Good morning and welcome to all our guests and visitors joining us to celebrate the arrival of the Chinese New Year. I would like to begin by wishing everyone a happy, prosperous and healthy year of 2019.
At this auspicious moment, the first hour of the New Year, let us talk about a very important concept. We all know that life has values. What are the values of life? The Buddha talked about this subject in various sutras. We can summarize them by saying we must devote ourselves to attain 3 important values of life:
The first value is “To be good”; we want to be a good person.
The second value is “To be happy”; we want to be happy.
The third value is “To be wise”; we want to be wise.
When people asked me what are the values of life. I simply answer: “to be good, to be happy and to be wise”. I haven’t found one person who does not want to be good, happy and wise.
Today, not only shall we talk about these 3 values, we must learn how to cultivate these values.
The first value of life is to be good person. How to be good? How do we know that we are good? What is the standard of goodness? The Buddha pointed out that to be a good person, we must practice Sila.
Sila is a Sanskrit word. It means maintenance of morality. We should always maintain the ethnics and behavior of such qualities as loving-kindness, compassion, contentment, generosity, truthfulness, patience, and observing the rules of conduct that help to achieve these human virtues. Lay men and women observe the Five Precepts (pañca-sila). What are these five precepts?
- Do not kill or harm living beings on purpose;
- Do not take what is not freely given, such as stealing;
- Do not commit sexual misconduct such as adultery;
- Do not lie, use harsh language, gossip or slander;
- Do not drink alcohol or use recreational drugs.
These are the basic values of being good. If you are always good observing these moral standards, you will not suffer from the bad consequences karmically arising out of bad deeds.
The second value is to be happy. I have not found one person who does not want to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy. Where does happiness come from? Happiness is not measured by material possessions, titles and social status. Certainly happiness is not measured by the amount of money you made. Happiness is a state of mind. It is not determined by what is happening around you, but rather what is happening inside you. Most people depend on others to gain happiness, but the truth is, it always comes from within. It comes from the mind. When your mind is full of emotions such as depression, anxiety, sadness, despair, rage, fear, suspiciousness, jealousy, hatred, addiction, pride, arrogance and so on, you are unhappy. Why do emotions arise? Because we cannot let go. Our senses habitually attach to external objects. Seeing a sensual object arouses sensual desire; being insulted arouses anger; indulging in meat eating leads to animals slaughtering; attaching to material luxuries arouses habitual greediness; attaching to past memories arouses resentment and regret. The Buddha taught us to practice Samadhi. Samadhi is a Sanskrit word. It is a meditative state in which your mind is peaceful and tranquil. When your mind is peaceful and tranquil, your emotions disappear and you will feel happy.
The third value is to be wise. Being wise is not measured in terms of how much money you can make. To be wise is to understand the true nature of existence and reality, which is a direct insight into the truth discovered by the Buddha to attain enlightenment. Now, that sounds very philosophical, difficult to explain in a short discussion like this. The Buddha pointed out to us we have to learn Prajna. Prajna is a Sanskrit word meaning wisdom. To attain Prajna is to understand thoroughly all the characteristics of existence, gaining the insight into the true nature of life. For example, we must understand the three marks of existence: Anitya, Dukkha and Anatman.
Anitya is a Sanskrit word meaning impermanence. Everything in the world comes and goes, arises and decays. Everything is subject to changes. We want things to be permanent, but everything is impermanent. That makes us unhappy.
Dukkha means “unsatisfactoriness and suffering”. Whatever happens in the world is not happening as we want. Our desires are always in conflict with the reality of life. We want things to be permanent, but everything is impermanent. That makes us unhappy. Dukkha includes the physical and mental sufferings that follow each rebirth, aging, illness, and death. As a result, we feel unhappy.
Anatman means we do not own anything in the world. Even our own body is not within our power to keep. The body is not mine. Even the mind is not behaving in the way we want. There is nothing to call myself.
Understanding Anitya, Dukkha and Anatman in life helps us give up all attachments and that will gradually bring an end to all suffering and unhappiness.
Let us all uphold these three important values of life: to be good, to be happy and to be wise. And indeed, just talking about them is not enough; we have to practice these values. The ways to cultivate these values are all contained in the Buddha’s teaching. Thank you very much for your participation. Om Mani Padme Hum!