Being Heedful of the Qualities of the Mind (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)


By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)


Appamāda is heedfulness. Here is being heedful in wholesome dhammas, mainly referred to worldly good deeds or merits. Appamāda is also mindfulness, and it can be covered the whole pitakas. This is not an ordinary heedfulness, being heedful in wholesomeness. It means always doing and performing in goodness.

We should have steadfastness in doing good. This is not ordinary mindfulness and difficult to arise. Therefore it has to be developed. Without mindfulness and knowledge cannot be arisen. Therefore there is no discernment or wisdom without mindfulness.

This kind of discernment or wisdom is not ordinary knowledge. It is thoroughly penetrating of natural phenomena. For the goodness to arise and realization of the Nibbāna element, we cannot be without mindfulness. In daily life must cultivate mindfulness and clear knowing (sati and sampajañña). Near death also we cannot be without it. Heedfulness (appamāda) has different levels; these are giving, precept, mind development (dāna; sīla, bhavana).

In bhavana-mind development also has different levels; from sotapānna to arahant. Only by becoming an arahant that heedfulness is perfected. It is very important for everyone to ask the question of why are we here and what are we doing here(i.e., in human existence)? People will give different answers. Even some do not know the answers. Common worldly people will have different views and opinions, depending on their desires.

People with different faiths also in the same ways. With the Buddha’s Teachings, Buddhists can give two general answers for this very important question. For the worldly people, they are for enjoying sensual pleasures and doing things to enjoy them. Different religious people are also for sensual pleasures and doing things to union with their God in heaven after death.

True Buddhists have different views, and they have clear guidelines and clear paths for what to do. According to Buddha, human births are rare, and the best place for doing good is also the human world. Human beings have more chances and opportunities than any other births. The most important thing to do now is studying and following the Buddha’s Teachings to end dukkha. This is the highest thing to be done here. At least as a Buddhist one should or must does good deeds and abstain and refrain from misdeeds.

To complete and fulfill the Buddhist task, we have to develop being mindful of the qualities of the mind. We must live a life with heedfulness (appamāda). Appamāda is so important in the Buddha’s Teachings that every day he was reminding the monks to be mindful or being in heedfulness. Before he passed away, the last words of the Buddha were also in heedfulness: Vayadhammā saṅkhārā-appamādena sampādetha: All conditioned phenomena are subject to decay. Bring about completion by being heedful.

Therefore being heedful of the qualities of the mind is very important in worldly progress and spiritual development. In the Dhammapada: on the section of heedfulness, the Buddha compared a person with heedfulness/non-negligence and the person with heedlessness/negligence as a person awake and a person in sleep; a racehorse and a common weak horse.

Heedfulness is the way to Deathless, and heedlessness is the way to Death. Those who are heedful do not die and who are heedless as if already dead. A person with diligence, heedfulness, pure in thoughts and words or deeds will do everything with care and consideration. With restraining of the senses, he earns his likelihood by the wholesomeness that the fame and fortune of this heedful person will increase.

The foolish and the ignorant give themselves to over heedlessness, whereas the wise treasures heedfulness as a precious jewel. Someone delights in heedfulness and seeing the danger in heedlessness advances as a like fire burning up all the fetters (samyojana). Someone delights in heedfulness and seeing the danger in heedlessness cannot fall away from the Path. In practice to transcend dukkha; it is important for the five spiritual faculties to develop and mature. These are:

(1) The faculty of conviction—saddhindriya
(2) The faculty of persistence—viriyindriya
(3) The faculty of mindfulness—satindriya
(4) The faculty of concentration-samādhindriya
(5) The faculty of discernment-paññindriya.

Of the five faculties, conviction(saddhā) and discernment have to be in balance. Persistence (viriya) and concentration (samādhi) also have to be in balance. Only mindfulness (sati) is no need to be in balance but stronger and better. Sati is also like salt crystals in every food. Sati is necessary for everything we do. Therefore the Buddha was always reminding and encouragement to develop it.

On Dhamma level, the very important knowledge is not forgotten or not negligent the true nature of the khandha. Its true nature is changing (viparinama), inconstant(anicca), suffering (dukkha), not-self (anatta), and loathsomeness (asubha). These are aging, sickness, and death dhammas that we should not forget them. After some time, everything will fall apart. With regular contemplation, we are not wasting times and living a meaningless life.

Especially we should not forget about death with the contemplation of death (marananusati). Without negligence on death also leads to non-negligence of wholesome dhammas, merits, etc. It protects us from doing evil deeds and matters. And then we do only what is proper, useful, beneficial to oneself and others. Regular mindfulness on death can lead to the ending of dukkha—i.e., Nibbāna.

Death can be compared to a big river flows into the sea, but they also have differences. The water flows down slowly, and it is becoming closer to the sea. In the same way, everyone with times goes on is closer to death. The differences are; we can measure the journey of the river to the sea and period it arrives there. But we cannot measure on death. Now how much time still left for us to continue for this life.

Even everyone has a different life span, and not everybody the same way. It depends on different factors and causes. Some of these related to past kammas and some to present factors and causes, such as action, mind state, climate, and foods. It is nothing to do with God or the outside power. The most important factor is the internal cause—the mind. Therefore every human being can change his or her destiny. It can be better or worse.

Therefore the Buddha’s Teachings came in to give us the guidelines and show the way. Without the Buddha arose in the human world even we do not know very clear about the wholesome and unwholesome dhamma, do not say about to transcend them. Therefore the Buddha was called the Teacher of gods and human beings. In the Buddhist text, there are four factors of not knowing about death.

These are the time of death, the illness or death, the destination of rebirth, and the place of death. Among the four factors, the most important one is after death, the destination of rebirth, or new existence. Combine the 31 realms of the existence, and we only get the five existences. These are hells, animals, ghosts, humans, and deities. Only two groups, human and deity existences, are good rebirths.

