Chapter 07: Meditation makes life Prosperous
The practice of meditation will help to make one’s life prosperous, and it is an enduring prosperity which may exert a lasting impact on future generations. I will pick a real-life story to tell you people.
In the year 1957 there was a girl whose father was a coolie of the passenger bus which provided service between Lopburi and Singburi. Her mother was a laundress. During those days people used a charcoal – burning iron for ironing clothes. A fan was needed to fan the charcoal so that it would burn well and heat up the iron.
This family consisted of six children. The girl who is the main character in this real-life story was the eldest child of the family. She had completed her primary school education and had to quit school partly because her parents were simply too poor to send her to a secondary school, and partly because she had to assume the burden of looking after her younger brothers and sisters.
This family lived in a shabby structure built in the shape of a lean-to ( or what we here call the shape of a dog stretching its neck and front legs with the buttock pointing upward ) which they called home. The house was built on the land of a local millionaire. It was situated in the front part of the millionaire’s compound but at a little distance away from the house of the millionaire. The poor girl, who, like many other poor girls on this earth, had no wardrobe worthy of admiration or envy. Her clothes had very many patches, and of course she did not have either a necklace or a ring of any value, and she wore a belt, a rope made of jute around her waist.
This girl’s father knew me personally. No matter how difficult and poor his life was, he was certainly not a man without good moral values. His eldest daughter said to me one day, “Luang Poh, most probably the chances of my marrying to a good and well-to-do husband are nil. My future husband may be a coolie like my father.”
Then I asked her, “Why do you think so ? What are the causes or reasons for such pessimistic thoughts?”
The poor girl answered, “ I am such a wretchedly poor girl and my life is mainly confined to a constant struggle of trying to make ends meet. I must work hard to feed my younger brothers and sisters, and yet the money that I earn is not sufficient for me to buy food to keep them well-fed and to send them to school. My father, whose work is to help people carry their heavy goods up to the bus, does not find not much work available for him these days, and there are not many people hiring my mother to wash clothes. Sometimes there is hardly any rice left to fill the cooking pot.
I looked at her carefully and I could notice that, in spite of her poverty, she had a lively look. She could smile radiantly and behind that sweet smile and glittering eyes of hers lurked a deep sense of compassion. No, she would not remain poor forever. Some day she would be a somebody – perhaps a rich man’s wife.
I had learned quite a bit about fortune-telling, but normally I do not encourage people to seek fortune-tellers for solving their problems. Somehow this girl’s facial features seemed to tell that better luck laid in wait for her in the future.
Thus I said, “ Will you do as I tell you if I ask you to come to spend a period of time at this monastery ?” She asked, “ What do you want me to do ?” “
Just come. Come and give a hand in the big kitchen.” said I.
Those days I had not yet established a section for the nuns. There was a building which I had bought earlier and it was used as the monastery’s kitchen.
The poor girl finally came to stay in the monastery and helped in whatever work there was in the kitchen. Sometimes she attended the meditation classes. She was here for a full month.
Home economics or domestic science was taught in the monastery and the girl proved herself to be a good student, for neither was she hard – headed or stubborn nor was she lazy. No teacher in the world enjoys teaching a hard- headed or obstinate and rebelling child or a lazy idiot, do they ? Anyway, here was a poor, gentle, softspoken, obedient and diligent girl trying her best to do something meaningful in her life. Poor though she was, she set about doing her work with enthusiasm and also with a certain dignity. It is not difficult to teach people of this mental caliber. People who surrender their hearts to defiled thoughts ( or to evil ) tend to turn a deaf ear to wise words.
I told her, “ You practise your meditation to a high level, and you will perhaps some day get a husband of great wisdom. If your mind is lowly then you are more likely to get married to a lowly and base man. “ The girl seemed to have understood me well, because for people with a quick – witted mind like hers, a slight hint is enough to “enlighten” them, whereas for those who are naturally dullwitted, even if you keep telling or hinting and instructing them till your mouth rips as far as your ears, they may still remain numb to whatever noble message hidden in your words. They are imperceptive to any morally rational reasoning.
Circumstances being as they were, the girl came to reside at the monastery, and I provided her with whatever necessary clothing a decent girl of her age might need. She practised walking meditation with great perseverance. In fact, so great was her perseverance that it seemed as though she would be glad or willing enough to have died on account of it.
