Living in Rectitude (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-05-29

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Rectitude is quality or attitude that makes people behave honestly and virtuously. Here is living by the wholesome dhammas, the ten wholesome courses of action. Then kusala dhammas have already mentioned in the 9th blessing—well mastered disciplines. In the world, the best protection is one’s own wholesome dhammas. In the world, why all living beings are quite different from each other.

Please do not say about other types of living beings, even in humans themselves. Because of their views, thinking, and actions are quite different. Not all of them have the same qualities and attitudes. Therefore, living beings are different because of the results of their different kammas. It is interesting to read and contemplate the Cūḷakamma­vibhaṅga Sutta (No.135), in the Majjhima Nikāya (MN 135).

In the Cūḷakammavibhaṅga Sutta—The Shorter Analysis of Action; Subha, Todeyya’s son went to see the Buddha. He said to the Blessed One: “Master Gotama, what is the reason, what is the cause, why baseness and excellence are seen along human beings, among the human race? For short-lived and long-lived people are to be seen, sickly and healthy, ugly and beautiful, ineffectual and influential, poor and rich, low-born and high-born, stupid and discerning people to be seen.”

The Buddha answered him: “Subha, beings are owners of their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and have their actions as their arbitrator. Action is what differentiate beings in terms of baseness and excellence.”

Subha did not understand the detailed meanings of them and requested the Buddha to explain in details. There is another discourse on kamma, the Mahākamma-vibhȧnga Sutta (No.136). Kamma and its results are difficult to foresee. The workings of kamma are strange and surprising.

Therefore, the law of action (kamma) is very important for living beings, especially for a human. Law of cause and effect covers all types and kinds of living beings. The man understands it and living accordingly with the wholesome dhammas will become a good person with the wholesome life. This is the way of protecting oneself and others. Then, human existence is beneficial and fruitful. Even, we can say education on law of action is the basic education for man. In the Dīgha Nikāya—Long Discourses of the Buddha, there is a discourse called Lakkhaṇa Sutta (Sutta No. 30)—Physical Marks of a Great man.

There, the Buddha mentioned the 32 bodily marks of a great man. Only two persons could have it; a Buddha and a Universal Monarch. But these marks on a Buddha were clearer and distinct than the other. These marks on the Buddha came from the results of meritorious deeds previously cultivated by the bodhisatta for many lives. These acts were the ten pāramīs—perfections. Here, I will mention the first and second marks only, which were connecting the actions (causes) and the results (effects).

The first mark—the lowest part of the feet were full and leveled without any depression. Therefore, the Buddha’s footprint was appearing full and completed on the ground. This mark appeared on the body because the bodhisatta cultivated wholesome meritorious deeds with firmness and confidence. Kept his words (never broke the promises), never gave up and in low spirit. Completed with this mark no internal and external enemies (kilesa and beings) and dangers could make him trembled. It gave him the stable results and respected by beings. He had stable sīla, samādhi, and paññā.

The second mark: the Buddha had the wheel symbols on both of the lowest part of the feet. In his many past lives, the bodhisatta was giving himself for the happiness of others. And helping to dispel others’ fear and dangers. While he was performing dāna and enriching with other things. As an example, when he was offering a building together with other things such as bed, chairs, table, etc. He was doing every dāna always in this way. Because of this meritorious deed acquired these marks. With this mark and the result was, the Buddha had human followers of four types—bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs, laymen and laywomen and other beings—deities, divines (brahma gods), asuras, etc.

Here my emphasis is not for the physical characteristics. The emphasis is on the importance of human’s thinking, verbal and physical actions which affect the physical world internally and externally. These things were already mentioned by the Buddha over 2500 years ago. Nowadays scientists also confirm it by experiments and research. For example, they played different kinds of music to the flower plants and observed its changes. The most well-known research for many years was by a Japanese scientist. He was also using different kinds of music, sounds, visual images, letters and words which had good meanings and bad meanings, etc. with water. Later he observed the changes of water crystals under the powerful microscope.

