Increasing your longevity
on the right minds.
This script was written and edited by: John D. Hughes, Arrisha Burling, Frank Carter, Leanne Eames, Jocelyn Hughes, Lisa Nelson, Julie O’Donnell, Nick Prescott, Pennie White and Lenore Hamilton.
Life force is the main requirement for living.
Consider a water tank as a model of understanding. When the water in the tank gets too low, you get sick and eventually die. For you to stay alive, the tank must be consistently replenished with water.
How is the tank replenished?
The level of the tank is dependent on actions - those of the present, or the conscious, which have occurred, say, during the past week, and those of the past. Those actions you have performed during the past week could be labeled as ‘visible’, while those you have performed in the past, over this life and many lives past, as ‘invisible’, or alternatively, ‘known’ and ‘unknown’.
If an action, for example an offering of food, was performed, it resounds in the invisible, or the past. Contact in the present causes associated thoughts and feelings from the past to arise. The instantly tangible result of offering food is equivalent to replenishment of water in your life tank.
Is it wise that longevity be cultivated?
A long human existence is regarded as a blessing by persons of many cultures and religions around the world. We know from the Mangala Sutta discourse on the highest blessings that long life is not one of the highest blessings.
However, longevity is regarded as a minor blessing.
The origin of the English word "longevity", used to describe something as long lasting or having long life, is the Latin word longeval.
The Late Latin words longaevitas, longaevus, longus and longaevum form the etymology of longevity.
If you have the merit, a Buddhist Monk or Nun may bless you by saying Happy Long Life. If you have little or no merit, it would be most unlikely that a Monk or Nun would give this minor blessing to you.
According to the Britannica Book of the Year 1997 average human life expectancy for the worlds’ population is 64.1 years for men and 68.4 years for women.
The average life expectancy for an Australian female is about 81.1 years while life expectancy for an Australian male is about 75.4 years.
Persons in Africa have one of the shortest life expectancies with the male average at 53.2 years and female average at 56.2 years.
Japanese persons are reported to outlive all other nations with life expectancy for males at 77 years and females at 83.6 years.
Reported life expectancy for persons in developed nations is clearly higher than in less developed nations and is increasing.
A comparison of medical statistics with average life expectancy statistics reveals the figures for population per physician is inversely proportional to life expectancy.
In the Central Republic of Africa there are 18,660 persons to one physician. In Japan there are 542 persons per physician and in Australia there are 400 persons per physician.
The number of hospital beds per 10,000 persons is also relevant with 15 available in Africa, 89 in Australia and 135 in Japan.
Rich persons have more access to medical care of varying quality than poor persons.
Too much or too little food reflects in health.
Persons in resource rich countries such as Japan, Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain rarely die of starvation. They are more likely to be overweight than just right.
Some work risks shorten your life. Farmers, tradespersons and other persons in physically demanding jobs shorten their life span potential due to workplace accidents. Many tradespersons develop disability ranging from back injury to body damage through incorrect use of power tools.
We are not to surprised that some persons working in hazardous professions like protection forces including armed forces, police, fire fighters and rescue workers are injured or lose their life at work.
Much research is done to reduce danger in hazardous professions.
We hear from time to time about the long term dangers of being exposed to dangerous chemicals and materials such as asbestos.
Last century, the average person had six jobs over their working life. This century persons can look forward to twelve to fourteen or more different types of jobs over their working life because of the new economy’s ability to replace traditional ways of working by machinery.
According to Linda Christmas, the macho-I-can-work-longer-than-you attitude currently found in Australia was reared in the 1990s . That decade yielded many a sad story of workplace stress. ‘Burnout’ has become common in some occupations. Recently, average working hours have increased with overtime and pay increases.
Prolonged idleness can also shorten your life.
In Australia, after retirement or retrenchment, persons may have at least two decades without paid work. As they become older and slow down, some persons cannot retrain fast enough to stay employable by learning new information technology and telecommunications systems. An expectation to be working for someone else at age fifty is unreasonable in the present work climate.
