Well Mastered Disciplines (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)
revised on 2020-03-24
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
The commentary mentioned about well mastered disciplines for laypersons and ordained monks. The discipline of a layperson was abstaining from the ten unwholesome courses of action (kammas) and developing the ten wholesome courses of action. All these will be mentioned below. A person well trained with them is a blessing because he will not fall into defilement and be led to well-being and happiness in present life and future to come by following the excellent qualities of conduct. There are more courses in details and refinement for an ordained monk disciplines which are following the monastic rules and the fourfold purification of good behavior – such as: restraint according to the monastic rules, restraint of the sense faculties, purification of livelihood and reflection in the use of the four requisites (robes, foods, dwellings and medicines). These are the causes for achieving mundane and supra-mundane happiness.
The background story in the question of blessing was related to the discussion and argument among human beings. Later it, spread to the deities with including the Brahma Gods. This meant the human problems were also their problems which related. Therefore, all types of living beings are interconnected and interrelated. Even the Buddha mentioned this point in suttas. Because human world is like an international air-port for temporary transit. The deities were watching and observing humans on earth. They expect human beings doing wholesome acts and take rebirths in their realms. Therefore, the question of blessing is related to all living beings.
Even though the commentary distinguished the actions for a layperson and a monastic. It is intertwined. For a monk, it is more refined than a layperson. The spiritual process is developing from coarser levels to refined levels. Therefore, a layperson should not stop at coarser level (see the story of layman Gavesī and his 500 students in the blessing of broad knowledge (AN 5.180 Gavesīsuttaṃ).
Pāli word vinaya is discipline and a broad subject covering every part of human society. There are rules, regulations, laws etc. Without them, governments cannot function or run properly. Societies and people from all kinds of life cannot live in harmony, peace and happiness. The progress and development of every human sector is depending in them. Without following it, human beings are out of control and everyone will do everything according to his or her own desire and selfishness, then countries and societies become in chaos. Human beings become rude, uncultured and irresponsible. We can see these things in today children and youth problems.
Mostly anti-government demonstrations were turned into violence, damaging of properties and loosing human lives. Violent nature are happening in many sectors of societies from family level to international level. All these unfortunate things are arisen by lacking of moral standard, moral values and moral disciplines. Therefore, there are something wrong in education systems of modern day. All these things we can learn on the old Chinese history from the many thousand years up to modern day.
Chou Dynasty was the longest one and lasted for over 800 years because of its moral standards and values which were the outcomes of moral education and moral disciplines. It had to be trained and followed by citizens from common people to princes and emperors. It started from family life educated by the teaching of Chinese ancient sages and wise men.
If we look at Mao Tse-tung’s era during the time of Chinese cultural revolution the situations were opposite. Youths and children were indoctrinated with wrong teaching (education), views and thinking to try to destroy and demolish their old culture and civilization of many thousand years. They treated their parents and teachers like criminals; criticizing, cursing, beating and torturing their benefactors like slaves. They changed the Chinese characters or words of over many thousand year old into meaningless words. Chinese language and characters are wisdom language, it represents profound philosophy and natural law and wisdom in it. It becomes meaningless and dead language to change them into short forms.
For example, you take out the heart letter (hsing) from the original word for love (ike). And then the short form love becomes without heart. What it means love without the heart? [love without heart becomes lust.]
It may be represented for today human beings because there are many violence and cruelty going on to fellow humans, animals and nature. Is it love or lust? Love leads to compassion, peace and harmony. Lust leads to violence, cruelty and selfishness.
Let us contemplate some of the monastic disciplines for monks and see what a layperson can benefit from it. The monastic codes and rules are collected in the three volumes of book on disciplines. For a layperson, there are the ten unwholesome and ten wholesome courses of action. They teach people what should not to and what should be done and acted; with the basic training rules of the five precepts and adding three mental actions to it.