The water crystals were changing accordingly with different sounds and visual images. Wholesome sounds and images created beautiful water crystals. The unwholesome ones created ugly, broken, distorted water crystals which were difficult to see. There was a remarkable documentary film about a Chinese man in the N. E. of China. A middle-aged man from a village in Liao Ning province was craving for snake meat. He killed them and ate them for some years, maybe also in a very cruel way. One day his body was starting to show illness. His body skin was very itchy and painful. He had to scratch it unbearably all the times. And later he became well known with a nick-name as a snake man.

The news spread to the city, and a group of Buddhists came to see him. They arranged a special ceremony for him to ask forgiveness to the snakes he had harmed and killed. And then they were surrounding and chanting sutras and mantras for him, especially “The Sutra of Earth Store Bodhisattva (Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra)”. They performed it for many hours. The Buddhist group did the same ceremony three times separately for a few months. Surprisingly his miserable illness was cured, and the skin color went back to normal, bright, and yellow skin. Before it was dark grey, dry, and ugly.

There was also another amazing documentary film experiment with insects. This was done in Yun-nan Province in Southern China. A farm grower of fruits and vegetables made an experiment liked this. He did not use pesticides and fertilizers in his orchards and vegetable plots. Because he knew the outcomes of these chemicals which harmed humans, animals, insects, and nature. He used only organic farming, but how he protected them from the insects. He was a Buddhist and had strong confidence in the wholesomeness of the mind, good-will, compassion, appreciative joy, and a good heart.

So, he arranged a small piece of land with some fruit trees for the insects to eat. Close by not far from it there was a larger plot of land with fruit trees for sale. The vegetable plots were also arranged in this way. He hung letter cards on fruit trees and vegetable plots to invite the insects to eat and requested them not to disturb the others. Surprisingly it worked; the insects could feel it and not disturb the other fruit trees and vegetable plots, for human consumption.

They left it for the human consumption untouched. It seems to me nowadays with the development of science and technology; some scientists made researches and experiments on the mind and its power. They had some knowledge of it and wrote some books about them. Therefore, human views, thinking, verbal and physical actions affect the physical world and nature internally and externally, which I had already mentioned above. As a human being physical appearance is also important. Who will marry an elephant man or woman? (Referred to the Elephant Man, the movie. This was a true story and there was a book on it. The elephant man’s mother was a beautiful woman.

So, nothing to do with genetic, the kammic result of his past life). Who will use them in the five stars hotel and restaurant? These are individual matters. For the larger scale effect, it is more important. Connection with societies, the human race, nature, and the mother Earth; it becomes very important. It becomes about human survival. The Earth is becoming more and more polluted, rising temperature (e.g. 50°C in the middle east), ice melting in the north pole, strong hurricanes (e.g. Katrina, Harvey, etc. in U.S.), many typhoons in Asia (e.g. mostly in the Philippines), heavy rains, floods, landslides, forest fires, etc. Even animals and insects are sensitive to nature and aware of the dangers. But human beings are not, even they do not know about themselves. Scientists make a lot of researches and experiments on the external world, but they do not know their minds. Their minds are closer to them than any other things, more than their wives and children. They were born with it, living with it and die with it. Nearly all human problems come from it, but they do not know themselves.

This is ignorance (avijjā). The natural sufferings of birth, aging, and death we cannot escape. The others are humans made, and we can prevent and escape from it. We need to follow the Buddha’s wisdom and his teachings. By following the Buddha’s wisdom, we can prevent and solve a lot of human-made problems and sufferings. We cannot find anyone on the Earth who will know about Human beings are better than Buddha. After his enlightenment, he talked about them for 45 years all the times. If we know and understand the Buddha’s teachings, then we can live our life by the wholesome dhamma. This way of life is living in rectitude and righteousness. This way of life benefits oneself and others, also it protects oneself and others. And after death, no-one will become a naked person (empty person).

This is a real blessing. The Buddha declared it very clear that anyone who practiced the Dhamma; and it would protect him. The Dhamma here was wholesome dhamma—the positive ones and not the unwholesome dhamma, which is the negative one. Still, it comes back to the law of action—cause and effect. Therefore, someone is practicing Dhamma at least has three results.

