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Tale of Dhammika, the lay disciple

The period during which a Buddha is present in this world and preaches the Four Noble Truths is referred to as the era of the Buddha. If everyone talks about the Four Noble Truths, endeavors to follow that Dhamma, that era of the Buddha shines with the Dhamma. At such a time, wise people become fortunate. They are able to collect merit. Although many people talk about merit, they do not know how to acquire merit. But those who study about merit through Buddhism can collect a lot of merit. They can cross the Sansara while living happily in heavenly domains and not getting born in sorrowful planes of existence. However, all those pleasures are available only to those who perform meritorious deeds. You may have already heard about the city called Savatti. The capital of the Kosala settlement at that time was Savatti. The population of Savatti at that time was seventy million. Out of that, fifty million who had reached various stages on the path to salvation were disciples of the Lord Buddha. How favorable it would have been? We are now going to talk about one of those fortunate disciples. His name was Dhammika. His life was suitable to his name. He was very righteous and virtuous. His wife also was righteous and virtuous. They had fourteen children. Although it was a fairly big family, they were all virtuous. There were seven boys and seven girls. Everyone in the family very often observed the precepts, gave alms, meditated and engaged in Dhamma discussions. They attended to the needs of the Buddha and Sangha (clergy). They helped everyone. This lay devotee meditated daily. He was improving his mind. In this way, he was performing meritorious deeds and living happily. Ultimately, he became old and was close to death. He became bedridden. He felt a strong desire to see monks and to listen to the noble Dhamma. He told his children “How nice it would be if I could see the Bhikkus who are proceeding on the way to salvation and to hear a word of the Dhamma?” The children went to Jetawanaramaya and conveyed this information to the monks. The monks were very much pleased to see Dhammika the lay devotee. “Dear children, that’s very good. The lay devotee has been virtuous from the time we came to know him. He gave alms often, meditated well and he had a great desire to understand the Four Noble Truths. He had a great devotion to the Lord Buddha, Dhamma and the noble disciples on the path to salvation. Therefore, we very much like to visit such a person.” Thus, sixteen Bhikkus set off voluntarily. Having gone to his house, the Bhikkus spoke to Dhammika disciple happily. “Virtuous lay disciple, what type of Dhamma would you like to hear?” “Oh Sir, the Dhamma is sweeter than honey to me. Although my limbs are not strong now, I have made good use of them. I accumulated only merit. I practiced Satipatthana meditation with the intention of understanding the Four Noble Truths. I am very much like to hear the discourse on Satipatthana. Dear theros, please recite it.” “Very well, it is a very good thing to think of only the Dhamma at the final hour. So please keep listening.” The Bhikkus started chanting the Satipatthana sutta. Dhammika devotee while lying on the bed closed his eyes kept his palms together and listened happily. He paid full attention. After some time, angels from various heavens came and stood by Dhammika. They started inviting him to their separate heavens. Only Dhammika upasaka could see this. It was a big obstacle to listening to the discourse. Dhammika upasaka raised his hand and asked the angels to wait. The Bhikkus misunderstood this sign. They thought that what they chanted was enough for him to calm his mind and that was why he was signaling them to stop and went back to the temple. Dhammika upasaka died immediately and was born in Tusita heaven. The Bhikkus who returned to the temple informed the Lord Buddha that they came back because Dhammika upasaka interrupted their chanting. The Lord Buddha said “Dear monks, that’s not what happened. When you were chanting the Sathipatthana, Dhammakia upasaka found it difficult to listen to you because angels came to him and invited to their divine worlds. He raised his hand to ask them to be patient for a little while. A little while after you left, Dhammika upasaka died. Now he is a heavenly being enjoying heavenly comforts. That’s how it likes for people who perform meritorious deeds.” Then the Buddha preached a stanza. The meaning is given below, One who collects merit will be happy in this world Will be happy in the next world, thus being happy in both worlds When one recollects the merit acquired Will rejoice always with a happy mind Any wise person can accumulate merit. If you can observe the five precepts, which you vow to observe, that is also a merit. It is not a small merit. It is a big meritorious act. Similarly, if you observe the eight precepts on Poya days, the merit accumulated will be immense. One day when the Lord Buddha visited Nigrodharamaya in Kapila Vatthu, a group of Sakyans came to see him. He asked them, “Dear Sakyans, Do you observe the precepts on Poya days?” “No Sir, we have no time. There is no end to our work. Even on Poya days, some work comes our way. Then we are not able to observe the precepts.” “Oh Sakyans, It is a big loss to all of you. Think of it this way. A person goes to work. He gets one gold coin as wages after working throughout the day. Isn’t it a big amount?” “Yes Sir.” “Another person goes for another job. He gets one hundred gold coins as payment. Another person goes for another job and earns thousand gold coins. Still another person gets a very good job and earns one hundred thousand gold coins. What do you say now? If such a person earns one hundred thousand gold coins through hundred years, how rich would he be?” The Sakyans were surprised. Their eyes widened. Cleared their throats and replied smilingly. “Oh Sir, if one can get a job in which he gets a salary of hundred thousand gold coins, he will not need anything else. If he does the job for hundred years, he will become a very rich man. Not an ordinary rich man, but an exceedingly rich man.” “No Sakyans. He can be considered to be a man with a lot of money. If a person observes the eight precepts from sunrise on a Poya day till sunrise on the following day, the wealth accumulated by him is much greater than the gold coins. Therefore, Sakyans keeping the vows of protecting precepts is something that causes happiness.” “Sir, in that case we will not refrain from the observing the eight precepts every day that we can.” In our lives, we mostly waste our time. We waste time to a large extent on meaningless matters. We spend only a little time on observance of precepts. For temporary pleasures, we do not hesitate to make time as much it needs. Therefore, if we are to make use of the time that we have, we must accumulate the merit called virtue. Similarly, we must collect merit by giving alms. We must also collect the merit of meditating. If we can practice meditation on Loving Kindness at any moment, the merit acquired in every such moment cannot be stated in words. We have received a human form of life, which can be used to collect merit. We are in a period in which the Buddha Sasana is in existence. The noble Dhamma is available. Let us accumulate as much merit as possible, which will give us happiness.
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