Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II

by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(29) Exercising patience through mindfulness as exampled by Ven. Ponna

At one time, Venerable Ponna, a native of Sunaparanta country, entreated the Exalted One to deliver a teaching to him in a concise way. The Buddha, therefore, taught him as below:

“0, my son Ponna! There are pleasurable and agreeable sights and scenes, or sense-objects which can be perceived and known by the eyes. These pleasurable sense-objects are also concerned with one’s own desires. They are also prone to sensuous attachments. If the sense-objects or rupa that come into your view, are accepted with pleasure and looked upon as being agreeable with admiration, or are embraced and grasped or retained in your possession, it would cause rejoicing in you, called “Nandi”. 0, my son Ponna! I say that misery will take place because of this delight and pleasure.” (Similarly, teachings were given in respect of the sensations of sound, smell, taste, touch and thoughts.)

“0, my son Ponna! The way to end misery, or rather, to make misery come to a cessation is not to accept or entertain the different sensations arising from different sense-objects which will cause to generate a feeling of delight and pleasure. If it is done so, there will be no opportunity for Nandi to occur. 0, my son Ponna! Because of the cessation of pleasurable conditions and feelings, misery and suffering will entirely cease.”

“0, my son Ponna! I have already given due admonition to you in a brief manner. You, who have heard and received this admonition may now let me know the place where you are going to reside.” To this query, Ven. Ponna replied: “My Lord, I’m residing in Sunaparanta state in the westernmost part of the Continent of India, which is called Jambudipa

“0, my son Ponna! The citizens of Sunaparanta are rude, rough and petulant. If they scold you land utter abusive words at you, how would you feel.

“My Lord, if they abuse and rail at me, I would bear in mind in this manner: 0, these citizens of Sunaparanta are not at all bad. They only utter abusive words and rebuke, and have not yet made any physical assault on me,'” answered Ven. Ponna.

Buddha further interrogated him as: “If they give you a beating and attack you physically, how would you feel?” He then replied, “I would forbear it with a feeling of tolerance that Sunaparanta citizens are only doing harm to me with their hands. Since they have not caused injury to me by throwing stones at me, they will be considered as having conducted themselves fairly well.”

Questions then followed as to how Ven. Ponna would react or respond if he were assaulted physically with stones, sticks, and swords (dahs) not to the extent of causing him death. The reply given to every question put was that he would tolerate and consider them as not behaving badly. Then the question arose as to how he would bear in mind and feel if he were killed by being cut with a dah. The response given was that having heard of an incident, where some of the Bhikkhus from among the disciples of the Lord Buddha had even got to find for a lethal weapon such as a dah to commit suicide for being disgusted with their own material body and life existence, he would reflect on the said incident and consider himself lucky enough to be killed by another person without the need to look for a lethal weapon – a dah – which can cause death.

This Venerable Ponna later made his way to Sunaparanta country and carried on practising meditation. He was said to have become an Arahat even before the end of his first Vassa.

As such, there is every likelihood of a Yogi to be able to extinguish his anger by reflecting on the manner in which Venerable Ponna had borne in mind or his mental attitude, as cited in this Sutta.

If anger cannot as yet be exterminated by reflecting on the noble attributes and moral conduct of the Bodhisatta, the Visuddhimagga has stated that the eleven advantages of metta should be reflected as has been enumerated earlier. 0, Yogis, if you are developing metta and cannot dispel this ‘anger’ by so doing, you should clear it by reflecting that you would otherwise lose all the advantages of metta.