Chapter 17: The Value of Life

Phra Ra -jsuddhi¬a-nฺamongkol
Today all of you come here to observe moral precepts
and practise meditation in the hope of making yourselves happy
or calm. The fruit of your own efforts will be reaped by you
yourselves and no one else. To contemplate on the Four
Foundations of Mindfulness and put it into practice is a great
wholesome act. In fact, it is considered as a very great merit. If
you build an ordination hall or hundreds of pavillions, it will
not be the same as you build merit for your own self. The
Buddha himself had said so. It is not a concept of my own
Everyone who is born into this human world of ours
yearns for happiness, prosperity, longevity, and a life of comforts
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and conveniences. Nobody wants to have a life full of troubles,
but no one can acquire things for us which we yearn for on our
behalf. We have to compete with each other to get the things
we desire, and often at a price and with different degrees of
success. Everyone wants happiness, but so far we seem to be
unconsciously creating more suffering than happiness for
When we were born into this world, we were helpless
little things that depended on our mothers completely for our
survival, so unlike the off – spring of some animals. But as we
grow up, we have to learn self – reliance bit by bit until we can
achieve full independence. However, this “full independence”
is still not full in the absolute sense, for, after all, human beings
are gregarious animals. We still need to depend on each other
for our survival and existence. For example, we cannot possibly
produce all the things that we need in life by ourselves. We
have to depend on other people for all sorts of goods and
services which make our lives convenient and comfortable.
However, dear fellow Buddhists, life is not just a matter
of acquiring material requisites and worldly pleasures. We need
something more profound to give us peace of mind, and peace
is the very “commodity” we are in much lack of. Unfortunately,
few of us ever realise that. Let us not waste our lives in the
senseless pursuit of materialism, but turn our hearts to
Buddhism – a religion which was founded solely for the purpose
of attaining peace of mind. We need to contemplate on
ourselves and measure our inner strength and worth by the
moral principles as set forth by the great Buddha. We need not
ordain as monks, but at least we need to lead a life of decent
basic moral principles.
It is certainly a blessing to be born a human being. It is
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even a greater blessing to have such a religion as Buddhism – a
religion which truly advocates and promotes peace in every sense
of the word. Without it we would remain totally ignorant and
become lost in the jungle of craving and desires. Our lives would
be impotent and meaningless.
The uniquely superior qualities of a human being are
invaluable qualities. The word “worth” can be taken to mean
“value”. When something has value, people will want to possess
it. They will be prepared to pay a price for it according to their
evaluation of its worth. Similarly, human beings have their own
worth. The worth of a human being depends on his or her
moral conduct and personal achievement.
Human beings are bound to face problems of all sorts,
and different people have different problems. We do not always
think in the same way, and it is these differences in our thinking
that create problems in our human society. Without proper
wisdom, we will not be able to solve or settle our differences in
the most civilized and peaceful way. The practice of meditation
is to train our mind so that it becomes mindful, and this
mindfulness will guide us our thinking, preventing us from
making grievous mistakes, and protecting us from the perils of
life. We cannot always have our own way; thus, we need to
budge a little at some time in our lives, and make compromises
or personal sacrifices. Otherwise, there will be no peace or
harmony in our human world. If we do not learn to exercise
self – restraint, our feelings or emotions and desires will surely
go wild, just like flowing water which runs unchecked down a
stream to a lower plane, flowing of no return. Time flows like
water. It slips by and never returns, and it is such a precious
thing. It consumes us with the passing of each second. We are
approaching towards our own death. No one is able to
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rejuvenate. Instead, we are growing older by the day. So far, no
scientist has been able to stop the aging process. With old age
come senility, sickness, decay, and death.
Thus, I want to remind you again, do not waste time. Do
try to practise meditation. Sow your inner mind with the seeds
of Dhamma and reap the inner fruit of the mind. Meditation
is the training of the mind which is inside you yourself or your
very body. It is an inside job, but this inside job will influence
the outside work which is done by your hands and whatever
external parts of your body. If your mind inside you is not in
the right condition, the work outside you cannot be done in
the proper manner. Your mind wanders around, your moods
fluctuate, and you spoil your job.
Thus, meditation is a training to facilitate the proper
working and thinking of the mind. If a house is to be properly
constructed, it has to be well – planned in advance. A clean
and comfortable home will definitely have positive effects on
your mind and moods, but moods must always be controlled
by mindfulness. For example, when anger arises in you, let your
mind be mindful that there is anger arising in you at that
particular moment. Observe how it burns in you and be mindful
of how it tears and hurts you. Be mindful of what horrifying
consequences it can lead you into and thus put a check on it in
the nick of time. Draw a deep breath and think of something
positive. If you find yourself in a state of being unable to think
at all, then be mindful of that state of mind and say to yourself,
“thinking” Do not borrow ideas to supplement those of your
own because different people are subject to different karma.
We need to depend on our own selves for our personal salvation.
In the ancient epic of the Ramakien (or Rammayana),
Dosakan (Ravana) the giant had ten heads and twenty arms,
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but he detached his heart and gave it to the hermit for safe –
guarding. What a fool he was! By doing so, he was not his own
master any more, since his heart was in the hands of someone
else. Thus, Hanuman, the monkey-king, simply squashed
Dosakan’s heart right in front of the giant himself. So, you see,
you have to be the master of yourself. There is no need to rely
or depend on others for refuge.
To be born as a human being means to have to live in a
world of complexity and confusion. There are lots of people
with lots of different ideas, concepts and ideologies which can
be contradictory to each other. The more people there are, the
more misunderstanding there will be, and the more problems
will arise. That we come to meditate is an attempt by us to
create a clear mind so that we are able to deal with the
confusions and complexities of this modern age. Life is so
confusing that very often we cannot even understand our own
selves. Many people claim that they feel “lost” or they are “lost”.
