Chapter 13: Dhamma for Seniors
Today is an important day in Buddhism called Mahasongkran Day. It is National Person Worthy of Reverence Day. In Buddhism, it is taught that a person should be grateful to his ancestors. Today is the day for seniors. People should think of Persons Worthy of Reverence. Not so many people think of senior citizens because they have never done so. Only a few have.
Every year on the 15th of April, I buy a piece of cloth for each senior citizen of this village. I invite the elders to sit in a row and present each of them cloth and money. I perform this deed, not the patrons. I make an example so as to let the young see how paying homage is done.
No matter how rich parents are, it is a case of whether children have any thoughtfulness for them. I went to the USA, Los Angeles. A group came to make merit for their parents who were living in Thailand, in Pitsanulok. They were rich in America. Luang Tia (Phra Dhammarajanuvatara, the Assistant Abbot of Wat Phrajetupon Vimala Mangalaram, Phra Nakorn District, Bangkok) asked, “Have you sent any money to your mother?” The man was quiet because he had never done so. The other said, “Luang Poh, mother is rich and so is father, in Pitsanulok. I need not send any money.” I felt sorry for them. No matter how rich your parents are, you have to give to them. Another person was the eldest child in the family. He had cancer then. He cried because he had not given anything to his mother. What kind of a child is that who has never thought gratefully of his parents? Wasn’t he grateful to his ancestors at all? He had been living in America for 15 years at that time.
I leave this to all patrons. Ancestors, parents, are children’s Arahant. Do not look for any Arahant elsewhere. Just turn around to look at your parents at home.
All patrons who are parents do not ask for favours in return from your children. Bring up your children as if you are making merit only. Do not expect anything in return, lest you are sorry later. Very few people are grateful to their parents nowadays.
When my neck was broken and I had to breathe through the navel, rising – falling, I thought of my mother every day. I thought of Mother when I breathed in and out because when I was in my mother’s womb I was nourished by Mother’s blood through the navel. But people do not think much of this. Bringing up children is like planting a bodhi tree (pipal tree – Ficus religiosa, Urticaceae). When they grow up they can be depended upon. When parents are ill, they can look after them. When parents are deceased, their corpses can be taken care of. When parents are still well, children can serve them.
Remember my words. Old people are lonely. Grandparents and old parents are always lonely for the remainder of their lives. If children do not visit them, parents and grandparents are in despair. When the children come to visit they are enlivened and no longer lonely. This cheers up the ancestors. It gives spirit to seniors. Elders are like this.
The characters of elders are as follows:
1. They like to eat bitter tasting foods, clear soup – sometimes with a peppery taste. They do not like strong tasting food.
2. They like to admire the beauty of their children and grandchildren. They are very pleased when they see that their grandchildren are beautiful, lovely, have graduated and are working.
3. They like to talk about the past. Elders do not enjoy company of the young because they do not enjoy conversation. They like to talk to people of the same age about the past, like coming from China together or having been to America together, for example. So, they understand each other well.
The old who are virtuous, do not grumble to their children. They are the ones who have gone through time, like having flying-hours.
Old folks have a saying, “Do not undermine me. I have taken a warm bath before you. You have taken a warm bath after me.” Some of the young may not understand this saying.
There was an officer of the rank of general on whose birthday party plenty of pigs, ducks and chickens were killed for the feast. A lot of his subordinates came to attend. He has six children, all graduated from cadet school or university. Being invited to his birthday event that day, I asked, “General, is your mother still alive?” He replied, “Yes, she is 84 now.” I asked, “Have you been visiting her at all?” He said, “It’s been four years now, Luang Poh. I haven’t seen her at all.” He had not thought of his mother at all on his birthday. This pile is roast pig. That pile is barbecue chicken. Chickens have been killed, barbecued and served on every table.
He asked, “Luang Poh, what do you say?” I said, “Do not be angry with me just yet. My belief has been handed down from the Buddha. If it’s your birthday and your children have all graduated, dress up nicely and visit grandmother in Pitsanlok. Grandmother is 84 years old now. She can’t see very well. She has to feel with her hands now.” He said, “Oh! That’s all right. I’ve sent some privates up to look after her.” I said, “Are the privates suitable? They are somebody else. Wouldn’t the grandchildren be closer?” Upon that, his tears fell. He said, “Right! Luang Poh! I’ve come to my senses. I haven’t been to see mother in four years now. I’ve been abroad. I haven’t organized the event today, though. My subordinates have.”
