Usually, a mother will guide or ask her children to practice meditation but there are some parents who dismiss it and only worry about making money.
Buddha always teaches that the best way to show gratitude to parents is to cultivate faith in goodness in them if they don't have faith, to encourage them to follow the Five Precepts if they don't follow them. If they don’t attempt to do so, they will die without noble treasures and their next life will be in more suffering. My students have come to me with this problem many times. Now I will set up a dialogue in similar scenarios as a guideline for those facing this problem or for opening their parent's mind.
Mother: You're going to a meditation retreat again. Why? This will interfere with your work. There's a rent to pay and foods to buy. What do you get out of it?
Son: Yes, Mom. Even though I go for meditation, I never neglect my responsibilities. I just have to balance them. Meditation makes my mind focus better and gain wisdom. My decision making at work will be better and sharper. It's better than working all the time and the brain gets more tired. Besides better work performance, I also cultivate merit to support my life. If we deplete the merit until there's nothing left, it would be difficult for us to make progress in our life and when it's time to pay back the bad karma, we could easily crash, Mom. ..
Mother: How can the merit support us? It's money that gives us a comfortable life. Son: It is true that money can bring comfort. But now we don’t have enough money, we weren't born with a silver spoon in our mouth and have to work so hard. It was because we hadn't given in good faith, Mom. We only saw our own interests, never shared our possessions with others just for their sake. The result of this karma is inadequacy or poverty as already taught by the Buddha. But for those who shared their possessions with others in their past life, they would have possessions as their foundation in new life. If they also hold the precepts and practice meditation, their new life would be more prosperous.
. There was a story in Buddha's era about a destitute man, the poorest man in town. While he was on his way to do farming, he saw a Buddha walk in peace, triggering strong faith in the Noble One. Then, he realized the reason that he was so poor he could afford only one meal a day was because he had never given anything to anyone in past lives. Feeling pathetic about his action, he decided to offer his only meal to the Buddha and made a wish, "With this merit from this alms giving, may the word "have not" never happen to me”. After this merit, his heart was full of joy as the Buddha blessed him that his wish be fulfilled. From this merit, his next life was a prince who was showered with love by his mother who gave him everything he wished. . Mother: Your story is quite fun. But isn't it too much that just offering a rice ball made the man reborn as a prince? What about me? I have sometimes offered food to monks too but never get rich. Son: Mom, this is because of different supporting factors. My Vipassana master has explained about this. Here are the reasons: 1. This man met a highly virtuous monk; that is the Silent Buddha (Pacceka Buddha). . 2. This man made merit with true faith as he realized his mistake and had faith in the Silent Buddha. For this man, his only "treasure" was that rice ball which is his source of life while other people still have other assets. By offering his only treasure with no attachment, the result was enormous merit. . 3. When he made a wish, he didn't do it with greed. We may think his wish for a life that “would never hear the words ‘there isn’t any’” sounds greedy. But when he said it with true realization about the harm of the lack of generosity and attachment and with the firmness in his mind as he was making the wish, the merit became very large. He was later reborn as a prince, ordained, and reached a spiritual freedom. . My master has taught that we cannot make a wish like that because if we do with greed, it will lessen the positive karmic energy a lot. People nowadays make merit only to conform to tradition, they expect good results as a return on investment, not with faith or true dedication. That’s why they gain little from merit making. There was also this story told by revered monks about an old woman who had a low birth in the afterlife although she made a lot of donations because it was a traditional merit making without true faith. . Mother: Oh.. so what should I do to have such a good result when I make merit? Son : You have to start by purifying your mind, Mom. If your mind is full of impurities, you won’t have a good result from your merit making. Most importantly, you have to hold the Five Precepts perfectly. It will strengthen your mind and benefit you better. . Mother: How can I keep the Precepts? I don’t see any one keep the Precepts at all. I see people leaving the temple and then go for a drink. They lie all the time. They all do the same thing. If we strongly hold the Precepts, people will say that we're crazy. I don’t want our family to be seen as extreme. .. Son: Mom, Buddha’s teaching is to follow the Precepts, whoever calls a strict follower of the Precepts as 'extreme' will definitely face a bad karma from this insult. Mom, can you see that some people were born with beautiful complexion, or wealthy? That’s because in the past life they followed Buddha’s Five and Eight Precepts. They did not kill any beings and always help others. Each one was born different in high or low status, good or bad, poor or rich, because of merits which had been accumulated. The more good deeds, the better life. In contrast, the more bad deeds and bad friends, the more bad karma, leading to life sinking into the endless cycle of rebirth. Unless you purify your mind to get rid of impurities, you will have to be reborn again. . Buddha divided people into four types, coming from darkness going into darkness, coming from darkness going into lightness, coming from lightness going into darkness, and coming from lightness going into lightness. Whoever wants to go into darkness, let them be, but let us go into lightness. We cannot change our past, but we can do good and cultivate merit now. . Moreover, the consequence from bad karma can be buffered by meditation practice. The late Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara had said that, “Merit is like the feet that keep us running away from bad karma”. Meditation and Vipassana meditation are the highest merit in Buddhism. Going to meditation is like athletes confining themselves for training. Once your mind is strengthened, you can continue to practice at home.
