By Nhat Quan
Living a long and healthy life is a blessing and a dream for everyone in this world.
From the Buddhist point of view, longevity is not something given by heaven or earth, nor given by others, but by your own karmic force, which Buddhism calls:
- What you do yourself, the consequences must be accepted by you.
Your good deeds that are considered good karma can bring you endless life for yourself, on the contrary, your own bad or evil deeds will also be able to cut off the cause and effect of long life and destroy your own happiness.
In the Dharma Treasure Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng said:
- All blessings and retribution cannot be separated from the cultivation of mind and ground.
With a pure heart, every day you know how to promote good relations with people, cultivate the predestined conditions of happiness, and natural wealth will come to you, and live a hundred years. As for the sinister mind, everything can go smoothly and enjoy happiness, but in an instant, it will turn into a disaster. For example, stealing and appropriating other people's property, although achieving temporary happiness, has potential causes of future imprisonment and suffering, just like using the tip of the tongue to lick the honey on a sword, although it is possible to enjoy a little sweet honey, the tip of the tongue is also cut off or damaged.
Therefore, although there are many unpleasant things in life, as long as a kind heart and a compassionate mind always exist, one-day disaster will also turn into happiness. A wicked mind that does not know how to skillfully plant causes and conditions of virtue will inevitably encounter poor and short-lived retribution. Therefore, having the blessing of longevity, the decision is that your mind must be honest. As long as you can take good care of this heart, always care and water it with drops of love. Contemplating it everywhere at all times, not letting it get distracted, not letting it go beyond the rules, but living every minute and every second in mindfulness. Then the attainment of the dream of living a long and healthy life is certain, no doubt. To do so, in daily life, you have to cultivate yourself, according to the Five Precepts that Buddhism explains, in which the precept of not stealing can bring blessings, and not killing can prolong life. Therefore, if you want to be blessed with good fortune and have a healthy life, you must diligently observe the Five Precepts of Buddhism to be able to achieve happiness.
Thus, from this very day on you must firmly rely on the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha taught you to rely on yourself because you are the creator of your own good and bad karma, and the one who reaps the results of happiness or suffering in proportion to your actions.
Good and bad karma, happiness and suffering, heaven and hell are in your mind. There are three types of action or karma: bodily karma, verbal karma, and mental karma. When you create good karma, happiness and heaven will follow. Conversely, when you create unwholesome karma, suffering, and anxiety will be the results that follow. After death, your mind will be reborn in one of the four lower realms such as Asura, hell, hungry ghosts, and animals. Therefore, the Buddha always advises you to rely on yourself. You should not wait for someone to create happiness and prosperity or heaven or Nirvana for you, but you must create good karma for yourself.
The Buddha was able to show the way to peace, happiness, and prosperity and the way to suffering and degeneration. His teachings are fully contained in the five precepts of lay Buddhists, or more broadly, they are:
- Avoid doing evil,
Do good and
Keep your mind pure.
By not doing evil deeds, you have created good karma or merit. Doing charity or meritorious work is like depositing money in a bank. The more you deposit, the more your money will accumulate. Profits also increase and soon you will become rich. Conversely, if you create Evil Karma, this is like borrowing money from a bank, you have to pay back both the principal and interest. Loans can become a burden for you. Debtors are always in a state of anxiety and restlessness, unlike those with deposits in the bank. These people are always smiling because their money is always growing.
Creating good karma is similar, it gives you happiness, and makes you feel happy and satisfied. But when you create akusala karma, you are like sitting on a fire. You become anxious and insecure. Any of you can see this because maybe it's happening in your mind right now, in this very moment, without waiting for the next life. So, if you want to be happy and prosperous, sleep well, and not suffer, you should only create good karma and avoid creating unwholesome karma.
The Buddha taught you ten ways to create merit or good karma:
The greatest joy in life is not in how much you get, but in what you have and appreciate. Knowing enough is the greatest wealth, the one who can know enough is the richest man in the world. Calculating gains and losses only bring more trouble, suffering, and resentment. Happiness is in one thought, here and now. That is the thought of love, the thought of loving-kindness, the thought of great compassion, that does not give rise to jealousy or envy, or is not upset about winning or losing, that is the highest happiness. So:
- Don't admire other people's wealth, don't be sad because you're poor, know enough, the mind is always happy, don't seek high quality is this principle.
Human life is short, illusory like bubbles on the water, how much precious time have you wasted every day on eating and drinking, while the rest of your life has not much time left and is still filled with greed, hatred, and sad. This kind of dream-like happiness is not the object that you really seek, so the ancients often advise, if at all:
- Praying for blessings should be eternal blessings
Increasing life span should increase immeasurable life
Pray for blessings, pray for wisdom blessings
Increasing life should increase compassion in life
If you seek blessings, you should seek eternal blessings forever, but you should not seek short-lived blessings, as the Vajra Sutra says:
The happiness of this life is finite and conditioned. Eternal happiness is limitless, immeasurable, endless, unconditioned, so thieves cannot steal, enemies cannot take, that is full and eternal happiness.
