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By Venerable Phra Ajahn Yantra Amaro Bhikkhu
A talk given at Bellbird Farm, New South Wales,
Australia on 3 September 1989
Today is a special day when you all come to give alms and offering, and to take the precepts together.
Dhamma is the greatest treassure. If one were to dig and find it and make good use of it, that person would be rich for the rest of their life, rich in mindfulness and wisdom, and very happy.
Dhamma means everything good, cool, peaceful, prosperous, and illuminating. A person who has acquired understanding of the Dhamma has a good heart, is calm, peaceful, kind, virtuous, and wise. Whatever that person does is done with strength, mindfulness, and wisdom, because their mind is calm and peaceful and their thinking is bright and clear. A person who has Dhamma is never lonely, but full of strength, knowledge, awareness, and happiness.
How do we achieve this in our life? We need training, exercise, and the right attitude. The quickest way is always to express loving kindness, to do your duty well in whatever you do, and do it as best as you can. With loving kindness as a basis, do your duty toward your son, daughter, wife or husband, people you love and respect, other people, and to animals.
Dhamma is duty. One who does not do his duty has no Dhamma. If a father does not do a father's duty, he is not a father. Likewise, a mother should do a mother's duty to her offspring. If a person neglects a duty, he is merely a man but not a good man. Sons and daughters must also do their duty. Teachers and students have a duty to each other. The teacher has to teach, guide, and encourage the student to learn and clearly develop knowledge and wisdom and cultivate loving kindness. Students must be willing to learn and to follow the teacher's footsteps with gratitude, and to try and do their best for their parents, teachers, friends, and relatives. One should think of them with loving kindness.
Today, I'll give you a short Dhamma called "Try your best to do your duty. "Each day we should examine ourselves and what we have done. What duties do we have to do today? We must do the best we can and remember never to give up. We must do our best to solve any problem and overcome any obstruction. Resolve to do this every day, and to love and be kind toward all beings, even those who are unkind and unlovable, even those who have harmed us. Even if they hurt us we must prepare to be knid and loving toward them. We must not be angry, because anger is suffering.
If we are good-hearted, serene, and calm, our goodness will make us happy. This will give unpleasant people a chance to become good; hot-tempered people a chance to cool down; and agitated people a chance to calm down. If we are really serene and filled with loving kindness, when others are angry we can keep smiling. If we cannot smile, just to remain quiet is sufficient. If others say unpleasant things, we can talk back pleasantly. If others try to take advantage of us, we can give them what they want. See then who eventually wins and is happy.
The world needs Dhamma, needs serenity, although we must be prepared to sacrifice to bring this about. Hardness is always defeated by softness, because softness possesses a latent, built-in hardness. Look at our gums and teeth - eventually the teeth fall out, but the gums remain. The softest wind can erode mountains, and can create waves which eventually disappear by evaporation. The wind has no body but is filled with energy. Even emptiness has energy. A wheel made of a hub and spokes cannot move unless the hub turns, and the hub can move only because it is empty at the middle. Look at my mouth that I use for speaking. It has teeth, a tongue, and so on, but I can speak only because my mouth also has a space. If my mouth were solid, I would not be able to speak. So emptiness is very useful. Look at a monk's bowl. The iron making up the bowl is certainly there, and important; but it's the empty space in the bowl that makes it useful. We can put things in that space. The bowl's usefulness comes from its emptiness.
If we make our minds empty, serene, and free of defilement, and think of nothing but loving kindness, our mind will be very powerful. Such a mind is holy, and holy power really exists in this world. But the most powerful mind in the world is completely illuminated and serene. If we can train our minds to be good, everything else will be good. Please try to train your mind, and please try to be full of loving kindness. Tell yourself, "From now on I am not going to be angry. If someone becomes angry with me, that's OK, I'll either keep on smiling or just be quiet and think of the magic sentence "It is suchness." They will be like that because it is their own nature. Do not mind if someone is angry, and if it is not possible to say anything, think instead that it is natural, "It is suchness." Do the same if someone condemns or blames you, and remind yourself that you are not going to become angry. you will always do some good, if you wish every day to do only good. You could pretend that you have to achieve a certain score in order to pass an exam, and then give yourself a plus whenever you do good, and a minus whenever you do bad. At the end of the day, see what score you have achieved. Has your goodness outscored your badness?
