Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part V, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(81) Being a slave to Tanha is indeed pitiable

          ‘Uno loko atitto tanhadasoti passantanam buddhanam
          ‘bhagavantanam sattesu mahakaruna okkamati.

The gist of this Pali phrase is that beings are not fully furnished or provided with everything. There is no contentment or satisfaction with what they possess. This is also perfectly true and correct. One may try to possess things which they are originally lacking, imagining at first that he will remain contented with what is available sufficient enough or his present needs to live on. However, when things are obtained as envisaged, they may still crave for more. One who is earning a kyat will hope to get two kyats, and one who gets two kyats, may desire to receive three kyats, and so on. His thirst for getting more and more cannot be quenched. That is the reason why multimillionaires at the present day are worrying and making their efforts to get richer and richer. While thus, seeking wealth with their insatiable desires or greed, they have to die without contentment.

For example, any amount of rainwater and waters from rivers -and rivulets may flow into the vast expanse of the ocean, and yet the mighty ocean never gets flooded. Another instance may be cited. Any amount of inflammable material may be poured into a burning heap of fire and yet it will be consumed in no time. Every time combustible material is put in, it ingurgitates and burns all the more. Similarly, beings are never satiated. This greed and discontentment is caused by the influence of tanha. As impulsed by tanha, beings go on striving to earn for their living. Accordingly, they have become slaves to tanha. Buddha, seeing these beings who are ridden with tanha and are toiling for their livelihood, had great compassion on them. It is just like a laborious servant sweating in misery through fear to perform a task as ordered by his master.’ It is a pitiable sight as seen by a person who has sympathy towards other fellow beings. The motto composed for the purpose may now be recited:

           “Unfulfilled desires are unsatisfying,
            All are but slaves to tanha – cravings.”

Beings who are not yet free from tanha, have become slaves, and have to be doing things as dictated by tanha. Worldlings are compelled to do the act of killing if ordered to do so by tanha. Those who think they will prosper by resorting to killing, are committing this heinous crime as prompted by tanha, King Ajatasatu of Magadha assassinated his father Bimbisara because he was incited by tanha which craved for the kingly pleasures of life. All those worldlings not yet liberated from tanha for having committed pancanantariyakammam, the five Sins that bring with them immediate retribution, are no W suffering great misery in Hell or Apaya, etc. However, a Sotapanna is free, from tanha that can drag him down to Apaya. Hence, he will abstain from committing vices, such as, killing and stealing ‘which can cause one to land in the nether world. Nevertheless, for not being free from. kamatanha, passionate attachment, he is still in trouble seeking for sensual pleasures as stimulated or urged by tanha. A Sakadagami also is still doing things as provoked by the subtle form of kamatanha. Even an Anagami, though he has got rid of kamatanha, has to do things as forcibly urged by rupa-tanha and arupa-tanha. However, he has no misery physically and mentally because of that tanha. He has only sankhara-dukkha. As for an Arahat, having totally eradicated all kinds of tanha, he has been fully emancipated from the slavish bonds of tanha. Therefore, Compassion which had arisen in Buddha was simply because He found and realised that Puthujjanasekkha individuals who, for not having been free from tanha, are undergoing great misery as slaves of the tanha. Among them the most pitiable are the ordinary worldlings. Taking cue from the manner in which Buddha had nurtured Compassion, let us develop karuna. Please follow the recitation.

          “May all beings who are in misery and are discontented for not being able to fulfil their desires           
           thereby becoming slaves to tanha, be free from the slavish condition caused by tanha and be
           liberated from misery.”

All beings in the whole world, and in all Universes including planets and infinite space as well as all beings in the Union of Burma, are undergoing all kinds of misery, as already stated. They are, in reality, physically and mentally distressed. They are also in misery and are becoming wearisome through constant toil in pursuit of what they wish to earn and possess. Therefore, for their demeritorious actions, there is danger of descending to the Apaya. Miseries are lying in wait for the inevitable old age, sickness and death that will take hold of them. Hence, we should develop karuna with our noble intention, wishing them escape from all such kinds of misery. You should contemplate and note every time you recite with mindfulness. Now, please follow the recitation.

          “May all citizens of Burma be liberated from misery…”
          “May all beings in the whole world be liberated from misery…”
          “May all beings in the Universe be liberated from misery…”
          “May all beings in all unlimited Universes be liberated from misery…”

           Dukkhappatta ca niddukkha,
           bhayappatta ca nibbhaya.
           Sokappatta ca nissoka
           hontu sabbepi panino.

The above verse (gatha) indicates the manner of, developing karuna as contained in Maha-Paritta. The meaning of it is:

Dukkhappatta – All those in suffering, sabbepi and everybody, panino ca – and also all beings, niddukkha – be free from misery, hontu – be so accomplished. Bhayappatta – All those involved in danger, sabbepi -, and everybody, panning ca – and, also all beings, nibbhaya – be free from all dangers, hontu – be so accomplished. Sokappatta – those who are in anxiety, sabbepi – and everybody, panino ca – and also all beings, nissoka – may be free from anxiety and have peace of mind, hontu – be so accomplished.

The meaning of this Pali verse by itself is quite clear in indicating the manner of developing karuna. Karuna can be developed with mindfulness as: “May all individuals who are suffering be free from misery. May all those who are meeting with dangers be free from all dangers. Those individuals who are in anxiety, may be free from worry and anxiety.” Let us develop karuna, as proposed:

          “May all those individuals in distress be liberated from misery.”
          “May all those individuals who are meeting with danger be liberated from danger.”
          “May all those individuals who are in anxiety be liberated from all anxieties.”

Furthermore, I wish to mention something about the manner of developing karuna in connection with the occurrence of Mahakaruna-samapatti knowledge which is self-appreciated after being known and realised.

By virtue of having respectfully learned and borne in mind this karuna-bhavana with dhammasavana-kusalakamma, those who have just listened to the sermon be able to practise and develop the karuna-bhavana to the best of their ability, and to further develop and practise Vipassana dhamma through contemplation and noting the arising phenomena of rupa and nama, and finally attain the noble Nibbana – the state of cessation of all miseries and eternal Bliss – with their much coveted magga-nana and phala-nana, as speedily as possible.