Life of Blessings
A Life of Blessings is
based on the Mangala Sutta, or Discourse on Blessings, one of the most important and well-known
teachings in Buddhism. In
this sutta, the Buddha described what the highest blessings in life are,
and the way of progress to eventually attain the ultimate blessing of
lasting peace and happiness.
The Buddha was asked
what is the best or most auspicious omen that can be encountered by
someone at the start of the day. Omens
in ancient India were believed to foretell good luck and fortune for the
coming day. These omens
included seeing certain sights, hearing certain names mentioned, and
encountering certain smells or tastes.
The Buddha did not reply
directly to the question but used it to deliver one of his most exquisite
and comprehensive teachings. In
his answer, he did not say what the best omens are, but instead explained
what the true blessings in life are, and how we can obtain these blessings
Thus instead of looking
out for superstitious signs or portents in the hope of getting luck and
fortune, the Buddha said that we can create our own good fortune or
blessings. It is therefore
clear that we each can choose the direction in life we wish to take, and
control our own destinies.
We can thus obtain all
the blessings we want to receive through our own efforts and without
depending on any external factors such as omens, gods, prayers or rituals. And we should look to acquire not just the shallow and
changeable blessings of luck and fortune, but the blessings which are of
genuine and lasting importance.
In the Mangala Sutta,
the Buddha said that there are 38 highest blessings in life.
The reason why there are so many different ‘highest blessings’
is because what may be the ‘highest blessing’ for one, may not be so
for another. A person at a
particular stage in life has a ‘highest blessing’ appropriate for his
or her own individual stage of development.
Therefore as a person grows, so also does the ‘highest
blessing’ change, and working towards further ‘highest blessings’
leads to more progress along the path.
The 38 blessings can be
categorized into five different groups : the Essential Blessings,
Supporting Blessings, Personal Blessings, Higher Blessings and Supreme
Blessings. Each group reflects the personal and spiritual evolution of
each individual, and the qualities needed for further progress.
This teaching is thus a very detailed guide for individual development. It is set out in a logical and well structured sequence such that each group of blessings helps to lay the foundations for further blessings. It includes the most basic blessings, or qualities, each person should have, and leads gradually to the higher qualities required to attain the ultimate blessing of Nibbana. This is the main purpose and objective of the Mangala Sutta.
To avoid the company of fools
To live in a suitable place
The Essential Blessings consists of the most basic and fundamental qualities that everyone should have. The elements of this group must be established to obtain both worldly and spiritual progress.
Fools are people who are
unable to tell right from wrong, and as a result cause harm to others
through their actions. They
are not concerned with basic morality as they do not care very much about
the consequences of their actions. By
associating unmindfully with such people, it will be difficult to make any
kind of material or spiritual progress as there is always the tendency to
behave in a similar manner. Furthermore,
there will be hardly any desire or motivation to do good deeds or improve
However, we must be prepared to lend assistance if it is needed and also help others to improve themselves. Thus we should not totally avoid the fools. What is important is that we remain mindful at all times and never allow ourselves to be adversely influenced by them. This blessing is right at the top of the Buddha’s list and is clearly the single most important blessing for any individual to have, because without this blessing there will be none to follow.
The wise are those who have acquired the wisdom to tell right from wrong and thus avoid causing harm to others. They are aware that their actions have consequences on not only their present life, but in their future lives too. They discourage wrong-doing and encourage doing good deeds. We should always try to associate with such upright and virtuous people as proper friendships are of absolute importance in our lives, no matter what stage of progress we have reached.
Our parents, elders and
teachers are the people we should honour and respect. We can respect them
materially or through our conduct. By
giving them due respect and honour, we can benefit from their guidance and
continue to learn from them.
A suitable place has both a material and spiritual meaning. Materially, it means a peaceful place where life and property are reasonably secure. Spiritually, it means a place and time where the teachings of the Buddha are known, and where one is able to learn and practice the teachings in peace. The blessing of living in a suitable place allows for both material and spiritual progress.
We are continually reaping the results of our past actions. For example, if we had helped many people in the past, it is likely that when we require help ourselves, we will have the aid of some of the people whom we had previously helped. In the same way, if we continue to help others now, it is likely that in the future we will have the assistance of someone we had just helped. Thus, we must continue doing good deeds for the future. It is a twin blessing to have done good deeds in the past, and to be able to continue to do good deeds for the future.
Most people do not even
know that they are on the wrong path, much less being aware of the right
path that they should take. The
wrong path is that of immorality, greed and ignorance.
The right path is that of virtue, generosity and wisdom. It is thus a great blessing to know the right path, and to
set oneself on this path of material and spiritual progress.