MANGALA SUTTA VANANA
By the Late Venerable K. Gunaratana (demised: 19th January 1964)
Mahindarama (Sri Lanka) Buddhist Temple
No. 2, Kampar Road, 10460 Penang,
7th November 1982
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMA SAMBUDDHASSA
“Honour To The Exalted One, Freed From All Bondages And Fully Enlightened.”
In ancient days in India, the people used to assemble in councils and hold meetings in the town hall to discuss and elucidate such lectures so as to impart wisdom and know-ledge that would be of benefit to them. For their fees, those learned men who propounded such wisdom, were given gifts of various kinds. Sometimes the length of their lectures took as long as four months to complete.
One day, a discussion was held on the subject of “Blessings.” What is Blessing; and what constitutes Blessing? Is Seeing a Blessing? Is Hearing a Blessing? Is Feeling a Blessing?
One, Dittha-Mangalika formed the impression that as omens of significance, if one were to rise early in the morning, and see such auspicious things, such as parrots, pregnant woman, well-dressed boy, water-pot, horse, horse-cart, bull, cow, etc., - such things were indeed blessings. This led to an argument which some accepted as correct, whilst others disagreed. Then Suta-Mangalika said, “0! man, as you have said seeing is blessing in this respect because it is pleasant to the sense of sight, may I ask what about those unpleasant and impure things that are also seen with the eyes.
This cannot be so, for as far as seeing is concerned, one is apt to see pleasant and unpleasant objects as well. For verily, I cannot accept your views as correct.” Some people agreed with him while others doubted. Again another one Suta-Mangalika questioned the assembly if such pleasant wishes such as “Good Day,” “May you be prosperous,” be heard by a person, constitute blessings. Again another one Muta-Mangalika expressed in his view point, that, if hearing is really blessing, then hearing of good and bad things are also blessings. Again such a question arose, that on getting up in the morning if they happen to smell some fragrant odour and eat tasty food, and also touch pleasant and soft things, whether these constitute blessings too.
Controversial points were raised and expounded and yet still no decision could be reached. From the neighbourhood where it was first discussed, news of this controversy spread far and wide and yet no satisfactory answer could be obtained. This debate was carried even to the spiritual realm of Brahma. After debating for about twelve years, the deities at the Tavatimsa Heaven assembled one day and proposed to lay the matter before their King, Sakka Deva Raja, to get his views. In order to obtain the correct answer to this controversy, they were advised by him to seek Lord Buddha. “For,” as he said, “if you wish to have a light, you must approach a fire to get it, you cannot get light from a firefly.” So a certain Deity was requested to approach the Exalted One, who was at that time at Jetavana Temple, which was built by a rich pious devotee named Anatha Pindika at Savatthi, now known as Sahet Mahet in Northern India.
So far into the dead of night this deva of wondrous beauty with the glare of rays emanating from his body illuminating the whole of the temple premises approached the Exalted One. Having paid due respects and homage stood on one side and so standing, laid before Him the following question:- “Many gods and men pondering on the question of blessings could not come to a decision. Therefore O, Lord, may You please tell me what is the greatest Blessing?”
In His reply, the Lord Buddha expounded the “Mangala Sutta, and thus explained to them that the causes resulting in bliss are as follows:-
1. Asevana ca Balanam
Not To Associate With The Fools Is Most Blissful.
Fools or ignorant people not only injure themselves but also those around them. If we associate with them, we are apt to follow their ways and so harm ourselves mentally as well as bodily, because all troubles or fear arise from ignorance or foolishness. Even if we do not follow their ways, the mere fact of associating with them will harm our reputation; in the same way that a banana leaf is contaminated if it is used to wrap up a piece of rotten fish or meat. The leaf is dirty and smelly even after the fish or rotten meat is thrown away.
Here is a story to illustrate this:-
Once, when the Bodhisatta was born as a man called Akitti Pandita, the King of Devas promised to grant him any boon he asked. Akitti Pandita begged that he might never meet, see or talk with fools. The King of Devas was surprised and asked him the reason for this strange request. Replying, he explained that fools or the ignorant ones i.e. people who do not understand discipline, always lead their friends to bad ways and teach them to do wrong, because they do not know the right path themselves. If discipline or good ways are spoken in their presence, they become angry, for they do not understand them. Most fools think themselves wise and when they reach a point that they cannot understand, they lose their temper and quarrels arise. Therefore he prayed that he might never speak, meet or come in contact with fools.
2. Panditanam ca Sevana
To Associate With The Wise Is Most Blissful.
By wise men we mean men who are rich with virtues and all good deeds and thoughts, i.e. men who bodily abstain from killing, stealing and committing adultery; in their speech they refrain from talking falsehoods, slandering, using obscene words and idle gossiping. Men who abstain from these vices are free from craving through ignorance. To associate with these wise ones, is one of the causes of bliss. By doing so we are elevating ourselves. For instance, if we take a piece of dry banana leaf and wrap up some sweet-scented flowers, the leaf is impregnated with the scent even after the flowers are taken away. In the same way, if we associate with the wise ones, i.e. well disciplined and meritorious people, our names will be enhanced.
3. Puja ca Pujaniyanam
To Respect The Respectable Is Most Blissful.
By respectable ones, we mean the Lord Buddha, Pacceka Buddha, Ariya Savaka, father, mother and elders. They inevitably are deserving of respect and those who honour, respect and administer to their needs will always obtain bliss as illustrated by the following story:-
One morning the Lord Buddha taking his bowl, was proceeding to Rajagaha to receive whatever dana offered by His devotees when a garland maker of King Bimbisara named Sumana saw the Lord Buddha approaching. It came to his mind that if he took the garlands to King Bimbisara, he would only get some monetary remuneration whereas, if he were to offer them to the Lord Buddha, he might accrue greater merits.
Thereupon, he took a handful of flowers and strewed them before the Lord Buddha. The flowers at once sprang up into the air and formed a canopy over His head. He threw another handful of flowers and they formed a screen to one side of the Lord Buddha. Again and again, he threw handfuls after handfuls of flowers until the flowers became a floral screen around the Lord Buddha.
Everyone was astonished at the wonderful sight and the Lord Buddha smiled. The Ven. Ananda on enquiring the reason for the Lord’s smile, was informed that Sumana the garland maker, by this meritorious deed, would, after 100,000 eons, become a Pacceka Buddha called Munissaro.
Amisa means all forms of charity. Patipati Puja, is to observe the precepts, accept the Three Refuges and to practise meditation. By this way we respect the respectful ones. The younger should respect the elder, sons and daughters should respect and care for their parents; the housewife should respect and administer to the wants of her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law. Those who respect the respectables, in this way, will in this present life, obtain bliss such as “Ayu” (longevity) “Vanna” (good complexion) “Sukha” (happiness) “Bala” (good health and strength), Not only will they obtain bliss in this present life, but also in the next.
4. Patirupa Desa vaso ca.
To Reside At A Favourable Place Is Bliss.
People whether they reside in a village, town or country, should always live among good and friendly neighbours, i.e. good and virtuous men.
If the people in a village are upright and strictly observe the precepts, then that place will be peaceful, safe and prosperous. Everybody in the village will always strive for each other’s welfare and any work will be peacefully and harmoniously conducted. On the other hand, if the people of that village are unprincipled and corrupted, then sorrow and trouble will spring up naturally. There will always be quarrels and discontent, the strong ones will be aggressive towards their weaker neighbours, and life and property will never be safe. Therefore, we should always choose our surroundings before we decide where to stay, because to reside among good and virtuous peoples is bliss.
5. Pubbe ca Katapunnata
Merits Gained In The Past To Be Instated In Good Pre-Requisites Is Bliss.
