Avoiding, Abstaining from Evil (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-06-25

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

In the commentary evil referred to the four unwholesome actions:

  1. destruction of life 2. taking what is not given 3. sexual misconduct 4. false speech.

It did not mention the refraining from intoxicants because it included in the 19th blessing. These evil actions will be blamed and not praised by the wise because it is not only harmful to others but also harmful oneself in the present or future life to come. Avoiding from evil as not delight in evil in the mind and seeing the dangers in them. In the ten unwholesome dhammas, seven items belong to physical and verbal actions and the last three items are mind actions. Therefore, all the unwholesome dhammas are included in it.

There are three kinds of abstaining from evil:

1. abstaining from evil when encounter it,
2. by undertaking the precepts (five precepts) and
3. by eradication (the first realization of Nibbāna with the Noble Eightfold Path or practice).

Avoiding and abstaining are ārati and virati, respectively in Pāli. Avoiding is the matter of the mind, and abstaining is the matter of speech and bodily action. Avoiding evil means even not thinking about evil or unwholesome things with the mind. Speech and bodily action come from the thinking mind that mind is more important of the 3. In one sutta of the Buddha (discourse), a monk wanted to go back to lay life. The reason was there were many rules for a monk to look after that difficulty for following it.

The Buddha knew about it and asked him to look after one only. That was the mind. What is evil? Pāpa is a Pāli word for evil. What are evil dhammas? The ten unwholesome dhammas are evils. See the ten unwholesome courses of action in the 9th blessing-well mastered disciplines. In the ten unwholesome courses of action, three connect with the bodily actions, four with speech and three with the mind actions respectively. In this 18th protection with blessing, avoiding means not thinking about all the ten unwholesome dhammas.

There was a Dhamma talk by Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa—The kammic results of misconducts, based on Duccaritavipāka Sutta (AN iv 247 or AN.8.40 Duccaritavipākasuttaṃ). Here I will give the gist of this talk on the results of misconduct and the nature of kamma—actions. So, that people will know how much importance the protection with the blessing of avoiding, abstaining from evils. Actions, after done, can give the results for many world aeons. The resultant energy of the action and its quality will not disappear.

The volition—cetanā or mental factor has disappeared, and the energy is leaving behind and following with the mind process. It cannot be seen. The power of energy able to perform things. As an example, some of the lessons we learned at a young age did not disappear. Good conduct—sucarita or wholesome dhamma is like medicine. Misconduct—duccarita or unwholesome dhamma is like a disease. Wholesome dhamma removes unwholesome dhamma, e.g. see Ven. Aṅgulimāla’s story.

It is good to know these things so that people can avoid and abstain from evils. If not, people will make mistakes again and again and becoming worse. This discourse of the Buddha was from the Aṅguttara Nikāya. It was mentioned eight factors—the eight misconducts.

  1. The taking of life—when indulged in, developed, and pursued leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of hungry shades.

The slightest of all the results coming from the talking of life is, when one becomes a human being, it leads to a short life span.

  1. Stealing—leads to hell, rebirth as a common animal, to the realm of hungry shades (ghosts). When one becomes a human being, the slightest result of stealing is leading to the loss of one’s wealth.
  2. Illicit sexual behavior—leads to hell, rebirth as a common animal, to the realm of hungry ghosts. When one becomes a human being, the slightest result of illicit sexual behavior is leading to rivalry and revenge.
  3. Telling falsehoods—to hell, rebirth as animal and ghost. When it becomes a human being, it leads to being falsely accused.
  4. Divisive tale—bearing-to hell, rebirth as animal and ghost. When it becomes a human being, it leads to the breaking of one’s friendships.
  5. Harsh speech—to hell rebirth as animal and ghost. When it becomes a human being, it leads to unappealing sounds.
  6. Frivolous chattering—to hell, rebirth as animal and ghost. When it becomes a human being, it leads to words that are not worth taking to heart
  7. The drinking of fermented and distilled liquors—to hell, rebirth……, it leads to mental derangement.

