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10 Virtues

Posted by Shivaboddha on May 14, 2011

10 Virtues
written by Dhammacaro

This story was told by the Buddha while he was staying at Savatthi. He was teaching monks about the 10 virtues for refuge, the best protectors of human life. Thus have I heard:
“Live with a protector, monks, and not without a protector. He suffers, one who lives without a protector. And these ten are qualities creating a protector. Which ten?

1. Sila, good conduct; keeping moral habits.
Sila (precept or discipline) is the fence against the encroachment of bad things which destroy our body and mind. Sila is a plant of wholesomeness which a person should cultivate himself. Trouble easily finds a person who has no fence, namely Sila. Even if a person lives in a civilised world with all material advancements, he still has trouble. Sila is the only fence against unwholesomeness. The world produces what ruins the world, but it never produces what helps the world. So it is said that Sila is the medicine which heals the diseases of the world.

2. Bahusutta, great learning.
Buddhism gives one definition of life that “Life is Learning” and this in turn means that learning is very important for life. The direct experiences we have in life, give us ample opportunity to learn, develop wisdom, and thus live a happy life. This learning is traditionally separated into 6 aspects. Namely,
1. Self-study
2. Learning about and from others
3. Learning about society and its changes
4. Learning about time and opportunity
5. Learning virtues
6. Learning the reality of life. When we can understand these things, we will have fewer problems and have more success in life.

1. Self-study – Have we ever asked ourselves “who we really are?” We may say, “Yes, we know our names and how old we are etc.” We may think that that is all life is about. In fact it goes deeper than that. For instance if we really know ourselves, we can rule our lives in a good and beneficial way, and we can take real control of our lives. It is said that if we know ourselves and our temperaments, such as if we are easily angered, we can teach ourselves to be calm. If we have a bad mouth, we can be aware of our speech. This will cause fewer problems to us in the future.
2. Learning about and from others – this means that we are not alone in this world. We have family and live in a society so we have to learn to know other people, especially people around us, such as members of our family. If we know them and their temperaments well, whatever situation arises we will have some means by which we can solve it. Knowing such things helps us to then live together peacefully.
3. Learning about society and its changes – to learn to know the society, in which we live, is worthwhile. When we know where we are and the way it changes, we can learn to cope with any situation that arises. All the information we hold in our hands as per our society can help us to live a happy life.
4. Learning about time and opportunity – life flows along with time and opportunity. If we know time and opportunity, our life will be smooth. Sometimes we have to learn to wait for an appropriate time, and sometimes we have to find the proper time to do our work. If it is not the proper time, we should wait for a while until the right time arises. Otherwise, the situation becomes like the expression, “haste makes waste.”
5. Learning virtues (Dhamma) – to live a virtuous life is the aim of Buddhist people. There are many dhammas of the Buddha which people can learn and practice in their lives. If they are parents, there is dhamma for parents to learn and practise. If they are students, there is dhamma for them to learn and practice. Lack of virtue makes us unhappy.
6. Learning the reality of life – the reality of life is something we should know. In this world, there is polarity such as happiness and pain, gladness and sorrow, youth and old age etc. We have to learn to accept the truth of life. When we really understand the nature of life as being up and down, containing both happiness and sorrow, we learn to accept whatever life throws at us with equanimity – it is this acceptance that leads to calm and peace.

At last, if we learn something supportive to our life, we can use the knowledge to support our life. To accept the reality of life is very important. Life cannot be successful all the time, sometimes we are going to be disappointed, it is only natural. However this all depends on the causes; if we build up good causes, then we will succeed in life. When we build up bad causes, then life is going to be full of suffering. This shows that life needs such learning to accumulate the factors leading to success or happiness.

3. Kalyana mitta, good company; association with good people.
The Buddha said in Dhammapada, “Do not associate with evil friends. Do not associate with wicked people. Associate with virtuous friends”.
The Buddha also expounded a discourse on “Sampada”: the qualities which one must possess so as to gain wealth and happiness.

Kalyana-mittatato have good friends and close acquaintances:
Good friends are gained and kept through nurturing Metta (loving kindness and good will) within the relationship
Good friends are those have virtues of; Saddha (faith), Sila (morality), Caga (liberality) and Pañña (wisdom). Having friends who lack these virtues will do nothing but drain your own, while on the other hand, having friends who possess them will help yours flourish.

