A Mind Is Unshaken When Touched by the Ways of the World (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2021-07-28

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

The beginning verse—a mind that, when touched by the ways of the world (i.e., the eight worldly dhammas or conditions—loka dhamma) is also related to #35, #36 and #37. First, we have to know what are the ways of the world.

There are eight numbers; as pair with positive and negative nature become four pairs. These eight loka dhamma are: gain and loss (or non-gain), status (prominence) and disgrace (obscurity), praise and censure (or blame), pleasure and pain. They are called the failings of the world or eight worldly conditions (loka dhammas). These worldly failings are more common in human beings than in other beings, and also a very interesting subject for contemplation.

No one can escape from these eight worldly conditions. So, everyone will encounter them. Not affect the mind by them are only the arahant. But with practice, wise reflection and contemplation, we can overcome them without shaking. Most people will think that they are as failings only encountering with the negative things such as loss, disgrace, censure and pain.

The positive things lead to pleasure and the negative to displeasure (i.e., like and dislike). The positive things are also the same because they have the nature of imperfection and change. Positive things can lead to negative things. For example, with wealth and power, people can do evil and unwholesome things. The Buddha taught the ways of dealing with them. These were:

  1. Acceptance as these failings of the world cannot be escaped.
  2. Acceptance as these failings of the world are the results of one’s actions (kamma)
  3. To understand these worldly conditions and their nature with contemplation to overcome them. This third point is more profound and important.
  4. Acceptance of the loka dhamma as part of human society and inescapable

There is a lot of this dhamma in human life, and their differences are only in many forms and magnitudes (great or small). These always exist in the world, as parts of human nature like birth, old age, sickness and death, and inescapable.

In the first discourse of the Loka-dhamma Sutta (Aṅguttara Nikāya, AN. 8.5 Paṭhamalokadhammasuttaṃ), the Buddha said; “These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world (i.e., human beings), and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.”

It was like the law of kamma; the past life kammas (actions) had been done following with living beings and they were also always doing the actions. They are doing these things for the future to come. So, they are cause and effect relationship.

So, living beings cannot separate themselves from kamma that cannot free from the worldly dhamma. Even the Buddha and some of his chief and great disciples could not shun away from them. Once the time the Buddha and monks could not get any food that they had to eat some very coarse foods which were fed for horses. Ciñcamāṇavikā, who was a devoted pupil of other faith, accused the Buddha of having an affair with her. (DhA. iii. 178f; J. iv. 187F, Jātaka 472 Mahāpaduma Jātaka; ItA. 69)

Even the Buddha sometimes had sickness with pains. Ven. Mahāmoggallāna, the chief disciple of the Buddha, had been killed by the assassins, it was also connected with this worldly dhamma. Once, the Nigaṇṭha ascetics planned to kill him because they thought the diminishing of their fame and fortune was related to him. So, they hired some assassins to kill him. At last Ven. Mahāmoggallāna was caught by the assassins and he was beaten up until all his bones were broken.

Nobody frees or escapes from censure. How to deal with censure is also very important. We do not need to pay much attention to the fools who censure us. But we need to listen and pay attention to the wise and noble people for their censure. After that, we have to correct and improve ourselves. We need to live a life of blamelessness and praise by them.

This exhortation came from the Buddha regarding a layman Atula upāsaka. One time he and some followers went to see Ven. Revata, who was usually enjoying with his meditation attainments. So, he did not give any talk to them. They went to see Ven. Sāriputta and told about Ven. Revata. Therefore, Ven. Sāriputta gave a long talk to them. They also displeased with it.

And then they went to see Ven. Ānanda and reported him the account with Ven. Sāriputta. Therefore, Ven. Ānanda gave them a short talk. Still, they were displeased with the short talk.

At last, they went to see the Buddha. After hearing their report, the Buddha said as follows. Censure and praise didn’t exist only now. Whether keeping silence or talking a lot or talking with consideration still could not free or escape from censure.

At last the Buddha said that even he was not immune from it. Another story was, because of the Buddha’s excellent teachings and well practice of the Saṅgha and had a lot of support from people. This made other faiths censured them out of jealousy.

So, the Buddha taught the monks that whether living alone or with others in the world would encounter pain and pleasure. This was the way of the world. The important cause was not by others nor oneself, but the outcome of receiving the burdened khandhas (this point is important for contemplation.).

  1. Acceptance the loka-dhamma as the results of one’s kamma (actions)

Usually, people blame others for their sufferings, pain and displeasure. Here, we have two points to contemplate the outcomes of kamma. These are the results of the kamma and the existence of the khandhas. The results of kamma are quite an extensive subject.

Beings are always creating many different kinds of kamma by bodily, speech and mind. Therefore, the results of them are also many varieties. These are related to the worldly dhammas. If we experience misfortunes, it is better not to blame others or find faults with others. So, one has the responsibility for them.

If we react with anger or ill-will, our situations become worse. With unwise attention (ayoniso), we cannot solve or overcome the problem or situation. We have to contemplate wisely or dealing with them skillfully and then correct oneself. With the unskillful or unwholesome causes, one will encounter the negative things. And then, if we respond unskillfully, it will never become better.

  1. To understand the worldly dhammas and its nature with contemplation

This point is more important than others. This contemplation came from the second sutta on worldly dhamma in Aṅguttara Nikāya. The gist of it as follows:

The Failings of the World: These and worldly conditions; i.e. gain/loss; status/disgrace; censure/praise; and pleasure/pain spin after the world, and the world spins after these and worldly conditions. For an ordinary uninstructed person (asutavā puthujjana), there arise these eight worldly dhammas. For a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones (i.e., sutavā ariya sāvaka), there also arises these eight dhammas. So, what are the differences between them?

The differences are:

When gain arises for an ordinary uninstructed person, and he doesn’t reflect; “Gain has arisen for me. It’s inconstancy (anicca), stressful (dukkha) and subject to change (vipariṇāma).” He doesn’t discern it as it is. (The other dhammas—loss, status… pain also in this way) His mind remains consumed with the gain, loss… etc.

He welcomes the arisen gain and rebels against the arisen loss. (The other pairs—status/disgrace, etc., in this way) As he is thus engaged in welcoming and rebelling, he is not released from birth, aging or death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses or despairs. (The monk Devadatta was a very good example. He was extremely obsessed by these eight worldly conditions and unteachable. The outcome for him was very serious, falling into Avīci Hell, and remaining there for an aeon, unredeemable.)

Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects; “Gain has arisen for me. It’s anicca, dukkha and vipariṇāma.” He discerns it as it is. His mind doesn’t remain consumed with the gain. (The other dhammas—loss, status, etc., are also in this way.) He doesn’t welcome the arisen gain or rebel against the arisen loss. (The other pairs, status/disgrace, etc., also in this way.)

As he thus abandons welcoming and rebelling, he is released from birth, aging and death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses and despairs. He is released from suffering (dukkha). So, following with the Buddha’s instruction, when we encounter the eight worldly dhamma: gain/loss, status/disgrace, censure/praise and pleasure/pain, we should contemplate them as: these conditions among human beings are impermanent, suffering and subject to change. People do not know the Buddha’s teachings and without practice, the worldly dhamma overwhelms them.

With the positive ones (such as gain), lust (rāga), craving (taṇhā), attachment (upādāna) overrun their minds. With the negative ones (such as loss), anger (dosa), ill-will, etc. overrun their minds. They cannot free or escape from problems and sufferings.

For someone who knows the Buddha’s teachings by practicing it, will see things and react in different ways. He understands the differences between positive and negative worldly dhammas (e.g., gain and loss). He also sees their common nature (i.e., anicca, dukkha and vipariṇāma). It is the same in vipassanā.

Mind and body have a particular nature (visesa lakkhaṇa or salakkhaṇa) and common nature (samaṇa lakkhaṇa). The 34th blessing is unshaken, 35th is sorrowless, 36th is dustless and 37th is secure. These qualities and blessings are referred to someone beyond training (asekha—i.e., an arahant). But others also can overcome them temporarily by practice and contemplation.

[Here I want to include a Dhamma talk by Ven. Dr. Nandamālābhivamsa on the eight worldly conditions for reflection.

The unshakable Mind and worldly Typhoons

When the typhoon or cyclone comes, many trees are unstable and shaking violently. Some of them are blown away, uprooted and broken down. In the same ways when most worldlings encounter the eight worldly conditions their minds are shaken and unstable, if the effect is severe can have mental breakdowns. Loka dhammas mean the worldly conditions or phenomena living beings have to encounter. The worldly dhammas and living beings follow each other. There are three worlds: conditioned world, the worlds of living being and the space world or cosmos. These worldly conditions are related to the living beings (mostly to humans). Everyone has to encounter it if we live in the worlds (i.e., within its boundaries). Therefore, we have to make effort (here right effort) not to be shaken and trembled. We can’t stay away from its influence. Our responding to it is to have a stable mind. When encountering, how our mind reacting to it is a Dhamma practice.

Sayādaw talked about the eight worldly dhammas one by one and how to deal with it. (see the above list already mentioned)

① gain and loss (non-gain)

Human beings do something for gain, which is related to happiness and joy. So, they use all sorts of possible way to do it. It maybe they can gain what they want and it may be not. They are in the smiles when gaining it. With no gain, then the face is in grimace. With gain and sometimes become conceited. Children are crying if they don’t get what they want. For growing up people, they suffer from depression and stress and sometimes can lead to commit suicide. Loka dhammas are like typhoons. A weak tree can’t bear its force and will fall down, but it can’t shake a mountain. So, the Buddha asked disciples to practice like a mountain. Nobody shuns away from it and it’s also impossible. All living beings cannot run away from loka—the world. Some even say “If I die, all will finish.” It will never finish and still go on. We don’t know about where it will lead us. Even it could be worsted, because there is no guarantee.

Sayādaw continued to talk how to deal with the worldly dhammas as mentioned by the Buddha to the monks in the Aṅguttara Nikāya. By asking question to oneself if someone has gain (i.e., wise contemplation). “Does it last for the moment or forever?” It is impermanent (anicca), so it will change (vipariṇāma). If there is non-gain and only in loss, then it’s out of control and increases dukkha. We also have to think about how to use them for the benefit of oneself and others. This is more important than your gains. The second positive dhamma of status, fame and power is also very important and how to use them for the benefit of oneself and others. Positive dhammas become negative dhammas if someone cannot use them properly, rightly and wisely. We can see this kind of people in societies and international levels. Mostly people concern the worldly conditions to personal and society levels and not pay much attention to the international level. Nowadays it is more important to solve the problems of international nature. Analysing the eight worldly conditions will get the positive and negative Dhammas. Positive dhammas lead to attraction which is craving or greed. Negative dhammas lead to repulsion which is hatred or anger. Having obsession by greed and hatred is delusion. For uninstructed worldlings these worldly conditions are unwholesome dhammas and the roots of unwholesomeness. Humans treat the problems wrongly and foolishly by obsessing with them can make the problems bigger and worse. Nowadays we can see a lot of human and environmental problems globally because of these unwholesome dhammas. Refugee crisis arises from war-torn countries. Economic migrants problems arise from poor countries or political instability of some countries. Some countries are rich with natural resources, but they become poor and a lot of debts. The above crisis and problems arose by bad leadership, governments and politicians. They do only think for their welfare and well-being not concerned for their citizens. It connected to greedy for wealth, power and corruptions.

Some superpower and rich countries created unwholesome competitions and challenges to other countries by creating trade wars, protectionism and economic sanctions. This has damaged the innocent citizens of these countries, not the leaders and governments they are targeting. All these problems come from the unwholesome mental states of greedy, envy, stingy, selfishness, hatred and ill will.

There are also two dangerous problems which can lead to the destruction of human race. These are negative competitions of the arms race and unsustainable in economy. Super power can have the weapon of mass destruction, but small power cannot have it even though they talk a lot about human right, equality and freedom. One-off and extreme consumerism and production in competition made the present world over polluted and severe global warming which could lead to the destruction of human race. And If humans cannot control the over-greedy mind, it will come sooner or later. Already a lot of natural disasters appeared around the world. These are the warning signs for humans like the dawn period which informs us that the sun will arise very soon.

The last global problem which I want to mention is present COVID-19 epidemic. This is an international problem and relates to every human being. So, we have to deal with the problem in unity and harmonious way. This tragedy happened without intention by anyone. For sure everything happens by causes and conditions. So, we need to find out the causes to solve the problem by cooperation with good will. Instead, some leaders and governments with ill-will and hatred finding fault, accusation and blaming. These were not the ways to solve the global problem, and even made things worse. These were the reasons why the Security Council of the United Nation could not solve certain of important and serious world issues. This is not the way and behavior of decent human being. It makes me remembering a Dhamma talk given by Tipiṭakadhara Yaw Sayādaw. He said, “There are also competitions and challenges at international level. Even animals are challenging each other. Two dogs when they are challenging each other showing their teeth and barking angrily and then biting each other noisily. At last both of them hurt and become tired.”

It mentioned the 16 dreams of the King Pasenadi of Kosala in the Mahāsupina Jātaka (No. 77). Most of them related to leaders, governments, officials and politicians. King Pasenadi himself was a powerful monarch of that time. The Buddha interpreted these strange dreams for him. All these dreams were related to the future. Some of these things are already happened in today world. These dreams were related to negative things and matters; such as bad, immoral, disqualified, corrupted leadership, governments, officials and politicians. Some dreams were about the moral degeneration of future human beings.

