revised on 2021-03-16
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
The commentary explained it as—heedfulness is the antidote to heedlessness. Heedless means not doing things with care, not doing things in consistency and not doing things with persistence for the developing of the wholesome qualities. It also has the meaning of avoiding of one’s duties, relinquish of the desire to do it and giving up the task not pursuing, not developing, not cultivating, without resolution and intentness in to do good (i.e., for the wholesome qualities of the mind).
Always have mindfulness (sati) in daily life for doing things regard to ordinary and wholesome matters. It is called a blessing because it leads to mundane and supramundane achievements. The commentary equated heedfulness (appamāda) to mindfulness (sati).
In the Dhammapada. There was a chapter called Appamādavagga—Chapter on mindfulness. The well-known verse on appamāda (mindfulness) is verse 21:
Those who are heedful do not die and those are heedless of if already dead.
Here I want to extract some Dhamma points from two talks given by Tipiṭakadhara Yaw Sayadaw for reflection and contemplation. It seemed to me these were the excellent talks on appamāda for practical purposes. And it also expressed the wisdom of Tipiṭakadhara Sayadaw.
- Hundreds of fruits on a stalk
I referred this to heedfulness (appamāda). It can cover the whole Buddhist Texts (piṭakas) and has extensive meanings. Appamāda was the Buddha’s last word and his last teaching.
The last word of the Buddha:
“Handa dāni, bhikkhave, āmantayāmi vo, vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā”
“Now, take heed bhikkhus, I caution you thus; Decline and disappearance is the nature of all conditions, Therefore, strive on ceaselessly with discerning and alertness.”
We have to use it practically (not just listen to the talk only). All Buddha-Dhammas can be used. Our life can be secure and free from dangers by following it. It is the controller of our whole life. All our reliable Dhammas could be stopped by losing sati. Therefore, the Buddha said that without appamāda someone was like a dead person. Don’t measure life with time limits. The value of life should be measured with Dhammas. With sati, we have the knowing or knowledge. Even though we are blind or damaging of our body limbs, etc. and with the knowing and still alive. Otherwise, our knowing or knowledge is dead. Therefore, sati (appamāda) is very important. Do you know how to live with ageing, sickness and death? Could you be ready for dying?
With sati, our life values are increasing because it leads to sīla, samādhi and paññā (these three-fold trainings cannot separate from the practice of mindfulness). (Sayadaw mentioned the people of Kuru State—now New Delhi area). These people were not wasting their times. Without sati people are using their lives foolishly without benefits. They are only slaves to their khandhas and no benefits at all. Therefore, life without appamāda is disgusting. All unwholesome dhammas will come in if losing the knowing. So, it is not different from a dead person. Mindful practice is following behind of which our bodies have. (i.e., the four establishments of mindfulness). Only possession with sati can be called a human or can be called becoming a human. Then as long as with long life will have values (i.e., sīla, samādhi, paññā). In this way, the Buddha had arisen for us. With the development of Dhamma Power, value of life will be increased. As an example, fruits depend on a stalk. The fruits become in a random state if the stalk fallen off. It will be looked ugly. In the same way all human matters are like the fruits and the stalk is like heedfulness (appamāda). Therefore, all economies, social matters, etc. are relating to appamāda.
The working of sati:
Without knowledge (knowing), we are deceived by the khandha. It will deceive us as permanence, happiness, self and beauty (nicca, sukha, atta, and subha).
With knowing, you know the deceitfulness of the khandha. We’re collecting kilesa by missing the present moment, then the knowing is dead and life becomes painful. Not lacking of sati and whatever you are doing will get wages. It is misusing the khandha by wasting time. This is the way of sensuality (kāma). However, the Dhamma is good although losing sati becomes disadvantage.
Doing things with sati is the middle way to Nibbāna and the way of no dangers. Problems are made by man. All the tasks at doing are important. Each should be the present work. The free day is the day not doing work (i.e., no sati) and can’t do anything (i.e., during illness and dying). At that time, there is no refuge and it will lose the value of life. Take the present as valuable time. We can say life is good if we can extract goodness from it. It can also be said that life is not good because it has ageing, sickness and death. Khandha is valuable by becoming the raw materials for the essence of life.