Australians worked 1,034 million Hours Overtime during 1999-2000 according to statistics reported in The Age Magazine, Good Weekend, January 27, 2001.
We encourage persons to help our Temple. Volunteerism is on the rise. Helping others is beneficial to our health and long life. At present, we require more persons to care for our garden.
We are always improving our garden setting and reducing our fire risks. We have been raking leaves to put on our humus heaps and have placed top-dressing on parts of the existing lawn. We transplanted plants from one flower bed to another site to make room for a Reclining Buddha image. We have just moved the Western Gate a few metres to the West.
We take care that our garden is safe and that we work safely. This week, some dead branches were trimmed off two large trees positioned on the northern and southern boundaries of our Centre. We hired a professional tree cutter to do these tasks.
Our next door neighbour had her driveway escavated and kindly gave us the top soil that was removed. Because we are on the top of the hill, our soil is mostly clay and we need to add lime and then topsoil to make new garden beds.
Our three humus heaps need turning over and breaking up and mixing with the donated topsoil. We are making more open space at present. One other garden project we need urgent help with is the repositioning of our bell tower a few metres to the North to open up more space in what we like to call "the village square".
This is hard work in the summer months. If you are healthy, enjoy gardening, can work outside in the heat without undue stress, can work safely with power tools and would like to help, or donate some garden supplies, please contact us on (03) 9754 3334.
In Buddhist culture, it is known that actions, such as offering flowers, contributes to the attainment of minor blessings including long life.
Our culture views the tortoise and the elephant as representations of longevity. The long-legged crane is another symbol of longevity.
In recent times in Australian society more and more people attempt or contemplate attempting suicide. This is a sign of poor mental health. Buddha Dhamma can improve mental wellness and reduce suicidal tendencies, thus increasing longevity.
What combination of wisdom factors operate to give longevity?
"Wisdom is the eye with which to see the meaning of Sunyata and is the Path by which to cut through ignorance, the root of samsara. It is the treasure of knowledge praised in all of the scriptural texts. It is well known as the Lamp that illuminates all the darkness of closed-mindedness. Knowing this, the Masters who have wished to attain Liberation have made all efforts to progress along this Path."
If we write Dhamma (good things) down and keep the writings for use by others we extend the longevity of knowledge. This action adds more water to our life tank. Another way of thinking is that if we plant seeds at the right time by so doing we cultivate and prolong the life of that plant variety. In the Vinaya, the Monks and Nuns rules, the Buddha told his Monks and Nuns not to destroy the seeds of plants. If we think of the string of words crafted by the Buddha as if they were plant seeds we might draw the assumption that if we preserve this string of words, long life would come to us.
This is a simple explanation of Bodhicitta (Wisdom Mind).
Plato wrote about the merits of writing.
The following is a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus.
Socrates: Well, then, someone who thinks that he can set down an art in working, and equally someone who accepts something from writing as though it were going to be clear and reliable, must be very simple-minded... how can they possibly think that words, which have been written down can do more than serve as a reminder to those who already know what the writing is about?
Phaedrus: Quite right.
Socrates: You know, Phaedrus, writing shares a strange feature with painting. The offspring of painting stand there as if they were alive, but if anyone asks them anything, they are solemnly silent. The same is true of written words. You’d think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it gives just the same message over and over. Once it has been written down, every discourse rolls about everywhere, reaching just as much those with understanding as those who have no business with it, and it does not know to whom it should speak and to whom not. And when it is faulted and attacked unfairly, it always needs its father’s support; alone, it cannot defend itself or come to its own support.
Phaedrus: You are quite right about that too.
Socrates: Now tell me, can we discern another kind of discourse, a legitimate brother of this one? Can we say how it comes about, and how much better and more capable it naturally is?
Phaedrus: Which one is that? How do you say it comes about?
Socrates: It is a discourse that is written down, with knowledge, in the soul of the listener; it can defend itself, and it knows to whom it should speak, and with whom it should remain silent.