Hence two sentences:
- Praying for blessings should be eternal blessings,
Increasing life span should increase immeasurable life
If you need longevity, you should pursue a true life, seek eternal life, immortality. In order to have a long life, normally you may have done many good deeds, and given a lot of money, but that merit is not equal to the merit of listening to the Buddhadharma, because as soon as you have heard the Dharma with a joyful mind, there is no more ego. This kind of mind of joy and non-greed, non-conceptual is the Buddha mind. With this immaculate Buddha mind, it is the realm of immeasurable life, unborn, undying, and pure nirvana. Thus, those who participate in listening to the Dharma lecture can be said to have achieved some part of eternal happiness, and have an immeasurable life!
Pray for blessings, pray wisdom blessings,
Increasing life should increase compassion life.
There is an only blessing, without wisdom, it is like a one-wheeled vehicle that is difficult to run, a single-winged bird that is difficult or impossible to fly, so it is necessary to reconcile merit and wisdom to complete merit. With blessings and wisdom, you can use wisdom to bring your blessings to help all sentient beings. In the same way, just having longevity without knowing how to do good deeds, this kind of longevity really has no meaning. Therefore, you need to pursue the blessings of wisdom, the life of compassion, like Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, through many lifetimes and many kalpas of saving sentient beings, taking the achievements of others, to fulfill himself.
So in addition to the five precepts, you also have ten cultivation ways to make you live a long and healthy life.
1- Giving: Giving generously, giving alms, making offerings. Giving without expecting a return from the receiver. By giving, you can overcome greed and make yourself happy and satisfied.
2- Precepts:
Moral and ethical purity prevents an individual from deviating from the Noble Eightfold Path. Keeping the precepts also helps individuals to refrain from unwholesome actions. Precepts are to avoid harming others through words, or actions such as killing, stealing, committing adultery, lying, and drinking intoxicants, as these can harm you and others. Keeping the Precepts helps you to get rid of the stress, restlessness, and anxiety that arise from misbehavior. Because, when you lie, cheat or steal, you worry about getting caught and punished.
3- Spiritual Development
Developing spirituality through meditation helps you to purge defilements, desires, cravings, anger, and delusion from your mind. These afflictions make you miserable.
Through developing concentration and wisdom, the Buddha eventually attained Enlightenment and later became a Buddha, who discovered on his own the path to liberation after a long period of practice. He also became an Arahant, a pure being free from afflictions and worthy of offerings. Along with Liberation, Buddha also realized the ultimate happiness, happiness that surpasses all happiness in this world such as wealth, position, praise, or sensual pleasures.
The only way you can have this ultimate happiness is through the practice of developing the mind, developing concentration and wisdom until the mind realizes liberation from all forms of suffering.
4- The Return of the Blessing
You don't need to dedicate merit to living people because they can create their own merit which may be even greater than what you are doing for yourself. Beings in the realm of the hungry ghosts, on the other hand, cannot do this and must rely on those who are still alive to do good deeds to dedicate their blessings. Beings who are reborn in the human and celestial realms have accumulated enough good karma to keep them satisfied or happy, or they can create more merit on their own if they so wish. The beings who are reborn in the hell realm also cannot receive your meritorious dedication because they have been completely destroyed by the flames of suffering.
Beings living in the realm of the hungry ghosts yearn for blessings, they need you to dedicate to them, just like beggars. Only a small amount of the blessings you accumulate can also be shared with them. So, every time you do something right or good like doing charity and want to do something for the people who have passed like your family members, or friends... You can dedicate this blessing to them.
Dedicating merit to those who have passed means sharing the joy that arises from your good or right deeds. The beings who receive your dedication are those who have passed away and are reborn and the hungry ghost realm is beings of the lower realms, sometimes capable of appearing to humans. Hungry ghosts are often described in Buddhism as hungry and thirsty beings with mouths as small as the hole of a needle end so they cannot swallow enough food to quench their hunger.
You can accumulate more blessings for yourself like what you do today, go to the temple to make offerings, keep the Precepts, and listen to the Dharma talk. By doing these things, you will receive more blessings than what sentient beings in the world of the hungry ghosts receive. Every time you make an offering, you should share your blessings with those who have passed. If they are waiting for you to send blessings to them, they will receive and you will also receive more blessings by sharing this blessing.
