revised on 2020-09-08
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
Some Buddhists may be not taken this matter seriously and very important. There are many reasons for listening to Dhamma as very important. Nowadays, we can include also study and reading the Buddha’s Teachings from Pāli texts translations or written by scholars (most importantly by Buddhist scholars, such as monks).
One of the factors for realization is listening Dhamma talks. The Buddha also said to the monks, after he passed away, the Buddha Dhamma was their teacher. Only by knowing the teachings we can have right views, what are wholesome and not wholesome, what is right or wrong, what is proper or not proper and then we can walk on the right path.
In the Buddha’s time even, some monks and lay people were having the realizations while listening to the Dhamma of the Buddha or one of his disciples. Among the Theravadin Buddhist countries, Burmese Buddhists are very fortunate in this matter. Because Burmese monks had the strong tradition of study and practice of the Pāli texts. It produced many fine scholar monks and meditation teachers. From the middle of the 20th century up to this day, some monks could recite the whole Tipiṭaka by heart.
Burmese monks usually give their talks based on the suttas. So, by listening these talks were like it came from the Buddha directly. Even today, there are more lay people studying the suttas and Abhidhamma directly with teachers.
What time should people listen to Dhamma? It had been said differently in the texts. In the Mahāgovinda Sutta (DN 19), it was mentioned every five days, and in one sutta it also said that if someone had time and teacher for giving a talk should listen to it. The best time may be someone has stress, unhappiness, sorrow, lamentation pain, grief and despair, a very good example—the story of Therī Patācārā (a Buddhist nun).
Before ordained, she had lost her whole family, husband, two sons, parents and three brothers. With over sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, she became nearly mad. And then she encountered the Buddha and by listening to his powerful Dhamma, she overcame her sorrow and entered the stream. (Thig. 112 16; ThigA. 108ff. Ap. ii. 557f; AA. ii. 194ff; DhA. ii. 260ff; iii. 434f；J. vi. 481.)
Another interesting story was about the heavenly being (devata) Subrahmā (S. I. 53; SA. i. 88f). One time he was enjoying the heavenly pleasures with his 1,000 celestial nymphs outdoor under a flowering tree. Human beings enjoy the lowly and ignoble pleasures by making money to destroy the earth, without unaware of the outcome of it. So, heavenly beings are more easily under the power of delusion.
The five hundred nymphs on the tree plucked the flowers and threw it down for the other 500 underneath the tree. They made the wreaths of flower for Subrahmā. After sometimes the 500 nymphs on the tree died suddenly and disappeared on the spot. They took rebirths in hell. Without the flowers coming down and singing, the others looked up the tree and found out the situation.
Not seeing anyone of them, Subrahmā devata with his divine eyes searched for them and found them in the hell. The working of the law of kamma is inconceivable. Everyone (all living beings) has good and bad kammas carrying with them (kammic energy) in the round of existence. All these are waiting for chances to give the results.
Now, the time was ripe for these beings. So, Subrahmā checked his future with his super-normal power, and also found out that after seven days they would die and fall into the hell. Hence, in utter fear, he came to the Buddha for seeking consolation. The Buddha gave them talk and at the end, all of them entered the stream. The door to hell waiting for them was closed forever. So, Buddhists should listen to Dhamma talks (including reading and studying) at any time if they have chances and times.
This will increase our knowledge and become intelligent and wise people. Spiritual people knew this point very well. For example, the Chinese sages invented a system of training their students, which was called reading texts for 100 times or 1,000 times. Some modern teachers experimented with these systems and found out that children had bad habits and characters changed to good persons. They also had a strong power of attention and intelligence.
Time limit is not the main point here in hearing the Dhamma. The time someone needs it urgently is more important, as shown above with the nun Patācārā and Subrahmā devata. But with more listening is better, because it will decrease our mental pollution. By watching some of the media such as movies, TV programs, video games, etc. are quite harmful to people. If they include a lot of violence, sex, etc.which are pollutants for our minds. It is like a bulb light in a kitchen at the cooking place, everyday contacts with the dirty air with oil and smoke. After sometimes it becomes dirtier, clouded and not bright anymore. Why is that? Because we use our six senses in an unwholesome way. It also likes eating unhealthy foods for every day; such as junk foods, foods connecting with pesticides, foods with chemicals inside, etc. Then our health degenerate and end up with sickness, pains and deaths.
Our mind is like clear water or bright mirror. With it, we can see things clearly and penetrate them. With the dirty one, we cannot do it. There are some higher beings—the rūpa-deva gods (or rūpabhava—beings with the material jhānic power) seemed to used only three senses; eye, ear and mind doors. These are very useful and important for them.
