Dhamma investigation, Malaysia

Dhammavicaya Days

This morning I go to the market on Waterfall Road. It’s a short walk from Bodhi Heart. Jordan joins me. We share breakfast. On our way back we see a monitor lizard.

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Pineapple-banana-celery juice

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Roti canai with egg and daal

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Dhamma-vicaya means dhamma investigation. It is one of the bojjhangas, i.e. factors of enlightenment, i.e. faculties one develops on the spiritual path. I choose this title partly because yesterday I meditated at Mahindarama Temple.

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Mahindarama Temple

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Funny monk Ajahn Brahm guides a retreat there. As for meditation, no instruction is given. Only dhamma talks at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. So I guess it is assumed that everyone knows how to meditate and people are simply provided with a proper place and food to do so. When asked for a method in the evening, Ajahn Brahm says: ‘Breathe in and breathe out, hihihi.’

I also choose this title because today I read Venerable Ācāra Suvanno’s commentary on the 16 Dreams of King Pasenadi.

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Sitting in the tea house for hours. Leafing through the book. King Pasenadi is married with Queen Mallikā. It is the very queen who asks the Buddha why there are beautiful women and plain ones, why some are rich and others poor. It is also Mallikā who responds to her royal spouse: ‘No, there is no-one I love more dearly than myself.’ King Pasenadi is perplexed as he admits it is like that for him, too. He goes to the Chief Brahmin who answers in verse:

Having traversed all quarters with the mind,
1 finds none anywhere dearer than oneself.
Likewise, each person holds himself most dear;
Hence 1 who loves himself should not harm others.

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Beautiful illustrations by KT Yeoh

Buddha knew exactly what to say to whom. He mastered the art of listening empathetically and meeting the person where she is. He spoke differently to different people. With ignorant people, he remained silent. No waste of energy on closed ears not ready to listen. Better wait patiently for a door to open. Time will come. With blind people he didn’t speak of colours but sensations. With artists he did. With merchants he didn’t speak of weather, season, harvest. With peasants he did. With householders he spoke as to householders. With monks as to monks.

In the case of King Pasenadi he gave an interpretation that soothed his anxiety of losing his kingdom, his riches, or his life because that was what the other brahmins had prophesied. Their suggestion was to sacrifice thousands of biped and quadruped animals to avert the danger. King Pasenadi was readily persuaded and the sacrifice prepared… when his wife Mallikā enters the scene. She suggests talking to the Chief Brahmin before committing such an ignoble deed.

So he goes to the Buddha. And all his explanations end with the assuring phrase: ‘Howbeit, you have nothing to fear therefrom.’ Because every dream refers to what is yet to come in times when the accumulated collective kamma of centuries and the governance of feeble-minded and ill-advised kings results in a gruesome world full of despair and destruction. As if to say: ‘But you, O great Pasenadi, you are truly a wise and righteous king! You will do what’s right, right?! No need to sacrifice living beings. You are safe.’

It is a fine line between flattering somebody in order to benefit in one way or another and praising somebody in order to boost the self-confidence of that person. Sometimes they go together, being merely two subjective perspectives of the same action performed. One person praises and gains some influence by that. One is praised and becomes more confident in the process.

In the exploration of King Pasenadi’s dreams there is neither flattering nor praising going on. Buddha knows why he says what he says. His prime intention is to remind people of their own goodness. By nurturing their goodwill he helps them recognise their duty in life. By reminding them of what really counts he helps them realise the proper way to fulfill their duty.

My ruminations are accompanied by the sounds of birds chirping in the trees and the palm leaves rustling in the wind. From time to time monkeys pass by. A blue-black butterfly settles down on my left index finger and explores my hand. And stays with me until the last page.

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I call her blackberry because we communicate so well…

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