Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Four Weels For A Good Life

Today’s talk will be based on Cakka Sutta (AN 4:31). “Cakka” is the Pali term for “wheel”. A wheel is a structure that aids movement. In any mechanism, when the wheels are properly aligned and functioning, the entire structure moves smoothly. In the same way, if the following four ‘wheels’ in our lives are smoothly rotating, we will soon be steered to prosperity.
1) Staying in a suitable place
It is obvious, from the worldly perspective, that staying in a suitable place is one of the major factors required for one to make a successful living. For example, the chances of a business becoming successful will be greatly increased if it is situated in a place where there is a good and constant flow of its targeted customers. A hawker should be situated in a place where there is a mass of hungry consumers.
 A monk on the other hand, needs a quiet and secluded place to practise, where he has a chance to associate with the wise and be in contact with the Triple Gem. But this spiritual need is not only confined to a monk.
Several decades ago when political and economic circumstances were unfavourable, many Asians emigrated to greener pastures, particularly in the West. They settled and prospered in their adoptive countries but often felt a sense of emptiness and alienation. As Buddhists by birth, they missed being in contact with the Sangha and places of worship such as monasteries and stupas, which are as common back home as the air they breathe in. As such, they often gathered together and pooled their resources to find suitable places of worship and to invite monks over so that they could come into active contact with the Triple Gem again. Eventually many Buddhist centres sprouted in western countries, serving not only the needs of the immigrants but also that of the increasing number of Westerners who were interested in Buddhist teachings.
SBS devotees in Taiping are fortunate because they have the chance to come into contact with the Sangha all the time and listen to Dhamma talks almost every week. This is not so for other places even within Malaysia and Singapore. During my annual tour of these places, many devotees often request that I come back to see them more often as they lack qualified monks to guide and lead them in their spiritual quests.
2) Association with the wise
When people associate with the virtuous and the wise, they have a better opportunity to practise cultivation of the body, speech and mind. Why? Because they are influenced by their ‘good vibes’: by their exemplary presence, moral and spiritual values and profound teachings. So they develop wholesome tendencies to keep the precepts well and lead a life of good conduct.   3) Having done merits in the past
There is a Burmese saying, “Because we were good in the past, now we are good; because we are good now, we shall be good in the future.” In other words, our past good kamma resulted in our present good life, and our present good conduct will ensure a good future life.
Look around you. You can see many kinds of people—some are beautiful, clever and affluent while others are deformed, ugly, stupid and poor. We often hear stories of those who became prosperous later in life even though they started with humble beginnings. They may even be uneducated, whereas those who are supposed to succeed in life because they have all the advantages in their youth fail miserably. This is largely due to their past kamma.
Our present actions, too, will influence our future. Take a look at many middle-class and affluent families nowadays. Parents spoil their children because they have no time for them (common in dual income families) or because they led a deprived youth and want to spare their children a similar fate. So they pander to their children's whims and fancies, suffocating them with material luxuries, but neglecting to nurture them with moral and spiritual values. In terms of moral conduct and aptitude, these kids end up in a sorry state.
There is a story of Visakha who attained stream-entry (sotapatti, the first stage of enlightenment) at the age of seven. When she came of age she was married off (as was the Indian custom of that era) to a man from a rich Brahmin family. However, she continued with her usual practice of giving dana to monks. Her father-in-law, who did not believe in doing so, always remained in the kitchen eating his breakfast whenever the monks came. Desiring to lead him into the Dhamma, the wise Visakha said aloud that her respected father-in-law only knew how to eat leftovers but not fresh food. Of course, the old man heard it and demanded to know why Visakha said such a thing. She replied that even though he was wealthy now, he did not know how to ensure his continued prosperity in future lives as he was missing the excellent chance of doing merit by giving dana to those worthy of it. The old man was impressed by her cleverness and eventually became a pious Buddhist.
After death, we cannot bring our current wealth with us, but our good kamma is carried forth, like a good investment, into our future lives.
4) Set yourself in the right direction
An excellent guide in the right direction for us is the Noble Eightfold Path. All thoughts, speech and action arise from the mind. Where there is greed, hatred or delusion, all actions arising from this are unwholesome. Where there is generosity, metta or wisdom, all actions arising from this are wholesome.
Once a devotee from Pokok Assam brought an elderly lady to seek guidance from me. Apparently, she had led a good life because even though she was uneducated, she managed to bring up all her children well enough that they became professionals with fulfilling and prosperous lives of their own. However, she was prone to frequent compulsive worrying about nonsensical and illogical things. This is a situation where one creates unnecessary worry and unhappiness for oneself because one does not know how to restrain the mind.
We need to train our mind to stay still—just like the way a dog-handler trains his charge to sit and not to move unless a command is given. A well-cultivated mind is able to steer away from the unwholesome and follow what is wholesome. Meditation is the most excellent way to cultivate the mind. As such, all are welcome to join us up in SBS for our weekly Saturday night meditation sessions.
When all the 4 ‘wheels’ are properly aligned in life, we will be steered to lead a prosperous and happy life.