They can meet the Buddha and arahants to listen to their talk and easily get attainments. The other sensitivities of smell, taste and touch, which they do not need them. But human beings are not like this. They prefer to see and listen to a lot of media with pollutants such as sex, violence, useless chattering, etc. Even some children are not escaping from these pollutants. Because some comic books, cartoons, video games, books included these things in it. Media have the great power of educations.
Regarding media education, there was a tragic story connected with a woman named Miss Song. It is worth to mention here. She was from the Liao Ning Province of the N. E. China.
When she was young as a teenage girl liked to watch TV, videos, and movies and brainwashed by the polluted media. And then she started to beautify herself and had a lot of affairs with men. According to her confession, she had over 40 lovers in her life. At the age of 50, she found out that she had the cancer of the uterus. It was in a serious and severe situation, blood and pus came out often.
The doctor told her that she could survive only three months. Luckily at that period, she encountered with good-hearted people who studied and practiced Confucianism and Buddhism. Within the short period of her life, she gave a lot of public talks and educated people not to get lost in media.
At last with the Buddhist practice, she passed away peacefully. Here we can see the results of unwholesome and wholesome educations very clear. Therefore, we should not use it for foolishly and stupidly. And should not take media education as lightly. Today a lot of social problems have a lot of connection with them. The benefits of listening Dhamma are:
These are the five rewards in listening to the Dhamma.
- One hears what one has not heard before
Most people knowledge is very limited. But Buddhas were an exception. In a sutta, the Buddha said that his knowledge was like many leaves in a forest, but he taught only like a handful of leaves on his hand. Even these handful of teachings we know very little, not completely and only superficially. Many of them were we never heard before. If make out the lists there are many.
The most important one was the Four Noble Truths with its details in many suttas. Some of the worldly knowledge even we know very little about it, e.g. rebirth, other faiths take it as reincarnation. Some even not accept this view. The Buddha described it as the rounds of existence, and with it 31 realms of existence.
- One clarifies what one has heard before
These are also can give many examples of them. Most people think God creates us and believe in the Creation. The Buddha taught the rounds of the existence of all living beings with the law of Dependent Co-arising (Paṭiccasamuppāda). Most people believe there is a permanent self, a soul, or God exists.
They also heard from many faiths teach about them. When they read Buddhism or listen to Dhamma on the doctrine of not-self (anatta) which they never heard before, even not in this life, but for many lives of existence. Because only the Buddha and Pacceka-buddhas could discover it and only the Buddha could teach them. Therefore, it is not surprising that nobody can teach about it.
- One gets rid of doubt
Overcoming of doubt is very important for whatever we are studying or doing. Because this is one of the hindrances. The meaning of doubt is: have a feeling of uncertainty, isn’t true or possible? Probably not true or possible, might not be true or might not be existed. So, it has the power of obstruction to our progress in doing something and knowledge.
If someone doubts wrong views and practices is better than without it. But if someone doubts right views and practices will incline towards wrong views and practices; then it is dangerous. In Buddhist spiritual practice overcoming doubt is very important. This is one of the foundations of knowledge in insight practice (vipassanā).
The other is the foundation knowledge of the mind and material phenomena or right view. With the analytical knowledge of mind and body, the view of a being, a person, a soul or self is disappeared. Then, it reduces the affection and hate (like or dislike) on someone. Overcoming doubt is the discernment of the conditions of mind and body. In the world, the different faiths or religions arise is not knowing the causes of phenomena, e.g., the doctrine of the creator and the creation.
The causes of phenomena are so deep and profound that people are following the ways of easy thinking. The Buddha did not accept the first cause or root cause. The easiest way of thinking is the doctrine of non-causality—ahetuka-vada. Both of them are extreme views. Here I want to present a story of a person who had got rid of doubt. This man was born into a Muslim family. At a young age, his father forced him to study and learn the Koran text with a teacher. He had the nature of curiosity, inquiry mind and intelligent. He never accepted anything without clear understanding and direct experience.
Later he fell in love with a Christian and studied the Old and New Bibles. Later he became a teacher in Philosophy Department and studied all the eastern and western philosophy and doctrines. After sometimes, he had the duty to write a book on Buddhist Ethics to teach the philosophy students. He did not have good knowledge of Buddhism, except mentioned in the Philosophy books. So, he made thorough research and study on Buddhism for the Buddhist Ethics textbook.
Even later he wrote a book on Religions, included 11 faiths. From his knowledge about religions, he preferred Buddhism to others. The reason behind it was more logical and profound than others. The most important point was Buddhism cleared away of his doubt on the Creator and the Creation as it was not the truth. But still at that time not become a Buddhist yet. He still doubted the doctrine on rebirth.
The reason was he could not prove it or had direct experience. Luckily, later, he could prove it as a truth. And then became a Buddhist at the age of 50. Later he went to 10 days vipassanā retreat and had a direct understanding of the four Noble Truths and became a Buddhist monk. This was the ending of all of his search for the truth. Doubt on his father’s faith led to the search for the truth, and with the Buddha’s teaching led to the ending of all doubts.
- One’s views are made straight
If one has wrong views and by listening Dhamma, clearing doubt and wrong views. So, one’s views are made straight or right. There are eight causes for wrong views to arise. The two main causes are:
The opposites are also true if someone who has to listen the right teachings will have right views and wise or right or proper attention. With wise attention and wrong views are overcome. There was an interesting discourse in the Aṅguttara Nikāya. It was Ārāmadaṇḍa Sutta [AN.2.36 (PTS) or AN.2.38 (CSCD)] and the name of a brahman. He asked Ven. Mahā-kaccāna (or Mahā-kaccāyana) about the reasons for disputes and arguments. He asked in general and Ven. Mahā-kaccāna also answered in general. Only the Buddha and arahants overcome them.
The causes are still existing that people have disputes and arguments. With different views that people are disputing and arguing. Therefore, we must find out the causes for them to arise. The Buddha’s Teachings were searching for the main causes. There are two causes: original and nearest causes. The four Noble Truths are also in this way. These are internal and external causes, without finding out the internal causes we cannot solve the disputes.
There are two groups of disputed people; the householders and religious group. Their fundamental internal causes are different. In one of Mahā-kaccāna’s discourses, the internal cause for householders for dispute is kāmarāgābhinivesa kilesa—the defilement of sensual lust. These are the desirous objects of the five sense objects—form, sound, smell, taste and touch.
Sensuality is the main cause and there are also other causes. Sensual lust sinks someone. People are controlled and governed by lust and sensuality that in disputes and arguments. Out of craving or desire that many disputes are arising. If we study the present situations around the world, this is very clear.
Religious people are disputing and arguing for different views, doctrines, ideas and outlooks. Overcome or transcend sensual lust and views are the Buddha and arahants only.
Buddhists who listen to Dhamma talks with mindfulness or Pāli Chanting know this experience directly. Wholesome dhamma has the wholesome result, and unwholesome dhamma has an unwholesome result. Therefore, we should not overlook the effect of sound on one’s mind. Even nature is sensitive about it.
So, we have to be very careful about the media. Seeing and watching all this rubbish will pollute our mind. Now, scientists with many types of research and experiments also have found its effects on the mind and the physical world.
Recently, a very funny thing had happened. In America, at a music concert, surely it was nothing to do with classical music. This was violent music with the youths and they were singing and shouting violently. Suddenly a 16-year-old girl fell and they sent her to a hospital and saved her life. Her lung could not work properly because of the over shouting. Luckily, the doctors saved her life back.
The Mahayana Buddhists even use sound and spiritual music to calm their mind. In the Pāli Suttas there were many stories and incidents of monks and lay people by listening to the Dhamma gave by the Buddha and they had realizations. Why could these people achieve the results? We know that Buddhist training is sīla, samādhi and paññā. (precepts, concentration and discernment or wisdom).
During the talks, their precepts were pure. Concentrating on the Dhamma and their mind became calm and peaceful. Their mind was not concentrating on the sensual objects like today, man. With the calm and peaceful mind and contemplation led to a realization. The nun Patācārā was overcome by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, which made her nearly mad. After hearing the Buddha’s teaching, her mind became calm and serene. And then continued to give her special teaching that she was established in the fruit of stream-entry.
Āḷavaka was the most violent and fearsome ogre (yakkha). He was so angry with the Buddha that he even threatened to split the Buddha’s heart and grabbed him by the feet and hurled him across the Ganges River. After listening to the Dhamma, even this very violent and fearsome being, his mind became calm and serene and also established in the fruit of stream-entry.
So, hearing and listening Dhamma is a very important matter for Buddhists. It is as an important practice in cultivation of the mind, by listening very often with contemplation. This is not only accumulated Dhamma knowledge with contemplation but also increase our intelligence and discernment. With a lot of Dhamma knowledge and practice, we can solve many problems in daily life when it needs.
In a sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN 5.194 Kāraṇapālisuttaṃ), two brahmins Kāraṇapāli and Piṅgiyāni were talking about the Dhamma of the Buddha. Piṅgiyāni brahman explained to the other brahmin on the qualities of the Buddha Dhamma with five similes. Brahmin Piṅgiyāni was a non-returner (anāgāmin) and visiting the Buddha every day to offer incense and garlands.
