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ASCII version of diacritical marks for Pali used on this document:
Long vowels are doubled: aa, ii, uu.
Other diacritics precede the letters marked by them, so:
- vowels: .r .l
- retroflex consonants: .t .th .d .dh .n
- retroflex sibilant: .s
- palatal sibilant: "s
- palatal nasal: ~n
- guttural nasal: "n
- anusvara: .m
- visarga: .h
Examples: nirvaa.na, vi~n~naa.na.

Deeds of Merit

By Sujin Boriharnwanaket.

Translated by Nina van Gorkom

(This book is not yet published in print form)

Part 2

Chapter 3


W. : We have dealt already with the meritorious actions which are correction of ones views (di~n~nhujukamma), generosity (daana), transference of merit (pattidaana) and appreciation of someone elses kusala (pattanumodana daana). Now we shall deal with the other meritorious actions.

S. : The kind of daana which is giving away things for the benefit of someone else cannot occur all the time, and for some people it will occur very seldom, maybe only once. But those who have accumulated the inclination to perform deeds of generosity, will regularly give away things to others.

W. : I see people offering food to the monks every day. Some people offer food especially on the day of the week they were born, thus, if they were born on Monday, they offer food on that day, and if they were born on Saturday, they offer food on that day. Or some people like to develop kusala in certain places, usually once a month or as the occasion presents itself. In this way there one trains oneself in offering things, so that generosity becomes ones nature.

S. : Giving away things for the benefit and happiness of someone else is not sufficient for the eradication of defilements, because there are so many defilements. Each kind of defilement arises very often; defilements are deeply accumulated and they are very tenacious. People who have accumulated defilements which are very strong and stubborn are called worldlings, in Paali: puthujjana.

W. : Who are worldlings?

S. : Those who are non-ariyans, people who have not attained any stage of enlightenment. Everyone who has not realized the four noble Truths is a worldling [16.

W. : Why are they called worldlings?

S. : Because they do not understand as they are the true characteristics of the realities which appear. If one does not know realities as they are, there will be, at the moment of akusala citta, like and dislike of the realities which appear. Defilements arise with the citta [17 and they are accumulated and carried on from one moment of citta to the next moment of citta. Each citta which arises and falls away is succeeded by the next citta and thus defilements can be accumulated. In this way different characteristics of defilements which have been accumulated can appear.

W. : The accumulation of defilements is a condition for each person to have a different character. I have noticed people who are inclined to generosity, they easily give away things to others. They are always considerate and helpful because they have accumulated good inclinations. However, people who are considerate and kind may not always be good and gentle in their actions and speech. They may speak words which hurt other peoples feelings. One could say that they have bad speech but a good heart. Why is that so?

S. : This can happen because there are different degrees of defilements: they can be coarse, medium or subtle. Moreover, there are defilements by way of bodily actions, by way of speech or by the mind. Some people have eliminated coarse defilements, but they cannot eliminate the medium and the subtle defilements. Some people have eliminated defilements with regard to their bodily actions but not those with regard to their speech. Therefore, the Buddha, because of his incomparable compassion, showed the way to eradicate all degrees of defilements, those which are coarse, medium and subtle, the defilements by way of bodily actions, by way of speech and of the mind. He taught about each and all of them, in every detail. The Buddha did not teach that defilements are eradicated only by means of daana, generosity, the giving away of things to someone else.

W. : Wherever we are, there are the defilements which take the lead, appearing in body, speech or mind. When the defilements of other people appear it is easy to notice them and we find them very repugnant. When they appear in ourselves they are hard to notice, because we like ourselves and we always sympathize with ourselves. We do not find such defilements as ugly as when they appear in someone else.

S. : That is the reason why the Buddha taught us to investigate our own cittas instead of paying attention to the faults and vices of others. When we pay attention to the akusala of someone else, it will cause the citta to be akusala and moreover, we accumulate in that way defilements and we will be far away from the attainment of nibbaana; we may even be reborn in an unhappy plane of existence.

W. : It is most important to investigate our own cittas. If we omit this and we do not know when defilements arise, we will surely not persevere in eliminating them. Moreover, we should know about other ways of eliminating defilements, besides giving away possessions.

S. : Each kind of wholesome deed means actually giving up or elimination of defilements. Kusala which is daana, generosity, is the giving up or elimination of avarice, of clinging to possessions. However, besides avarice, there are many other kinds of defilements which should be eliminated. If only avarice would be eliminated all the other kinds of defilements would still arise and continue to be firmly accumulated.

W. : How can we eliminate defilements by other ways apart from generosity?

S. : We should abstain from akusala through bodily action and speech which harm other people.

W. : If that is so we should observe the five precepts as the Buddha explained to lay-followers. I will now deal with these, especially for the sake of young people who may be confused as to their meaning. The five precepts are the following: abstaining from killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants. It is important to know that the five precepts are beneficial, that they are right; everybody will accept this. But at the same time it seems that those precepts are a high ideal which can never be perfectly accomplished, just as a dream which will never come true. There must be a reason for this.

