Humility (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

The opposite nature of humility is conceit or pride (māna). Everyone has conceit (māna). It is one of the latent dispositions (ānusayā) & one of the defilements (kilesā). Only on the highest stage of arahatship māna is eradicated. It uses to happen in people who have a fortune, beauty, highly educated, high status, etc. Without any of them, also people can have pride.

Some take pride in their youthfulness, healthiness, and life faculty (jivitamāna, i.e., live a longer life), etc. The qualities of respect & humility are connected. Someone has conceit (no humility) cannot show respect to others. And without respect means someone has conceit. Therefore, they are supporting each other. Conceit has the nature of rigidity. A rigid person cannot or will not change his attitudes, opinions, or behavior.

So, they are difficult to teach or admonish. It is also a cause for downfall & dislike by others. A person has the quality of humility loved by others. It also increases or develops the wholesome dhamma to a holy life (brahmacariya dhamma). The quality of humility is the nature of noble & wise people. In textbooks, it taught us to behave like a rag for wiping feet or a poisonous snake which fangs are broken or a bull with broken horns.

Ven. Sariputta was a very good example as a humble person. In the Dhammapada, there was a story described his great quality of humility. It was the end of a rain retreat (vassa), Ven. Sariputta was about to set out a journey. He was saying goodbye to some monks & passing a young bhikkhu without saying anything to him.

But his outer robe brushed against this monk body when he was passing through him. This young monk had conceit and also wanted Ven. Sariputta to pay attention to him. Therefore, bore some grudge against him & approached the Buddha. He complained to the Buddha that Ven. Sariputta had abused him.

The Buddha, therefore, sent for Sariputta & questioned him about the complaint. He answered that how could a monk who steadfastly kept his mind on the body, not apologized to a fellow monk after had done something wrong. He was like the earth with no feeling of like or dislike when flowers & rubbish piled on it. He was also like the rag cloth, the beggar, a bull with broken horns, etc. (There were nine examples).

The-pye-kan Sayadaw gave a natural example. Rice plants when they are young & immature, the stalks are at upright positions. After they are grown up & laden with rice grain, the stalks are bending down. These are the differences between a fool & a wise, or someone has conceit & someone has humility.

There was another story about Ven. Sariputta of showing his humility to a 7-year-old young novice. One time the robe of Ven. Sariputta was not very neat & a 7-year-old young novice saw it. And he informed it to Sariputta. On the spot, Sariputta corrected his robe by readjusting it instantly. He humbly asked the novice as was it good enough. Ven. Sariputta & Ven. Rahula (The only son of the Buddha) were high-class persons with great wisdom & very humble nature if a person has conceit & difficulty to possess good qualities.

If a person becomes wiser & he will become humbler. By knowing more about the faults of the khandha (body) one’s conceit will be decreased, and then he will look for the refuge. We cannot find it externally. Most people are looking for outside that they would never find it. Most religions came from external searches & speculations.

At last most people will die without the true refuge. When still alive, they encounter a lot of difficulty & problems which they cannot solve or overcome by outside powers. The perfect or true refuge is wisdom (paññā), which is the internal quality of the mind. Everybody has it, and only we need to develop it.

Therefore, the Buddha, the Dhamma & the Sangha (ariya sangha) are the perfect or true refuge. They represent only one thing - which is perfect wisdom. In general, true everyone refuge is the wholesome dhammas such as dāna, sīla, samādhi & paññā. These are not the outside powers & sensual pleasures which most people rely on it.

Generally speaking, the outside powers and external things/matters are untrue and belong to the fleeting nature. These things can be deluded our mind & created a lot of problems & sufferings in the world & societies. These unfortunate things are happening around us, which we can see in today world. Violence, terrorism, wars in the name of religion and power & all kinds of pollutions (mind, body & nature) in the name of economics for sensual pleasures & overindulgence.

All these miserable things are created by fools & not the wise. The quality of humility or without conceit is one of the characteristics of great wisdom. Therefore, everyone should develop this noble quality. So, the Buddha said; humility was the highest protection with a blessing.

cited from (posted on 2019-11-20)

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