Broad Knowledge (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-03-24

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Bāhusacca means broad knowledge or much learning. The commentary referred it to as retention of the Buddha Dhamma. This was a blessing for someone who had accumulated and retained much of his teachings taught by the Buddha because this was the cause for abandoning unwholesome and developing the wholesome Dhammas which led to enlightenment. At the time of the Buddha his teachings were orally transmitted. Suta means what is heard or learning. Nowadays it can include book learning from internets, cell phones, etc., (be careful there are many polluted, poisonous, harmful stuffs there.)

It is also very important to contemplate on Suta (learning). Humans experience the world with the six sense-doors. Not all living beings are using of them, e.g., the Brahma Gods. They only use the eyes, ears and mind doors which are only necessary for them.

They use them to come and see the Buddha and his Disciples for listening the Dhamma. Only the immaterial jhanic gods and material Jhanic Gods without minds cannot use them (Brahma gods with only mind and with only body). How do human beings use their six sense-doors? Mostly they use for sensual pleasures and indulgence in them; using their mind doors with proliferation, imaginations, inventions for this purpose. What is about the animals? They are also the same even it may have limitations. Humans can be above animals only if we want to develop our minds above them. This is because we have the capacity and ability for it. How to do it? It is the wholesome and higher education of sīla, samādhi and paññā. By following the teachings or education of the Buddha and ancient sages, they will have the worldly and transcendental blessings; otherwise we humans can be worse than animals.

Usually we take education as learning for reading and writing from young age at primary school until graduate from university or an institute for a living or profession. Even we very rarely use the word education for changing the mind and character of criminals, drug addicts, etc., instead we use the word rehabilitation. In politics and religions we use the word brain washing (menticide) in the negative sense as exploiting and manipulating. In a broader and wider sense, education is about knowledge which can be right or wrong. The Buddha made a very clear differentiation between them. For most worldlings they follow their own desire without proper or right standards. The views of common people are changing with time and situations. Their views and thoughts depend on their understandings and maturity. Because these are influenced by different levels and types of defilement.

Natural laws are unchangeable; unwholesome dhammas are always unwholesome and wholesome dhammas are also the same. The sun always arises from the east and sets to the west. We cannot change the natural laws but only our minds. If the mind is not pure, then make it pure; not good, make it good. An untrained mind brings suffering, whereas a trained mind brings happiness. Therefore, broad knowledge or much learning is for the purpose of training the mind towards the right and wholesome directions, developing it higher and higher and at last transcend all sufferings. This highest goal and blessing can be fulfilled only by the Buddha Dhamma or education, and no other ways.

The Buddha did not reject the secular learning or worldly knowledge as a blessing, if it was blameless, leading to well-being and happiness in this life and future. Worldly knowledge are very extensive and many kinds. Some of them are harmful to human beings and even to environment and nature. Harmful knowledge is connected with ignorant and foolish people who use them out of greed and hatred or ill-will (e.g., arms industry). Some knowledge of sciences and technology which had been used with greed and delusion even had done a lot of harm to men and nature.

We can give a lot of examples for these negative effects in this 21st century, such as antibiotic, chemical weapons, nuclear arsenals, pollution of foods, air, water, earth, etc. There are no endings if we mention about them which most of us already know.

Why is that? it is not difficult to find the causes if we have the knowledge of the Buddha’s education. Worldlings have a lot of defilement, therefore, they cannot see things and the future clearly. Out of greed, hatred and delusion, they do things unwisely and improperly. We should not always forget that in nature there are negative and positive forces. The law of the mind is also in this way.

These are unwholesome and wholesome mental states which control the living beings. The unwholesome roots are greed, hatred and delusion and the wholesome roots are non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion. For most of us, unwholesome things and its way are easily to be done and be followed it, it does not need effort because we are used to it. The wholesome things and way are difficult because it needs for learning and training to develop. Therefore, the Buddha’s Education is compulsory to everyone; without it, we cannot solve human problems wisely and properly; on the contrary it is increasing them all the times.

Over half a century ago Mogok Sayadaw said as followed to his lay disciple: “Maung, Tun Tin, it is beneficial that we can record the sound with the development of science. It can lead us to Nibbāna if we know how to use it. Without using property, it’ll send us into the Wok” (here the word ‘wok’ is the Cantonese language for large iron cauldron which we can see in the hell scenes). Sayadaw’s saying was like a prediction for his own teaching and the outcomes of science which is misused by human beings.