 Someone after listening to the Dhamma of the samaṇa Gautama (i.e., Buddha) and he could not listen to the other dhammas anymore (i.e., the teachings of other teachers). As an example, someone after eating the best delicious food in full stomach and he could no longer desire tastes of an inferior kind.
 Whichever part of the Dhamma one had listened, it would give the satisfaction and placidity of mind. (i.e., it was good in the beginning, in the middle and the end). As an example, someone in hunger and received a honey ball whichever part he had bitten and it gave the delicious flavor.
 Whichever part of the Dhamma one had listened, one would derive elation and joy. It was like someone who came upon sandalwood and any part of it would give the sweet smell.
 Buddha Gautama was like a medical doctor and his Dhamma could cure the mental diseases (kilesa roga—defilement of the mind). It was like a skillful physician might instantly cure someone who was afflicted and gravely ill. Mahayana medicine Buddha could come from this idea.
 Someone was traveling under a very hot sun, with the burning heat, tiredness and hunger. After he encountered a lotus pond, it released him from burning heat, tiredness and hunger.
In the same way by hearing the Buddha Dhamma, it freed someone from the heat of defilement (from the Kāraṇapāli Sutta). So, the power of Dhamma is unlimited and the best medicine for all ills of the world. Whether it is about the body or the mind, in family problems or social problems, political or economic problems, most Buddhists maybe never thought that they are the most fortunate and luckiest beings in the world, because of the past great merits they encounter the Buddha Dhamma in this life.
The Buddha had mentioned very clear that to get a human birth, encounter the Dhamma, to have an interest, to understand and practice accordingly was the most difficult matter in the world. But most of us are taking it as easy and never thinking it as a priceless treasure. We are foolishly and stupidly wasting our chances, time and energy in trivial matters and things. There was an interesting sutta about the four best things in the world.
The devas or gods were looking for the answer to the highest blessing for 12 years. There was also a monk who had super-normal power wanted to know the ending of the four great elements. So, he went to heaven to look for the answer. From the lower realms of deity to higher realms of the Brahma god and no-one could answer him. Therefore, he had to come down again and ask the Buddha for the answer.
All these profound questions were except the Buddha no one could answer them. Here also the Four Great Kings of the heaven (Cātummahārājika deva) asked Sakka, the King of the 33 Gods on these four best things. Sakka could not give them the answers, so they all came to the Buddha for the answers.
All these four things are connecting with Dhamma.
- What is the best gift in the world?
If we are talking about gifts, there are many kinds and for many reasons. As Buddhists, we give or offer four requisites to the monks. Dāna is giving and has two meanings; the gifts and the mental state of giving volition, or things and action. There is a very special kind of gifts which most people overlook or neglect. This is paññā dāna—the gift of knowledge. Gift of things and the gift of knowledge (especially here is the Buddha Dhamma) which one is the best? Dhamma gift is the best one.
The Buddha’s answer to the devas was: “Sabbadānaṁ dhammadānaṁ jināti—The gift of Dhamma is greater than all other gifts.” The devas are satisfied with the answer. The commentary explained it as followed. Why the Buddhists make dāna as the best gift? There are many reasons for this wholesome action. For some, this is the second nature for them and carried with them from their past lives.
For most Buddhists, they develop this wholesome dhamma from the teaching of the law of kamma. The basic reason for Dhamma gift is greater than others is it can lead to the realization of Nibbāna. One of the factors for realization of Nibbāna is listening Dhamma talks. (exception of the Buddha and Pacceka-buddhas).
Therefore, the gift of Dhamma is the best gift. In this discourse, we are talking about from the point of gift receiver and not the giver. The giver also has its benefits. Material gifts are for this life only and most of them are short life span, e.g., giving foods. Gift of Dhamma leads to the ending of dukkha. Therefore, the gift of Dhamma is incomparable from other gifts.
Salvatore Cioffi (1897-1966)—U Lokanatha:
A long time ago in the first half of 20th century, an Italian American chemist received a gift of Dhamma from a friend for Christmas. This book was the English translation of “Dhammapada”. After reading it and he became a Buddhist. Giving up his job and wealth, he went to Burma and ordained there. His ordained name was Ven. Lokanatha or well known in Burma as Italian monk U Lokanatha.
After some years in monkhood, he walked on foot along the silk road from Asia to pass the middle east and to the USA. He determined to follow the Bodhisatta Path (to become a future Buddha). One time he went to pay homage to the famous Ven. Webu Sayadaw and asked him directly; “Ven. Sayadaw, are you an arahant?” Instead of answering his question directly, Sayadaw’s respond was; “I have no courage to become a bodhisatta.” Sayadaw U Lokanatha passed away in Burma in 1966 (He was in Burma for 40 years).