(1) You look after and protect yourself from dangers.
(2) It can bring you happiness.
(3) After death will not fall into painful existences.

There is a good jātaka story for contemplation on these points. This was Dhammapāla Jātaka (No. 447). In ancient time, Sink Country had a village named Dhammapāla. The bodhisatta was also called Dhammapāla (Dhammapāla-kumāra), the son of the village headman. He went to Taxila (Takkasilā) for education. His teacher’s son suddenly died at a very young age. Therefore, the family members and the students there were suffered from sorrow, pain, and grief. Dhammapāla saw this event and became very surprised about it. Because it was not the time for death at this very young age, in his village. He had never been seen and heard them before.

So, he and the other students were in arguing about this matter. This case arrived at his teacher, and he questioned him. Dhammapāla said that in his village nobody died at a young age. All lived up to the full life span. The teacher was very curious about it and decided to make an inquiry in this village. So, he took some animal bones with him to the Dhammapāla village, and met Dhammapāla’s father, informed to him that his son died unexpectedly. By hearing it, the people were laughing. Then, the teacher took the animal bones out and showed them for evidence. They instantly responded that it would be the bones of an animal and it not belonged to Dhammapāla. The teacher asked them why they did not believe it and the reasons for long life and long living.

The reasons or causes were:
(1) They approached the wise, holy men and teachers
(2) They listened to their teachings.

Any ascetic and teacher came to their village and taught them; they would only take what was good and following it. If something were not good, they did not take it and not criticize them. From these two points, we know that these people were mature. These two factors are similar to the first and second factors of practice leading to stream entry. These are:

  1. Association with people of integrity
  2. Listening to the true Dhamma.

Let us observe nowadays, mans, and societies. Do they have the standards and intelligence like Dhammapāla villagers or what the Buddha wanted them to be? Most people approach unwise, ignoble men, and polluted matters or media. What did they learn from these men and stuff? They learnt the wrong views, sex, violence, greed, selfishness, hate, ingratitude, exploitation, meanness, etc. So, most human beings become more and more deluded, and many problems and disasters arise internally and externally.

  1. The Dhammapāla villagers were observing the five precepts very well and practiced accordingly.
  2. They performed generosity as much as they could. They took joy and interest in these performances before, during, and after. This was the proper way of doing merits and also taught by the Buddha.
  3. The villagers were living together in harmony, friendliness, and helping each other.

Therefore, it was a peaceful and happy society. These qualities are now very rare in societies, even in family life. In the past, around a small area, people were known to each other very well. Our neighbors were like family members and helping each other. Nowadays, these things are changing dramatically. Living next door and do not know each other. Regarding others with suspicion and no feelings of security. If we observe and contemplate these five factors and will found that these were had a connection to each other, they are leading to peace, harmony, long life, and happiness.

In the Sakka-pañhā Sutta—Sakka’s Questions (No. 21, Dīgha Nikāya, DN 21 Sakkapañha Sutta), Sakka, the deva-king, asked the Buddha as follow: All living beings (here men) wanted to be free from hostility, violence, rivalry, ill-will, free from those who were hostile. These were also meant; long life, healthiness, and happiness. But the beings were not fulfilling these wishes. What were the reasons behind that?

The Buddha answered to this was; beings were fettered with envy, stinginess, and avarice (selfishness), which was why they lived in hostility, violence, rivalry, ill-will and with those who were hostile. These two unwholesome mental states are interesting. It represents lobha and dosa—greed and hate. If we observe and contemplate today world situations, these unwholesome things and matters are happening up to the international levels. (e.g., the unwholesome competition between Russia and U.S. on the weapons of mass destruction; the trade war between China and U.S.; and also U.S. with other countries. Even sports are becoming unwholesome competitions, unlike in the past. It becomes business-like, full of corruptions and gambling.)

In some countries political parties are fighting each other for power and using many dirty tricks, even some superpowers are in this group. They were exploiting the citizens just for their power and greed. If they concern for the country and people no need to fight for power, whoever wins is the same, even have to support the winning party for the welfare of the people. The Buddha also taught people on the important role of political leaders (in ancient time were emperors and kings) and governments.

