Chapter 13: Sangha Debt Repayment Day


Phra Dhamsinghapuracariya
31th December 1989

Today we are lucky that we have an opportunity to make merit at the end of the year and welcome the New Year, in order that such merit made shall prevent bad deeds and instate the fruitful results of good deeds to support our lives in the future.

All righteous persons, may you come and go empty handed. Do not leave while being indebted to anyone. May you be safe for the whole year 1990, so that you will be happier and more prosperous.

May all the kind hearted be rid of your own inner debts, which are sleepiness, lust fire, anger fire and ignorance fire. Get rid of them by forgiving. Do not keep them in your mind to cause morosity any longer. May you be lucky and intelligent for the entire New Year, and forever.

Today is the 31st day of December in the year 1989. There is only a few hours left before 1990 arrives. We shall perform a great ceremony called Sangha Debt Repayment.

The Sangha has been invited to chant the important Buddhamantra, which the Buddha proclaimed. At that time there were only 5 listeners – Pa๑cavaggi- or the five ascetics. The mantra, called ‘Dhammacak in brief’, has extended its effect from the human world to the brahma world. Through the Buddha’s kindness, we have relied on the light ofdhamma to lead our lives. We, therefore, are indebted to Him a great deal. Not only the Buddha, but we are also indebted to His Majesty the King – whose reign is like the shade of a golden Bodhi Tree under which we reside happily and prosperously.

Moreover, we are also indebted to older relatives who brought us up to be well to do, as we are today. So, we are indebted to those relatives as well. We have to repay their kindness.

The uncountable debt is the debt to parents.

For over two thousand years, there has been a saying that even if you take the sky or the land as a piece of paper, using Sumeru Mountain as a pen and whole oceans as the ink, you cannot describe all the virtues of your parents. The ocean will run dry before you can finish.

Other people, no matter how loving they are, can still do us harm. They do not love us like our parents do. They love us because they can depend on us. I would like to remind you of verses written by Sunthorn Phoo:

Being dependable, dependants love you.
Should your power dwindle – They vanish, not being by your side.
But knowledge helps a person ‘til death

Debts owed to parents in previous lives have not yet been fully paid. When you are reborn, debts to parents in this life have not been fully paid. When you die and are born again, debts to parents in the next life are not fully paid again.

Thus, how much does one owe to one’s parents? Yet some still ask their parents for their farms or buildings. If you cannot depend on yourself, help yourself or teach yourself, how dare you be mean enough to ask for assets from your parents. They have given you an education. But you cannot stand on your own two feet, incurring debts. I can assure you that you will not earn a lot of money in your life.

Moreover, you owe a lot to yourself. It is so difficult to be born. You have to strive in body and mind until you’ve lived to the age of 40 – 50 years. Yet those of you, who neither love nor feel gratitude to yourselves, perform evil deeds by getting drunk. Such are people who do not love themselves.

A person who does not perform his duty and has no responsibility hates himself. A person who makes drinking, gambling, enjoying himself and nighttime activities his habit is bound to cause regrets to his parents. If he is rude to his parents, at the same time spending his parents’ assets lavishly, he is a debt-making son.

All sons and daughters listen to this. The way to repay your debt to your parents is not all that difficult. Just make merit for yourselves. This is the way to repay the debt to yourselves also. Your father gave you your heart. Your mother gave you your blood. So, your parents are within you. Where else do you find father and mother?

A person who repays the debt to himself is a person who make merit, forsakes evil deeds and refrains from paths of ruin. Enjoying paths of ruin means incurring debt to oneself. When such a person dies he is bound for hell, taking his debt with him. Indebtedness never runs dry. It follows you into the future. Although you are in worldly hell, i.e., jail, the debt follows. But the sage does not ask for a debt repayment from the inmate because it is not proper to add a burden on one who is already suffering.

If you can repay the debt to yourself by making more merit, evil will depart from you. So, do not let the debt remain in you. Once the debt is cleared, you can go to heaven. If it’s still there, you are bound for hell.

One who loves oneself has to repay his own debt. The Buddha teaches Atta‐ hi attano na‐tho – one is one’s own refuge.