In loka (the world), when is it the most valuable time? It’s the present time. It can take the power. Doing things with sati we get wages. During the walking this is the most importance and you have to take the wages. (i.e., sīla, samādhi and paññā ways) Dhamma is the application for life. Here Sayadaw gave the example of Therī Kar who was the daughter of a Vesāli prince. One day, she was frying some vegetables and observing them with sati; then with contemplation, she became an anāgāmi. Later she ordained and continued the practice, finally she became an arahant. Working in a kitchen is also dāna (giving service).
With sati and contemplation, all tasks become practice, Everyday it’s good works and become joyful tasks. It’s workable and attaining merits. Therefore, we become regrettable for all the things which had been wasted before without sati. Doing our duties for others is also sīla (e.g., all the household chores for a mother or wife). With sati, it becomes samādhi; and by observing and contemplation the changing phenomena, the wisdom arises.
Everyone (mother or wife) is cooking every day. No sati, the stalk is falling away (the stalk is appamāda). It’s also lacking of one’s Dhamma duty. No sati and defilement arises. Khandha always burns with the fires of ageing and kilesa. Vipassanā is watching the Khandha TV (most humans are watching the Kilesa TVs). Khandha is always showing the right news (Kilesa TV shows the wrong news).
The coming in of kilesa is for contemplation and also it comes to remind us. Each present moment is giving us the time limit. By wasting it and will never come back again. Losing or lacking of sati and life becomes painful. No sati and become a little crazy person. With sati and it becomes treasure. Sati is time controlling machine, it can finish the task, quicker. It’s also mind controlling machine.
There is increasing of power by having sati at busy time. Everyone has only three paths to follow; the oppressive path, the path of extravagance and the path of security.
The oppressive path is one misusing the khandha. The path of extravagance is indulgent in sensuality. The middle way (i.e., the path of security) is the path of application and to use it for the development of the three-fold trainings (sīla, samādhi and paññā). Whoever may be have to go one of these paths. The train carriages are stopping at a station. These carriages are for passengers and cargoes. These are at a standstill because the head carriage does not come yet. The matters of human life (i.e., the four requisites) are like the cargoes of carriages. The train at a standstill is like without sati. Listening of Dhamma is like taking the head carriage which is like sati. After that it carries the train by passing through ageing, sickness and death stations towards Nibbāna.
- A Diamond
(note: The title of this talk in Burmese was sein-ta-lone and it means a diamond.
Here we can see Sayadaw’s skill in using language for Dhamma. Only we understand the Burmese word ”Sein” for Diamond, we will appreciate this talk.)
Sati with knowledge is called appamāda (heedfulness). It was also the last teaching of the Buddha. Appamāda is a diamond (sein-ta-lone). Whatever we’re doing, for example, starting from coming and going, it should be a diamond. It includes sīla, samādhi and paññā. So, we’re doing everything with insight (vipassanā). Everything is related to guest and host. Guest means coming for a while and go such as from economy to all social matters will be gone. Therefore, we are counting the numbers of guest (in daily life). You have no free time if you have a diamond (put effort to maintain sati).
Also, you don’t need to say:”l am busy”. Staying with a diamond become host numbers, and will never leave you. It will always stay with you. Leading with sati in wholesomeness will send us to Nibbāna (Sayadaw gave this talk on the occasion of his 45 years in monkhood in 2005). The Buddha Gotama lived for 45 years of teaching after his enlightenment. Compared with the life span of the realm of the four great kings (i.e., the lowest heavenly beings—their one day is equal to 50 years of human being), the Buddha’s teachings only lasted nearly one day. He was a short life span Buddha that put a lot of effort in his teaching (the busiest man on earth). This gives us a lot of inspiration. It was also the period of degeneration (the human life span is only 100 years and it will decline to ten years) and humans had thick kilesa (defilement). So, it was difficult to teach them.
Therefore, he has to work very hard for it. He had to do a lot quickly.
In 45 years, all Dhamma duties were completed and at last he laid down his khandha.