This poor girl suffered from a mild form of polio but miraculously she recovered from her illness with the help of her meditation and will power, and what a little beauty she could be when she had the chance to get finely dressed up. It had been positively confirmed by many young members of the masculine gender who confessed that their hearts went throbbing wildly when setting eyes upon the humble beauty.
Now, this girl’ s parents, being the kind of parents as parents are normally supposed to be, except in some unusual cases when there was some odd form of deviation, could not help worrying about their daughter. The task of soothing their restless mind naturally was my duty. Her father was a man of good common sense and practical rationality. He was originally from a well-to-do family but owing to his having chosen, much against the will of his parents, a hopelessly poor woman as his wife, his father decided to leave him with nothing in his will. The unfortunate thing is this poor man was not only poor in material wealth, he was also poor in education. He had had only four years of primary school education. Caught in such dismayingly unfavourable circumstances he had decided to fight his way out by being a coolie or a manual labourer, a job in which he had to invest nothing except his own strength or energy. So, the father came to visit the daughter regularly and I did not hesitate to tell him not to worry about her. Said I to him, “ Please do not worry about the girl. I will take care of her just as though she were my own daughter.”
Meanwhile the girl’s mother still carried on the tedious work of a laundress. ( She had to wash clothes by hand as there was no such a thing as a washing machine in those days. ) Thus they lived from day to day, putting up with difficulties and hardships of life. It was the fruit of their past karma which they were now tasting temporarily.
It is generally believed, if I am not wrong, that nothing good will come out of a life of total comfort and idleness. Thus, for anyone at all to do something good or to accomplish some great achievement, some amount of hardship, labour and sacrifice may be inevitably necessary factor leading to success. In our old Thai dramas or soap operas, the main actor and actress, or the hero and heroine, are always portrayed as poor people who eat such simple food as cheap vegetables and sell firewood as a means of earning their living; in addition, both characters are normally given the quality of having great filiality toward their parents. This filial piety is our typical Thai concept of moral value.
Please listen carefully, to achieve something truly good one needs to invest labour and perhaps even experience hardship, while to do something bad one may be able to do it in comfort. These are the two factual aspects of life. People adhering to the former number only a handful, while many prefer the latter. Thus, our society is full of dishonesty – we always hear about, or see with our own eyes, cases of negligence or evasion of duties or responsibilities and the denial of obligation and promises, etc. But only those who are poor in material wealth but rich in spirituality will truly know well about the suffering and joy of life !
The practice of meditation will enrich your life, both in the material and nonmaterial sense, and it can assist you in tackling your own personal problems. Doesn’ t anyone ever think about that ?
You come here to sit down, close your eyes and hope to go to heaven or to attain Nibba‐na, don’t you ? I am telling you now, you will be disappointed. You are still a long distance away from that goal. You still lack some vital earthly human virtues, so let us leave heaven and Nibbana alone first. You have to start from the beginning. Have you the means to solve your own problems ? If the answer is “ no ”, then how are you going to heaven or attain Nibbana? Well, you need to practise meditation to acquire true wisdom, which is the necessary key to all your problems in life.
Now let us go back to the poor girl I have been talking about. I regarded her as though she were my own daughter, so from then onwards I simply called her “ my daughter”. She continued to stay at the monastery, practising meditation as well as cultivating and radiating compassion. Meanwhile, there was so much work for her parents to do that her father came to the monastery to ask her to return home to give a helping hand, but I told the father to be patient, to wait till she had completed her practice and work at the monastery.
Soon she had completed one month of training in meditation. The result was that she had become quite a different girl when compared to her former self a month before. She had become quite a lady, become wise, seemed to be very much at ease when dealing with people and was always smiling with a radiance of compassion. I was strongly convinced that she would make a good mother were she to have children of her own. She received guests or visitors and would invite them politely to take their food at the monastery. I must say it was such a pleasure to have her around here.
When she returned home finally, whenever those who had seen her before at the monastery came to visit me they would always make enquiries about her. Apparently she had made a good impression on my guests. That prompted me to conceive an idea.
I said to her, “ Child, you were here for only one month and yet so many people have been asking about you during your absence. Could you come back to stay at the monastery ?”