In the ten unwholesome courses of action, not included the drinking of fermented and distilled liquors. Therefore, some think that it is wholesome. But in this sutta, the Buddha included in the misconduct—duccarita and also in the five precepts. Although it does not include in the ten unwholesome actions directly, count it with the misconduct of illicit sexual behavior.

Because in the five sensual pleasures, alcoholic drinks are connecting with taste. Therefore, count it with illicit sexual behavior. Duccarita—misconduct means all the bad/not good behaviors. To fulfill misconduct, there are five factors included. As an example for talking life:—

(1) Must be a living being
(2) Knowing that it is a living being
(3) Has the intention(volition) to kill
(4) Commit the action of killing
(5) Has been killed.

Doing an action, there are many stages; beginning, many times, a lot or again and again. And then become a habit, and later a character. In the beginning, you take drugs. Sometimes later, the drugs take you. And then put you in the jail, becomes a criminal. Sometimes we are doing things without intention. This intentional/volitional killing can fall into hell. After freeing from hell and born as an animal.

After death as an animal and born as a hungry ghost (peta). The slightest of its result is when it becomes a human being has a short life span. For stealing: The slightest result is the loss of one’s wealth. For illicit sexual behaviors: the slightest result is hating by others and has many enemies. For telling falsehoods: the slightest result is being falsely accused and arrested.

For decisive tale-bearing: The slightest result is breaking of one’s friendships and family break up. These things happen very often. For harsh speech: the slightest result is not hearing about pleasant and happy things and matters. For frivolous chattering/useless and meaningless: the slightest result is no one taking his words to heart or accepting what has said. For drinking of fermented and distilled liquors: the slightest result is leading to mental derangement or becomes a dull and stupid person.

As a human being, it is very important to understand the analysis of action. Because the human world is a place where a living being has more chances than any other existences to cultivate goodness. There was a sutta in the Majjhima Nikāya on the analysis of action; Cūḷa-Kammavibhaṅga Sutta (MN 135). It is worthwhile to study it for avoiding and abstaining from evils and performing goodness.

Therefore, human existence is a precious birth and should use it properly and skillfully. If not with this precious existence can do a lot of evil deeds will suffer here and after. Also, the nature of mind is difficult to control, and it takes an interest in unwholesome matters and sensual pleasure.

There are three ways of abstaining from evils (virati).

(1) Sampatta-virati: abstaining from evils by controlling one’s mind when an encounter with a situation.
(2) Samādāna-virati: undertaking the precepts and looking after it.
(3) Samuccheda-virati: perfect or noble abstaining of the noble beings (ariyas) from stream‐enterer to arahant.

Because they had already eradicated defilement (kilesa) related to evil deeds, with Path and Fruit Knowledge.

On Sampatta-virati:

There was a story in Sri Lanka related to sampatta-virati.

There were two brothers, and one day, their mother was sick. So, they invited a doctor to treat her. He told them a prescription which could cure her illness. That was to eat fresh rabbit meat. It seems that there are misconceptions relating to some prescriptions of the traditional medicines to cure some diseases and physical health illnesses. How an evil deed of killing and harming animals by using their bodily parts can cure illness and diseases.

These are going against the wholesome dhamma and law of kamma. The result of its outcome could be very serious. The very good example is Wu-han virus (or Covid 19) which effected the whole world. It caused a lot of problems and losing lives. I do not think Dr. Jīvaka (the famous doctor of during the Buddha Gautama’s time) and Dr. Sun soon-miao (the famous doctor of the Tang Dynasty, who lived for 120 years of age) would give these kinds of prescriptions. These two great doctors were intelligent and wise. The younger brother went to the field to look for rabbits. After sometimes he saw a rabbit was eating the young rice crops. The rabbit, after seeing him and in fright, ran for its life. He was chasing the rabbit and at last its legs entangled in creepers.

When he caught the poor lovely animal, and it was trembling with fear. He had a strong sympathetic feeling to the rabbit and could not take its life. Therefore, he released the poor creature and decided to go back home. His elder bother learned what had happened and scolded him for not concerning their mother’s illness.