The knowledge of arts is also very important for human beings and the society. The arts refers to the creation or performance of drama, music, poetry, painting, literature, etc. It is also impossible for human culture and development without arts. We could misuse them by polluting people’s minds and then bringing harms. We can also use it for educating people in the wholesome directions by developing their virtues, moral standards and becoming intelligent and wise. It totally depends on human views, thoughts and intentions. With wrong views, thoughts and intentions; the outcome will be bad. Nowadays many types of media are influencing human beings greatly, from small children to all sorts of age including old people. Most of them get lost in them like drug addicts. Their minds are never peaceful and are always in restless states.

It is very rarely to see and hear about moral issues in most of these media and mostly overwhelmed by sex, violent, sensual pleasures and meaningless chattering, etc. Without right and wise reflections and contemplation, we cannot see them clearly and will not correct ourselves. Then it will lead us towards moral or ethical degeneration and moral decadence. Now we can see and heard more and more moral decadence in societies than before, from the political leaders, governments to common people. Most of them are only thinking about power, wealth and fame. These kinds of situation already were predicated by the Buddha to King Pasenadi of Kosala for his 16 dreams. Most of them already happened in today world. (see the 16 dreams of King Pasenadi, Mahāsupina Jātaka, Jāt. 77; J. i 334-45).

Knowledge, learning and education are very important for mankind by which they excel on all other kinds of beings. All kinds of knowledge which can be right or wrong, inferior or noble, etc., are developing in this human world. This is also a place where all living beings have the chances to create all sorts of kamma.

Therefore, a perfectly enlightened Buddha always arose in this world, after perfected, his knowledge and conduct (vijjā and caraṇa). Who want to become an inferior person? This is the most crazy and foolish thing to do.

The Buddha continued to talk about broad knowledge as a blessing after on “directing oneself rightly”. Therefore, without broad knowledge cannot directing oneself rightly. Broad knowledge is also vast learning. Here the most important knowledge is the Dhamma knowledge of the Buddha. This can come from study and research the Dhamma Discourses, listening to the talks of the scholar monks and practicing, monks, etc. listening of Dhamma is one of the seven noble treasures (the other six are: conviction, virtue, conscience, concern, generosity, and discernment).

Other groups of Dhamma for noble growth are conviction, virtue, learning, generosity, and discernment. Here also include learning (suta). Therefore, the Buddha emphasized learning as progress in worldly and spiritual matters. Paññā – knowledge as worldly has two kinds: arts and sciences which worldlings develop in many different ways. Some of them are harmful, and some are beneficial. There is no ending if we talk about them. The most important point for all worldly knowledge (i.e., arts and sciences) is that they should not be harmful and should always be beneficial to the human race and nature.

According to Ta-bye-kan Sayadaw; had broad knowledge was a skill in literature. It includes arts, sciences, and spiritual literature. We have to study, learn, research on broad knowledge which is useful, beneficial to oneself and others. Why are human and other living beings quite different from each other? Their three types of kamma are quite different, so their results are. The three types of kammic differences come from different views and knowledge. Human beings are creating kammas with their views and knowledge.

(This subject is very wide and profound and has a lot to say. This point also supports the importance of moral education and the law of kamma.)

Therefore, broad knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma is very important. Knowledge cannot steal by others like other things. It will never be used up by giving. The Buddha Dhamma is priceless. With practice, only broad knowledge and learning are useful and beneficial. If not, it becomes useless. A person has broad knowledge, but no moral value and virtues are without blessings.

For this point, there was a story in the Dhammapada on Tanhā Vagga – Chapter on craving. This was about Kapila, the fish. In the Buddha Kassapa’s time, Kapila the monk was very learned in the Teachings. Because of his great learning, he gained fame and fortune. And then became very conceited and was full of contempt for other monks. When others pointed out his mistakes and he never accepted. In the course of time, all good monks shunned him, and only the bad ones gathered around him. He also disregarded the Monk Discipline and abused other monks. He was reborn in hell for these evil deeds. He became a golden fish with a stinking mouth during the Buddha Gotama’s time ( DhA iv, 37ff; for Dhp. 334~337; SnA ii, 305f; SA ii, 152).

By the Buddha; studying and learning for knowledge should have right intention and purpose. Using it also had to be right.

