Dhamma for the Laity


Dhamma Talk 8
By Ajahn Suchart (Abhijato Bhikkhu)
September 23, 2000
Translated by Chantaporn Gomutputra
Edited by June Gibb


When the Buddha taught the Dhamma to his followers, monks or laymen, he would take care to choose the type of Dhamma that was appropriate to each particular listener.  Dhamma is like medication that is used to cure the mind from afflictions such as sorrow, restlessness, dissatisfaction, worry or grief that differ from physical ailments like headache, fever or colds. The Buddha would choose the appropriate prescription for each particular listener.  For the laity it would be one kind of Dhamma, for monks it would be another.  The topics would be chosen to suit the sex, age, and mentality of each person like a physician who prescribes the medication suitable for our illness.  If we have a stomachache and were given pills for a headache, the upset stomach would not go away.  Taking that medicine would be useless.  It may be even harmful because it is the wrong kind of remedy.  We could be adversely affected by it and even die from it.

When the Buddha gave his first discourse it was to the five recluses who had given up worldly pleasures for spiritual bliss. They were looking for peace of mind rather than the sensual gratification of sound, taste, scent, or touch that is sought by laymen.  Whether their minds can become calm and peaceful or not would depend on their ability to quell the agitation that is caused by the three kinds of craving namely, craving for sensual pleasure (kama tanha), craving for becoming (bhava tanha) and craving for not-becoming (vibhava tanha).

Craving for sensual pleasure is craving for sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  Craving for becoming is the desire to be something or someone, like being a prime minister or member of parliament. Craving for not-becoming is wanting not to be old, sick or dead.  In other words it is the fear of old age, sickness and death. These three cravings as the Buddha has shown are the causes of stress, restlessness and agitation. If a monk wants to achieve inner peace and the supreme bliss he must relinquish these three cravings.   

As for old age, sickness, and death, the Buddha instructed us not to be afraid of them.  If we do, we would definitely suffer because old age, sickness, and death are matters of the body, not the mind.  The mind does not get old, does not get sick, and does not die with the body.  But because the mind mistakenly attached itself to the body, it thought that it would get old, sick, and die with the body.  If we can stop this fear, we will live in this world with joy and contentment. This is because we know what gets old, gets sick, and dies, and what does not.  We can differentiate between the body and the mind.  The body naturally gets old, gets sick, and dies.  But the mind will not get old, will not get sick, and will not die.  When the body dies, the mind will take up a new body.

On the other hand when the Buddha taught the laity he would teach the Dhamma that deals with worldly possessions, financial matters and social conducts, which differs from the Dhamma for the recluses.  In order for a layperson to live a happy and prosperous life and fit in with the natural order of things he should possess the following qualities:  1. Charity (caga).  2. Honesty (sacca).  3. Forbearance (khanti).  4. Restraint (dama).  He who has these four virtues is like a fully armed warrior capable of stopping his adversary from creating chaos and distress.  It is therefore essential for a layperson to develop these four mental qualities and apply them in his daily activities.

Charity is sharing our happiness and possession with others.  If we have plenty, we give a lot.  If we donít have much, we give a small amount.  Like when we dine together we should share the food, not grabbing all for ourselves.  We should think of others who get hungry and have the same need too.  If we all get our fair share we will all live peacefully and happily whether we live in a large or a small community. 

We should be charitable and caring especially in time of need like when there is a flood that causes a severe shortage of food, shelter, medicine and clothing.  We should assist in whatever way we can because when we do we will have accumulated the Dhamma quality that is more valuable than the material assistance that we donated and because fulfillment doesnít come about by the accumulation of wealth but by sharing that wealth with others.

Honesty or truthfulness (sacca) means we should be sincere with each other, say what we think, not deceiving each other.  Husbands and wives should be faithful to each other, not committing adultery.  They should love only their spouse in order for them to be really happy, not being suspicious of each other or wondering whether they have been deceived or not.  Similarly, children and parents must also be honest with each other.  When children say they are going to school, they must really be in school, not going to pubs or other inappropriate places instead.  They should not lie to their parents because it would hurt them.

Corrupt people often do things that are not decent, like liars who are shunned by others for sowing the seed of distrust, suspicion and unease for the community they live in.  If we want to live in peace and harmony, we should be honest and sincere.  If we cannot tell the truth, we should just keep quiet or talk about something else.  There is no need to resort to deception because it only brings trouble.  When we lie, we do not have peace of mind because we worry that others may find out that we are not to be trusted. 

We need to have forbearance (khanti) in order to go through the trials and tribulations of life, like not having enough food to eat or having to eat later than usual or going through hard times. If we canít endure we could get upset or become distraught, which could lead our committing criminal offences like stealing, and then to be caught and eventually put in jail. But if we have endurance we could resist the temptation to steal even if we are very hungry and would wait to obtain food lawfully.  If we have forbearance there is little chance that we would act illegally which would lead to punishment.

In order for us to deal with our feelings and emotions we need to have restraint (dama) like the times we get angry when we see things not to our liking, or being greedy when we want to possess something.  We must restrain our greed and anger and not allow them to lead us to do or say things that transgress the moral or civil law.  We shouldnít vent our anger by swearing, hitting, or injuring others because it would cause others to retaliate.  Someone could get hurt or die.  The dead would then have to be buried and the killer would be sent to jail, all because we donít have the restraint to control our mind, our feelings, and our emotions.

To conquer ourselves is far better than to conquer others, because defeating others causes them to hate us, and if they beat us we would hate them and want to take revenge.  This can go on forever.  But when we have conquered ourselves, there will be calm and peace.  When we can conquer our anger, we shall feel at ease. The person who makes us angry will not have to be miserable from having to hear our telling off.  It is good and profitable for a layperson to have restraint to rein in their feelings and emotions when interacting with other people.

If we wish to have a peaceful and happy life, we must develop these four Dhamma virtues as recommended by the Buddha. They are charity (caga), honesty (sacca), forbearance (khanti) and restraint (dama).


Translated 1/9/48


Source : http://www.kammatthana.com

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