Scriptural

Kevatta Sutta – part 1

This is a long discourse and perhaps one of the best statements concerning human indulgence or fascination with the supernatural. Good luck or fortune becomes important when we crave for good things in life but is clueless about how to achieve them. When good things happen and we are ignorant of their causes, we attribute it to some form of good luck or fortune. Such as picking up a huge diamond while trekking in the hill? Besides praying to some gods or goddesses for good fortune, people also try to read their future. Will they have a good life ahead of them or will there be misfortune lurking around the corner. What should one do to avoid misfortune? Everybody wants to have good luck and avoid misfortune.

From the aforesaid, we can see the 3 factors driving our craze for fortune telling or mysticism. Ignorance, craving and aversion. Unfortunately, dharma will fall upon deaf ear when one is afflicted by these 3 poisons in our mind. Consequently, a feng-shui master’s advice to paint our house in black seems more logical than a monk’s advice to practice good speech (aka. good communication), when we are craving for that promotion.

What did Buddha have to say about miracles, fortune-telling and whatnots?

Let us explore Kevatta Sutta

Background of this sutta

This discourse took place when Buddha’s lay follower, Kevatta or Kevaddha beseeched Buddha to increase the popularity of Buddhism through display of miracles. Although miracles are aplenty in Buddhism, Buddha forbade the display of miracles for a wrong reason.

Thus, I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Nalanda in Pavarika’s mango grove. Then Kevatta the householder approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “Lord, this Nalanda is powerful, both prosperous and populous, filled with people who have faith in the Blessed One. It would be good if the Blessed One were to direct a monk to display a miracle of psychic power from his superior human state so that Nalanda would to an even greater extent have faith in the Blessed One.”

“Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta: To Kevatta” (DN 11), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html .

Kevatta requested 3 times and Buddha rejected thrice. That means the rejection is final and complete. In our modern language, that means ABSOLUTELY NO!

In Buddhist practice, it is normal to repeat our request 3 times. For example, when we request our teacher to let us undertake the precepts or when we ask our teacher to teach us certain dharma. Requesting 3 times signifies our determination and sometimes it allow us time to “cool off”. When we request certain teachings from a teacher, they may reject our first request and only relent on our third one. In this way, requests for certain teachings can stretch over a year or more.

For example, when requesting for teachings on emptiness; it is appropriate for the teacher to gauge the aptitude of the student. Sometimes, the teacher may suggest that the student practice loving-kindness first, thus declining that request. Traditionally, students who respect their teacher would be careful and not frivolously utilize their 3 chances.

Once the 3rd request is rejected, it signifies an absolute no. In the past, this becomes binding for both student and teacher. That was how serious it was meant to be.

Up till here, we should understand that it is inappropriate for Buddhist to attract faith through working of miracles or display of psychic prowess. In that manner, no self-respecting monk /Buddhist will hold a mass miracle healing event to attract followers. Coincidentally, Buddhist cult leaders tend to attract followers through public events where miraculous healings take place. Think about it.

May all be well and happy.

Categories: Scriptural

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