Respect (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-05-29

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

The commentary explained it as showing respect in the appropriate way towards Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas, disciples of the Buddha (from ariya disciples to ordinary monks or saṅgha), one’s teacher and preceptor (i.e., for a monk); towards parents (father and mother), towards elder brother and sister, and towards others (e.g., old people).

The result of respect, reverence, veneration is good rebirth (human and heavenly worlds) If born as human will be in a higher-class family.

In quite a few suttas the Buddha mentioned non-decline of a Buddhist monk. One sutta was in the Book of seven, Aṅguttara Nikāya. Sutta 32: Appamāda— There a deity came to the Buddha and told him the seven qualities of respect or reverence which are possessed by a monk who would not decline.

These were: respectful towards the Buddha, Dhammas, Saṅgha, Samādhi, the training, appamāda and holding hospitality in reverence.

The Buddha agreed with him and retold this episode to the monks. Therefore, respect is not only with human beings but includes wholesome dhammas. Human beings do not respect to wholesome dhammas so that there are a lot of human problems and suffering arising in societies. So, the Buddha said, respect or reverence was a blessing.

We must show respect to respectable people, and it is a noble state of mind. It is a praiseworthy action in this life. And in the next life will have the result of a good and noble life. Therefore, it has good results in this life and after. The objects of respect are; the Three Noble Treasures of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha (Ti-ratana or Ratanattaya), one’s parents, one’s teachers, people who one older than us (especially old aged people), people have noble qualities and someone has gratitude on you.

The action of showing respect to respectable people supports the development of Brahmavihāra Dhamma—love (mettā), compassion (karuṇā), appreciative joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkhā) for both sides. So, both sides have benefits. The action of showing respect has four benefits; longevity, beauty, happiness, and strength (mind and body strength). These results were mentioned by the Buddha in a discourse. This story was in the Dhammapada: The Thousand (Sahassavagga).

The story of Āyuvaddhanakumāra

A couple had a son and took him to see the Buddha. They paid obeisance to the Buddha, and he said to the parents only by “May you live long.” Then the Buddha predicted the impending death of their son. To prevent his early death, he advised them to build a pavilion at the entrance of their home. Put the child on a couch in the pavilion. Invited the monks to recite the Parittas—Protective Charms for seven days there.

On the 7th day, the Buddha himself came, followed by deities from all over the universe. At that time an ogre named Avaruddhaka came there, waiting for the chance to take the child away. With many deities were arriving at the scene, the ogre had to retreat backward to give way, and he was very far away from the child. For the whole night, the recitation of parittas was going on, and then protected the child’s life.

The next day the parents took their son to see the Buddha. After the child paid respect to the Buddha, he said to him, “May you live long.” The Buddha also said that he would live up to 120 years and named him Āyuvaddhana. The child grew up, and one day with his companions went to see the Buddha and the saṅgha.

The monks recognized him and asked the Buddha; “For being is there any means of gaining longevity?” The Buddha’s answer was by respecting and honoring the elders, wise and virtuous people would gain longevity, beauty, happiness, and strength.

Then the Buddha spoke the following verse: Verse 109: “Someone always respects and honors those who are older and virtuous, the four benefits of longevity, beauty, happiness, and strength will increase.”

At the end of the talk, Āyuvaddhana and his companions entered the Stream. The actions of respect and honor are always practicing by the wise and noble people. We must know and understand what is valuable as valuable and must respect those who are respectable. We should have the right attitudes if not, will lose protection and blessing.

Ven. Sāriputta was ideal in this respect, and the most lovely human being on earth. (See—The biography of Ven. Sāriputta by Nyanaponika Thera) Every night Ven. Sāriputta paid respect to the direction of his first true teacher, Ven. Assaji (Ven. Assaji was the youngest of the pañcavaggika who listened to the Discourse of the Turing the Wheel of Dhamma. Sañjaya was his first teacher but belonged to an outside sect) and laid down his head towards the direction of Ven. Assaji. Some monks misunderstood his behavior. The first time, when he met Ven. Assaji, who was on his alms-round, admired his noble demeanor. He knew that Ven. Assaji was something special from others whom he had met before. Therefore, Sāriputta requested him for his teaching.

