THICH HUYEN VI
FOUR ALL-EMBRACING VIRTUES
“FOUR ALL-EMBRACING (BODHISATTVA) VIRTUES”
Practice improving oneself for the purpose of improves or benefitting others (parahita), to guide the human; that is the public duty of Bodhisattvas.
Shakymuni Buddha appeared in this world with the express purpose to liberate the living beings from the cycle of births and deaths (Samsara). Those who follow the path of the Buddha have to practice the right ways. When practicing they should never think of themselves, should never forget others, should never work for their liberation, but they must find the system to enlighten others. Buddhism regards everyone as a potential Buddha. The more selfish one is the more he is against the way of the Dharma. And the more sacrificing one is for others the sooner he will attain enlightenment.
In Buddhism there are so many ways to save living beings that we can practice any one which we can. But if we would like to get the concrete result we have to have the fundamental ability to choose the way. Whatever the race of the people may be, we think that no method is more advantageous for living beings than the inculcation of the Four all embracing virtues.
What are these four all-embracing virtues? These are the four methods of benefitting others (parahita) to help them to return to the Buddha-Dharma. These methods are as follows:
1) Dana giving what others like in order to lead them to love and receive the truth.
2) Priyavacans affectionate speech with the same purpose.
3) Arthakrtya conduct profitable to others with the same purpose.
4) Samanarthata cooperation with and adaptation of oneself to others to lead them into the truth.
A society, good or bad, in peace or in war is so because there is some cause for it. The main reason is the selfishness of the people. Human beings sink in suffering; they think to kill one another. This we see every day. Why is it so? It is due to the greed and selfishness of the people.
Buddhism is a religion of Compassion. It is a religion to rescue people from sorrow and distress. But what is suffering? Is it lack of material wealth, death, unforeseen misfortune, etc….
Thus, these who have enough compassion and want to save human beings first of all should remove the selfishness from themselves. They have to give to others the things which they have, to give to others the things they want. That means giving donations. It is due to donations that we are easily admired by the people around us. People who, like us, hope to learn the Dharma. There are three kinds of Dana or donation:
a) Offerings or gifts or material goods (Vasu-dana);
b) The alms giving of the Buddha truth, i.e. preaching the Buddha-vacana (Dharma-Dana) and
c) The bestowing of confidence by every true Buddhist, i.e. that none may fear him (Abhayapradana);
We can say that we are poor and cannot help others. That may be true, but we can give something even if it’s small. With one bowl of rice we can help others. By giving one mat we can help poor person to lie down. It is said that “For a man who is narrow in the mind, the house is crowded”. A millionaire may give several thousand Rupees, it is not remarkable, but if a poor man has only two cloths and gives one to another, he really helps him and this is remarkable.
The living beings are blind and they turn round in the six directions of reincarnation, (1) to do karma (action) then receive the recompenses, it is the same as if a person were to get up and again go into a dream. When he dreams he does not know the truths. He only thinks that the truth is to desire for more and more as the Insects swoop down to the lamp. The Buddha, therefore, tries to preach his doctrines to persons of every class and help them free from the cycle of birth and death.
The doctrines of the Buddha are of many kinds, high, low, deep, shallow, etc..., according to the level of instruction of human beings. Although people beings to different countries, different persons have different levels of knowledge. Yet, whenever they listen to the Buddha’s doctrines, their understanding will depend upon their knowledge. So, in the Sutra it is said, “Lord Buddha preaches a sentence, the living beings can understand according to their standard of knowledge”. (2)
If we do not think that we know Buddhist doctrine a little we cannot show the functions of Dharma-Dana. As already mentioned, Buddhist doctrines are of many types. If we do not understand the profound doctrine we know only the ordinary points. Everyone at least is to understand the meaning of the Buddha-Sasana, the three refuges, the five precepts or how to intone the sutra, to meditate, etc…We bring these points to help others by spirit. That is also called Dharma-
Dana. If we do these things sincerely, truly and try our best to help people around us to return to the right ways for getting benefits, then Dharma Dana is better than the man who preaches other high doctrines with the mind only to pursue honors or seek worldly profits.
In spirits of that, being Buddhists, we try to learn the Buddhist doctrines as deep as possible in order to propagate the Dharma. If Dharma is spread everywhere, it is sure people will learn the right ways and the troubles in the world will be reduced.
Abhayapradana should not be practiced by them only who have enough courage, capacity and authority to do, but others also can do it. Persons can live fearlessly if they have kindness to help others. They can also evade danger of fearing. We can always practice it at all times. A child is frightened to see a bad tempered dog, an old woman gets worried and she does not dare to cross the road, a gild fears demons while going out in the night, a candidate trembles in oral examination, etc… There are many occasions when we feel fear and we should practice fearlessness. When we meet a person in trouble we should try to help him out of it. When we encounter a suffering man worried for death we can preach the law of impermanence (anicca) to him and also ask him to recite the Sutra or to repeat the name of the Buddha’s or Bodhisattvas. That is Abhayapradana.
In brief, charity is the compassion to do. It has the spacious sphere whenever living beings suffer; we do our duty i.e. we practice Dana.
What does the highest form of charity, i.e. Dana-Paramita mean? It means giving charity without every thinking of it. One should never make a distinction between relatives and strangers. He should never think who are his friends or his enemies. Real charity is that when the giver is not thinking of the thing he is giving or about a reward. “Three things are essential about charity”. It should be as natural as eating, drinking and other things in life which we do but we never think of them.
Being a Buddhist one follows the compassionate way and perform charity. This work depends on the means, capacities and authorities of ours. We can do it in every case and we need not wait for the optimum conditions. We should try to help people as we have the opportunity.