Among the eight worldly conditions: gain, wealth, status, power and fame do a lot relate to powerful, high class and wealthy people such as political leaders, business men, millionaires, billionaires, etc. These are worldly success and blessing, not easy to come by. It was not created by God for them only. The outcome of past and present actions (kamma or merit), effort (viriya) and knowledge (ñāṇa), etc. These are main factors or important causes or conditions for progress and success. These are internal causes and also other external causes included. It is relating to some blessings already mentioned in the Maṅgala Sutta.

How to use the power (status) and wealth (gain), it is very important. By using them wrongly and unwisely, it can lead to downfall and harming others. The present life and future life to come will not good. For the happiness and welfare of others if good and excellent. Power and wealth are very close to each other. With power, one can get wealth and vice versa as an example in the American politic. These people have more chances to cultivate goodness than ordinary people. By using them wrongly is like handling a poisonous cobra or viper snake wrongly. Human beings measure wealth with money. Money is representing power and wealth that nearly all humans craving and crazy for it. But they cannot see the danger and misfortune it can bring to them. The ancient Chinese sages knew about it very clear. The Chinese character (word) chan (money) represents its danger and misfortune which can bring to humans. At the left it has the word of gold and at the right has the word of two swords:

Gold(金) + Two swords(戔) = money = 錢.

chinese character of money

Therefore, Chinese language is wisdom language. This letter chan should be changed a little bit to suit to modern man. Instead, of two swords, insert two atomic bombs beside gold. Why that? Because money syndrome is like the globalization. Everything becomes business like. Every day and everywhere, modern man just talks about money! money! It is like a crazy mad world. Arms race, trade war, protectionism, etc. testify this point. People do not welcome COVID-19, but they like to welcome money syndrome. An American politician even made his political slogan; “America First!” Americans like to compete and challenge in everything. Its culture become American Syndrome.

Money, wealth, power, status, fame related to taṇhā which is the main source of dukkha. It obsesses human beings quite strongly and they become restless, emotional and sensual. Therefore, Buddha referred to the worldling mind as like a monkey. There are two English words which pronunciations close to money—these are monkey and honey. The beloved couple call each other as honey and sweetie, but never as monkey. Human loves honey and not monkey. These influential people, who have gain and wealth, power, status and fame should use them as honey and not as monkey. Their present life and future life to come will be better and better; if behave like monkey, they will become worse than a monkey. Everything has pair as bad or good; so, there are also two systems of politics and economics each—Monkey politics or honey politics; monkey economics or honey economics. With monkey politics and politicians or monkey economics and economists, it will bring suffering and problems. These are unsustainable. On the other hand, with honey politics and politicians or honey economics and economists, it will will bring happiness and peace. These are sustainable. Politic and economy itself are not problem which is human himself. The fools (bāla) teach the way to become a monkey, but the wise (paṇḍita) teach the way to become honey. Humans have choice and can create their own destiny. They are not under the influence and wish of the creator. They are under the law of action → reaction. Human himself can create Hell and Heaven on the earth. Therefore, every human being has the responsibility not to behave like a monkey.

We should not be in low spirit when not success for gains, because the time and situations are still not conducive for it. So, we have to try it again. Another thing we should think about is, with our success for gains, we could become conceited. It will make people around disgust you. For non-gain, the right way to deal with it is to reflect our mistakes and weak points; and then find out the answer for achieving them.

② Status (fame) and disgrace (dishonor)

(Some Pāli words have a broader meaning, so they cannot be translated into one word; here also the same as the words yasa / ayasa.) Most English books on yasa did not mention the meaning of retinue and assembly (parisā), they are only found in Burmese books. Influential people (i.e., have wealth, power, and fame), are along gathering with people around them. This is one of the results of yasa which is the cause. There are more followers and disciples gathering around influential or famous monks. Dāna practice can give the results of wealth (gain), retinue and assembly. A kind of dāna practice by oneself and encourage others to do it has these results. There are four saṅgaha vatthu—the four conducts of attraction and maintaining of the relationship, which bring together others. These are: giving (gift), pleasant words (speech), helping others with good advice and suggestion, treat others with impartiality (equality). These good conducts are relating to the diversity of worldly conditions.