Mom: Can’t I practice at home? Why do I have to go to the temple or Dhamma retreat, leaving work and wasting money?
Son: Taking a leave doesn’t mean I abandon my work, Mom. As a matter of fact, my boss supports me. Practicing Dhamma makes you have good moral, be ethical and honest, which result in better work and an idea to contribute to the organization more for giving me an opportunity to work here. . One more thing, most people don't know why Dhamma teaching and practicing meditation in a retreat or the temple is required although they regularly meditate at home. They don't understand how energy works. Holy places are full of virtuous energy with Dhamma teachers present to closely guide meditators. Such places allow us to withdraw from the outside world, allowing our mind to be free from interruption and absorb the fine, pure energy. . On the contrary, if you sit at home and your next-door neighbor turned on the TV, you'll be so restless you just wanted to look at your smartphone. Even though you've been practicing for years, there's no progress. When something happens, you have nobody to ask. Those who want to cultivate spiritual perfections must go to a meditation retreat, Mom. Having Dhamma teachers while practicing will help you progress. . Mom: Have you been there ? Why do you have to go there again? Isn't once enough? Son: A 7-day work or a 7-day leave doesn't make us richer or poorer, just a little less income. A 7-day meditation retreat helps us gain the noble treasures which support us in this life and beyond. I go for the retreat once or twice a year to help me progress in my practice. I'm telling you all of this because I love you. I want to repay your love. I want you to possess the noble treasure. Please give me a chance to repay your love and cultivate my own merit as well. . Mom: Is there any expense for the meditation retreat? Son: Oh! Everything is free. All meals and a private sleeping quarter are provided. We pay only for our transportation fee as the master considers the meditation course as a form of Dhamma giving. Leading the way to set people free from suffering brings about great merit.
Mom: Let me think about this. Well, don't take leave too often because you could get fired. . Son: Just hearing that you will think about this made me happy. Well, don't wait for too long because life is uncertain. I can wait for you, Mom...my company will not fire me because I agreed to have my salary deducted. I will also get my boss to join the retreat so nobody gets the sack.
Master Acharavadee Wongsakon 11 August 2018 . ***The Seven Noble Treasures are noble treasures in Buddhism. The treasures occur in our mind and will be ingrained with us even after death. They are not lost like worldly treasures.
The Seven Noble Treasures are 1) Faith 2) Precepts 3) Hiri: moral shame 4) Ottappa: moral fear 5) Bahusacca: great learning 6) Caga: sacrifice 7) Panna: wisdom to know what is good or bad and to truly know about ourselves till reaching enlightenment
The Noble Treasures are very beneficial and supportive treasures. One who accumulates such treasures in one’s mind firmly will prosper both in this life and later lives.
Translated by: Chortip Oveerawong, Siriporn Kuprasertsin, Napassakorn Oveerawong, Chotika Rujirachun, Pimchanok Thanitsond