Sunday, January 02, 2005
The Day the Earth Shook
by Ven Balacitta
Before I start on the actual talk today, I would just like to let you know that there are 3 types of people who listen to the Dhamma. They are:
This last group comprises people who are easily distracted. Although they are present, their minds are sometimes preoccupied elsewhere with other thoughts. Therefore they do not hear the Dhamma and consequently, they fail to learn anything about the Dhamma.
Even so, we must commend them for putting in the effort to come. At times, they actually do a service to other beings when they come to listen to the Dhamma. Those unseen beings who guard them day and night might follow them to listen to the Dhamma too.
In the wake of the devastating Tsunami that recently hit many parts of Asia and the untold suffering and pain that it brought to hundreds of thousands of beings, it is timely to know something about these occurrences and their causes. According to the Buddha (in Mahaparinibbana Sutta, DN 16), there are 8 conditions that can result in earthquakes/tremors occurring:
In Mahaparinibbana Sutta, it is stated that the Buddha’s parinibbana could have been delayed for as long as one kappa if a human being had requested for it. Mara had been pestering the Buddha to enter parinibbana for some time. Before doing so however, the Buddha hinted indirectly many times to Ven Ananda to request for this delay. However Ven Ananda did not catch the hint and the Buddha then announced that in 3 months time, he would enter parinibbana. At that very moment, the earth shook. Since there are no bodhisattas being reborn as humans at this present time nor are there any Sammasambuddhas currently present in the world, we have to assume that the recent earthquake occurred either due to the first or second reason.
Many people suffered during the calamity on December 26, 2004. If you look at the images on television and in the newspapers, you can see the faces of people totally devastated by grief. However, one who knows how to gain control over one’s mind will not feel the pain so terribly. It will be beneficial if everyone can remind oneself of these five things always as taught by the Buddha (in AN 5:57):-
When one is aware of these teachings and understands the nature of impermanence, one is better prepared to face and accept it. One will also be stronger in the face of adversity and will be more inclined to do good, endeavouring to cultivate dana, sila and bhavana. One will guard well one’s thoughts, speech and actions so that in death, one is at peace.
Our wealth cannot follow us to our next life but good karma can. Realising this, one strives to be generous towards others.
A person who keeps his precepts well will be trusted and well known. He will have self confidence. His mental faculties remain sharp even in old age. He is peaceful even at death’s door and is assured of a good rebirth.
He listens to the Dhamma and meditates whenever he can. This helps develop wisdom. Such a person will be able to guard his actions and will not be so easily misled by external factors.
I would like to end the talk with a story from Piyajatika Sutta (MN 87 ) for you all to contemplate on. On one occasion in Savathi, a man lost his beloved son and was filled with grief. The Buddha saw him and commented that he looked so sorrowful whereupon the man said that he has lost the meaning of his life with the death of his son. The Buddha then said, "Yes, it is true. Sorrow comes from loved ones." The man, however, did not want to accept the statement. He went about telling everyone that he did not agree with what the Buddha said for it should be the reverse, i.e. "loved ones bring happiness."
Word soon reached the ears of King Pasenadi of Kosala who agreed with the man instead of the Buddha. However, his consort, Queen Mallika said that since it was the Buddha who had said this, it must be true. King Pasenadi scoffed at her, saying, “No matter what the recluse Gotama says, Mallika agrees with it.” Queen Mallika then sent a Brahmin to see the Buddha for further clarification. The Buddha gave many examples which all pointed to the fact that sorrow does come from the loved one. It is because of attachment to loved ones, for example, a spouse, a child or a parent and so on that one experiences such sorrow when one is parted from them. Such was the case of the man who lost his beloved wife, another who lost his children and yet another who lost his parents and grieved so. The Brahmin reported this back to the queen who then asked King Pasenadi how he would feel if their daughter, the princess were to be lost to them. The king finally understood that what the Buddha said was the truth and saluted him. SBS