If someone has status, power, fame and influence, what should he does for others? This point is very important to reflect. By using it rightly, properly and wisely, it will bring happiness and well-being to oneself and others. In wrong ways, its outcome and consequence are also very grave. Loneliness without retinue also has its goodness, which is with less restlessness and more time for practice. Therefore, in every matter wise reflection is very important. In western culture loneliness can be a problem. For some it can be stressful and developed mental illness. In Buddhist countries, especially in Burma, it is very rare. Because of the Buddha Dhamma and its culture. Old aged people in Burma are luckier than their western counterpart. All the worldly conditions effect the mind in negative ways if it cannot reflect them wisely. Usually humans encounter with goodness become greedy, whereas bad to become angry. The mind by itself alone is clear and pure like clean water. By following our desire, it becomes like the impure and unclear water. And then we can make things become worse.

③ Praise and censure (blame)

In the Dīgha Nikāya, the first discourse was “The supreme Net—Brahmajāla Sutta”. There the Buddha explained to the monks how to deal with praise and censure. One time the Buddha was travelling with monk along the main road between Rājagaha and Nāḷanda. There were also two wanderers Suppiya and his student the youth Brahmadatta travelling behind them along the same road. Suppiya was finding faults in many ways by blaming the Buddha Dhamma and Saṅgha, but Brahmadatta defended and praised them. They followed close behind the Buddha and saṅgha by disputing to each other. Next morning the monks sat in the Round Pavilion discussing among them this matter. The Buddha came and gave them a teaching on praise and censure related to the Buddha, Dhamma and saṅgha connection with sīla and 62 wrong view. The Buddha gave the following exhortation to the monks.

If someone spoke in disparagement of the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha, they should not be angry, resentful and upset. Reaction with anger and displeasure at disparagement, that would be only a hindrance to the monks because they could not recognize whether others’ saying was right or wrong. Instead, they should explain what was incorrect as being incorrect. It was false and not the way of the monks. That was not found in them.

If others spoke in praise of the Buddha, Dhamma and saṅgha, they should not be pleased, happy and elated. This was also a hindrance to the monks. Instead, they should acknowledge the truth of what was true. It was correct and right, and the way of the monks. That was found among them.

Regarding censure, we should not be in anger or angry. It is not easy, but we should try our best to control it If not it becomes dangerous. Anger leads to negative or bad results. It does not harm to the other side. With anger, we cannot distinguish between bad and good. Our knowledge becomes blunt and does not know it is appropriate or inappropriate to say or act. And then we follow behind desire and under its influence will solve the problems.

Regarding praise, we should not be in pleasure or pleased or elated. It is a hindrance to our mental development. Over pleasure and elation is the movement of the mind, it hinders the practice.

④ Pleasure and pain (Sukha and Dukkha)

The last pair of worldly conditions relate to the mind. Because of the pleasure and pain worldling mind is shaking and unstable. It cannot liberate from all dukkha—such as ageing, sickness and death, sorrow, lamentation, etc. (See all the conditioned dukkha mentioned in the first discourse) Untrained mind reacts to pleasure and pain with attraction and repulsion. These two actions are the extreme; if one can deal the problems with equanimity (upekkhā), then it becomes middle way. It’s free from the extreme so that becomes peaceful. This is the level of the arahants. Even we are not in this level, by wise and right contemplation, we can be free from the extreme and will attain stability.

(Here I want to add some contemplation on pleasure and pain. These are very important subject matters. Among the eight worldly dhamma the first three pairs lead to pleasure and pain—causes and effects relationship. Even though it relates to the mind, it also affects the physical body because these are feelings. From pleasure and pain arise craving (taṇhā) and anger (dosa) which lead to unwholesome action. All living beings get lost in these two extremes, especially humans. These unwholesome dhammas are becoming more prominent than before. If we observe the human societies from the family level to the international lever, we can see all their negative results. Because of sensual pleasure (pleasant feeling) humans get lost in gratification (assāda). Insatiable desire leads to danger (ādīnava). On the other hand, because of pain (displeasure or unpleasant feeling) arises, anger or hate (dosa) which conditions unwholesome painful action also leads to danger. The harmfulness of anger, hate, ill-will and repulsion is very coarse that easy to know and discern and people do not like it. The danger or harm comes from sensual pleasure is subtle and alluring that everyone get lost in it. Therefore, it is difficult to let go than anger.

With gain become more and more insatiable. So, people want to gain more and more. This leads to competition, envy, jealousy, selfishness, covetousness, stinginess, etc. Because of this insatiable desire, humans create an unsustainable earth and a lot of pollutions and conflicts around the world.)]

revised on 2021-07-28; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36997#p36997 (posted on 2019-11-22)

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