In the Chinese funeral ceremony (kongteck) the parade has to throw paper assets into four wells to signify repayment of old debts, depositing for future use, depositing in the ground and throwing into the abyss. This can be explained as follows.

1. Repayment of old debts means paying gratitude to our parents.
2. Depositing in the ground means giving it to the poor. It does not matter if you receive a repayment or not.
3. Depositing for future use means the bringing up of our own children. When they grow up, they will repay us.
4. Throwing into the abyss means consuming it. Everyday consuming cannot be brought to the full. This is like throwing money into an abyss. If you consume a lot, yet do not work nor perform good deeds, you continue to be indebted to yourself.

The human world is the world of people with uplifted minds. If you are lazy, you will be friendless and poor because you do not have any job. A job is money. Money is a job, predestining happiness. So, enjoy your work and make it fun. Then money and gold will flow in.

Those who are born with wisdom will be safe. People who practice dhamma will survive. Those who are unethical are not safe and will not survive. They cannot help themselves, notwithstanding their high academic knowledge.

We can repay debt to ourselves by working for ourselves, such as work to study, or work to establish wealth. These are our own debt repayments. Do not waste your time having been born as a human being. When you are in the human world, try to be good so as to repay the debt to yourself. This is one meaning of debt repayment.

When I was young, living near Wat Sarddhabhirom – called Wat Mai Sarddharas, my grandmother always made me bring a lump of earth in her basket that I carried for her every time she went to the temple on Uposoth day. I asked her why. She explained that it was a debt repayment to the Sangha.

What was a debt to the Sangkha? My grandmother said, “Well, when we go to the temple, we trod on the soil that belongs there. Bits of soil are attached to our feet when we leave and walk home. We owe the Sangkha for taking away the bits of soil. So, we have to take the lump of soil to repay them.”

Nowadays, there is no need to do so. People herd their buffaloes to graze in the temple ground, even cutting down the temple’s trees. When the monk utters a word, they make a row with the monk. This kind of people are Devadatta’ s disciples. They are bound to go to hell, blown away by a storm, caught in a fire or robbed. They will be punished according to the law of karma. I would like to leave it with you, so that you can be good in order to repay the debt to yourself. It will make your life worthwhile.

All of us are indebted to someone. What kind of debt cannot be fully repaid? Those of you who are a sage can reflect on this. Favours cannot be fully returned. If you borrow a thousand baht, you can partially repay it at a hundred baht a day. The debt will be repaid in no time and you will owe nothing.

But indebtedness is different. An old saying goes, “With honesty, you will have to eat without an end. With dishonesty, you can eat not for long.” I would like to leave you this. If you are honest, you will have things to eat without an end. Things keep coming your way. The indebtedness does not run dry. If you help others farming or otherwise, they will not forget your kindness. Unless you help a ruffian. They are bound to forget. The sages will not forget your kindness.

So, we should not forget the kindness of our parents, our teachers, places, the institute that provides education or the institute that provides merit. We should keep visiting them. Do not forget your own favorable circumstance, that it is difficult to be born as a human. Do be good in order to repay the debt to yourself. In order to repay the debt to yourself, perform even better deeds. Work even harder and make your merit stand out in society. This is called your own debt repayment.

When a person doesn’t feel sorry for himself, he takes to drinking, spending all the heritage from his parents. He would sell himself if he could. Unfortunately, he is too lazy for anyone to buy. I leave this food for thought on the Sangha debt repayment day.

Performing good deeds is a form of reciprocation. If you are repaying debt to the Triple Gem or your parents or yourself, you have to perform even better deeds. In Her Majesty the Queen’s speech on Mother’s Day ten years ago, I remember she said, “All you parents, build a happier country. All you children, build a greater nation. You have to help yourself to education so that you can depend on yourself.” All you children, build a greater nation. This sentence means that you have to make yourself mature enough to be responsible for yourself. This is debt repayment to oneself. Parents should then make a happier homeland for children to live in and provide them with an education.

