Let no one deceive another or despise anyone anywhere, or through anger or resistance wish for another to suffer.

01 June 2010

Highest blessing

"Many deities and men, yearning after good, have pondered on Blessings. Tell me the highest Blessing!"

The Mangala Sutta is one of the most popular sources for conveying the social and ethical teachings of the Buddha. It is an expression of dhamma at its most straightforward. Esoteric and transcendental approaches to life are always difficult to digest for the "householder" who has to work for a living. In the sutta, the approach to life of the Tathaghata is expressed as simply as a plough cutting through the ground.  
Despite the many wealthy patrons attracted to the Buddha's message, (such as Anathapindika, mentioned in the text of the sutta), for most wandering ascetics following the noble homeless path, the support of ordinary farmers and workers must have been paramount. 
Nothing could be closer to the hearts of the agrarian proletariat of the Buddha's era - or at any time - than the concept of "mangala" or good fortune; both the blessing of its bright allure and its fickle evasiveness. In the Mangala Sutta however, fortune is not expressed as blind fate, or chance, the way it often is in many religions, in myths, in folk beliefs, even in serious philosophy. 
Fortune here, when sifted through the ever subtle screen of dhamma, is presented as a series of potential social actions, each one a plausible version of the kinds of everyday norms of any small, settled social cohort. What villager could disagree with the sentiment of any of its stanzas?  Who would say that they are not desirable, or achievable, with just a little diligence?
As if being retold in a village square, the sutta is presented like a scene from a key moment of a folk tale. A Deva, a mystical being, "of surpassing brilliance and beauty," asks the Buddha a key question. The well-gone one gives a simple and stainless series of replies that summarize the entire canon of his teachings: Etam mangalamuttamam - "This is the highest blessing!"

You can listen to it here:
Monks of Abhayagiri - Mangala Sutta .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Photograph accreditation: At Jeta's Grove Savathi.