Contentment (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

This quality of contentment is a very important one for today world. Both for layman & ordained monk. It has a profound meaning & message within it. We can only discover them by using the Buddha’s Teachings with contemplation. It can also be a great wide subject to think about in today human societies. In the English dictionary; contentment is a feeling of quiet happiness & satisfaction.

So, it has a connection with non-greed (alobha). The opposite of discontentment is a connection with greed (lobha). Therefore contentment leads to true happiness & peace. Discontentment leads to unhappiness & suffering. The quality of contentment is easy to understand & accept by the noble beings, the sages & the wise. But not by common people or mostly not by power & money mongers, business men & greedy people (i.e., some politicians & some economists).

Even we can say today, many world problems have a connection with discontentment or lacking contentment. We are craving for more than we need. Therefore, we are wasting the natural resources, in extravagance, & overindulgence in sensual pleasures. The United States of America is a very good example. They are in great debts to other countries. Not because they are very poor like some African countries, Latin Americans & Asians. But still, many people want to imitate them.

Most worldly people overlook the importance of contentment & discontentment, which affect the families, societies & international levels. Contentment leads to happiness, peace & harmony. Discontentment leads to unhappiness, disharmony & suffering. For examples, in a documentary film, a Chinese bank made a lawsuit to a young man who could not repay his credit card debts & ended up in jail.

This happened for the 2nd time. The first time his father paid for his debts & this time not taking the responsibility. He blamed the bank for knowing his son situation & still loaned him money. In this case, we can see the connection between discontentment & greed. Worse than this case was a university student in China used his credit cards to borrow money from many different banks.

Now, this is a very big problem in the Banking System of China which came from B.B.C. News. These were very similar to the US Government & its citizens consumed things which more than they needed & created a lot of debts. There was also a very sad story about 15 years or 16 years old youth wanted to possess a smartphone killed his grandma, who had deposited some money in the post office.

Then he took her deposited account book, & took the money out to buy the phone. Some young women, including university students, are selling their bodies to some rich people for money to satisfy their discontentment. There is a lot to talk about family & society problems & suffering which connection with discontentment.

Its connection with international levels is more on a grand scale, which harmfulness brings to the human race. In some countries, the political leaders were still clinging to their powers when the time came for them to let go of it. If they let it go & went back to normal life still could enjoy their high living standards.

But most of them did not & just followed behind their master Discontentment like slaves And then what happened? Some countries had civil wars & the whole country in chaotic situations, harming, torturing, killing, famine, diseases, war refugees crises around the world, etc.

If these people had contentment all the small problems in their countries would be solved. Big problems always start with small problems. A forest fire starts from a spark, e.g., a burning cigarette butt. Some superpowers came in & interfered between the conflicts that even became more harmful to the people (e.g., the Syrian Civil War).

For clinging to lowly sensual pleasures & created evil deeds are not worthy of it. The kammic debts have to be repaid very seriously. In economic levels discontentment creates mind & body pollutions, & natural pollutions. What are the mind & body pollutions? Human beings become more selfish, greedy, cruel, violent, extravagant, indulgence in sensual pleasures, etc. and the mind become defiled.

To fulfill our greed & make more money with the help of science & technology, we polluted our foods with all sorts of chemicals. What are natural pollutions? There are the pollutions of earth, water & air - and all sorts of waste materials, such as industrial waste, consumers’ rubbish, etc. With more worldly knowledge and contemplation, the matters and problems from the outcomes of discontentment will never end.

But whatever it is; discontentment never brings true happiness & peace to anyone & society. For a human being to be survived, he only needs the basic four requisites: clothes, foods, dwelling & medicine. So, all the other things are extras for him. Even the Buddha taught the monks to have contentment in these four requisites. To have a simple lifestyle, unburdened to the mind & body, just as a bird whenever it goes, flies its wings as its only burden. So too is a monk has contentment with a set of robes (3 sets of robes), an alms bowl & foods to provide for hunger (one meal a day).

Wherever he goes takes only his barest necessities along (the only barest necessities are - a water strainer, a razor for shaving, & a string girdle to fasten the lower robe at the waist as a belt). A great disciple of the Buddha, Ven. Mahākassapa was an example for contentment; he had mastered left-over scrape for food, smelly urine for medicine, the foot of a tree for dwelling, cast-off rags for robes.

