IBC Kathina Celebration - 2020
Dhamma sharing by Venerable Dr. Gyanabodhi
It is very important to have a proper perspective about life and existence if one wishes to overcome the painful saṃsāric journey. Sammā diṭṭhi or right view is placed as the first factor in the noble eightfold path, because it sets the direction for the practitioner to progress towards achieving the goal, that is, freedom from the existential suffering. So, it can be said of the right view that without a proper understanding of it one gets stuck forever in the cyclic existence of saṃsāra. In fact, the remaining factors of the noble eightfold appear to be meaningless if not accompanied by the right view [as stated in the Mahācattārīsakasutta].
The right view refers to an understanding of the four noble truths: that there is dukkha in life and it is not without causes (samudaya); that there is a possibility of ending this dukkha (nirodha) by following the noble eightfold path (magga). It also means that whatever kamma we perform with our body, speech and mind, they are not without consequences. In fact, our very existence is built around kamma, we are heirs of kamma, born of kamma; and it does not matter however much we try to escape from the vipāka of the kamma, it cannot be done as kamma follows us everywhere [Dhp-127]. The right view also means that we have a proper understanding of our existence that what we refer to as ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine’ are actually superimpositions; in reality there is nothing in the body or in mind that can be regarded as ‘self’ (atta) and called as ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ [Anattalakkhanasutta].
It is only with right view that one can have right determination in life based on which one can then make right effort to peruse his goal. The journey of prince Siddhattha as extraordinarily expressed by Aśvaghoṣa in his Buddhacārita is an excellent example in this regard. As it is well known, he left the palace after seeing the four sights, viz., an aged person, a sick person, a dead person and an ascetic, in search of deathlessness. No one including his father king Suddhodhana was able to stop him. Such was his determination based on right understanding of the reality of existence.
What then could be the proper approach that one should undertake as followers of the Buddha to overcome the painful samsāric journey?
The Buddha’s instruction to his only son Rāhula is noteworthy here. Once the Buddha after arising from his meditation went to meet Rāhula in the Mango grove close to the Kalandaka nivāpa in Rājagaha. In their conversation Buddha asked Rāhula the purpose of a mirror to which Rāhula answered ‘it is for reflection, venerable sir’. The Buddha then gives him the most beautiful teaching which, as described in the sutta, is described as the guiding principle for all the enlightened beings of the past, present and future to actualize their goal. The instruction is that whatever kamma one wishes to perform through body, speech and mind, one has to reflect on the nature of his kamma before performing it, during the time of its performance and after performing it thus that if his kamma is harmful or beneficial to himself and the society. This would direct him to engage in wholesome actions and avoid unwholesome ones.
Furthermore, an important instruction is found to have been given by the Buddha to both his monastic and lay followers to keep them in the right path in life. The instruction is as follows: the Buddha says that one should reflect daily on five aspects in life, namely:
1) I am sure to become old, I cannot avoid aging;
2) I am sure to become sick; I cannot avoid sickness;
3) I am sure to die; I cannot avoid death;
4) Beings and things close to me will be separated; and
5) I am the heir of my kamma – be it good or bad …
These daily reflections help us lead a life according to the dhamma that would enable us to end our cyclic existence in saṃsāra.
Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful life!
sabbe sattā sukhitā hontu!