Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The Voice of Dhamma
by Luang Ta Chi
Give advice and guidance to others to help them be
mindful. People often fall into danger when they act
negligently . . . In dangerous situations a true friend
gives advice on how to reduce as much as possible
unwholesome actions—whether by body, by word, or by thought.
1. Social Responsibilities
Human beings are social animals. They are born into society, and live within a structure of family, social groups, and political nations. Because of this condition, they are dependent upon the cooperation of family, neighbors, and co-workers to reach peaceful co-existence. It is, therefore, natural for humans to wish others well. They have an inborn concern about the well-being of those in danger. One of the first Buddhist social principles is that Buddhists should always be willing and eager to volunteer their time and skills to help those in danger. They should always follow the Buddha’s lesson, called the voice of Dhamma:
Give advice and guidance to others to help them be mindful. People often fall into
danger when they act negligently. They find themselves in danger because they
choose actions about which they do not think carefully. Remember that possible
bodily actions are shown by what people say and think. In dangerous situations, a
true friend gives advice on how to reduce as much as possible unwholesome
actions—whether by body, by word, or by thought.
Developing this idea further, the Buddha gives this advice:
Someone living alone becomes moody. That person should get a close friend.
When one friend acts improperly, the other can give advice and guidance to keep up
spiritual well-being. People with friends and associates perform better as human
As social animals, people have a strong desire to be accepted and respected by others. They can obtain this acceptance and respect by always knowing and carrying out their social responsibilities.
2. The Responsibility to Share Advice
The voice of Dhamma calls on us to help others by advising, guiding, and warning them throughout our lifelong journey in search of peace and happiness. To speak in the simplest way, we help those who misbehave by wishing them well and sharing our loving kindness. When we feel true concern for the well-being of others and treat them with kindness and respect, we are carrying out our social responsibilities, and can say that we have Dhamma in our heart and Buddhism as our religion. As members of society and as Buddhists, we are asked to practice the Buddhist principle of sharing loving kindness and advice.
The Buddha’s own use of advice, guidance, and warning was best shown when the followers of his two chief disciples—Moggallāna and Sāriputta—were bothering the other bhikkhus who were seriously studying the Dhamma. The Buddha knew the whole story and met with Moggallāna and Sāriputta to enable them to answer the accusations against their followers. The result of the meeting was that the Buddha told Moggallāna and Sāriputta to place the troublesome monks on probation, while also intensifying their training. Any monk who broke the rules while on probation would be removed from the Sangha. Obedient monks would learn good conduct through living with others in harmony and could remain in the Sangha. From this event it can be concluded that those who continue to misbehave will dislike the advisor, while those who correct their behavior will come to love him.
The Buddha’s voice of Dhamma calls us to help our neighbors with our advice, guidance, and warnings. This guidance deserves respect, because it comes from the Buddha’s many lifetimes of teaching. Following this advice, we obtain happy and peaceful lives. We do not suffer from revenge or very unfortunate results, because the voice of Dhamma guides us into the Buddhist ethical way of life, as we follow the Dhamma model and voluntarily dedicate our lives to serving the Buddha. When the voice of Dhamma tells us to act, to speak, to advise, or to think wholesome thoughts, we act accordingly. Leading our lives in accordance with the voice of Dhamma, we look forward to peace, happiness, and progress, as well as safety from danger. These are the benefits obtained by those who believe in the Buddha and follow the Dhamma.
Although many practicing Buddhists stay attached to the voice of Dhamma and service to the Buddha, others do not. In fact, many leave themselves open to the voice of the Devil (Māra or Satan). They allow the voice of Māra to echo in their ears all the time—carried through the voices of famous people on radio and television. Many become addicted to these people and are led into temptation. Instead of listening to the voice of Dhamma, they follow Māra along the path of evil.
Sadly, most people do not understand that a simple advertisement for liquor or sensual pleasure can plant seeds that ruin lives. Throughout history, advertising has helped liquor, pornography, and legalized gambling exist. The result has been a group of people in society addicted to alcohol, sex, and gambling. Advertisements have a harmful influence on those who want to be accepted into the crowd. Many people are tempted to often go to nightclubs, and become lost in worldly delusion. They do not understand that the voices they hear on radio and television are communicating the temptations of the Devil. This ignorance allows them to be pulled into places of wickedness like lambs to the slaughter. Sooner or later they become addicted to these environments. Indeed, it is easy to understand how such people can ruin their entire lives just from the influence of radio and television advertisements.
Fortunately, caring people in our community are always willing to reach out and help. They help by wishing healing and wellness to those experiencing misconduct. They advise them to go to the temple to learn the Dhamma. They also emphasize the importance of practicing the Dhamma in our daily lives, not only in times of personal crisis. Unfortunately, these caring efforts are often met with opposition.
Sometimes those involved in misconduct refuse help because they say they are too busy. They do not have time for such things. They must work from sunrise to sunset to earn their living. They appear to have no free time at all. My dear friends, this is always the language of those who turn away from the voice of Dhamma.
If someone invites those who turn away from what is right to a Dhamma talk, they are too busy. On the other hand, if the topic of a talk is superstition, health, love, how to become popular, or magic to guarantee long life, both men and women eagerly crowd into the place of the presentation. All seem to have time to participate, no matter how far they must travel or how much it costs.
Sadly, this is the attitude of most people in society today. They turn away from the voice of Dhamma towards the voice of Māra or Satan. This action starts them off on the wrong path. Because of human weaknesse and openness to temptation, people tend to listen to the voice of the Devil, and often lose their way on their lifelong journey. With firm conviction and continued effort, however, we can still guide these lost sheep away from the Devil, even in our present society.