S. : There must be a cause for everything that occurs. The cause for all evil actions originates in defilements. So long as there are defilements, there are conditions for committing ill deeds. The degree of akusala which is committed depends on the strength of defilements which condition them.

W. : Which defilements are eradicated by the observance of siila?

S. : The kusala which is daana, generosity, eliminates attachment and stinginess. While we perform a deed of generosity, dosa, aversion, should not arise, because it hinders the accomplishment of generosity. The observance of siila leads to the elimination of dosa, but when there is the intention, cetanaa, to abstain from ill deeds through body and speech which can hurt other people, there should not be lobha, attachment, which can hinder the observance of siila. There can be lack of siila because of possessions, honour, ones family or ones life. So long as people still have attachment to visible object, sound, odour, flavour and tangible object, there are conditions for the arising of attachment. Then it can hinder the observance of siila, depending on the circumstances and the strength of clinging to possessions, to honour and to other things.

W. : It seems that each time someone commits a bad deed it is caused by lobha, attachment. Therefore I am inclined to think that the abstinence from bad deeds through body and speech is a matter of eliminating attachment and stinginess, just as is the case with the performing of generous deeds.

S. : It is true that lobha is a root [18, it is the cause of clinging to different things and wishing to obtain them. However, each moment of committing an evil deed is caused by lack of loving kindness, mettaa, for someone else. The dhamma which is the opposite of mettaa is dosa, the reality which is rough and which causes suffering and damage to others.

W. : How can the abstinence from ill deeds through body and speech eliminate dosa? People generally understand that the killing of living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants are committed because everybody likes to get things for himself, or wants to experience nice flavours and other pleasant objects he likes. Therefore, the abstinence from ill deeds is above all a matter of eliminating lobha.

S. : It is clear that people who want to have someone elses possessions and for this reason harm him or cause damage to him do not have mettaa. So long as someone has mettaa, loving kindness, for another person he would not hurt or harm him because of desire for his possessions. If someone has loving kindness he would know that if that person would lose the possessions he had obtained he would experience suffering and distress; he would sympathize with that person and not take away his possessions. Thus we see that so long as there is mettaa people will not commit bad deeds through body and speech which would cause suffering to others. Whenever there is lack of mettaa the nature of the citta is harsh and it is able to injure, which is actually the characteristic of the cetasika which is dosa, aversion.

W. : I understand that dosa is not only anger. Thus, whenever the citta is harsh, when it injures and lacks mettaa, the characteristic of dosa appears.

S. : Did you ever hear the expression of extending mettaa?

W. : I have heard this expression. When I listen to a sermon on Dhamma in the temple, I notice that the monk, after he has finished, exhorts the lay-followers to extend mettaa. We then follow up what he says and recite words concerning the extension of mettaa.

S. : When someones citta is full of mettaa, he can extend mettaa to others; he can extend his goodwill to someone else and wish for his happiness. We can find out by a persons actions and words whether his citta has such degree of mettaa that he can extend it to someone else. If someone does not harm or hurt others by actions or words, it is clear that he has mettaa to such extent that he can abstain from ill deeds through body and speech.

W. : If that is the case, the observance of the five precepts is a way to evaluate the result of the development of mettaa and its extension. It should be extended with a sincere inclination. The strength of a persons intention to extend mettaa will bring its appropriate result.

The fifth precept is abstaining from the taking of intoxicants. Is it true that also by the observance of this precept dosa is eliminated?

S. : It is the same in the case of all five precepts. People who lack sati, mindfulness, will harm or hurt others by actions through body and speech. Therefore, the observance of the five precepts helps us not to be forgetful, without sati; lack of sati is the cause of harming others.

W. : I believe that there are many points of Dhamma which help us to carefully consider cause and effect. Then we can have great confidence in the application of the precepts for the lay-followers.

S. : It is essential, first of all, to see the danger of defilements. All degrees of defilements, be they coarse, medium or subtle, are dangerous. They cause the citta to be troubled and agitated, but apart from this, they are the cause of committing evil deeds through body and speech. Defilements are repugnant, because of them we harm both ourselves and other people. Therefore we should gradually weaken them and finally eradicate them.

True happiness is not caused by possessions, gain or honour, but by freedom from defilements. Could you tell me who has the greatest happiness: a person with many possessions and many defilements or a person with few possessions and few defilements?

W. : If I take into account cause and effect, I think that someone with few possessions and few defilements is happier. Someone with many defilements and many possessions will always be in trouble, because no matter how much he possesses he is never satisfied. He will always struggle to get more, he will search for more and therefore his citta is agitated. He causes trouble both to himself and to others.

S : With which kind of person do you want to associate, with a person who has many possessions and many defilements or with a person who has few possessions and few defilements, who does not harm others?

W. : I think that it is to be preferred to associate with the person who has only few defilements and few possessions, because he does not harm or hurt us.