In Dighanikaya Patikavacca, the Buddha spoke of the good characteristics of a good friend. They are as follows;
He guards you when you are off your guard.
He guards your property when you are off your guard.
He is a refuge to you when you are in danger.
He provides a double supply of what you may ask for in time of need.
He keeps you back from evil.
He encourages you to do good.
He informs you of what you have not heard.
He shows you the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

4. Sovacassata; amenability to correction; meekness; easy admonishability which is one of the Supreme teachings of the Buddha.
The Buddha said in the Mangala Sutta, “Patience, humility, contentment and gratitude, hearing the Dhamma at the right time. This is the Supreme Blessing.” It means to accept guidance, or the act of listening to Dhamma is a good starting point on the journey to real happiness. It is true if we are easily taught, we can develop ourselves more or less. To reject the teachings or advice can be dangerous in life, as we will be under the power of ignorance. As a Buddhist monk, I am amenable to be taught and trained so that I can develop myself. In vinaya or discipline new monks must study under the teachers with respect and meekness for five years, but that does not mean that we have to believe everything that the teacher teaches us. We allow ourselves to learn first and put into practice, or consider it, if it is practicable or beneficial to life.

5. Kingkaraniyesu Dakkhata; willingness to give a helping hand; diligence and skill in managing all the affairs of one’s fellows in the community.
This is the main reason why the Buddha established the Sangha, which can give a helping hand and support each other in learning and practice. The affairs mentioned earlier mean learning, practising and advising (monastic duties). What do we learn and practise and how can we advise others? This question is asked not only in this time, but also in the Buddha’s time as in Cakkhubala sutta; One day, at a time when the rainy retreat had come to an end, Mahabala visited the Buddha and questioned him on duties within the monastic life. The Buddha explained that there were two main duties. The first is to study the teachings within the Tripitaka, as knowledge is a vital asset as, once gained, it can never be lost. Furthermore it is something which can be passed on to others so that the benefits are two fold. The second is to practice meditation for the development of one self.
When both duties are accomplished to a certain point, we can advise others; with both theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. This is the willingness to give a helping hand; diligence and skill in managing all affairs of one’s fellows in the community, as we are doing now.

6. Dhammakamata; love of truth; and of the Doctrine, be pleasant to consult and converse with and rejoice in the advanced teaching of both the Doctrine and the Discipline.
The Dhamma is that which really is. It is the Doctrine of Reality. It is a means of Deliverance from suffering, and Deliverance itself. Whether the Buddhas arise or not, the Dhamma exists. It lies hidden from the ignorant eyes of men, till a Buddha, an Enlightened One, realizes and compassionately reveals it to the world. This Dhamma is not something apart from oneself, but is closely associated with oneself. If we have to love something in this very world, we should love the truth, Dhamma. This love can help us improve life.
A good person likes to learn, to research, to inquire, to acquire knowledge and seek the truth; he knows how to speak up and ask, and to listen; he has a friendly and relaxed manner that encourages others to approach him for consultation and conversation.
The study of dhamma and the practice of meditation are primary things to do in Buddhism as the Buddha said, “If we just listen to the Dhamma teaching but don’t practice, we’re like a ladle in a pot of soup. Everyday the ladle is in the pot, but it doesn’t know the taste of the soup because the soup seeps through. We must contemplate and meditate.”

7. Viriyarambha; energy; effort; energetic exertion; making effort; being industrious in avoiding and abandoning evil actions, and cultivating the good; a good person makes an effort and strives forward; he does not give up in despair or neglect or forsake his duties and responsibilities.
The Buddha encouraged his disciples to make an effort to learn and practise for the better, he spoke of the Four efforts in Anguttaranikaya Catukkanipata as follows;
1. The effort to prevent unwholesomeness arising in the mind.
2. The effort to abandon or overcome the unwholesomeness arisen in the mind.
3. The effort to develop wholesomeness.
4. The effort to maintain wholesomeness.

