Assistance to One’s Relatives (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-06-25

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Commentary described relatives as someone’s maternal or paternal relations back through seven generations. When these people suffered from loss of wealth and illness and came for help, he should assist them with good, clothes, money, grain and other necessities. (Even they do not come and ask, we should help them if we know.) This blessing is also connected with the blessing of giving (dāna). The results of this blessing it the same as dāna. It is the blessing in this life and next life to come.

In the Khuddaka Nikāya, the 15th text is Cariyā Piṭaka. This text included some of the jātaka stories connection with the practices of the bodhisatta on the ten perfections (pāramīs). How he developed his pāramīs for the welfare of the world, relatives, and himself. Therefore, assistance to one’s relatives is one of the cariyās. This protection with blessing is relating to love and compassion (mettā and karuṇā).

Nowadays, men are quite weak in these noble qualities. It seems to be human becomes more cruel and violent to fellow human beings and animals. Even we have seen and heard more and more stories of children’s ingratitude to their parents, even in Asian Culture.

Therefore, assistance to one’s relatives can be a difficult thing to do, because of lacking mettā-karuṇā. Support for one’s parents, assistance to one’s wife and children, assistance to one’s relatives and others (friends and strangers) are in the three cariyās.

So, these practices are a true blessing for oneself and others. Here assistance to one’s relatives is not only included with blood relationship, but also one own people and country. There were many jātaka stories for these points. We only contemplate two of them.

  1. The Story of the Bodhisatta Crow:

One time the bodhisatta was born as the leader of crows. One day a crow in the city shat on the head of the brahman who was the king’s teacher. He was quite angry and had a grudge on the crow population. Unfortunately for the crows, the king’s elephants got the disease. So, the king discussed this matter with the brahman teacher. He had strong ill-will to the crows and wanted to revenge them. And then he told the king that there was a medicine which could cure the disease of the elephants. This was the body oil of the crows. Therefore, the king ordered to kill the crows for oil.

So, many crows were killed and reduced the numbers of crows. At last, the bodhisatta crow could not neglect this matter anymore. The bodhisatta met the king and explained to him that crows never had oil in their bodies. The reason was that crows were always alert and living their lives with fear and dangers. When we were young as boys, had been eaten crow meat before. But never thinking about this point as crows do not have oil in their body.

Even their bodies do not have much meat and liquid inside them, skinny and dry. At that period there were a lot of crows everywhere. In cities, they were making a lot of noises. Chasing and fighting each other for foods and quite noisy. We could see them in the backyard of houses, around kitchens, searching, and stealing for foods.

Nowadays, we cannot see them anymore (i.e., in Burma). It seems they were extinct from the cities. One of the reasons may be poisoned by men. Now we are in the same fate as men poison men by pesticides, other chemicals, and other pollutants. These are the results of greed and selfishness. In the Sutta Nipāta, there was a discourse called Kāma Sutta—Sensual Pleasure.

The Buddha gave some similes for sensual pleasure/sensuality. One of them was a bird (crow, vulture, hawk, etc.) had a piece of meat (here represented sensuality), and other birds following behind him and tried to get this meat. So, they attacked him with their beaks. If he did not drop it, then it would never end. If he dropped it, then another bird got it. Therefore, the other birds followed this bird again to attack him for the meat.

But the first crow was free from suffering after he let go of the meat. We need to ask the following questions. What about human beings? Do they want to let go off their over-indulgence in sensual pleasure with over craving for making money which will lead to the destruction of the Earth? For human survival, we should contemplate these points very seriously. If not, it will be too late, because of the severe climate changes on the Earth. The price of these is too much for a momentary, fleeting pleasure.

  1. A Noble Leader:

This was the story of a monkey king called Mahākapi from a Jātaka story and a past life of the bodhisatta. It was a very touching story. At that time the bodhisatta was born as a monkey leader called Mahākapi. There was a forest at the upstream of the Ganges River. A big mango tree was at near the bank of the river. It had very delicious mangoes. Therefore, the bodhisatta asked all the monkeys not let any mangoes fell into the water on any branch which stretched out to the river. When the ripe mangoes dropped into the river, they would be carried downstream and found out by human beings. After they ate the fruits, they would follow their trace upstream and found out the tree. It would be a danger for them. Unlucky, once there was a ripe mango covered by red ants and all the monkeys not aware of it. After sometimes it dropped into the river and arrived at the human place. Someone found it and presented it to the king. The taste was very delicious that the king craved for it. He and a group of people followed the river upstream to find the mango tree.

At last, they found it and ate a lot of the mangoes and slept under the tree for a rest. When they were in sleep, the monkeys came and ate the fruits. But some monkeys made noises so that it woke them up. And then they saw the monkeys and tried to catch them.

There was only one way the monkeys could escape. That was crossing to the other bank of the river which side also had some big trees. So, the bodhisatta came in. He selected a strongest and long enough creeper on the mango tree; with his strong force jumped over the river to the other side. From the other side of a tree, he took nearly the same length of creeper jumped back to the mango tree. Here the bodhisatta made a mistake. He forgot to calculate for the length to bind the mango tree. There was not enough time to do it again. So, he bound the end of the creeper on his two legs and with both hands holding to a very strong branch and using his whole body as a bridge. (A bodhisatta was always intelligent ans wise; therefore, we can see the importance of wisdom in every aspect of life. Intelligence, but not wise, is not always good.)

All the monkeys trod on his body, with the help of the creeper and arrived on the other side. But there was an evil monkey who was the past life of Devadatta—the Buddha’s cousin. He had a strong grudge and hatred on the bodhisatta in a very long distant past which he carried along with him until the bodhisatta’s last life. With the evil intention and by force, he jumped on the bodhisatta’s back and crossed to the other shore. The bodhisatta heart was broken, and he bore the intense pain with patience.

The king and the others saw the incident with awe and in surprise. They tenderly took the bodhisatta down from the tree. And then, the bodhisatta taught the king to has discernment, love, compassion, to protect one’s people and passed away. The king took the bodhisatta’s head to his country, and it was plated with gold, kept it as a souvenir to remind him of this memorable event.

Even we heard some animals’ stories (some were pets) who saved human lives in modern days. What about human beings? It is true that human qualities are changing a lot. Men are becoming more and more self-centered, greedy, and selfish. Do not talk about common people. Some political leaders and governments, they have the duties to govern their people with love, sympathy, concern, and for their welfare. But we saw quite a lot of them (here means more than before) exploited the citizen for their powers, misusing their powers and corrupted.

The worst thing was even some power mongers created wars and instability within one country and also to other countries (These were not difficult to understand. One reason is connecting with the lucrative arms businesses). Some superpowers they used many reasons and excuses to interfere with other countries and behaving like mafia bosses. Therefore, now we have seen many problems, the refugee crisis, wars, and instability in many parts of the world. In this remarkable story, we see the bodhisatta gave up his life to save his species. And an evil monkey who destroyed him.

All the big problems were coming from the small ones. Because of man’s ignorance or delusion and it became a great problem (e.g., the Syrian War). Hatred is the most harmful and dangerous unwholesome mental state, which creates hells on the Earth and after death. In the middle east, there are a lot of wars going on, and some are only a few years old. The hatred between Israel and Palestinian is more than a half-century old. That means hatred cannot overcome by hatred, only by love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. Tit-for-tat view and policy never bring happiness, peace, and harmony, only more and more misery and suffering, which will never end. These are human hells on Earth.

revised on 2020-06-25; cited from (posted on 2019-11-19)

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