revised on 2020-03-24
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
Starting from the beginning of the 21st century, there was a lot of violence going on in many parts of the world; such as 9/11, wars in the Middle East, terrorist activities, etc. These were representing the defilement (kilesa) of dosa – anger, hatred, ill-will, etc. All these were showing the lack of loving-kindness (metta) and compassion, and not a good sign. There were also a lot of harms, dangers and destruction going on from the defilement of lobha – greed, craving, lust, etc. Their impacts can be seen in food poisoning, water, air and earth pollution, deforestation, climate change, etc.
It was quite amazing to see human beings out of greed and lust, to enjoy momentary lowly pleasures by harming themselves. They had done it by knowing the results. For examples, cigarettes and alcohols are harmful to people themselves and others, but still many using and selling it. Another is the lucrative business of arms. Even we can use one sentence to represent their philosophy. For money and sensual pleasures, they will do everything. They only think about money and sensual pleasures, even can give up their lives for it.
Why these unfortunate things and matters happen to us? It is ignorance or delusion, not understanding of the nature of the mind. The Buddha said that untrained mind leading to sufferings and a trained mind leading to happiness. To train our mind, it needs education and practice. Education has a wider sense and meaning and not only making money for a livelihood.
There are two things all human beings can never separate themselves from it. These are education and the law of kamma (action), even they know about it or not. Without proper education, people do not know what is right or wrong, what should be done and what should not be done, etc. With wholesome education, we have knowledge and wise, and without it, we are ignorant and deluded. We can change people only with the right education and practice.
Recently a friend of mine found out that he had lung cancer. When the news came in, I was listening to some Dhamma talks on the parittas. Some translate paritta as auspicious chant and protective charms; it depends on how to use it. The Burmese Buddhist tradition had eleven parittas, and most people had learned them when they were young. These were some Pāli suttas – Discourses of the Buddha; for example, the Metta Sutta and the Maṅgala Sutta – the discourse on loving kindness and the discourse on blessings.
Parittas are for the protection of dangers and illnesses. The parittas are not only can protect from the external dangers but also the internal ones, such as greed, hatred, delusion, etc. with its practice.
The internal dangers are more important than external dangers. External dangers can harm us only for this life. But internal danger will follow us to the future and beyond. If we can protect ourselves from the internal dangers of defilement and then everything will be finished. External dangers are also depending on them.
The chances of falling into painful births or destinations are waiting for us at any time in the future. Nowadays, human beings not only do not know how to protect both dangers but also create more and more dangers for them. Because of human ignorance and craving, the Mother Earth is not a safety place anymore. If we are nourishing the internal dangers of greed, hatred, and delusion or our real enemies, then the situations will become worse. Human beings are not only harming to each other but also the Earth and its nature. Some years ago, a well-known Buddhist scholar of Thailand wrote two books on science and economics from the Buddhist points of view.
These were:”Sustainable Science” and “Buddhist Economics”. It is worthwhile to read and give us a lot of food for thought about how to use human knowledge properly and wisely (including the natural resources). One of the Buddha’s qualities was “Teacher of Gods and Humans” – Satthā devamanussānaṁ. The Buddha knew very clearly and completely about the mind and how to handle it. If we study and follow his teachings accordingly will solve many human problems. Some animals and plants were already extinct because of human actions.
What about the human race? At least there will be a lot of sufferings and problems, and the Earth becomes a very unpleasant place to live. (There was evidence in some of the suttas.) This depends on how we behave and utilize human knowledge properly and wisely in politics, economics, science, technology, media, etc. Nowadays, there are many human and environmental problems from these outcomes. Why do these ugly things happen? We are clever in worldly knowledge and only interest in them. Not take moral values and knowledge as very important and fundamental.
Nowadays, human beings urgently need moral education. It is quite fundamental for us. It teaches us how to become a true human being. Without it and however in material progress, we are making can lead to destruction. Moral education is likened to the root of a tree, and other knowledge is the trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Morality and virtues are very important in societies. It brings happiness and peace among people. It is also the foundation for a higher mind or spiritual development.
