Dhamma is the greatest treasure.
A person who has Dhamma is never lonely, but full of strength, knowledge, awareness, and happiness!
Sunnataram California Meditation Monastery
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THE VALUE OF LIFE
by Venerable Phra Ajahn Yantra Amaro Bhikkhu
A talk given at Wat Lao Buddharam Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand
on 14 January 1990
Lokopatthambhika metta ti
Dear Teachers, Venrable Monks, Senior Monks, Monks, Novices, Dhamma friends, and those of you interested in doing wholesomeness, best wishes to you all. Today is a special occasion for us all to come together. The good things we do now, such as presenting food and other offerings to the monks, taking the precepts, and listening to this Dhamma talk, are all part of doing merit.
Today is the 14th of January 1990, the 4th day of the waning month of the second lunar months of the Buddha year 2533. New year has come and gone very quickly, and last year went quickly too. Like the years, our lives also proceed in cycles, continually changing from happiness to suffering, from success to disappointment, from peace to agitation, all mixed together.
New year has already passed. Have you ever wondered whether, in the time that has passed, you have done anything substantial, or anything to cultivate your own self? Do you feel that things have improved, or do you still find life full of suffering, hardship, and problems, with no peace within or without yourself?
Let us examine ourselves. Today I would like to give a Dhamma talk on the phrase I spoke at the beginning, Lokopatthambhika metta - loving kindness supports the wolrd. Loving kindness (meta is very important part of how we live our life. The Buddha was full of loving kindnes and compassion (karuna). He was so willing to teach and advise us how to increase our mindfulness (sati) and wisdom (panna), our faith and confidence (saddha) to do the right thing so as to improve our behaviour.
The world consists of animals, plants, and many other things such as the landscape, rivers, the air, and the sky. We are all parts of this living world. We are born of our parents, our parents were born of our grandparents, and so on back through time, and so we all have ancestors long ago that influence us even now. As the world supports us with its air, land, water and so on, so our paents carefully and tenderly look after us after we are born, love us, and are kind to us. If we realized the great goodness of their loving kindness, we would show better that we also love them. Loving kindness (metta) leads to happiness, and so we should extend loving kindness toward our parents. That would extend their loving kindness to other beings, to our friends, and to people we love, know, and respect. This would enlarge their loving kindness to include everyone in the world, just as the sun shines on the earth regardless of area or position.
The rays of the sun, which shine evenly everywhere regardless, are a very real and natural analogy of Dhamma. The Earth supports human beings and all life on it, and enables living things to develop and grow. Everything we eat and use comes from this Earth, and so does the water that we drink or wash in or use for many other purposes. Also the land, rivers, the sky, the air we breathe, and the energy from the sun all come from nature. All these things that nature provides enable us to survive and be happy and peaceful. The sun gives light and makes the wind blow; streams keep us col and moist. All these things allow human beings and animals to wash and drink and enables plants and vegetables to grow. The rain falls, cools and waters the plants, dries up and returns to the sky as clouds and mist, and then returns to earth again wen conditions are right. The cyclic changes we see reveal the relationships between natural things, which are neccessary for their continued existence but are normally hidden in the loving kindness of nature. We can see the sun shining or the rain falling on the earth at no expense to us. Nature gives and gives, all the time.
This temple continually deposits rubbish on the land where it stands, but the land never complains. Instead, it accepts the rubbish with loving kindness (metta) and equanimity (upekkha). The land never complains when stamped on, or hammered, or dug or drilled into, but only gives. What I am saying is that nature always gives. Let us ask ourselves, what have we given to the world: What, even, do we give to ourselves before our life ends?
Life is uncertain. So all of us in this room and in the world must give our best, i.e., loving kindness to all. Nobody wants suffering or trouble, rather, they want happiness and success, and they want to reach their goal. If we realize this , then let us not hurt nor harm each other. All beings love their lives and themselves, so we should not harm each other. The Buddha introduced good conduct and morality (sila) to establish moral behavior in this world.
Examine carefully what I have said, but don't believe it until you carefully investigate it over and over again. Once you have experienced it yourself, then you can believe it. The teaching of the Buddha is the truth, but you have to experience it yourself to make it real. When we have done this, loving kindness will create wholesomeness (kusala) in us. Then we will not hurt or kill other beings or people nor steal from them, and we will not even think of doing so. When we are filled with wholesome thoughts and loving kindness, we can never do wrong nor commit adultery.
When we are concerned with verbal action (avoidance of lieds, unkind and harsh words, and idle chatter), if we had wholesome loving kindness (kusala metta), we would never use rude words, insinuating nor abusive speech, and neither would we gossip. We would avoid such words completely. When we are imbued with Dhamma, body actions and verbal actions are controlled by moral virtue (sila). Moral virtue is present in everyone sitting peacefully here. When your minds are calm and peaceful, your body and verbal actions are virtuous, even before or after you take the precepts. But I cannot guarantee that moral virtue will stay with you after you leave here.