The Supreme Patriarch also came to that event. I was at the end of the row. But I felt sorry for what I saw. I told him, “Your birthday is your mother’s dying day. Can’t you take your children to see her? If you are angry with my reasonable explanation, then we have to part.”
After that, he regularly came to the temple. On his way to visit his mother he always dropped by to say, “Luang Poh! I’ve stopped making that kind of merit now. I’ve run away from it. I’ve only offered sanghadana to the monks and go to see my mother, taking all the children with me.” When his mother saw them she cried from happiness. “How are you son? Let me feel the body of my grandchildren. I can’t see very well now.” Her tears fell. She was very happy. She lived longer, to 86. This is called a birthday event.
That day I only ate a little rice and fish sauce. The host turned around to observe this. As I was entering, I saw the subordinates killing chickens and turning the small suckling pigs to roast. I had not eaten such things for fear of sin because I had seen them being prepared with my own eyes. That was the reason.
After that, that family regularly visited their grandmother, who was very pleased to see them. This is ancestor gratitude day. We have to visit older relatives because they have brought us up. Even if it is once a year, it is still good.
On Senior Citizen Day, you should complete 5 tasks:
1. Bring food to your parents to give them a feast.
2. Give your friend a feast.
3. Help those who suffer. Bring them happiness.
4. Make 5 offerings. Those are:-
4.1 Offering to relatives. Give help to relatives.
4.2 Offering to guests. Welcome guests. Show them hospitality. The Buddha has taught that we should make merit with older relatives, that is, grandparents on Senior Day. It can be done at the temple or at home. When relatives come to attend the event, we ask how they have been doing.
4.3 Offering to ancestor ghosts. Perform pamsukula rite dedicating it to great grandparents, grandparents or even parents. It can also be a sanghadana offering, not necessarily pam.sukula.
4.4 Offering to the king. That is offering to the public interest, such as with taxes. Do not cheat the government.
4.5 Offering to deities. Think of your birthday deity. Your parents are deities in you.
5. Offer the four paccaya to monks and dhamma observers. If you can do all these, you will be prosperous. It is the way to make merit for seniors, very meaningfully.
I also wish seniors to practice dhamma and at the same time to look after their basic health in order to have longer life. Looking after basic health is the meditation that you are practicing now.
1. Proper food. Both seniors and juniors have to be restricted on food. Do not eat too much or too little. Eat little, speak little, practice a lot. Those who eat a lot and sleep a lot die soon. Those who eat little and sleep little die later. Food is very important.
In meditation practice, you have to contemplate on food. Consider if the food agrees with your body or not, is poisonous or not, if any disease can occur after consumption or not and is injurious or not. Chew slowly and swallow while contemplating. Be mindful as well. You will have a long life and not be harmed by disease.
2. Proper air. Breathe a long breath. It is a way to exhale carbon dioxide. A long breath enables long life. If you are angry, inhale from nostrils to navel. Be mindful at the chest bone ‘…being angry’. By taking a long breath, I assure you that you can have a long life.
If you are angry the whole night long, you will have a short life. Many kinds of disease will oppress you, causing a short life.
Seniors have to look after their own health by breathing. Take a long breath, not a short one. If you are sorry, contemplate. Do not keep sorrow with you. So, proper air means taking a long breath to obtain proper air.
3. Good temper. Meditation is the base of life. Do not be bad tempered. If you are in bad temper for the whole day long, you will have a short life. It is like dying on an installment plan, day by day. If you are good tempered, you should contemplate on being happy, being sorry, or even being neutral. When the mind is neither happy nor sorry, it goes out to be diffused elsewhere. So, you have to be mindful. Then the air will be improved. You will be at ease. You will not be angry easily. Your mind will be in a good state. You will attain wisdom.
I recommend that you swing your arms and legs 100 times, when you wake up every morning. After that, do not take a bath yet. Drink five glasses of fresh water. If you are more than 45 years old, boil the drinking water. If not, there is no need to, because you are still energetic enough to overcome trivial disease. I assure you that your elimination will be regular. You can also recover from any hearing deficiency. Those who suffer from migraine, weeping eyes or eye sore from the nerve system can get rid of it as well. Drink a lot of water to expel waste from your body through urine and excrement. Then you will have a long life.