It is true that no human being born in this wold is perfect, and never does anything wrong, but we do have a chance to change and improve ourselves. If you can look into yourself, see a defect, and try to change and improve, you sill become noble and admired by learned people. Sometimes it is good to be told what is not nice about oneself; we must not mind this, but we should let others point out our bad points. Do you think you are so perfect: Even the Buddha himself gave others the opportunity to tell him. The Buddha also said not to believe everything he taught; instead one should carefully examine and practice what he said until one achieves the required result before believing it.
So do not be upset if no one praises, applauds, confirms, or even if they oppose a good deed that we do. If we know that what we wish to do is good and proper, do it with confidence and patience, and no harm will come to ourselves or others. We must start with confidence in ourselves.
We think we understand the Dhamma and want the world to know about it, but are then unhappy when we are criticized. We are sensitive to criticism, it makes us feel foolish and unhappy. Sometimes we have good intentions, but they can become sullied if we let our ears take charge, ie. are swayed by criticism. The mind must be strong all the time, must never give up, and must always be mindful of the present moment.
I believe that the good deeds we do bring us increasing happiness, like a tree that starts as a young plant with a single stem and grows branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits. A kind and transquil mind progressively brings happiness and gains love from every person or diety wherever one goes. It is a fact that power gained from practising Dhamma is real, strong, and more valuable than anything else. A person who has confidence in their own Dhamma does not have to do anything special, for whatever he or she does will bring a marvellous result. You don't have to do anything complicated, sometimes just thinking will achieve a good and strong result. Try it. When you have a good clear mind, the path to success seems smooth, and things work out well. But if your mind is not calm, peaceful, and clear, things do not turn out the way you hope, even though you aspire strongly and often. Such a mind is confused, weak, and powerless. So try and do only good things, and do your duty as best as you can, always with loving kindness and mindfulness of the present moment. Whatever appears or happens, regard it as natural, as "suchness."
Consider the expression "Never mind." Theses words are like a magic spell to comfort the mind, suggesting that if we don't mind, if we don't take things seriously, we will not suffer. On the contrary, we must always "mind," always think and do only good things. Try to chant every day, early in the morning and before going to bed. Take long deep breaths and notice the breathing in the breathing out, and you will happiness At the same time be aware of mindfulness. At the end the mind will maintain full internal awareness without noticing the breathing. You will find it calm and peaceful because the mind is so concentrated at that moment. Whatever you do, be it speaking, thinking or acting, standing, sitting, lying, or whatever, you will feel happy and never lonely. Those who know the Dhamma are never lonely, for there is always a good friend in their heart. At the same time it is the source of precious long life, a good complexion, happiness, strength, wisdom and wealth. Nothing is worth more than the Dhamma. When we practise it diligently and sincerely, goodness will grow more and more.
If we become discouraged, think about the Buddha himself. The Buddha, who eventually attained supreme parami (the ten stages of spiritual perfection) by persistence and patience, sila (moral conduct), and bhavana (meditation), was reborn about 1600 million times before he became enlightened as a Buddha. So we who are following his footsteps as Buddhists must practise the things he taught. Don't give up, but try to do good. Go forward step by step until you reach the goal. No matter how distant it is, a thousand or ten thousand steps, take one step at a time, and finally you will arrive. I myself walked from the south of Thailand to the north of Burma. It is not that far if you keep on taking those two steps, left and right. With patience and confidence you will succeed, for if there is a will, there is a way. A persistent person never fails.
In this talk I am emphasizing that we should try and do good deeds, and try and rid ourselves of suffering. Try to know and understand suffering, and when it comes, it will be bearable. It is not only I that suffer, other people also suffer, some of them worse than I. Try to understand that everthing arises, stays for a long or short time, and then disappears. Nothing is permanent. Once, we had nothing, and what we have and what we have become came later. Nothing remains forever. We must try and understand these things and reflect on them with care and loving kindness. Know when to let go. Try to love others, even those who dislike you. Try to love and forgive them. Try to understand yourself and the good points of other people. Try not to take sides. Don't wait for others to understand you before you try to understand them. Don't worry too much.
I believe that if we understand others we can learn to love them, because loving kindness grows from understanding. In a family without understanding, love cannot last. So try and understand each other and live a good life. No matter if another does not love or respect you, try to understand and "forgive and forget". The most important gift is the gift of forgiveness. Hold on to nothing strongly, because nothing lasts. Let it go, and be loving and kind.
It is time to stop, so I shall stop talking for today.
DHAMMA IS THE MOST NOBLE TREASURE
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