To please his brother, he decided to use the Dhamma of truth to cure his mother. He made the following asseveration of truth. “In my whole life, I have never been killed an animal intentionally.” Here there were two factors; his sīla was pure, and the asseveration which he made was also true. After repeating the asseveration of Truth for three times and the mother was cured. In the world, nearly everyone encounters unavoidable difficulty and problem, e.g., doing unwholesome matter for livelihood. When encounter problems, it is very important to use the right way or method. If not, it becomes more confusing or worse. (e.g., the 2011 year of the Syrian Civil war was a great tragedy).

Therefore, world leaders and governments should contemplate this point very carefully. In the beginning, by solving the problem in an unwholesome way, it seems to be solved the problem for a while. Later it becomes worse and chaotic. Because the purpose was overcoming it instantly. But it is also like collecting the unwholesome kammic results. These points are very important to consider and contemplate. There was a very good Dhamma talk by Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa on the unwholesome and wholesome dhammas.

In there has many valuable points to contemplate and follow accordingly by everyone. This section also about—avoiding and abstaining from evil deeds. Therefore, Sayadaw’s talk will help us to achieve this very important protection with a blessing. Here I will give a gist of it only. Whatever thing we are doing, this must be a wholesome matter. This was taught by the Buddha. By doing wholesome action, someone gains a valuable thing. Wholesome dhamma is not easy to arise. It needs the causes for it to arise. With its arising and one will get the good result of natural energy (kammic wholesome energy).

This is the view of Buddha and noble beings (ariyas). But worldlings do not see in this way. They only want to gain wealth and fortunes. For them, wealth and fortunes are greater than wholesome merits. But the Buddha saw it oppositely because it gave a longtime result. To attain wealth and fortunes also good, but it has a short life span, and we get it only for one life. Wholesome merits give the results of for this life and next life until the end of saṁsāra.

The Buddha was always thinking about for this life and next life, i.e., seeing both sides. For permanence and short term; we should choose the permanent results. If we got both, then it is better. If not, then just choose the permanent one. The Buddha always encouraged us to have mindfulness with contemplation. With this, we will find out the answers and can solve the problems. If seeing things superficially, we cannot see it clearly or penetrate it.

This is the case with most world leaders and governments, economists, and scientists. Therefore, they create a lot of human problems and environmental pollution in today world. Whatever matter must contemplate and reflect carefully and wisely. We—human beings should have the kinds of education with discernment and wisdom, which can discern cause and effect, good or bad, wholesome or unwholesome, long term and short term. Most human beings nowadays are lacking in these qualities.

These are the results of wrong educations which clouded the mind. The shining nature of the mind buried underneath of greed, hatred, and delusion, which make the mind darker and darker. Wholesome kinds of education are valuable and priceless treasures. Buddhists should not waste their precious lives and times. With wise contemplation and reflection do what should be done to pass our lives is the best way. In one sutta, the Buddha reminded his followers and disciples as follow.

“The days and nights are relentlessly passing, how well am I spending my time? This should be reflected upon again and again.”

Do we ever reflect how we spend our times every day, every month and every year? Without contemplation, no answer will come out. With it will find out the answer and doing thing accordingly. It is like a business matter, has to reflect very often on loss and profit, but very few reflect with life. Therefore, most people do not know about loss and profit in life. Without any answer could not change the way of life. With contemplation in economics can change the way, system, and method.

Everyone wants to be:
(1) long life
(2) healthy
(3) happiness and
(4) fulfilled one’s wishes.

A life with these four factors can be called successful enough. But the Buddha mentioned more than that. Is long life good for everyone? Someone in life has a lot of misconducts and demerits with longer life means more misconducts and demerits. Like a war going on longer and more sufferings and deaths (see, the Syrian Civil War). It is more harmful to this person in his long life. Someone (e.g., a miner) like digging a pit; with more digging, it becomes deeper and more dangerous. What the Buddha taught was always true. It is about natural law—cause and effect, without time limits. Only we do not know it yet. There was a verse in the Dhammapada worth for contemplation.

The Buddha was comparing two long-lived persons. One is no sīla and going his life with unwholesome matters. The other is the opposite nature. A life without sīla and with misconducts like a pit with the continuous digging becomes deeper. With sīla and merits is like building a high wall, with continuous construction, it becomes higher and higher. Therefore, for the second person, his long life is better.

