Directing Oneself Rightly (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)
revised on 2020-09-06
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
It did not mentioned much about “Directing oneself rightly” in the commentary. It mentioned only saddha, sīla and cāga (faith, virtue and generosity) there. It only suggested that someone who had been immoral should establish himself in virtuous behaviors and miserly in generosity due to lacking for faith (on the Triple Treasures – Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha; most importantly the law of Kamma) should establish himself at last in faith. This blessing seems the most important one because it related to every human on the earth now. Whatever kamma of one’s past lives may be we cannot change them anymore. We are starting our many good kammas now in this life and they will effect our future lives to come in saṁsāra. So this blessing is visible to everyone now. It totally can change one’s present life and future to come (For this point and its evidence, we can know from the lives of some well-known monks and lay disciples of the Buddha in suttas).
A set of Dhammas leading towards a noble growth was mentioned by the Buddha to the monks. It was in the Book Five of Aṅguttara Nikāya recorded as “Growth Discourse” (Wealth Discourse AN.5.47 Dhanasuttaṃ). It seemed to relate to the blessing now we are discussion. The following five factors which a male or a female disciple practiced would lead to a noble growth. These were: ① Faith ② Virtue ③ Learning (listening and studying Dhamma) ④ Generosity ⑤ Wisdom. (Saddha, Sīla, Suta, Cāga and Paññā).
There was also a set of Dhamma called Seven Noble treasures, by adding two factors to the five factors above; and the other two are: shame and fear of wrong doing. These two are the guardians of the world and urgently needed for today humans. The Buddha said someone (a disciple) growing in these five ways absorbed the essence and the best of this present life. This person would become a superior man. These five factors can be included in the three trainings of Sīla, Samādhi and Paññā. Some Chinese Buddhists take the three Buddhist trainings as equal to the Chinese sages’ teaching such as Taoism and Confucianism. Even they misrepresent the Buddha equal to them and the founders of other great religion. They represent the Arahant ideal lower than these sages. Therefore, there are a lot of Chinese Buddhists who still do not clear about the qualities of Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha. Buddhists might misinterpret the Buddha’s words without the study and knowledge of the Pāli Nikāyas.
To start something in the right direction, we need knowledge about them. Therefore, learning and studying or education is important. We can have right views and thoughts (thinking) and following right actions with the right or wholesome education. It will get the good results or wholesome results with right actions. Only possessing the knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma can have interest or trust (faith) to try it. The five ways or factors of noble growth was arranged systematically and all the Buddha, Dhamma were in this way. According to the Buddha whoever was possessing with these five noble growth could fulfill his wish (chanda) which was not by prayers. For setting up oneself in the right course; develop faith (saddhā) and makes it strong if someone does not have it; follow the sīla – morality and practice it if no precept, etc. Atta-sammā-paṇidhi is let the mind in the wholesome and good direction. Therefore, speech and actions also include. Tha-pye-kan Sayadaw took it as a very important blessing.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha taught us that the unwholesome mind brought sufferings, and the wholesome mind brought happiness. Unwholesome mind brings more sufferings to oneself than one’s enemies. The wholesome mind brings happiness to oneself, which others cannot give. A negative mind is an untrained mind and without protection. If we look at the world situations, a lot of social problems, natural disasters, and other sufferings come from this mind.
For directing oneself rightly, Sayadaw told us to follow the instructions and practice accordingly to the Ambalatthikā-rāhulovada Sutta in the Majjhima Nikāya. The gist of the instruction and practice is: Before our mental, verbal, and bodily actions, firstly we must reflect that it has the benefit to oneself and others or not harmful to oneself and others. It also has reflected in this way during the actions and after the actions.
It has three stages. We should admit it if we do something wrong. And then decide not to do it again. It will bring happiness if the actions are good and right, and we should take joy in it. This instruction was the Buddha given to his seven years old son, novice Rāhula. It is good to train or educate our children with this sutta.