I raise these topics to encourage awareness. We must be aware when advising, guiding, and warning others. We should give advice when our family, friends, or neighbors are in danger, taking the proper action to let them know that what they are doing is wrong. We do this in ways that will help guide them out of danger.
One way is to warn our friends when they are misbehaving—by body, by word, or by thought. As we advise them, we can show them how to guard against future traps. We can also explain the ways in which their improper actions could lead to further dangers. Then we guide them to become fully aware of the consequences of those dangers. Thus, the persons in danger may learn to become less selfish and to understand that their actions may ruin not only their lives but also the lives of their loved ones, associates, and neighbors.
When we warn our friends about their misconduct, our plan is to try to protect them from their unwholesome actions, which must ultimately lead to defilement. What is more, we will also show them how to live righteous and moral lives.
Those who are warned should think about their improper behavior and be thankful for the advice. Appreciating the advice helps them to make merit that will support progress in redirecting their lives towards success.
Following the voice of Dhamma and sharing with care our advice, guidance, and warning allow us to live our lives safely, happily, and prosperously in any environment at all times. So please accept and follow the voice of Dhamma.
3. The Responsibility to Wisely Select Associates
The Buddha also warns us to carefully choose friends and associates. We should avoid fools and choose wise friends and associates. There are four types of fools the Buddha warns us to avoid: the robber, the hypocrite, the flatterer, and the tempter.
The robber is an insincere friend. Clinging to you for personal gain, he will steal from you. The robber is a taker, not a giver. He does not take care of either his friends or his business. He never gives help, unless he has a hidden reason or is forced into it. Thus, the Buddha warns us to beware of the robber.
The hypocrite gives service to everything by words only. Many are hurt by his sweet words. He enjoys talking about the past and the future, but his conversation never amounts to anything. His talk sounds good, and he intends to do well, but his words are not sincere. The Buddha warns us not to take the hypocrite’s words seriously, because he is not who is says he is.
The flatterer will praise you whether you take right actions or wrong actions, in order to become your friend and supporter. The Buddha warns us to stay firm and remain unaffected by his flattery. The flatterer only appears to be your friend when he is in your presence. When you are not around, he will gossip about you behind your back. Like a poisonous snake, the flatter is full of danger.
The tempter always tries to lead us away from the Dhamma. The approach is direct: he makes fools of us by pulling us away to drinking at nightclubs or gambling at casinos. He may also persuade us to get involved in sensual activities that leave us sexually satisfied but emotionally empty. The tempter starts us on the road toward addiction to alcohol, gambling, or sex. He is the most dangerous of fools who can lead us deeply into evil
These are the four kinds of fools that the Buddha tells us to avoid. He advises us to keep away from them as friends. The voice of Dhamma warns us to stay away from all harmful misconduct—by body, by word, and by thought. We should limit our association to sensible friends, whose who are as precious as gems.
According to the Buddha, valuable friends are of four kinds: the sympathizer, the counselor, the helper, and the true friend.
The sympathizer is the caring friend, characterized by compassion and loving-kindness. He is a true friend in both body and mind—not the kind to offer lip service. The sympathizer always stands by his friends and offers a helping hand in good times or bad. Whether his friend lives in a hut or in a palace, he is at his side. The sympathizer loves his friends as much as himself. If someone speaks with contempt about them, he is ready to fight for them. He will continue to fight to the best of his ability until the opponent surrenders. However, if the opponent changes his stand to honor the friend, the sympathizer will also honor the former opponent. The Buddha encourages us to develop close relationships with such sympathetic friends. These friendships create happiness for all.
The counselor is a guide who leads his friends in the right direction, always adding benefit to their lives. When he sees his friends acting unwisely, he advises them to stop and shows the proper behavior. This gives his friends the opportunity to find and follow more fruitful and meaningful paths of life. The counselor advises his friends to read and listen to the Dhamma and to practice meditation in order to help them obtain peace of mind. These are the characteristics of the counselor. Value such friends. They will make your life happy, peaceful, and safe.
The helper is a friend who loves others wholeheartedly as he loves himself, not with lip service but with sincerity. Because of his love, he tries to protect them from difficulties and save them from obstacles. When he sees that his friends are not mindful, he tries to think of ways to lead them back onto the right path. He does not just leave them in ignorance to waste away their lives. The helper not only protects friends from danger, but he also tries to help them develop themselves and prosper. He can be depended upon in any personal or business situation, in trouble, or in sickness. In financial matters, he is always ready to give support—even beyond what is expected. The helper is a good friend. You should associate with him.
The true friend is usually called the friend indeed. Unlike ordinary associates, the true friend is very rare. True friends are blessed until death. They know everything about each other to a high degree, and share all their secrets. They are good people—wholesome and of reliable character, both internally and externally. A true friend must be very trustworthy, faithfully keeping all secrets—never even thinking of disclosing them. He protects the privacy of his friend as his own. True friends stick together and help each other throughout any disaster. Each is always willing to give up something for the other. The true friend is the friend who is always there in good times or bad. True friends always stick together through suffering or happiness. If you are lucky enough to meet with such a friend, the Buddha advises you to take good care of this friendship. True friends will support and help each other throughout their lives.*
*This essay was printed by the Wat Thai Washington, D.C., in December, 2000. The translator is unknown. In the present version, the original translation has been edited by Du Wayne Engelhart.
Posted by Dr.Handy Inthisan at 12:45 PM