Dhamma Articles

Living in peace, unity & harmony

I would like to commence this essay with a question “Can we live a normal life in society whilst practicing as true Buddhists?”

There is a misconception in some people that Buddhism is something only meant for the next life. Therefore, they think that Buddhism should be practiced in the last days of their lives.

Again, there are others who hold the view that Buddhism cannot be practiced by ordinary people, because it is so deep & lofty. To practice it one has to renounce one’s house hold life & become a monk.

Those who hold such views do so due to a lack of proper understanding of the Dhamma. The analysis of the results and benefits of morality and meditation, which are leading practices in the spiritual domain of the Buddha’s teachings, reveals that one can live in peace, unity and harmony as a member of a normal family in present day society.

One can also gain a better rebirth as a result of leading a virtuous life in accordance with morality (sila) and meditation practices (bhavana)

There are five benefits resulting from leading a moral life. The first one is, acquiring and enhancing one’s material gains - (Bhogakkhandam Adhigachchanti)

Buddhist moral conduct enables us to control our senses. It is true that one can live in this world without having food for the senses. The eye needs visual objects, the ear needs auditory objects, the tongue needs taste, the nose needs smells and the body requires tangible objects.

When enjoying amiable and pleasurable objects we get attached to them. With an increasing attachment, one tries to indulge in them. If one does not know the limits and the purpose of using these sense objects, one would spend all of one’s earning to gain more and more sensual satisfaction.

Besides, if one’s income is not sufficient to meet the expenses, anything would be done to earn more and more money, regardless of its moral validity. Considered against such a backdrop, it is obvious that observing precepts to abstain from excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures haas a great economic advantage.

The second one is, gaining popularity - (Kalyano Kittisaddo) - This is the second benefit resulting from being a virtuous person. It is true that some educated and talented people become quite popular due to their creative and productive performances. But, this type of fame spreads only to a certain extent for a limited time only. Real popularity springs up automatically when one behaves in a virtuous way. (A stanza to come in here)

The fragrance of flowers like sandalwood, tagara flowers and jasmine does not blow against the wind. But, the perfume of a virtuous person blows in all directions and pervades the whole atmosphere.

Another stanza says whosoever is perfect in morality and possesses the right view, is established in the Dhamma, speaks the truth and fulfills one’s duties, is highly popular and respected by everyone. Popularity cannot be gained by force.

The third one is, they have the ability to enter with self-confidence, into groups that are higher in morality and higher in social status - (visarado upasam khamati)

Evil doers are always suspicious of their behavior. Although, they are happy when committing unwholesome activities due to a lack of understanding of the gravity of what they do, they will become anxious and restless when they realize the evil consequences of such conduct.

They will feel guilty and worried for what they have done. Therefore, they will have no courage to go to different groups of people. Self-confidence is essential for a better spiritual and social life.

The negative kammic energy that is generated at the time when one engages in immoral activities does not allow one to acquire self-confidence and positive ways of thinking. That is why immoral people cannot associate with groups of people who are higher in morality and higher in social status.

The fourth one is, death without confusion - (Asammlho kalam karoti) - Dying with an impure mind is a great curse. When some people are on their death bed it is seen that they display great mental confusion through their body language, facial impressions, movements and words. This indicates that they are experiencing suffering at that very moment.

Generally, people become confused at the time of death because they begin to remember the unholy words they have spoken, deeds they have done and thoughts they have had during the early stages of their life.

On the other hand, some people are extremely happy and peaceful during the last hours of their life. Regular practice of meditation and living a virtuous life are the surest factors for dying with a peaceful mind, free of confusion.

The fifth one is, birth is happy world - (Parammarana brahmalokupanga hoti) - If one can maintain peace of mind at the time of one’s death, it would be a great blessing for him. Regenerative kammic power and repressed mental images and memories appear in the dying mind. If those things are positive, then the dying person will be happy and peaceful.

That can lead one to be born in happy realms. In Buddhism, human world and heavenly worlds are presented as worlds where beings can enjoy sensual pleasures (Kama sugati) and in the Brahma worlds there are two categories, one with material form (Rupa loka) and the other one without the material form or formless (Arupa loka). The beings in these worlds do not intend to enjoy sensual pleasures.

On the other hand, negative mental images and negative memories will make a dying person unhappy. They can lead one to be born in unhappy realms. These four kinds of realms are hell, (naraka) animal, (tirachchana) spirits (peta), demy gods (asura).

By the way, there are eleven benefits to be gained by practicing meditation on loving kindness. Those are…

01. Sleeps comfortably - (Sukham supati)
02. Awakes comfortably - (Sukham patibhujjati)
03. No evil dreams - (Na papakam supinam Passati)
04. Dear to follow human beings - (Manussanam piyohoti)
05. Dear to non-humans beings - (Amanussanam piyohoti)
06. Deities too protect them - (Devata rkkanti)
07. Fire, poison or weapons will not harm - (Nassa aggiva visam va sattam va khamati)
08. Concentration comes quickly - (Tuvatam chittam samadiyati)
09. Acquires a pleasant countenance - (Mukha vanno vippaseedati)
10. Dies without being confused - (Asammulho kammam karoti)
11. If he fails to attain Nibbana in this life, he will be born in the Brahma world - (Brahma lokupago hoti)

Dying with one of the first four meditative absorptions (Rupavachara jhyana) leads to birth in a sublime world of Material Realm (Rupa loka). Similarly, dying with one of the next four meditative absorptions (Arupavachara jhyna) leads to birth in one of the Formless Sublime worlds (Arupa loka).

Many of these benefits apply to this present life. Only four of them apply to future lives. Above all, Nibbanic bliss itself can be experienced in one’s own present life.

Now, let us look at some others relevant teachings of the Buddha, in respect to the material and spiritual progress of lay person’s life, as described in Vyagghapajja Sutta in Anguttara Nikaya.

On one occasion the Buddha was residing in a small village called Kakkarapatta in the Kolian country. A lay person by the name Dighajanu approached the Buddha and sat down after saluting him. He then explained to the Buddha the type of life they led.

In reply, the Buddha said, “there are four supportive factors which are conductive to welfare and happiness in the present life” Those are…

01. Sustained Endeavor - (Utthana sampada) - In whatever occupation by means of which one makes a living - whether framing, trading, cattle rearing, archery, serving the king or practicing any other craft, he should be skillful and not be lethargic. He should be smart and tactful in organizing and carrying them out.

02. Securing protection - (Arakkha samapada) - Whatever wealth that one has acquired righteously through continual endeavor with one’s physical and mental effort, by the sweat of one’s brow, must be carefully guarded. It should be protected so that it would not be seized by the king, stolen by robbers, washed away by floods or burnt up by fires. It should not be allowed to fall in to the hands of wrongful heirs.

03. Good friendship - (Kalyana mittata) - Wherever a person lives, in a community whether big or small, there could be elders or juniors who are highly cultured, endowed with faith (saddha), virtue (sila), generosity (caga) and wisdom (panna). One should meet with them and keep company with them. One must converse with them and engage in discussions with them. One would then be able to gain much from their company. Though such association, one should develop faith, virtue, generosity and wisdom.

04. Balanced living - (Sama jivikarta) - A person who correctly estimates the size of his income and expenses will lead a balanced life, without being extravagant or greedy. His income should be above his expenses and not the other way around. It is like holding a common balance in one’s hand to see which side is heavy and which side is light.

Most Venerable Royal Pundit Meegahakumbure Dhammagavesi Thero
The Chief Prelate of the Malwatta Chapter of the Siamese Sect in Australia,
Chief Incumbent of Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihara, Lankarama, Schofield, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

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