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Volume 4  No 2


Avoiding ageing, sickness and death
By Venerable Shen-Kai

Ageing, sickness and death are three things that all humanity, regardless of sex, age, wealth and status, dislike most and need the least. Yet, apparently no one is spared. However, if everybody would tread on the path of the Buddha, then we can forever depart from these three terrible events, and attain the peace and happiness of liberation.

ONCE, WHEN Sakyamuni Buddha was in Venuvana Park at the capital city of Magadha, He told his disciples, "There are three things in this world which everybody not only dislike, but also never ever wish nor hope for them. Do you know what are these?" After a while, when there was no response, Buddha continued, "These three things are ageing, sickness and death. If human beings do not have these three distresses, then all Buddhas need not incarnate in this world. Human beings then would never have known or heard of Buddhas who spread the Dharma to deliver sentient beings from their distresses."

The answer lies in their greed, anger and ignorance. Human beings cannot depart from greed, anger and ignorance because of:

  1. The illusion that the body or self is real, clinging to heterodox precepts, and being suspicious of the truth. This is due to:

  2. Impure thoughts, evil ways and laxity. This is due to:

  3. The absence of right mindfulness, incorrect knowledge and a confused mind. This is due to:

  4. An unpeaceful mind, impure six-sense organs, and not observing the 5 precepts. This is due to:

  5. Their disbelief in the ultimate reality of all things, and the purity and merits of the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha). Therefore their mind is not clear and pure, they
    refuse to be taught and are lazy. This is due to:

  6. Their unwillingness to engage with those who are wise, to listen to the Dharma and their constant search for others' weaknesses. This is due to:

  7. Disrespect, use of words that cause distress to others, and their inclination to associate with those who are of dubious character. This is due to:

  8. The absence in their sense of shame and repentance, and are heedless.

Why do human beings behave as such? Because heedlessness leads to disrespect, which in turn leads to the use of immoral words. The use of immoral words creates an affinity for those who are of dubious characters, and therefore the unwillingness to meet with those who are wise, listen to the Dharma, and they constantly search for others' weaknesses. Thus, they do not have faith, refuse to be taught, and are lazy.

Laziness leads to an unpeaceful mind, impurity of the six-sense organs, and they therefore do not observe the precepts. Consequently they lose the right mindfulness, uphold incorrect knowledge, and have a confused mind. When the mind is confused, there are no right thoughts, a liking for evil ways develops, and the mind becomes lax. A lax mind creates the illusion that the body is real, they cling to heterodox precepts and being suspicious of the truth. Suspicion causes greed, anger and ignorance. Therefore there is ageing, sickness and death. If each and everyone of us can eradicate the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance, then it is possible to depart from ageing, sickness and death!

Thus, greed, anger and ignorance and in consequence ageing, sickness and death, can be avoided by chronologically eradicating the 8 causes mentioned above. This because a sense of shame and repentance eliminates heedlessness, which gives rise to respect and soothing words, and the willingness to be close to those who are wise. When they are willing to be close to the wise, they are happy to meet with the sagely, listen to the authentic Dharma and they stop finding others' faults. The respect for others arises, they begin to use soothing words, and they develop zealousness and progress. With zeal and progress, the mind is peaceful, the six-sense organs are pure, and they learn and observe the precepts. Because of observing the precepts, they do not loose the right mindfulness and right knowledge, and they posses the ability to be calm. A calm mind results in right thoughts and it puts them on the correct path. There is no laxity. Because there is no laxity, they do not attach to the illusion that the body is real and they do not cling to heterodox precepts. Therefore, there is complete eradication of suspicion and confusion. Without suspicion and confusion, greed, anger and ignorance do not arise. If greed, anger and ignorance are avoided, then the suffering arising from ageing, sickness and death is totally eradicated.

Not only was this sublime teaching by the Buddha well received and practised by the listeners and disciples of that time, it is equally applicable to the world today. Thus, in this way we end suffering and attain happiness.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre