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REVISED
Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saṃyutta Nikāya:
IV. Saḷāyatana Vagga
35: Saḷāyatana Saɱyutta
Paññāsaṃ Tatiyaṃ
3. Gahapati Vagga

Sutta 133

Verahaccāni Suttaṃ

Respect Worthy Dhamma

Respect the Dhamma Worthy of Respect

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][pts] I HEAR TELL:

Once upon a time, the Ancient Udayin,
Kamandaya town,
Brahmin Todeyya's mango grove,
came a revisit'n.

Then one time a young man,
a student of a Nobel Lady of the Verahaccani clan,
came visiting Bhante Udayin,
and there,
after exchanging common courtesies,
he sat down to one side
and listened as Bhante Udayin taught,
grounded,
raised up,
and made that young man happy with dhamma talk
worthy of respect.

Then, after being taught,
grounded,
raised up,
and made happy
by that worthy Dhammatalk of Bhante Udayin,
that young man returned to his residence
with the Nobel Lady of the Verahaccani clan
and said:

"If it please your Ladyship,
I would inform her
that the beggar Udayin is presently teaching Dhamma
that is helpful in the beginning,
helpful in the middle
and helpful at the end.

He lays out the way
to live the best of lives,
the way to perfect and refine
the best of lives,
and he does so both in the spirit
and the letter.

"Well then, young man,
please invite this Beggar Udayin
for tomorrow's meal."

"Very good, My Lady.

And at that command
the young man returned to Bhante Udayin and said:

"May Bhante Udayin accept
a token of gratitude as our teacher;
may he accept tomorrow's meal
from the Nobel Lady of the Verahaccani clan."

And Bhante Udayin accepted silently.

Then Bhante Udayin,
rising up in the early pre-dawn,
attending to bowl and robes,
set out and eventually arrived at the residence of the Nobel Lady of the Verahaccani clan,
where he sat down on a "seat-made-ready".

Then the Nobel Lady served Bhante Udayin
with excellent food,
both solid and liquid,
with her own hand,
until he had had his fill.

And when she perceived
that he had finished his meal
by the fact that he had withdrawn his hand from the bowl
and had given it a rinse with water supplied
(hand-out bowl clean'tup),
she sat down on a high seat
without removing her sandals,
and with her head covered with a veil,
and said:

"Teach me Dhamma, Beggar."

But at that, Beggar Udayin, said:

"There will be a time for that, sister."
and got up from his seat
and left without saying a further word.

 


 

Then a second time the young man,
a student of a Nobel Lady of the Verahaccani clan,
came visiting Bhante Udayin,
and there,
after exchanging common courtesies,
he sat down to one side
and listened as Bhante Udayin taught,
grounded,
raised up,
and made that young man happy with dhamma talk
worthy of respect.

Then, after being taught,
grounded,
raised up,
and made happy
by that worthy Dhammatalk of Bhante Udayin,
that young man returned to his residence
with the Nobel Lady of the Verahaccani clan
and said:

"If it please your Ladyship,
I would inform her
that the beggar Udayin is presently teaching Dhamma
that is helpful in the beginning,
helpful in the middle
and helpful at the end.

He lays out the way
to live the best of lives,
the way to perfect and refine
the best of lives,
and he does so both in the spirit
and the letter."

"Young Man,
although you have been singing the praises of Bhante Udayin,
when I said:
"Teach me, Dhamma, Beggar,"
he just said:
"There will be a time for that, sister,"
and got up and departed
without saying a further word."

"But My Lady,
were you not wearing your sandals?

Did you not sit on a high seat?

Did you not cover your head with a veil?

And did you not say:

'Teach me Dhamma, Beggar.'?

The Dhamma is greatly honored by these Aristocrats, my lady.

They have great respect for the Dhamma."

"Very well, young man.

Will you please invite the Beggar Udayin,
in my name,
to tomorrow's meal?"

"Very good, My Lady"
replied the young man
who then set out and did just that.

And things transpired as before except that,
at the end of the meal,
the Nobel Lady of the Verhaccani clan
removed her sandals,
took a low seat,
removed the veil from her head,
and asked:

"There being what, Bhante,
do Arahants
point out pleasure and pain?

There not being what do Arahants
not point out pleasure and pain?"

"Where there is eye, sister,
Arahants point out pleasure and pain.

Where there is no eye,
Arahants do not point out pleasure and pain.

"Where there is ear, sister,
Arahants point out pleasure and pain.

Where there is no ear,
Arahants do not point out pleasure and pain.

"Where there is nose, sister,
Arahants point out pleasure and pain.

Where there is no nose,
Arahants do not point out pleasure and pain.

"Where there is tongue, sister,
Arahants point out pleasure and pain.

Where there is no tongue,
Arahants do not point out pleasure and pain.

"Where there is body, sister,
Arahants point out pleasure and pain.

Where there is no body,
Arahants do not point out pleasure and pain.