If you have accrued merits in your previous births, this is bliss, because we are the product of our own actions in our previous births, i.e., “Karma”, for instance, some people are born ugly and some are beautiful, some are clever and some are stupid. Some rich men may end up in poverty while some unknown men may rise up and become great millionaires. All these are due to “Karma” i.e. the merits or demerits that we had acquired during our previous births.
6. Atta Samma Panidhi Ca
To Have One’s Mind Properly Directed Is Bliss
One must decide a proper objective in life and set one-self in the right path leading to it.
Here, the emphasis is on ‘one’s own self’ - one should try to direct oneself to the desired goal by the efforts one makes. This encourages self-confidence and discourages dependence upon the grace of gods or men. Many people tend to pass their lives on the wrong course, engaged in evil practices of the body, speech and mind. Such people should cherish right desires and open a new and wholesome direction for their lives. Others, who already consider themselves to have a wholesome way of living should review their situation to check lapses and also to progress further in the right direction.
By rightly directly oneself, we mean, the unvirtuous person establishes himself in virtue (e.g. the Five Precepts); the faithless person establishes himself in excellent faith, the avaricious person establishes himself in generosity. Along these lines everyone has something to do.
7. Bahu Saccanca
To Be Well-Read Is Bliss
During the time of the Buddha, education was mostly through oral tradition. Consequently, one was considered learned according to what one had memorised after having heard learned people talk. This standard of erudition applied particularly to religious learning. Obviously, a pupil needed certain abilities such as a good memory, keen desire to learn and to associate with the learned and also a capacity to understand their teachings.
This ‘Bahusaccam’ means ‘much learning through direct contact with the learned’. This is a blessing whether the knowledge gained is used for Dhamma-practice, or restrained by moral conduct, is used for one’s livelihood. If one is well read, one is not liable to fall into the pit-falls of Ignorance.
8. (Bahu) Sippanca
Proficiency in One’s Work (Handicraft) Is Bliss
‘Proficiency in one’s work implies practical knowledge of some art, science or handicraft. Buddha saw it that to be skilful in some art or craft is a blessing, Not only knowledge is praised by Him but also manual work wherever this is not tainted by unwholesome actions. One’s ‘craft’ should therefore be in accordance with the precepts when it may be used either for hobby or livelihood. Among bhikkhus too, there are ‘crafts’ which are good to be skilled in and one such skill is the knowledge of making robes which is a blessing for one’s fellow monks.
If we are well read and instructed in arts, we are not liable to fall into the pitfalls of ignorance.
9. Vinayo ca Susikkhito
To Be Of Well Disciplined Behaviour Is Most Blissful.
Character is the very essence of a man. He does not come by mere chance to acquire it nor does it come to him through his inheritance from birth. It lies in his own hands and in the disciplinary rules that he zealously guards to refrain from committing evil deeds and to do good and meritorious deeds. It becomes his essential good habits to keep close watch over his actions whether they be mental, verbal or bodily. Through strict discipline alone a man can avoid the following ten evil deeds:-
6. Using indecent language
8. Hankering after lust
9. Becoming hateful
10. Becoming ignorant of the Dhamma.
As for the bhikkhu, his discipline is confined to all the aspects of strict observance of the precepts from the time he renounces the world to the time of his realisation of the Four Noble Truths.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that strict discipline which regulates one’s behaviour is to be adhered to, at all time. The only cure for heedlessness is the concrete act of good discipline. Happy is the man who has a well-controlled mind.
Prince Rahula, after renouncing the world, exercised perfect discipline, in as much, that he took a handful of sand and wished that from the number of sand in his hand he would gladly receive advice conducive to good disciplinary behaviour from the Lord Buddha and any other teachers. It is worthy to note that among the eighty chief Arahants, Rahula Arahant was foremost in his observance of disciplinary rules which he kept strictly throughout, in order to attain the objective of a well-controlled behaviour.
