“Sabba papassa akaranam – kusalassa upasampada

 Sacitta pariyo dapanam – etam buddhanasasanam.”

“Not to do any evil – to cultivate good

 To purify one’s mind – this is the teaching of all the Buddhas.”

- Dhammapada verse 183

‘Good’ can be defined as simply actions performed by mind, body or speech, which are conducive to the happiness and welfare of oneself and others, in a moral sense. The good news is Virtues that make us good lie hidden and deep-rooted within ourselves. So, wouldn’t it be the responsibility of each and every individual to discover these gemstones of virtues and put forth them into practice whenever possible at the appropriate occasion?

First of all, one needs to be willing to welcome that which is good; again ‘good’ here implies the moral sense of leading a good and worthwhile life. Thus it is only after establishing oneself in ‘good’ that one would be in a position to perform and might as well cultivate such benevolent, good deeds!

 ‘Buddhanussati’ is reflecting over the virtues of the Exalted One. The virtues of the Buddha are so vast and countless that it would be impossible to name all of them within a short time. However, one could experience true happiness by contemplating even on a single virtue of the Omniscient One. For instance, the Buddha is known as ‘Araham’ attributed to the following five qualities in Him:

*The Blessed One did not commit any evil even in secret.

*The Buddha abandoned all kinds of evil.

*He destroyed all the vices; that is the mental defilements.

*The Buddha put an end to the recurring cycle of births and deaths; that is samsara.

*The Exalted One is worthy of honour and offerings made by humans as well as devas or deities.

  ‘Seela’, which means ‘restraint in body and speech’, serves as the basis for a good and happy life. It also means ‘discipline’. Needless to say, before we begin to cultivate ‘good’, we need to get rid of ‘evil’. For instance, in the Five Precepts (Pancasila), to observe each precept, one ought to do away with the relevant evil action first. Only then could you reflect on the next step. In other words, each precept has two aspects. The first aspect is to abstain or refrain from the relevant evil action. This is known as ‘viramanaya’ in Sinhala. The second aspect is to observe and cultivate the good deed relevant to each precept. This is called ‘samadanaya’ in Sinhala. For instance, in the first precept, not to destroy any life including one’s own is the first aspect: ‘viramanaya’. Then, to rescue lives that are in danger is the other aspect: ‘samadanaya’.

 Most importantly, only by abandoning evil could one build up a strong foundation and be confident in one’s endeavours of performing good and meritorious actions. Moreover, to bring this into the light, we need to generate ‘right effort’ in our day-to-day practice. The Blessed One teaches us four ways of putting forth ‘right effort’ into practice: not to commit again any evil already committed in the past, to continue not to commit the evil that has not yet been committed, to perform the good not yet performed and to perform again and again the good deeds already performed by oneself and bring such good actions into fruition. Interestingly enough, mastery of ‘good’ could be achieved mainly by learning the art of performing good deeds and being skilful in its application especially through direct personal experience!

 Now let us consider the importance of performing good deeds. Would there be any place for ‘repentance’ by doing good acts? Of course, one may repent, regret or feel sorry in a negative sense only for one’s evil deeds committed in the past but never for one’s genuine and noble acts. Nevertheless one may argue that an individual would be likely to repent on certain occasions even after performing a good action! To cite a classic example, imagine you make an offering of food and drink to the community of monks. After this act of generosity, you may begin to repent owing to the thought: ‘What a waste of wealth?’ This is an unwholesome thought.

This unskilful thought arose because of ‘lobha’ or ‘greed’ creeping into your mind. So, once you become aware of this, you let go of the unwholesome thought, which arose due to ‘greed’, after having realized its vanity and absurdity. This is how you deal with, in such a situation when unwholesome thoughts begin to dominate your mind!

 Once, the chief attendant of the Buddha, Venerable Ananda queries from the Blessed One:

“Venerable Sir, what are the benefits of ‘Seela’?”

 Then the Buddha replies Venerable Ananda’s question as follows: “Ananda, the benefit of ‘Seela’ is ‘non-repentance’.”

 Thereupon Venerable Ananda wished to know the benefit of non-repentance to which the Blessed One responses:

“Ananda, the benefit of ‘non-repentance’ is ‘happiness’.”

