Is Buddhism pessimistic?
Even though it is a fact that beings are actually lacking an ego and their constituents are transitory and everything that man regards as solid reality is only impermanent - only insubstantial - when the Buddha cast light upon the matter, some people might criticize Buddhism as being pessimistic because it looks on life and the body as despicable things. The Buddha's illumination about the non-existence of ego is not meaningless. Man thinks things including himself are real, permanent and belong to him. Furthermore, even if he finds that he is fragile and insubstantial, man would like to be solid, substantial and everlasting. To make people see the impermanent nature of everything, the Buddha had to explain about it thoroughly and frequently. When a man has discovered that there is no 'ego'; therefore nothing can belong to it, he will not be attached to or have a desire for any object, not even for his own existence - whether for his body or for his spiritual elements.
It assumes that if a person always contemplates the impermanent nature without doing anything, he will not get on in life. But, the teachings of the Buddha do not mean that human beings should lose their energy and good efforts.
Man is burning with three fundamental passions; with covetousness for what he likes, with hatred for what he fears, and with ignorance and foolishness which makes him think phenomena are real and permanent - whereas they are impermanent and without substance. He might use fair means or foul when he makes money to keep himself and his family. Because of a passionate desire and hatred for something or somebody, he might break the law, and because of the pride in his youth, good health, prosperous business and longevity, he tends to be disrespectful or to give offence to other people.
Only suppression of desire, hatred, ignorance and foolishness based on pride can extinguish all troubles and give people happiness. That is why, in order to reduce or to get rid of them, the Buddha urged his disciples to contemplate as follows: "Decay is inseparable from me and I cannot overcome ageing. Diseases surround me and I will have to wrestle with some diseases. Man is mortal therefore I also cannot escape from death. I will have to lose all things near and dear to me in various ways. I will become heir to just my own deeds and they will be my only good friends."(A.iii.71)
If a person is mindful of them quite often, when he gets into difficult circumstances, at least he will have the power to bear up well against all misfortunes and to live in peace and contentment. And then when he sees old people and the sick, he will feel for them and fulfil their needs with all his heart as far as he possibly can. If he considers that he may pass away at any time and he will become heir to whatever he did, he will not hesitate to do wholesome deeds. He has been increasing merit throughout the whole of his life. If not, he, indulging in whatever he likes, may delay performing good deeds.
Why did the Buddha ask us to perceive impermanence?
The Buddha grew up among luxuries and his father arranged everything carefully to prevent him from seeing unpleasant objects. But when he went to the pleasure park he saw an old man, a sick man, a dead body and a dignified ascetic. And then he was convinced that beings are subject to birth, decay, disease, death, and so also would he be. He decided to search for a way to overcome the ills of life and to get eternal peace. In reality, the sights drove him to renounce the worldly life and to become a Buddha.
Realising that by meditating upon impermanent nature, compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic mood, tolerance and forgiveness develop in people's mind, the Buddha encouraged his disciples to contemplate it as often as possible.
Once, when the Buddha asked a group of bhikkhus if they meditated upon death, the bhikkhus respectively replied how they meditated upon death as follows; one said, "I always think that the duration of one's life is not certain; it would be good if I knew for a certainty that my life would extend to twenty-four hours further so that I would be able to practise good deeds." And another said, "I always think that I might die at any time; it would be good if I knew the certainty of my life for another twelve hours so that I could practise insight meditation." And another said, "I want to expect to be alive to perform wholesome deeds for the time it takes me to eat a meal." And another said, "I always hope that I will be alive for the time it takes me to eat four or five morsels so that I can practise good deeds." And another said, "I want to be alive for the time it takes me to eat one morsel." And another said, "I always think that it would be goad if my life is maintained for the moment of one breath in order to practise insight meditation."(A. iii. 305f)
The Buddha said that the first three bhikkhus contemplated death from afar, and praised the last three bhikkhus for their meditating upon death. Because the more a person realises impermanent nature, the less he will do unfair deeds. Moreover, his mind will be overwhelmed with the idea of the impermanent nature of everything including himself. And then he will not be attached to either himself or others, and his mind will be free from mental defilements such as lust, greed, hatred, conceit, jealousy, covetousness and so on.
Once, when the Buddha was staying at the deer park in Savatthi, the bhikkhu, Radha, came to him and asked, "For what purpose should one contemplate on the nature of death?" The Buddha replied, "For the sake of disgust of one's body and the bodies of others, one should do that." Their conversation continued as follows:
"But disgust, Lord, for what purpose is it?"
