During the time of the Buddha there was a lady who was pregnant for a long period of time. After asking the Buddha for a blessing, the monks chanted some protective verses for her and she finally gave birth to a child named Sivali. The woman was very grateful to the Buddha and asked if she might be able to offer the meal to the Sangha for a whole week. The Buddha asked Mahamogalana and some other monks to attend this meal offering. Mahamogalana told the Buddha that he already had an invitation from a lay man during that time. The Buddha asked if Mahamogalana could change the date of that invitation so this woman could fulfill her aspiration and offer the meal for seven days. So, Mahamogalana asked this man if he wouldn’t mind postponing his offering until a week later. The lay man said to him: “If you can guarantee that I will maintain my wealth, my life, and my faith, then yes, I will change the date of my invitation.” Mahamogalana curiously replied: “I can guarantee your life and I can guarantee your wealth, but you’re on your own with your faith.” One doesn’t really know how or why Mahamogalana could or would guarantee his life or wealth, whether this was through precognition or some sort of psychic force, but despite his power and psychic ability, Mahamogalana could not guarantee this man’s faith (Ud 2.8).
It is good to consider this while we’re here, because every single mind moment and action can either increase or decrease our faith or increase or decrease wholesome Dhammas. Our faith right now is not necessarily solid or certain and because of that we want to preserve it. To preserve faith we must generate skillful causes and conditions. If we incline our minds outwards, trying to find contentment in things outside of ourselves, outside of our practice, then our hunger and desire for these things will gradually increase. Desire gradually clouds over our faith, inspiration and interest in the Dhamma until the Dhamma becomes uninteresting, boring, and insipid. This is possible for a mind that is inclined outwards. So it’s good to protect this quality of faith.
We can also take up attitudes and practices that intensify, strengthen, and empower the sense of being a Samana and Samanasañña (the perception of being a Samana).
After my first Pansa (rains retreat) as a monk, a friend offered me a tape of my favorite music band at the time. I listened to it once so I could send it back to him and tell him what I thought. But after the first time I listened to it, it started burning in my mind and I thought: “Maybe I should listen to it again.” Over time this desire grew to such intensity that I was thinking I should give the tape away to someone. I would then think: “No, I should listen to it just one more time.” I would go back and forth and back and forth. It seemed insignificant, and it should have been insignificant, but it created an enormous amount of suffering at that time. Finally I took the tape, threw it on the ground and burned it. As soon as I set fire to it, it became a little piece of burning plastic in the dirt, and it was an incredible relief. For days afterward, the mind was in a peaceful state and I reflected that a part of me had been burned up, built up and strengthened by that act. Turning away from what one desires can strengthen commitment to life as a practitioner, as a monk, or as someone who has gone forth. There are many perceptions we can cultivate and many practices we can do to strengthen our aspirations towards realizing Dhamma.
Did Maha Mogalana’s lay supporter change the date of the meal invitation?
He did. The lay man said to Maha Mogalana: “Well, if you can guarantee my wealth and life then I’ll do it”. He thought about it and decided to take his chances with the first two guarantees.