Gain, Honour and Praise

S17.5 Laabhasakkaarasa.myutta, Connected discourses on Gains and Honour translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

At Saavatthii. “Bhikkhus, dreadful are gain, honour, and praise, bitter, vile, obstructive to achieving the unsurpassed security from bondage. Suppose there was a beetle, a dung-eater, stuffed with dung, full of dung, and in front of her was a large dunghill. Because of this she would despise the other beetles, thinking: ‘I am a dung-eater, stuffed with dung, full of dung, and in front of me there is a large dunghill.’  So too, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu here whose mind is overcome and obsessed by gain, honour and praise dresses in the morning and taking bowl and robe, enters a village or town for alms. There he would  eat as much as he wants, he would be invited for the next day’s meal, and his almsfood would be plentiful. When he goes back to the monastery, he boasts before a group of bhikkhus: ‘I have eaten as much as I want, I have been invited for tomorrow’s meal, and my almsfood is plentiful.  I am one who gains robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicinal requisites, but these other bhikkhus have little merit and influence, and they do not gain robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicinal requisites.’ Thus, because his mind is overcome and obsessed by gain, honour and praise, he despises the other well-behaved bhikkhus. That will lead to the harm and suffering of this senseless person for a long time. So dreadful, bhikkhus, are gain, honour and praise, so bitter, vile, obstructive to achieving the unsurpassed security from bondage. Therefore, bhikkhus you should train yourselves thus: ‘”We will abandon the arisen gain, honour, and praise, and we will not let the arisen gain, honour and praise persist in obsessing our minds.’ Thus you should train yourselves.”

The simile of the dung beetle and the dung hill is interesting since it shows the true value of material requisites such as food, clothing, lodging and medicines. These are useful to provide the conditions for life but are not to be clung to or obsessed over. These items are simply a means to support life so that we may develop higher faculties and overcome suffering once and for all.

The hindrance here is the maana-conceit of comparing oneself with others.  Although the Blessed One has pointed out the case of someone who believes they are superior to others, there is also the harm caused by someone who thinks they are inferior to others. Both people are at fault for judging themselves and others and comparing criteria that are not important. This latter point indicates the source of the problem is a type of wrong view. For those who consider themselves superior or inferior by assessing material possessions are implying that material possessions are important and may even go as far as assuming a permanent self that is superior to others that also have a permanent self or soul. It is a short step to then construing a view that a deity may have blessed them with gain, honour and praise because of their inherent and enduring superiority or alternatively cursed them on account of their inherent inferiority.

For those obsessed with gain, honour and praise are more likely to kill, steal, lie, sexually misbehave and do other evil deeds in order to satisfy their desires. Being obsessed and overcome with gain, honour and praise is distracting and spoils concentration. With a mind easily distracted and concentration weakened, a person is unlikely to develop wisdom and find liberation from suffering.  In fact, with low concentration and being easily distracted, one is likely to find pain and suffering in this life.

The following sutta includes a reference to those who are obsessed by a lack of honour…

S17.10 Laabhasakkaarasa.myutta, Connected discourses on Gains and Honour translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

At Saavatthii. “Bhikkhus, dreadful are gain, honour, and praise…. Bhikkhus, I see some person here whose mind is overcome and obsessed by honour, with the breakup of the body, after death, reborn in a state of misery, in a bad desitnation, in the netherworld, in hell.  Then I see some person here whose mind is overcome and obsessed by lack of honour… reborn in a state of misery… Then I see some person here whose mind is overcome and obsessed by both honour and lack of honour, with the breakup of the body, after death, reborn in a state of misery, in a bad destination, in the netherworld, in hell. So dreadful, bhikkhus are gain, honour, and praise… Thus you should train yourselves.”
  This is what the Blessed One said. Having said this, the Fortunate One, the Teacher, further said this:
  “Whether he is showered with honour,
  Shown dishonour, or offered both,
  His concentration does not vacillate
  As he dwells in the measureless state.

  When he meditates with perseverance, 
  An insight-seer of subtle view
  Delighting in the destruction of clinging,
  They call him truly are superior man.”

Perhaps a person obsessed by gain, honour and praise would seek to protect or increase existing levels by committing various crimes. Others who are obsessed by an apparent lack of gain, honour and praise may give up trying to increase their own gain, honour and praise, and instead through jealousy, work hard to reduce their rivals’ gain, honour and praise.  They may also commit various crimes in the process. Either way, anyone obsessed in this way will take the dark path and increase suffering for themselves.