"Disgust, Radha, is to bring about dispassion."
"But dispassion, Lord, for what purpose is it?"
"Dispassion, Radha, is to get release."
"But release, Lord, what is it for?"
"Release, Radha, means nibbana."
"But nibbana, Lord, what is the aim of that?"
"This, Radha, is a question that goes too far. You can grasp no limit to this question. The only purpose for practising righteousness is to attain nibbana. Nibbana is its goal; nibbana is its end."(S. iii. 187)
Did the Buddha teach social responsibilities?
A person who lacks a good knowledge of the teachings of the Buddha might think that he neglected to teach social responsibilities. If so, he gets hold of the wrong end of the stick about Buddhism.
Buddhism aims at achieving not only spiritual progress and happiness but also the good order and prosperity of society. The Buddha taught social responsibilities as well as supramundane teachings from time to time. But he did not elaborate secular affairs in as much detail as he preached unworldly teachings. The main reason for becoming a Buddha is to preach the Dhamma which leads people to disinclination for sensual pleasure because attachment to something causes greed, lust, resentment, anger, conflict and maltreatment etc. He emphasised supramundane teachings in accordance with his title of the Buddha, otherwise he was no better than a sociologist, but if everyone exactly follows his social teachings just as he taught, they can happily make their way in life.
How to behave towards other people
Man has a lot of energy and knowledge to build a peaceful world; he should use his power in the right direction for the benefit of himself and others. Because of some people's selfishness, foolishness, unsympathetic mood and ill-will other people unfortunately have to be their victims, even though they want to live peacefully.
People might think that there is an unseen evil power which puts forth various kinds of unjust deeds, violence and fighting. In reality, evil deeds are brought about by people who love doing them because they want to gain something from them. Moreover, it is difficult to refrain from doing evil for the greater part of the mind is easily tempted by evil things. Developing sympathetic mood, if everyone refrains from doing to others what he dislikes having done to himself no one will get into trouble.
Once, when the Buddha accompanying many bhikkhus was touring in the country of Kosala, he reached a village named Veludvara. The villagers respectfully gave him a warm welcome. After they took their seats the head of villagers said, "Lord Buddha, we have a similar desire to live happily with our family indulging in all pleasurable objects and also after death we want to be reborn in a peaceful world. Please tell us the way which fulfils our wishes if possible."
The Buddha gave them a method as follows:
"Everyone should think 'I am fond of my life and happiness, and averse to being tortured or killed; other people also certainly feel like me; then why should I treat them in ways which I would hate myself? I should put myself in their place.' And then everyone should refrain from torment and taking lives, and they should tell one another not to kill or torture others. If everyone practised like this, no one would get into trouble about killing and torment.
Furthermore, everyone should think; I am in fear of losing my possessions. If they are destroyed by thieves or robbers or saboteurs, I will not be happy. Other people also will feel likewise if they lose their possessions. Therefore, I should abstain from taking what is not given or damaging other people's property. I love my wife as well as other female relatives. I cannot condone anyone having unlawful sexual intercourse with them. Needless to say, other people also will have the same feeling. Then why should I commit adultery or indulge in sexual misbehaviour with women? I hate people who spoil my reputation and fortune by telling lies or cheating. Other people do not like being deceived too. Therefore, I should not cheat others by physical or verbal action. If someone estranged my friends from me by slander, it would not please me. Other people also will dislike being separated from their friends. Therefore, I should abstain from creating a rift between friends. I love people who speak to me politely. No one likes to see or hear impoliteness. Therefore, I should always behave towards others in a polite way. In this way, if everyone were to put himself in others' place, all people would be pure in all their manners and they would be able to live happily without causing any harm either to themselves or others.
When did the Buddha decide to attain Parinibbana?
The wider the teachings of the Buddha permeated among people, the more his contemporary religious teachers' reputation decreased, and religious prejudice became more and more fixed in their hearts. They could not bear to see the Buddha any longer and they conspired against him, but no one achieved their aim - to destroy his life. An evil god, Mara, also had a strong aversion to seeing him on the earth. He tempted the Bodhisatta not to renounce worldly life and attempted to prevent him from attaining Buddhahood. He knew that the Buddha could prolong his life-span as long as he wished to live. Therefore, from time to time, he asked the Buddha not to extend his life-span to keep alive till his mature age. The Buddha declined his request so that he could teach men and gods to be able to take as much advantage from his teachings as they wished, and determined to expound many suitable subjects for people from all walks of life. After knowing that his teachings are absolutely perfect for both worldly and unearthly lives, the Buddha decided to attain parinibbana at eighty years of age.
