Chance and Duty (Appendix)

revised on 2024-07-10

[The following Dhamma reflection is based on a talk by Sayadaw U Uttama (Sa-Gaing), who is a Dhamma genius.]

In the Dhammapada, Pāpavagga (Evil), the first one is verse 116.

Verse 116:

Abhittharetha kalyāṇe,
One should make haste in doing good deeds;
pāpā cittaṃ nivāraye;
one should restrain one’s mind from evil;
Dandhañhi karoto puññaṃ,
for the mind of one who is slow in doing good,
pāpasmiṃ ramatī mano.
tends to take delight in doing evil.

Verse 117:

If a man does evil,
he should not do it again and again;
he should not take delight in it;
the accumulation of evil leads to suffering.

Verse 118:

If a man does what is good,
he should do it again and again;
he should take delight in it;
the accumulation of merit leads to happiness.

Verses 119 and 120:

Even an evil person may still find happiness so long as his evil deed does not bear fruit; but when the evil deed does bear fruit, he will meet evil consequences.
Even a good person may still meet suffering so long as his good deed does not bear fruit; but when it does bear fruit, he will enjoy the benefits of his good deed.

Verse 121: One should not think lightly of doing evil, imagining “A little will not affect me”; just as a water-jar is filled up by falling drops of rain, so also, the fool is filled up with evil, by accumulating it little by little.

Verse 122: One Should not think lightly of doing good, imagining “A little will not effect me”; just as a water-jar is filled up by falling drops of rain, so also, the wise one is filled up with merit, by accumulating it little by little.

All the above verses have connections. I will only take the first one – verse 116 – for contemplation. Dhammapada verses are Dhamma Treasures for living beings, especially for humans. Because the human realm is the main center for doing all kinds of wholesome and unwholesome actions and wandering around elsewhere according to the law of kamma.

There are four Dhamma points in verse 116. These are: make haste in doing good deeds, restrain one’s mind from evil; if the mind is slow in doing good, it tends to take delight in doing evil.

The first two are related to human nature and the others to mind nature. The mind affects human nature and action, and for human welfare and happiness, the Buddha with great compassion exhorts us on how to live our lives and develop the mind. Mostly, humans are slow to do goodness but easy to do badness because they have latent defilements. So, every human, for one’s own and others’ welfare and happiness, should do good and restrain one’s mind from doing bad.

Therefore, the verses are related to unwholesome and wholesome dhammas and their results of suffering and happiness. So, it is related to the law of kamma, which is the basic view of Dhamma. Its scope of view is quite extensive, from hells to the arūpa-brahma world, and including Nibbāna, which transcends both negative and positive dhammas. Both of them have many levels, from coarser to refinement.

The mind is used to inclining toward negative directions. So, if having the chance to do good, quickly embark on it. By pulling or waiting for time, one will miss the chance. For unwholesome actions, it’s also the same with restraining the mind; if not, it leads to suffering. To stop suffering and develop happiness is also a human’s duty. Because everyone desires happiness and freedom from suffering.

Buddhists are the most fortunate humans on earth because we have the chance for Dhamma education and training, which other faiths don’t have. Do not take the results of unwholesome and wholesome dhammas as insignificant. The profit is more than the deposit. Just observe the happiness in celestial realms and Brahma realms, which have been achieved on earth. For unwholesomeness, see the results of the four woeful existences.

Ledi Sayadawgyi had said before as follows: For one life endeavor with Dhamma practice, which can overcome all the saṁsāric sufferings (more importantly the apāyas’ dukkhas). And why should we not make an effort for great happiness? This is quite true. Only Buddhists have this chance. They encounter the five rarities (see my translation of – the Five Rarities, in Part 14) in the rounds of Saṁsāra. (The Sārandada Sutta, Sutta no. 143, Book of Fives, Aṅguttara.)

There are also eight inopportune moments mentioned by the Buddha in a discourse – Inopportune Moments, Sutta no. 29, the Book of Eights, Aṅguttara Nikāya. There are all nine moments beings have to pay serious attention to. Eight of them are the inopportune moments and only one is the opportune moment, i.e., encountering the five rarities.

What is the most important matter for humans?

In the Dhammapada, the Elephant Chapter (Nāgavagga), verse 327 is very important to heed.

Verse 327.

Take delight in heedfulness,
guard your mind well,
As an elephant stuck in mire pulls itself out,
pull yourself out of the mire of moral defilements.

This is a Dhamma instruction for practice. After listening to the teaching, the monks attained arahantship. The instruction has three important points. These are:-

  1. Take delight in heedfulness
  2. Guard your mind well
  3. Pull yourself out of the mire of moral defilements

Take delight in heedfulness (appamāda)

This is not an ordinary heedfulness, but with delight. So with interest and joy, one has to cultivate appamāda whether in doing good or mindfulness. Without delight, the practice cannot continue and develop.

