Venue: Hokkien Cemetery Pavillion
There are 3 things which are beneficial to be learned in detail either for the householder or for the renunciant. The importance of cultivating these 3 things are very much mentioned in the canon and it is highly beneficial for one to know about it. For one who has become a Buddhist for a long time but does not know about these three things, or if he or she had heard of it before but did not take note of it or is unable to recall it even briefly, I say, it’s a pity. When one is learned in these three things and has accepted them, he or she is a wise person for he or she knows truly what is good and what is bad, which path leads to heaven and which path leads to hell. Wise people will not knowingly choose the path that leads to hell.
What are these three things? These are the three kinds of conduct- body, speech and thought; the wholesome and the unwholesome.
When we want to improve ourselves, we have to know what is good to be cultivated. To know thus, we have to learn from wise people. When we have learned it, we have to let the message stay in our memory, otherwise, how can we scrutinise and cultivate something which we cannot recall? But if any of you have problems even in memorising these three things in brief, I suggest you copy them on a piece of paper and recite them daily. I believe, after some time, you will be able to remember them at any time and place, and thus, it will be for your long term benefit and happiness. 1
There are many places in the canon which show the importance of these 3 things:
In a Sutta, it is mentioned that if one really knows what is wholesome and unwholesome, what is the root of the wholesome and unwholesome, then in that way, one would have arrived at the true Dhamma, have confirmed confidence in the true Dhamma, whose view is straight, who has right view. In brief, I say, he or she would have become a noble person. It is explained in that sutta that the wholesome are the three kinds of good conduct, the unwholesome are the three kinds of bad conduct; and the root of the wholesome are non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion while the root of the unwholesome are greed, hatred and delusion. (MN 9 Sammaditthi Sutta).
In another Sutta, it is shown that when these three kinds of good conduct are well practiced and developed, it causes the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness to be perfected. When the four foundations of mindfulness are well practiced and developed, it causes the practice of the seven factors of enlightenment to be perfected. When the seven factors of enlightenment are well practiced and developed, it causes the right knowledge and liberation to be perfected. (First, when the restraint of the sense faculties is well practiced and developed, it causes the practice of the three kinds of good conduct to be perfected). (SN. 46.6 Kundaliya Sutta).
Now, how do we practise and develop these three things? Shown in a Sutta, there are three stages:
Stage 1: Before we do, speak or think of something, we should reflect and check whether these actions are wholesome or not, are going to be beneficial to ourselves or to others or to both or not. If we find that they will be unwholesome and harmful, then we should abandon them. But upon reflection, if we are sure that they are wholesome and beneficial, then we are free to perform them.
Stage 2: Even while doing, speaking or thinking of something, we should also reflect and check whether those things that we are doing, speaking or thinking are wholesome or not, are beneficial or not. If they are not, we should give them up.
Stage 3: After we have already done, spoken or thought of something, we should also reflect and check whether those things that we have done, spoken or thought of were wholesome or not, were beneficial or not. If they were not, we ought to feel ashamed, disgusted and sincerely make an effort to refrain from doing them in the future2; but if not, then naturally we can be happy. Thus, in this way, we are practising and developing these three kinds of good conduct. It is mentioned in the Sutta that whatever recluses and brahmins in the past or in the future or at present, who had or will do or are doing the purification of the conduct of the body, speech and thought, all did so, will do so or are doing so respectively by repeatedly reflecting thus. (MN 61: Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta)
And that’s all for today. May all be happy. Thank you.
1There are many suttas which explain these three things in detail, one of them is in this sutta- AN 10.176: Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta. You may check it out here. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.176.than.html
2For a monk who follows rightly the monk’s rules, he would have to confess his wrongdoing (but no confession for wrong thought) to another monk or if it is a serious case (any of the thirteen offences require probation and reinstatement) he would have to look for at least twenty monks to congregate in a Sima for two occasions, first time for confession and asking for probation and the second time for reinstatement. But if he had committed any of the four top offences, there is no necessity for confession because he is automatically no more a member of the Sangha, for life. The four top offences, briefly, are- sexual inter-course, stealing, killing a human being and falsely claiming superhuman state.