Mangala Sutta 20

Reverence and humility,
Contentment and gratitude,
Timely hearing of the Dhamma;
This is the greatest blessing
.

Patience and obedience,
The seeing of recluses,
Timely discussion of the Dhamma;
This is the greatest blessing.

Bhikkhu Bodhi calls these two verses “Developing a spiritual life and cultivating inner virtues”.  At this point, the person using the Mangala Sutta as a roadmap has arrived at a place in which her spiritual life is at the center of things. She embodies reverence and humility, contentment and gratitude – there’s no more dithering about what’s important.

This sutta is from the Buddhist tradition, so the reverence etc. are associated with the Buddha and his teachings, and those (usually) ordained men and women who are dedicated to living the teachings. I can imagine however, that this would work in any spiritual tradition. When we arrive at the spiritual place we belong, we naturally feel reverent and humble. We are contented and feel gratitude that the search is over and we know where we’re headed.

“Timely hearing of the Dhamma” refers to learning what the Buddha taught without putting it off. The means for this used to be literally hearing the teachings either directly from the Buddha himself or recited by one of his disciples, because for approximately 500 years after the Buddha’s death, none of the teachings were written down. Today there is a wealth of opportunity to hear and read the Buddha’s teachings in dozens of languages, including Pali, the language closest to what the Buddha would have spoken. So, for us, “timely hearing of the Dhamma” means regularly going to the source and drinking anew; either listening to people with a deep understanding (in person or recorded) or reading the texts. I’ve known about a lot of the Buddha’s teachings for fifteen years, but I wouldn’t claim to know any of it completely. As I am able, I listen or read again, and understand more and more deeply. There are always more layers.

I remind you that most of what I’ve been presenting in this blog is not a complete perspective on what the Buddha taught (sila, samadhi, and panna). To be complete, it would also include meditation (samadhi) and the wisdom factors (panna) that result from the combination of morality (sila) and meditative development (samadhi). There are plenty of ways to learn meditation (if you want to) from qualified teachers and scores of books. But the ethical trainings seem to me underrepresented in the literature, and also the part of the teachings that are of most use to non-Buddhists. If we take on the practice of generosity, truthfulness, harmlessness, and wholesome speech, pretty much every waking hour could be a type of meditation, or at least reflection; and the benefits of this type of practice can become visible almost immediately in anyone’s life.

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Filed under General, Mangala Sutta

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