Striving for the Breakthrough

S13.1 Abhisamayasa.mutta, Connected Discourses on the Breakthrough, translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
(ATI translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

Thus I have heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Saavatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anaathapi.n.dika’s Park. Then the Blessed One took up a little bit of soil in his fingernail and addressed the bhikkhus thus:
  “Bhikkhus, what do you think, which is more: the little bit of soil that I have taken up in my fingernail or this great earth?”
  “Venerable sir, the great earth is more. The little bit of soil that the Blessed One has taken up in his fingernail is trifling. It does not amount to a hundredth part, or a thousandth part, or a hundred thousandth part of the great earth.”
  “So too, bhikkhus, for a noble disciple, a person accomplished in view, who has made the breakthrough, the suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated is more, while that which remains is trifling. The latter does not amount to a hundredth of the former mass of suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated, as there is a maximum of seven more lives. Of such great benefit, bhikkhus, is the breakthrough to the Dhamma, of such great benefit is it to obtain the vision of the Dhamma.”

The “breakthrough to the Dhamma” and “to obtain the vision of the Dhamma” are metaphors for the attainment of stream entry – sotapanna. This is a very important stage of development.

Many lay followers obtained this breakthrough and vision during the lifetime of Gotama Buddha. Strive with diligence.

Positive Affirmations

One way I found to help me achieve goals is to do regular positive affirmations.
1. Write out 3-5 important short term goals such as

“I am growing slim and healthy each day”
“I am getting stronger and fitter all the time”
“I am confident and resilient despite discouraging remarks from others”
“I can achieve whatever goals I set”

2. Stick the paper with these affirmations in a place that you will notice early in the morning and repeat them each day until you can memorise them.
3. keep repeating them to yourself whenever you have a spare moment and can remember to do so.
4. After a few weeks you will see a change in your behaviour and will be even more confident in your ability to achieve goals. You can then adjust your goals and set new goals.

The idea is to write goals that are achievable in the short term or can be ongoing. For example, the goals of going to Europe may be a bit long term and could be saved for next year or even later than that. You really need to focus on the tasks and outcomes that come earlier on.

Don’t let negative people around you stop you achieving your goals. Sometimes people will criticise you or offer advice that may challenge your existing views. Examine their views and only take what is useful and really is good advice. You can ignore bad advice or people who are teasing for fun. The key here is to build resilience and determination.

Four Factors for Success Applied to Worthy Projects

May everyone successfully complete worthy projects. May those projects be beneficial and not harmful.

I would like to share the four factors for success – chanda, viriya, citta and vimamsaa also known collectively in Paali language as the iddhipaada. [source: Samyuttanikaaya 51.1-86]

1. Chanda is the sincere wish to accomplish your goal. It manifests as aspiration and determination.

Be clear about the goal. Visualise, feel, hear or imagine what it would be like to achieve the goal. Create an implementation plan which explains in some detail how to achieve the goal. The plan will include lists of milestones with dates and deliverables. Divide the project into smaller tasks and then note which tasks depend on other tasks (dependencies). Note things that could go wrong (risks) and note resources that will help you along the way. Consider how to minimise the risks and outline the tactics for dealing with risks in the plan. Consider how to marshal the helpful resources and incorporate these tactics in the plan. Include a budget section in the plan.

Plan time and space for your personal life during the period you are working on your project. Make a detailed schedule or calendar showing when things are due. You can modify all of the above as you go. Sometimes there are events outside your knowledge that will impact on deliverables and time frames so you have to be flexible. Even so, it is good to have a clear and detailed implementation plan to achieve your goal.

Write the primary project objective in one or two sentences. Describe it in one page. Prepare this and stick it right above your computer screen, the back of your toilet door, the fridge door, the bed room door and everywhere you will notice it. Read it every day and check if it needs to be changed.

At least once a day you need to spend at least a few minutes focusing on your goal.

2. Viriya is the energy and effort applied to accomplish your goal. It manifests as persistence.

Keep checking the implementation plan to stay on track. Use the plan as a key motivator and guide whenever you are confused or vague about what to do right now.

If sometimes you lack energy then you increase it by developing faith in the worthiness of the goal and building confidence in your own ability to achieve it. Remember why you chose to do this project in the beginning, what inspired you. If you haven’t done so already, write that down quickly with words of exuberance and enthusiasm. Look at that statement when you feel low energy and don’t lose it. You have skills and talents for achieving goals. You can enhance these and become more effective. You have achieved a lot already just to get to this point. Remember your previous successes. Examine how you succeeded before and what personal qualities helped you. You can do that again and again. Look for inspiration around you by admiring other worthy successful people. Respect them and emulate the best in them.

You can also remember that others are counting on you. Your family and friends miss you while you are working. You have all sacrificed time together so you can complete this project. You will not let them down. You will make the best use of your time and resources, right now, to complete this project for your own sake, for the sake of your family and for the sake of others that you may not yet know.

Recognise and celebrate milestones.

Don’t allow setbacks to prevent ultimate success. Keep working!

3. Citta is a purity of mind that is focused on the objective. It manifests as dedication or cool focus.

It is a mind dedicated to the goal of accomplishing the goal. It is non-distraction and not procrastinating. It is staying on track. It is completing the project of high quality in the shortest possible time. It is not paying attention to irrelevant issues that are not your business. It is being very clear about what you are doing right now to achieve your goal.