- What is the best enjoyment or taste?
There are nine kinds of enjoyment. These are the enjoyments of the common people.
According to the Buddha; “The taste of Dhamma is greater than all other tastes—Sabbaṃrasaṃ dhammaraso jināti” (Dhp. 354). Why is that? There are no real peace and happiness behind all the other enjoyments. In the end, these are not good. It cannot last long and at last, make people become in confusion.
- What is the best delight of the mind?
There are many things which people are looking for delight. Some are with family members, with wealth, with sense objects, etc. People are always looking for pleasure and no contentment. This is human nature. After they get what they want and become happy and joy with it for some periods. Later they become bored with them. So, they are changing object to object, matter to matter and never have satisfaction with it. From discontentment and dissatisfaction come human problems and suffering.
Heavenly beings also have this kind of situation. The Buddha’s answer was; “Sabbaratiṃ dhammarati jināti”—The delight of Dhamma is better than all other delights” (Dhp. 354). Worldly pleasures are not peaceful and calm, even lead to problems and suffering. Dhamma delight or enjoyment is peaceful and calm and true happiness. Therefore, yogis and noble beings who have jhānas and fruits use to stay in these peaceful states.
Even the pleasure comes from study and contemplate, the Buddha Dhamma leads to joy and happiness, which excel the sensual pleasure.
- What is the best destruction?
The destruction of craving/greed (taṇhā) or dukkha is the best. Therefore, the Buddha’s answer was; “Taṇhakkhayo sabbadukkhaṃ jināti—The destruction of craving or all dukkha is the best.” (Dhp. 354). The destruction of craving or all dukkha is the highest stage of realization, which is arahatta magga and phala—the path and fruit of arahantship.
Therefore, the arahatta magga and phala is the destruction of craving/taṇhā—taṇhākkhayo with the destruction of craving and free from all kind of dukkha. Because craving is the source of all dukkha, we cannot destroy dukkha directly.
So, craving is the cause and dukkha is the result. With practice, we can cut off the connection between them. With the destruction of taṇhā and dukkha is ended. But human beings are afraid of the destruction of taṇhā. So, they are searching and fighting for wealth, power and pleasure with each other. With human conflicts, all social problems and sufferings arise. Nowadays, these problems and sufferings are worse than before. With the power of science and technology, the destruction is becoming greater.
Now we are at a critical point. The Buddha taught and urged us for the destruction of craving. Human beings, instead of listening to the Buddha, and become the followers of Mara—The Evil One/Tanhā and develop and increase its qualities. All these four questions were searching and discussing the answers for 12 years. At last, they found the answers from the Blessed One.
The power of Dhamma was so great that even the Buddha took the Dhamma as his teacher. Without a teacher is dangerous and many problems and sufferings are waiting for each one of us from now on to the future. Therefore, hearing the Dhamma on timely occasions is the highest protection with a blessing. Listening very quite often is the best way. We should use our leisure time on it.
If we are listening to Tanhā very often it will become our teacher; it will sink us to the bottom of the ocean floor and we can never come up to the surface again. This is the power of taṇhā. If we take the Dhamma as our teacher, we can rise higher and higher, at last, will transcend the world and free forever. Listening Dhamma is truly the highest protection and blessing.
Here I want to make some suggestions for Buddhists. It is also very important to other faiths by their teachings. Because terrorists and terrorism arise has some connections with the misunderstanding and misinterpretation problems. Some years ago, the Ven. Nyanaponika Thera mentioned the following point in one of his essays. He said that in the past some Sri Lanka families were teaching their children after they came back from works and schools in the evening before the meal.
Another important thing was some mothers or fathers near bedtime telling their young children with Buddhist stories, such as jātaka stories about the bodhisatta—The Great Being. There are nearly 550 stories which described the Buddha’s past lives developed the ten perfections as a bodhisatta. Each perfection has three levels; basic, middle and higher or highest levels. At least every human being should have the basic level of perfection, and can be called as a true human.
Some might think cultivated the pāramīs was for oneself. It is for both, to oneself and others. These are giving services and making sacrifices for all living beings. Selfishness and egocentricity bring problems and sufferings to oneself and others. Nearly all the Buddha’s teachings were about human beings and societies. Therefore, teaching the children with Buddhist stories is an important education for them. So, listening Dhamma is not only for grown-up Buddhists but to all groups.
revised on 2020-09-08; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36978#p36977 (posted on 2019-11-21)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
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