There was another sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya called Cakka Sutta – The Wheels (AN.4.31 Cakkasuttaṃ).
There are four wheels:
- residing in a suitable place
- associating with people of Integrity (wise and noble)
- rightly directing oneself
- having done merit in the past.
They are mutually conditioning and supporting each other. Therefore, these are like wheels. Human beings will achieve greatness (status, honor, etc.), abundance in terms of wealth and happiness if they are endowed with them. Most Buddhists have the chances and opportunity to develop them because more or less we have it. Only we do not know the suttas or educate with the suttas that not doing it rightly or properly. Instead, we waste our times with worthless worldly matters.
We can illustrate the importance of the four wheels with two well known characters of the Buddha’s disciples, Devadatta and Aṅgulimāla. Both of their lives give us food for thought on Dhamma if we contemplate it. First, let us contemplate on Devadatta. Among the four wheels he was lacking in the no. ③ wheel of rightly directing oneself which is the most important one of the four wheels and relates to the present actions (Kammas). This 3rd wheel also leads to the other three. Someone can change his life towards better life by combining with intelligence (knowledge) and effort even his past action was not very good, as an example, the 16th president of United States of America, Abraham Lincoln.
Devadatta was born into the privileged upper class at the time of spiritual development where a Buddha would soon appear. He was also a cousin and brother-in-law of the Buddha who also his spiritual teacher. He was one of the perfect persons conducive for enlightenment. But he directed himself wrongly to commit heavy Kammas because of his evil thoughts and hunger for power and ended up in the great hell.
Aṅgulimāla’s given name was Ahiṃsaka (Harmless one) and he was the son of the Brahmin who was the chaplain to King Pasenadi of Kosala. Ahiṃsaka’s life could be divided into three episodes for contemplation. In his first period as a young man, he was completed with the four wheels when he was studying at Takkasilā which seemed at nowadays Pakistan. He became his teacher’s favorite, and his fellow students were jealous of him. So they make the story with malicious speech informing the teacher about Ahiṃsaka’s affair with his wife. The unwise teacher believed them without any inquiry. Therefore, in order to ruin Ahiṃsaka, he commanded him to bring a thousand human right hands fingers for the honor. So he started to kill people and became a violent bandit.
At first, he did not keep the hand fingers properly so that most of them were destroyed. Later he put them all like a garland on his neck and became well known and frightened by all as Aṅgulimāla (garland of fingers). In his second episode of life as a bandit. He was wrongly directing himself that nearly ruined his whole life because he wanted to kill a woman whom he met and got the last finger he needed after he got 999 human hand fingers; and she was his mother, who was looking for him. This was a heavy evil Kamma and it surely would let him fall into the great hell. The compassionate Buddha came in between them and saved his whole life. Later he became an arahant.
In the 3rd episode of his life, he became a monk and disciple of the Buddha and corrected his foolish way. This episode was rightly directing himself that not only not falling into the great hell but also ending all Dukkha. Here we can see the importance of a teacher. One’s life is totally ruined with a wrong teacher (e.g., prince Ajātasattu). Here there are two important qualities: easy to instruct (suvaco) and compliance (sovacassatā) between teacher and student, or parents and children. Both Devadatta and Aṅgulimāla were conducted wrongly in the wrong direction. But only Aṅgulimāla had the qualities of easy to instruct and compliance that he was saved from danger and on the way to success.
If we want progress and happiness, we need these four conditioned cycles or wheels. In the past, if we had the 4th wheel and in this life, we have the chances of (1), (2), and (3) wheels. In this life, if we have (1), (2), and (3) wheels and will do the (4) again. Therefore, it is like a cycle and very important for every human being. By study and understanding the Buddha's teaching clearly, and we know how to use this life properly and wisely. Human beings are using their lives; foolishly that many problems and sufferings arise in societies.
revised on 2020-09-06; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36789#p36789 (posted on 2019-09-20)
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