Accordingly, to each question posed by Venerable Ananda pertaining to the benefits of Seela the Buddha enunciates:

“The benefit of ‘happiness’ is ‘joy’.

 The benefit of ‘joy’ is ‘tranquillity’.

 The benefit of ‘tranquillity’ is ‘unification of mind’ (Samadhi).

 The benefit of ‘Samadhi’ is ‘seeing things as they are in their true perspective’.

 The benefit of ‘seeing things as they are in their true perspective’ is ‘disillusionment’.

 Here ‘disillusionment’ is more or less like being disgusted over mundane phenomena and has a positive shade of meaning unlike the word ‘disappointment’, which generally carries a negative shade of meaning.

 The benefit of ‘disillusionment’ is ‘non-attachment’.

 This exemplifies the fact that this mental state, ‘disillusionment’ is indeed positive as it enables an individual to be detached from worldly possessions by means of realizing and perceiving their true inherent nature namely ‘impermanence’; that is the nature of arising and ceasing and not lasting.

 The benefit of ‘non-attachment’ is ‘wisdom’. Here, let us reflect over how the arising of wisdom in the mind takes place: ‘Attachment’ is an unskillful state of mind arising in the worldling (putthujjana) whereas ‘non-attachment’ is a skilful state of mind. The mental states related to ‘attachment’ are namely ‘craving’, ‘lust’, ‘greed’, ‘grasping’ and ‘clinging’. We need to get rid of these impure mental states as they are unskilful and do not lead us to our goal: final emancipation. Hence, we ought to arouse the skilful state of mind ‘non-attachment’. What happens then is, we replace lobha, dosa and moha with alobha, adosa and amoha. ‘Lobha, dosa and moha’ are the three main roots of defilements. They are ‘greed, hate and delusion’ respectively. So, in other words, ‘greed, hate and delusion’ are replaced with ‘non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion’. That is, the mind is free of greed, free of ill-will and free of delusion. Delusion is ignorance, which simply means ‘not knowing’. To be precise, it is, not knowing the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha: Noble Truth of the unsatisfactory nature in life (Dukkha Ariya Sacca), Noble Truth of the cause of this unsatisfactory nature (Dukkha Samudaya Ariya Sacca), Noble Truth of the end of Dukkha (Dukkha Nirodha Ariya Sacca) and Noble Truth of the path that leads to the end of Dukkha (Dukkha Nirodha Gamini Patipada Ariya Sacca). ‘Ignorance’ also means not being aware of the ‘impermanent’ or ‘not lasting’ nature of all conditioned phenomena. ‘Conditioned phenomena’ are things that come into being or existence due to a particular cause or a multiplicity of causes.

 Now when the mind is devoid of unwholesome states, gradually it could be directed and focused on wholesome states of mind namely generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom. In this manner, ‘wisdom’ enables the noble disciple to liberate the mind and thereby experience the ultimate bliss of ‘nirvana’.

 Once again, when you have decided to get rid of any particular evil deed, then your mind would be free from any defilements such as greed, hate and delusion. So, the mind is calm and pure now. At this stage, you would be in a position to create a mind calmer, purer and also more refine and sharp by guarding the mind through the gradual but steady practice of ‘meditation’ or ‘mental culture’. It is interesting to learn the origin of the word ‘meditation’. The word ‘meditation’ is derived from the Latin word ‘meditare’, which means ‘to think silently’. However, meditation has nothing to do with ‘thinking’. We simply let go of the ‘thinking’ mind. This is done by making a mental note ‘thinking, thinking, thinking’ whenever ‘thinking’ takes place in the mind.

Then, you gradually bring your attention to the object of the meditation. In this manner, instead of letting the mind to go astray by indulging in thoughts, one simply observes whatever that arises and passes in the mind and body process. So, let us be consistent in the practice of meditation to find delight in its invaluable benefits!

 “Punnam ce puriso kayira – kayiratetam punappunam

 Tam hi candam kayiratha – sukho punnassa uccayo.”

“Suppose a person performs a meritorious action – such a meritorious action needs to be performed again and again. One needs to arouse a sense of joy in doing so – as the culmination of such merit results in happiness.”

The above verse proclaimed by the Blessed One explains us clearly the value of performing and cultivating good as such kind of practice would bequeath an abundance of happiness and well-being to an individual.

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