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Abhidhamma In Daily Life

Domain 3 - Bhávaná

Meditation

Bhávaná means development or cultivation of mind. It is a form of mano kamma (work of the mind) which purifies your mind. When you earnestly wish for the welfare of all beings and emanate loving-kindness on them, it is practice of mettá bhávaná. First you cultivate mettá in your mind and then try it so that your whole self becomes suffused with mettá.

When mettá flourish in your mind, you feel compassion for helpless and poor beings. Consequently you emanate compassionate thoughts to the destitute. This is called karuna bhávaná. You now develop a strong urge to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and miserable. Since there flourish both loving-kindness and compassion in your heart you begin to feel Mudita (sympathetic joy) towards the rich. You feel genuine, altruistic joy for them. This is Mudita bhávaná. The three types of bhávaná can be developed by everyone with a virtuous mind even in everyday life.

Buddhanussati Kammatthana

With regards to Buddhanussati Kammatthana (Recollection of Buddha's Virtues) you need to profoundly concentrate on the three attributes: -

  1. Buddha's meritorious deed and perfections in his past existences, which serves as the cause of Enlightenment.
  2. The result of Buddha's past merit.
  3. The infinite benevolence the Buddha brings all sentient beings.

a. The Cause

The cause means the fulfillment of perfections in countless past lives. He performed meritorious deeds and practiced parami perfections with the greatest vigor. His noble deeds throughout the cycle of samsara are not for himself, but for the deliverance of all living beings from the suffering in the samsara. Let us, for example, recall the performance of Dana parami of King Vessantara, the Bodhisattva.

Most people give charity for becoming famous as a great donor. They even feel they are benefactors of the recipients who should be grateful to them and show their gratitude if possible. They hope for rebirth in luxurious abodes. They wish for attainment of Nibbána only perfunctorily. As for King Vessantara, he asked his mother when he was only days old to give him something to donate by presenting his open alms to his mother. As an infant he had no selfish purpose at all. He only has an ardent desire to give charity in conformity with his vasana.

Accordingly he gave away his jewelry and costumes to his friends. When be became king he had many charity pandals built and gave feast daily. His daily donations amounted to hundreds of thousands of money. He enjoyed the bliss of watching people being well fed and well-clothed. He too, he had no selfish desire for fame or good-rebirth. His only purpose was to help others. He believed that the duty of the rich was to look after the poor. His desire to save the destitute was really intense.

He gave away Paccaya, the Royal White Elephant, causing tumultuous protests from the citizens. But Vessantara was heedless of everything else but his wish to attain Omniscience, Sabbannuta Nana. One might argue that this aim is for his personal gain. But attainment of Omniscience meant more arduous work for him as he would have to travel thousands of miles under various conditions to teach his Dhamma. So to achieve Sabbannuta Nana is to serve the suffering humanity not to achieve his personal gain.

In his final stage of fulfilling parami as King Vessantara, he gave away his son, daughter, and his queen. This is ample evidence of his selflessness and goodwill for all beings. Let us elaborate. Having a worthy wife and worthy children is the zenith of pleasures in the luxurious abodes of human and Devas. Without a wife and children even the Universal Monarch will not find happiness at all. But the Bodhisattva King Vessantara renounced the treasures of the heart, his beloved children and wife, and gave them away. This unparalleled charity was surely not for fame or wealth, but for the sake of Omniscience by which he could free living beings from suffering.

With such noble and selfless aim, the Bodhisattva sacrificed his own life for the sake of Síla and khanti throughout many world cycles. He had also saved the lives of others at the cost of his own to fulfill the various paramis. These noble actions and perfections achieved in his past lives are the causes and conditions to become a Buddha in this world.

b. The Results

With such noble deeds and perfections achieved, the results, by their own nature, are sure to be good and noble. Thus in the present existence, as a Buddha, he possessed the most elegant and graceful appearance, the highest wisdom, the greatest power, and the deepest Insight. One should dwell on these attributes of the Buddha the result of his past meritorious deeds in detail when one meditates Buddhanussati kammatthana.

c. Benefits Enjoyed by Sentient Beings

The noble deed done and perfections fulfilled by the Buddha brought him unique results and finally propelled him to attain Sabbannuta Nana. When he became the Tathágata , he did not rest content on his supreme achievement. For forty five years he preached the Noble Dhamma to all classes of people for their welfare and benefit. Even when he was about to enter Maha parinibbána he admonished his disciple thus, "Handa dani bhikkhave amantayami vo vaya Dhamma sankhárá, appamadena sampadetha - Behold now, Bhikkhu, I exhort you. All conditioned and compounded things have the nature of decay and disintegration. Strive with earnestness and mindfulness".

His teachings showed the way to escape from suffering and achieve the termination of samsara vatta. Thus one should meditate with profound devotion on the three good attributes in Buddha's life namely; the good cause, the great results, the benefits accruing for sentient beings. Then you will find that you developed complete faith in the Buddha; and you seek refuge in him. "Buddho me saranam annam natthi - There is no other for me apart from the Buddha." Consequently your devotion and faith with full comprehension in the Buddha will fructify and flourish in your mind-continuum. This is a brief explanation on Buddhanussati bhávaná. Development of mettá or Buddhanussati etc. in your mind-continuum is in general called bhávaná. You can start either with mettá bhávaná or Buddhanusssati bahavana as you think fit. As for more serious and continuous practice of bhávaná, fuller details may be obtained from various texts such as Visuddhi Magga.

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