Complete and total focus on your goal of completing the project.

You can strengthen this by only associating with wise, virtuous, calm people who also work hard and who embody all the good habits and skills you admire. You can avoid those people who are not so focused and who present distractions to your goal. You can stay physically and mentally healthy. You can rest properly, eat properly and exercise properly. Avoid gossip and frivolous talk.

Always keep the five moral precepts to protect yourself and others from harm and to cultivate peace and happiness. Peace and happiness lead to concentration which in turn leads to discernment and wisdom. Practice the eight moral precepts when possible. Go on intensive meditation retreats at least once a year. Daily practice mindfulness of breathing aanaapanasati and build concentration/one pointed mind samaadhi.

Be generous to others and yourself. Cultivate divine mental states such as loving kindness metta, compassion karuna, sympathetic joy mudita and equanimity upekkha.

4. Vimamsaa is the investigation and analysis of the project topic. It is the deep penetration into the project issues, to understand the concepts and relations between concepts in this project. It manifests as expertise and insight.

You can understand concepts and relations between concepts by seeking advice from mentors, elders and expert advisors in books and in person. Keep notes of helpful information. Get advice from more than one respected experts on whether your plan is viable and may be improved. When your project is quality tested or applied in the world, others will examine your thoroughness and knowledge. Do you have the ability to do a presentation on the main ideas in this project topic for people who may not know anything about it? Sustain a network of contacts of people in this field who can help you with your project.

Insight arises when the mind is tranquil and focused. Insight is not controlled by an act of will. Prepare the mind, balance the mental factors of confidence saddha, discernment panna, energy viriya, collectedness samaadhi with mindfulness sati. Mindfulness is the essential mental factor for the arising of skillful kusala mental states. Pay attention, be aware of body and mind at all times.

All the above iddhipaada success factors are powered by sammaa padaana the four right strivings (efforts) and samaadhi concentration.

Sammaapadaana is the four right strivings. 1. to restrain from adopting new bad habits and behaviours; 2. to abandon existing bad habits and behaviours; 3. to cultivate new good habits and behaviours; and 4. to maintain existing good habits and behaviours.

Samaadhi is concentration, focus and tranquillity of mind. Practice mindfulness of breathing aanaapanasati frequently to develop a one-pointed mind. This will build mental power and strength that will support all skillful kusala mental states.

These notes are a personal interpretation of the Dhamma as applied to worthy projects. The suttas describing these principles are not very accessible for casual readers who may not know how to apply them in daily life. I used some creative license to elaborate the basic principles and hopefully share them with a wider audience with a broader application. By applying techniques for spiritual success to worthy worldly projects we may create a more spiritual world.

Perhaps hindering accessibility, I included some Paali technical terms because they are interpreted into English in different ways. Some readers who know Paali may prefer alternative English words to the ones I’ve chosen here.

Lord Buddha originally taught the iddhipaada as The Bases for Spiritual Power, the power that leads to Nibanna – enlightenment.

“Bhikkhus, these four bases of spiritual power, when developed and cultivated, are noble and emancipating; they lead the one who acts upon them to the complete destruction of suffering. What four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to desire [chanda] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to energy [viriya] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to mind [citta] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the spiritual power that possesses concentration due to investigation [vimamsaa]and volitional formations of striving. These four bases of spiritual power, when developed and cultivated, are noble and emancipating; they lead the one who acts upon them to the complete destruction of suffering.”

[source: SN 51.3 Noble Sutta, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya ; Translated from the Pāli by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Published by Wisdom Publications, 2000, page 1719]

Last day in Canberra

The past two days have been hectic. I worked hard physically to clear out the remaining things from 18 Gillespie St and then do the cleaning. Finally out of there. May that be my last house! May those belongings bring happiness to someone else. May I never gather so much stuff ever again in this life or any other.

Due to working so late on Thursday night/Friday morning, I slept overnight on the carpet in one of the rooms just wearing what I had on with a rolled up towel and some other rag as a pillow. It was cold and not comfortable even though the house heater was on all night.

I slept well last night back at the YHA. I packed and repacked my remaining stuff this morning. A series of decisions about the relatively inessential to cut weight. I’m down to my good Osprey Sojourn travel pack (with wheels and backpack straps) and an old suitcase for stowed luggage and my day pack for cabin luggage. I put my suit bag inside the old suitcase. I will probably dump that old suitcase in Perth. My travel pack is loaded with my most precious Dhamma books that I find very hard to leave behind. I may send them by DHL or FedEx to Bangkok for storage at a friend’s house so my travel pack be lighter. I won’t need the books while I’m doing intensive meditation retreat. Once I’m settled somewhere, even briefly, I like to have my Dhamma books nearby to consult.

I have arranged to meet my children for a lunch today.