Good deeds (Mangala Sutta 5)

Residing in a suitable location,
Good deeds performed in the past,
Setting oneself in the right direction;
This is the greatest blessing

What does it mean to have performed good deeds in the past? At one level it means having done meritorious actions in previous lifetimes, but of course most of us would have no knowledge of such things. One could perhaps assume that if a person is a spiritual seeker in this life, s/he must have done at least something good to arrive at this stage.

We have been consciously performing deeds of one sort or another for a long time. Is there any pattern to them? Think about whether you have a habit of restraining yourself from doing harm to yourself and others, and are usually generous, kind, and sympathetic towards others. You may be tempted to judge yourself too harshly, to see your faults in crystal clear technicolor and your virtues in a fuzzy black and white. Please take this opportunity to review actual deeds you remember, keeping in mind that our understanding is partial. Everyone has some mix of good and bad karma (except a Buddha).

I have been guilty of judging my younger self too harshly, of remembering the selfish acts and forgetting the lifelong instinct to look after people. I wonder if you do this, too?

One reason to intentionally do wholesome actions and restrain the impulse to do unwholesome things is that when we do the unwholesome stuff, we become weighted down with regrets and (possibly unconscious) anxiety. If we see this cause and effect clearly, we have the chance to redress some of the (perceived) wrongs. We can apoligize to anyone we’re conscious of harming; we can change the way we treat others (gradually) if we are too rough or careless. These are the outlines of the practice I’ve been recommending. Just by setting our intention in this direction, we can become more confident about continuing on a wholesome path.

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Filed under General, Mangala Sutta

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