In the Cakkavatti, Digha Nikāya (DN.26 Cakkavattisuttaṃ), the Buddha explained as; without morality and virtues, human beings committed unwholesome actions, and their life span declined and affected nature. All the Buddha’s teachings can be combined into threefold training; sīla, samādhi, and pañña – morality, concentration and wisdom. In Thai and Burmese, the words for education are sueksa (Thai Pāli for sikkhā) and pyin-nya (Burmese Pāli for paññā). Here sikkhā is training and paññā is wisdom. Buddhism is closer to education than a religion. The Buddha taught human beings about the mind and how to train it.
Untrained mind brings sufferings and disturbances, and a trained mind brings happiness and peace. Therefore, the Buddha's teachings were the highest education which man never encountered before. It can protect the human race from all dangers and disasters. It is universal, practical, and workable in our daily life. Our destinations and directions are in our mind. Which way do we want to go? The way to Heaven or Hell, all are in our mind.
There was an interesting discourse by the Buddha, Sedaka Sutta in Saṁyutta Nikāya (SN.47.19 Sedakasuttaṃ). It was about protection. Once in the past, an acrobat set up his bamboo pole and addressed his apprentice to climb the bamboo pole and stood on his shoulder. He told the disciple to protect him and vice versa. When this was said, the disciple replied that this was not the way to protect each other.
The right way was the teacher should protect himself. And also at the same time, the disciple should protect himself. In this way, each self-guarded and self-protected they would display their skills, and got down safely from the bamboo pole. The Buddha supported the method of the disciple and he taught the monks in the following way. One would protect oneself; should the foundations of mindfulness – satipaṭṭhāna be practiced. One would protect others should satipaṭṭhāna be practiced.
By protecting oneself, one protected others and to protect others and protected oneself. And then the Buddha continued to say how to protect oneself and protect others. The way of protecting oneself and protected others was by developing and cultivating the four Satipaṭṭhāna. The way of protecting others and protecting oneself was patience, harmlessness, good will, and sympathy. Therefore, if everyone wants to be free from dangers, misfortunes, illnesses, etc., one has to protect oneself first. If each person protects for oneself and protecting others are already finished.
For the 45 years of his teaching, the Buddha taught a lot for the welfare of human beings in many different ways on mundane and supramundane levels. With the knowledge of the Buddha's teachings, we know how to think, speak, and act accordingly to protect oneself and protecting others and nature. We will have detrimental consequences to ourselves, societies, nature, and environments if we behave wrongly, improperly and foolishly. Now some of these things are already happening around the world. Nowadays, the world urgently needs right and wise educations, instead of wrong and unwise educations. Do human beings need survival or indulgence? Everyone must think seriously about this most important question. Even as a billionaire, all the wealth becomes useless when he dies early with illness because he cannot enjoy it and yet take a penny with him after death. This can happen to anyone due to much pollution and global warming today.
In Theravadin Buddhist countries, Burma, Thailand, etc. lay people invite the monks for paritta chantings and at the same time making paritta water (also translated as holy water). Some monks with the chanting made the water in cups and pots to rise up with the bubbles, even overflowed. These kinds of monks were very rare indeed, and not many of them.
Recently one of them in Burma was Sayadaw U Uttamasara (1909-?). He was well known for his love and compassion; even he may be one of the first or few Buddhist monks spreading the teachings of the Buddha to hill tribe people. In his talk on the “Power of Parittas”, he mentioned that to become effective, it must be the parittas of the Buddha. This kind of paritta water has protective and healing power. Some asked Sayadaw was why the Parittas had this power.
Because the parittas were about the attributes of the triple gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha; the asseveration of truth (sacca) and loving-kindness (metta) were made by the Buddha and the Bodhisatta of in some of his past lives. Also, perhaps some asked if anyone reciting them would show the power clearly. His answer was not everyone reciting the parittas showed its power clearly or evidently. Some had it, and some did not.
What makes them different? His answer was that there are differences between them on volition, metta, karuṇā, sīla, samādhi, and paññā.
The one who listens to the paritta chanting should have three factors:
- Not committing the five heavy kammas (patricide, matricide, killing the arahant, shedding the blood of the Buddha, splitting the saṅgha)
- Believe in the law of Kamma (i. e., has the right view)
- Must have faith in the power of the parittas which were the Buddha’s words
The reciter of the parittas should have three factors:
- Has studied and learned the parittas rightly or correctly in their meanings and grammars.
