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Self Reliance

 

Dhamma Talk
July 1997
By Ajahn Suchart  (Abhijato Bhikkhu)
Translated by Chantaporn  Gomutputra  
Edited by June Gibb

 


When we make merits, like giving to charity or keeping the moral precepts we are providing our mind with sustenance.  Our life is made up of two parts, body and mind.  Our body needs the four requisites of life namely, food, shelter, clothing and medicine in order for it to live comfortably.  Our mind needs meritorious and wholesome actions, and the Dhamma teaching.  Without them we will not be happy although we may have lots of money and possessions. This is because money, possessions, and the four requisites of life cannot quell our restlessness, worry, and stress.  What we need is the Dhamma teaching of the Buddha to sustain our mind, and make it peaceful, happy, and content.  This is because the Dhamma can tell us where suffering and happiness are located.

If we are not wise, then we are deluded.  In this world there are two categories of people: the wise and the deluded.  The latter seek after useless things that make them miserable rather than happy. Most of us belong to the second group because we still have kilesa such as greed, anger and delusion.  Delusion is the cause of our greed and anger.  It prevents us from seeing that greed and anger are like fire.  When they appear they set our heart on fire, becoming restless and agitated.  Our mind is blind and lacks the light of the Dhamma teaching.  If we turn to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha to seriously study the Dhamma teaching, we would be able to separate the cause of happiness from the cause of misery.  If we have the guiding light of Dhamma to lead us, we would live a good and trouble-free life.

The Buddha said that whether we are good or bad, happy or miserable, prospering or not, depends on ourselves.  The causes of our happiness and stress are the three kinds of kamma namely, physical, verbal and mental.  Kamma by itself is neutral; itís neither good nor bad.  Good kamma is called kusala-kamma, skillful and meritorious.  Bad kamma is called akusala-kamma, unskillful and demeritorious.  These two kamma are the primary forces that propel us to go on a certain path, either good or bad.  It is like when we come to the Sukhumvit intersection where we can turn left or right.  If we turn left we would go to Sattaheep, turn right to Pattaya and Bangkok.

Similarly skillful and meritorious physical, verbal and mental kamma, will lead us to sugati or happy destinations; to rebirth in the human world or in the heavens; to happiness; to magga (path to the cessation of suffering), phala (fruition of the four transcendent paths), and nibbana (liberation).  Unskillful and demeritorious physical, verbal and mental kamma will lead us to apaya-bhumi (state of deprivation), to rebirth in hell, to suffering, difficulties and hardship.  This is the absolute truth.  Whether the Buddha teaches it to the world or not, it still is true.  Itís the law of nature, just like the sun that rises in the east and sets in the west.  Whether someone tells us about it or not is not important because thatís the way it is.

The same is true with kamma and its consequences or vipaka that follow us like our shadow.  If we do good kamma, happiness and prosperity will follow.  When we die, we will go to heaven, to nibbana.  If we do bad kamma, unskillful and demeritorious actions, we would go to apaya-bhumi (state of deprivation) such as hell.  No one can help us.  The only thing that can help us is our physical, verbal and mental kamma.  The Buddha says that we can only rely on ourselves.  Attahi attano nadho means we are our own refuge, for better or for worse.  The Buddha only points the way.  If we donít believe him and follow his advice, then it cannot be helped.

A Brahmin once queried the Buddha about his teaching people to go to heaven, to magga (path to the cessation of suffering), phala (fruition of the four transcendent paths), and nibbana (liberation). Why then only some of his followers could realize nibbana, while the rest couldnít.  In reply the Buddha asked the Brahmin why some of the people whom the Brahmin gave direction to go to a certain place never get there.  Since the Brahmin knew the way and told them precisely how to get there, how come only some of them made it while the rest didnít.  The Brahmin replied that it was beyond his control.  He could only give them the direction, whether they followed his instruction or not was entirely up to them.  If they followed what he told them, they would definitely get there.  The Buddha replied that it was the same with his teaching.  Good kamma, heaven, magga (path to the cessation of suffering), phala (fruition of the four transcendent paths), and nibbana (liberation) do exist.  He has told them how to get there.  Whether they get there or not is entirely up to them.  They have to do it themselves.  They are their own refuge. The Buddha only points the way.  If they follow his instruction, not making any wrong turns, they will definitely get there.