She replied, “ I am so sorry I can’t do that. You told me to venture into this world to seek my fortune that I may some day became a millionaire. If I were to stay here all the time, how could I possibly become a rich woman ? I would not only have no money to give to my family, I would also have nothing to give to you !”
Having heard her answer to my request, I said, “ That‘s it. Well, child, you have already got a kilogramme of diamonds from me and a ton of gold. These diamonds and gold need not be guarded by any policeman at all. Keep them in that worthy heart of yours. The diamonds I am giving you are not ordinary diamonds. They are the diamonds of honesty, diligence and thrift. Learn to develop a sense of self-sacrifice, co-operation, discipline, thoughtfulness, carefulness and adherence to moral principles. Also, learn to rely on your own self – Atta hi attano natho (selfreliance). You need to be a woman of your word.Do what you have proclaimed or said ; this is my diamond – the diamond of the heart. Anyone who possesses this diamond stands the chance of becoming a millionaire.
This daughter of mine possessed a fine set of human virtues. Whatever posture she happened to be in, be it walking, sitting, sleeping, turning left or right, she always did it with such refined grace that she would always appear lovable even if she were to dress in rags with all the stitched patches on display. That is so unlike some people who dress up in clothes of strikingly vivid colours, paint their lips in a deep, bloody red and yet succeed only in making themselves uglier than ever.
This girl whom I regarded as my own child possessed fine manners. At the monastery she carried herself in a nice and proper way, while at home she was still the same humble girl who went about doing her domestic chores in silent dignity. She would also take up the task of teaching her younger brothers and sisters about religious practice, chanting and even meditation. Her parents were immensely pleased. She assured them that she would never do anything to bring shame to them. I heartily wished her well. I firmly believed a sensible and decent girl like her would some day make a fine marriage.
Events soon took a turn, just like in a melodrama. A businessman at Singburi Province brought a very rich man from Yaowaraj, Bangkok, to ask for the hand of the daughter of a local millionaire here. The local millionaire, like many other people of his kind, possessed lots of property, which included a rice-mill, an ice – making factory, plenty of land and three daughters who took a great fancy to wearing heavy facial make-up and sparkling diamonds.
On the way to the millionaire’s house, the Singburi businessman and the rich man from Bangkok walked past the poor, shabby-looking house of my daughter. When the rich man’s eyes caught sight of the young, pretty and graceful girl, who at that moment was busy washing dishes, his heart was immediately captured by the enchanting scene of that lovely damsel washing dishes in front of a poor and humble-looking hut. What a charming picture of cosy domestic life, a sweet, pretty and diligent young wife doing her kitchen work ! “ If only she could be my wife !” he could not help thinking. Love surged from the depths of his heart like an electric current. He felt mesmerized for an instance; then he was led to the house of the millionaire who gave him a warm welcome.
The Singburi businessman, who embarked on this mission of matchmaking set about performing his duty. It was agreed that the rich man from Bangkok was free to make his choice of bride. Out of the three daughters of the millionaire, he was to select one. However, the mother of the three girls had, as most mothers of calculating nature would, secretly wished to “ sell away the eldest girl first.”
The rich man from Bangkok was thus asked as to which of the three girls he would have as his wife. Would he prefer the eldest one ? “No.” was his reply ; and the second one ? Another “ no ” was the answer. The girls turned pale and the mother pursed her lips to a straight line. Finally, there was the last “ no ” for the last girl, which signaled a total failure on the part of the matchmaker. It was such a devastating blow to the pride and hope of the three daughters of the millionaire.
I am not surprised at all that the rich man would have none of the girls who entered the sitting room like proud peacocks, with their dresses all puffed up like fully filled, blown up balloons, their diamond rings sparkling with each gesture of the hands, their lips painted in blood-red colour, and not bothering to pay any gesture of respect to any of the visitors.
Apparently the matchmaker had wrongly pre-conceived of the dignity he would get from this silly matchmaking of his. Much to his dismay, what he got was disappointment and also to some extent, a loss of face. Then, at this awkward moment, his friend whispered in his ear that the chosen girl was the one washing dishes in front of the millionaire’s house. The matchmaking businessman was stupefied. At last he managed to squeeze out a few words, “Why must you like her ? That is a poor family. She is mere lowly servant of the rich.”