Two thousand years ago, when the Buddha left his father’s palace for the Great Renunciation he did not take any belongings with him at all. He went empty handed. Thus, the god Indra had to present him with kasavapastra cloth at the bank of the Anoma River. That was how he made merit by being ordained. He was the heir to the throne with plenty of money to spend. But he had not asked for a single penny from his parents. He came empty-handed and left empty-handed to make merit in the human world, becoming famous, as He is to the present.

Our Buddha was rich and famous. He taught laity to be rich, valuable, famous and to cherish each other. Thus, the Buddhist institution has prospered for more than two thousand years. But some groups of monk are not rich at all. Why is this so? They are not kind enough to repay their debt to the people.

The Buddha spoke to Ananda, “Heed this, Ananda my brother. Now we are monks. We owe a lot to the laity. We have to repay them for the food and shelter rendered to us. All monks in this order, do not be against society. Let the monks be united for the benefit of society from now on.” He, therefore, taught the monk to repay debts to people by considering the four requisites, i.e., robes, alms, shelter and medicine. Monks should not consume these without consideration.

Robes are offered by the laity. Monks have to observe the rules of the order strictly and consider the robes before every wearing.

Alms are offered by the laity. Each monk owes to laymen every grain of rice he eats. Why don’t they repay people? The Buddha taught monks to repay this debt as well.

Shelter is offered by the laity for the monks to have a clean eating place and hygienic amenities. The monk who does not keep his living place clean or leave the place unswept owes a lot to donors. Those who come to use the Sangha’s place carelessly, owe the Sangha. The Sangha that does not maintain donated places well enough to be of long use, owe the laity as well as the Sangkha because every temple belongs to the Sangha. Not only layman can owe, but monks can also owe. Whom does the monk owe? He owes a layman. When a layman offers requisites he says, “Bhikkhu sanghassa onojaya‐ma ”. This means that you offer this to the Sangha. No monk can take the offering as his personal beloning. He has to present it to the Sangha and share it with others in four ways.

The first part he has to offer to the Buddha.
The second part he has to offer to the monk who needs it.
The third part he offers to the precept observers.
And the fourth part he performs an offering rites on behalf of deceased ancestors.

Monks can owe patrons as well. If they do nothing but eat and sleep, I can assure you that they will become hungry ghosts after death. The Buddha preached about this. It is certain that they will go to eat pebbles and copper pellets in hell. At present, many ex-monks from this monastery are eating pebbles and copper pellets in hell. They had never repaid their debts to patrons. Monks can repay debts to patrons by making merit for the good of the people, thus.

The Buddha said, “Ananda, good brother, now we owe the laity. We owe them rice. We owe them four requisites, i.e., robes, alms, shelter and medicine. We have to repay them.” How? Debt repayment can be done by working for their benefit, uplift their minds, educate them, develop patrons socially and economically. Economic development means helping patrons to have jobs. Social development means teaching them to live happily through well wishes, care, kindness and sharing among themselves. This is the duty of the monk.

So, all righteous persons please know, this is the prostrating cloth. When a patron presents an object to the monk, he accepts it. If it is a robe, he will say, “Yatha paccayam civaram patisevami.” This is how he repays his patron the debt. He has to say so. If the patron gives alms to the monk, he says, in short, yatha paccayam pindapatam patisevami. He repays the patron with well wishes.

If the patron gives shelter, he says yatha paccayam senasanm patisevami to repay the debt.

If the patron brings medicine, like honey, sugarcane juice, sugar, ghee or cheese, he has to say gilanabhesaj to repay and offer well wishes to the patron. Pana juice is classified as medicine. The monk has to repay it, too.

The mat I am sitting on is classified as shelter. Upon sitting down every monk will say, “ patisankha yoniso senasanam patisevami. Those who have given the mats can earn merit. This is like repaying all the time.

Some monks do not repay debts. They go to eat pebbles and sand in hell. Some are reborn as a guardian deity because they have accumulated a lot of assets. When death comes, they will be reborn guardian deities, carry on guarding money, gold and assets further. How can they become brahmas? Being a guardian deity is right for them, guarding the assets that they have collected for a long time. They owe a lot.