The last teaching was on about a diamond Dhamma. Dhamma arose for the challenging of the world (loka). The world is led by ignorance and craving, it’s the suffering world (dukkha loka). Dhamma arose for the extinguishing of all the heat.
The Buddha extracted the essence of Dhamma from his 45 years of teaching was very short you have to take it everywhere with it and can be used anyplace. It has included only for reflection and action. All conditioned phenomena are subject to decay. This is reflection or contemplation. Live your life with heedfulness, and this is action.
After the breakfast, we eat again at noon and later for dinner. So, we are busy with eating, clothing and living for oneself by moving around. Our life is for searching things, and then we get it; after that, it has gone and left with tiredness. Does it have any meaning?
Can we call or take it as the essence of life? You have to use knowledge (ñāṇa) to reflect them. It becomes clear if you can observe its impermanence, suffering and not-self (i.e., anicca, dukkha and anatta). All the businesses (worldly busy matters) are only guests. They have no guarantees. It’s important to get the power of life which is the appamāda or wholesome merits. Sati with ñāṇa (knowledge) is called appamāda. When you’re sick, instead of in groaning, put sati in it. Dukkha becomes more distinct when we’re sick. (with ñāṇa). There are two kinds of pain: knowledge pain and ignorant pain (or knowing pain and unknowing pain). You have to accept them with the knowing pain.
This kind of pain will send you to Nibbāna. Because it’s only physical pain and no mental pain. All these will become host numbers.
We can extract five meanings from the Burmese word—Sein (i.e., Diamond). These are:
① Sein-ta-lone mango (Diamond mango)
This is the best in all mangoes and the best taste. Sati can transform the khandha without essence to the essence one. It’s better than a diamond mango (i.e., sensual pleasure or happiness). It transforms kilesa into essential dhammas. It transforms mental suffering (dukkha) into mental happiness, etc.
② Sein-khor (challenge)
You can’t challenge anyone if don’t have strength. It’s number one in sāsana, and can challenge all. There are also challenges at international level. [These are not good signs and nowadays it’s becoming worse and worse. This is a bad omen for the whole world.
Among super-powers, they are challenging or competing each other with greed, hatred and delusion. These are: how to get more money in economics and trade wars; how to get more power with the weapon of mass destruction (arms race); how to pollute the food chains, air, water and earth—the natural environments; how to make the Earth hotter and hotter; how to make humans afflicted with new diseases (e.g., 2019-2020 corona Virus or Covid 19—Here we can see the stupidity of world leaders; instead of dealing with the epidemic in unity, they are finding faults and accusations to each other.); etc. All these are wrong challenges.]
Even animals are challenging each other. Two dogs show their teeth and bark angrily when they are challenging each other, and then they bite each other noisily. At last both of them hurt and become tired. (It seems some politicians and some world leaders are imitating them as their teachers.)
Sati conquers all of them. Sitting meditation is challenging kilesa. You have to watch and observe the khandha: “Is there anything of goodness coming out from it?” Instead, everything coming out is not good, it responds to us like an enemy. Only dukkha comes out from it (i.e. anicca, dukkha, anatta, asubha and dukkha sacca). In the time of the Buddha, 30 monks went into a forest for practice. One night a tiger came and dragged a young monk into the deep forest. The tiger seemed like challenging the monk as: “You can’t run away from me.” The monk seemed to challenge back it as saying: “You can only eat my putrid khandha and not my sati and ñāṇa” Khandha is for application (but most people are using it at wrong places). The monk became arahant before death.
Only his khandha died and not the Dhamma.
③ Diamond as a valuable gem
Sein (diamond) is a valuable gem; sati is also the most valuable Dhamma.
The reason is it can transform the useless khandha into priceless sīla, samādhi and paññā power. Therefore, sati can be called as sein-ta-lone (a diamond). [In the Mahāyana tradition, diamond is represented wisdom, e.g., Diamond Sutra or Vajira Sutra. Sayadaw’s diamond is nothing to do with it and it’s just a coincidence. The Buddha referred sati to salt in every dishes. Ven Sāriputta compared Ven. Mahā-Moggallāna with a mountain and in return, Ven. Mahā-Moggallāna compared Ven Sāriputta with salt. There are profound meanings hidden underneath of these two comparisons of psychic power and wisdom power.]