So, the verse said: “A life with merits one day is better than a life with demerits for 100 years.” Their values are quite different. For a fool, his life also affects others (surroundings). According to the law of action, everything that one has done is responsible for oneself. But it also affects the surroundings. A bad son creates sufferings for the whole family. A good son brings happiness to the whole family. But his path of life is nothing to do with the family. Therefore, as long as a fool life with demerits effects the whole family. If he dies will bring peace to the family. A gigantic useful tree is a refuge for 10,000 birds. (A Burmese Saying).

It is amazing to know the wise social views of Chinese sages. There were many similarities between them and the teachings of the Buddha (i.e., on the worldly matters). They knew a long time ago that moral and ethical education was fundamentally important for goodness and wholesome developments in societies. Even they emphasized it to start with the family. Because parents are the first teachers of a child and their mind is pure and innocent in the beginning.

Therefore, the parents are easy to teach and train them whatever directions they want them to be. Parents can teach and train a child to become a sage or a criminal. In life, there are only two kinds of persons; someone with moral, ethical standard and value and someone without them. Their lives are far away to each other, as sky and earth. Attaining a human existence has two duties; performing the duty of one’s welfare and others. In Pāli language: These are called attahita and parahita.

Based on these two duties, the Buddha divided human beings into four groups. These were:

(1) Only for oneself and not for others
(2) Only for others and not for oneself.
(3) not for oneself and others.
(4) for oneself and others (both).

The third person is the worst of all. A person with attahita and parahita is the best. Without attahita, and cannot has parahita. A bad person cannot make people good. (By protecting oneself, one protects others—Sedaka Sutta, Saṁyutta Nikāya, SN.47.19 Sedakasuttaṃ). By benefitting oneself and harming others is also not good. Nowadays, in societies, this kind of businesses and making money is more than before, e.g., using pesticides in crops, fruits, vegetables, etc.

Tobacco and alcoholic businesses are making a lot of money and harming a lot of people with health problems, social problems, etc. There is no end to mention these things. But these people never think about their actions which they cannot escape for a short-term sensual pleasure. With more consumers and make more money, but the kammic results they have to pay are greater and heavier (They are like licking the honey on the edge of razor blade).

First, we should benefit oneself and later to help others. Buddha and bodhisattas were noble beings who arose in the world for their welfare and others. Philanthropists are also in this group. Therefore, they are becoming richer and richer. The Pāli word—hita means good conditions for good results to arise. Sukha—means happiness, the result of hita.

Therefore, people should create good conditions (hita) for the happy results of oneself and others. The education systems of Chinese sages were for this purpose. Chinese civilization and culture surviving for over 3000 years of history is one of the main factors from these systems. Some government projects and planning are also a good example of hita. Parents are also must create good conditions (hita) for their children to develop in morality, ethics, and virtues. To become a good and virtuous person is more important than a highly educated and rich person. Most worldly problems come from the fools and not from the wise and virtuous people.

Some parents, instead of teaching or training them to become good and virtuous people they left inheritances for their children. Without moral foundations, some of these outcomes are not good. Some parents create good conditions such as good educations (here mean for livelihoods), (fortune) money and good jobs only but not for the mind. So, some of these children also do not have good endings. Good conditions are like good weathers.

Therefore, in the old days some highly venerable monks at the end of their treatises with wishes and prayers for good weather and rain. So, that having good weather and rain no drought and other dangers. Then human beings and other animals can be survived. Every politician (leaders), economists and scientists should take these points very seriously. Our physical worlds (physical body and nature-earth) are depending on the four hita—good conditions; action (deed and behavior), mind (mental states), weather (climates), and foods.

If human beings continue to act and behave foolishly and stupidly like nowadays, there will be more disasters, dangers, and sufferings to arise. Do human beings want to be suffered and distressed? I hope not. Therefore, all parents and governments must create good conditions for their children and citizens. The Buddha arose in this world for this reason and purpose. Not like the God and the gods of other faiths. They worship him with fear and rely on his power. If they do something wrong with confession is forgivable. God has the power of protecting and blessing.