5- The joy of seeing a blessing maker:
Rejoicing in merit is rejoicing with those who have done right or good deeds. When you express your appreciation, you will feel elated. Right or good action does not harm anyone, it only brings benefit. Even if you don't directly benefit from doing this, you shouldn't feel jealous because it's a form of affliction that only makes you feel miserable. On the contrary, if you rejoice and express your admiration for this good deed, you will be happy. Right or good deeds are like waves in the ocean that will eventually hit the shore, sooner or later benefit will come to you. When one person in a community acts rightly or well, the whole community benefits because it brings safety and happiness. That community will become a good community and live happily. When the community lives in peace and happiness, you and the people living in that community will benefit. So when you see people doing right and good deeds, you must express your support and admiration for them.
6- Serving Others
Serving others is already clear to you, so there is no need to go into detail.
7- Humility
Humility is a virtue that only makes others like you, for it is the opposite of pride which only leads to anger. If you still need support and goodwill from others and don't want to be alienated, you should be humble.
8- Right view
Having the right view is understanding the law of nature that is cause and effect, or the truth that governs your existence. You are your own refuge, for you are the one who makes yourself happy, sad, good, or bad. When you understand this, you will know how to live a happy and prosperous life, because you understand that through right or good deeds you will be happy and if you act wrong or unwholesome, you will suffer.
9- Listen to the Dharma
Hearing the Dharma is a very beneficial experience because the Dharma is like a lamp that dispels darkness, a lamp of wisdom that will dispel illusions in your mind and make you see the truth with clarity. There is no benefit to be gained from associating with cheaters. So you should stick with people who are honest and wise, like the Buddha and his noble disciples, who have seen the light of the Dhamma and through that they know right from wrong, good and bad. If you regularly listen to them teach the Dharma, you will gain knowledge, wisdom, and insight, which enable you to do only what is good and right and thus produce good and favorable results. For these reasons, hearing about the Dharma is another way to create merit.
10- Teaching the Dharma
Teaching the Dharma to others is another way to create merit. If you know about the Dharma, even a little, you should teach it to others. When someone you know is going through a difficult time and doesn't know how to get out of it, a few pieces of advice from the Dharma can be extremely helpful and can help that person that gets out of the predicament.
To live a long and healthy life, in addition to practicing the five precepts and ten auspicious things that I have just introduced to you to practice meritorious deeds, you can also have other ways to create merit. As once the Blessed One was staying at Vesali, in the Great Forest. At that time the Buddha went to visit a bhikkhu who was ill. Then he said to the bhikkhus: Monks, there are five things that do not increase life span:
- Working inappropriately,
- Not knowing moderation is the right thing,
- Eat undigested foods,
- Timeless travel and
- Live without virtue.
These five dharmas, bhikkhus, do not increase their life span. But, bhikkhus, there are five dharma practitioners that increase longevity:
- Do the right thing,
- Knowing moderation in the right thing,
- Eat digestible foods,
- Travel at the right time and
- Live a virtuous life.
These five dharmas, bhikkhus, increase life span.
Indeed, when you eat you not only eat rice, you also eat vegetables, fruits, and other foods. Your body needs five food groups to be strong and healthy. Likewise, your mind will only grow if you practice the ten ways to create good karma. So it is your job to put what you hear today into practice. Then, and only then, will you reap favorable results that bring you happiness and prosperity?
In short, in order to live a long and healthy life, according to the wisdom of the Buddha, in addition to keeping the five precepts, and doing the ten things I have just suggested, you also need to develop and adhere to the five conditions in life living. That is:
- Have a suitable and honest job;
- Work in moderation,
- Know how to rest; eat in moderation, and nutrition;
- Travel in good weather
- And lastly, to maintain morality and personality, not fall into passion, corruption, and debauchery.
          Living healthy, eating in moderation, working in moderation, and keeping a peaceful mind are common human trends in modern life to live a long and healthy life. Because the completeness of material facilities along with the diversified industrial and recreational rhythms of modern life is still not enough to serve human health, sometimes it has the opposite effect.
Serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and psychological disorders... commonly known as rich people's diseases are very common. One of the reasons contributing to the increase in traffic accidents is due to binge eating which leads to a loss of self-control. The pandemic of the century, AIDS and Covid-19 are the horrors of everyone, mostly stemming from carelessness, promiscuous relationships, licentiousness, jealousy, and envy.
The five precepts, the ten things to cultivate good karma, and the five conditions mentioned above, although they have been declared since ancient times, have not been widely disseminated to people in civilized times like today. Building a healthy lifestyle, and keeping the body and mind calm and light is one of the most effective therapies to stay healthy.
Don't regret it before it's too late, don't waste your health and life because once lost you can never get it back. Live well and practice the Buddha's teachings to have a happy, healthy, and long life.
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