What is nibbana?
The highest aim of Buddhists is to attain nibbana. It is not an abode. It is regarded as the highest stage of mental purity. The nature of its great peace cannot be fully expressed in words, in thoughts, or in the form of similes. Yet, some scholars have presented it as something positive; others have on the other hand seen it as something negative. Anyway, the following sutta may help people understand what the nature of nibbana is.
Once Venerable Sariputta was staying among the folk of Magadha at Nalaka village. Then the wanderer Jambukhadaka, paid a visit to him and asked, "You, Buddhists, utter the word of nibbana frequently. What is nibbana?" Venerable Sariputta replied, "The destruction of lust, the destruction of hatred, the destruction of delusion is called nibbana." "Is there any practice to attain nibbana?" Jambukhadaka added. "Yes, indeed, it can be attained through the practice of the noble path; right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration", Venerable Sariputta replied.(S. iv. 251)
If we try to seek the cause of the unhappiness men bring upon themselves, we can find these three primary psychological causes; greed, hatred and delusion. Only when nibbana is attained, the three causes and their effect, unhappiness, are absolutely destroyed and uprooted, and then inner peace appears.
Instead of arguing whether nibbana is something negative or positive, everybody should try to attain nibbana by following the eightfold noble path. For example, just by having knowledge of a recipe for a cake, one does not have an appetite for it and cannot understand what the taste of the cake will be.
CAUSES OF DOWNFALL
Social responsibilities are stated in detail in the Singalovada Sutta. The reason for giving this teaching was as follows: when the Buddha was staying in the Bamboo Grove near Rajagaha, one morning he surveyed the world with great compassion to find out people who should be taught. Singala, a son of a rich family, came into his mind and he thought that if he gave a discourse to Singala, it would be of benefit to many people. And then he set off on a journey towards where Singala was. At that time, Singala with wet clothes and hair was paying respects to the various directions; the east, the west, etc. Even though he did not know himself the meaning and purpose of doing that, he practised this out of respect for his parents' wish. His parents were devout followers of the Buddha, and attained the first knowledge of the Noble Path. They did not wish to force their son to go with them to hear the Dhamma. So, Singala was not interested in going to the Buddha and listening to the teachings.
It is a good lesson for Buddhist people to take as an example. They should think; even though Singala's parents were pious, they could not persuade their son to be interested in Buddhism. There are so many things to enjoy that people are not interested in religion in their lives. If we practise the teachings of the Buddha just by way of tradition and neglect religious duties, how difficult it will be to show our children the way to Buddhism. And then they should pore over Buddhism and practise it very well so that children can follow their good example. At a tender age, children may not be able to follow the higher teaching of the Buddha, but they should be trained to show goodwill towards all beings and to speak politely and pleasantly to everyone, and parents should educate them in the basic religious teachings as much as possible. In this way they can hand over their own religious heritage to the succeeding generations.
Whenever his parents told him to go to the Buddha and his disciples, Singala said, "It is unnecessary for me to approach them. If I go to them I will have to pay respects to them; doing that will make my back ache and my knees stiff; I should have to sit on the ground and my clothes will be covered with dirt. After sitting, I have to make conversation with them and then I have to invite them to ask for whatever they need. When I give them something, I just lose my money; there is no benefit for me."
They were unable to take their son to the Buddha. Finally, as the father was near to death, he called his son to come beside him and requested him to accept his parting advice. Singala assured his father that he would follow his final advice. The father had foresight, he therefore asked his son to pay respects to the various directions expecting that one day, while his son was doing so, the Buddha or his disciples would see him and explain to him the real meaning of paying respects to the directions. It worked out as the father had hoped. When the Buddha arrived near to him, he was still paying respects to the directions. The Buddha asked if he knew the purpose of his performing this rite. Singala confessed that he did not know the meaning but he was doing this respecting and remembering his father's words, and then he appealed to the Buddha to explain to him the meaning of his father's words.
