Chapter 17: Development

Phra Rajsuddhinanamangala

In my opinion, in order to make temples and monastery prosper, local community has to have knowledge, moral standard and kind heart to start with. This is one of the main reasons because it makes people aim for good things, think of good things, practise good deeds and be reasonable. Begin from developing people by making school the first temple. School provides knowledge for career. The next stage is developing moral standard by building the second temple, the real temple.

This era can be called ‘the era of development’ because people become interested in developing all activities, both domestically and internationally. No matter which country we visit, we can find people talking about this in general. Now countries are classified into developed and developing countries. Apart from classifying countries, people are also classified. Citizens of developed countries are respected wherever they go. People listen to what they speak. No one looks down on them. Citizen of developing countries are respected to a certain degree. People sympathize and help to support them. But for citizens of the underdeveloped countries that are not awakened to develop; are the most unlucky people in the world. Not only that no one respect them, they are also looked down upon by the rest of the world.

As for Thailand, our country is a developing country. As we can see, there are many new, unseen projects arise in every region. It is a development both materially and religiously, as said that this is a developing era.

While we are developing so many things, developers have gained experiences. They have succeeded and failed. There are projects that have been extremely successful. Yet, there are some that have gained nothing. Some have not achieved enough to break-even. Some of these who have failed try to blame it on others which is the nature of people who do not accept their faults. When there is no one to blame, they blame it on the temple and the monks. For example, they claim that they have failed because people are Buddhists. Buddhism teaches people to do this and that, which is against development. Some said that people are poor because they observe the dhamma about santosa (satisfaction with whatever is one’s own), for example. This, in fact, is their misunderstanding. There are more stories like this. It is like the saying ‘bad dancing blames it on the music’.

But this misunderstanding cannot be blamed on those who misunderstand only. Those who cause misunderstanding have to be taken into account, i.e., those whose duty is to disseminate the Buddha’s teaching. Although it can be said that the teaching has been explained but listeners are too stupid to understand, but it is not quite right. This excuse is not valid. It falls into the teaching of Chao Khun Phra Sasanasobhon (Jaem Cattasalo) that says:-

Having said, yet not understood, a blame is put on others,
That they are so very stupid.
Why aren’t you angry of yourself,
That you cannot make others understand.

Yet there are some people who do not try to understand because of their own bias or egotism. This has happened since the Buddha’s time.

The following short essay intends to suggest how dhamma in Buddhism support or obstruct development and to what degree. It is written for the benefit of development and benefit of our religion as well.

What is development?

The first question is the meaning of the word development. It is better to make a correct understanding what development refers to.

Pattana derives from Pali word vadhna and translated from ‘development’ in English. It means prosperity, referring to making things grow. So, if we ask what a development is. The answer is making things grow.

When using this word as referring to a person, we add suffix so it becomes vaddhaka. For example, a-yuvaddhaka means one who prospers in age. In fact, these words are used among Buddhists for so many generations, not just been received from westerners at all. We have transferred the method of development only. Another point for our common understanding is that development or making things grow refers to improvement. That is, improving the existing conditions which has not been so good, to make it works. For example, there is an old temple. But it is in a mess. We then develop it to make it neat. Or, there is an old road but it is bumpy. We then fill it up and grade it. There is an old village with houses scattering around. We then arrange for the town plan. These are development. By this manner, we can see that development can be made wherever one is. It does not have to be royal temples or large cities only. Rural temples or villages can be developed as well.

Monks and development

Now I will narrow my scope to the monks, which is the intention of this essay. The questions are: Is it according to the rules of the order for monks to develop anything? What is the custom and tradition in this matter?

In general principles, as I have mentioned, development means improving. It can simply mean making growth. In principle, one who can make things grow is the prospered one. The declined one cannot make things grow. Following this logic, we can ask if the monk is the prospered one. The answer is, “Certainly! Monks are prospered ones”. Not only people regard them as the prospered ones, but they also accept that they are the prospered ones. As we can see that the monks call each other ‘bhante’, like when they say a-ma bhante, which means ‘yes, prospered one’. This is a proof that monks call each other ‘prospered one’. When laity calls him, we also use the same word. Such as when we request for the Precepts (in Precept observation ceremony), we say Mayam bhante tisaran.ena saha….When we present the kat.hina robe we say Imam. Bhante sapariva-ram. kat.hinadussam. . The word bhante in those sentences is the word for addressing monks as the prospered ones. So, there is no doubt that monk’s position is regarded as the prospered one, not the declining one. Monk is then suitable for leading others to develop.