Phaedrus: You mean the living, breathing discourse of the man who knows, of which the written one can fairly be called an image.
Socrates: Exactly - and tell me this. Would a farmer who was sensible and cared about his seeds and wanted them to yield fruit plant them in all seriousness in the gardens of Adonis in the middle of summer and enjoy watching them become fine plants in a week? Or would he do this as an amusement and in honour of the holiday, if he did it at all? Wouldn’t he use his knowledge of farming to plant the seeds he cared for when it was appropriate, and be satisfied if they bore fruit eight months later?
Phaedrus: That’s how he would handle those he was serious about.
As we practice reading and hearing with sustained awareness we must know we are producing future bases. Our awareness of both known and unknown information increases. Our knowledge of the known subject matter of that we read becomes greater over time.
Learning can occur if we cultivate ourselves.
The unknown gradually becomes known to the mind, and it becomes more pliant and fit for use.
We do not wish to be narrow minded in future.
To think globally, we must study and operate globally today.
Our Buddhist Centre is well positioned to study many things and play a leading role within the context of the World Fellowship of Buddhists’ globalisation of true knowledge.
We want to sustain our assets and add to them over time.
It is rare for a Western commercial organisation to achieve the longevity of 100 years (the oldest continuous Western business being only about 450 years). The mode of operation of a Buddha Dharma organisation that desires longevity must be different to those that have short existence. In order to provide sustained facilities for persons to practice Buddhism in the future free of charge, we do not charge for teaching today.
Since Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Ch’an are being taught and practiced at our Centre, free of charge, we are culturally adaptable without being disorientated by commercial stresses.
Unfortunately, the process of knowledge globalisation is, to a greater or lesser extent, producing some kind of disorientation in traditional Buddhist societies. A weakening in confidence of the relevance of Buddha Dhamma is appearing in the younger section of the population. Other religions are even more susceptible to this tendency.
Since young persons have been sold the notion of consumerism, that is their new religion. They equate an increase in living standard with an increase in consumption of goods and services. However, true quality of life does not follow this notion but is the result of past causes.
A Temple that shows young persons cause and effect and holds the tradition that gives reasons to explaining why mind cultivation is important is useful to society.
Our Centre intends to help these young persons who are being negatively influenced by some aspects of Western culture.
Recently, a young Member of our Centre went to Perth to attend her brother’s wedding. On the morning of the wedding, the groom’s dog ate a quarter of the wedding cake, which had been made by his mother and decorated by his grandmother. The mother became hysterical and took a pessimistic view of the event, unable to understand that it was the result of a previous cause. The Member, understanding the kamma involved and finding the situation humerous, calmly patched up and redecorated the cake. The "cutting the cake" photos were able to be taken at the wedding. The event became a talking point at the wedding and was reported on in the Western Australian newspaper. This would not have occurred had the Member not understood cause and effect and instead reacted according to her Western cultural background.
The advantage of our websites is that they are independent of time and place, as persons are able to choose on their terms, when, where and how they read our material.
The Karma Sutra has changed the lives of many who read it for it explains the direct results of causes.
Here is, in part, the English translation of the Karma Sutra:
Once upon a gathering attended by 1,250 followers, the Venerable Ananda, after bowing to the Buddha with respect, asked: "In the present dark age where the majority of our people are indulgent in unrighteousness, disrespectful to the Lord's Teaching, undutiful to their parents, immoral, miserable and sordid, among them, how could we understand the cryptic and fundamental principle or causes that have brought about this reality and what consequences each individual is to suffer eventually for his/her deeds. My Lord, would you kindly explain these to us?
The Enlightened One then answered, "Listen carefully, I will now expound the Law Of Karma. Because of Karmic effects inherited from previous lives, some people are poor, some rich, some happy and some miserable. Following these guidelines will help you obtain happiness and prosperity for your next life. They are:
1. Be dutiful and respect your parents.
2. Respect the Buddhas, the (Dhamma Teachings of Buddha) and the Buddhist
3. Abstain from killing and set free sentient beings.
4. Be charitable.
The Buddha proceeded on the Karma Sutra:
"Destiny is the aggregate of karmic effects from the past. To believe in and practice this sutra will bring you prosperity and happiness."
