Deeds of Merit
By Sujin Boriharnwanaket.
Translated by Nina van Gorkom
(This book is not yet published in print form)
The Benefits of Studying Dhamma
W. : We dealt with the meritorious action of listening to the Dhamma which is included in mental development. We also spoke about the six kinds of things most valuable above all, the first of which is the seeing that is most valuable above all. What is the meaning of seeing which is more valuable than all other kinds of seeing?
S. : In the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Sixes, Ch III, 10, Above all) the Buddha explained to the monks about the seeing above all:
... Herein, monks, some go to see the treasures: the elephant, the horse, the gem; to see divers things; to see some recluse or godly man, wrong in view, treading the wrong path. And is that the seeing [44, monks? No, I say it is not; it is indeed a mean kind of seeing, common, vulgar, unariyan, not well-found, leading not to world-weariness, dispassion, ending, calm, knowledge, awakening, nibbaana. But some, endued with faith and piety, sure in trust, go to see the Tathaagata or the Tathaagatas disciple. That, monks, is the seeing above all seeing for purging man, overcoming grief and woe, clearing away ill and pain, winning truth, and realizing nibbaana; I mean, going to see the Tathaagatha or his disciple, endued with faith and piety, sure in trust. This, monks, is called the seeing above all. Herein is the seeing above all....
W. : At the present time there are quite a number of Buddhists who would wish to see the Buddha, who would wish to visit him in order to hear the Dhamma directly from him. However, there is no longer an opportunity to do so, because he passed finally away more than twothousand and fivehundred years ago.
S.: The Buddha left us the Dhamma as the teacher who represents him. What would you do in order to be able to see the Buddha?
W.: We should listen to the Dhamma and study it. But I still doubt whether by listening to the Dhamma and studying it I would really see the Buddha.
S. : We cannot see him in his bodily appearance, since his body has been cremated. At the present time we can only see the different relics of the Buddha which are still left. However, the Buddha himself explained that if we wish to see him we should see the Dhamma. The Buddha explained this to Vakkali who continuously followed the Buddha everywhere. We read in the Kindred Sayings (III, Khandhaa-vagga, Middle Fifty, Ch 4, 87, Vakkali) that the Buddha said to Vakkali:
Hush, Vakkali! What is there in seeing this vile body of mine? He who sees the Dhamma, Vakkali, he sees me; he who sees me, Vakkali, sees the Dhamma. Verily, seeing the Dhamma, Vakkali, one sees me; seeing me, one sees the Dhamma.
W. : How can we see the Buddha by studying the Dhamma and the Vinaya of the Buddha?
S. : We should first of all understand who the Buddha is we pay respect and honour to. We should understand the real meaning of paying respect to the Buddha.
W. : We pay respect to the wisdom, the purity and the compassion of the Buddha.
S. : If we have not studied the Dhamma and the Vinaya the Buddha taught we cannot understand these three excellent qualities of the Buddha.
W. : Can we really understand these qualities by studying the Dhamma and the Vinaya?
S. : The Dhamma and the Vinaya are contained in the Tipi~naka, the three divisions of the teachings, namely: the Vinaya, the Suttanta and the Abhidhamma. It can generally be said that if one studies the Vinaya one sees the purity of the Buddha. He laid down in a detailed and complete way rules of moral conduct to be observed with the purpose of eliminating defilements and of abstaining from immoral conduct.
W. : It is said that the Vinaya is the objective of siila.
S. : By the study of the Vinaya one can see the superiority of the Buddha who laid down rules for good moral conduct in all details. When we see the danger of unwholesomeness which the Buddha advised to abstain from, there will be conditions for confidence in the practice of good moral conduct and in abstention from what is unwholesome. This is the objective of siila.
W. : Which quality of the Buddha will be seen if one studies the suttas?
S. : If one studies the Suttanta one will see the Buddhas compassion. He taught the Dhamma to those who wanted to listen, he taught for the sake of their benefit and wellbeing. He wanted to help the listeners and did not want any misfortune to occur to them, no matter who they were. Even shortly before his final passing away he still taught the Dhamma to Subhadda who became the last disciple in the presence of the Buddha himself [45. This clearly shows his great compassion.
W. : It is said that the Vinaya is the object of siila, the Suttanta the object of samaadhi, concentration, and the Abhidhamma the object of pa~n~naa. Why is the Suttanta the object of samaadhi?
S. : If one studies the suttas one will be deeply impressed by the beauty of the teaching of the Dhamma which is perfect as to the meaning and the words which explain the meaning, and also with regard to the similes which are very clear. The teaching of the Dhamma which is impressive and clear is the condition for those who study it for having confidence and being delighted with the Dhamma. The Dhamma conditions purity and calm of citta, and also the subduing of akusala. There can be samaadhi, concentration and calm, when someone is deeply impressed by the flavour of the Dhamma or when he recollects the excellent qualities of the Buddha.
W. : Which qualities of the Buddha can be seen by the study of the Abhidhamma?
S. : People who study the Abhidhamma can realize the wisdom of the Buddha, because he taught the Dhamma he had penetrated in all details at the time of his enlightenment. He classified the whole wide world into two components, namely, naama, mental phenomena, and ruupa, physical phenomena. In this way there isnt anything left which could be taken for self.
W. : What is the meaning of the Abhidhamma being the object of pa~n~naa?
S. : The Abhidhamma is the object of pa~n~naa because people who study it can have right understanding of the different realities as they are. The study of the Abhidhamma is the study of the ultimate realities the Buddha penetrated at the time of his enlightenment and which he taught in detail.
