Be Your Own Protector

Venue: The Organic Cottage, Jalan Tupai, Taiping

Today’s talk is based on Dhammapada #160

Atta hi attano natho, ko hi natho paro siya
Attana hi sudantena, natham labhati dullabham.

Translated it means:

“Self is one self’s protector; for what other protector could there be?
Through a well-tamed self does one get a protector who is hard to get.”

Everybody wants protection, whether from sickness, poverty, misfortune, distress or danger. Many will seek protection by praying to deities, by making offerings to monks or inviting them to chant parittas for blessings. But the Buddha says that you can be your own protector. Yesterday, Sayadaw U Indaka talked about four types of happiness and how we can achieve them.

1. Perform dana for the happiness of wealth.
2. Observe sila for the happiness of health and longevity.
3. Develop samatha meditation for the happiness of the mind.
4. Develop vipassana meditation for the happiness of Nibbana.

So, if you want to protect yourself from poverty, practise generosity. If you want protection from illness and premature death, live a moral life by observing the 5 precepts. If you want protection from having mental distress, practise samatha meditation like visualising the Buddha, watching your breath or radiating metta or loving-kindness. If you want Nibbanic bliss, then practise vipassana meditation.

People who are wealthy and healthy are those who had done a lot of dana and lived moral lives before. In this long samsara (round of births and deaths) without discernible beginning, all of us had been generous and stingy, moral and immoral before in our past lifetimes. Therefore, we will never know when our past kamma will ripen, whether it is good or bad. If you become bankrupt or is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it will be too late to do dana or observe the precepts in order to protect yourself from poverty or ill-health. This is just an extreme example. In fact, we often find ourselves surrounded by circumstances beyond our control, e.g. the weather, political instability, business downfall, “bad luck”, ill-health, accidents, etc. Although dana and sila can help protect us from future poverty and ill-health, they cannot immediately relieve us of such misfortunes in the present. How we react or respond in any circumstance will determine the quality of our life.

For example, you may be very rich, but if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, how will you react? Most people caught in this situation will go through the whole process of denial, self-pity, anguish, despair, anxiety, asking “Why me?” and so forth. This is especially so for those who have not learnt any meditation technique. But if you have practised samatha or vipasanna meditations before, you will be able to handle the situation better to protect yourself and to lessen your mental and physical sufferings. You will know how to restrain the mind from getting trapped in negative thoughts and emotions. You will be able to remain calm and composed, and therefore respond positively to negative circumstances.

A well-tamed self is one that has been well trained to prevent the mind from being engulfed by negativity and to direct it to respond positively to unpleasant and trying circumstances. This is certainly not easy to achieve, as you will realise if you have tried formal meditation before. Nonetheless, if you really want to protect yourself from the suffering wrought by negativity, sooner or later you will have to learn to train and tame the mind.

So, if you haven’t got a tamed mind yet, it’s about time to start learning how to become your own protector. Come join us in our Saturday evening meditation session in SBS. We teach metta and vipassana meditation, which will certainly help to produce a well-tamed self and mind, therefore making you your own protector.

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

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