Thus, before having a meal monks say patisankhayo. When they accept food offerings, they say yathapaccayam. This is how they repay their patrons. They do so again after the meal by chanting yatha – sabbi. Yatha is for the deceased. Sabbi is for those alive.

When pouring the water of dedication, do not touch the other’s backside (to signify that you are performing the same rite). Yathapetanam is a chant to transfer merit to hungry ghosts. Sabbitiyo is a chant to bless the merit makers. In short, yatha for the deceased, sabbi is for those alive. You should lift the joined palm accepting the blessing. I would like to leave this in the debt repayment day today.

When a monk goes round for alms, he has to be composed in all faculties. That is, keeping the eyesight around a yoke length in front. Do not look around rovingly like a monkey, lemur, flying squirrel or gibbon. If a monk calls out, “Patron, the monk has arrived.” Then, he is a beggar! He has not come round for alms in order to show clemency. Buddha has never taught this. Monks do it themselves.

If the patron has not made an allowance, do not call out. Yet, sometime the patron has made an allowance to the accompanying temple boy. “Young boy, if I haven’t noticed that the monk has arrived, please call me.” In this case let the temple boy call out. But the monk should not do so himself.

When the monk goes out for alms round, he has to say yathapaccayam pintapato throughout the route. Without doing this, he is indebted to the patron and will go to hell after death, for sure. A monk has 10 religious routines. Those are

1) Attend the uposatha.
2) Chant and paying homage to the Triple Gem.
3) Go on alms round.
4) Enable patrons to make merit.
5) Clean the toilet. Cleaning the toilet is the duty of monks. Should a monk in this order pass a toilet, smelling bad or seeing a dirty sight and yet walk away, he breaks the rule.
6) Keeping robes on.
7) Shave his hair, including facial hair.
8) Attend the probation.
9) Study the training rules and serve his teacher.
10) Consider the four requisites (food, robes, shelter and medicine) for example.

Please note that not only patrons can be in debt, but monks can also be in debt, more so than patrons. The fruit of his sin has to be multiplied by two. It is like being a civil servant. One of the legs is already chained. Once the other leg has done wrong, you are in jail. A monk is the same. He preaches. He is supposed to set himself as a good example to the world, since he is the well doer, the right doer. I leave you this.

When you pay respect to a monk, he blesses you. To a group of males and females, he blesses sukhita hota dukkha pamuncatha. May you all attain the state of happiness and be rid of suffering. To a man, he says sukhito hotu, dukkha pamuncatu. To a woman, he says sukhita hota, dukkha pamuncatu.

This is how you are reciprocated. Some monks do not repay their patrons at all. They owe the Sangha and the Buddha. When they die, they are bound to be reborn like Devadatta Thera was, eating pebbles and sand, or, be reborn as cattle and buffaloes. This is due to the power of ignorance, that they have not observed the rules of this order.

However, any monk who practices meditation is repaying his debts to the Sangha. It is defunct karma. Picking up, eating, chewing, swallowing, this food is taken to sustain my life for another day. I will not forget my patrons. I will repay my debts to my patrons by practicing dhamma. Once I have attained insight, I will go to show compassion, enabling my patrons to follow the religious path, observing the precepts and meditate. I will show my patrons the route to heaven and Nibbana. This is the purpose of repaying one’s debt to the Sangha.

Monks nowadays do not quite repay their own debt. The fruit of their karma will be at least brain damage. They are unable to teach anyone. They can neither teach themselves nor others. They owe it to themselves. When they die they go to hell because they betray the rules of the Sangha. Esaham bhante suciraparinibbutampi. They betray the preceptor, the ordination-teacher and the Sangha solemn assembly in the Uposatha Hall.

Talking about repaying debt to patrons, allow me to go on a bit further. Do not organize a merry parade in your son’s or nephew’s ordination ceremony. Otherwise you will owe the Sangha. In the presence of the Buddha image you have to chant praising the virtues of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. You have to think of the virtues of the Triple Gem so that the ordinand and his parents can earn merit. If you drink within the boundary of the consecrated area, you will owe the Sangha for the rest of your life.