W. : You just said that generally speaking each of the three parts of the teachings are the condition for people who study them for seeing the excellent qualities of the Buddha. Is it correct to say that in each of these three parts of the Tipi~naka we can see the three qualities of the Buddha which are his purity, his compassion and his wisdom?
S. : That is true. For example, we see in the Vinaya the purity of the Buddha who laid down in all details the rules of training in moral conduct by which unwholesomeness through body and speech can be eliminated. However, in the Vinaya we do not only see his purity, but also his wisdom by which he realized at the time of his enlightenment the causes leading to the appropriate results with regard to the rules of training contained in the Vinaya. He realized to what extent each training rule of siila was a powerful condition for the monk to be firmly established in the teachings and in the life of purity. Layfollowers are absorbed in the sense objects of visible object, sound, odour, flavour and tangible object which tie them to the household life and prevent them from becoming a monk. Whereas for the monk, his siila is a powerful bond which is a condition for him not to leave the monkhood and turn to the laymans life, the life of sense pleasures.
W. : Can people who study the Vinaya also see the compassion of the Buddha? I think that it is difficult to see this. I heard people say that the Buddha made life difficult for the monks by the different rules which are very detailed. Some monks find it difficult to apply these rules. How can we see the Buddhas compassion in the Vinaya?
S. : Each rule of the Vinaya the Buddha laid down is for the sake of the living together of the members of the community of monks in harmony and happiness. In the Vinaya there are also minor rules; there are mitigations which means that there are allowances in the application of rules, that there are exceptions so that certain cases are not offenses. This shows the great compassion of the Buddha. The Buddha clearly knew that people who still have defilements would usually in their behaviour be led by those defilements. If such actions would not be greatly in conflict with their status of monkhood there were rules laid down by him which would serve to correct their behaviour. In his compassion the Buddha knew that someone who had left the household life to become a monk had not undertaken an easy task.
W. : People who study the Suttanta are able to see not only his compassion but also his purity and his wisdom. As you said, in each of the three parts of the Tipi~naka we would be able to notice these three qualities of the Buddha.
S : The compassion of the Buddha is evident in the suttas which he preached so that people would benefit in accordance with their accumulations and abilities. Apart from seeing his compassion we also see the Buddhas purity which was unshakable by words of praise or blame, by gain, respect or homage. We read in the Dialogues of the Buddha (I, no. 1, Brahmajaala Sutta [46) that the Buddha, while he was staying in the pavilion in the Ambala~n~nhika garden, said to the monks:
If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should not give way to resentment, displeasure, or animosity against them in your heart. For if you were to become angry or upset in such situation, you would only be creating an obstacle for yourselves. If you were to become angry or upset when others speak in dispraise of us, would you be able to recognize whether their statements are rightly or wrongly spoken?
Certainly not, Lord.
If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should unravel what is false and point it out as false, saying: For such and such a reason this is false, this is untrue, there is no such thing in us, this is not found among us.
And if, bhikkhus, others speak in praise of me, or in praise of the Dhamma, or in praise of the Sangha, you should not give way to jubilation, joy, and exaltation in your heart. For if you were to become jubilant, joyful and exultant in such a situation, you would only be creating an obstacle for yourselves. If others speak in praise of me, or in praise of the Dhamma, or in praise of the Sangha, you should acknowledge what is fact as fact, saying: For such and such a reason this is a fact, this is true, there is such a thing in us, this is found among us.
Thus we see the Buddhas purity in his teaching of the Dhamma, also in the part of the Tipi~naka which is the Suttanta.
W. : If one studies the suttas it is not difficult also to see the wisdom of the Buddha.
S. : The Buddha explained by his teaching of the Dhamma all realities, and he showed the causes which bring their appropriate results; he clearly taught about realities in all details and nobody can equal him in wisdom. In his teaching of the Dhamma the Buddha used similes which were beautiful and deep in meaning, clarifying realities and the principles of the Dhamma. Later on, others also used similes in order to explain realities but these cannot equal the Buddhas similes in beauty and clarity.
W. : We read in the Dhammapada (V, Fools, Baalavagga, vs. 64, 65):
Though a fool through all his life associates with a wise man, he no more understands the Dhamma than a spoon the flavour of soup.
Though an intelligent person only for a moment associates with a wise man, quickly he understands the Dhamma as the tongue the flavour of soup.
This is a simile which can be easily understood, but in order to have a deeper understanding of its meaning we should investigate the following points: which is the characteristic of the fool and what is the Dhamma the fool cannot grasp? Evenso should we investigate which is the characteristic of the wise who grasps the Dhamma. Only in this way can we have a clearer understanding of this simile.
W. : If people study the Abhidhamma can they also grasp the purity and the compassion of the Buddha?
S. : If people study the Abhidhanna and clearly understand it in all details, the purity of the Buddha will become evident to them. The wisdom of the Buddha who penetrated all realities at the moment of his enlightenment and taught these in all details does not stem from intellectual understanding; his wisdom is altogether different from speculation which people who still have defilements are engaged in. Only someone who is perfectly pure, who has eradicated defilements completely and who has wisdom equal to the degree of the Buddhas wisdom could have such thorough and deep understanding of all realities, even into the smallest details.