- Recite fully of them.
- Has the volition of good-will (metta) for the listeners.
Here I want to present two incidents on the effect of the parittas. One had happened in Burma and connected with Ven. Ledi Sayadaw and the other in Thailand to a forest monk. In 1906 Ven. Ledi Sayadaw spent his 40th vassa (rain retreat) in the vicinity of Prome City. The same year in August during the raining season Henzada area was without rain and had a drought. This was a delta area in lower Burma and usually had a lot of rain.
Therefore, the farmers in that area had difficulties. Then they sent application letters to the government offices for not be able to give the taxes. At that time the high commissioner of Irrawadian division, Mr. Maxwell was inspecting this area and coming to Henzada City. He had been seen the situations there. Therefore, he summoned all the government officers and respected people of that area; and then ordered them to invite Ven. Ledi Sayadaw for a dhamma ceremony to solve the problem.
Some did not believe that Ven. Sayadaw could solve this problem. Anyhow to follow the order some officers and a few respectable men went to Prome for the invitation. People in Henzada grandly prepared for the Dhamma Ceremony. After arriving there, they invited Sayadaw. It was the rain retreat period for the monks.
Therefore, he told them that it was better for him after the rain retreat (The Buddhist monks’ rain retreats are usually between July and October). But they explained to him the importance of rain because many plants would damage, and also many fishes, shrimps and other animals had already died; then they will encounter with famine if the fields did not get water for another week. Therefore, Sayadaw accepted their invitation immediately. They arranged the Irrawaddy postal steamship for the next day journey.
And then Sayadaw told his disciple U Pandita as follow; “Now I have the chance to show the Henzada people about the power of water duties which I had done for over 20 years before. It included offering water to the Shwe-zi-gon Ceti and the monks for drinking, washing, and bathing. The result of water dāna (offering) is at the time of water shortage or no water; and will get it with the wishes for water.” (Shwe-zi-gon Pagoda is a well-known ceti in Monywa, upper Burma. Sayadaw not only did the water duties every day to the ceti and his monastery, but also to the other monasteries near the vicinity.)
Starting from that night, Sayadaw remembered and contemplated his water duties; using the rosary beads to count the paritta chant of the Bodhisatta King Fish or Rain Paritta. (Not mentioned how many times he was reciting with the help of rosary beads counting. It must be many times. Sayadaw was well-known for his great energy.)
And he spread special metta to the rain god and sky god. When the steamship came near to the Henzada City port and the whole sky suddenly changed and covered in rain cloud and rained heavily with thunders. It rained heavily for two hours that the steamship could not enter the port and had to anchor in the middle of the river. The High Commissioner Mr. Maxwell and other people were waiting for Sayadaw on the bank.
Some years ago a forest monk stayed in the retreating forest near the Thai Burmese border in Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok. This forest is called Dtow Dun – Black Tortoise. One day he came back from Bangkok after a medical check and on the way staying a night at a branch monastery. This was a very wide area and known to some monks as a haunted place. The north of the area had an old Sālā (an open wooden building for meals and practice), and a few old kutis (monks dwelling place or hut) closed to the mountain range.
Between the North and the South area also had a newly-built concrete Sālā, some new kutis and including an open wooden Sālā for guest monks. This guest Sālā had a small room at the northern side, except that the whole building was opened. The monk settled into the small room. At round about 8 to 9 p.m. he heard a loud sound outside his room. It was like someone had dropped a heavy object with a loud thud sound from the ceiling to the floor. Therefore, he went out and had a check. Nothing was there, and he went back to the room. It happened like this for three times, and he knew it was the ghost. Therefore, he requested the unseen being not to disturb him, and then chanted the Metta Sutta.
He also spread metta (loving-kindness) to the ghost. After that, it stopped haunting him and never happening again. This ghost was a violent ghost. Because after sometimes above incident some monks came to Dtow Dum for the summer retreat and had to spend the night there. One of the monks was during the sleep haunted by this ghost violently and had an injury on his head. According to the local information a man had been murdered near this place before.
