By : Olivia Agatha
The first Dharma Talk of the academic year was held on 23 September 2016. It was not only a talk in which we listened to the teachings of Buddha, but also with some fellowship activities and interactive learning.
Bhante K. Rathanasara started his speech with a simple quote :
“Life is precious. Instead of using the wonderful mind to destroy the world, won’t it be more meaningful to positively use the mind to construct heaven on Earth?”
How can we achieve such a noble goal? First, we need to cultivate both our head and heart. However, in order to start balancing the mind and heart, we need to have a spiritual goal.
Bhante categorized all human beings as three analogies. The first analogy is a blind man, symbolizing a man who has wasted his whole life. The second analogy is a one-eyed man, illustrating a man who is rich in material wealth, but has no spiritual wealth. The last one is a man with both eyes of perfect eyesight, representing a man who possesses both material and spiritual wealth. In our lives, we need to strive to become the man with perfect eyesight in order to achieve a happy and contented life, or even to figure out the meaning of life.
We often set goals but spoil the goals later on. We pay attention to our health, beauty and hygiene. However, we often forget to keep our mind clean from attachment, hatred, and jealousy. In fact, we often take our mind for granted. Therefore, we need to control our own mind by setting spiritual goals for ourselves. Let me quote from a famous saying, “Bad actions and actions harmful to ourselves are easy to be done; what is beneficial and good, that is very difficult to be done.” In other words, it won’t be easy to cultivate our mind with wholesome qualities, while unwholesome qualities can easily just rise. This is why diligence and dedication are needed to achieve your spiritual goal.
Here comes a question,“What actually obstruct us from being successful?” It is the 5 mental hindrances, known as Panca Nivarana. The first one is kamacchanda, which means the desire to satisfy sensual pleasure. Our five senses always desire to seek for something nice to be seen, heard, tasted, smell, and also felt. This desire grows unstoppably, and if we do not control our it, we will obtain neither mental wealth nor material wealth. Therefore, we need to be disciplined, from passing our exams to finding the partner of our life. The second hindrance is vyapada, which means ill will, hatred, jealousy and cruelty. It is developed through the loss of our common sense. The third one is thina middha, which means sloth. As we develop a lazy body and mind, we will be inactive and consequently be indulged in pleasure. The fourth hindrance is uddhacca kukkuca (restlessness and worry), which will make us unable to concentrate. Fifth, there is vicikiccha (doubt), which is a sign of lack of self-esteem.
So, what should we do to overcome these hindrances? It’s simple, we can overcome these hindrances by setting and reaching our spiritual goal.
Before that, let’s try to answer this question. What is the purpose of our life? Every person has their own answer about this. A theological religionist might say the purpose is to prepare them to heaven. A materialist might say the purpose of life is to satiate our 5 senses. A materialist might not believe in karma and morality as they believe that life ends when he or she die. What does a Buddhist say? Well, the purpose of life for a Buddhist is simple – to reach enlightenment.
Now, let’s return to the question of setting our spiritual goal. What exactly is a spiritual goal? The ultimate spiritual goal will, of course, be reaching enlightenment. However, before reaching the ultimate, we need to get through the basic and intermediate spiritual goals. Basic spiritual goals may be as simple as to overcome our bad habits and to start positive habits. These habits are not necessary to be religion-related. Simple things like waking up early or speaking politely can be a basic spiritual goal.
Then, after setting up our spiritual goal, what should we do next? Like what Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis always do before they sleep, we can do reflection before we sleep. Before sleeping, we can reflect on our days. If we find out that we have made mistakes during the day, we should be determined to remind oneself not to repeat the mistake. In contrast, if we find out that we are satisfied with how we have spent the day, we should be determined to do more good things. Therefore, Bhante encouraged us, “Let’s close our eyes and meditate for a short while every day. May I be free from worries and sufferings, be well and be happy. May all other beings be free from worries and sufferings, be well and be happy.”
However, setting spiritual goal itself is not enough, we need to actually achieve our goal. In order to achieve our spiritual goal, we need to follow the noble eightfold path, especially samma ditthi (right view), samma vayama (right effort) and samma sati (right mindfulness). First of all samma ditthi (right understanding),is the first thing that we need to practise before setting up our goals. By understanding that life is not fated we can actually make changes to our life and also get rid of the bad habits. The next factor is samma vayama, the right effort, which is to energetically strive to practice our goals with diligence. The last thing to practise is samma sati (right mindfulness), which means practise to be mindful of your words and love yourself so you can love others. In reality, this is easier said than done. Therefore, we need to slowly practise developing mindfulness. One way of developing mindfulness is by stop having the habit of multitasking and start the habit of focusing on what you do.
The main takeaway from this talk is that spiritual goal does not have to be a religious goal. It can be small things like waking up early. These simple things can actually develop our mind and make us better as a person.