W. : How can people who have studied the Abhidhamma grasp the compassion of the Buddha?
S. : The Buddha taught the realities which have been classified in the Abhidhamma and his compassion becomes all the more evident to us as we see the method he used in teaching realities: sometimes in a more detailed way and sometimes in a less detailed way, all with the purpose that his followers could have clear and thorough understanding of them. Because of his geat compassion he adapted his teaching to the listeners: it was depending on their ability to grasp the Dhamma to what extent he would go into details and subtle points of realities. Not everyone of his followers would be able to understand all realities since they each had different capacities to understand the Dhamma, depending on their accumulated pa~n~naa.
W. : The Buddhas compassion towards his disciples is endless, it cannot equal the compassion of us, his followers, no matter how much goodwill and loving kindness we may have. Someone who has studied the Dhamma may speak about the Dhamma to a friend, but if he sees that his friend has to force himself to listen he cannot help being disappointed. He is annoyed that the listener is not interested or does not see the importance of the Dhamma he tries to explain to him.
It is not easy to grasp the three excellent qualities of the Buddha in all three parts of the Tipi~naka or even in one of the three parts.
S. : If one wants to understand the excellent qualities of the Buddha one should study the Dhamma and the Vinaya [47. It depends on the extent of ones study how deeply one will understand the Buddhas qualities. When we have studied, investigated and understood the Dhamma we will see the three excellent qualities of the Buddha in all three parts of the Tipi~naka. If someone only studies one of the three parts of the Tipi~naka, he will merely have a general understanding of the quality of the Buddha which is evident in that part. If someone, for example, studies the Vinaya, he will have a general understanding of the purity of the Buddha, and if he studies the Suttanta he will understand his compassion. He will not, however, have understanding of his wisdom to the same extent as those who study the Abhidhamma.
If one has studied the whole of the Tipi~naka and has acquired understanding of the Buddhas wisdom one will be able to grasp all three qualities of the Buddha in all three parts of the Tipi~naka.
W. : If someone has not listened to the Dhamma and has not studied it, he has no opportunity to see the excellent qualities of the Buddha and of his disciples. If that is the case he will not know, with the words of the sutta, the seeing which is valuable above all.
The sutta of the Gradual Sayings which I quoted before mentions, apart from the seeing above all, other matters which are valuable above all, namely, the hearing, the gain, the training, the service and the ever minding which are most valuable.
What is the hearing which is valuable above all?
S. : The hearing which is more valuable than all other kinds of hearing is hearing the Dhamma from the Buddha or from his disciples. The Buddha said to the monks with regard to this that some people go out to hear the sound of drums or harps, to hear songs, high sounds, low sounds, that they go out to listen to the Dhamma of recluses and brahmins who have wrong view and wrong practice. Such kinds of hearing do not lead to purification from defilements and therefore, they are not the hearing which is most valuable.
People who have confidence will listen to the Dhamma of the Buddha or of his disciples. This kind of hearing is more valuable than all other kinds of hearing, because it leads to the eradication of defilements.
W. : What is the third matter which is valuable above all, as mentioned in the sutta, namely, the gain above all?
S. : This is the unshakable confidence in the Buddha and his disciples. All other gains such as a son, a wife, possessions or other acquisitions, be they great or slight, all these are ordinary. They will disappear, one has to be separated from them; they will decay and come to an end. However, the firm, unshakable confidence in the Buddha or his disciples leads to the eradication of defilements and this is the gain more valuable than all other kinds of gain.
W. : What is the training which is valuable above all?
S. : The training or study which is more valuable than all other kinds of training is the training leading to the eradication of defilements. This is the training in higher siila (adhisiila sikkhaa), in higher consciousness (adhicitta sikkhaa) and higher wisdom (adhipa~n~naa sikkhaa) [48. The essence of the Buddhas Dhamma and Vinaya is the training by the development of pa~n~naa with the aim of eradicating all defilements. This is the training which is valuable above all.
The training in different modes of conduct or different kinds of knowledge by recluses and brahmins who have wrong view and apply themselves to wrong practice do not lead to purity, to freedom from defilements, and therefore, they are not the training which is valuable above all.
W. : What is the service above all, the service which is more valuable than all other kinds of service?
S. : That is the service to the Buddha or to his disciples. Serving other people who have wrong view and apply themselves to wrong practice is not as valuable as serving the Buddha and his disciples with firm, unshakable confidence.
W. : The last matter mentioned in the sutta which is valuable above all is the ever minding which is more valuable than all other recollections. What is the ever minding which is valuable above all?
S. : This is the recollection of the Buddha and his disciples. Thinking of children, wife, possessions or recluses and brahmins who have wrong view and apply themselves to wrong practice is not the recollection which is valuable above all. People who have firm, unshakable confidence will recollect the Buddha and his disciples, and this is the recollection which is more valuable than the recollection of other matters or other people.
W. : Thus we can see that each of these most valuable matters in life stems actually from unshakable confidence in the Triple Gem. There must be the right conditions for unshakable confidence in the Buddha and his disciples and these are study of the Buddhas Dhamma and listening to the Dhamma.