Affectionate speech with the same purpose. It is according to the nature and character of everybody we try to be polite in speech. We should console and give advice to people. Then they can be fond of us. Afterwards they will easily follow us to learn the Dharma.
Mostly, people in this world lean on their own power or wealth, with other persons they do not speak bad words so that people around him may not detest them. When they are not respectful in front of us they show a little respect, but behind us they never follow the ways. We, therefore, have many matters spoiled.
A proverb says, “It does not cost us much to speak pleasant words”. It is true, speech is a precious thing which everyone can get, it does not make a distinction between the rich and the poor, the noble and the vile. But some one can use words successfully, but others may not do so. Why? Because the former has affectionate speech and the latter use words roughly and foully. Avoid the mistake some persons say that they are quick-tempered so they speak in a loud voice but they have no antipathy. There is no cruelty, but we make him suffer around people due to the bad words of use.
Thus, being Buddhists, we would like to move men’s hearts in order to guide the people around us to follow the right ways. First of all, we should put theories into practice. It means that always, and in any case, we have to speak sweet words with sweet voice if we ever want to come in contact with others. Especially when they are suffering in their life. At this time the words of advice or caress are badly needed because they may cure the wounds of their minds and make them feel consoled.
Conduct profitable to others with the same purpose. It is to do well to all by deed, word and thought, to make people feel love for learning Dharma.
The bright example of this is Dharanimdhara-Bodhisativa for his whole life he repaired the road and made them smooth, built bridges for the convenience and comfort of everybody. He replaced the old persons who carried heavy things, or pushed the car to go up the steep road or rowed the boat against the current of the river.
In short, any work big or small can help people. Dharanimadhara never lost heart in the face of a difficulty. We need not wait for complete means to make profit to others. It is only with good health that we can help people in so many things. Sometimes we only need to give a good idea to others and sometimes only a nice introduction which can help persons to get business or jobs.
Those who are rich can do great service to humanity. They may built the house for helping the old men so they can live in their old age, or may establish a public nursery to look after the children who are fatherless and motherless, to give them a good education and trade, to train them to become noble citizens. They also can make a house to help the poor people or build a hospital to cure all the diseases, or construct schools to help the boys and girls to study safely. All these works are good for human beings and for religions as well. With all those great works we can guide them to return to the path of the emancipated one, i.e. we can initiate them into Buddhism.
Cooperation with the adaptation of oneself to others to lead them to the truth. It means working together with others and for others. Samanarthata is dependent on the standard of knowledge, condition, and occupation of everyone. We know these things and then fling ourselves at their works, to work with them, in order to help them in trades or on the other hand to show a good example, make them live nearby us and follow righteousness.
For example, when we work in the same office or in the same company, in the market or at the agricultural industry, from great things up to small work, from thought to speech, we always show the morality, try our best to work, be ready to spend our privileges for them, then from time to time they (men work together) shall follow our good qualities and prepare to recognize the right advice.
Samanarthata-Vastu is the best way to convert people who live around us to the path of morality. The three other vastu are Dana-vastu, Priyavacans-vastu and Arthakrtya-vastu, but they do not exercise a very deep influence on others as much as Samanarthata-vastu does. For instance, persons are given some things by us or they get some advice from us, that is only for sometimes. Although a good speech cannot give one food or clothing which they need, because mere words butter no parsnip. But working together we can relieve, positively and flowing uninterruptedly for the persons who are working in the same company with us. We often live side by side them and know their demand. Thanks to that way we may help them. At that time we become the main column for them to rely on. We, therefore, convert them easily and deeply. If there are some good Buddhists working in an industrial area or in some agricultural forms or in shops and schools, they will definitely exercise a great influence and get people to follow the path of the Buddha.
If we really practice the four all-embracing virtues, we shall get the following good results:
a) As an individual: We shall become good example for all. Every thought, word or action of ours is the best seed to sow into the field of blessedness so that is the future we shall reap a lot of good results. If people find good reason to believe us then we can win the hearts of the people easily. Wherever we go we shall be warmly welcomed by the people, and this will lay the foundation of our success.
b) As a member of the family. If others respect and love us, then our relations, parents, wife, children, brothers, sisters, etc… are surely to think well of us. It is due to our good influence that every member in the family will become pure and honest. If the family consists of such good members, then it is sure they will live very happily and we’ll rely on one another.
c) As a member of society. Those who follow the four all-embracing virtues will set like mirrors in which others will see themselves and thus they will be able to change the circumstances of society. The more people practice this method the more the society will advance.
It is said that Buddhism is a negative religion which emphasizes on the disease of the world. That this is wrong has been shown by the doctrine of the four all-embracing virtues. Thus, if we really carry out these four methods in this real world, it is sure society will progress and get endless benefits.
As already mentioned, practice of the four all-embracing virtues is a method not only to improve oneself but one’s society as well. It will help us improve ourselves and work for the happiness of mankind. We must remember these points:
Beings Buddhists, we cannot refuse to do good works when we are called upon to devote4 ourselves to human welfare.
If we keep silent, we are not really good Buddhists, as we lack two important essential elements for practicing. That is, the compassion and the spirit of the Bodhisattva’s mind. If we do not have these two last important points we cannot make progress ourselves on the religious way and cannot get enlightenment.
Well awake the disciples of Gotama ever arise;
They who by day and by night always
Concentrate on the “Dharma-meditation”.
Suprabuddha pabujjhanti sada Gotamasavaka
Vesam diva ca ratto ca niccam Dharma-gata sati.
Dhammapada verse 297
First extinguish the fire in your heart,
Then light the lamp before the Buddha.
1. Devaloka, Manusyaloka, Asuras, Animals, Hungry, Ghosts and Hell.
2. Surangama Sutra.