The Buddha said, "Singala, in the discipline of the noble teaching, a good person does not pay respects to these directions. Actually, he pays respects to parents, teachers, wife and children, friends, servants or employees and noble ones. They are represented by the East, the West, the South, the North, the Nadir and the Zenith respectively. There are a lot of duties for the six kinds of people to carry out. If a person does not shirk his responsibility to others and if he abstains from the four conducts that make man vicious, the four kinds of unjust action and six kinds of indulgence leading to loss of wealth, he is bound to live happily and harmoniously with them without getting into any trouble, and he will be reborn in a happy heavenly abode after death."
People in many religions feel the East to be of much worth. For example, in Hinduism, morning worship is performed sitting facing east ('The World's Living Religions', Dr. Geoffrey Parrinder, p 31); in Judaism, at the east end is the Ark, and the pews are arranged on three sides so that worshippers face the Ark (Ibid. p 144); in Christianity, the main door of the church is at the west end and most, though not all, of the older churches are orientated, so that the altar is at the east end (Ibid. p 165); in Buddhism, according to my experience, the shrine room occupies the east end of the building. If the east end is not available to place the statue of the Buddha, most Buddhists choose the south end to place it.
Parents should be looked upon as the East because life starts with the care of parents like the day begins in the East. They nurture their children and are benevolent towards them. Therefore, they are sacred people, and children owe gratitude to them. Teachers open the eyes of pupils to their own subjects and develop their general knowledge. They are respected and reliable persons. Therefore, they should be regarded as the South. Wife and children should be acknowledged as the West because they are led by their father. People can sort out their problems with the help of friends and they can escape from danger. Therefore, friends should be recognized as the North. Servants and employees should be described as the Nadir because they faithfully and humbly have to work under their superior. The noble ones should be recognized as the Zenith because they are superiors in morality and dignity.
What are the four kinds of vice?
First of all, the Buddha explained the four kinds of vice to Singala:- 1) taking life, 2) stealing, 3) having unlawful sexual intercourse and 4) telling lies. When a person commits even one of them, his reputation and moral standards will deteriorate. If his offence is against the law, he must be brought to justice and will hang his head low in public. The shame and humiliation is total. His victims also have to suffer agonies. There is nothing good for any of them.
1) All living beings have to struggle against any possible danger and diseases, and have to supply themselves with nourishment because they love their own life and are afraid of death. Therefore, putting oneself in the place of others, one should respect all forms of life from the tiniest to the biggest creatures and one should refrain from taking the life of beings under any circumstances. Mercy-killing also should not be allowed. Even though a person knows there in no prospect of any recovery whatever, he tends to love his life all the same. Perhaps, when someone cannot bear to see a person so profoundly disabled or suffering from severe pain, he might think that dying is better than living for that person and then if he helps to hasten that person's death, he is accountable for that killing. The best way is to nurse the person as kindly as possible.
To produce the results of killing, the killer must be aware that his victim is a living being and make efforts with intent to kill. The being also must die by his efforts. Even though plants are regarded as living things, if a person destroys them, he has no moral guilt because there is no consciousness in plants. But, Buddhist bhikkhus are not allowed to destroy trees and seeds. The rule was made so that they will not be blamed and to protect living beings who live in trees from suffering. If a person kills living beings thinking that they are natural resources for the food of mankind, he cannot escape from the guilt of that killing. Sometimes, living beings have to die accidentally. In that case, no one is liable for moral guilt; they have to pay their debts for their own sin in accordance with the law of kamma.
There are some problems in respect of eating meat. Some people might say, "Buddhists are not allowed to kill animals so why do they eat meat and fish? Eating meat, they are partly involved in killing animals". It should be said, "We neither kill nor ask anyone to kill animals for our food and we do not suggest to anyone how to kill and how many animals should be killed. Therefore, even though we eat meat and fish we have no responsibility for the killing."
There might be some excuse for killing animals on both sides. Butchers and fishermen might say, "We kill animals to supply food to people. If all people were vegetarians, we would not kill animals." Non-vegetarians might say, "If there were no butchers and fishermen, we would live on vegetables. We eat meat because we can easily get it from markets." If there are no butchers and fishermen, when people want to eat meat and fish they would kill animals themselves, and they would have to pay the debt for their own sin. Even though they want to eat meat if they are afraid of having the unpleasant result of killing, they would not take any living being's life.