If you drink or gamble at your parents’ funeral ceremony in the temple, which is regarded as the official workplace of the Buddha and Buddhism, you will go to hell. The consciousness of your parents will not receive the merit transferred to them. If the consciousness is reborn in heaven, he/she will depart, leaving the corpse with the offerings. The consciousness will not accept the merit and will not bless the descendants. I leave this to you. Do not misbehave at all. It proves that you do not love yourself. Being drunk within the consecrated boundary, singing, dancing and bending the body backward and forward in front of the Buddha shows lack of respect. Was there any parade when the Buddha made the Great Renunciation? But he had to go so far upon the back of his horse ‘kandhaka’. That is why people send the ordinand to the temple on horseback, following the legend of the Buddha.

Why bother riding on horseback when you actually walk for about half a kilometre? And a parasol! It is all right for you to walk across the field under the shade of a parasol. But when you enter the temple ground, you have to pay respect by putting down your parasol and taking off your shoes. Pay respect to the Buddha when you are in the temple boundary and you will not be indebted to the Sangha.

What is the Sangha’s indebtedness? The monk teaches you. So, you are indebted to the Sangha. The monk teaches you to behave. If you meditate, you will know that you are indebted to the Sangha. Those who cannot meditate and say bad things about monks will not prosper. When you come to the temple, try to leave having made merit. Do not come to make a row with a monk or try to look for the monk’s fault. Those are like incurring debts in the temple, which is a pity.

When I come to sit here, I considered as I walked in who gave the carpet. Patisangkha yoniso senasanam patisevami. So, the person who donated the carpet will receive merit. This is like sowing the grains to expect the crop. Do not sow the rice grain on top of the mountain nor in the forest because you will not get the crop. Moreover, you will waste your seed grains for nothing.

To whom do monks nowadays repay, when they mumble words that no one can hear? I think of patron’s good turn very much. Whenever there is a funeral ceremony, I donate the coffin first, to repay debt to patrons.

I will not forget each grain of rice given. It is difficult for me to eat other people’s rice without counting one to ten, thinking how I can repay my patrons. My patrons earn their living with difficulties. I realize that very well. That was why I made a wish to be able to come back when I broke my neck. I had not fully repaid my patrons, who had given me food. So, I resolved, “I will do the Buddha’s work for the public. I will make this work for the public’s benefit, as a result of my work. Whatever is not beyond my capacity, whatever is neither against the doctrine nor against the law, I go all out to help.”

Wat Ambavana’s Meeting Hall is sound proof. It is not against the law. Otherwise, we will be fined. Villagers will complain that this temple is noisy. This is because there are groups of both ogres and humans in the village. The ogre doesn’t like the monk’s voice whereas humans do. So, they quarrel among themselves.

As Head of the Sangha today, I would like to make a resolution to you. “I will continue to repay my debt to you until my life is over.”

I have had the meeting hall built so that I can repay my patrons. Bring your children to be trained. Bring relatives to meditate here, enabling me to repay my debt by teaching meditation and helping you obtain merit. This is how I repay the debt for your having given me food and drink. Not just eating your food free of charge.

Today you will receive double happiness in the future, or more. You will be blissful, thinking of the merit made and the precepts observed. When you think of donations you’ve given, you will be blissful like drops of palm juice into a pail. Drop by drop the pail can be filled. Keep going. Do endeavour to make merit. Do not quarrel with each other. I feel sorry for the couples that fight with each other. Do not beat your children or speak harsh words to them at all. I would like to ask for that. Live happily together and repay debt to each other. Think of when you were just married. Even salt was sweet then. So, it is better for you to live together to the crematorium. After that, try to go to heaven and Nibbana hand in hand, according to the explanation today.

As Head of the Sangha today, I would like to make a resolution in front of patrons, that I will keep working for the religion; I will pay homage to the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangkha, father, mother, teachers, with all my efforts. The Sangha and I will work to assist the public to avoid suffering and equally attaining the ultimate happiness.

And I would like to ask you to make a resolution to me as well. Be good. Repay your own debt. Then you will achieve what you wish for.

May the sacred blessing at the end of this year rid you of debts to the Sangha as well as debts to others. May you be sincere and well off in this year, until the end of time.

Credit: Page Link