S. : We read in the Saadhu-siila-Jaataka(Jaataka Stories II, no. 200) that in the past a similar question arose [19. Of four persons one was beautiful, one was advanced in years, one was of noble birth and one was virtuous. Who of these four do you think should be preferred?

W. : I would prefer the last one, the person who has siila, virtue. And what did the teacher in olden times answer?

S. : The teacher answered very shortly, but from his answer it appeared that beauty of the body is just esthetically pleasing; that the person who is advanced in years will be respected; that being of noble birth is useful; but that the person who has virtue is loved by all people.

W. : This shows that nobody likes defilements.

S. : Defilements are repugnant. Their degree and strength determines to what extent they cause the citta to be distressed and agitated. It is not in anyones power to prevent the arising of defilements, because they are devoid of self, they are anattaa. If we know the wholesome dhamma which is opposed to a particular defilement, and if we know the way leading to the elimination of defilements, it is possible to gradually decrease their strength. For someone who has been bitten by a poisonous snake or who suffers from diseases there may be a medicine which cures ills, but such medicine is not a cure for the mental disease which are the defilements. Defilements can decrease only by the development of all kinds of kusala.

W. : If we know all the methods which can eliminate defilements, it will help us to have more opportunities to do so.

S. : If someone develops kusala with the purpose of eliminating a particular defilement he should first see the disadvantage of that defilement.

In respect to this, you can see the great wisdom, the purity and compassion of the Buddha who taught the Dhamma, which is different from the teachings of other religions, such as he taught to the householder Asibandhaka, the disciple of the naked ascetic Niga~n~nha [20. Other religions, such as the teaching of Niga~n~nha, do not point out the danger of wrong deeds through body and speech, they only teach about their results, about birth in an unhappy plane, birth in hell. The Buddha clearly saw all dhammas, he saw all causes and their results. He pointed out the danger of evil deeds through body and speech in many different ways, so that his disciples would consider the disadvantages of akusala and would continue to practise the way leading to the elimination of evil deeds and the eradication of all defilements.

W. : The observance of siila will lead to the elimination of defilements, more so than kusala on the level of daana.

S. : Daana, generosity, is helping others by giving them useful things, but that may happen only occasionally. Whereas siila, good moral conduct with regard to ones bodily actions and speech, has to be observed continuously. If a person gives things away for the benefit of someone else, but does not abstain from harming other people by body, speech and mind, then his daana is a way of helping which is not perfect. Even though he has performed a deed of generosity, he still causes suffering to others. Someone who performs a deed of generosity should also abstain from harming others, that is a way of giving which has reached perfection.

We read in the Gradual Sayings (IV, Book of the Eights, Ch IV, on Giving, 9, Yields) that the Buddha taught that the siila which is abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants which cause heedlessness, is the highest way of giving, mahaa-daana. The text states [21 :

Herein, monks, a noble disciple gives up the taking of life and abstains from it. By the abstaining from the taking of life, the noble disciple gives to immeasurable beings freedom from fear, gives to them freedom from hostility, and freedom from oppression. By giving to immeasurable beings freedom from fear, hostility and opression, he himself will enjoy immeasurable freedom from fear, hostility and oppression....

The same is said with regard to abstaining from stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants.

W. : Such moral conduct brings its appropriate result. The person who gives to others freedom from danger, freedom from hostility, who does not harm anyone, will not experience danger himself. I think, when the observance of siila has been developed so that it becomes ones nature, that it is easier than giving. Someone may have confidence in giving, but he cannot give if there is no opportunity for it, or if his means are such that he cannot afford giving.

S. : The person who develops siila so that it becomes his nature has accumulated the inclination to good moral conduct, he has purity of actions and speech, he does not harm others, he does not cause suffering to them, but his inclination to give may be less than someone who is generous by nature, because of his accumulations. The person who sees the danger of defilements will develop any kind of kusala for which there is an opportunity. When there is an opportunity for giving he will give, when there is an opportunity for siila, he will observe siila, and if he understands how to apply himself to mental development, he will do so.

W. : Siila is one of the ten meritorious actions.

S. : There are still other meritorious actions which are included in siila and I shall deal with these presently.

********Chapter 4.

Paying Respect (Apacaayana)

W. : First of all I wish to speak about an experience all of us may have in daily life. Recently I met an old friend who was a classmate of mine. After we talked about all kinds of subjects we discussed the misery and happiness we all have to experience in life. My friend spoke as follows: It never occurred to me before what my life would be like after having left school. I did not think about having to work and earning a living myself, and being responsible for my own life. I did not think about the problems and the contrarieties which would be in my way, about the difficult situations I would have to face, and the struggles which are part of our life in this world. Isnt it strange that such feelings and thoughts never occurrred to us before, when we were children? I listened to my friend and found that she expressed exactly what I felt myself. I said to her: What you say is true, and you are not the only person who has such feelings. I myself have the same thoughts already for a long time. At the time of our childhood we did not feel that our life could be such a heavy burden. Our parents were the persons who carried a heavy burden for our sake. Before we were grown up and could earn a living ourselves, our life truly caused problems to our parents, it was a burden to them. They saw it as their task to give up everything for our sake; just as a guardian deva they took care of the happiness and wellbeing in our life. Or just as Brahma they extended the divine abidings (brahmavihaaras) of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity [22, for the happiness and wellbeing in the life of their children. Or like the arahat, the perfected one, who has excellent qualities, parents give the highest blessings to the life of their children.