Bad leaders and governments (i.e., immoral people), their behaviors and acts affect the citizens and nature and leading to dangers, such as drought, famine, wars, and diseases, etc. Regarding these disasters, even the Buddha said that people would not believe him what he had said. This point was not difficult to understand. Even most human beings do not understand themselves. To understand and see these things which are not within their knowledge. Human knowledge is very limited.

If we observe and contemplate the provinces of economics and sciences/technologies, there are also problems created by some economists and scientists. The main problems are unsustainable economic policies and scientific inventions. The main culprit is craving, greed, over-indulgence (taṇhā) with ignorance or deluded mind, which cannot discern things. These are our greatest enemies, the inner ones. More destructive than any external one, even than natural disasters which are also caused by these enemies.

Greed, hatred, and delusion (wrong views) are the weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and not Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi or Osama bin Laden or other people. They are already inside us or in each one of us. If writing about the current situation on nature, politics, economics and science and technology, and there are a lot of problems in these provinces. If we study, observe and contemplate and can see them very clear.

The Buddha said that the source of suffering was greed __ craving (It including hatred for sure, both as the two sides of a coin). Combine with wrong views, and it becomes WMD. But humans take them as their best friends. They are nourishing and developing them in their whole lives. Many years ago, there was a Hollywood movie called “The Man with the X-ray eyes”. The actor was Ray Milland, who was a scientist in it. He was researching a chemical liquid which could be used as the X-ray. After he had found it and used it on himself. He was using it as an eye-drop. What he found out was made him happy and a lot of joy.

He could see men and women naked bodies after using some drops. At the beginning, with desire and craving, he was happy with it. In the long run, it caused a problem and distraction like a drug addict. After sometimes, by using the x-ray eye drops, his eyes were starting showing the signs of degeneration. He could not see naked women anymore and instead of their skeletons. And then later he only saw the bright light. This made him unbearable and ended up destroying his own eyes. There are some important and valuable lessons we can gain from it. The scientist’s motivation was not good.

In the same way some economic policies and scientific researches and inventions were not good. It brought up more problems than solved the problems because these were based on greed and selfishness. There is a lot of envy and avarice going on in politics, economics, and knowledge on science and technology. There is also protectionism on economics and sharing of knowledge. These are the signs of greed and selfishness, which lead to distrust and disharmony among countries, and problems.

Greed never brings satisfaction and happiness. If greed is greater and greater, it brings more problems and sufferings. It is like a balloon if put in more and more air and it bigger and bigger. With over limit and then it

explodes. We can see the effects of human greed and craving on earth, in societies and nature. Climate changes and the temperature rising is now close to the limits. Therefore, we saw a lot of natural disasters. Hurricane Harvey was a very good example (i.e., happened in America in 2018). And then, we heard and knew some human health problems connecting with food chains which were polluted by chemicals and other pollution (i.e., air, water, etc.).

Now even we heard some news about young girls as young as ten years old had childbirths. Even these kinds of things mentioned by the Buddha a long time ago and difficult to believe it. Now it comes true. It is important to know roughly about our inner enemies of greed, hatred, and delusion (ignorance). If we like something, then it becomes greed and do not like it and becomes hatred (aversion).

So, hatred can be grouped into greed. We do things blindly because we do not know the outcomes of it. This is ignorance or delusion. Greed and hatred go with delusion(ignorance). In the beginning, ignorance is leading to greed or hatred. If we used to it and it becomes a habit, and even knowing the outcome, we cannot stop it. Then we are led by greed or hatred; even we know the outcomes, as an example, someone addicted to drugs.

The Buddha gave a simile (there are many) for greed, craving, and clinging as a drop of honey on the edge of a very sharp razor blade. Sensual pleasures are like this. If we are with a very strong desire to enjoy the pleasant feeling and licking the honey, then we will encounter great suffering. Therefore, restraint of the senses brings peace and happiness to the human race. Overusing it or indulgence with it will burn us like fire. The story of the man with the x-rayed eyes reminded politicians, economists, and scientists how to use their powers and knowledge for the human race.

revised on 2020-05-29; cited from (posted on 2019-11-18)

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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。