Contemplate your own goodness. In England sometimes, we don’t dare do that because it sounds like boasting. Or we may be afraid of inflating our egos. In fact, we tend to dwell on our faults. If I say to someone, ‘Okay now, be honest, what are you really like?’ They probably tell me about their faults, because most people identify strongly with their faults. Sometimes there has to be the determination to dwell on the goodness of one’s life. My life here at Amaravati is very good. And people who come here try to be as good as they can be. I have witnessed much human goodness by being at this place. And the intention of my life is to cultivate the good and to refrain from doing bad. The selfishness of humanity gets all the news, and yet my experience is mainly of something very good.
I have been living in the UK for twenty-three years now , and my experience of living here has been very good. I haven’t really experienced the dark side of this place. It vaguely impinges at times, but not that much. I trust in the power of the dhamma and the goodness of intentions, and have received the benefits of living such a life, which is something I am very grateful for. Having had the opportunity of being a monk and living in monasteries, and of living here in England as a Buddhist monk, is something I never expected in my life. In my wildest fantasies, that was not one of them. I remember having fantasies about a monastic life in Asia; I saw myself sometimes living in a cave as a hermit, in a state of joy and bliss, or like in those Chinese paintings—the little monk sitting under a willow tree, listening to the water falling—magic images like these. But not once did I see myself in Hertfordshire!
What I am talking about is rejoicing at the goodness of sentient beings. This does not mean that one is not aware of the badness, or refusing to admit to the meanness and nastiness of humanity; it is not that. We are very aware of that anyway; we don’t need to cultivate that one. But rejoicing in the goodness of conscious beings from beginningless time—that kind of reflection is a very positive way of looking at humanity. One can begin to recognise that goodness in oneself and in all human beings, whether they are homeless, street people, or whatever. One may have an arrogant attitude, thinking that, somehow, one has more right to be here than some other person: ‘My life is more important than somebody of another race, or a street person, or a tramp. I’m more useful to society than they are. My life is more important than theirs.’ What does that feel like? Contemplate that. It doesn’t ring true to me that my life is more important than any other being’s.
One can recognise the potential we all share that the value of life is through this awakened awareness rather than through imposing one’s will upon others, through ignorance, fear, and desire. In our own way we can begin to see the potential we have as human beings, as conscious entities in the universe, recognising the power that we have, that each individual has, once they purify the mind and see things as they are. Tremendous power for goodness and compassion comes through the human form as we free ourselves from the darkness, the blindness that we attach to through being bound to dull, meaningless, conditioning. Contemplate how meaningless life is as just a conditioned, human being, how depressing it becomes. You could see yourself only in terms of very rigid and narrow perceptions, rather than appreciating the gift that you have, which you may have forgotten or not recognised.
In awakening to the dhamma, the human individual is like a channel for blessing. I look at Luang Por Chah, for example, and see him as one human being who was like a channel. All the blessings, the goodness, came through him to all of us. That was just through the power of one human being’s mind, through his letting go of ignorance, not to mention all the others who have done the same that we may not even know about, or hear of.
February 2002 Buddhism Now.
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[The above is from a talk given during a retreat at Amaravati in May 1999. Courtesy of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.]