There were some rules about purification of livelihood for monks. This is also important for layperson. There are different ways and style of life between monk and layman, so the things and matters of livelihood are also different. The basic rule is not harming others – humans and animals, and it also related to the five precepts which should not be done, for example, cheating in business, killing animals for foods, selling alcohols and drugs, etc. Another rules of training for monks are reflection in the use of the four requisites or the proper intentions. This is also important for a layperson to contemplate in their daily life whenever they use them. For a monk, the things necessary for him are very limited. Therefore, for a layperson the worldly things are numerous and increase their discontentment, craving and clinging is very great. With more discontent, craving and clinging, more sufferings come to be and vice versa.
The best way of contemplation is to relate to things (animate and inanimate) as elements, not-self and loathsome which the Thai monks and lay-Buddhist are using in chanting and reflection. It will develop our wisdom faulty and see things rightly and not get lost in them. As an example, we can use it on our own partners. Nowadays, humans are so caught on in sexual desire that increasing many sexual misconducts, such as unnatural sexual behaviors, unlawful sex, etc.
If we turn the body from inside to outside, everyone will disgust with it. The things coming out from the nine openings of the body are unpleasant to see and smelly. Discontentment, craving and clinging to things (animate and inanimate) create a lot of human problems and to nature. So the Buddha said sufferings came from craving (taṇhā and including ignorance – avijjā).
There are also quite a few miner rules on proper behaviors, dealing with foods, teaching Dhamma and miscellaneous. Elegance, graceful deportment are important for monks, which can have great effect on lay communities to let people who do not have faith in the triple gems (Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha) develop faith and who have it already will increase their faith. Monk or layperson who has graceful, placid, well-mannered demeanour win people heart. There was an interesting story about Sāriputta how he met his first teacher and became a Stream-winner (sotāpanna). He met Ven. Assaji at one morning, who was on alms-round. Assaji’s deportment was graceful, placid and well-mannered that Sāriputta took him as someone had spiritual attainment. So he followed him and asked for a teaching and after hearing a few words, Sāriputta became a sotāpanna.
The Buddha himself was from a high class warrior family that it was no doubt he completed with good demeanour.
Vinaya is disciplined and not only Buddhist Monks should have it. All human societies must have it. Only following and practicing it that human beings can have progress and development. For understanding and practicing has to be begun in family life and spreading into all parts of society. Starting from the family life have to teach and train the children. Laypeople disciplines are: to avoid the ten unwholesome courses of action; and to develop the ten wholesome courses of action.
The ten unwholesome courses of action:
- Destruction of life
- taking what belongs to others
- sexual misconduct
- malicious speech
- harsh language
- frivolous talk
- wrong view (Here not believe in the law of kamma)
[Note: Someone can ask, what about using intoxicants – i.e., drugs and alcohols? This is included in number (3)].
The ten wholesome courses of action:
- To avoid the destruction of life and be anxious for the welfare of all lives.
- To avoid taking what belongs to others.
- To avoid sexual misconduct.
- To avoid lying, knowingly speaking a lie for the sake of any advantage.
- To avoid malicious speech, to unite the discordant, to encourage the united, and to utter speech that makes for harmony.
- To avoid harsh language and speak gentle, courteous, and agreeable words.
- To avoid frivolous talk; to speak at the right time, by facts, what is useful, moderate, and full of sense.
- To be without covetousness.
- To be free from ill-will, thinking: “May these beings are free from hatred and ill-will and will lead a happy life free from trouble.” etc.
- To possess the right view, such as gifts and offerings are not fruitless, and there are results of wholesome and unwholesome actions. That is to believe in the cause and effect of the law of kamma.
When human beings are alive and living with three types of action (kamma); i.e., mental, verbal, and bodily actions; all are included in the ten unwholesome and ten wholesome actions. Therefore, these are very important. We have to follow the disciplines if we want to live our lives free from the courses of ten unwholesome actions. The rules of law are also discipline.
So disciplines are a very wide range of subject. It includes worldly affairs to spiritual matters. Human degeneration and progress are connecting with disciplines. In the world, many problems and sufferings arise from humans without disciplines. Therefore, disciplines are fundamentally important. We can justify a nation and people by its standards of discipline.
