Winning the world through: Extreme compassion
All of life’s most difficult problems could be better understood if we genuinely put the Buddha’s teachings into practice as his noble doctrine lay great stress on the development of the moral and spiritual character for a happy peaceful and contented society.
As Buddhists around the world celebrate Vesak Full Moon poya day commemorating the birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana of the Buddha tomorrow, the Sunday Observer had a Dhamma discussion with the President of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha , Agga Maha Panditha Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera to enlighten our readers on the teachings of the Buddha..
Q1: The modern society gives an undue importance to outward appearance. The youth of today resort to various intricate methods in enhancing their appearance. Though they could perceive outward beauty, inwardly the mentality of some of them is very unbecoming. How would you comment on the recent trend. What factors according to the Buddha are needed to enhance the physical appearance?
A: Since the society is exposed to diverse media, people are well informed of the happenings all over the world quite promptly. Quite naturally young people get attracted to what they witness via media. Unfortunately it is unfavourable for them most of the time.
As they tend to engage in various activities without proper management, they could face severe problems. It is the same even when regarding the various methods that are being used to enhance their physical appearance. The constant use of various low quality products in that context could bring about alarming results. It could even cause death sometimes.
The Buddha had preached that frankness (openness)of mind will induce physical beauty. If a person bears no malice and hatred towards anyone and genuinely wishes for everyone’s happiness and also if he practises loving kindness to all, such a person would naturally look beautiful.
When the mind is devoid of defilements,the blood gets purified and in its wake the face assumes serene beauty.As the Buddha said “ Mukha vanno vip aseedathi”.
So if a person practises loving kindness to all, he/she would become pleasant and beautiful automatically. This was what was practised in the past. However much we try to develop our looks if the inner mind is boiling with hatred and anger, others can see it.
Next, it is better to consume more vegetables and fruits. Though the Buddha never prohibited (he did not prohibit anything) meat consumption( but he emphasized that animal slaughter is a great sin), it is better if people can stick to a vegetarian diet. Also for a healthy life, engaging in exercises is also necessary.
Q: How would you distinguish between the present and past changes in society and do you think that it has made a great effect on present society?
A: Certainly. Today most of the vegetables and fruits we consume are not fresh due to the excessive use of fertilizer. The real essence of the fruit is no longer there. Though we do not consider it as an issue, the deterioration of health and good looks of the present day children (Compared to the children of the yesteryear) could also be attributed to the consumption of unhealthy food.
Almost all the tele dramas that are being telecast are not suitable for small children.
Everyone watches them irrespective of age. The theme of most of the tele dramas is love and they are displayed in a way that provoke lust anger and hatred in young minds. Then their minds get disrupted naturally.
Earlier they were not much exposed to most of the negative factors. They actively engaged in household chores. The houses were spacious and airy. Today one of the main problems is environmental pollution.
Q: What meritorious acts should people indulge in according to the Buddha to be born blessed with great beauty in their next birth?
A: 1)There should be a high degree of compassion. Not only should one wish other people’s happiness, but also they should always act in a way that would be helpful to society. They should practise extreme compassion on all living beings.
2) Should offer food, houses to the needy
3) Should attend to the sick, particularly to the old
4) Whatever work one does, it should be well managed. (Whether at home or in office, you have to work methodically and you have to be well aware of your responsibilities and should try to fulfil them.)
When one continuously engages in such meritorious deeds he/she will be blessed with great beauty in the future births. In society we come across such people whose presence is pleasing to the eye. They can always attract the attention of others. In fact the sight of such people make others happy and they automatically get attracted to them.
Q: What are the consequences of animal slaughter and other sinful activities?
A: Rebirth takes place according to the quality of deeds done in the previous births. A person who has done many good deeds may be born in favourable conditions where he enjoys wealth, success, beauty, strength and good health. People who engage in animal slaughter in this birth would face premature death in their future births.
In fact people who are born with deformities in this birth must have possibly committed that offence in their previous births. Such people could even be born as animals in their next births.
We often see how dogs reared in wealthy houses enjoy immense comforts. They are being very well looked after. Most of the people in poor families are not lucky enough to have such comforts though they are human beings.