Buddhist bhikkhus are especially blamed for eating meat because people think it is not proper for religious leaders who always teach people not to kill living beings. But the Buddha allowed bhikkhus to eat meat because they have to depend totally on lay people who may or may not be vegetarians. So as not to be a burden to their supporters they are not allowed to drop a hint to anyone except relatives about their food unless they are sick or invited to ask for what they would like.
Once, there was a bhikkhu named Devadatta, who was notorious for his disobedience to the Buddha. He had a desire to found a rival school after having felt resentment against the Buddha several times. Therefore, knowing that his request would not be allowed, he asked the Buddha to lay down the rules for bhikkhus; to live on just vegetables and the food got from going on alms-round from door to door, to live in a place remote from people and just under trees, to use the robes made of rags from garbage heaps or cemeteries. As he expected, the Buddha rejected his request because he knew these practices are not so important for bhikkhus to liberate themselves from rebirth and to gain inner peace. Even though a bhikkhu follows the rules, if he neglects meditation, he cannot get rid of mental defilements (DhA. vv 9, 10). When his request was turned down Devadatta left the Buddha saying that in reality, the Buddha did not want to practise righteousness very well. He enjoyed living among luxurious things. And then he said, "Come, my friends, if you want to practise the Dhamma rightly."
In connection with food, Jivaka also asked the Buddha, "Lord Buddha, I have heard that you knowingly enjoy eating meat killed on purpose for your food. Is it correct?"
The Buddha said, "I restrict myself and my disciples from eating meat when we see or hear or suspect an animal has been killed on purpose for our food, otherwise we do not mind eating meat. The reason is that we are not fussy about our food and we do not put emphasis on taste. Suppose, a bhikkhu, having radiated all quarters and all living beings with loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, stays in a village or a town. He is invited to a meal and offered various food which is vegetable or not. The bhikkhu can choose and eat what is proper for him but while he is having food it does not occur to him, 'Indeed it is very delicious food and it would be good for me to be served similar food in future.' He wisely reflects, 'I eat this food not for amusement, conceit and not to beautify myself, but just enough for the support of the body, for keeping fit, and to practise righteousness very well.' From wise purpose cankers that had not arisen do not arise and also cankers that have arisen decline. The purpose of eating food is more important than the kind of food whether meat or vegetables. What do you think about the bhikkhu? Is he, at the moment, striving for the hurt of himself or others?"
Jivaka said, "His eating does not do anyone harm." The Buddha added, "If a person offers bhikkhus what is not allowed, he stores much demerit in five ways; when he catches animals or asks someone to go and fetch them, when the animals which are being fetched experience pain and distress, when he kills or makes someone kill animals, when the animals which are being killed feel pain or distress, when he offers bhikkhus improper food not in accordance with the rules (M. i. 369). "
The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw said, "The best way is to avoid eating meat. If bhikkhus are not vegetarians, they should be very careful about their food not to be defiled by any part in killing."
2) No one except some religious persons can survive without money. Because of that people have to try to get enough money for their own use, moreover they are worried about losing their possessions because some people follow false ways of making money without thinking of other people. He, who had been subjected to the loss of his possessions, feels unhappiness. Thieves or robbers or saboteurs are afraid of being arrested while they are committing a crime, and after that, even though they are using what they got unlawfully, they pass their days in fear of discovery. When their dishonesty is disclosed they and their families are in disgrace and they must face a due sentence. Therefore, stealing; including fraud, embezzlement, racketeering, overcharging, refusal to pay taxes, damaging, etc.; is loathed by everybody.
3) The majority of people, who cannot yet overcome passion, indulge in sexual relations. It is allowable for lay people to take pleasure in their married sex. But some people attempt to commit unlawful sexual intercourse or adultery because they have no contentment and satisfaction with their spouses.
According to Buddhism, there are twenty kinds of women with whom a man is not allowed to have sexual intercourse. They are married women, women under a guardian, betrothed women and so on. Anyway, neither men nor women should enjoy having sexual intercourse outside marriage otherwise sexual misconduct will erode their morality, reputation and health.