To sum up, our parents were our refuge in life from our earliest childhood. Our life went along smoothly, we only experienced happiness and contentment, and our parents, because of the love and kindness they continuously showed us, were our refuge; they never caused us to be disappointed or to feel hurt.

As to the word refuge, a refuge is most important in our life. We have to use day in day out a great deal of perseverance, effort and strength for our livelihood, which for us is a refuge. House, food, clothing and medicines are necessities of our daily life, they are the outward refuge we depend on. People who have these four necessities of life have a refuge in material sense, so that they can live at ease. But, although people may have a refuge in material sense in all respects, this does not mean that they have found true happiness. The citta of people who are absorbed in the enjoyment of material things is not free from defilements. They are still clinging, and on account of their possessions like and dislike arise. They are attached to their properties and they guard them, and this causes sadness and worry. They are, for example, afraid that they will be separated from the things they are attached to, or that they will come across something they dislike. Such kinds of cittas are no refuge in the spiritual sense. The study of the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha and the application of the Dhamma as much as we are able to is the way to find ones refuge in the spiritual sense, and this is the best refuge. This will help us to overcome problems, to overcome suffering and dejection in our life.

The ten meritorious actions are a true refuge, a refuge which is wholesome. We dealt already with daana, generosity, and with another kind among the meritorious actions, with siila, the elimination of defilements through body and speech, for example by way of the five precepts. We can notice the degree of mettaa a person has by the way in which he observes the five precepts. The meritorious actions included in siila can be classified as threefold. Apart from one kind of siila we dealt with already there are two more kinds included in siila. What are these?

S. : They are apacaayana, that is, paying respect to whom respect is due, and veyyaavacca, that is, helping someone else.

W. : Many people may not know that paying respect to those who deserve it is a way of kusala. There are many opportunities to develop this way of kusala. People to whom respect is due are present all the time, beginning with the persons who are close to us at home, namely, mother and father, older brothers and sisters. Apart from them there are relatives who are older, teachers, people of great merit, monks, those who follow the right practice, and above all, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha [23, who are most worthy, more than anybody else.

S. : Is it easy or difficult to show respect to those who deserve it?

W. : If someone has developed this way of kusala so that it is his natural inclination to show respect, it is easy. But if a person has not developed this way of kusala before it seems rather difficult. Moreover, the paying of respect also depends on the occasion which presents itself. Sometimes we are lazy, or it may happen that we do feel like paying respect, and then we will not do so, not even to those who deserve respect.

S. : Defilements are akusala dhammas, unwholesome realities, which arise with the citta, they cause the citta to be impure. The eradication of defilements is wholesome, this causes the citta to be pure. The meritorious action which is apacaayana, that is, paying respect to those who deserve it, stems from the citta which is wholesome, kusala. We read in the Gradual Sayings ( I, Book of the Threes, Ch XV, 149, Homage):

Monks, there are these three kinds of homage. What three?

Homage done with body, speech and mind. These are the three....

W. : I have no doubt as to homage through the body, but how does one pay homage through speech and through the mind?

S. : Homage through speech is just showing respect by ones speech. Paying respect through speech is, for example, speaking words of homage to the Buddha: Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahatto Sammaasambuddhassa, which means: Homage to Him, the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Fully Enlightened One.

W. : Apart from paying respect through speech to the Triple Gem, can one also pay respect through speech to other people?

S. : Certainly. Respectful and courteous behaviour is a way of showing respect through the body. Speech which is polite, gentle and kind is a way of paying respect through speech.

W. : By such behaviour and speech we can find out what the nature of the citta is at that moment.

S. : If someone is a keen observer, he can notice when there is a change in a persons usual appearance. Even from a slight change in the expression of his eyes, the colour of his face, the tone of his voice or his intonation, it can be known what the citta is like at such moments. The sound of speech is a kind of ruupa which is produced by citta. There are four factors which produce the ruupas of the body, namely: kamma, citta, temperature (cold or heat), and nutrition.

W. : I have noticed that people who are annoyed try to suppress their annoyance and do not give expression to it through body or speech. If we, however, are close to them and rather keen at observing, we can notice a change in the tone of their voice which may be short and abrupt, not as gentle as before. When some people are glad and full of joy about something, it may happen, even though we cannot see them, that merely by hearing their voice from a distance, their exclamations of joy, we can know immediately that they are happy and satisfied. Or it may happen that we do not see the people who give expression to their happiness, but when they tell us afterwards about their happiness and good luck, we may be able to notice from the colour of their face and the expression of their eyes the joy they feel about their good fortune.

The manners and behaviour by which one shows respect vary in different places. For different nationalities who each have their own etiquette and culture the ways of showing respect are not the same. Some people believe that a certain kind of behaviour is polite, whereas others find it not suitable. Why is that so?

