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Dhamma Articles

The Birthday Gift


In today’s society birthday parties are a frequent occurrence. These days’ birthday parties are held, be it at home or in restaurants, hotels, floating restaurants, cruise ships etc. The traditional gifts given could be cloths, perfumes, gift vouchers, foreign trips and may even be motor cars with the affluent section of the society. There are still others who might serve alms to Bhikkus, to elders or even to beggars on the birthday, while still others may resort to sponsor broadcasting of Dharma Discourses on TV and Radio.

The story I wish to tell here is pure fiction but centered on this same thing, birthday and the gifts given on birthdays.

Once upon a time there lived two young people and as was the custom then got married. They were very rich people with almost everything. After couple of years they were blessed with a son. The parents were not only rich but very wise and had the ability to see the future. So they decided to do something special for their son but kept it a secret from the child. As was the custom, at every birthday of their son there was a party at home for the relatives and friends. The child began his education in a prestigious school in the country. Time passed and by the time child reached his 18th birthday, both parents passed away having bequeathed all their wealth to the son. Just before their death, they told the son that there are two very important letters they have written, which should only be opened once the boy reaches the age of 21 years.

The kid having lost his parents at such a young age was very sad and his birthday parties became a very sedate affair. On his 21st birthday he decided to host his relatives and friends at a very low key function since his parents are no more. After the function, it suddenly dawned upon him that there are two important letters written by his parents which should be opened on the 21st birthday. He took the large envelope where the two letters were kept marked 1 and 2 with instructions to open the first one only. When he opened the first letter he found a Fixed Deposit Receipt from a reputed bank for 80 million in his country currency.

Having decided to check on the current status of the FD, he went to the bank and met the manager. The bank manager checked the bank documents and told the young man that the current balance is only 59 million. Utterly taken back and with much chagrin and anger the boy shouted that the bank has stolen his money and threatened to sue the bank. The manager calmly showed him the special agreement that the parents has entered into with the bank where each year the balance is reduced by one million. The manager told the young man that it was the wish of his parents to do this deposit with those conditions.

Saddened by what has happened, the boy quickly returned home and was trying to understand as to why his parents has done this special fixed deposit. Then suddenly it dawned upon him that there is a second letter and taking the letter from the drawer he opened it.

The text of the letter read as follows,

“Son, we know that you are very sad and angry now and probably shouted at the bank manger. Son we did this deposit in this manner because we wanted it that way. You are very sad that 21 million has been wiped away in 21 years. But then yesterday on your 21st birthday, did it ever occur to you that 21 years from your life has been wiped out? We are certain that you did not shout but instead would have enjoyed with your friends and relatives.

Son we did this FD because we saw that we will pass away before you reach 21 years. We also saw that you will live to be only 80 years old. So you only have 59 more years left now. You certainly can withdraw the 59 million from the bank and deposit again in a fresh Fixed Deposit and we are certain that within 5 to 6 years you will recover the lost 21 million and the Fixed Deposit value will continue to increase in the years to come. But will the number of years in your lifespan increase? No your age balance will only decrease with each passing year. Son you can still invest the 59 balance years. You can do it in two ways for others as well as for yourself,

* Son there are thousands of people in our country with no abode, no money or food or ability to get education. You know that in our business portfolios and in the funds we left for you there is great opportunity for you to help these people through benevolence. Also you will get merits when you do such good things.

* The other is to build for yourself that ultimate bliss. We in our own way did that as long as we lived, Meditation both Mindfulness Meditation and Vipassana Meditation. This son is the surefooted path to ultimate purification.

Son, when you become steeped in virtue of right speech, right action and right livelihood, it helps you to go forward in right striving, right mindfulness and right concentration. With virtue and concentration bestowed in you, you will be able to fulfill the final step of wisdom, right view and right thoughts.

Son in the Paththakamma Sutta the Enlightened One extolled us on the five giving,

* GNATHI BALI – Caring for your relatives. When they come to see you take good care of them and help them in their need.
* PUBBA PETHTHA BALI – Give alms to Bhikkus and to those in need, do acts of merit and then pass on those merits to your relatives & friends who have left this world.
* DEVA BALI – Even the gods seek merits from you and others. When you do good, pass on the merits to the gods and they will be very happy.
* ATHITHI BALI – Even if strangers come looking for your help do what you can. Even in your business tell you staff that it is of great merit to attend to the needs and wants of customers. Long before people started taking of CRM (customer relationship management) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) the Enlightened One has told us on the moral value of attending to others needs.
* RAJA BALI – Pay your taxes. To not pay your taxes is immoral. Of course the Enlightened one extolled those in power not to burden the people too much with taxes but to collect dues and invest same wisely for better future of all.

The Buddha said that it is rare to be born as a human being, very rare to be able to listen to Dharma, rare it is to be of all faculties and extremely rare for a Buddha to be born. You are blessed with such rare gains and it would indeed be wise if you would be able to make full use of these rare gains.

Of course we are not telling you not to host birthday parties or be happy. But make sure that what you do is right for you and for others. Invest these 59 years balance that you have so that you can find the ultimate liberation.

Do you know son that great majority people only give their attention to this somatic body? But can you imagine it being left without washing and cleaning for about two weeks? It will surely smell like a cesspit. But no one will let that happen but clean it day in and day out and apply all those ointments and perfumes to smell better and look better.

But then how many people in this planet think of cleansing the defiled consciousness? All our life what we do is take the name & form (nama/rupa) with the aid of our six touch agencies and illustrate our consciousness with negativity. Name & Form are the precursor to mind and if you illustrate it negatively then the mind and mind moments too will be negative and defile you. A defiled mind will not enable you to lead a happy life here or hereafter.

So here is our advice to you, while doing your business in the most moral way work on your mind as well. That can be done with Mindfulness and Vipassana Meditation. Develop mindfulness and with that insight on the principle of arising and ceasing. The day you realize it, you are a stream-enterer and will never ever be born in a lower abode and at the most will have only 7 more births. Also while doing so in your own life, give it to your employees, your friends and relatives. Of course not all will welcome that but some will.

Son, we have left for you hundreds of millions of rupees and many assets. We owned those when we were living but left it all for you to take care. But one day you also will leave without all those assets except the asset of righteousness and the truth of Dhamma which will only be your companion. Also remember that of all the giving, the gift of Dhamma is the most supreme.

So go forth striving to break up this whirlpool of Name & Form and Consciousness. Those who put an end to this illustration of the consciousness are the Arahaths. As the Buddha said in his last discourse before Parinirvana at Kusinara, these conditioned formations are subject to decay and therefore make haste and strive to attain the ultimate goal.

Acchecchi vattam, bayaga nirasam. Visukka saritha na sandathi. Chinnam vattam na vattathi. Esevantho dukkhassa.

The whirlpool is broken, attained freedom from all desires. The dried-up stream no longer flows. The whirlpool broken no longer turns. This, just this is the end of Dukka (suffering).

Be happy, take care of yourself and do your business and lead a happy life. While living the mundane life remember that this is not a permanent thing and subject to eternal decay. So strive hard and make a path for your escape from this sansara. Make that island of refuge for you where no current of desire will ever wash you away.

That which is not owned and not grasped, is itself the island of refuge, and is called Nirvana where the decay and death are not there. (Parayana Vagga, 118)

Though one may conquer thousand times thousands of men in battle, yet he is the noblest victor who conquers himself. (Dhammapada, 103)

Yours loving Mother and Father!

Sugath Rajapakse
Formerly Senior Commercial Manager at Sri Lankan Airlines and presently Consultant to Air India GSA in Sri Lanka.

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