Is This a Moral Universe

Ajahn Amaro

Is This a Moral Universe

I’m reminded of a teaching that the Buddha gave about puñña, about blessings or merit. It seems to have been given in the context of someone saying: ‘Making good karma doesn’t really matter. If you’re focused on the higher teachings, the only things that are meaningful are wisdom and liberation. Doing good deeds and making good karma is insignificant, unimportant.’ But the Buddha said:

‘Don’t belittle puñña. Puñña is another word for happiness.’ (A 7.62; Iti 1.18)

That brightness in the heart is the quality of puñña or blessings; this is the basis of happiness, the basis of freedom, so don’t belittle it, don’t look down upon it in a dismissive way, as if it were kindergarten Buddhism.

This is an important and powerful part of life. It’s easy to say: ‘This is insignificant,’ or: ‘I’m not really concerned about this.’ But when there is the quality of puñña, there’s an easefulness, a brightness in the heart which helps to support concentration and mental focus, and thereby the insight and liberation which come from them. And if there isn’t a basis of brightness and ease, of self-respect, it’s virtually impossible to develop any kind of mental focus and concentration, or any kind of real wisdom or insight. A good example that illustrates the connection between these qualities is in a story of the great lay-disciple Visākhā. When the Buddha asked her why she had requested the opportunity to make a variety of offerings regularly, she replied that:

When I remember it, I shall be glad. When I am glad, I shall be happy. When my mind is happy, my body will be tranquil. When my body is tranquil, I shall feel pleasure. When I feel pleasure, my mind will become concentrated. That will maintain the spiritual faculties in being in me and also the spiritual powers and the enlightenment factors. This, Venerable Sir, is the benefit I foresee for myself in asking the eight favours of the Tathāgata. (MV 8)

The Buddha was very pleased with this response and immediately gave her permission to make those regular offerings. It is of particular note that her interest was based not only on faith in the positive results of generosity but also upon wisdom gleaned from her own experience.

This reflection from Ajahn Amaro is from Who Is Pulling the Strings? pp. 40-42.