4. Proper costume. Seniors have to keep their bodies clean and healthy. Clothes have to be kept clean. Some people are dirty, wearing dirty clothes after taking a bath.
5. Exercise. Get up at 4 o’clock. Before walking and sitting meditation, swing your legs and arms 100 times. You will not have chronic disease. Some may have sinus problems. They have to contemplate ‘smelling’ when breathing. They will get better after swing their arms every day. This is the basis of life. If you want to have a long life and be prosperous, follow the Buddha’s teaching, that is, keeping basic health. Seniors have to keep themselves in working order. That is morality. If you have a good practice, with mindfulness and clear consciousness, you will then attend to yourself until you realize that all things are changing. Nothing is stable.
So, seniors can contemplate that we have been born to wait for the time of death. We have gained to wait for the time of loss. We have had to wait for the time of exhaustion. We have met to wait for the time of parting. We have met to wait for the time to be separated from each other. No one knows when such time will come, even we.
So as to keep yourself in good working order as aforementioned, you should keep to the principles of meditation. There are 4 principles to consider.
1. Regularly think of the merits of virtuous people.
2. Regularly establish loving-kindness and good intention to human and to all creatures.
3. Regularly contemplate that all things in this world are not beautiful or lovable at all, by their true nature. They have a disgusting character because of their excretion, by their true nature. All this comes from meditation.
4. Regularly contemplate on the truth and the final truth of life and body, which is death. This is to bring forward the right path to the goal.
The goals are virtue, good temperament and meditation. Realize this. Virtue is an effort, not being afraid, and being willing to work. Being good tempered because your mind is governed by meditation. Meditation is always at the foundation of the mind by contemplation. Do not stop contemplating. The precious way of life is meditation, which is being neutral in all emotions. Upekkha (Being neutral) stems from meditation. When a lovely, happy temperament comes, be neutral. When a hateful, sorrow temperament comes and you can contemplate, you can be neutral. When a fearful temperament comes and you can contemplate, you can be neutral.
Realize that whatever is happening, no matter if it is good or bad, must happen. Whatever is ceasing, no matter if it is good or bad, must cease. We cannot forbid it from happening or ceasing at all. Remember this. This is meditation. It is like hot and cold, which cannot come together at the same time. Results from this realization are :-
1. You do not lose the most important project of life, i.e. yourself.
2. There is no need for sorrow.
. There is no need to be worried about this and that.
4. You do not float around according to temperament.
If we can meditate, it turns out this way. This meditation is the supreme success of humans. It is the doctrine for seniors and the greatest virtue of all. Meditation is the supreme virtue. A safe life is a quality life because it is the beginning of peace and happiness, which is the foremost requirement. Once safety is reached, the goal is reached, because safety is free from problems.
Meditation makes one realize the dangers in life as follows.
1. Sorrow is the danger of life.
2. Weeping and wailing are dangers of life.
3. Physical troubles are dangers of life.
4. Mental troubles are dangers of life.
5. Distress and mental bruise, which cause trouble and anxiety, are the big dangers of life. It is most dreadful for all.
The above 5 dangers of life come from :-
1. Separation from loved ones and things you love. This is very meaningful. All of you please contemplate on this meditation point.
2. Association with hated ones and things of hatred.
3. Disappointment. That is, not getting what is wished for.
If there is no love, hatred and hope these five dangers of life will not exist. The best way is to prevent love, hatred and hope from your thoughts. Contemplate on ‘thinking…thinking’.
Feeling absolutely free from dangers can be achieved by studying the true nature of all creatures until there is full understanding. That is obtaining wisdom from meditation.
1. World creatures are consumed by the aging process. There is nothing definite and stable.
2. World creatures have no real command over themselves. None of them has correct defensive measures. None is the index of what is correct. This is the right wisdom obtained from meditation.
The word ‘world creature’ means those concerned with the world. They are still clinging and attached to the world. The world has the character of deterioration. When one clings to the world, he clings to deterioration. Deterioration is a state of changing. The sign of changing is one of the laws. The normal laws that we contemplate every day are aging, illness and death. Nothing remains in the end. These signs occur in everything in this world equally, giving exemption to no one and nothing. It is then called samanlakkhana (Normal character). This means the theoretical laws:-
1. Aniccam – Impermanence
2. Dukkham – Suffering
3. Anatta – Selflessness
If you realize the above, you see the world’s truth. Another point can be inferred accordingly, with the supremacy of wisdom:
1. There is nothing lovely.
2. There is nothing loathsome.
3. There is nothing which should be hoped for.
Everything occurs according to natural status. From our own meditation, we realize that everything is impermanent, suffering and selfless. They are normal.