S. : The fact that people find a certain kind of behaviour polite and another kind not, depending on their different nationality and culture, is caused by different ways of thinking, education and training. But the respect one shows stems from the nature of the citta. If the citta is kusala citta with respect, no matter what kind of behaviour one assumes, according to the manners or custom of whatever nationality, in whatever language, we can see the characteristic of respect expressed by a persons behaviour.

W. : When Tibetans pay homage to the Triple Gem according to their custom, they do not only express this by touching the ground with head, hands and knees, as we do, but they do more: they fling their whole body flat on the floor. If there is a wide area, such as the location around the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, they do so continually while going around the Bodhi Tree. In this way they pay the highest homage.

Paying respect through the mind seems to me more important than paying respect through the body or through speech. Different nations have each their own language, their own customs and manners according to which they pay respect.

S. : If one sees the disadvantages of defilements one will not waste any opportunity to eliminate them. When someone knows that the citta is coarse and that there is conceit, the characteristic of akusala appears, the characteristic of the citta without mettaa, loving kindness, for someone else. If he is mindful at such moments, he will develop gentleness of citta and respectfulness, so that this will become his natural inclination. He will pay respect by body and speech to certain people and at special places, as the occasion demands.

W. : If there is a crowded area we will, instead of paying respect by prostrating, just lift our folded hands, or maybe we just contemplate the excellent qualities of the Triple Gem. I think that this is a suitable way of paying respect.

S. : Kusala or akusala depends on the nature of the citta. There can be kusala citta with respect for a person or a place, even if one does not show respect by body or speech. This may happen when the person to whom we want to pay respect is too far away for us to approach him to pay respect. Or when we are in a temple in the midst of a crowd we cannot show respect by touching the floor with our head, hands and knees. But at such moments the citta can still be respectful when respect is due to a person or to a place; the citta can be respectful by abstaining from hurting or harming others through body, speech or mind. If someone pays respect occasionally through body or speech, just because it is his habit to do so, but he hurts or harms other people or causes damage to a place which should be respected by body, speech or mind, then he is not showing true respect. He folds his hands together and raises them towards his face [24 out of fear, or in order to gain something, to acquire things for himself, or he does so because the people he salutes are his relatives, or just because he comforms himself to the custom of society.

W. : If someone folds his hands in salutation and does so out of fear, the citta is certainly not kusala citta. One day I saw an old man who, in saluting, lifted his hands above his head, and cried out loudly, imploring a police officer for mercy. The police officer tried to arrest him because he sat there begging. Or sometimes poor people who need to get things from others may lift their folded hands in salutation only to induce them to give the things they need. In such a case they show respect because they want to get something. Moreover, there can still be other motives for paying respect, without there being kusala citta.

S. : At the moment the citta is coarse it means that there is no happiness. Even though a person does not yet give expression to rudeness through body or speech, he is not able to make someone else whom he meets or who is close happy. This shows us that a person whose citta is coarse has no mettaa, loving kindness, for someone else. Because when the citta is coarse, a person cannot be intent on making someone else happy, or on giving assistance or helping him so that he is free from distress. If the citta has a high degree of coarseness there will be behaviour and speech which is not polite, not gentle, without thoughtfulness and kindness. He will cause unhappiness and distress to someone else who has to face such behaviour and speech.

It is evident that one hurts or harms someone else and causes his unhappiness by different kinds of akusala kamma, such as killing him or causing harm to his body, taking away his possessions, sexual misbehaviour with regard to his wife or children and other evil deeds. Even unwholesome deeds and unwholesome speech of a lesser degree which originate from the citta which is harsh are bound to disturb the happiness of other people. If someone has mettaa for others and if he trains himself in politeness and gentleness, he will lessen the strength of the defilement of dosa, aversion, the reality which is harsh. Courtesy and gentleness are wholesome qualities which are included in siila, because kusala siila, wholesome moral conduct, subdues and eliminates the defilements which condition evil deeds by body and speech.

W. : Thus, each time kusala citta arises it will eliminate the dhammas which condition the different types of akusala cittas.

S. : With regard to courtesy, it does not only eliminate dosa, which is harshness of citta, it also eliminates conceit, by which one clings to the importance of oneself.

In the Theragaathaa ( Khuddaka Nikaaya, Psalms of the Brethren, Canto 218), we read about Jenta, a chaplains son, who was proud because of his birth, his wealth, his position, his appearance, the beauty of his complexion and bodily features. He found that there was nobody equal to him or better than him. Thus his citta was rigid and full of conceit, he did not give service or assistance to anyone. He did not show reverence to anyone, not even to his parents, elder brother or sister, to monks or brahmins, which is the conventional term for teachers. However, it was due to merit accumulated in the past that he could meet the Exalted One, the Buddha, and could overcome his conceit and intoxication. His citta became pure and he paid respect to the Buddha. He applied the Dhamma he had heard until pa~n~naa, wisdom, could completely eradicate the defilement of conceit. We read the verse spoken by Jenta:

Infatuated with my birth, my wealth

And influence, with the beauty of my form

Intoxicated, thus I led my life.

