“Be a giver and receiver of compliments and not a constant critic” | Sunday Observer
Medin Full Moon Poya Day falls tomorr

“Be a giver and receiver of compliments and not a constant critic”

5 March, 2023

Following are excerpts from an interview with reputed Theravada bhikkhu and renowned Meditation Guru Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera of Thailand.

Q: Paritta (Pirith) chanting is quite popular in any Buddhist country. However, since the verses are in Pali, some of us cannot understand the exact meaning of each and every verse. Will merely reciting Paritta without knowing its meaning be of any use? For example, if a person recites Karaneeya Metta sutta without knowing its full meaning, he may not feel the power/benefits of bestowing Metta on others all by himself.

A: Yes, when reciting a sutta one has to be mindful. So, one is developing mindfulness when reciting a sutta. Even though one does not know the exact meaning of the sutta he/she uses it as an object of concentration and as a result, the person can stop thinking about other things. Then the mind becomes peaceful and calm, temporarily. But mere reciting without understanding the content will not give the person any knowledge about the subject or wisdom that could be applied in one’s practice. Every sutta is actually the teaching of the Buddha.

If you understand the teachings such as the Four Foundation of Mindfulness then you will understand what the Buddha is telling us or what to do. It is the same way with every sutta. The Buddha is telling us what we should do. In the case of Karaneeya Metta Sutta the Buddha teaches us to practise loving kindness towards all living beings who are either visible or not visible. And by doing so one can reap the benefits of having/besowing loving kindness on others such as being joyful all the time when they are awake or sleeping, not having bad

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera

dreams in sleep, being loved and protected by the people and the devas, etc. So this is the meaning of the Sutta.

If one practises loving kindness as reflected in Karaneeya Metta sutta, he/she will reap the ten benefits of loving-kindness.

But if you do not understand the meaning of the sutta, you can just use it as an object of mindfulness. One can have/get calmness, peace, and happiness, from chanting. It is like doing Anapanasathi meditation, in an easier form -just inhaling and exhaling, but the mind is not having enough mindfulness to focus on breathing or the breath. If one wants to go deeper into meditation one has to switch to watching the breath because that would connect the mind to go deeper into Jana.

Similarly, mere reciting of suttas will help one be mindful, but in order to reap the full benefits one needs to know the meaning.


Q: As I understand, the butcher who kills the animals for other people’s consumption (to sell in the market to cater to the demands of meat consumers) violates the First Precept thus committing a grave sin. But those who would buy meat from the butcher/seller will not acquire any bad Kamma. Am I correct?


A: Yes, because the buyer did not kill or ask the butcher to do the killing for the buyer. The buyer just happens to come by and the butcher says that he has some meat to sell (or the buyer sees the meat ready to be sold). So he buys meat and supports the butcher’s livelihood, even though it is not a good one (livelihood). But for the supporter, this is not considered to be a breaking of the First Precept.


Q: Could you elaborate on the bad Karmic effects of violating the First Precept?


A: The First Precept is to abstain from killing. The violation of the First precept has the worst karmic consequences. Killing is worse than stealing (Second Precept), stealing is worse than committing adultery (Third Precept), and committing adultery is worse than telling lies (Fourth Precept). So the consequences of these actions vary. Killing is the worst and you get the worst consequences when compared with the other three consequences, the other three Precepts.

But the consequences of killing also depend on the reason for killing. If you kill for survival, your mind will become that of an animal while you are still alive. Because you kill for survival, you are simply acting like animals. Second, if you kill out of greed, then you will become a hungry ghost, then your mind becomes that of a hungry ghost. Regardless of how much you get, your hunger or greed will not be satisfied. You will feel hungry all the time. Third, if you kill out of fear, then you become a scary ghost, a ghost or spiritual being that constantly lives in fear. Fourth, if you kill out of hatred/ for revenge you will go to hell when you die or the mind will become a ‘hellish being’, who is constantly consumed by the fire of hatred and anger. So these are the consequences of breaking the First Precept.

Actually breaking a Precept can cause the same consequences depending on the reason. The intensity of the consequence can be different, could be light or heavy.

So if you kill for survival, if you steal for survival, if you commit adultery for survival, or if you lie for survival you will become an animal. If you do these things out of greed you become a hungry ghost, if you do them out of fear, you become a scary ghost or if you do so out of hatred, you become a hellish being. So this is the consequence of breaking the precepts.

Violating the Fifth Precept is not considered to be bad Kamma. It does not cause any of these consequences, but it is a trigger. It will be easier for a person who drinks or get drunk to commit bad Kamma than a person who does not drink or get drunk.


Q: Is the gender into which a person is born determined by his/her past Kamma? If so, what are those past Kamma?


A: As a male or female, we have different thinking patterns, and different ways of doing things and this is considered to be the work of your past Kamma. Women like beautiful things such as flowers, while men like something heavy and strong. It is their liking that would make the person become male or female. What they used to like in the past will be carried into the next life. If you are a woman in this life you will probably be born a woman again in your next life. If you want to change your gender in your next life you need to change your liking - you have to start to like what a man does. Then eventually you will be able to change your character/gender. And you will take up a different gender when you are born in your next life. But this might take a few lifetimes.

In between your minds you will have a conflict. Half of your mind may want to be a male, and the other half may want to be a female, or maybe sixty percent of your mind may want you to be male and forty percent wants you to be female. Then there will be a conflict inside the mind- a male body within a female mind -for instance homosexuals. One half of the mind likes to be a woman and the other half likes to be a man. So this causes the sex of the person to be somewhere in between male or female, not fully male or not fully female.


