The Dull Young Monk
Once there was one Young Panthaka who could not learn a stanza of 44 syllables in four months. His brother the Older Panthaka got impatient with him and sent him away. The Buddha took him to himself, gave him a piece of cloth, and instructed him to handle it while repeating "Removal of impurity, removal of impurity!" The monk did as instructed, realised the nature of mind and matter in him and became an Arahat. It must have taken him two or three hours at most. He gained insight so easily because he was given a subject of meditation that suited his disposition.
A disciple of the venerable Sāriputta meditated on the foul in vain for four months. So the venerable Sāriputta took him to the Buddha, who brought forth a golden lotus by his supernatural power and gave it to the monk. It turned out that the monk had been a goldsmith for five hundred existences in succession. He liked beautiful things and had no interest in foul things. Now when he saw the golden lotus, he was fascinated and developed Jhāna while looking at it. When the Buddha made the lotus fade away, he realised the impermanent, suffering and not-self nature of things. The Buddha then taught him a stanza, on hearing which he became an Arahat.
The Elder Channa was not successful in his efforts to attain insight. So he asked the Venerable Ananda for advice. Ananda said to Channa, "You are a vappa, 'soil to be sown on,' one in whom insight can be cultivated." The elder was filled with joy and delight. He followed Ananda's advice and soon gained insight.
Some teachers of meditation of today do not know how to teach to suit the disposition of the would-be meditators. They speak words not suitable to them. As a result, the prospective meditators go home discouraged. But some do know how to speak. Their disciples who thought of spending only a few days at the meditation centre were heartened enough to stay on till they gained insight. It is very important to teach to suit the disposition of the listener. No wonder thousands of people gained insight at the end of a sermon by the Buddha.
Here among our listeners can be one or two who have attained perfections as those people in the days of the Buddha. Then there will be those who have matured after days and month of training. These few can gain insight while listening to the dhamma now. If you can't get it now, you will get it very soon as you go on working. Those who have never worked before have learnt the right method now. If you start work at some convenient time, you will gain it. Whether you have gained insight or just done good deeds, you will all be born in the six deva worlds when you die. There you will meet those Ariyan devas who have been there since the days of the Buddha. You will meet Anathapindika, Visakha and others. Then you can ask them about what they have learnt from the Buddha and practised. It would be a delightful thing discussing the dhamma with good folk in deva world.
But if you do not want to be born in the deva world and just want to be born in this world of men, well, you will be born here. Once, that is, about 25 or 30 years ago, a Chinese patron invited some monks to a feast at his home in Moulmein. After the meal, the presiding monk said grace for the occasion. He said how, as a result of his good deed of feeding the monks, the Chinese patron would be born in the deva worlds, where life is full of delights with magnificent palaces and beautiful gardens. The monk then asked the Chinaman, "Well, Dagagyi, don't you want to be born in the deva world?" "No," the Chinese Dagagyi replied. "I don't want to be born in the deva world." Surprised, the monk asked, "Why?" "I don't want to be anywhere else. I just want to be in my own house, in my own place." "Well," said the monk, "then you will be born in your own house, in your own place. The monk was right. His karma will lead him to where he wants to be.
"The aspiration, monks of a man of morality is realised because of purity."
Ang. iii. 71
Now you listeners here are of pure morality. At a time when most people in Rangoon are enjoying themselves at this New Year time you are here to do meritorious deeds, away from the merry-making, some of you donning the yellow robe and training in meditation. Some keep sabbath and do meditation. So your moral habits are pure. If you want to be born in deva worlds, you will be born there. If you want to be born in this human world, you will.
In this connection there is something that has been a cause of concern to us. Today countries in Europe and America are prospering. We fear those Burmese who do good deeds get inclined towards those countries and will be born there. I think it is the case already. Some ask, "Although Buddhists do good deeds, why isn't a Buddhist country prospering?" They seem to think, "When a Burmese dies, he is born in Burma only." It is not so. A man of merit can be born anywhere. A Burmese if he so desires can be born elsewhere.
Those wealthy people in other countries may have been good Buddhists from Burma. There are so many people who do meritorious deeds here. But there are not enough wealthy parents to receive them in their next life here. So they will have to be born elsewhere. If you are born there, and if you are just a worldling, you will have to take up the religion of your parents there. This is very important.
So, to be steadfast in your religious faith, you must work now. You must try to reach a stage in which your faith in the Buddha, the Law and the Order will never waver. Such a state is that of Stream-winning. Once a Stream-winner, your faith in the Three Gems will never waver in whatever country you may be born.
These days it is not very good to be born in the world of men. Life is short, diseases are plentiful, ideologies are, confusing and dangers abound. So, if you do not want to be born in the world of men, you will be born in the world of devas. Even if you have not attained the Path and Fruit, your good deeds of giving and keeping precepts will take you wherever you want to be. If you have attained the Path and Fruit, all the better.
And the world of devas is not very hard to come by. One Indaka of Rajagaha made a gift, of a spoonful of rice (to the Order) and was born in the Tavatimsa heaven. Our dayakas and dayikas in Burma have been making far greater gifts than a spoonful of rice. As regards precepts, observing them for a while has sent people to deva heavens. Some kept Sabbath for half a day and were born in heavens. Now you have observed Sabbaths very well and practised meditation very well. If you want, you will easily get to the deva worlds. Why not? Once there, ask the ariyan devas about the teachings of the Buddha and discuss the dhamma with them. Please do, may I ask you.