When we are quiet and calm, that is, when we have moral virtue, it is naturally present in everybody. At this moment, when we are normal, calm, and at peace, that is wholesomeness (kusala). It is not beyond our ability to practice in order to find truth. It is simply penetrating to and knowing the pure nature in each of us. The Buddha called this silam, normality. Normal people are calm and peaceful in their body, mind, and verbal actions. Abnormal people are restless and without peace in body, mind, and speech.
Restlessness is not normal, and whatever causes the mind to suffer will make the body suffer also. You may notice that when someone is angry or greedy their eyes appear enlarged, and turn green or red. When the person is deluded, their eyes appear strange, as if something were covering them so that they cannot see properly, and so they misunderstand. Whatever they try to do seems to go wrong, and when they speak, untrue words come out unintentionally. They are occupied by defilements (kilesa). So the Buddha advised us always to look after our minds, to be mindful (sati) or the present moment. With such awareness we can control ourselves, our actions, our speech, and our thoughts, which we should carefully examine. Remember our duty, that, having been born, we should think of others and try to see if what we do we can do better. Try to do the best you can.
Whoever has a duty to do, such as charity, do it with your best effort. It is your daily responsibility to do so. If you are parents, be good parents. You know what that means -- look after and care for your children, and support and guide them in the right way, the way that is bright, clear, and full of virtue (sila-dhamma). Gude them to the light of the Dhamma way. Teach Dhamma to your children.
Children you must be the best possible offspring from your parents, by not causing your parents unhappiness, worry, nor disappointment with your behavior; by not being lazy, but by giving them a hand whenever they need it. Teachers you must do the best for your students, by being loving, kind, supportive, by guiding them to the right way. Students you should do your best to make your teacher happy by good behavior, and by acting in accord with the good Dhamma that your teacher guides you to. This is your duty.
Natural things also have their duties. Anything born without duty has no Dhamma. If parents do not do their duties, i.e., if they neglect their children and let them do whatever they want to do, such parents are not considered human. Even animals love their young. Some parents neglect their children and are not responsible for them. These parents should not be called human. They appear human, but inside we do not know what they are. They could be a ghost, giant, or demon (mara). I haven't seen a real ghost or giant yet, but I have seen demons in the human heart, the demons of greed, delusion, violence, revenge, and anger. This kind of ghost is more dangerous than a "real" ghost. I haven't heard a ghost really scare or haunt people, but I hear people often scare or deceive other people. Nearly every day this sort of happening appears in the newspapers. Sometimes it happens directly to you, you don't have to read it in the newspaper. Sometimes sisters or brothers curse each other, and when this ghost enters they become very angry and misunderstand each other. I call this type of ghost a ghost of the mind, such as a kilesa ghost, a terrible ghost, an angry ghost, or a lazy ghost, and I don't want to meet any of them. I suggest you try and avoid them also.
There are ways of protecting yourselves from these ghosts: do good, and the ghost is afraid: speak rightly, and the ghost is afraid. On the other hand, think evil, and you will be eaten by ghosts. These are simple methods. Do them like I said, i.e., think or speak of good things with love, kindness, and compassion. Forgive and forget, and try to help others. If you do, the ghosts will be afraid of you, and your heart and mind will become right and virtuous. Ghosts don't like virtue, and so they have to leave. If virtue goes, the ghosts will return. So we should keep virtue within our hearts and think about the goodness of the Buddha. The Buddha was full of patience, tolerance, wisdom, and kindness to all living beings, especially human beings, by tirelessly giving his pure love, compassion, and supreme knowledge of Dhamma. After enlightenment he lit a shining lamp to guide people all over the world, and to cultivate the light within human hears. In particular, those with dust in their eyes cannot see the light of life very well, but if they follow his footsteps they will see the way to live their life, the way to perfection, peace, and happiness. It depends on whether or not we practice as he taught.
Our life gradually deteriorates all the time. Each year passes and a new one arrives very quickly, we are another year older, with one less year of life remaining. Children grow up and reach puberty, and then become old men and women.
I am getting old. none of us will get younger, we all grow old and wilt. Some day we all have to eave everything. Some people accept that, and try to do the best they can before life finishes. Like a candle which melts as it produces light, our life diminishes, but what do we get in return: the life that remains to us becomes less and less, melting away with time and the happenings of each day. Do we leave anything worthwhile or useful behind? Will there be any goodness, peace, or shade in the world for the youngsters who come along later.