The Teaching of Dhamma
If we investigate our different feelings which arise, we will see that there isnt any moment without feeling; different degrees of pleasure and dislike keep on arising and falling away, depending on conditions. People who like beautiful things will search for them and buy them. It is evident that the colour and lustre of silk cloths and the variety of beautiful ornaments and utensils condition pleasure and delight. We wish to acquire these things, we wish to own them because they bring joy and happiness in our life. However, at the same time we accumulate clinging while we wish to acquire all these beautiful things. If a person is not convinced of the principles of the Dhamma by which his clinging can be curbed or decreased, his clinging can be the cause of committing evil deeds with the purpose of obtaining pleasant things. People who have defilements and accumulate these more and more run the risk of committing akusala kamma which causes suffering both to oneself and to others. We spend our life with desire to acquire things, to possess things, we have clinging time and again. We tend to be enslaved by our search for the things which are necessities in life, such as the four requisites of clothing, dwelling place, food and medicines [49, and sometimes we also search things which are not necessities of life. The Buddha taught the four noble Truths, namely, the Truth of dukkha, of the cause of dukkha, of the cessation of dukkha and of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha. He taught that the cause of dukkha, suffering, is lobha, attachment, which is the desire to obtain things for oneself. Dukkha can be compared to darkness and the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha can be compared to light, since it means the cessation of dukkha and it points out the way leading to the cessation of dukkha. People who are able to walk the way in life leading to the light will be freed from suffering and all stains of defilements. By studying and training oneself in the principles of the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha one can develop different degrees of pa~n~naa, right understanding of the realities of our life. First there is pa~n~naa which stems from listening and thinking, and finally there will be the practice, the direct understanding which leads to the attainment of the result which is the cessation of dukkha.
We spoke already about the meritorious action of listening to the Dhamma, which is included in mental development. Now we will deal with the teaching of Dhamma, Dhamma desanaa, another meritorious action included in mental development. The teaching of Dhamma must be connected with listening to the Dhamma, because if there is no teaching of Dhamma there cannot be listening to the Dhamma and studying the Dhamma. Which of these two meritorious actions is more difficult and which of the two is more important?
S. : Both meritorious actions are equally difficult and are of the same importance. Listening to the Dhamma and teaching Dhamma by Buddhist followers are actually the study and teaching of the true nature of all realities the Buddha penetrated at the moment of his enlightenment and which he taught in all details. If people who study the Dhamma or who teach the Dhamma do not thoroughly investigate the Dhamma they will have wrong understanding of it and they will also cause other people to have wrong understanding.
W. : With regard to wrong understanding, I find it difficult to see what exactly its danger is. The teaching of the basic principles of morality, no matter whether in Buddhism or in other religions, has as its aim right conduct and right practice of their followers. Therefore, I think that if someone has wrong understanding of the higher Dhamma which is subtle and detailed it will not be a great wrong. It is only natural that people cannot easily understand the Dhamma which is subtle, intricate and difficult to investigate. What is your opinion about this matter?
S. : Incorrect understanding of the Dhamma is the cause that Saddhamma, true Dhamma, declines and finally disappears.
W. : The word dhamma as it is used in Buddhism has several meanings, such as paramattha dhammas, ultimate realities, or bodhipakkiya dhammas, factors of enlightenment. Dhamma includes everything which is real. The Dhamma to which we pay respect is the teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha taught about all realities in detail which he had penetrated at the moment of his enlightenment.
You said that wrong understanding of the Dhamma leads to the disappearance of Saddhamma. Could you, please, explain the meaning of the term Saddhamma?
S. : Saddhamma is the Dhamma of those who have eradicated defilements [50. Saddhamma refers to the Dhamma which is the condition for reaching the state of those who are free from defilements, who have eradicated defilements.
W. : I think that the decline of Saddhamma by wrong practice means that the Dhamma which leads to enlightenment will disappear. I do not believe that this refers to the decline of the Dhamma of the level of siila, or of the basic moral principles as practised in the world. If the Dhamma which leads to enlightenment disappears it will not be possible anymore to become an ariyan, a person who has attained enlightenment, is that right?
S. : Yes, that is right. The Dhamma which points to the way of practice leading to the arising of pa~n~naa which knows the true characteristics of the realities as they are appearing is very subtle and detailed. We should first of all study and investigate the cause which brings the appropriate result so that there will be correct understanding of the practice. At the moment sati is aware of the characteristic of the reality which appears there should also be the development of pa~n~naa which has clear understanding of that reality.
The Buddha taught the monks a simile so that they would see how intricate and subtle the development of pa~n~naa is. We read in the Kindred Sayings (V, Mahaa-vagga, Book III, on the Stations of Mindfulness, Ch I, 8, The cook, II) that the Buddha spoke to the monks about a foolish monk he compared to an unskilled cook, and a wise monk he compared to a skilled cook. He said about the wise monk, using the simile of the skilled cook:
...But suppose, monks, that there is a wise, experienced, skilful cook of raajahs or royal ministers, put in charge of the various sorts of soup, to wit: soups that are classed as sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline or non-alkaline, soups salt or otherwise.
Thus, monks, that wise, experienced, skilful cook takes proper note of his masters tastes, thus: Today master likes this soup, or he reaches out for that, or he takes a good helping of this, or he praises this soup, or again today master likes sour soup and so on.
Well, monks, that wise, experienced, skilful cook has perquisites of clothing, gratuities and offerings. Why so? Because the wise fellow studies his masters tastes.
Just in the same way, monks, here we may have some wise, experienced, skilful monk. He abides in body contemplating body (as transient), ardent, composed and mindful, by restraining the dejection in the world that arises from coveting. As he thus abides, his mind is concentrated, the corruptions are abandoned, he takes proper note of that matter. So also with regard to feelings...citta and dhammas, in contemplating dhammas his mind is concentrated, the corruptions are abandoned, he takes proper note of that matter.
