The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Teachings of the Buddha: A Way to a Fortunate Rebirth and The Best Kinds of Confidence

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
October 24, 2013
Thu, 10/24/2013 - 10:30 -- bbodhi

Today's selection deals with merit (puñña), wholesome kamma capable of yielding favorable results within the cycle of rebirths. Merit produces mundane benefits, such as a good rebirth, wealth, beauty, and success. It also serves as an enhancing condition for supramundane benefits, that is, for attaining the stages along the path to enlightenment. The Nikāyas concisely organize the types of merit into three “bases of meritorious deeds” (puññakiriyavatthu): giving, moral discipline, and meditation. Today's text connects the bases of merit with the types of rebirth to which they lead. In the Indian religious context, the practice of meritorious deeds revolves around faith in certain objects regarded as sacred and spiritually empowering, capable of serving as a support for the acquisition of merit. For followers of the Buddha’s teaching these are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha.

“Bhikkhus, there are these four foremost kinds of confidence. What four?
    (1) “To whatever extent there are beings, whether footless or with two feet, four feet, or many feet, whether having form or formless, whether percipient or non-percipient, or neither percipient nor non-percipient, the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One is declared the foremost among them. Those who have confidence in the Buddha have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
    (2) “To whatever extent there are phenomena that are conditioned, the noble eightfold path is declared the foremost among them. Those who have confidence in the noble eightfold path have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
    (3) “To whatever extent there are phenomena conditioned or unconditioned, dispassion is declared the foremost among them, that is, the crushing of pride, the removal of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the termination of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbāna. Those who have confidence in the Dhamma have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
    (4) “To whatever extent there are Saṅghas or groups, the Saṅgha of the Tathāgata’s disciples is declared the foremost among them, that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals—this Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world. [35] Those who have confidence in the Saṅgha have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.
   “These are the four foremost kinds of confidence.”

For those confident in regard to the foremost,
knowing the foremost Dhamma,
confident in the Buddha—the foremost—
unsurpassed, worthy of offerings;

for those confident in the foremost Dhamma,
in the blissful peace of dispassion;
for those confident in the foremost Saṅgha,
the unsurpassed field of merit;

for those giving gifts to the foremost,
the foremost kind of merit increases:
the foremost life span, beauty, and glory,
good reputation, happiness, and strength.

The wise one who gives to the foremost,
concentrated upon the foremost Dhamma,
having become a deva or a human being,
rejoices, having attained the foremost.

AN 4:34; II 34–35

To read more from The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, click here.

Categories and Tags