Overmuch I fancied none was like to me.

A poor young fool by overweening spoilt,

Stubborn with pride, posing and insolent.

Mother and father, ay, and others too

Claiming respect and honour, never one

Did I salute, discourteous, stiff with pride.

Then I saw Him the Guide, Leader Supreme,

The peerless Chief among drivers of mankind [25 ,

In glory shining like the sun, with all

The company of monks in his train.

Casting away conceit and wanton pride,

A pious gladness filling all my heart,

Lowly I rendered homage with the head

To Him among all creatures Best and Chief.

Well extirpated now and put away

Is both overweening and hypocrisy;

The what and that I am [26 is snapt in twain,

Yes, every form of self-conceit is slain.

W. : If that person would live at the present time he would have many problems, because there would not be anybody who could help him to have confidence, saddhaa, which conditions one to pay respect and to eliminate conceit. I do not know whether there is at this time somebody with conceit to the same extent as that person.

S. : So long as there are defilements there will be conceit. Conceit is one type of defilement. Some people have a particular defilement to a great extent, but of other kinds of defilements they have only a slight degree. Moreover, there are coarse, medium and subtle defilements, and if one does not investigate and consider ones cittas in detail, one will not know at all the characteristic of each kind of defilement which has been accumulated from one citta to the next citta.

The Buddha attained enlightenment and since he had reached the end of the cycle of birth and death, he passed away completely. However, he taught the Dhamma and the Dhamma is his successor. People who pay homage to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, and who give expression to their respect by the investigation and the practice of the Dhamma, will eradicate defilements stage by stage, until they are all eradicated.

W. : We have dealt with apacaayana, the paying of respect, and this is one kind of meritorious action classified under siila, because it is a way of eliminating unwholesome actions committed through body or speech. We should lessen the strength of defilements whenever we have an opportunity to do so. If we waste such an opportunity, there are conditions for the accumulation of akusala dhammas.


Chapter 5

Rendering Service (Veyyaavaca)

W. : We have dealt with respect, one of the meritorious actions classified under siila. Our way of life and manners in Thailand have as foundation the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha. The Dhamma is indeed an important foundation for our customs, behaviour and wholesome conduct in which we were trained from our childhood. As children we were taught to be polite and respectful in behaviour and speech, to have respect for adults, not to be proud, not to despise others with regard to age, race or competence. We should not despise others, even if they are inferior compared to us in some respects. Respectful behaviour and speech are wholesome; we all want other people to be polite and gentle in their behaviour towards us. However, we do not always get what we wish from others. By studying the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha, we can come to understand the nature of citta, both of ourselves and of others, at the moments we are overwhelmed by defilements. The citta may, for example, be overcome by pride and conceit. We may find ourselves more clever than someone else, or just as clever as that person. Sometimes we know that we are not as clever as someone else, but we still have conceit, we find ourselves good. When we have such types of cittas, our behaviour and speech will show harshness and rigidity. This is not the condition to establish friendship, loving kindness and benevolence towards others. There is a proverb which is as follows:

When you give you will get something in return,

When you pay respect, you deserve respect,

When you love, you will be loved.

Those who are evil do not deserve such things.

This poem reminds us that giving good and beautiful things and also receiving them are necessary in human society. It is beneficial to be polite and considerate in speech, it is the cause of wellbeing, both for the person who has such speech and for the person he addresses himself to. Children with polite manners and speech, who are respectful to older people will be beloved by them. The older people will want to share things with them and make them happy. Older people who with polite manners and speech have loving kindness and benevolence for children, will cause the children to have respect and love for older people and to rejoice in their kindness. Children will think of them with affection.

A poem from a book by Venerable Ruang is as follows:

This is an old Thai tradition:

To give warm hospitality to guests;

Give the best as you possibly can,

So that they enjoy their stay,

Forgetting the time until they return.

This poem demonstrates the considerateness, the generosity and warm hospitality of people who receive guests. From these examples we can see the benefit of developing the way of kusala which is respect. The meritorious actions classified under siila are threefold. We dealt already with two of them, namely: the observance of the precepts and the paying of respect. Now we shall speak about the third kind of meritorious action classified under siila, and this is helping or rendering service, in Paali: veyyaavaca. What is exactly rendering service?

S. : Veyyaavaca is giving assistance or helping someone else, doing what is beneficial for someone else.

W. : If one gives someone else just a little assistance, is that kusala already?

S. : That is kusala. Helping someone else so that he is free from trouble, doing things for his convenience and wellbeing, for his benefit, this has kusala citta as its source.

W. I do not understand this yet.

S. : There is kusala citta, because at such moments there are no attachment, lobha, aversion, dosa, or ignorance, moha.

W. : Why are there no lobha, dosa or moha while we intend to help other people, for example, by guiding children across the road?