When it is time for it to happen, it happens. When it is time for it to cease, it ceases. No one makes it happen or cease. The factors and natures cause arising and cessation according to its own status. Then there will be no feeling of :-
1. Parting from loved ones and things you love.
2. Associating with hated ones and things you hate.
In the end :-
1. There is no need for sorrow.
2. There is no need to weep and wail.
3. There will be no physical trouble.
4. There will be no inconvenience.
5. There will be no distress any longer.
This falls into the truth of meditation, which says :-
1. Danger still exists according to its nature. But there is no one who is endangered. So, danger no longer exists because there is no one to be endangered.
2. Desire still exists according to its nature. But there is no one who desires, because there is no one who desires only to be disappointed.
This is like the breeze or like sunshine, which exist according to nature. But there is no one to feel. So, no one feels cool or warm. The breeze is cool to the one who feels it. Sunshine is warm to the one who feels it. But if there is no one to feel it, no one to consider it, coolness or warmth does not exist. This is the path to safety in life.
All of us are still world creatures because we still feel clinging and are attached to this world. Sometimes we are very attached, so we cling tightly. Sometimes it seems that we are not attached at all, so we do not cling at all.
So, life has a different status. During the time that we are very attached and cling very tightly, then there are a lot of hustles and troubles. That is a lot of dangers. Anytime that we are not quite attached and cling loosely, then there are fewer hustles and troubles. That is less danger.
Sometime it seems like we are not attached to anything. We are not concerned about who is coming or going. This is when we contemplate. We realize our mindfulness and clear consciousness through meditation. Whoever is going or coming to and fro, just be mindful and do not be concerned with them. Whatever occurs, we do not feel anything. Whatever we gain or lose, just be mindful of it. Whether we feel comfortable or uncomfortable, think of it as normal. Do not desire to love anyone. Do not desire to hate any one. Do not hope for anything. Do not expect anything from anyone. If you can do so, you will feel that life is not hectic. You do not have any problem. That is the sign of no danger.
Whatever the past was, likewise the present and the future. So, the lesson of life for us seniors can be learned through meditation. The best lesson in life is meditation. That is studying our own lives. Other’s lives are just part of the lesson. We have to actualize the fact in our own lives correctly in every point.
The Buddha was successful in attaining enlightenment because he knew about himself. What suffering did he know, if it was not his own suffering? And how could he know about the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path to cessation?
Thus, all righteous people, know about yourself. There is no need to know about the moon and Mars at all. There is no need to know that person is good or this person is bad at all. Know about yourself. Be able to read yourself, command yourself and use yourself. Be able to see yourself dead. Your ego will be subdued. You will think of the right intention. Then you will make merit with plenty of results as an important proof.
Thus, all righteous people, male and female devotees, as much as we are in love, equally as much will we suffer when we are not cared for. We are concerned about them a lot. But if they are not concerned about us, we suffer. It is kilesasava – mental intoxication, causing uneasiness.
So, all seniors please practice meditation in order to prevent loneliness and know about your own lives. One day, we will leave this world for the next. Who knows if it is today or tomorrow? Be prepared for death before it comes. Be prepared for the journey – provisions, supplies and tools for future trips.
All seniors, today is National Person Worthy of Reverence Day. It is Gratitude to Ancestors Day. So, all seniors please perform your duty by practicing Dhamma, practicing meditation, regularly chanting and paying homage to the Buddha and continuously contemplating on dana (donation), sila (precept) and bhavana (meditation). You will not be lonesome nor have any problems. Your offspring will always live happily.
I have explained the dhamma for seniors for a reasonable length of time. I invite the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha together with the virtues of merit that you have practiced through dana, sila and bhavana to be dedicated to your ancestors, ghosts and the people you venerate. May the people you reverence, such as parents and deceased grandparents, come to receive the merits you have made here.
May the merits return. All your relatives, grandparents and the people you reverence who are either alive or have passed away, bless every male and female devotee. I wish you happiness forever. May you prosper in the four blessings: long life, fair complexion, happiness and good health. May you be blessed with mental health as well. Should there be any illness, let it soon be gone.
May your every wish now, and in the future, come true as you so wish.
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