Why the Buddha always praised contentment with little & encouraged monks to have this quality? Because it leads to happiness & peace, easy to develop the practice & realization. People have contentment easier to have patience & endurance in difficult times & situations. Intelligent & wise people will appreciate the quality of contentment. Spiritual people, sages & noble beings know it very well by direct experience on contentment. It develops joy, happiness & peace.

The forest monks live a simple lifestyle in a forest (pristine forests) also experience it very well. (I have mentioned about this in the Introduction of Dtow Dum forest at the border area between Thailand & Burma). Lay people also if they live a simple life with contentment sure to have joy, happiness & peace compare to discontent people, who have more problems & suffering in life.

Why is that? Strong desire or greed (lobha) is the opposite of contentment. The Buddha mentioned in the 4 Noble Truths, the main cause of suffering was strong desire (tanhā). One of the meanings of dukkha is unsatisfactoriness, which equals to discontentment. The Buddha also said that someone had contentment would be happy. It is a noble quality which all noble beings have it. You cannot see it with the eyes. Contentment is a kind of fulfillment, an inner one. It is nothing to do with outside things, such as wealth, money, or sensual objects.

Happiness comes from wealth & sensual pleasures are not true happiness. There are some very wealthy people without happiness. If someone cannot use the wealth properly will harmful to oneself. Even the Buddha said that for a fool without any wealth was better than he had it. It was like an evil person who lived a shorter life was better than a longer life.

It is also very important not to misinterpret contentment wrongly. It is nothing to do with laziness or non-action. Only the fool, greedy & selfish people interpret in this way. Contentment relates to wholesome dhamma. Discontentment relates to unwholesome dhamma. For searching, knowledge & wisdom should not have contentment.

Have contentment in knowledge & wisdom is not contentment, only laziness & dullness, or a lazy guy & a dullard. So, we should not misinterpret or misunderstand the Buddha Teaching wrongly. Interpret & contemplate according to its context. There was a very good jataka story for contemplation on discontentment, which leads to negative nature & result. If we observe & study today world situations will see all these points.

The Hanza Jataka

One time the bodhisatta was born as a human being & had a family with two daughters. After he passed away & born as a hanza bird – a type of water bird which had beautiful color feathers & could fly. It remembered its past life & had compassion on the family of his past. He had golden feathers & every one or Two months went there & gave them a golden feather. So, their lives were improved.

After sometimes what happened was his former wife became discontent & very greedy to get more instantly. The last time when the bird came & she arrested him & plucked all the feathers out. It was cruel & without any consent from the bird that all the golden feathers changed into ordinary ones. Therefore, the evil wife kept the naked bird in a trap & waiting for its golden feathers for growing back.

As soon as the feathers were growing back, the golden hanza bird flew away & never came back again. Discontentment or greedy leads to the ending of everything good, & becomes zero. Someone becomes very greedy could do all sorts of evil deeds. His bodily action, speech & mind become unwholesome. These people could do heavy kammas such as patricide, matricide, tried to kill the Buddha, split the monastic sangha, etc.

We can see these things happened even in the Buddha’s time. For, the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta tried to kill him for power. King Ajātasattu killed his father King Bimbisara was also for power. Nowadays, these things are even worse, in family matters, societies, politics, economics, etc. For power & money, people can do all sorts of harmful things. Worshipping money is the most popular religion in the world.

Human beings (mostly politicians, economists, businesspeople) measure human development with how much money we make, how much sensual pleasures we can enjoy, etc. People and all the media never emphasis or talk about moral issue, virtue & ethic. Therefore Human thinking & actions are mostly connection with greed, hatred & delusion. The media are also educating people in this direction.

There is a country that measures its progress & development with happiness – this is Bhutan. This is a country in the Himalayas in Southern Asia with beautiful nature of mountains & forest. Their lifestyle is very simple & close to nature & follow the teachings of the Buddha. By seeing the beautiful nature is make your mind becomes joyful & peaceful. Bhutanese are right, the real progress & development is happiness & peace – this comes from a simple lifestyle, close to nature & contentment with life.

Spiritual people, ancient sages & noble beings – mostly forest monks knew the happiness & peace of contentment with direct experiences. With discontentment and greed, human beings create human problems, suffering & natural disasters which all of it we can see in today world. Therefore, the Buddha with great compassion taught us that: Contentment was the highest protection with a blessing.

cited from (posted on 2019-11-20)

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