S. : If you only think of yourself, of your own pleasure and convenience, you will certainly not guide children across the road. When you are helping others there are cittas with loving kindness or compassion. There is loving kindness if you wish for the happiness of the person you are helping, and there is compassion if you wish him to be free from suffering [27. While you give assistance to others there cannot be dosa, aversion, annoyance or anger, at the same time, otherwise you would give up helping, you could not accomplish the giving of assistance.

W. : While we are giving assistance to someone else, we can notice that there is kusala citta, because there are no lobha, no dosa. But is there not even moha at such a moment?

S. : Moha, ignorance, is akusala dhamma, it does not know or understand anything. If you do not know what you should or should not do, or how you should render service to someone else and do something for his benefit, the kusala citta which is intent on helping cannot arise. Therefore, when there is kusala citta there cannot be moha at the same time.

W. : That is true. We see also with regard to material things that we cannot give help when there is ignorance. This may happen, for example, when someone in our house is sick, and, if we do not know which kind of medicine is beneficial for a particular person, we may hand him the wrong kind, although we have many kinds of medicine. Then we cannot help him to get cured from his ailment.

S. We can see the difference between the nature of the citta which is akusala and which is kusala. Akusala citta is not beautiful or pleasing, it is disturbed and agitated, not calm. It is the cause of actions through body and speech which are evil, which lead to suffering and sorrow, both for oneself and for others.

There are different degrees of eliminating the defilements which condition akusala citta, the citta which is impure. Daana, generosity, the giving away of possessions for the benefit of someone else, is one level of eliminating defilements. Another level is siila, which is the elimination of coarse defilements, of akusala through body and speech. There is also the level of bhaavanaa, mental development, which leads to gradual decreasing the strength of defilements, until they are completely eradicated and will not arise again.

W. : If we do not eradicate defilements they will increase from day to day.

S. : Suppose defilements were ruupa, not naama, there would not be any place where you could possibly store them, because there is such a great quantity of them. Anything can be the object of defilements, anything can be the cause of their arising.

W. : That is true. Whenever we see or hear something we are not free from like or dislike on account of what we experience.The term worldling or ordinary person (puthujjana) is a suitable name for someone who is still full of defilements [28.

S. : It is essential to know that there is no other way to eliminate defilements but to develop kusala time and again, whenever there is an opportunity for it.

W. : We can know from examples and events in our daily life that there are many opportunities for the development of kusala. For example, when someone is in need of particular things of which we have a sufficient amount, we can help him in this respect by giving such things to him with generosity. After we have performed generous deeds, we can transfer our kusala by letting someone else know about it, so that he has appreciation of our kusala, anumodana. That is another way of kusala we can perform. Or, if we cannot give things away ourselves, friends of us may perform generous deeds and tell us about their kusala. Then we can appreciate their wholesome deeds and rejoice in it. This is another way of kusala.

As regards the development of kusala in the form of the paying of respect, we normally come into contact with people who are older than us, such as parents, older brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, who show kindness and benevolence to us. When we pay respect to them, it is another kind of kusala.

In our house there are several people who have to fulfill a task. If we share their burden of work so that their task becomes lighter, it is another kind of kusala, namely, helping, veyyaavaca. If we know that there are many opportunities to develop kusala and that it is not difficult to do so, we will not waste the opportunities for kusala, be it even a little, in our daily life. Especially children or grandchildren have opportunities to help. When parents or those who take care of a child ask him to do some chores in the house, he can do such tasks with kusala citta, citta which is cheerful and pure. If he knows that he is doing a wholesome deed he will with pleasure take upon himself the tasks his parents ask him to do, also in the future. In this way he develops kusala and he also accumulates the inclination to kusala.

We may help others or give away things for the benefit of others, but are such deeds not in conflict with our own interests, with our life in this world? If we are only engaged with helping others and spend a great deal of our time on it, we have no opportunity to acquire possessions for our own benefit.

S. : The development of kusala is not at all in conflict with our life in this world. On the contrary, kusala helps the world to be free from troubles and suffering, it is beneficial for the world; it was so in the past, it is at present and it will be in the future. Daana, generosity, the giving away of things for the benefit and happiness of others, is very necessary in this world. Human beings who are born are not free from the eight worldly conditions of gain and loss, honour and dishonour, wellbeing and misery, praise and blame. When akusala kamma produces result, it can be in the form of loss, dishonour, or the lack of possessions or money because of fire, inundation or other causes. If there is no kusala by way of generosity, if people do not help each other, this world will be in trouble and there will be even more suffering.

W. : It is the same with siila, if one does not eliminate defilements by observing the moral precepts, the world will be in trouble.

S. : To the extent defilements are eliminated beings who live in this world will be free from suffering and troubles.

Among the meritorious actions classified under siila there are also paying respect, apacaayana, and rendering service, veyyaavaca. Thus, siila is not only abstinence from ill deeds, it includes also the development of kusala which is the elimination of defilements by training oneself in paying respect to those who deserve respect, and in giving support for the benefit of others.