Thus, monks, this wise, experienced, skilful monk gets the prequisites of pleasant living even in this very life, he has the perquisites of mindfulness and composure. What is the cause of that? It is because this wise, experienced, skilful monk takes proper note of his own mind.
W. : Someone who is skilful in cooking will see that if you just add or reduce a little amount of an ingredient it makes the taste of food change. If someone is not skilful in noticing such differences he will not obtain the right flavour he needs. This is the cause that the same kind of food can have such different flavours which may be delicious or unappetizing, depending on the cooks skill.
S. : Just in the same way can pa~n~naa be of different degrees, depending on the skill with which one considers the characteristics of the realities which appear.
W. : You once referred to an exhortation of the Buddha that all his followers should assemble in harmony in order to investigate the meaning and the letter of the teachings. According to the text, in this way the brahmafaring, the practice leading to the attainment of the result which is enlightenment, will continue for a long time. If that is the case, the study and teaching of the Dhamma is not only a task for the monk but also for the layfollower.
S. : The Dhamma which the Buddha taught for fortyfive years in order to help all living beings is very subtle and detailed. People should consider it a great deal in order to understand it completely, both with regard to the theory, as well as the practice, which is the development of pa~n~naa, and also its realisation, which is the penetration of the truth. However much Buddhists who are interested in the Dhamma study it and teach it as the Buddha taught, they will never be finished with it. Moreover, the inclinations and talents of Buddhist followers vary as they have accumulated different tendencies. Some people have accumulated the inclination to be only layfollowers and some people have accumulations for monkhood. Some people are experts in Vinaya, others are skilful in the Suttanta wheras others again are skilful in the Abhidhamma. Some people are interested in the practice, the development of pa~n~naa, and others are capable of explaining the basic principles of the Dhamma so that the listeners become firmly established in moral conduct, siila; they are able to explain the Dhamma in detail so that the listeners understand the right cause leading to the appropriate result, and they can guide them to the application of the Dhamma in daily life in a way which inspires confidence. Other people again are very skilful with regard to the texts in the Paali language. When Buddhists still see the importance of the study and the teaching of the Dhammma, and, according to the skill and expertise of each individual in the different fields, give assistance and make in this way Buddhism prosper, Buddhism will still be firmly established and continue for a long time.
W. : In the Buddhas time there must have been also layfollowers who excelled in different fields, apart from the monks and the nuns.
S. : That is true. There was for example the householder Citta of Macchikaasa~n~na who excelled in the teaching of the Dhamma, and there was Khujjuttaraa who excelled in wide knowledge of the Dhamma.
W. : At that time skilful people among the Buddhists equipped with special qualities who were an ornament to Buddhism and who surrounded the Buddha are inspiring joy and confidence. But at this time the Buddha, the supreme refuge of the world, is no longer present, and also the nature of the world has changed so that Buddhism has no longer people with excellent qualities such as in former times. What should we do about this?
S. : To what extent a Buddhist follower has confidence and practises in accordance with the Dhamma and the Vinaya of the Buddha depends in the case of each individual on the degree of his study of the Dhamma and the degree of his understanding. Although there are no longer nuns among Buddhists, there are still monks, laymen and women layfollowers. If these three groups of Buddhists help each other in the establishment of Buddhism, with regard to the study of the Dhamma, the practice of the Dhamma, and the teaching of the Dhamma, Buddhism will flourish and still continue for a long time.
W. : In the Buddhas time his followers must have assisted each other in harmony to propagate the Dhamma, the Buddhas teachings.
S. : We read in the Kindred Sayings (IV, Sa~naayatana-vagga, Part VII, Ch XLI, Kindred Sayings about Citta, 1, Fetter) that the householder Citta took upon himself the task of taking care of the monks and also of explaining the Dhamma to others. A number of Elders who were staying at Macchikasa~n~na in Wild Mango Grove, after having returned from almsgathering and having eaten their meal, had a conversation about fetters (sa~nyoga) and the matters which tend to fetters.
W. : What are the fetters and the dhammas which tend to fetters?
S. : Fetters are akusala dhammas which tie people to the cycle of birth and death. There are many kinds of akusala dhammas and they are of different degrees. One group of akusala dhammas are the hindrances (niivara~nas) [51 and these oppress the citta and make it agitated and restless. Even when other groups of akusala dhammas apart from the fetters do not arise, but the fetters are still there, living beings are tied by them and because of them cling to different planes of existence.
As to the dhammas which tend to fetters, these are the dhammas which support the fetters and which are the objects of the fetters.
W. : The fetters and the dhammas which tend to the fetters and support the fetters, seem to be very close in meaning, they are related to each other. What did the monks in their Dhamma conversation say about the fetters and the dhammas which tend to fetters?
S. : They discussed whether the fetters and the dhammas which tend to fetters were different in meaning and name, or whether there was only a difference in name, not in meaning.
W. : They always investigated the details of Dhamma. When there were many monks assembled, the answers to the questions which were posed must have been different. What had this to do with the householder Citta?
S. : Citta heard about the monks conversation, and went to visit them. He said to the monks:
Now, my lords, these two things, the fetter and the things which tend to fetter, are different both in spirit and in letter. Now, my lords, I will make you a comparison. Maybe some wise ones here will know the meaning of what I say.
