Dhamma taught by the Buddha is qualified as “akālika”, which is usually rendered as ‘yielding immediate results’. Nevertheless, it has the meaning of ‘timeless’ as well. It is also attested by the very nature of the Buddha’s teaching. Since the truth expounded by the Buddha is universal and never changes in respect of time or clime, its validity continues to exist as it was enunciated some two and a half millenniums ago in India. Not only its fundamental doctrinal tenets, but also other incidental comments and remarks on numerous facets of human life and conduct, remain unassailable and irrefutable by the progress of science, technology and other advanced disciplines in the modern age.
The Buddha demonstrating this standard and the “come and see” (ehipassika) quality of His teaching, verified it taking the moon and the sun as examples. As the moon and the sun shine only when they are not hidden, his teachings (dhamma-vinaya) shine only when they are not hidden (A. I, 283). Hence it is ever fresh and applicable for all times, and everyone has the right to it. It has no patent or expiry date. Since Buddhism is not totally out of this world as some writers want us to believe, there are numerous references in the teachings of the Buddha, which throw light on human conduct in the form of ‘correctives’ to devise a happy and beautiful life as humans. While on one hand these teachings show that Buddhism is ‘timeless’ and beyond the borders of caste and ethnicity, they exhibit the Buddha’s concern about the progress and well-being of the laity as a whole, on the other.
Aspirations – Ways and Means to Achieve Them
In this regard, the Buddha’s discourses on human aspirations can be cited. Addressing Anāthapindika, the millionaire, the Buddha outlined four aspirations of people, which are rarely fulfilled. They are;
- To acquire wealth by lawful means
- Being wealthy lawfully, live well with relatives and teachers and have a good reputation
- With lawfully earned wealth; live well with relatives and get a good reputation and live long
- After death, to be born in a heavenly world
These aspirations are given with an ethical twist and the Buddha pointed out that the fulfillment of these aspirations could only be anticipated with the perfection of faith, virtue, generosity and wisdom (A. II, p. 66). It is not specified whether the ‘faith’ here is faith in the Buddha or in the Triple Gem. It signifies more or less confidence or firm conviction and resolution in the aspirations. In another instance, a set of ten aspirations of humans is documented with ten obstacles for their realization and ten precautionary measures for their achievement. Those aspirations are:
- Gaining Wealth;
- Pleasant appearance;
- Noble life;
- Good friendship;
- Development of good qualities; and
- Heavenly worlds.
But on the way to achieving these aspirations there are obstacles. The obstacle for:
- Wealth is sloth and non-exertion;
- Pleasant appearance is the lack of finery and adornments;
- Health is unsuitable behaviour;
- Respectability is friendship with the wicked;
- Noble life is non-restraint of the sensual faculties;
- Good friendship is quarrelling;
- Erudition is the lack of learning;
- Wisdom is not lending the ear and not asking questions;
- Development of good qualities is the lack of reflection; and
- Gaining heavenly worlds is the wrong way of life.
Then the explanation of the ten precautionary measures for their realization is also given.
- Energy and exertion are the precautionary measures for wealth
- Finery and adornment for pleasant appearance
- Suitable behaviour for health
- Lovely friendship for respectability
- Restraint of the senses for noble life
- Not quarrelling for good friendship
- Much learning for erudition
- Lending the ear and asking questions for wisdom
- Constant reflection for the development of good qualities
- Right way of life for the heavenly worlds
Out of the ten aspirations given here, only V and IX have some relationship with spirituality. The others are clearly common temporal goals, which any ordinary person may cherish. These two short references found in the Anguttaranikaya prove the fact that the Buddha was not only concerned about the spiritual welfare but also temporal welfare of every individual in human society. Some may have aspirations different from the above or may have additional aspirations. Herein, the Buddha has provided guidelines to put into practice for their achievement. One can follow them and make use of them to create new guidelines to suit one’s aspirations.
By following the admonitions of the Buddha,
may all of your aspirations be fulfilled!
Late Ven. Dr P. Gnanarama Anu-Nayaka Mahāthera