"Where there is mind, sister,
Arahants point out pleasure and pain.

Where there is no mind,
Arahants do not point out pleasure and pain."

At that, the Nobel Lady of the Verhaccani clan said:

"Most Excellent, sir!

Most Excellent Indeed!

In the same way as one who sets upright that which had been upside down,
or points out what had been hidden,
or shows the way to one who is lost,
or brings a light into the darkness so that anyone
with eyes in their head that can see
can see the objects there —
in so many ways has the worthy Udayin set out The Dhamma.

I, myself, Teacher Udayin, go to the Lucky Man for refuge;
I, myself, Teacher Udayin, go to the Dhamma for refuge;
I, myself, Teacher Udayin, go to the Order for refuge!

Let the worthy Udayin look on me as a lay disciple who,
from this day forth
as long as this life shall last,
has gone for refuge to the Buddha,
The Dhamma,
and the Sangha."

 


 

The following are not "Rules"; they are ways of showing respect, or of avoiding showing disrespect. You will find that you will hear more dhamma if you ad-here to these behaviors:

Keep your Dhamma Books on the top shelf. (or on a special shelf at the highest location possible in a room).
Do not sit directly in front of a Bhikkhu (con-frontation)
Do not sit in a seat that is higher than that used by the Bhikkhu
Do not remain seated when a Bhikkhu is standing
Do not walk on the path when a Bhikkhu is walking beside you off the path
Do not walk in front of a Bhikkhu you are listening to while walking on a path
Do not wear anything on your head when you listen to Dhamma
Do not wear anything on the feet when you listen to Dhamma...but do not face the soles of the feet towards the Bhikkhu (i.e., sit cross-leg style, so the soles of the feet face upward or inward)
Greet a Beggar with the term "Bhante" (It is a contraction of the term Bhadante = "Broke Tooth, discussed elsewhere, having come down through time to mean "Elder," Venerated One.")
Women should not touch a Bhikkhu, even to shake hands. (Men should not really be touching a Bhikkhu either, but now and again, in an extraordinary show of respect and veneration it is permissible to stroke the feet of a bhikkhu, or to wash his feet if he has just arrived after a long journey). In one of many compromises to our differing customs made by Bhikkhus here in the US, Bhikkhus often now shake hands with women. This is their decision; from our side we should strive to understand the basic idea: touch is a sense stimulus and we should not be making the abandoning of sense stimulation difficult for anyone, but especially not for someone whose life is explicitly dedicated to that effort.
Take the opportunity to Give! Bring Food, Clothing, Medicine, or even provide shelter if possible. (One should not invite a Bhikkhu to spend the night "under the same roof" as womenfolk.)
Listen Up!
Spend time after, reflecting on what you have heard.
Ask questions.

 


 

How Do We Pay the Highest Homage to the Buddha?

By
Lung Tom (Tom Phelan)

Based on the Digha Nikaya 16, Mahaparinibbana Sutta

It is common custom in Southeast Asian countries to offer honor and respect to kings, warriors, and heroes by presenting flowers, burning incense, and candles at a statue, monument or other memorial site. It is also customary to do three five point prostrations. These are also done by Buddhists of these countries when honoring and respecting the Buddha.

These are honorable customs and as a westerner I was very impressed at the sight of the citizens of Chiang Rai honoring the ancient warrior king Manrai as mentioned above. Some citizens even brought little elephant statues to place at the memorial site.

Is this the way we honor, respect, and pay homage to the Buddha to the highest degree? As the Tathagata lay dying beneath two sal trees he told the way to offer the highest honor, respect, and homage after the death of the Tathagata. The Buddha said the best way to honor and respect the Tathagata was for monks, nuns, male and female lay followers to keep practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. So we Buddhists should all train ourselves to practice living our lives in accordance with the Dhamma, and keep practicing masterfully. Doing so offers the highest honor, respect, and paying homage to the Blessed One.

We should all remember the Buddha assigned no one to take the Enlightened Ones place after his death, but instead said he was leaving the Dhamma. When we see the Dhamma we see the Tathagata. At Beluva the Buddha said make the Dhamma your refuge. At Nadika the Tathagata said the wise should comprehend the Dhamma each on his own. From this statement you can understand no guru is needed for your teacher; you need no other teacher.

 


 

Showing Respect to the Sangha

This is prompted by a series of posts on another board which come from Western Buddhists concerning the outward form of respect to be shown modern day Bhikkhus and which were answered by Eastern Bhikkhus.

Both sides showed a huge lack of understanding of each other.

On the Western side, the objection was to using formal manners of respect towards Bhikkhus who have not managed to convince one of their personal respectability. The objection to showing respect in this case is misplaced.