Learn the Law of Karma, expounded as follows:
To be able to hold office in the government is a reward for your building Buddha's Statues in a previous life. For building Buddha's statues is likened to molding yourself, and to protect the Tathagata is protecting yourself. To be able to hold a high ranking position in the government is reward for your putting gold on the Buddha’s Images and Statues. To be a public officer cannot be taken for granted, for without practising Buddhism it will not befall you.
Your present enjoyment of various transportation facilities without getting foot-worn is a reward for your help in the construction of bridges and roads in your past life. To donate clothing to monks will ensure you are well provided with clothing in future lives or in your next life. (For example, offering affron Robes during a Kathina Festival).
To be free from hunger and starvation is the result of your providing food to the poor in your previous life.
To be miserly and unwilling to help the needy gives rise to future starvation and lack of clothing.
To have ample housing is a reward for donating food to monasteries in your past life. (Known as offering Dana to the Sangha).
To abstain from eating meat and to pay respect to Buddha will assure you to be reborn a very intelligent child in your next rebirth.
To be heirless now is the result of destroying flowers habitually in your previous life. Your longevity is due to setting free sentient beings in your past life. Being short-lived is the result of committing too many killings in your previous life.
To distort the truths habitually will cause you to suffer blindness in your next life. To have a wry mouth is due to your intentionally blowing candles before the Buddha's altar in your past life.
Plugging snake-pit and mouse holes habitually will cause you to starve to death in your next birth. To intentionally poison a river or water source will cause you to die of poison in your next life. Disrespecting Buddha's teaching will bring you constant starvation in your next rebirth.
To hunt animals with rope and net will predestine your death by hanging in your next birth. To be struck by lightning or burnt by fire will be the punishment for dishonest trade dealing. Being attacked and wounded by wild beasts and snakes tells you that those creatures were your enemies in your previous life.
Whatever you do will come back on you, so accept whatever justice and retribution that befalls on you.
You will live to bear the consequences of your deeds, either within this lifetime or in your future life.
Past karma determines your present destiny. Present karma moulds your next life.
Whoever distributes this sutra free to all will become a leader to humanity in his or her next life.
After having spoken the above teaching to Ananda and the followers, the Buddha added that there are innumerable examples of karmic law. He only mentioned some examples for generalization.
May you be well and happy and increase your longevity on the right minds.
We wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.
This script was written and edited by: John D. Hughes, Arrisha Burling, Frank Carter, Leanne Eames, Jocelyn Hughes, Lisa Nelson, Julie O’Donnell, Nick Prescott, Pennie White and Lenore Hamilton.
Brown, L. (ed.) (1993) The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, New York, United States of America: Oxford University Press.
Buddhadatta Mahathera, A. P. (1968) Concise Pali-English Dictionary, Colombo:The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd..
Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., (1998) Britannica Book of the Year 1997, United States of America: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
Hugo, French-English English-French Dictionary, London: Hugo’s Language Institute.
Tzong-kha-pa, Je (1974) Lines of Experience, The Main Aspects of the Practice of the Stages on the Graded Path to Enlightenment, English translation prepared by Dhargyey, G. N., Tulku, S., Tulku, K., Berzin, A. and Landaw, J., Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.
Warder, A. K. (1984) Introduction to Pali, London: Pali Text Society.
Monk, Ray and Raphael, Fredrick. (2000), The Great Philosophers, from Socrates to Turing, Weidenfeld and Nicolson London, Plato by Bernard Williams
Christmas, Linda, (2001) The Australian Newspaper, "knock off time", Weekend Focus section
"Journey To The Underworld" (1987) by Sheng Xian Tan Temple Tai Chung
Statistics in The Age Magazine, January 27 2001.
For more information, contact the Centre or better still, come and visit us.