Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to be beautiful and live long (sutra)

Hellmuth Hecker (trans.) numerical discourse from Anathapindika: The Great Benefactor (AN 5.43) sutra edited by Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; Marilyn Monroe in 1950s:

Hebe (ladybluewings01/
The Buddha often spoke of five things people want. Two of them are long life and beauty. Long life is not enough.

We want beauty (health, vitality, youthfulness) for the enjoyment of those years. Here's how to get them. 

THE BUDDHA: "O householder [the rich banker Anathapindika], there are five desirable, pleasant, and agreeable things which are rare in the world. What are those five? They are:
  1. long life
  2. beauty
  3. happiness
  4. fame
  5. and (rebirth in) a heaven.
"But, O householder, of these five things, I do not teach that they are obtained by prayer or by vows. If one could obtain them by prayer or vows, who would not do it?
"For a noble disciple, O householder, who wishes to have long life, it is not fitting that such a person should pray for long life or take delight in doing so. Instead, one should follow a path of life that is conducive to longevity. By following such a path one will obtain long life, be it divine or human.

"O householder, for a noble disciple who wishes to have beauty... happiness... fame... (rebirth in) a heaven, it is not fitting that one should pray for them or take delight in doing so.

"One should instead follow a path of life that is conducive to beauty... happiness... fame... (rebirth in) a heaven. By following such a path, one will obtain beauty, happiness, fame, and (rebirth in) a heaven."
The Buddha: The Karmavadin
Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha had beauty and longevity.
Now if only the Buddha (who in his time was not called a "Buddhist" but a Karmavadin, a "Teacher of the Efficacy of Action") had spelled out those paths of action in the same short sutra.

Instead, he explained the actions (karma) that bring about the results and fruits (vipaka and phala) of long life, beauty, happiness, fame, and rebirth in celestial (deva) worlds in many other discourses (such as the Kammavibhanga sutras).
For long life it is protecting life -- not killing, harming, or causing others to do so. 

For beauty it is abandoning anger* and in its place cultivating friendliness/loving-kindness (metta).

Happiness comes from letting go and instead cultivating contentment, patience/forbearance, wisdom, and mental composure (jhana, samma-samadhi). Great happiness comes from protecting the Five Precepts. Even those who only believe in this world during this one life are taught the Sigalovada Sutra, the "Advice to Householders."

Not everyone wants to live like an ascetic or recluse. Anathapindika (the enlightened multi-millionaire, to whom the previous discourse was given, once asked what advice the Buddha had for those who wanted to have spouses, children, homes, and gold. The Buddha gave advice for a happy worldly life.
Fame is said to be a result of showing respect to those worthy of respect. This is the principal reason, but one can easily imagine that diligence and dedication to an art, craft, or skill (such as scholarship or singing, playing an instrument or discovering something) is also vital. Mindfulness helps with that, as mindfulness helps with everything good.
Buddhist cosmology: 31 Planes of Existence chart
Rebirth in celestial worlds, "heaven" (sagga) -- which is temporary even if the lifespan on those planes lasts aeons and virtual eternities -- comes as a result of keeping the Five, Eight, Ten, or 227 Precepts. A surer way to the Fine-Material Sphere (rupa-loka) heavens rather than the Sensual Sphere (kama-loka) heavens is cultivating the jhanas, the "meditations" or "meditative absorptions." 

The 31 Planes of Existence explicitly lists the eight jhanas as the karmic causes of being reborn in those better worlds. There is one more sphere even higher than our sensual and fine-material spheres. And that is the Immaterial Sphere (arupa-loka). Rebirth there comes from the level of mastery of the four higher jhanas.

Basic to all happiness and merit (store of good karma) is giving or generosity (dana), which is founded on letting go, not clinging, not being selfish and self-absorbed. The habit of giving allows us to enjoy things heartily and make more and more good karma as we do.
A chieftain who holds a feast for the people of various villages gains fame and prestige among those people, while accruing merit to have more and more in order to enjoy and give again.

Unfortunately, this also works in reverse. When we are stingy to preserve life or position, we are actually becoming impoverished. We don't enjoy what we have, and we don't give, so we lose out on all that potential good karma. And in the absence of it, we are as if poor already and hurling ourselves toward poverty. Give. Much good comes from it. Let go. Greater good comes from it. 

How? One way is by force. A better way might be out of wisdom, out of clear seeing as to what it is. People need it, so compassion can move us. We would like it, so giving is one way to ensure we will get it when we are in need.

How can I be beautiful in the future? (Duhon)
Seeing the true nature of things, how things really are with insight, causes us to let go. In ignorance, we are that things are permanent, satisfactory, and personal.

When we see them as they really are, our hand opens, our heart lets go, our mind is liberated. Clinging proves that we do not see the true nature of things, the Three Universal Characteristics of all things that exist.

They are radically impermanent, inherently disappointing (unable and incapable of fulfilling us), and impersonal (not us and not ours). This is very hard to believe, so here is the great American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi to explain:
(1983DC) Bhikkhu Bodhi explains the "True Nature of Existence" (Talk 3)

*The Buddha explains beauty
Sutra excerpt, Sections 9 and 10, from Ven. √Ďanamoli Thera (trans.), "The Shorter Exposition on Karma" (Kammavibhanga Sutta) edited by Wisdom Quarterly (MN 135)
All-Netherland beauty Doutzen Kroes, among most beautiful Dutch women (
9. "Student, here [in this teaching] some woman or man is angry, much given to rage:

"Even when little is said, one is furious, angry, ill-disposed, resentful. One shows ill-temper, hate, and surliness.

"Due to having undertaken and completed such actions (karma), on the dissolution of the body, after dying, one reappears in a state of deprivation...
F*ck that! F**k all of you! (UP)
"If instead one comes back to the human state, one is ugly wherever one is reborn. This is the way that leads to ugliness, which is to say, to be furious, angry, ill-disposed, resentful, and to show ill-temper, hate, and surliness.

10. "But here some woman or man is not angry or much given to rage: Even when much is said, one is not furious, angry, ill-disposed, resentful, nor does one show ill-temper, hate, or surliness.

"Due to having undertaken and completed such actions [of self-restraint, forbearance, patience, kindness, compassion, and equanimity redirecting one's expression from anger to its antidote], on the dissolution of the body, after dying, one reappears in a happy destination...

Now you tell me! I hate this sutra.
"If instead one comes back to the human state, one is beautiful wherever one is reborn.

"This is the way that leads to beauty, which is to say, not to be angry or given to much rage: Even when much is said, [to be patient, self-restrained, serene, so as] not to be furious, angry, ill-disposed or resentful, or to show ill-temper, hate, or surliness. More

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