In the life-time of the Buddha, there was a young man named Khemaka who was handsome and eloquent so that married and unmarried women wanted to be friendly with him. He jumped at the chance to have affairs with them. Even though some people knew his sexual misconduct they had to tolerate him because some felt ashamed to go to the court and some were afraid of his uncle, Anathapindika, a rich man. Sometimes, he was caught and brought to the court but he was freed without being charged because of his uncle's influence. When the king and his uncle were criticized concerning his misbehaviour, they felt ashamed. Finally, his uncle took him to the Buddha to listen to the teaching. The Buddha explained to him the bad consequences of sexual misconduct as follows; a person who has an affair with a woman accumulates demerit, does not sleep well at night, is condemned and will have to suffer in a nether world after death. Alter he listened to the teaching, he completely changed his life and practised the Dhamma and then he attained the first stage of path knowledge (DhA. vv 309, 310).
4) People have a high opinion of anyone who always tells the truth. It is very important for everyone to gain trustworthiness and respectability because they are the main sources of having great success in life. On the contrary, telling lies degrades one's status and endangers the interests of others. It is important to tell the truth if a person has to give witness in a court because false evidence damages the interests of the plaintiff or the accused. So everybody should be afraid of telling lies but should be brave enough to speak the truth in order to get greater success in society and should avoid rude manners in deed, in word and in thought, as nobody likes them.
What are the four roots of evil actions?
They are desire, anger, ignorance and fear. The Buddha said, "Whoever does unwholesome deeds, by reason of them, his fame and the company he keeps will downgrade as the moon during the waning half. Therefore, a noble one gets rid of the root of all evil."
In this regard, the commentary says, "When a person favours his relatives or friends, and gets rid of his enemies by using his authority or his judgement which is at fault for fear that he should be destroyed or because of lack of knowledge, he commits evil deeds."
The Buddha taught as follows to abstain from doing evil deeds. Deeds which are regrettable mistakes and result in bad consequences are evil. A fool makes himself a foe by practising unwholesome deeds and has to bear bitter experience with a tearful face. The thing that makes the fool wretched is the way he forsakes righteousness and follows after what is wrong. He is similar to a foolish carter whose cart is broken when he drives it on uneven ground after having diverted from a smooth road. Deeds which result in happiness and do not cause any regrets are good. Everybody should practise wholesome deeds in order not to regret what he had done like the foolish carter.
What are the six means for loss of wealth?
They are: 1) addiction to drinking or using drugs,
2) visiting the streets during inappropriate times,
3) frequent enjoyment of entertainment,
5) keeping bad company and
6) living in idleness.
1) The habit of taking intoxicants is the most dangerous and ruinous in the world. An alcoholic wastes his wealth because he has to spend more and more money on drink, and he becomes less interested in his business. Drinking a lot makes one prone to exposing one's body and drives one to quarrelling or fighting. A drinker loses his inhibitions therefore he might make an exhibition of himself and might assault people including parents and respectable persons. Under the influence of alcohol he does not hesitate to do evil. By speaking that which he should not speak, and by committing that which he should not commit, his reputation declines and he loses his social status. Addiction to drink causes diseases such as cancer, heart disease and so on. It also weakens intellect so a drinker is liable to error in his business at any time and his rivals can take advantage of his weakness.
There is a good story to give as an example. In the life-time of the Buddha, there was a rich man whose father was named Mahadhana. He was an only son. His parents pampered him so that he was not interested in learning his parents' business. He was taken up with enjoyments so he spent his childhood in entertainments. When he was of marriageable age, he married a woman who was also brought up under the same circumstances. They got all the fortune from both sides when their parents passed away. They had not enough knowledge of economy but just knew how to spend money. Therefore, they continued enjoying entertainments at will without taking business into account. A group of alcoholics, hoping that if the rich couple were addicted to alcohol, they would have a chance to drink cheaply, drew up a plan. They drank happily and noisily within the rich couple's sight so that they became interested in drinking.
The rich man became interested in their behaviour when he saw them very often and asked one of his servants what they were doing. The servant, who was secretly put up to it by the drinkers, said, "Master, they are drinking alcohol." "What is the taste of it?" the rich man asked. The servant replied, "It is very delicious. The man who has never drunk cannot cut a dash in high society. Would you like to try it out a bit?" He ordered the servant to fetch alcohol and tasted a little. At first, it left a bad taste in his mouth but he became addicted to drinking later. The group of alcoholics sent drink and food to his house daily.