10. Subhasita ca Ya Vaca
To Be Possessed Of Pleasant Words And Speech Is Most Blissful.
Every person likes you to speak nicely and pleasantly to him. No one likes to be addressed in a harsh manner. Even a child detests the stern remark that is passed; it hurts his feelings and immediately he gains the impression that the general outlook is not at all friendly. Animals too behave in like manner. A dog or a cat will instinctively find out from the tone of your speech, whether it is pleasing or otherwise.
It is a good policy to speak pleasantly. No amount of harsh words would win you respect and adoration; instead you meet with rebuke and scorn. Why not, therefore, let us be, more watchful on the choice of words we use; words that ring sweetness to warm the hearts of those whom we daily contact. Let us be alert to refrain from being rude and saucy in our speech; it does no one any good. On the other hand when we speak in refined expression of goodwill it will go straight home to the receiver like balm so soothing and peaceful. It imparts to us an unspeakable joy and happiness. Let us daily exert in our conduct, to be kind, courteous and helpful.
Once there was a king who was known as Gandhara by the name of the country he ruled. At that time the Bodhisatta was born as a calf. The owner gave away the calf to a brahmin. The brahmin had an intense liking for the calf and regarded it almost as a member of his family. He gave it the name of Nandivisala. When the calf grew up to be a big bull, it still cherished in its heart the love and kindness of the brahmin. Because it was grateful to the brahmin, Nandivisala felt a desire to repay the brahmin for what he had done. It approached the brahmin and said, “I want you to take a wager with your rich neighbour who owns a big herd of strong bulls. It shall be the match of my strength where I can display my strength by pulling at one time one hundred carts loaded to its maximum capacity.
The brahmin, though surprised, gladly accepted what he considered a miracle for his bull to perform such an immense feat of strength. He then went to his rich neighbour and beaming with confidence and joy, offered to wage any price that his bull would pull in one tug one hundred fully loaded carts. The neighbour thought that it was a big joke as he reckoned that it was beyond the strength of any single bull however strong it might be to pull the great load. However he readily accepted the challenge.
The hundred carts loaded to the maximum capacity were tied one to another in a long line in readiness for the brahmin’s bull to take up its position for the test of its phenomenal strength. The brahmin having washed and cleaned his bull and having adorned it by hanging a beautiful garland of flowers around its neck, yoked it to the front cart.
When everything was ready for the demonstration, the brahmin said to the bull, “Now, you untrained bull of mine, put all your effort and pull.” To the surprise of everyone, more so to the brahmin, the bull made no movement at all to show its willingness to pull the long line of one hundred carts. He remained on the spot appearing to have no concern for the task it was asked to perform. The brahmin lost his wager and quietly led his bull away.
For some time, the bull went grazing in the field and when it returned home after its feed, found the brahmin lying quietly on the couch brooding over his loss. The bull came near to its master and said, “During all these years that I have been living with you, is there any occasion when I have been a nuisance in your house, say like breaking any article that came my way or urinating anywhere in the place? Why then call me an untrained bull? - Such unwarranted and unpleasant remark has no place in my own good behaviour right through al I these years with you.”
However the bull did not wish to appear so resentful as to cause unnecessary distress to its master, and in this light, he asked his master to make a second wager with an increased stake amounting to two hundred gold pieces and at the same time reminding him of the incident in case he became abusive again.
The wager was keenly taken up and when the final arrangements were completed, the brahmin politely said to his bull, “Now, son, will you make a good start?” To the amazement of all the spectators, the bull made one gigantic tug and the hundred loaded carts began to move. The display of this stupendous feat of a single bull earned the admiration of the spectators who gave freely their articles of gold and other gifts to enrich the coffers of the brahmin together with the settlement of the two hundred gold pieces wager from his rich neighbour.
The Lord Buddha made it an occasion to refer this particular incident in one of his previous rebirths, that rudeness of speech had caused a disadvantage to the man concerned.