Why people have no discipline? Because some people do not have the proper education on moral disciplines and how to become a human. They did not bring up or grow up with disciplines. Usually, we overlook or even do not know the importance of how to bring up children with discipline. So every type of goodness must be trained and developed at an early age.
Without proper education and training on disciplines and grew up with bad habits and behaviors. And then becomes an immoral person. It is like a white sheet of canvas and a piece of soft clay. You can draw any picture and put other colors on it. You can model with the soft clay into any image, but with the hard and dry clay, it cannot be. Nowadays, people never take care or seriousness on disciplines and train children. Instead, they let all sorts of media to teach and train their children.
Therefore, it at homes children are difficult to teach and at school so difficult to discipline them. There are also signs of disrespectful to parents and teachers by youngsters. If you look at the present-day human societies, you will see the signs of the decadence. When we were young, we never seen youngsters retorting to the parents and teachers when they taught them.
Nowadays we even heard the news of beating and killing them. We can get good children and citizens only by educating and training. We cannot let them go their ways without disciplines and moral standards of the period. Without these foundations, no family, society, and country will stable. We can justify this point with current situations around the world.
Nowadays, we heard a lot of very nice words on democracy, human right, equality, etc. Do we use them rightly and wisely? No, it is not. Mostly we use it as empty words and even create more problems and chaos. Without disciplines and moral standards not only become empty words but also create instability, chaos, problems, and violence, etc. in family, society, and the country.
We can see all these things going on in this 21st century around the world. For example, a rich superpower can have a weapon of mass destruction, but another small country cannot have it or keep it. This country can interfere and invade a small country. But if another country does the same thing is unacceptable. There are promoting and protecting sexual misconduct. Another good example is the unwholesomeness of American gun law which leads to many deaths every year. Are these human rights? There are a lot have to say and contemplate on some of the modern-day philosophies.
The ways of correcting and the cure are not promoting and protecting unwholesome matters and also not by punishments. To educate and change people mind. Only with proper and right education can solve all these problems. Using these philosophies wrongly are not only create problems in politics, economics, media, etc. but it is also spreading into family life and schools. Therefore, nowadays, children and youngsters are cannot be taught, trained, and controlled them in the right directions. So these nice words are should only be used in good and wholesome matters.
It is the same as a nuclear power. You will help the human race in progress if you use it wisely. If you use it improperly and unwisely, it brings destruction to humans. It is also very important to take heed of someone's admonishing who has the knowledge, intelligence, wise and noble. (e.g., teachers and parents). There was a Jātaka story demonstrating this point. In one of his past lives, the Bodhisatta was a king. Later he had the sense of urgency (saṁvega) and renounced the world and became an ascetic.
Another king who was the past life of Ven. Ānanda heard this news and also became an ascetic. Later they met each other in the forest and stayed together. One day they went for alms round and took back their foods to the forest. Ānanda took out the salt bag which he has stored before and put it into his foods. The Bodhisatta saw it and admonished him. He said to him; “You have been renounced the kingship and the whole country. It's not proper and inappropriate for clinging to this salt. Ānanda retorted; “You also renounced your kingship and came here for practice. It's not good for you to admonish others.”
The Bodhisatta replied; “What I have reminded you is sensible. Therefore, I am not wrong.” Ānanda remarked again; “If you say something people don't like, then it is wrong.” At last, the Bodhisatta explained to him that he had to say something beneficial and appropriate. If not, it was like a blind wild buffalo moving around blindly in the thickest forest and encountered suffering. Then Ānanda became aware of his own mistake.
Therefore, it is very important to take heed of admonitions from parents and teachers with eagerness, willingness, and compliance. Today in societies a lot of youngsters have problems in family life and schools is lacking in these qualities. Therefore, well-mastered discipline is a blessing and protection.
revised on 2020-03-24; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36815#p36815 (posted on 2019-09-25)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
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