On Sunday 27 November, Nalandians came together on ‘Samaggi Day’ for a Dhamma talk by Nalanda founder Bro. Tan on what constitutes ‘true power’. Many people have the impression that ‘the most powerful person in the world’ is qualified by political position, wealth, the possession of weaponry, etc. However, Bro. Tan said that this is merely a superficial and worldly view of ‘power’.
A person wielding such a position or possession may not have ‘power’ over his own ego, feelings, desires, and defilements. In other words, when it comes to what truly matters – which is the mastery of one’s own mind – the person becomes weak and powerless.
Verse 103 of the Dhammapada says, “Even though one may conquer a million men in battlefield, yet he is the noblest victor – he who conquers ‘himself’.”
Instead of regarding presidents of nations and corporations as ‘the most powerful people in the world’, we can truly regard someone like the Buddha as far more superior. The Blessed One is still honoured by millions with great reverence and devotion even 2,500 years after His passing. Which president or emperor even stands close to that? The Buddha had the power of goodness and purity, which is greater than any power or authority bestowed by law.
Bro. Tan then spoke about the ‘Five Powers’ (Pāli, ‘Pañca Balā’) and urged everyone to cultivate them. These five spiritual faculties of faith (‘saddha’), energetic effort (‘viriya’), mindfulness (‘sati’), tranquillity (‘samādhi’), and wisdom (‘pañña’) give us power over defilements, and propel us to liberation from suffering.
In the Kasi Bharadvaja Sutta, the Buddha taught that faith is the seed of spirituality. Without it, we will not grow spiritually. In cultivating faith, we must ensure that it is rooted in Right Understanding and personal morality. As a result, we then generate vigour that translates into Right Effort in overcoming unwholesome qualities, and in developing wholesome ones.
With this energetic effort, we can sustain mindful awareness of Dhamma, which allows us to maintain sense restraint. Sense restraint then leads to tranquillity and equilibrium. When we have deep tranquillity, we will be able to mature in wisdom, thus allowing us to develop insight to comprehend reality.
Bro. Tan said that an ordinary worldling lives according to desires – behaving impulsively, clouding his mind, and creating unwholesome kamma unnecessarily. Real ‘power’ is the power to overcome defilements in the mind. A mind well-trained is no longer driven by impulses and base instincts, allowing one to live in equanimity and to be unshaken by suffering.
We thank Bro. Tan for the deeply inspiring teaching. Sadhu anumodana!