Dtow Dum forest is an amazing and interesting place. It is worthy of recording here and connecting with the protection of nature and environments. Most people never think as human beings are part of nature. Therefore, we are exploiting the Earth in an extreme and alarming way. The earth, water, air, and heat give us lives. We depend on them for survivals. In some suttas, the Buddha even mentioned how human minds and actions affected nature. We are interdependent with each other. If we harm to nature, it will harm us. It will destroy us if we destroy nature. It was like the Newtonian Dynamic Law, action to reaction. Negative action has a negative result. Positive action has a positive result.
A Japanese scientist had already made many researches on this point of how our mind states affected the water crystals. The Mother Earth is likened to a physical body. If any part of the body is damaged or harmed, it cannot function properly or even dies. We should have gratitude to her because it cares us like a mother. Ingratitude is the sign of an inferior person and has no good future for him. Therefore, , to survive and have a future, human beings must take care and look after the Earth.
Even though Dtow Dum is not a virgin forest, a lot of wild animals still living there. The forest monks and some important lay people had tried to protect it from destruction. A businesswoman had a contract and mining of tin-tungsten ore in this area already for some years. Later she invited two forest monks and established a forest monastery there to protect the forest. It started the project in 1994. Two kutis (monk dwelling huts) and an open sālā were built on the top of the hill. The open sālā was on the edge of the hill and overlooked the valley with the green forest. It was used as a meditation and meeting hall. And an open eating hall was also built at the base of the hill.
Later an inner Sālā also was built deep into the forest for the monks during the summer retreat. Because Northeast Thailand was so hot that unpleasant with the heat there. Therefore, every year a group of monks comes down here for two months to stay in the deep forest for practice. Usually, they come here in March and go back to Northeast Thailand before the Vesak (Vesākha). (Vesak is the full moon day of May and celebrating for the birth, enlightened and passing away of the Buddha). Every year before the monks come here for a summer retreat; the miners help to build some bamboo platforms across the deep forest. There are a lot of big bamboos in this forest.
Some of these big bamboos are the homes of tiny squirrels. These are lovely and cute little creatures; never being seen in day time for moving around. In the beginning, we do not know that these small rounded holes are their homes. At night when I looked into it with torchlight and found the cute little creature inside curiously looking back at you with the bright eyes. In Rājagaha King Bimbisāra offered the Bamboo Grove forest monastery to the Buddha and the Saṅgha and mentioned it as the Squirrel’s Sanctuary. Did it have any connection with these cute little creatures?
From the eating hall to the mine area had to walk a few hours along the rugged stony stream road, and only four wheels drive car could be used. In 1994 and 1995 there were heavy raining that even could not go in and out with cars. The mainstream was roaring down by carrying rocks and tree trunks along the way. Most bamboo bridges were carrying away by water, and two monks stayed there could not go down for the meal (They ate one meal a day at 8 a.m.)
Therefore, some miners had to carry some foods for them. The mine owner could not go out for buying foods and rice for the monks. To solve this problem, an army helicopter brought some rice bags for the monks and the miners. So the forest monks had to eat only forest vegetables for sometimes.
This was the tropical rain forest and teeming with wildlife. Such as elephants, bears, tigers (including black leopard), tapirs, forest pigs, deer, monkeys, a squirrel liked animal without tail, three or four times bigger than a large squirrel with the plump body and yellow furs, bamboo squirrels, white snakes, boas, green bamboo vipers etc. (There can also be other animals). We invited bird watchers from Bangkok and with their research found out over 200 species of birds in this area. There are two species of hornbills, white and yellow. The white hornbill is bigger and when flying making a loud flapping sound in the air. Mostly they are flying in a small group.
There are also many songbirds. Once time I heard a small bird making the sound like playing with a flute. There were also some harmful insects; such as ticks appear in winter and some are too small that cannot see with the naked eyes. Only after biting with tiny red spots appeared and very itchy; leeches appear in raining season; gnats; bees; some insects had very poisonous stings; and with both types of malaria mosquitoes. Some monks and miners were contracted with malaria very often. Before the monks came here some miners and their family members died with the disease.
There were not much majestically tall trees had left. Its trunk was straight and good for building a house. There were three incidents encountered with big cats. There was a white tiger’s family living in this forest. In 1996, January 16th (this was also the day when Ajahn Cha passed away in 1992, a monk after his morning meal went up to the hill. On the way, he met three white tigers from a stone throw distance. They crossed the path from right to left under the bright sun and looked very majestic.