Yes, that is true. We have lost the right direction, which will
lead us to happiness and peace. We have even lost our own
selves. To understand our world and ourselves we need to
persistently practise the Four Foundations of Mindfulness or
the Four Satipatฺtฺha-na which consists of : (1) mindfulness as
regards the body or Ka-ya-nupassana- – Satipatฺtฺha-na ; (2)
mindfulness as regards feelings or Vedana-nupassana- –
Satipatฺtฺha-na ; (3) mindfulness as regards thoughts or
Citta-nupassana- – Satipatฺtฺha-na ; and (4) mindfulness as regards
ideas or Dhamma-nupassana- – Satipatฺtฺha-na.
Mindfulness as regards the body
This is the practice of mindfulness which has a lot to do
with the body. In our normal daily life, we normally position
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our body in four postures : standing, walking, sitting and lying
down. Whichever posture you happen to be in, observe how
your body reacts to the posture. Take sitting posture, for
example. Sit still with both legs and hands folded as you see in
some statues of the Buddha. Observe your body in this sitting
posture. If you begin to feel your back ache or your legs are in
desperate need of being stretched, be mindful of the discomfort
you are experiencing. Be mindful of your need to stretch your
legs and change the posture. See how the posture is beginning
to hurt. Notice how strong the desire to straighten your legs is.
Then bend your body backward and change your posture.
Observe how your mind is affected by your body in this sitting
posture. When you walk, let there be mindfulness. When you
lift up your foot to take a step, be mindful each time you lift
your foot. Be mindful when you place your foot down and be
mindful when it comes into contact with the floor or ground.
You need this mindfulness badly in your daily life. When you
are about to commit a wrong deed or act, this very mindfulness
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helps to alert you, making you aware of the consequences which
are bound to follow, thus putting a check on your ill intention,
and saving you from the danger of becoming a sinner, an
offender of the law or just a mischief maker.
Be mindful of each movement of your physical body.
Standing, walking, sitting and lying down are our daily routine
postures. Each posture will have consequences of its own. For
example, if you walk carelessly, you may step on a slippery object
such as a banana peel, then you slip and fall and injure yourself
; or if you walk for so long a time that your legs get very tired,
till you cannot walk any more, you must take a rest. No one
can feel the pain on your behalf. When you take a rest, you will
feel much relieved and no one can feel the relief on your behalf.
It is you yourself who will feel the pain and the relief. You sow
the seeds and you are the one to reap the fruit ; you perform
the action so you are the one to experience the consequences.
Thus, we must learn to be mindful of our thinking and actions.
We need to build up patience. Our mind does not remain
stagnant or static. It keeps changing. Sometimes it assumes an
optimistic outlook and sometimes it takes a pessimistic
standpoint. We cannot control our mind with our hands, but
we can control it with our will, and we need the right will and
the right state of mind to do just that. The right view and will,
plus the right state of mind, will lead to the arising of right
No one is able to set us right or lead us to the right path
if we ourselves are not prepared to enter the right path. As goes
the western proverb, “God helps those who help themselves.”
So, we need to rely on ourselves. We must be well equipped
with our own tools and weapons in journeying along this long
path of life – a journey in which we are most unlikely to know
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what lies ahead of us on the next part of the journey. The best
tool we have with us is our wisdom.
Mindfulness as regards feelings.
When happiness, suffering, delight and sadness arise in
us, be mindful. Observe those feelings when they arise ; see
how they affect us and how we react to them. See if we get
carried away by them. Then we will know the actual facts – that
we need to understand our own feelings well so that we do not
get carried away by them.
Mindfulness as regards thoughts.
The mind is that part of nature which reads and
understands our human emotion and reaction. It is also the
storeroom for sensations of all sorts. The consciousness of the
mind depends on contact. When the eyes see an object, the
mind becomes conscious of it. When the ears hear a sound,
the mind becomes aware of that sound. When the nose comes
into contact with a smell, the mind becomes conscious of the
nature of that particular smell. When food is put into the
mouth, the mind will know the taste, for the tongue has taste
buds. When the body comes into contact with a certain object,
the mind becomes conscious of that object, as to whether it is
hot or cold, hard or soft and rough or smooth.
When the mind is clear and normal, it can read and
“see” through the nature of sense stimuli – be they material or
non – material. If someone scolds us with foul or unkind words,
and if our mind can read or “see through” the state of mind of
that particular person, we will remain calm and unaffected. If
we have not trained our mind, we are most likely react with
anger or perhaps even with violence.
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Mindfulness as regards ideas.
Dhamma covers all things both good and bad. Try to
contemplate on the true nature of all things and phenomena,
and when you get to the truth of them, you get to the Dhamma.
This attainment and mindfulness of Dhamma helps you to
eliminate your prejudiced views and egoism. It brings about
right view and compassion for all creatures that dwell in this
world of ours. Therefore, for one who contemplates on
Dhamma, no feeling of jealousy and hatred are likely to take
root in his or her mind.
We come here to meditate in order to free ourselves from
the bonds of all defilements and craving, while at the same
time to raise our moral dignity, value, and to practice to
perfection, making our earthly life a pleasant, harmonious, and
peaceful existence. Thus, to you meditation practioners, I hope
you will keep up your effort in your practice. Obstacles are
always there hidden in your hearts, in your love, in your work,
and in your hopes and dreams. Sometimes you may be plagued
by frustration, hatred, despair, and sorrow. Whatever it is, always
be prepared to let the seeds of compassion germinate from the
very depths of your hearts, and spread them to all other fellow
human beings and living creatures of this problematic world
of ours. May you all eventually attain your own happiness and
peace in life.
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