Āyukusala Thera: The Meditative Culture of Heart Interpersonal Relationships as a Kammaţţhāna

Text of the lecture delivered on 18th August 1982 at the Oxford University of England.

“I shall protect myself” with that thought
the foundations of mindfulness should be cultivated.
“I shall protect others” with that thought
the foundations of mindfulness should be cultivated.
By protecting oneself one protects others;
by protecting others one protects oneself.

And how does one, by protecting oneself protect others?
By repeated practice of mindfulness, by its meditative development,
and by frequent occupation with it.

And how does one, by protecting others protect oneself?
By patience, by a non–violent life, by loving–kindness and compassion.

(Samyutta Nikāya 47, 19)

Steadfast success in everyday life, particularly in its social field, may seem improbable, miraculous and incomprehensible to an uninstructed worldling. Nevertheless such a steadiness of success in social life is attainable. Successful life coping belongs to the culture of heart both on the mundane and supramundane levels. It is, indeed, an expression of competence and skills that can be learned and trained; it is a result of skilfully handled situations that are, after all, despite of all eventual difficulties, brought to wholesome ends.

Thus the aim of this text is to show that the clear comprehension (sampajañña – cf. Nyānaponika: The Heart of Buddhist Meditation 1962, page 45ff) of “know–how” and the skilful use of suitable means is in Theravāda neither a secret magic nor a subject of esoteric teachings. In some other traditions though, this would be the case, as the teacher confines the secret only to his favourite disciples at his final parting (cf. Milinda–Pañhā 144). The success intended in this present treatise depends solely upon the competence resulting from the study and practice of Buddha–Dhamma.

This is not to doubt the occurrence of supernormal and magic powers (abhiññā, iddhi) due to the practice of both Buddhist and other meditation methods, nor to deny the efficacy of protective runes (paritta–gātha) and acts of truth (saccakiriya) used to influence the course of events. The logistics of these practices are explained e.g. in Milinda–Pañhā (120f, 150f); these methods are found throughout the canonical scriptures and the detailed instructions for their cultivation are given comprehensively by Ācariya Buddhaghosa in Visuddhi–Magga (1975, 40, 375ff, 414, 429ff etc.). Professor Gombrich, in comparative study of cognitive and affective aspects of the Buddhist practice, elucidates these methods in the living context of the contemporary Sri Lanka and also shows that their logic can be harmonized with the doctrine of karma (Gombrich 1971, 225) which is a crucial part of the Dhamma and, notwithstanding the deference to some famous Buddhist scholars, cannot be seen as separate from the so–called “nibbanic” orientation.

The ethical training (sīla–sikkhā) is the most important basis for all successful coping with the realities of everyday life and, particularly, for the mastering of interpersonal relationships. To teach this life coping skill (āyu–kusala), the third of the magical powers (iddhi) as enumerated by the Buddha is the most relevant one, namely the “genuine wonder of instruction” (anusāsanī), which is well explained by v