④ Sein-phu-the Holy Crystal
The holy crystal (sein-phu) is the topmost crystal of a cetiya or a pagoda, it’s like a lotus-bud and some of them are decorated with gold, silver and many types of gem stones (e.g., Shwe-da-gon Pagoda in Rangoon). Sati also like sein-phu and should place it at the top of Dhamma.
The Burmese word for mortar is sein-pyaung. Why sati is like a mortar? A mortar can shoot a target. In the same way sati can do its task.
The khandha is very near us, but we can’t see its anicca, dukkha and anatta.
Sati can shoot the refined targets which are far away in the past, present and future.
[Sayadaw was very skillful in composing short verses or poems in his Dhamma teachings, he made the listener to remember the important points. Here was an example.]
Even it’s a bad time of an era if we possess a Diamond/sein-ta-lone and not a bad time for us. (Appamāda covers all the wholesome dhammas from the fundamentals to the highest Dhamma—i.e., Nibbāna. It’s very important to study all the teachings connecting with it in the suttas by thorough contemplation and use it in our daily life. In this way, Buddhists can become the most blessed human beings on earth. All the sayings by the Buddha in the Dhammapada, Chapter II Appamādavagga were very good for reflection and become a wise person.)
Appamāda is heedfulness. Here is being heedful in wholesome dhammas, mainly referred to worldly good deeds or merits. Appamāda is also mindfulness, and it can be covered the whole piṭakas. This is not an ordinary heedfulness, being heedful in wholesomeness. It means always doing and performing in goodness.
We should have steadfastness in doing good. This is not ordinary mindfulness and difficult to arise. Therefore, it has to be developed. Without mindfulness and knowledge cannot be arisen. Therefore, there is no discernment or wisdom without mindfulness.
This kind of discernment or wisdom is not ordinary knowledge. It is thoroughly penetrating of natural phenomena. For the goodness to arise and realization of the Nibbāna element, we cannot be without mindfulness. In daily life must cultivate mindfulness and clear knowing (sati and sampajañña). Near death also we cannot be without it. Heedfulness (appamāda) has different levels; these are giving, precept, mind development (dāna; sīla, bhāvanā).
In bhāvanā—mind development also has different levels; from sotāpanna to arahant. Only by becoming an arahant that heedfulness is perfected. It is very important for everyone to ask the question of why are we here and what are we doing here (i.e., in human existence)? People will give different answers. Even some do not know the answers. Common worldly people will have different views and opinions, depending on their desires.
People with different faiths also in the same ways. With the Buddha’s Teachings, Buddhists can give two general answers for this very important question. For the worldly people, they are for enjoying sensual pleasures and doing things to enjoy them. Different religious people are also for sensual pleasures and doing things to union with their God in heaven after death.
True Buddhists have different views, and they have clear guidelines and clear paths for what to do. According to Buddha, human births are rare, and the best place for doing good is also the human world. Human beings have more chances and opportunities than any other births. The most important thing to do now is studying and following the Buddha’s Teachings to end dukkha. This is the highest thing to be done here. At least as a Buddhist one should or must does good deeds and abstain and refrain from misdeeds.
To complete and fulfill the Buddhist task, we have to develop being mindful of the qualities of the mind. We must live a life with heedfulness (appamāda). Appamāda is so important in the Buddha’s Teachings that every day he was reminding the monks to be mindful or being in heedfulness. Before he passed away, the last words of the Buddha were also in heedfulness: Vayadhammā saṅkhārā-appamādena sampādetha: All conditioned phenomena are subject to decay; bring about completion by being heedful.
Therefore, being heedful of the qualities of the mind is very important in worldly progress and spiritual development. In the Dhammapada: on the section of heedfulness, the Buddha compared a person with heedfulness/non-negligence and the person with heedlessness/negligence as a person awake and a person in sleep; a racehorse and a common weak horse.
Heedfulness is the way to Deathless, and heedlessness is the way to Death. Those who are heedful do not die and who are heedless as if already dead. A person with diligence, heedfulness, pure in thoughts and words or deeds will do everything with care and consideration. With restraining of the senses, he earns his likelihood by the wholesomeness that the fame and fortune of this heedful person will increase.