In one of Webu Sayadawgyi’s Dhamma talks-

The three pāli piṭakas can be condensed to 37 bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma. The 37 factors of enlightenment can be condensed to the noble eight-fold path. It also can be condensed as sīla, samādhi, and paññā. The three trainings also can be condensed as APPAMĀDA.

Appamāda is like an elephant footprint. All other animals' footprints can fall into it. In the same way, all wholesome dhamma can fall there. Once King Pasenadi Kosala asked the Buddha, “Is there any one Dhamma that leads to well-being and happiness in this life and after?” This was appamāda. All the goodness – wholesome dhamma – is based on heedfulness, and in the same way, all unwholesome actions are based on heedlessness. By knowing the great benefit of appamāda, we can take interest and joy or delight in developing it.

The importance of heedfulness can also be seen in taking the five precepts. After the precept, the monk reminds the lay people with the words – Appamādena sampādetha! This is being heedful in goodness. The Buddha, every day after almsround, came back and exhorted the monks on the five dullabha dhamma – the five rarities or the one opportune moment – ending with the same words.

Why does the human world have a lot of problems and sufferings? These are the results of heedlessness – pamāda.

Guard your mind well

Here, guarding the mind is emphasized as "very well," meaning all the time. Because humans have two kinds of enemies: internal and external. Therefore, humans face dangers all the time. The six external dacoits come inside to stimulate the inner enemies – kilesas – to harm the mind. So, the yogi has to be alert all the time. Therefore, guarding the mind is very important in daily life.

In Aṅguttara Nikāya, Book of Fours, Sutta no. 117 – a discourse called Guarding (Ārakkhā) – the Buddha teaches the monks that for one's own welfare, one should practice heedfulness (appamāda), mindfulness, and guarding of the mind.

Pull yourself out of the mire of moral defilements

This is the most important point of the verse. Only an arahant can completely pull himself/herself out of the mire of kilesas. There are 10 anusaya kilesas, and the most important and dangerous one is sakkāya-diṭṭhi, which sinks living beings into the four woeful existences. Ledi Sayadaw refers to it as atta-diṭṭhi (self-view). Combined with craving (taṇhā), it becomes diṭṭhi-taṇhā. Some serious wrong views are born from it. It can lead to any evil actions that humans could commit – such as the five Heavy Kammas. Its cruelty knows no limit. We can see its atrocity and destruction at the international levels.

Therefore, eradicating sakkāya-diṭṭhi is the most important chance and duty for humans. A brahma-god came to the Buddha and gave his view with a simile. Humans should eradicate sensual desire and lust (kāmarāga) as quickly as possible, like someone whose head hair was on fire or who was hit by a spear in the chest. So the person should first extinguish the fire or pull out the spear and treat the wound. Because the brahma god had a very long life and had seen humans and devatās (which can include animals) live their lives very short. But the Buddha corrected him by saying that eradicating sakkāya-diṭṭhi should come first.

We can know the dangers and sufferings created by the defiled and rotten mind with diṭṭhi-taṇhā by studying and observing the D.A. processes of the mind in daily life. We created the four painful existences from the human realm. Therefore, saṁsāra is very frightening.

Living beings arrive at the four painful existences (apāyas) by the mind. Arriving at peaceful Nibbāna is also by the mind. When not guarding the mind, all unwholesome dhammas arise, increase, and lead to suffering. By guarding the mind, all wholesomeness arises, increases, and leads to Nibbāna – the great peaceful happiness.

Our minds are sinking in the kilesa-mire. Therefore, the Buddha exhorts us to pull ourselves out from the kilesa-mud. Only then do we become the masters of the mind; otherwise, we become slaves of the mind and encounter great suffering in the whole round of existence.

Therefore, the most important matter for humans is to eradicate sakkāya diṭṭhi first. Now we have encountered the opportune moment of the five dullabha dhammas and should not miss the chance and duty for the true peace and happiness of Nibbāna.

For all living beings, what is important and not important depends on their defilements. At last, every worldly matter comes to an end and becomes empty and void, but the results of their actions will follow behind them. Human knowledge and material progress, if not used properly and wisely, can create suffering and destruction, as exemplified by the two atomic bombs on Japan during the Second World War. In the future, how humans use AI technology is also very important. Its dangers and destructions are waiting for humans in the future to come.

Nothing is worthy of clinging!

revised on 2024-07-10

  • Content of Part 16 on "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"

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據英譯者—鄔達摩比丘交待,此譯文僅能免費與大眾結緣,作為法的禮物(Dhamma Dāna)。你可以在任何媒體上重新編製、重印、翻譯和重新發布這部作品。