i.e., when this body dies, that is the end. Such a person can be rather confused when he dies. In fact, he can be very afraid as he approaches his death. Another wrong view is that there is no law of karma. This is potentially dangerous as one having such a view would be more likely to act as he likes, believing that the evil that he does will not return to him so long as he can circumvent the worldly law.
For many of you, however, having learnt much, you probably have much less wrong views. Yet we should keep straightening them, discarding our wrong views as we learn. I too am still doing that. For example, you know that giving is good and brings good results, but do you know that it does not bring about rebirth in a happy existence? Only virtue does that. So with that knowledge, people seeking a good birth would be motivated to go beyond mere giving.
Listening to the Dhamma can help you to straighten your views so that you have a better understanding of life. With that, we can then live in better harmony within the laws of life and live a happier life.
Gladden the mind
While living in this world we cannot be free from suffering. Yet, when you keenly listen to the Dhamma, you may experience occasions when what is said strikes you deeply and you go, “Ah…” During such an occasion, happiness and joy arises in the mind and suddenly suffering diminishes, at least momentarily. Wisdom arises and peace prevails. Just imagine what it would be like if such states of mind never leave us.
In a nutshell, listening to the Dhamma is immensely beneficial and will definitely lead a person to happier living and even to the ultimate liberation.