They are born as dogs in this birth because they have earned money through wrong means in their previous births. For example they might have earned wealth through stealing, cattle slaughter etc.
But they were generous enough to spend the collected money on good deeds such as offering Dana, looking after old parents, religious activities etc. So though they earned money through wrong means,since they performed good deeds they could enjoy all the comforts though they were reborn as dogs.
Q: Has the Buddha expressed his opinion on punishment meted out to wrong doers by the king ( King’s punishment)?
A: All the kings had a set of rules related to governing. (Royal Principles of Governing). Punishing the wrong doers is one such principle. When a person commits an offence, punishment is imposed according to the gravity of the act. Sometimes it was a mere piece of advice, but if it was an heinous offence even the capital punishment was imposed.
The Buddha did not interfere with the laws of the government. He preached the Dhamma so that those who listened to him could get out of suffering.
There are two categories of sins- ‘Alpa sawadya’ and ‘Maha sawadya’. The people who commit heinous crimes belong to the second group. The sin becomes graver when the person on whom the pain is inflicted is virtuous.
Q:Has the Buddha ever condemned avarice(lobha)?
A: It is necessary to a certain degree. You have to spend your savings with care. There should always be a balance between income and expenditure. But if a person piles up money without spending it even for his and his family’s needs that is bad. That is called “Abijja”. - Such people would envy others who lead comfortable lives, but are too stingy to spend their earnings. So such people will be reborn in poor families.
Q: What was the Buddha’s attitude towards meat consumption?
A: In fact as we all know the Buddha’s boundless love extended not only to human beings, but also to all living beings. Every living being has a right to live, the Buddha ensured. No one has a right to kill other animals and consume their meat. The Buddha always emphasized that it is a grave sin to kill any living being.
It is better if a person could abstain from consuming animal flesh altogether. The Buddha said that if a person wants to consume meat, he can do so only if the following conditions are fulfilled.
1) Aditta- You did not see the animal being slaughtered for your consumption
2)Asutha- You did not hear that the animal was slaughtered for your consumption.
3) Asankitha- It is not implied in any way that the animal was killed for you-not even a slightest impression about it.
Imagine a situation where a Thera visits a house for a dhana. He very well knows that the inhabitants of the house do not consume meat at all. But they had prepared a meat curry for the dana.
So, though the Thera did not see the animal being killed, or did not even get to know that the animal was slaughtered for his consumption, he cannot consume it since the inhabitants are vegetarians. There remains a doubt as for whom the meat curry was prepared.
But if a Thera who goes from house to house with a begging bowl, (on pindapatha) is offered a meat curry he can consume it if he is willing to do so.
A set of bikkhus who observed their Vas retreat in a forest during the time of the Buddha happened to have partaken soup made out of remnants of bones of animals that vultures had devoured.
So they asked the Buddha whether it could be considered a sin on their part. The Buddha told them that it was not a sin.
Anyway it is because people consume meat that animals get slaughtered. Imagine a situation where fifty cows are being slaughtered each day. What if people suddenly come to a decision not to consume beef. Then the lives of the cows will be spared.
It is better if we can abstain from meat consumption.
Depending on the size of the animal, their feelings and the effort made in killing them, the gravity of the sin would vary.
Q: Finally, what efforts should one adopt to develop compassion?
A: A compassionate mind extends far beyond mere kind words. First you should be able to feel happy on other people’s success.
Wherever you are you should try to make your presence useful to others. Try to be pleasant. You should never be selfish.
For example while at home, all the clothes put out in the sun should be taken in due time whether it belongs to you or not.
As the Buddha said people who could practise loving kindness (Metta/compassion) in its true sense could get the following benefits.
1) They can sleep peacefully
2) They wake up peacefully
3) They never have bad dreams.
4) They are loved by everyone- gods and humans alike
5) They are always protected by the gods
6) Neither could they be poisoned nor can they be harmed by weapons
7) They can concentrate easily
8) Their faces are always pleasant
9) They die peacefully
10) They are always reborn in better places.