The following are teachings of Bro. Tan on 27 May 2012, the Second Gimhana Sunday, written by a devotee.
I am blessed to be here. As a human being, with good health and a good family, having the rare opportunity to learn and practise the Dhamma… What supreme blessings! Surrounded by about 100 people, the Shrine Hall at Nalanda was packed to the brim, yet there was such a feeling of peace and camaraderie as everyone came together here on this Sunday morning for a common purpose.
As Bro. Tan began with a recap of the teaching from last week, he reminded us that the purpose of learning Dhamma is to lead to transformation. Starting from where we are now, bit by bit, step by step, we persevere in our effort to straighten our conduct (Sīla), cultivate right focus and a stable mind (Samadhi), and with true insight and wisdom (Pañña), become a noble person.
Very often, when we are not feeling well, we wait until we feel good before we do good. Bro. Tan shared that it should be the other way round! “Do good, then you’ll feel good!” When we are tired or feeling low, explore why. When we are aware that it is due to unwholesome grasping, we choose to let go and lift ourselves above it. Doing good can take many forms. Whether it is listening considerately to our parents about their day, helping a neighbour, or giving up a parking space to a stranger… serving others altruistically gives rise to an inner joy that will surpass any tiredness or lowly feelings that were there before! For it to be truly meaningful, as we progress in our transformation, we must also ensure that the people around us are happy and growing with us. Together, we walk this path and journey from darkness to brightness!
Suffering is a choice. Happiness is also a choice. As Bro. Tan elaborated on this, the following sutta came to mind:
“When touched with a feeling of pain,
the ordinary uninstructed person sorrows, grieves,
and laments; he beats his breast, becomes distraught.
So he feels two pains,
physical and mental.
Just as if they were to shoot a man
with an arrow and,
were to shoot him with another one,
so that he would feel
the pain of two arrows…”
Sallatha Sutta: The Arrow (SN 36.6)
Our habitual tendencies become our default response mode. If we regularly choose unhappiness (over happiness), then that is what we become. On the other hand, if we were skilful, we discern and choose to feel the pain of only one arrow, physical – not mental. We acknowledge that old age, sickness, loss and unpleasant experiences are part and parcel of our lives. Mental pain, however, is optional. Understanding this, we actively choose to practise non-grasping and choose happiness (sukha) over suffering (dukkha).
As part of the Gimhana retreat, Bro. Tan will continue to guide the group meditation on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 from 8.30pm – 10.00pm. Practising together in a communal setting is inspiring and conducive to one’s personal cultivation. There are also teachings on Sundays from 9am – 12pm at Nalanda Centre. All are welcome!