Respect towards a bhikkhu is never to be regarded as respect towards the individual, it is always to be regarded as respect towards the bhikkhu's symbolic representation of the true Sangha: The Four Pairs of Very Powerful Individuals. This is true even for the accomplished Bhikkhu even to the level of Arahant as these individuals have "Become Dhamma" and no longer are classifiable by their former identities. Paying true respect is, at heart, a matter for the individual to decide, but the outward form should be observed as long as one is undecided about this Dhamma; this is a matter of polite behavior even in this barbarian West of ours; but it also comes under the heading of covering your bets...Once one is convinced of the Dhamma, the respect should be that which one would give to the most awe inspiring individual imaginable; one who has solved the most difficult problem of all and who has saved one from incalculable suffering. Even we ignorant Westerners stand when we are told to do so in a court of law when a mere civil judge enters and leaves the room, some of us still stand when a lady enters the room. Will your mind tolerate having given less respect to someone who saves your ass?

The other side of this coin is the fact that disrespect towards the Bhikkhu is disrespect towards this Sangha, and this is very bad medicine indeed. What you have in those real members of the Sangha is a group of hugely powerful sorcerers. And Arahantship should not be mistaken for the usual way "death" is thought about, that is, that these individuals are not aware of absolutely everything that is going on with regard to the Sangha even today. Disrespect for such a one is absolutely like mic-spitting in the wind or holding a torch against the wind.

On the other side, there is no question that there are bhikkhus, if not a majority of Bhikkhus today who bear no resemblance to members of the true Sangha and whose demand for respect makes them appear ridiculous. This is their own problem and westerners should make strenuous effort to avoid criticism of these individuals (which is not to say that issues cannot be discussed!) because their shield, the yellow robes, while being their own noose, is an effective shield that will only result in injury to one who attacks it mistaking the individual for the Sangha.

As for the Eastern side: I have not seen ever, in all my years of reading even one thorough description of the manners of greeting and customs of respect to be shown a bhikkhu.

The Bhikkhu who objects to being treated with less than the respect to which he thinks he is entitled would be better off, it seems to me, to be educating the Western student of the Dhamma rather than to be belittling him. Educate, do not castigate.

A huge ruckus I just observed on another board could have been avoided simply by the explanation of the symbolic nature of respect towards Bhikkhus, but instead the Westerners were belittled for their ignorance of custom.

There is no question that the bigger fault is on the shoulders of the one with the knowledge for berating the ignorant for ignorance rather than practicing tolerance and educating. More than likely tolerance and education were overlooked because ignorance was not missing from the side so easily taking offence at injured pride. A more enlightened attitude would have been reflected in pity on the ignorant for the grief they were causing themselves by their disrespect.

Again, as I said, I have never seen a formal list of the manners and customs to be used when addressing and dealing with Bhikkhus. I would welcome such, but in the meanwhile I'll list here what I have gathered:

When speaking directly to a Bhikkhu, one may address him as "Bhante" (e.g. Bhante? What do you say to this...); or as Venerable Sir (e.g., Venerable Sir, What do you say...), or as Venerable So and So (e.g., Venerable So and So, what do you say about);

When speaking of a Bhikkhu or introducing him to another, one should attempt to find out the terms usually used for this individual Bhikkhu, because the terms vary:

Venerable So and So; Bhikkhu So and So, MahaThera; etc

Deeper than that:

It is polite to ask permission to ask a question rather than simply asking a question. This is the case in person. On the Internet I believe we can say that there are grounds for saying that Internet Etiquette supercedes to some degree...here, for example, in order not to fruitlessly waste bandwidth one might ask a question of a Bhikkhu by saying: Bhante So and So, may I ask you about such and such.

Many of the more subtle rules of politeness have to do with Dhamma itself and are not mere formalities:

When one has asked a question, one should not argue or debate the answer. The reason for this is that argument and counter argument are, as the word indicates, expressions of anger, not efforts at understanding. They reflect thinking out loud. (This is, I realize, something that the Western student will find completely contrary to the way he has been taught to learn.) One has asked someone one believes knows the answer to a question, for his answer. He has provided his answer. To go further is to attempt to change the mind of the person one has just previously gone to for the answer to something one is saying, by way of the question, that one does not understand. To then turn around and attempt to teach the teacher is to suggest that the reason for the initial appraoch was not to find out something, but to argue and convince the other where the other has not asked to be educated. Forcing one's knowledge on others is not the Pali way.

If you think a person is teaching wrong dhamma, teach right dhamma straight out.

If you think you can teach the other individual by way of asking a question and if the question has been, to your way of thinking, incorrectly answered, direct confrontation is not the way to respond. One should ask further questions until the individual has been brought face-to-face with his incorrect answer. Then the question may be asked: "Here you said such and such, but there you said so and so, which is it?"

Otherwise one should be sitting waiting to be asked, (or at the most aggressive, siezing opportunity that presents itself) not going round hunting up people to confront with one's great wisdom. This is a wrong approach I can testify from personal experience is a painful, frustrating waste of time.

But this is a level of sophistication in dialog I do not see being exercised anywhere in person or on the net, by laymen or by bhikkus.


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