Mangala Sutta 1

There is a discourse of the Buddha that lays out the groundplan for a good life. It starts out with the basics and moves progressively towards awakening. The last verses may not be of interest to some, but the early verses are actionable gems of advice for any human.

It starts out this way (translation by John Kelly):
Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One [the Buddha] was living at Savatthi, at Anathapindika’s Park in Jeta’s Grove. Then, late in the night, a certain deity of astounding beauty, lighting up the whole of Jeta’s Grove, approached the Blessed One. Having drawn near, she greeted him and stood to one side. Standing there this deity addressed the Blessed one in verse:

Many deities and humans,
Longing for well-being,
Have pondered upon blessings.
Tell us what the greatest blessing is.

Bhikkhu Bodhi calls this the opening inquiry: What is truly auspicious, truly a blessing?

He calls the Buddha’s first verse in response: Orientation, that is, advice on cultivating the conditions for discretion
(1) Not to associate with the foolish (asevanā bālānaṃ)
(2) To associate with the wise (paṇḍitānaṃ sevanā)
(3) To honor those worthy of honor (pūjā pūjaniyānaṃ)

In JK’s translation, the Buddha replies:
Not associating with fools,
Associating with the wise,
Honoring those worthy of honor;
This is the greatest blessing.

It is no accident that the Buddha’s first response is to ask where we place ourselves among people – what are our relationships? Do we spend our time among people whom we respect? Are there people around us from whom we can learn (something like) wisdom or compassion? If yes, do we recognize and appreciate those people? The implication is that without this orientation, we will be handicapped in trying to develop discernment. If we cultivate friendships that support the growth of discriminating wisdom, then our ability to recognize what is wholesome and what is not, and to direct our thoughts and actions toward the wholesome and away from the unwholesome, will be strengthened.

And this, the Buddha said, is the most basic blessing.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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