The foolish and the ignorant give themselves to over heedlessness, whereas the wise treasures heedfulness as a precious jewel. Someone delights in heedfulness and seeing the danger in heedlessness advances as a like fire burning up all the fetters (saṁyojana). Someone delights in heedfulness and seeing the danger in heedlessness cannot fall away from the Path. In practice to transcend dukkha; it is important for the five spiritual faculties to develop and mature. These are:
Of the five faculties, conviction(saddhā) and discernment have to be in balance. Persistence (viriya) and concentration (samādhi) also have to be in balance. Only mindfulness (sati) is no need to be in balance but stronger and better. Sati is also like salt crystals in every food. Sati is necessary for everything we do. Therefore, the Buddha was always reminding and encouragement to develop it.
On Dhamma level, the very important knowledge is not forgotten or not negligent the true nature of the khandha. Its true nature is changing (vipariṇāma), inconstant (anicca), suffering (dukkha), not-self (anatta), and loathsomeness (asubha). These are aging, sickness, and death dhammas that we should not forget them. After some time, everything will fall apart. With regular contemplation, we are not wasting times and living a meaningless life.
Especially we should not forget about death with the contemplation of death (maraṇānussati). Without negligence on death also leads to non-negligence of wholesome dhammas, merits, etc. It protects us from doing evil deeds and matters. And then we do only what is proper, useful, beneficial to oneself and others. Regular mindfulness on death can lead to the ending of dukkha—i.e., Nibbāna.
Death can be compared to a big river flows into the sea, but they also have differences. The water flows down slowly, and it is becoming closer to the sea. In the same way, everyone with times goes on is closer to death. The differences are; we can measure the journey of the river to the sea and period it arrives there. But we cannot measure on death. Now how much time still left for us to continue for this life.
Even everyone has a different life span, and not everybody the same way. It depends on different factors and causes. Some of these related to past kammas and some to present factors and causes, such as action, mind state, climate, and foods. It is nothing to do with God or the outside power. The most important factor is the internal cause—the mind. Therefore, every human being can change his or her destiny. It can be better or worse.
Therefore, the Buddha’s Teachings came in to give us the guidelines and show the way. Without the Buddha arose in the human world even we do not know very clear about the wholesome and unwholesome dhamma, do not say about to transcend them. Therefore, the Buddha was called the Teacher of gods and human beings. In the Buddhist text, there are four factors of not knowing about death.
These are the time of death, the illness or death, the destination of rebirth, and the place of death. Among the four factors, the most important one is after death, the destination of rebirth, or new existence. Combine the 31 realms of the existence, and we only get the five existences. These are hells, animals, ghosts, humans, and deities. Only two groups, human and deity existences, are good rebirths.
The other three, hells, animals, and ghosts existences are very painful and miserable. To has a good rebirth and existence, everyone should be heedful of the qualities of the mind by doing good and developing the mind with the practice of bhāvanā in this life. In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, monks and teachers always encourage us to practice the four protective dhamma regularly in our daily life.
These are Buddhānussati (Recollection of the Buddha), Metta Bhāvanā (meditation on goodwill/loving kindness/ loving friendliness). Asubha Bhāvanā (meditation on the repulsiveness of the body) and Maraṇānussati (mindfulness on death). These contemplations are called caturārakkha dhamma, the four protective dhammas. With the regular practices can protect someone from fear, dangers, unwholesome mental states, and living a heedful life.
In the Sutta Nipāta, there are three suttas for mettā bhāvanā, contemplation on the repulsiveness of the body and mindfulness on death respectively.
In the Snake Chapter; Metta Sutta—Discourse on Good Will (Snp. 1.8) and Vijaya Sutta—Discourse on Victory (victory over delusion or overcome attachment on the physical body, Snp. 1.11). In the Great Chapter; Salla Sutta—Discourse on the Arrow (Mindfulness on death, Snp. 3.8), all these are very good for contemplation.
