Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sunatha, dharetha, Carartha Dhamme Listen to, bear in mind and abide by the Dhamma

Ven. Kumbuke Visuddhi Citta


(8. Sahassa Vagga - Thousands - 1st verse - Dhammapada)
‘Sahassamapi ce vaca – anatthapada samhita
Ekam atthapadam seyyo – yam sutva upasammati’

‘One line of a verse, hearing which a person becomes pacified, is better than thousand speeches which conduce to degeneration of man.’

Words are used in a language to communicate and express views, opinions and ideas. In each country there is an official language and it is known as the ‘mother tongue’ of the majority of inhabitants in that country. However, in most of the countries, the people belong to several nationalities speaking different languages. For instance, there are Sinhalese, the majority, Tamil, Muslim, Malay, Hindu and Burgher people in Sri Lanka. The Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Hindus and Burghers belong to the minority.

Buddhist monks follow the ten precepts whereas lay Buddhists observe the five precepts. The observance of this moral code enables the individual to restrain the mind, body and speech and thereby discipline himself or herself. According to the Buddha’s teachings there are four ways of guarding one’s speech, that is, by not telling lies, by not using abusive language, by not talking gossip or engaging in frivolous talk and by not backbiting and slandering. It would be a good habit if one could always speak the truth. Nobody would be deceived and misled by the words used by such a person. And if one wishes not to be deceived or cheated and misled by others, one should be determined to be truthful. The Buddha has ennobled us in this regard by saying that ‘one reaps what one sows’. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a genuine Buddhist to refrain from telling lies. Once a word is uttered through the mouth making it to be heard or listened to by another, it cannot be easily changed, corrected or renewed in the next moment.

Let me quote a verse of the Dhammapada here (10. Danda Vagga - The Rod or Punishment - 6th verse)

‘Sace neresi attanam – kamso upahato yatha
Esa patto’si nibbanam – sarambho te na vijjati’

The meaning of the verse is as follows:

‘If you can silence yourself like a cracked gong, you have attained Nibbana. Thereafter, vindictiveness will not find a place in you.


Further, this reminds us of the saying ‘Think twice before you leap’. And one should take care to refrain from harsh speech or using abusive language that would hurt the feelings of the listener. So, the honest and devout person should make haste to avoid wrong ways of speech and be mindful, watchful and willing to speak words that can be useful and beneficial to oneself as well as others. In this way, one’s speech becomes pleasant and attractive, which in turn would make a good impression on society.

One day the Buddha emphasised the importance of speaking the truth to His son Rahula who was a novice at that time. As the Buddha was advancing towards the chamber, the little monk prepared a bucket of water to wash the Blessed One’s feet and also arranged a suitable chair for the Buddha to be seated. Having washed His feet with some water, the Blessed One sat down in the appointed seat. Then He addressed the novice pointing at the remaining water in the bucket, “Rahula! Do you see the little water in this bucket?”

The little monk answered, “Yes, Venerable Sir!”. Then the Blessed One further explained, “The priesthood or livelihood of a monk who is shameless to tell lies intentionally or knowingly is also of little value just like the little amount of water in the bucket.” Thereafter the Englightened One happened to throw away the remaining water in the bucket. Then the Buddha compared the water that was thrown away to the futility of a monk’s life who is in the habit of telling lies.


Next, the Blessed One turned the bucket upside down. This indicated the concealed or closed nature of the disposition or character of such a monk. The mind of this person would also not be open and pure. Thereafter He took the comparison of the empty bucket to the empty or, in other words, the fruitless life of a monk who speaks falsehoods. This simile of the bucket filled with water and the empty one makes it clear to us the fact that one should always be mindful and aware of one’s speech.

The proper usage of words becomes powerful and effective when they are used to show noble qualities like kindness, compassion and patience. The mark of a good impression and a kind word might do wonders in the process of curing patients. Pleasant speech would give solace and relief to mentally as well as physically ill patients. For instance, a counsellor should have the patience to be able to listen and pay attention to the patient who is in distress. Parents, teachers and elders advise little children and young ones when they do something wrong or make mistakes.

These words of advice would be beneficial and effective only if elders themselves pay heed to practise what they ask their children or young ones or what they expect from them to do. This point is illustrated in the Dhammapada through the following simile. The well-spoken word which is not put into practice can be compared to a flower that is beautiful and colourful but scentless. And the well-spoken word which is also applied to one’s life can be compared with the flower that is beautiful and colourful, and also emanates a pleasant fragrance around. Therefore, it is a timely need for elders to set an example to the younger generation. As the saying goes, ‘Example is better than advice.’


There is evidence to mention that some of our ancestors belonging to certain tribes had made use of pictures in order to exchange their ideas with each other. However, this method had not been successful in denoting abstract ideas and expressing certain ideas to the point.

In the modern world, the depth of meaning or the definition of a particular word is taken into consideration so as to introduce novel concepts and even to convey and exchange ideas, views and opinions. For example, you find a vocabulary or a set of terms peculiar to subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Logic and Philosophy to name a few. And psychologists study human behaviour by observing the bodily movements and facial expressions of a person. This is known as Body Language which is in fact used to judge the character and attitudes of a human being.

To be continued

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