One day, they got an invitation from the rich man to join him in drinking. From that time, they made themselves at home in his house. The number of alcoholics in his house increased day after day and his money also went on drink completely. Finally, the couple had to make a living by begging from house to house. One day, they approached a monastery to ask for food and when they were in the sight of the Buddha, a meaningful smile passed over the face of the Buddha. Ananda asked him the reason for his smile and he said, "Look at the couple, Ananda. In the first part of their life, if they had started their own business without squandering their money, they would have been in the list of the richest couples in Benares or else if they had practised my teaching the man would have been an Arahant, and his wife would have been an Anagami. After they had lived with all pleasure in their early life, at least, if they started their business in the third part of their life, they would have been in third rank of rich couples or if they had practised my teaching the man would have attained the second stage of Path knowledge and his wife would have attained the first stage of Path knowledge. Now, they had to lose the opportunities as a result of drinking and living in idleness (DhA. v 155)."
2) A person, who loves visiting the streets during inappropriate times, endangers himself because he can be vulnerable to attack. He might be suspected of crimes when he is found near an incident and no one might believe his words even if he gives evidence. He might be subject to accusations and get into trouble at any time. His family might follow his example and burglars can easily break into his house when he is going out therefore his family and property are insecure.
3) A person, who enjoys going to entertainments very often, is always thinking where or how a show will be; how the singing will be; how the music will be, and because of that he cannot keep his mind on business and might make mistakes. After having decided to go to a show, he has to spend some part of his working hours preparing for going to the show and has to spend his money. While enjoying the show he might miss good opportunities for business or burglars can break into his house. After watching the show he might be less interested in his business recalling what he has enjoyed.
4) A gambler is an enemy of losers. He will also lose his property and grieve over the loss. It is not enough to take his words as evidence in a court. He is despised by relatives and friends, and no one wants to help him when he has to face legal action and further he has to undergo imprisonment. No one wants to marry him because he is believed to be unable to maintain his family.
5) A person, who keeps bad companions such as gamblers, drinkers, libertines, tricksters, forgers, robbers, etc. endangers himself and his property. These sorts of people do themselves harm and lead other people astray and into trouble. Not to associate with immoral persons, the Buddha said, "One should stay by oneself if better or equal companions are not available because evil people denigrate their associates; equal companions never downgrade one's state; noble friends help one to make for progress (Dhp. v 61). "
One's character is influenced by environment. Although good spirits cannot easily infect one's mind, immoral behaviour can be quickly attracted. It is therefore very important for people to have a good environment. The impact of environment strikes even animals let alone people. As to this, there are some stories in Buddhist literature. One of them is as follows.
Once, there was a king named Sama in Benares. In those days the Bodhisatta was one of a courtier's family, and grew up to be the king's temporal and spiritual adviser. The king had a state horse whose trainer was a lame man. The horse used to watch him as he tramped on and on in front, holding the halter; and knowing him to be his trainer, imitated him and limped too. Someone told the king how the horse was limping. The king sent for a vet. He examined the horse, but found him perfectly sound, and so accordingly made report. Then the king sent for the Bodhisatta to find out the reason for the limping. He soon found out that the horse was lame because he went about with a lame trainer. He told the king that the horse had no disease. Its limping was a case of bad example. To become normal, the horse should be trained by a good groom (Ja. N 184).
A person follows the way practised by his companions whatever good or bad, vicious or virtuous. The one, who keeps foolish company, will soon be like rotten fish which stinks through the wrapping. The one, who associates with the wise will soon grow wise as a sweet smelling flower perfumes the wrapping paper. Taking these examples, everybody should choose right companions to get progress in their own status.
6) Laziness hinders one's prosperity. One tends to procrastinate, thinking; "It is too late,iIt is too early, it is too hot, it is too cold, I am too hungry or I am too full." Nowadays, there is a lot of competition in the economic sphere. Therefore, a person should not put off what he should do at once. If not, he might play into his rivals' hands. The Buddha said:
"Mindful amongst the negligent, highly vigilant amongst the drowsy, the man of wisdom advances like a race-horse, leaving the jade behind (Dhp. v 29)."
"The idler who does not strive when he should be striving, who, though young and strong, is given to idleness, whose thoughts are weak and wandering, will not attain magga insight which can only be perceived by wisdom (Dhp. v 280)."
A person, who hurries the work that he ought to do at a steady pace or delays what should be done with utmost speed, spoils his own business. To fulfil his purpose, he should know what work must be done in a given time. Moreover, neither paying enough intention to work and working hours nor getting down to work also sends one's business down. Therefore, a person should guard earnestness as the greatest treasure.