Ven. Assaji gave him a short verse on the teaching of cause and effect. After this short instruction and Sāriputta entered the Stream (became a sotāpanna). For Dhamma teaching, long or short is not important. The importance is its effectiveness. Mostly with long teaching and we do not get much benefit from it. In this respect with wise contemplation, we know that worldly matters and knowledge are wasting our times and life span.

Everything has their causes, and by stopping the causes and the result will stop. Craving (taṇhā) is the cause of suffering (dukkha). By destroying craving and dukkha will be ceased. By entering the stream, Sāriputta had strong gratitude and respect on his first true teacher Ven. Assaji. For wise and noble people, we have to focus on their noble qualities by respecting and honoring them. If we know and understand more and more Dhamma, our respect to the Three Noble Treasures— the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha are becoming greater.

Among monks, paying respect is according to seniority in rain years (vassas). Among common people, paying respect is according to older age or old people (e.g., younger siblings to older siblings.) Sometimes we pay respect to people for their knowledge and moral integrity. There was a jātaka story about three animals; a small bird, an elephant, and a monkey, on the matter of respect.

Three of them relied on a great banyan tree. One day they met together and discussed the matter of paying respect to others by their ages. The elephant mentioned that when he was young, he passed through this small banyan three underneath his stomach. The monkey said that when he was young, he used to eat the buds of the banyan tree.

The small bird told them that when he was young, there was no banyan tree at the same spot. Only after he ate the fruits of banyan from another place and excreted it at the same spot and this banyan tree grew out from the seeds of the excreta. Therefore, the small bird was the oldest of them. So, the day onwards the elephant and the monkey had to pay respect to the bird. (These three animals were the past lives of Ven. Sāriputta, Mahāmoggallāna and the bodhisatta).

The most important matter on the subject of respect is our attitudes to one’s parents and teachers. More important of the two is showing respect and honoring to one’s parent. If someone harmed one’s parents, the result of misdeed is heavier then to a teacher. For example, someone kills his parents and his teacher, the killing of one’s parents and after death for sure to fall into the hell existence in next life.

We should not doubt about it, because the Buddha himself mentioned it. From today media, we know some incidents very unpleasant to see, as to how some people treat their parents. There was more news about killing parents, beating, cursing and treating them very badly. When I was young, I never heard or seen these evil and ingratitude actions and behaviors in families.

These are the signs of decadence and bad omens for human societies. If these kinds of evil deeds and behaviors going on like this will become a bad culture and leading to the destruction of human beings. Respect, gratitude and honor to one’s parents and teachers are the foundation of goodness to arise. The Buddha himself had high regards about it and praised its qualities. Maybe this was one of the foundation and important cause for Chinese culture and civilization survived up to this day for over 3,000 years.

But other great cultures and civilizations were disappeared. With the foundation of goodness on respect, gratitude, honoring and duties to one’s parents and teachers develop love, kindness, appreciate joy, considerations for others truly bring happiness, peace and progress for human beings. This was one of the reasons why Chinese sages and noble beings paid attention and emphasis on it as a very important training and education.

Another has to be showed respect and gratitude is our teachers. This point is also very weak in nowadays societies. The young and the youth treat their teachers as equal and treat them as friends. Sometimes even worse than to a friend and it becomes very rude. They tease their teacher physically or verbally in the classrooms. A student no respect and gratitude to his teacher will never progress in the study and goodness.

Nowadays many teachers complain that students are difficult to teach and train, in the east or the west. The main reason is we use some modern views, such as—equality, human right, democracy, the wrong and unwholesome ways. Therefore, all these create problems and difficulties in family life and school. With wrong views and ideas in mind creates difficulty to teach and train the children and the students in the right and wholesome directions. It is like catching a poisonous snake—cobra or viper in the wrong way. Instead of grasping its head, we grasp on the tail.

If we use these sweet views and ideas, wrongly and improper ways increase the egocentricity, greed, hatred and delusion. And it will create negative results. We can see all these problems in politics, economics, societies, etc. It also likes a knife—it can become a tool for work or kill people. Therefore, the matter of respect or the results of respect is not small wholesome dhamma.

This quality has to be developed when people are still very young and should start from family life. Even we do not have respect and concern for our parents and teachers; there will be no hope on others. So, the Buddha emphasized it as protection with a blessing.

revised on 2020-05-29; cited from (posted on 2019-11-20)

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