Abhidhamma in Daily Life (by Ashin Janakabhivamsa)

by Ashin Janakabhivamsa | 66,666 words

English translation of "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" by Professor Ko Lay. Revised by Sayadaw U Silananda, International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, 1999...

Part 4 - Food For Thought

This discourse shows us how objects of sensual pleasures of the Deva world can make us become oblivious of the noble Dhamma. Even Sakka, a Sotápanna Ariya with great intelligence and vigilance, cannot resist such arammanas, which deaden the conscious mind. He himself asked the Buddha a question; he himself listened and reply, and yet he could not recall the discourses in a matter of minutes. Such are the influences of the sensual pleasures he experiences in the celestial garden. Therefore the following lessons should be noted: -

1. Those who are virtuous and know that they are virtuous are very much likely to be reborn in higher abodes, namely human and Deva worlds, nowhere else. One cannot be a Brahma until achievement of jhana; and one cannot enter parinibbána until one becomes an Arahat. Even is one becomes a Deva; bare in mind that ariya persons like the Sakka are also liable to be forgetful of the Dhamma. If so, we are no exception. We may also forget whatever Dhamma we have accumulated.

2. Celestial beings generally spend their time enjoying the sensual pleasures of the Deva world and tend to disregard the Dhamma. If they pass away while craving for luxury, they are sure to be reborn in the four Apayas. Once, five hundred Devis passed away while singing and picking flowers in the garden. All of them are reborn in Avici hell.

3. To be reborn again as human is also no comfort. To be virtuous person in a worthy fashion - (a) one must be born in a period when the sasana flourishes, (b) majority of the people are righteous, (c) one’s parents and teachers are virtuous, (d) one must be born not to a wretched poverty but to a sufficiently well-to-do family. Only if these essential conditions are fulfilled will it be worth to be reborn as human being.

4. Considering the state of the sasana, we find virtuous persons are very rare to find these days. Sensual pleasures are abound; most people pursue vain pride and wealth; charity is done more for fame than for merit; reverence of the Sangha is contaminated with false pride and propaganda. Corruption is rampant even at the very top.

5. Devotees and supporters of the sasana do not send their children to the monasteries, so monastic education is fading out gradually. There are no more lay students in the most monasteries; without them how can there be samaneras (novices)? Without samaneras how can there be Bhikkhus well versed in the texts? If such situation prevails there soon would be no qualified abbots to preside over the monasteries. Most Bhikkhus would be ex-family men who renounced world life only at a ripe age and therefore nor versed in doctrines and disciplinary rules.

6. The supporters of the sasana mostly send their children to modern schools where the sole purpose of education is vocational training. But such education is for the benefit for this life only. Such education does not provide the knowledge of Magga, Phala and Nibbána. The products of such schools do not comprehend the effects of kamma. Hence it is unlikely for them to believe in the higher abodes or the lower woeful abodes. Such people with wrong views will surely not care to offer alms food, let alone the four requisites, to the Sangha.

7. In future the younger generation will no more be fortunate enough to inherit wealth from their parents. Nowadays parents have to struggle hard even to afford education for their children. Novel commodities in the form of diverse consumer goods are abound in the markets. When children grow up and earn their living, it will be difficult for them to make both ends meet. Or they may have to resort to illegal means of acquiring wealth. In such hard times, how could people support the sasana?

8. Bhikkhu do not at all attempt to modify the old monastic system to keep pace with the time. They are responsible for giving basic education as well as ethical teaching. Conditions are now favorable, yet some monastic schools do not devise their plans on modern lines. They cannot attract the interest of today’s parents. Persons with modern education look down upon the system of monastic schools. So will they have the goodwill to support the sasana? On reflection we will find that the decline of the sasana is approaching.

9. In future the majority will not be virtuous person endowed with morality. The age of righteous person is the time when mettá, karuna and Mudita flourish. Today loving-kindness is a rarity. Without loving-kindness there could be no compassion for the poor and no sympathetic joy for the wealthy. Today the world is full of envy, jealousy, hatred, pride and greed. Both strata, the high and the low, are cultivating vain pride in the different manner, conceit by the elite, hurt, pride or contempt by the downtrodden.

10. Everyday we find novel commodities and sources of pleasures everywhere; and so greed gains momentum, just like adding fuel to fire. Greed when it cannot be satisfied leads to intense hatred; and further on to atrocities, murders and wars. If righteous people are rare these days, what will be the future like?

11. With righteous people getting rarer and rarer in future there will be few good parents and teachers. In the midst of the immoral society, future generation will find difficulty to be righteous without the moral guidance of parents and teachers. It is not easy then to go to Deva loka, to enjoy sensual pleasure there. Not it is easy to be reborn in the human world where akusala (unwholesome deeds) are burgeoning.

12. I would like to relate my experience at the Yangon railway station in 1957. I came to Yangon to attend the consecration a shrine. On my return a Bhikkhu friend from Yangon saw me off at the station. While we were waiting for the train, we saw people rushing, pushing violently fighting for seats on the trains as it was shunted into the station. I was made to understand that it was a daily scene.

13. I began to reason like this. The train journey will last two days at the most. Lest they do not get good seats, some push and elbow violently for a good seat. Some pay extra money to have a reserved seat; on the train they scout for trustworthy companions; some feel unhappy if their seats are not to their liking; some are overcome by anxiety if their neighbors look dishonest.

14. If people can take such toil for a journey of just two days, why can't they exert enough effort for the long, long journey, passing through many existences to arrive at Nibbána? Why can't the endeavor to get good places, to find the right companions to accompany them on this long journey? If, by chance they be reborn in the four Apayas, they will suffer life long and akusala will be on the increase life after life; they will never get good seats in the long journey through samsara.

Even when they become human beings they will be poor, needy and destitute. To avoid such catastrophes they should try really hard to be reborn in happy abodes. If they can try hard enough to get seats for a two-say railway journey, why can't they do so for a life-long journey. They are so short sighted, and lack of intelligence. I began to feel pity for their stupidity; and I told my companion Bhikkhu of my thoughts.

15. Readers of this book should consider these facts seriously and try to comprehend the unique Dhamma as much as one could manage. If you have already accumulated some parami perfections in many past existences, you should continue your efforts in the line of minimizing evil deeds and consolidating your parami such as Dana and Síla. Only then you will be a virtuous Deva in the Deva world; or a virtuous human in the human world. Like Bodhisattvas who practice parami perfections even in the dark ages void of sasana, you should try to fulfill your parami perfections as much as possible so as to gain habits and maturity in the performance of wholesome deeds.

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