Suppose, my lords, a black steer and a white steer are yoked together by one rope or one yoke. Now he who should say that the black steer is the fetter to the white one, or the white one to the black one,- would he in so saying be saying rightly?
Not so, housefather. The black steer is not a fetter to the white one, nor is the white one a fetter to the black one. But the fact of their being yoked by one rope or yoke,- that is a fetter.
Well, my lords, just so the eye is not a fetter of visible objects, nor visible objects a fetter to the eye. But the desire and lust that arise owing to the pair of them,- that is the fetter. The ear is not a fetter to sounds... the nose is not a fetter to scents, nor the tongue to savours, nor savours to tongue, but the desire and lust that arise owing to the pair of them,- that is the fetter. Likewise mind is not a fetter to mental objects, nor mental objects to mind, but the desire and lust that arise owing to the pair of them,- that is the fetter.
W. : How did the monks feel about Cittas explanation of the fetters and the dhammas which tend to fetters?
S. We read that the monks said:
Good for you, housefather. Well gotten for you, housefather, that in you the eye of wisdom is conversant with the profound teaching of the Enlightened One.
W. : Next we will deal with the propagation of the teachings. When we hear how the Buddhist followers in the Buddhas time unanimously gave assistance to propagate the teachings it will inspire us at this time to help making Buddhism prosper, each in accordance with his ability and skill, so that Buddhism will continue to exist in the future.
The Proclamation of the Dhamma
We dealt already with each of the ten meritorious actions, including listening to the Dhamma and explaining the Dhamma. As we have seen, the householder Citta, a layfollower who was preeminent in the teaching of Dhamma spoke about the Dhamma and explained it to the monks by way of a simile. Although these monks were Elders [52, they appreciated his explanation and the simile he used. This shows us how Buddhists at that time helped each other in harmony, both in material way and in spiritual way, that is, with the Dhamma. Thus we see the respect to the Dhamma of the Buddhist followers, in their urge to develop together the eightfold Path and to explain the Dhamma to others. I would like to know whether the Buddha taught all this to his followers.
S. : The Buddha taught a great deal in this repect. We read in the Gradual Sayings (III, Book of the Fives, Ch XXI, 1, Kimbila) :
Once, when the Exalted One was dwelling near Kimbilaa in the Bamboo Grove, the venerable Kimbila visited him and, after saluting, sat down at one side. So seated, he spoke thus to the Exalted One:
Lord, what is the cause, what is the reason, whereby, when the Exalted One has passed away completely, Saddhamma does not become long-lasting?
Suppose, Kimbila, after the Tathaagata has passed away completely, the monks and the nuns, the lay-disciples, both men and women, live without reverence, without heed for the Teacher; without reverence, without heed for Dhamma... for the Order... for the training; without reverence, without heed for one another-- this is the cause, this is the reason, whereby, when the Tathaagata has passed away completely, Saddhamma does not become long-lasting.
And what, lord, is the cause, the reason, whereby, after the Tathaagata has passed away, Saddhamma becomes long-lasting?
Suppose, Kimbila, monks, nuns and lay-disciples revere and give heed to the Teacher, Dhamma, the Order, the training; revere and give heed to one another- this is the cause, the reason, whereby, when the Tathaagata has passed away, Saddhamma becomes long-lasting.
Lack of respect for the Teacher means lack of study of the Dhamma and lack of practice of the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha. There are two kinds of offerings to the Buddha: in material way and in spiritual way. If people only offer material things to the Buddha but do not practise according to his teaching, it is not an offering of true respect to the Buddha.
Lack of respect for the Dhamma means heedlessness in the study of the Dhamma. Lack of respect for the Dhamma will cause people to deviate from it; it is the condition for its fading away, decline and disappearance.
Lack of respect for the Order means lack of respect for the ariyans, the enlightened persons, and also lack of respect for the community of the monks who have been assigned to perform the tasks of the Order according to the Vinaya, the Discipline of the monks.
W. : What is the meaning of lack of respect for the training?
S. : The word training, sikkhaa, as used in Buddhism, does not merely refer to the study of the Dhamma or listening to the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha, which is study on the theoretical level. Sikkhaa refers to the practice, including practice on the level of morality, siila, of samaadhi, concentration or calm, and paa~n~naa, namely the development of the understanding which can completely eradicate all defilements. Therefore, lack of respect as regards the training is lack of respect for the right way of training in siila, siila sikkhaa, in samaadhi, citta sikkhaa, and in pa~n~naa, pa~n~naa sikkhaa, with the aim of attaining the right result as taught by the Buddha.
W. : What is lack of respect as regards heedfulness?
S. : The answer is easy to understand. It is neglectfulness which is the cause of wasting ones time, of not applying oneself to kusala, not applying oneself to the Dhamma, the Buddhas teaching. If all Buddhists are neglectful the Saddhamma will surely disappear.
Lack of respect or neglectfulness in goodwill among Buddhists is lack of hospitality, generosity and helpfulness. This includes goodwill in material way, such as the giving of things which are to the comfort of body and mind, as well as goodwill in spiritual way, that is, helpfulness with regard to the Dhamma, and this is of greater benefit and happiness for the receiver than goodwill in material way. When someone listens to the Dhamma it will be a condition to eliminate doubt about the Dhamma. This means the ceasing of dukkha, dukkha which stems from not understanding the Dhamma.
W. : This shows us that giving and receiving of the Dhamma, and leading ones life with Dhamma is more valuable than anything else.