Q: Is pet breeding /dog breeding ethical? What is the Buddhist point of view?


A: No, we should not make a living out of the life of other beings. Breeding pets or human trafficking are all considered bad livelihoods.


Q: Intake of intoxicants is a violation of the fifth precept (of the Five Precepts.) Some people hold the view that intake of soft liquor (Eg. Wine) is fine and not a violation of the Fifth precept as soft liquor is not an intoxicant. Is this a misconception?


A: I think it depends on the amount of intoxicants you take into your body. The point is that when you become drunk you will not be able to control your actions, your mind especially. When you want to do bad Kamma, it is easier to do so when you are drunk than when you are not drunk. So the Buddha wants us to be sober so that we can control our actions more easily than when we are drunk. But breaking the Fifth Precept is not committing any bad Kamma, because you have not yet hurt anybody. But the point is if you take a lot of alcohol, then you become drunk and are not capable of controlling your emotions. Then you might not be able to control your actions and when you feel like hurting someone you will do it more easily when you are drunk than when you are not drunk. So it is better not to take any alcohol because one drink may lead to the second drink and the second to the third and so on.

When you take a glass of alcohol for the first time your body will react. But the next time when you take another glass of alcohol your body will not react the same way as when you had it for the first time. So if you want to have the same reaction you may need to have two glasses or more instead of one. This is the reason why people drink more and more to get the same effect out of drinking. And eventually, by taking more and more they become drunk. And they will not be able to take care of their actions when they feel like hurting somebody or something. It is easier to do so when you are drunk than when you are not drunk.


Q: When diagnosed with some kind of a disease/physical ailment, the patient often focuses on his/her illness and that would aggravate the illness even further. How should a physically ill person maintain his/ her mental wellbeing/fitness without fully focusing on the physical ailment? Could you explain using the teachings of the Buddha?


A: The Buddha teaches us to instill in our mind at all times the conditions of the body. Having been born, the body will get old, sick, and die, and this is something that is not avoidable, that is something that will happen to everybody. By learning this truth and accepting this truth, one will not be disturbed mentally when one gets old, gets sick, or dies. You have to contemplate this impermanent nature of the body until you become fully aware and accept the truth of this condition. And then when you fall ill your mind will not feel disturbed by the sickness of the body and you can maintain your mental well-being.

Your mind will not be affected, if you constantly teach your mind to accept the truth of the body, accept that the body will get old, the body will get sick and the body will die. And if you are still not ready to accept this, you need to do some meditation because your defilements do not want you to accept this truth. You have to calm down your defilements by practising meditation. When you meditate, when your mind becomes calm, your defilements will also stop reacting to the truth and will accept the same eventually. So you need both wisdom and the practice of Samadhi to maintain your mental well-being when your body is subjected to aging sickness and death.


Q: People are used to criticising others and often fail to praise others and pay compliments. What are the bad karmic consequences of always being critical without seeing any good in others?


A: You get exactly the same thing you give to other people in return. When you criticise other people you get criticism in return from other people. If you pay compliments to other people you will get compliments back. So try to give/pay compliments and try to abstain from criticising people. Then people will not criticize you, they will only give/pay you compliments.


Q: What are the benefits of looking after one’s parents in their old age and could you elaborate on Buddha’s words on looking after parents?


A: Well, looking after your parents is another act of charity - a form of doing charity. But it is a very important form of charity because you are paying back somebody who has looked after you, who has helped you, who has brought you into this world and given you all that you have today. So when you are looking after them it is like showing your respect, your gratitude to them.

The Buddha said that by looking after your parents you reap the same benefit as you are looking after the Buddha and his Noble disciples. So you make a lot of merit by taking care of your parents. Because it shows that you have respect, loving-kindness, and gratitude. These are important qualities of good people. When people see you doing a noble act of his nature, they will respect you, they will trust you, and they can judge you from this action itself.

Just as the Buddha said your parents are like arhants or noble disciples. Those who are taking good care of their parents are making a lot of merits, doing a lot of charity. This can send them to heaven once they die.


Q: What are the greatest meritorious deeds as explained in Buddhism?


A: To become Enlightened, to get rid of your ten Fetters through the four stages of Enlightenment - becoming a sotapanna, sakkuddagami, anagami and arahant. These are the most powerful meritorious ‘deeds’ acquired through the practice of meditation and wisdom.

But before you can get to that point you have to practise morality and charity first. These are the prerequisites for the practice of meditation and wisdom. Having done those two, you can progress towards the practice of meditation and wisdom. And when you do that, you will be able to attain the first stages of Enlightenment.

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera was born on November 2, 1947. Having completed his degree in Civil Engineering at California State University, Fresno, USA, he returned to his motherland where he designed an ice cream parlour for a brief stint.

Quite soon, inspired by a Dhamma book, he decided to go in search of ‘true happiness,’ to find inner peace through the practice of Buddhist meditation. He became a bhikkhu at the age of 27 and received ordination at Wat Bovornives in Bangkok on February 19, 1975, with Somdet Phra Ñanasarivara, the late Supreme Patriarch (Somdet Phra Sangharaja), as his preceptor.

Ven. Ajahn Suchart Abhijato Maha Thera resides in Wat Yansangwararam, Thailand