8. Santutthi; contentment.
It has been said that to be contented with what we have, is good. With this saying, I began to be contented with learning the monk’s way of life. When I first became a monk, I was equipped with four requisites; alms food, clothes, accommodation and medical care. With the four requisites, I was taught how to eat in moderation, wear this simple robe, stay in a simple place and sleep on the floor, even on the earth, and care for my health mentally and physically. All the four requisites, I must use with discipline, which is called “Consuming things with wisdom”. My life was fully regulated; I had to do things at regular times, which are called “Doing the right thing in the right time and place.”
In the monastic rule, we don’t do anything for fun. We are trained to do everything to develop our life. We have to consider our actions; reflecting on those in the past (for our development), and in the present, so that we do not let ourselves be distracted or deluded. We do this two times a day, in the morning it is called “morning reflection”, and in the evening it is called “evening reflection.” These reflections are very important because they can remind us of what we have done, and are going to do next, so that we can be aware of our own actions. With this discipline we don’t follow, or satisfy our desire, and we know the right thing to do in life.
Without consideration or reflection, we will not reach a high standard of living and quality of life. In the old days people aimed to have a high standard of living and quality of life, so they searched for that. The Buddha was one of those who could not get true happiness from a luxurious life, so he left the throne and searched for the truth of life. He had been searching for it everywhere outside himself, so he spent almost six years in vain. At the end he settled down in Buddhagaya and fully practised meditation. Then he realised that what he had been searching for was inside himself; there was nowhere to search, nowhere to go, and no self, on the dawn of Vesakha day, he became enlightened.
The important aspect of the way of life the Buddha taught to his disciples is “The middle way or moderate way” which balances everything; food to eat, clothes to wear, accommodation and medical care for mental and physical health. In the monastic rule, when we are going to eat, we should consider the food before eating; it is neither for fun nor for wasting, but for living a life. In the same way, when we consume other requisites, we have the same consideration or reflection. These are the basic rules of consumption, as follows;
1. It should have no impact on oneself, meaning that whatever we consume does not weaken us.
2. It should have no impact on others meaning that whatever we consume does not destroy society or take advantage of others.
3. It should have no impact on nature meaning that whatever we consume does not destroy nature or our surroundings.

With these monastic rules, we are, automatically, trained to be content with whatever we have; to live a simple life. Contentment helps us to be easy with life. Most of our time is dedicated to the learning of scriptures and to practising meditation. If we are not content with what we have, we will get into trouble in searching for something unnecessary to life; being worried about what we are going to eat, or do etc. etc. Contentment is very important because it can give life happiness easily, without any conditions. One thing we should not be content with is the investigation of knowledge, as the Buddha said that, with the factors of enlightenment, and keen investigation of knowledge, a person could become enlightened.

9. Sati; mindfulness; the ability to remember what one has done and spoken.
Mindfulness is the active mind, knowing, understanding what is coming in and going out. The Buddha taught mindfulness in many teachings or suttas. Maggavibhanga Sutta is one sutta in which the Buddha explained that it is the contemplation of body, feeling, mind, and dhamma, as it really is, for the realisation of body, feeling, mind, and dhamma concerning mental function, namely mental phenomena which arise, remain, and vanish and divide from hindrances which keep the human mind away from development.
We really need right understanding in this very life; and right mindfulness, also, can help us live a righteous life, and find the path leading to the end of suffering.

10. Panna; wisdom; insight.
Training in wisdom is one of the three basic teachings in Buddhism. The Pali term used is “Panna”, which we need to fully understand. “Panna” is derived from the root ‘na’ which means ‘to know’, prefixed by ‘pa’ meaning ‘correctly’. Thus, the literal English translation of the word panna is ‘to know correctly’. Commonly used equivalents are such words as ‘insight’, ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’. All these convey aspects of panna, but, as with all Pali terms, no translation corresponds exactly. Here it is divided into three aspects as follows;
1. The wisdom to know about action (kamma) means the knowledge that all beings were born as a result their own actions. Every action is like a seed, and every result is the fruit of that seed. In other words, “you reap what you sow.”
2. The wisdom to realize right understanding and right thought (Vipassana). This will occur when a meditator practises insight meditation according to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. He will understand name and form clearly; that they keep changing, are impermanent and are not controllable. They are governed by the natural laws of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self.
3. The wisdom to realize the Four Noble Truths, it is called ‘supramundane wisdom’. It penetrates the truths; namely that the existence of suffering is true, it is true that suffering has a cause; it is true that there is liberation; and there is an actual path leading to the cessation of suffering.

Wisdom greatly helps mankind to overcome all obstacles in life. The Buddha said, “All beings have wisdom within, we just need to develop it and use it.” Wisdom enables us to see things as they really are, as is said, “Seeing happiness as happiness, seeing suffering as suffering, seeing wholesome acts as wholesome acts and seeing unwholesome acts as unwholesome acts.”

Natha Sutta are called both great protection and great refuges, as they support the practitioners to develop themselves, and others, widely.

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