Update: 13/09/2021



In the Khuddhaka Nikaya II, chapter III, sutra 2, the Story of the Hungry Ghost of Mount Sanuvasin, tells about a prince, in the past, slandering a Paccekabuddha. Because of that, he fell into an uninterrupted hell when he died. After his time in hell, he was reborn and formed a hungry ghost. At the time of Buddha's birth, he was reborn in the human realm, into a family in a fishing village. Because of remembering previous lives, remembering the sufferings experienced in hell and hungry ghosts, although this life was born in the fishing village, the young man did not go fishing with other people and often threw fish back to the sea when other people brought them to the village. His relatives were angry and kicked him out of the village. Due to good reasons, the young man met the venerable Ananda and was allowed to leave his home. Later, because of his diligent practice, he attained Arahantship. Because of evil karma that the relatives in the venerable fishing village created, when they died, they were reborn as hungry ghosts. One day while the venerable was going for alms, a hungry ghost who was his brother's brother in his previous life came to see him, lamented with him and told him about his sufferings like being naked, having no food, no drink, and no house … Venerable, out of pity for his relatives, in meetings of monks, he made offerings to them and dedicated merit to relatives. When the venerable offered food to the monks, his relatives got the food. When the venerable scooped water to offer, his relatives escaped from thirst. When the venerable built a temple to worship the Sangha, his relatives had houses. Finally, due to the dedication of the venerable, his relatives were freed from suffering. Through the story, we learn many lessons for ourselves.

1. Consequences of insulting a saint:

In this story, the prince initially relied on his own power, so he looked down on and insulted others. If you insult an ordinary person, it is also an act that creates bad causes. But in the story, the person who was insulted and defamed is a Paccekabuddha, so this prince has committed a serious sin. Through here, we learn the lesson of never to despise the people around us. On the contrary, we must respect everyone. Maybe now that we are powerful people and have positions in society, there will be people coming and asking for help from us. When we encounter such situations, our minds often arise the desire to despise people. Because we sometimes even want to prove our importance, we scold others. Or there are people who are prone to anger. Every time they get angry, they curse, beat, and insult their loved ones. All of the above insulting others whether by thought, word or action will bring bad retribution for ourselves. When we are still holding position of power, people hate us, but they are still afraid. So, they don't dare to do anything to us. When power is gone and status is lost, those who have been bullied by us will come back to retaliate. Foreseeing such a future, Buddhists should not look down on people, but on the contrary must respect and praise others. When we see someone doing good things, we praise them; when we see someone in difficulty, we actively help them; When we see someone doing something wrong, we should not rush to criticize them, but rather advise them. That is the spirit of the Buddhist.

2. From dark to light:

Although the prince fell into the hungry ghost hell, his good fortune did not end, so he was born as human during the time of Buddha Shakyamuni's birth. Being a human being and remembering the sufferings he had experienced in hell and hungry ghosts in his past lives, because he did not want to go through those sufferings again, the young man determined not to do evil deeds in this life, on the contrary only diligently do good. Thanks to diligently doing good deeds, even though he was chased away by his family, the blessing flourished so that he met the Buddha's teaching, leaving home to cultivate and attain Arahantship.

In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha taught that there are four types of individuals: people from dark head for light, people from light head for dark, people from dark head for dark, people from light head for light. Of the four categories of people above, the Buddha praised people from light head for light and from dark head for light. In which, the venerable is the type of person from dark to light. Born in a family, a community of fishermen, but the venerable did not have the desire to kill living beings, on the contrary, he also performed the release of animals, saving the lives of animals. Therefore, he accumulated enough merit to reach the peak of the Way.

We must follow the example of venerables to know how to change our lives from bad to good, and from suffering to a peaceful shore. In the previous life, because of sowing bad causes, this life we fell into a difficult situation such as being born in a poor family, failing at everything, and being hated by everyone. Before knowing the Buddhadharma, we suffered, lamented heaven and earth for putting us in this situation. But when we understand the Buddhadharma, we know that everything we have to receive in this life is due to karma we caused in the past, so from then on, we no longer have any resentment but we have to find a way to change our bad karma. Change by actively doing good to help people. Someone said "I was poor, I have no money as a means to help others?". If we don't have our own money, we can put in effort to help people. By doing so, we sow good karma to gradually change our life from bad to good.

There are people who previously did things such as harming the lives of sentient beings, stealing other people's money, lying, and insulting people. Now, thanks to studying Buddhism, we are determined not to do bad things anymore, only to do good things: release lives, help others, or speak kind words to please people. It is also that we are practicing walking from dark to light.

 3. Effect of dedication

Due to performing evil karma, the relatives of this venerable had to fall in the realm of suffering of hungry ghosts. But thanks to the venerable for being actively doing good deeds and dedicating merit, his relatives are freed from suffering. Nowadays we often have the custom of burning votive papers. We burn sheets of paper printed with money or folded into models of houses and cars in the hope that our deceased relatives will receive them. By doing so, do we think whether they will receive or not? They don’t definitely get it. We want our relatives to be born in good realms, but is it reasonable to have the word "Hell Bank" on the bank notes? We burn votive paper like that as if we want our relatives to go to hell. Burning or scattering votive papers has no benefit to the deceased but also harms the living people. Burning votive paper causes air pollution which is harmful to health and spreading votive paper on the street again pollutes the streets. Actions that have no benefit but also harm, where does merit come from? Without merit, how can we dedicate it to the deceased?

Therefore, if we want our deceased relatives to be born in a peaceful and happy realm, we must actively do good deeds and study the Buddhadharma diligently. That is the true merit to dedicate to the deceased. As in the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the Buddha taught like a person carrying heavy stones on a dangerous road, but thanks to meeting a good and knowledgeable person who has the strength to help carry the stone, making this person peaceful. People who fall into the evil paths are similar, they suffer a lot, but thanks to their loved ones doing good deeds and cultivating good deeds, it also helps the deceased liberate to no longer suffer.

Through this sutra, we have learned many valuable lessons. Buddhist learners must diligently strive to do good deeds, cultivate good deeds so that they can have a peaceful and happy life and also bring peace and happiness to those around them to move towards the path to liberation and enlightenment.

Tâm Thiện

Translated into English by Huynh Vo Cao Tri

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