As for which point monks should develop and at what degree are details. We have to consider on a case by case basis because it concerns status of each person. Instead of going into such details, I would like to propose the principle of development according to Buddism first, especially the development of oneself and one ’s local community.

Principle of Development

In the scope of religion, there is a certain blessing concerning development. There are seven points in that blessing. They are popular among receivers. Monks often give that blessing. This means that the life of a developed person is prospered in these seven points.

1. A-yu vaddhna – development in age
2. Dhana vaddhna – development in asset
3. Siri vaddhna – development in glory
4. Yasa vaddhna – development in status
5. Bala vaddhna – development in strength
6. Van.n.a vaddhna – development in complexion
7. Sukha vaddhna – development in happiness

When the prospered monks received offerings from laity’s merit making, they bless the merit makers by making the nouns of these words that a-yu vaddhako, dhana vaddhako, siri vaddhako, yasa vaddhako, bala vaddhako, van.n.a vaddhako, sukha vaddhako hotu. It means, ‘May you be developed in age, asset, glory etc. So, this blessing can be called the development blessing.

There can be two reasons that monks always chant the development blessing. Firstly, it proves that they have performed their duty in advising people in developments, or, warning people to make effort in developing themselves. Secondly, it is the proposal of development principle that a person should develop himself in these seven points. So, every time the monks bless a person with this blessing, it means that they are performing their duty as advisers for development.

The meaning of the seven blessings goes along well with the meaning of modern day development which is practised in general. They are what every one requires. For example,

A-yu vaddhna – development of age. This is the development in health and sanitation which will make people live longer.

Dhana vaddhna – development of asset. This is the economic development to increase income and adjust expense.

Siri vaddhna – development of glory. This is the development in ethics, creed and safety of mind.

Yasa vaddhna – development of status. This is the development of distinguishments which are called status in general, i.e., fame, subordinates under control or rank.

Bala vaddhna – development of strength. This is the increase of physical, mental and intellignet strength.

Van.n.a vaddhna – development of complexion. This is the improvement and upkeep of cleanliness and tidiness of body and garments.

Sukha vadhna – development of happiness. This is the development of shelters and communications, such as convenience.

Now, the next question is how can we develop these seven blessings in ourselves. It is certain that receiver of the blessing cannot achieve them by sitting still. When the monks have blessed, one has to receive in order to get them. Receiving blessing begins with courteous mind. The blessing is then fulfilled by resolution. Then one can take the advice to develop those seven points in oneself. The blessing received can be compared to seed grains. We have to sow them on the ground to make them grow. If you do the opposite, the blessing will vanish. For example, monks bless the age (long life), but the receivers do things hazardous to their own health; their lives cannot be long any way.

The four sappa-ya (favourable conditions)

When the seven points of development have been achieved, the Buddha taught us to help developing our community, i.e., making our local community a patiru-pa desa (suitable region).

How do we do this? We have to furnish our community with the four favourable conditions. For example,

Living in the temple, furnish the temple with the four favourable conditions.
Living in a village, furnish our village with the four favourable conditions. Living in the country, furnish our country with the four favourable conditions.

They are:-

1. A-va-sa sappa-ya (favourable living conditions). Make the living place comfortable, safe, pleasant to look at and convenient to communicate.

2. A-ha-ra sappa-ya (favourable diet). Improvement in all conditions concerning food, ranging from places to make a living, irregation, farms and market places to daily supply of food, to make them favourable.

3. Puggala sappa-ya (favourable people). Having favourable people, i.e., neighbours, friends. That is, those are good, reliable and in unison.

4. Dhamma sappa-ya (favourable order). There are law and order, rules and regulations, methods, justice including ethical training.

Since temples or villages or countries belong to many people, in order to establish these four favourable conditions, each member has to help developing them. According to the mentioned Buddhist principle, it can be concluded that each person has to be a developer. There are two levels of development to be made, i.e., developing oneself and developing community together with others, because results obtained are connected like the rice plant and the field, thus.

I would like to congratulate you wish all of you who want prosperity to develop, in order to reach happiness forever.

Credit: eBooks. Wat Amphawan.