There was forest fire during the summer time with very hot temperature. One time at the base of the hill, some miners caught a white tiger cub. At that time, there was a forest fire burning. Therefore, the miners’ tried to extinguish it. Then they saw the white mother tiger, and two cubs tried to escape the fire. The 3rd time was during the two months summer retreated period. One night a western novice went back to the deep forest from the outer sālā holding a candle lamp.
Unexpectedly he met a big black cat watching at him quietly near his path. He was so frightened that he did not know what to do. (You cannot run at night with a dim light candle lamp) With his whole body was shaking, he had to move on. He had escaped the danger but became sick. Most humans fear wild beasts. Man is more dangerous than beasts. Man is not only dangerous for animals, even to one’s fellow human beings and nature. (There is a lot of contemplation on this point in modern-day situations.)
Man can create heavens and hells on this planet and even can transcend them. It depends on the types of education we follow. There was a major stream coming down from the inside deep forest which other side was the Thai-Burmese border. This stream was coming down towards the mining area. On half way of the hill, the stream passed through a high cliff and created a big waterfall. Its sound could be heard very clearly during the night because the whole area was very quiet.
The stream water was cool and clear like a crystal. Staying in this forest after a few years and it became an unforgettable place for a forest monk. Sometimes I went to the city of Bangkok could feel the great differences between the natural life in the forest and artificial life in the big city. The life with nature was peaceful and calm, with joy and happiness which any material progress, science, and technology could never bring about to man. It even can increase greed, hatred, and delusion, which create a lot of sufferings if we cannot use them wisely or properly.
This point everyone knows, and no-one can deny about it. Earth, air, water pollution, climate changes, more natural disasters, chemicals in the food chain, weapons of mass destruction, 21st-century terrorism, and polluted media, etc. there is no end to mention about them. These facts are the outcomes of the human mind. Without our polluted minds, these things cannot arise. Living in nature sometimes only can be realized that man is part of nature. If nature survives, then man can survive. If nature is destroyed, then we are in destruction. We are in interdependence and mutually co-existing. Therefore, protecting oneself and one protects others and nature. There is a question arising in my mind. Why Dtow Dum a small area is teeming with wildlife? This is my contemplation.
Because human beings had destroyed a lot of forests and these animals needed a place for survival. Therefore, they had to be moved into any forest to survive. It was very similar today refugee problems in the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia, and Latin America. For their survivals, these refugees had to move into Europe and surrounding countries.
All these external problems were warning human beings to be careful with our behaviors and actions, from politics, economics, sciences, technologies, media, etc. So all are coming back to our minds, wise educations, and actions. By protecting oneself, one protects others and nature. One more question is arisen in my mind. Where are we going to live if the Earth is becoming uninhabitable? It is not a myth. It is a reality and sooner or later will become a truth. Who can answer and solve this most important problem? Now we all are at the breaking point we still have time to correct ourselves, otherwise it is only in suicidal situation.
The following dhamma reflections are from two main sources; from the dhamma talks by two Burmese Bhikkhus; Ven. Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa and Sayadaw Uttama; using their talks and dhamma from other sources for the reflection and contemplation. If there is something wrong or mistakes; then all of them are mine and nothing to do with others. Contemplation and reflection are very important parts of Buddhist practice. It is very good for dealing with problems in daily life. If it becomes a habit, it will strengthen our wisdom faculties.
It can also be called yoniso manasikāra – wise attention, proper attention, careful attention, which is the forerunner of paññā – wisdom. With unwise attention, defilement arise and increasing them if they have already arisen. And wise attention is the opposite. My main attention is on the three parittas or suttas; Maṅgala Sutta, Metta Sutta, and Khandha Sutta. Maṅgala Sutta – the discourse on blessings was dealing with the ways of different levels of blessing, from mundane to supramundane levels of achievements.
Metta and Khandha Suttas – the discourses on good-will, loving-kindness, loving friendliness, and snakes are dealing with love and kindness to all living beings, which today world urgently need because there are a lot of conflicts and violence going on like severe climate changes. The Buddha’s teachings or educations are the best medicines for all the ills of human beings.
revised on 2020-03-24; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36763#p36764 (posted on 2019-09-09)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
- Content of Publications of Ven. Uttamo
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