2021-06-04 Kusala (10 of 10) The Wholesome Dharma
12:00AM Jun 5, 2021
So, as we come to the end of these two weeks that I've been talking about kusala, wholesomeness and skillfulness.
There was a man who came to the Buddha to ask a question about the kusala Dhamma question about skillful teachings, good spiritual teachings or, or wholesome spiritual teachings. And I love this kind of idea that the Dhamma the teachings, excuse me, that the Buddha teachers, or that people are oriented towards is something which is wholesome, more skillful, beneficial. And that's an alternative to someone coming and talking about, what is the true teaching, as if there's an absolute truth, ultimate truth that we have to discover, or she teaching which is ultimate, you know, Ultimate Teaching that the most profound teaching ever. And the Buddha regularly kind of avoided that kind of language. But it was always pragmatic. And he emphasizes that which was wholesome and beneficial, that which was beneficial for leading to the end of suffering, and brought happiness and welfare. It's a very different orientation for religious teachings, where many times in Philosophy and Religion people are looking for what's ultimately true. And Buddhism, it's more looking at what leads to happiness and welfare and with each the end of suffering. So this mad comes at some coming a little bit to challenge the Buddha. And he says that, it seems to me that if someone discovers a wholesome teaching a wholesome Dharma that they shouldn't teach that to anybody else. Because it's an impediment to them, it's a obstacle to them. It's just causes them headaches, to have to go and teach other people. And after all, what can one person do for another person? implying that they can't really can't do something for another much for other people? And so he asked, what do you what do you think about this to the Buddha? And the Buddha said, Well, let me reply with a simile. And I think this is a very kind thing to do is rather than directly criticizing the man for his teachings, or, or offering an alternative directly, as almost like there's two different views, and I'm gonna offer my view now, and that's clearly a post your your view, says, Well, I'm gonna offer you a simile. And I'll ask you questions. So So, so this brought man is talking to the Buddha, it's important understand that he's a large land holder, and at a time, but in the time of the Buddha, he owns a vast estate, where there are many sharecroppers who work his fields, and you know, they share in the crop a little bit and that's their payment. So the Buddha says, well, Nissim, imagine, a visitor comes to you, and says, you know, you should just keep all the produce that's produced on your estate for yourself, so you can enjoy it and have a good life and, and don't share anything with your sharecroppers. If that person came to you and told you that, would that be a challenge, difficulty for your shirt sharecroppers? And the men said, Yes, that would be a difficulty for them and be challenged for them not to receive any payment or any, any of the produce for themselves. And would that person be that visitor who came? Would that visitor be would be, would that person be concerned with their welfare? And the man said, Oh, no, the person would have no concern for the welfare. Well, then, if that, what do you think would that person more have ill will, for your sharecroppers, or goodwill or loving kindness, kindness for that for your sharecroppers. And the person said, Oh, it'd be more ill well for them. And the Buddha said the same way, if a person discovers a wholesome teaching a wholesome Dharma, wholesome practice and doesn't share it with people who could benefit from it. That's a challenge for them. It's an obstacle for them. It, it's, you know,
and it's an impediment for them in terms of moving towards greater welfare. And it would not support them and benefit them. And maybe it's more likely that kind of keeping the teachings to oneself is a kind of ill will a little bit a version that's there. So that so rather than directly countering the man, the Buddha said, Here is assembly, how would you behave under a similar circumstance? And when the man understood how he'd behave in a similar circumstance, then I think the idea is that we didn't have to answer the question directly as asked, that person could figure out how the simile was applied to his own question. And so here the idea being that there is a wholesome Dharma, the skillful dharmas, and that it's a good thing to share it with people, it's a good thing to teach, if you have if you really discovered it, and know it really for yourself. And so whether everyone should be teaching explicitly or be a teacher, that's another question. But the idea that, that we're that we're here we have something we discovered how to live in a way that is beneficial. And we share it with others, we live it so that we can benefit other people as well, that we don't live hermetically sealed off from others. But we live in a world to cooperate and to and to, and to live in mutual kind regard into mutual support for each other. And, and so we discover wholesome states of mind, we discover wholesome practices, wholesome ways of being, and you could just keep it to yourself. But rather than necessarily teaching your family and friends, be sure to live it, be sure to express it in how you live your life, share the goodness, you discovered the freedom you discovered. And that's an art that's a skill, to be learned gradually, slowly, by continuing to do it. Just because it's difficult. The or it feels a little bit like, you know, tiring to kind of be kind to people are friendly. If we keep practicing it and doing it, it becomes easier and easier, it becomes second nature. And in some sense, it eventually becomes easier than many of the alternatives. So the wholesome dharma. And I want to end this series of talks, with emphasizing what I've said now repeatedly about the nature of the Buddha's teachings that they're pragmatic. There are many people who came to the Buddha to ask what, what ultimate questions, you know, ultimate, spiritual, religious, philosophical, existential questions. And some people even demanded the Buddha that he should answer these kinds of questions like, does does the soul exist? Will the soul exist? after we die? Does his soul die when we die? is consciousness something eternal? is consciousness something that is temporary? Only here when we're alive? Is the world eternal? There's the world find, you know, not gonna last forever? Is the world infinite that goes on forever? Or is it finite? All these kinds of kind of ultimate questions. And we can add probably all kinds of ones that we've probably heard ourselves over time. And then some people really want answers to these things, because somehow that reassures them or tells them they're on a good path, or I don't know what are the reasons. But the Buddha always said said, all those kinds of questions, they are not beneficial. So he cut it mostly just a silent he doesn't answer those questions. They don't not beneficial for helping people come to the end of suffering, to discover a real happiness. And what and what he says what I teach is the practice, the orientation, the view, that supports people to discover what is really beneficial, which brings a welfare what brings happiness, the end of suffering. And, and, and so with this kind of pragmatic orientation, the Buddha's concern is, is really with the people suffering and overcoming it.
That's the topic and sometimes our particular Buddhist are addition is considered the kind of lesser, lesser Buddhist tradition. And, and maybe that's a nice label we can embrace because yes, it's lesser in the sense that it doesn't pursue all the grand and wonderful, cosmic, existential questions that people can think of, but rather focus on something very fundamental and root that is suffering and the end of suffering, happiness and the discovery of lasting, really profound happiness and well being. And with that end of suffering, and with this discovery of happiness, then our relationship to these great existential questions, the meaning of life, and what happens when we die takes that might still be interesting questions, but then they have more, they're a little bit more philosophical in nature, a little bit more abstract or a little bit more. There's not a they're not as weighty or as important for us. Because we've discovered how to be at peace and very happy here. There's no fear that's driving those questions. So, so wholesome and wholesomeness, skillfulness. This is a really fundamental concept in the teachings of the Buddha, that I find quite inspiring. It's simple. It's meant to simplify things, to keep us close to what's most important, if what we want to do is to become free of suffering. So thank you very much. And I hope that you will live a wholesome skillful life for your own sake, and for the sake of others. It's a great privilege, great honor, to be able to do even the smallest thing to benefit the life of someone else. So thank you very much.