S. : We read in the Gradual Sayings(Book of the Twos, Ch XIII, 1-10, Gifts) that the Dhamma is the most valuable of all things. We read:
Monks, there are two gifts. What two?
The material gift and the gift of Dhamma. Of these two the gift of Dhamma is preeminent.
Moreover, we read in the same section about two kinds of enjoyments, of sharings together, of giving assistance. We read (in Ch XIV) about two kinds of success, of increases, of treasures, of accumulations. Of each pair the first is material and the second is spiritual, namely, regarding the Dhamma, and this is in each case the more excellent of the two.
As we have seen in the Kimbila Sutta which was quoted before, the Buddha explained the reasons for the disappearance of Saddhamma. The reasons were that the four groups of Buddhists, the monks, nuns, male and female layfollowers, after the Buddhas passing away, would have lack of reverence and heed for the Teacher, for the Dhamma, for the Sangha, for the training and for each other.
W. : I notice that the Buddha, apart from lack of reverence for the Teacher, the Dhamma, the Sangha and the training also stressed as cause for the disappearance of Saddhamma lack of reverence and heed of Buddhists for one another.
As you explained, Buddhists should have respect for the Dhamma of the Buddhist disciples who together develop the eightfold Path. I think that this does not mean that monks should pay respect to male and female layfollowers in the same way as layfollowers pay respect to monks.
S. : When layfollowers pay respect to monks they actually pay respect to the good qualities of monkhood and to the excellence of the life and practice of monkhood. Whereas the monks can have respect for the way layfollowers study and practise the Dhamma, they can have appreciation of it. Monks do not have to pay respect to the status of laymen, which is lower in rank than the status of monkhood.
W. : In the Buddhas time there were nuns who had attained arahatship and layfollowers who were preeminent in different fields. Some were wise people who had listened a great deal to the Dhamma, some were skilled in the teaching of the Dhamma, or skilled in the attainment of jhaana. Monks do not have to pay respect to them, but these nuns and layfollowers should pay respect to monks, even when they just became ordained on that very day. I wonder why this is so.
S. : The reason for this is that the monks are the leaders of the Buddhists. They have to perform more tasks in the field of Buddhism than nuns and layfollowers. The status of monkhood is higher than the status of the layfollowers. The citta of those who left the household life, their possessions and all amenities of the lay life in order to become a monk is more excellent than the citta of the layfollowers. Leaving the household life in order to become a monk is a degree of eliminating defilements.
W. : The citta of someone who is able to leave the household life is excellent. Even when we do not consider this more deeply it is easy to see that we laypeople are attached to different colours, whereas the monk has robes of only one colour which is not bright and attractive, not inviting for thieves. In the afternoon or evening we like to eat food of different flavours, we wish to drink tea or fruitjuice or to savour sweet things. The monk, however, can after midday only drink plain water and take things by way of medicin to cure pain caused by hunger.
Which kusala should be appreciated more, the kusala of the layman or of the monk?
S. : The Buddha in his great compassion exhorted his followers not to become divided or to engage in competition with each other, or to compare ones qualities with those of someone else. The citta which thinks in that way is akusala citta and one should not give an opportunity for its arising.
We read in the Middle Length Sayings (II, no 99, Discourse with Subha) that, while the Buddha was staying near Saavatthii, in the Jeta Grove, the brahman youth Subha said to him:
Good Gotama, brahmans speak thus: A householder is accomplishing the right path, dhamma, what is skilled; one who has gone forth is not accomplishing the right path, dhamma, what is skilled. What does the good Gotama say to this?
On this point I, brahman youth, discriminate, on this point I do not speak definitely. I, brahman youth, do not praise a wrong course in either a householder or one who has gone forth. If, brahman youth, either a householder or one who has gone forth is faring along wrongly, then as a result and consequence of his wrong course he is not accomplishing the right path, dhamma, what is skilled. But I, brahman youth, praise a right course both for a householder and for one who has gone forth. If, brahman youth, either a householder or one who has gone forth is faring along rightly, then as a result and consequence of his right course he is accomplishing the right path, dhamma, what is skilled.
W. : From this passage of the Suttanta we learn that the Buddha stressed that it is important what kind of practice one follows: the wrong practice or the right practice. If a monk practises in the wrong way he cannot attain the right result, namely, the pa~n~naa which eradicates defilements stage by stage. Even a layman who practises in the right way can attain enlightenment, as the Buddha taught in his great compassion. The Buddha exhorted people not to have conceit and not to follow a way of practice through which defilements could arise.
Did nuns also teach at that time?
S. : There are some passages about nuns in the Tipi~naka. We read in the Kindred Sayings(I, Sagaathaa-vagga, Ch X, The Yakkha Suttas, 9, Sukkaa) about a nun who taught Dhamma. The text states:
The Exalted One was once staying near Raajagaha, in the Bamboo Grove, at the Squirrels Feeding-ground.
Now on that occasion Sukkaa, the Bhikkhunii, was teaching the Dhamma, surrounded by a great congregation. And a yakkha [53, enthusiastic about her, went into Raajagaha, going from chariot-road to chariot-road, from crossways to crossways, and in that hour uttered these verses:
What have you, men of Raajagaha done,
That here you lie as though bemused with wine,
Nor wait upon Sukkaa while she does teach
The doctrine of the Bourne Ambrosial [54 -
That source from whence there is no turning back,
That elixir that no infusion needs [55.