There is nothing to do with one’s power and rely on outside power. Therefore, one’s intelligence, knowledge, and ability to do things become blunt and stagnant. In human, the qualities of desire—wholesome desire (chanda), persistence (viriya) and intelligence / discrimination, discernment (paññā) are very important. The Buddha gave us the guidelines and showing the ways only. He taught people to increase and develop their goodness and knowledge, stopped and prevented them not to do unwholesome matters. Everyone has the inner powers and has to rely on them. These powers are good conditions(hita).

We should never forget these powers and always increasing and developing them. These inner powers are: conviction(saddhā), virtue(sīla), learning(suta), generosity(cāga) and discernment(paññā). These are the inner powers and as good conditions for everyone. Someone has these best conditions or qualities he/she will have worldly good fortunes and welfare in this life and afterlife. These inner powers or good conditions are also called noble growth or spiritual growth. Even the Buddha mentioned that someone had these qualities and performing the duties, and then whatever wishes and inspirations he made could be fulfilled.

These inner powers are good conditions(hita). Everyone should develop these qualities. Only then we will get happiness and peace. By knowing these things (especially the teaching of the Buddha), the wholesome paths we walk are becoming clear and straight. In the human world whatever we are doing, the main points or right standards are: what should be done and what should not be done, what is suitable and what is not suitable, what is a benefit and what is harmful, etc.

All combine these opposites, then there are only two kinds of phenomena (dhamma)—wholesome and unwholesome (kusala and akusala). Others are only human’s views. We should be afraid of and fear of unwholesome things and matters, and not others. For example, most people are afraid of and fear of hells, but not the unwholesome deeds and unwholesome dhamma. Anger, hatred, and ill-will are dangerous and very harmful to both. The result of evil deeds that come from them is leading to hell existences.

The contemplation and reflection of benefits and faults of wholesome and unwholesome dhammas and their actions are the cause of progress and development for the human race, in Pāli—ādīnava, and ānisaṁsa (faults and benefits). In the four satipaṭṭhāna sutta: The first one is body contemplation. There is a section called mindfulness and clear knowing—sati and sampajañña. The commentary commented on four aspects of clear knowledge or knowing. The first and second are purpose and suitability. These are connecting with what has mentioned above.

Samādāna-virati: undertaking the precepts and looking after it

In human life, sometimes we can be encountered with difficulties and do not know how to deal with it. Most people in these kinds of situation and follow what the majority has done. Knowing that it is not suitable, but most people still doing it. Therefore, they are just making the same mistake. Nowadays, this kind of thinking is quite common. Not able to use one’s knowledge and decision and follow with the common people. But they do not know that in the world there one more fool than wise. There was an incident told by a bhikkhunī.

One time she was traveling by train and met a Christian on it. The Christian said to her that he also believed in the law of kamma. But nowadays most people were doing things in unethical ways that we all had to follow suit. And he could not do anything about it. What he said was very wrong, and two mistakes in his words. The law of kamma and the Creator are two different views. Someone believes in the Creator will not accept the law of kamma, and vice versa. If one of them is right, then the other is wrong. If he believed in the law of kamma would not follow the ways of harming oneself and others. We have to deal with our livelihoods and family matters, but also try to avoid and abstain from evils at the same time.

The following story was abstained from unwholesome action. In Sri Lanka, a man had undertaken the five precepts from a monk and went to the forest for fire woods with his ox. Later he lost the ox and was looking for it. Unexpectedly he encountered a boa constrictor, and it constricted his body. He was thinking of to cut off its head with the knife in his hand. And remembering of he had been undertaken the five precepts before and reflected on it for three times.

After the last time, he resolved not taking the life of the boa and threw his knife away. Because of his pure sīla and mind power, the boa freed him and went away. Hiri—sense of shame and ottappa—fear of wrongdoing are the important factors for preventing someone from doing evil actions. These dhammas are also called the guardians of the world. These are not ordinary kinds of shame and fear, and with the knowledge in it. These are also including in the seven noble treasures. Someone has these two qualities will complete with this blessing of avoiding and abstaining from evils.

revised on 2020-06-25; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36964#p36964 (posted on 2019-11-19)

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