W. : This is true. For example, our parents are those who deserve the highest esteem in our life. If we only repay their kindness by being good, by being a person who abstains from evil deeds, but if we at the same time are not polite and respectful, and do not help them with their tasks when it is the right time to do so, we do not repay them enough. Because their great qualities and benevolence should be valued most highly.

S. : We read in the Gradual Sayings (II, Book of the Fours, Ch VII, 3, Equal with Brahmaa) about the benevolence parents have for their children and the kindness children should show their parents. The text states that the Buddha said to the monks:

Monks, those families where mother and father are worshipped in the home are reckoned like unto Brahmaa. Those families where mother and father are worshipped in the home are ranked with teachers of old. Those families where mother and father are worshipped in the home are ranked with the devas of old. Worthy of offerings, monks, are those families where mother and father are worshipped in the home.

Brahmaa, monks, is a term for mother and father. Teachers of old, monks, is a term for mother and father. Devas of old, monks, is a term for mother and father. Worthy of offerings, monks, is a term for mother and father. Why so? Because mother and father do much for their children, they bring them up, nourish and introduce them to the world.

Parents are Brahmaa called, teachers of old,

Worthy of gifts are they, compassionate

Unto their tribe of children. Thus the wise

Should worship them and pay them honours due,

Serve them with food and drink, clothing and bed,

Anoint their bodies, bathe and wash their feet.

For service such as this to parents given

In this life sages praise a man, and he

Hereafter has reward of joy in heaven.

A child who is good is not merely aware of the benevolence of his parents, but he should also be respectful towards them, and he should support them in every way. Moreover, being respectful towards ones parents and giving support to them is, apart from being the duty of a good child, a way to eliminate ones defilements. One eliminates defilements by the development of the meritorious actions which are paying respect and helping.

W. : I agree with that. Although each child knows of the benevolence of his parents, he never uses enough opportunities to give service to them and to support them. I understand that the reason for this is our defilements. For example, when we are angry our behaviour lacks respectfulness towards them. Or our parents want us to help them, but we are absorbed in reading the newspaper or we enjoy playing games and therefore, we put off helping them, we do not wish to give help. Then we cause our parents to be displeased and the reason for this is our defilements.

Is there anything else, apart from paying respect and rendering service, by which we can repay even more all that our parents have done for us?

S. : There is a way. We read in the Gradual Sayings (I, Book of the Twos, Ch 4, 2) that the Buddha said to the monks that it is not an easy task to repay ones parents for all they have done for us. Even if one takes care of them and supports them in many different ways it cannot be said that one repays their benevolence. The Buddha said:

...What is the cause of that? Monks, parents do much for their children: they bring them up, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world.

Moreover, monks, whoso incites his unbelieving parents [29, settles and establishes them in faith; whoso incites his immoral [30 parents, settles and establishes them in morality; whoso incites his stingy parents, settles and establishes them in liberality; whoso incites his foolish [31 parents, settles and establishes them in wisdom, - such a one, just by so doing, does repay, does more than repay what is due to his parents.

W. : This shows us that there is nothing more valuable than being established in kusala.

S. : All that happens takes its course according to conditions and it is changeable, impermanent. Nobody can control or force anything. We read in the Siri-Jaataka(II, 284) about the importance of kusala [32. A person who does not perform meritorious deeds will apply himself in vain to accumulate wealth, even if he is proficient in the field of art or science and has much knowledge. But a person who has done good deeds will make use of his wealth in the right way. We read in the verse that the Buddha said:

Whatever riches they who strive amain

Without the aid of merit can ever gain,

All that, by favour of the goddess Luck,

Both skilled and unskilled equally obtain....

We read that the Buddha added:

Good sir, these beings have no other resource but their merit won in previous births; this enables you to obtain treasures in places where there is no mine....

W. : What the Jaataka teaches is true. We worry every day about possessions. Different people seek possessions and accumulate wealth. If they have not accumulated meritorious deeds, they tire themselves in vain while they are trying to acquire possessions and are taking care of them. They themselves will have no opportunity to make use of the wealth they have acquired. If their children and relatives have accumulated kusala , they do not have to make an effort to acquire possessions, they can make use of them at ease.

I have a question. What is the duty of Buddhists with regard to respect and support towards the Triple Gem, to which the highest honour is due?

S. : Studying the Dhamma and applying it is the highest respect one can give to the Triple Gem. We read in the Delectable Discourse (Dialogues III, no. 29, 127) that aananda and the novice Cunda visited the Buddha and told him about the sectarians the Niga~n~nhas who were quarrelling after the death of their leader. The Buddha said:

Wherefore, Cunda, do you, to whom I have made known the truths that I have perceived, come together in company and rehearse all of you together those doctrines and quarrel not over them, but compare meaning with meaning, and phrase with phrase, in order that this pure religion may last long and be perpetuated, in order that it may continue to be for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of love for the world, to the good and the gain and the weal of devas and men!

Thus, this sutta shows us that the study and practice of the Dhamma is the way to give the highest honour and respect to the Triple Gem.

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