There are three kinds of study:

  1. Studying for preservation, e.g., Ven. Ānanda.
  2. Studying for transcending dukkha, i.e., study and practice.
  3. The wrong study; it is like catching a poisonous snake in the wrong way, e.g., Kapila monk, Ariṭṭha monk (MN.22 Alagaddūpamasuttaṃ; Sv. 5, pācittiya 68, 1; Vin. IV, p131).

There are four ways people can increase in defilement (kilesa). These are:

  1. With broad knowledge
  2. With old age, increase in sensual pleasure with age
  3. With fame, e.g., actors and actresses
  4. With increasing in wealth.

This point (i.e., no. 4.) is quite clear. Most rich people do not know how to use them properly. Power-mongers of politicians want to become rich. Wealth-mongers of businessmen want power. They are supporting each other. Today some of the human problems and environmental problems were made by them.

The word (-monger) is added to nouns which denotes a person promoting or engaging in a particular activity, starting or encouraging trouble among others. Here I use it in a wider sense. It seems that present humans are in craziness. They are always in competitions and it can be called as the American syndrome. If Americans became monks, they would still be competing. A lot of competition is going on in politics, economics, sports, etc. There are trade wars between countries or among countries (e.g., China and U.S.). It comes from no appreciation for other success and related to envy, jealousy, selfishness, stinginess, ill-will, greediness, etc. The outcomes of these negative mental states and actions make people live in hostility, violence, rivalry, ill-will, with those who are hostile. (see DN 21 Sakkapañhasuttaṃ, Dīghanikāya.)

All these create unstable economy and harmful to other countries and its citizens. It is also the same in sports and sometimes it goes extreme that people lost their lives and severe injuries. All these worldly competitions become for power, wealth and fame which increase defilement. These are called inferior competitions which will develop human ego, pride, conceit. Therefore, there are two types of competition, wholesome and unwholesome. Increasing one’s physical and mental well-being is wholesome, otherwise it is unwholesome. We can justify today human societies and environments as right or wrong competitions. It is wrong to increase defilement which brings dangers and disasters.

The Buddhist’s way of competition is wholesome and decreasing defilement and leading to enlightenment and transcendence of dukkha. In the Aṅguttaranikāya Book V, there was a Sutta “Gavesī”. Gavesī, who had 500 disciples was a lay follower of the Buddha Kassapa. He and his followers were in struggle for spiritual competitions. They started from sīla level, later ordained as monks and all practised diligently and became arahants. These are so-called wholesome and noble competitions. (AN 5.180 Gavesīsuttaṃ)

Therefore, broad knowledge is not always good. It depends on what kinds of knowledge and how we use it. The Buddha’s right knowledge (sammā-ñāṇa) is always overcoming our defilement, our real enemies-greed, hatred, and delusion, etc. and benefit to the human race and protect nature. Except that all are harming to the human race and nature is wrong knowledge (micchā-ñāṇa).

Why today is the human mind so polluted and harmful? The modern day human mind is a lot of influence by media, books, TV, internet, video games, movies, music, etc. There are a lot of stuffs connection with sex, violence, distraction, etc. which are unhealthy to the mind. If we do not use the six sense-doors (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) mindfully, wisely, properly, then the sense objects-media are poison for our minds.

Most people think school educating as earning a living and professions are only educations. How to use the six sense doors is also educating, even we know it or not. All of our knowledge comes in from these sense doors. This is the most important and fundamental education. Every human being comes into this world; there are two ways to go, down-fall-downward way, and progress-upward way. A man without a moral foundation or morality and virtues, then his life is going downward. He will reap the negative results and no benefits for himself and others.

Progress-upward way is the opposite, with positive results and benefit for himself and others. No-one wants a bad, evil person, a criminal in one’s own family, in society and a country. But everyone wants a good, wise, sagely and a noble person in one’s family, etc. These need a wholesome education. The best sources can be from the Buddha’s teachings and the teachings of the ancient Chinese sages and teachers. For the Buddha; it is unquestionable because he was the teacher of gods and humans. Ancient Chinese sages had a very long history of over 5000 years. It had rich experiences and systems.

revised on 2020-03-24; cited from (posted on 2019-09-24)

  • Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"

  • Content of Publications of Ven. Uttamo

According to the translator— Ven. Uttamo's words, this is strictly for free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma—Dhamma Dāna. You may re-format, reprint, translate, and redistribute this work in any medium.

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。