The wise methinks were fain to quaff (that cup),
As wayfarer (the droppings of) the cloud.
W. : Of which people consisted that great congregation which surrounded Sukkaa in order to hear Dhamma?
S. : In the text it is only said that it was a great congregation. In some suttas it is also said that the Buddha was surrounded by a great congregation while he explained the Dhamma. We read, for example, in the Kindred Sayings(I, Sagaathaa-vagga, Ch VII, The Brahmin Suttas, 2, The Lay Adherents, 5 Pridestiff):
On one occasion at Saavatthii, there was a brahmin living there called Pridestiff. He showed respect neither to his mother, nor to his father, nor to his teacher, nor to his eldest brother.
Now on that occasion the Exalted One, surrounded by a large congregation, was teaching the Dhamma. And it occurred to the brahmin Pridestiff: This Sama~na Gotama, surrounded by a large congregation, is teaching the Dhamma. What if I were to go near?....
We then read that the Buddha taught him about true humility, and to whom he should pay respect.
W. : I remember that we already dealt with apacaayana, the paying of repect, as one of the meritorious actions. According to the Vinaya, it is forbidden for a nun to admonish a monk.
S. : It is not fitting for a nun or for a male or female layfollower to admonish a monk. The Buddha taught the Dhamma and the Vinaya in detail and in all completeness. With regard to admonishing monks, the Buddha explained by way of a simile that he took tender care of the monks as a nurse takes tender care of a small child. Therefore, a layfollower, such as the householder Citta, taught Dhamma to the monks, but he did not act with lack of respect nor did he exalt himself, but he taught with reverence and in all humility, with kusala citta. It was his intention to give assistance to the Buddhas followers, so that they would help each other, as much as they were able to, to promote Buddhism and to cause it to be firmly established, and thus it would last for a long time.
We read in the Gradual Sayings (IV, Book of the Eights, Ch III, On Householders, 1, Ugga of Vesaalii) that the Buddha, while he was dwelling in the Gabled Hall, in Mahaavana, near Vesaalii, spoke to the monks about the marvelous and wonderful qualities of the householder Ugga. When a monk questioned Ugga about these qualities Ugga spoke about them to that monk. Two among these concern his attitude towards monks and towards the preaching of Dhamma. We read:
And when I wait upon a monk, sir, I serve him respectfully and not without deference....
This is a marvelous quality because some people, while they visit a monk, do not show respect and reverence each time. We then read:
If, sir, that reverend monk preach Dhamma to me, I listen attentively and not listlessly. If he preach not Dhamma to me, I preach Dhamma to him....
This is another marvelous quality, because Ugga was not interested in any other kind of conversation which did not concern the Dhamma.
W. : Buddhists should understand what their task is, namely, to assist each other in harmony and to promote Buddhism by the study of the Dhamma, the practice of it and the explanation of it to others. By their example they can inspire others to study and practise the Dhamma more and more, and to explain the Dhamma according to their ability. If there are only people who listen to the Dhamma and nobody who can explain it, it is not sufficient.
S. : I will quote a very beautiful sutta about the teaching of the Dhamma. This sutta shows that no matter which person among the Buddhist followers, be he monk, nun, male layfollower or female layfollower, teaches Dhamma, the Dhamma comes from the Buddha himself. He taught the Dhamma very clearly, in a beautiful way and in all details. Therefore, one should not say that a particular person explains the Dhamma or that the Dhamma belongs to this or that person who speaks about it.
We read in the Gradual Sayings (IV, Book of the Eights, Ch I, On Amity, 8, The venerable Uttara) that the venerable Uttara taught Dhamma to the monks, saying that a monk should from time to time review his own faults and the faults of another, and review his own attainments and those of another. Sakka, the King of the Devas, wanted to inquire whether this was Uttaras own saying or the word of the Buddha. He approached Uttara and asked him whether it was true that he had taught that the monk should review his own faults and those of another, his own attainments and those of another. Uttara said that that was true. We read that Sakka said:
But pray sir, is this the venerable Uttaras own saying, or is it the word of that Exalted One, arahat, the fully awakened One?
Now, O Deva-king, I will give you an analogy, for it is by analogy that men of intelligence understand the meaning of what is said.
Imagine, O King, a great heap of grain near some village or market-town, from which country folk carry away corn on pingoes or in baskets, in lap or hand. And if one should approach the folk and question them saying: Whence bring you this corn? how would those folk, in explaining, best explain?
They would best explain the matter, sir, by saying: We bring it from that great heap of grain.
Even so, O King, whatsoever be well spoken, all that is the word of the Exalted One, arahat, the fully awakened One, wholly based thereon is both what we and others say.
W. : What did Sakka answer, after he listened to Uttara?
S. : He praised the words spoken by Uttara, namely, that whatever is well spoken is the word of the Buddha and that based on the Buddhas word was what Uttara and others said.
The Dhamma does not belong to a special group among the four groups of monks, nuns, male layfollowers and female layfollowers. The Dhamma has been taught by the Buddha himself, no matter who proclaims it. Therefore, we should study and remember all teachings of Dhamma which are beneficial.
W. : We can learn from this sutta. Although this event happened more than twothousand fivehundred years ago, we should keep in mind the Buddhas advice that it is the duty of Buddhists all the time to assist each other in harmony with the study and proclamation of the Dhamma so that the Buddhas teaching will remain firmly established for a long time.