However, the rich man was not deterred. On walking past the poor girl’ s house, he stopped to make a meaningless enquiry, “What are you doing ?” even though he could very well see what the girl was actually doing, for, after all, he was not blind. “
Thank you for asking. I am washing dishes, sir,” answered the girl, not without a sweet smile – a smile sweet enough to melt the heart of any iron-hearted man. Those three daughters of the millionaire would neither talk, nor would they smile. Clearly they had not mastered the art of attracting men. Rich though they were, they were poor in spirit and wisdom. So, do not belittle or underestimate poor people.
To you, all meditators, I wish to remind you that you may step over a fallen tree, but do not step over a fallen man (or woman). In other words, do not belittle, underestimate or despise people just because of their poverty or low social status.
I can well remember some sayings which I picked up during my childhood. They go like this :
Do not step over a fallen man.
Do not try to outwit one with more sense.
Do not threaten brave ones if you can.
Do not challenge wild villains coming in clans.
Do not beg the bad guys with bad ends.
Do not betray your beloved ones now and then.
Do not obstruct those in hurry with intent.
Do not oppress the lowly if you have some sense.
Do not love heartless rogues with unclean hands. D
o not entice the virtuous folks as heaven bans.
Do not hit back at the dead who have met their end.
So, dear meditators, never look down upon poor people. Do not judge a book by its cover, so do not judge people by their look. Some people may look ugly or dull and yet they may be the most humane and compassionate of all people, with the wisest of wisdom and kindest of hearts.
Now, let’s go back to the rich man I have been talking about. He came again to that poor daughter of mine. This time he came alone and he did not hesitate to express his love for the girl. However, she graciously refused his offer.
The rich man asked, somewhat amazed, “Why, for what reason ?” She replied, “I possess nothing at all. Just look at my house. It is built in the shape of a lean – to, just like a dog stretching its neck and forelegs. We are dependent on the millionaire for the land where we built our house”. The rich man said, “ Well, look here, I have observed you on three occasions by now. I have been in and out of this house and I have been observing you. “ At this point the poor girl interrupted, “ Really, I am not in a position to agree with you. I am very well aware of the fact that I am of such a poor and humble origin. I am most profoundly grateful for your regards towards me.” It seemed the more desperate she was in her refusal, the more she succeeded in making the rich man fall head over heels for her. Finally, he said conclusively, “Well, in order not to waste much more time, I have already made up my mind. No second thoughts. After all, I am here to express my true feelings.”
The girl then said, “Look here, your original intention of coming here was to marry any one of the three daughters of the millionaire. They are nice girls too. As for me, I am simply a poor tenant of the millionaire. I simply cannot accept your offer. The millionaire would be furious were I to agree.”
The rich man was persistent in his feelings and purpose. He returned to propose about three times. Finally, the girl’s parents were consulted and the girl herself gave her consent with appropriate dignity, and the inevitable marriage was agreed upon. A small wedding feast was held in which all guests were treated to truly delicious Chinese food. The girl was dressed up in a traditional Thai wedding costume. She even wore a gold belt and some sparkling jewels. After the wedding, which had become the chief topic of conversation and gossip most of the villagers, the girl left for Bangkok to become a rich man’s wife.
The young bride’s father came to inform me that his landlord, the millionaire, had told him to pack and leave. He was at a loss as to know what to do. The order for eviction had come so soon. Thus, I instructed a house builder to make a temporary shelter for him next to the monastery. Obviously the millionaire was very displeased and upset that his daughters had been bypassed by the rich man from Bangkok, who chose a poor man’s daughter as his wife instead. Out of displeasure or fury, he drove the poor man away from the land which belonged to him.
The young, newly-married girl soon learned to live in Bangkok. She made frequent visits to my monastery, sometimes to make an offering of food to the monks. I visited her too at her Bangkok residence. I met her father-in-law , who took great delight in openly praising her. The old man was very proud of his daughter-inlaw.
When she began to have money of her own, she did not forget to support her younger brothers and sisters in their educational pursuits. Her parents moved to Bangkok to stay with her. She is not my real or natural daughter, of course, but I have had great pleasure in helping her and seeing her do well in life. In this earthly world of ours, what we need to do is not to strive to go to heaven or to achieve Nibba‐na, but rather we need to be more “humane” than what we are now because we are, for the most part of our lives, selfishly inhumane. The more humane we are, the greater compassion we will have and the higher will our spirituality be.
Credit: eBooks. Wat Amphawan.