The Buddha teaches that kamma separates human from animal.  It also makes human different from one another.  There are tall, short, intelligent, stupid, diligent, lazy, good and bad people.  Itís because our past kamma are not the same.  In our past lives, if we did good kamma, were diligent and wise, liked to study, liked to listen to the Dhamma, we would possess these qualities in our present existence.  If in our past lives, we were lazy, hated to go to work, liked to live off others, hated to go to school, didnít pay attention to the teachers, didnít learn anything new in order to become wiser, we would be like that in this life.  Our differences are mostly due to our past kamma.

We canít change the past, but we can change the present.   If we are lazy we can train ourselves to become diligent. We can use diligence to overcome laziness.  If we are ignorant, we should study hard and associate ourselves with the wise and learned, who are more knowledgeable and wiser.  They can teach us, and we can learn from them.  Donít hang around with the foolish and ignorant.  If we do we wouldnít learn anything from them. It would be a waste of time.  We should instead stick with the good and the wise, who regularly go to the temples to make merits by giving to charity and keep the moral precepts. They could influence us to do good.  We canít change the past, but we can change the present.  We can start anew.  When we have done a lot of good kamma today, then good consequences will appear in the future.  Our lives will be better tomorrow, next month, next year and next life because we are living a virtuous life today.

The Buddha says that we are not all equal and have our differences.   Even siblings are different.  Some are bright, some are not, some are stupid, some are diligent, some are lazy, some are good, and some are bad.  The Buddha divides them into three groups namely, those who are brighter and more virtuous than their parents; those who are the same; and those who are worse.

Parents with brighter and smarter offspring are considered blessed and lucky.  They hardly need to be taught because they are able to learn by themselves or have already acquired lots of knowledge from their past lives, like the Buddha for example.  He belongs to the smarter and brighter kind.  His father couldnít teach him anything that he didnít already know.  He even knew more than all of his teachers.  Parents who have offspring who are worse than they are have to be patient in teaching them about good and bad, right and wrong.  If they can afford it, they should provide their children with quality education.  If they study hard, they might one day become brighter and smarter than their parents.

On the other hand, if they donít like to go to school, to study hard and be good students, but like to go out and have fun, to drink and gamble, parents shouldnít lose sleep over them, but should consider that their children are not themselves and vice versa.  The Dhamma teaches that all beings are created by their own kamma.  Whatever kamma they have committed, good or bad, they themselves would reap the consequences.  Although they may be your sons and daughters, they are only so physically, but not spiritually or mentally.  Their spirit or mind has their past kamma as their real parents.  Parents shouldnít therefore lose sleep over their childrenís failures if they have done their best to raise them to be good and smart.  If they insist on going down the road of moral deprivation, then itís not your fault but the consequence of their past kamma.  In this regard it canít be helped, as the Buddha points out:  Attahi attano nadho, we are our own refuge.

Therefore, if we wish to live a happy and prosperous existence, and avoid all the trials and tribulations of life, we should keep a close watch on our physical, verbal and mental kamma.  Make sure that they are going in the skillful and meritorious direction. If we donít know what they are then we should learn from someone who knows, like all the well-learned and well-known ajahns.  Go to them and learn from them.  Then we will know how to live a happy and prosperous life.

If we are going down the wrong path, we must resist it with all our might.  For example, if we like to go out and drink, to gamble, to cheat, to lie, to steal, to kill animals like hunting and fishing, then we must put a stop to all of them.  If we have friends who like doing these things, we should avoid them.  Donít socialize with them because they would only drag us down.  We should therefore consider attahi attano nadho; we are our own refuge as our guiding principle and put our physical, verbal and mental kamma into good use in order for us to subsequently reap their good consequences.  

 

Source : http://www.kammatthana.com

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