Already we have mentioned that there are many different levels, from the worldly results to spiritual attainments, for being heedful of the qualities of the mind. We have to cultivate and develop both and should not stop only at the worldly level. Any worldly level and progress are unstable and can be changed.
Only the spiritual level is safe and leading to the ending of dukkha. Here I want to present a story in the Dhammapada about mindfulness on death—maraṇānussati—the great result it brought to a weaver girl. Not forgetting on death reminds someone not to follow one’s life in ordinary and useless ways. It sharpens one’s knowledge and develops the right thoughts or thinking. Therefore, maraṇānussati is a very useful meditation object for mundane and supramundane achievements.
It is also very close to the Noble Truth. With the regular contemplation, it reduces greed, hatred, and delusion. Also, it helps someone comes to the sense of wise urgency (saṁvega) regarding the fleeting nature of the world, suffering, and unsatisfactoriness of the world. With the saṁvega knowledge; he will not waste the human life span, and it encourages him for the practice to end dukkha. All the Buddha’s Teaching is not for intellectual knowledge, but we have to put into real practice, whether it is worldly or spiritual.
The story of the weaver girl supported this view. This mind development (bhāvanā) develops the wholesome roots of non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion. It supports these three wholesome roots. It also relates to heedfulness (appamāda.) It develops the perception of inconstant (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and not-self (anatta). It is helping to discern anicca, dukkha, and anatta of the three universal characteristics of the mind and body and their true nature.
The story of a weaver girl (Pesakāradhītāvatthu)
At that time the Buddha was residing in the country of Āḷavi. At the end of an alms-giving ceremony, he delivered a discourse on the inconstancy of the khandhas. He taught the people to be always mindful and put effort to perceive the true nature of the khandhas. With the practice, it was like armed with a weapon to meet a poisonous snake—i.e., Death. One who was ever mindful of death would face death mindfully.
And after death would have a good rebirth. In the audience was a 16 years old girl who understood the message and took it seriously, and practiced the teaching regularly. After three years had passed by. One day the Buddha was as usual surveyed the world to help living beings. He saw the young weaver woman (now 19) in his vision and knew that the time was ripe for her spiritual attainment. Three years ago, she had received the meditation on death from the Buddha.
She had done the practice regularly for three years now. Her perfection for the realization of the Dhamma was becoming mature. It was like a lotus bud waiting for the sunlight to open it up. Her mind was free from mental hindrances. Therefore, the Buddha went back to the country of Āḷavi for the second time to help her. She heard the news of the Buddha arrived and went to listen to his teaching.
On the same day, her father had also asked her to wind some thread spools which he needed urgently. So, she also took them together with her. She listened to the Buddha’s talk among the crowd. He also knew that the woman would die when she arrived in the weaving shed. So, the Buddha invited her came closer to him. And then he was asking her the following four questions.
These were not ordinary questions and answers as most people thought. Only the Buddha and the young woman knew them. So, the Buddha asked her to explain to them. The direct questions and answers of them were as follow.
The Buddha was satisfied with her explanations. And then spoke the following verse: Verse 174: “Blind is the people of the world, and only a few see them. Just like only a few birds escape from the net. So, only a few get to the world of deities and realize Nibbāna.” At the end of the talk, the young weaver entered the Stream (became a stream-winner). Then she continued the way to her father weaving shed.
When she got there, her father was asleep and suddenly woke up by her arrival. And then accidentally pulled the shuttle and the point of it struck his daughter’s chest, she died on the spot, and he was in broken-heart. With great sorrow and pain, he went to see the Buddha. The Buddha with Dhamma talk lightened his sorrow and pain. He had strong saṁvega (sense of wise urgency) and entered the monastic order. (Dhammapada-aṭṭhakathā, 13. Lokavaggo, 7. Pesakāradhītāvatthu, DhA. iii. 170-6)
With diligent practice and he became an arahant. Once, King Pasenadi of Kosala asked the Buddha a question: “Is there anyone dhamma in the world could complete and fulfill one’s goal in the present and future.” the Buddha short answer was—Appamāda Dhamma—Being heedful of the qualities of the mind. This is the highest protection with a blessing.
revised on 2021-03-16; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36970#p36970 (posted on 2019-11-20)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
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