The other 3, hells, animals, and ghosts existences are very painful and miserable. To has a good rebirth and existence, everyone should be heedful of the qualities of the mind by doing good and developing the mind with the practice of bhavana in this life. In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, monks and teachers always encourage us to practice the four protective dhamma regularly in our daily life.

These are Buddhanusati(Recollection of the Buddha), Metta Bhavana(meditation on goodwill/loving kindness/ loving friendliness). Asubha Bhavana (meditation on the repulsiveness of the body) and Marananusati (mindfulness on death). These contemplations are called catura-rakkha dhamma, the four protective dhammas. With the regular practices can protect someone from fear, dangers, unwholesome mental states, and living a heedful life.

In the Sutta Nipāta, there are three suttas for metta bhavana, contemplation on the repulsiveness of the body and mindfulness on death respectively. In the Snake Chapter; Metta Sutta—Discourse on Good Will and Vijaya Sutta Discourse on Victory (victory over delusion or overcome attachment on the physical body).

In the Great Chapter; Salla Sutta—Discourse on the Arrow(Mindfulness on death), all these are very good for contemplation. Already has mentioned, being heedful of the qualities of the mind has many different levels-from the worldly results to spiritual attainments. We have to cultivate and develop both and should not stop only at the worldly level. Any worldly level and progress are unstable and can be changed.

Only the spiritual level is safe and leading to the ending of dukkha. Here I want to present a story in the Dhammapada about mindfulness on death—marananusati—the great result it brought to a weaver girl. Not forgetting on death reminds someone not to follow one’s life in ordinary and useless ways. It sharpens one’s knowledge and develops the right thoughts or thinkings. Therefore marananusati is a very useful meditation object for mundane and supramundane achievements.

It is also very close to the Noble Truth. With the regular contemplation, it reduces greed, hatred, and delusion. Also, it helps someone comes to the sense of wise urgency (saṁvega) regarding the fleeting nature of the world, suffering, and unsatisfactoriness of the world. With the saṁvega knowledge; he will not waste the human life span, and it encourages him for the practice to end dukkha. All the Buddha’s Teaching is not for intellectual knowledge, but we have to put into real practice, whether it is worldly or spiritual.

The story of the weaver girl supported this view. This mind development (bhavana) develops the wholesome roots of non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion. It supports these three wholesome roots. It also relates to heedfulness (appamāda.) It develops the perception of inconstant (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and not-self (anatta). It is helping to discern anicca, dukkha, and anatta of the three universal characteristics of the mind and body and their true nature.


The story of a weaver girl

At that time the Buddha was residing in the country of Ālavi. At the end of an alms-giving ceremony, he delivered a discourse on the inconstancy of the khandhas. He taught the people to be always mindful and put effort to perceive the true nature of the khandhas. With the practice, it was like armed with a weapon to meet a poisonous snake—i.e., Death. One who was ever mindful of death would face death mindfully.

And after death would have a good rebirth. In the audience was a 16 years old girl who understood the message and took it seriously, and practiced the teaching regularly. After three years had passed by. One day the Buddha was as usual surveyed the world to help living beings. He saw the young weaver woman (now 19) in his vision and knew that the time was ripe for her spiritual attainment. Three years ago, she had received the meditation on death from the Buddha.

She had done the practice regularly for three years now. Her perfection for the realization of the Dhamma was becoming mature. It was like a lotus bud waiting for the sunlight to open it up. Her mind was free from mental hindrances. Therefore the Buddha went back to the country of Ālavi for the second time to help her. She heard the news of the Buddha arrived and went to listen to his teaching.

On the same day, her father had also asked her to wind some thread spools which he needed urgently. So she also took them together with her. She listened to the Buddha’s talk among the crowd. He also knew that the woman would die when she arrived in the weaving shed. So the Buddha invited her came closer to him. And then he was asking her the following four questions.

Q. “Where have you come from?”
A: “I don’t know Ven. Sir.”
Q. “Where are you going?”
A: “I don’t know Ven.”
Q. “Don’t you know?”
A: “Yes, I do Ven. Sir.”
Q. “Do you know?”
A: “I don’t know Ven.”

These were not ordinary questions and answers as most people thought. Only the Buddha and the young woman knew them. So the Buddha asked her to explain to them. The direct questions and answers of them were as follow.

Q. “From what past existence you have come here?”
A: “I don’t know.”
Q. “To what future existence you would be going from here?”
A: “I don’t know.”
Q. “Whether you don’t know that you would die one day?”
A: “Yes, I do.”
Q. “Whether you know when you would die?”
A: “I don’t.”

The Buddha was satisfied with her explanations. And then spoke the following verse: Verse 174: “Blind is the people of the world, and only a few see them. Just like only a few birds escape from the net. So only a few get to the world of deities and realize Nibbāna.” At the end of the talk, the young weaver entered the Stream(became a stream-winner). Then she continued the way to her father weaving shed.

When she got there, her father was asleep and suddenly woke up by her arrival. And then accidentally pulled the shuttle and the point of it struck his daughter’s chest, she died on the spot, and he was in broken-heart. With great sorrow and pain, he went to see the Buddha. The Buddha with Dhamma talk lightened his sorrow and pain. He had strong saṁvega(sense of wise urgency) and entered the monastic order.

With diligent practice and he became an arahant. Once, King Pasenadi of Kosālā asked the Buddha a question: “Is there anyone dhamma in the world could complete and fulfill one’s goal in the present and future.” the Buddha short answer was— Appamāda Dhamma—Being heedful of the qualities of the mind. This is the highest protection with a blessing.


cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36970#p36970 (posted on 2019-11-20)


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