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Rare Things In The World

Bhante Gunaratana, Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, High View, WV, USA


There are eight rare things in the world. They are:

(1) Dullabhañca manussattaṃ

(2) Buddho ca dullabho loke  

(3) Dullabhā khaṇa sampatti,

(4) saddhammo paramadullabho

(5) saddhammasavaṇampi ca

(6) Saṃgho ca dullabho loke,

(7) sappurisā atidullabhā

(8) kataññūkatavedi puggalo dullabho lokasmim

1.      To be born as a human being is rare. There are many obstacles that prevent someone to be born as a human being. Even though there are billions of human beings, all the odds are against their birth compared to other living beings in this planet. It is even more difficult to live in good health that helps focus the mind on learning Dhamma.

2.      Birth of a Buddha also is very rare. According to Buddhist tradition only seven Buddhas are listed by name in the Buddhist text such as Samyuttanikāya, Dīghanikāya.They are Vipassi, Sikhī, Vessabhu, Kakusand, Konāgama, Kassapa, and Gotama. Each of them has taken prepared very long time to attain Buddhahood.

3.      Right moment to practice is very difficult. The right moment is obstructed by eight situations. 

  1. Hell realm,
  2. animal realm,
  3. ghostly realm,
  4. birth in a realm without perception,
  5. birth in a region where nobody can understand four noble truths,
  6. birth with mental handicap that prevents from comprehending anything,
  7. birth with total confused state of mind and
  8. birth during the period when the Buddha’s dispensation is not existing.

4.  Saddhammo paramadullabho

         Saddhamma is even more rare. Dhamma—anicca, dukkha and anatta—exist all the time. Recourses for learning Noble Truth are very rare. They are mixed with fake truth. The Buddha has given two very meaningful similes. One is a simile of summoning drum (Āni Sutta) in the  discourse called Āni Sutta. The other is counterfeited gold. When imitation gold comes to the market you don’t know the difference between real gold and counterfeited gold. So, the value of real god goes down.

5.      Saddhammasavaṇampi ca

         When noble dhamma is rare, listening to noble dhamma also is rare.

6.      Saṃgho ca dullabho loke

         When the above factors are rare noble Sangha Ariya sangha) also is rare. Those who have attained Stream entry, Once returner, Never returner and Arahant are known as noble Sangha (Ariya Sangha).

7.      Sappurisā atidullabhā;

8.      Kataññūkatavedi puggalo dullabho lokasmim

Listening to Dhamma is very difficult:

         Listening to Dhamma is difficult not only because of the appearance of the Buddhas in the world is difficult but also those who listen do not have proper attitude to listening. It is very difficult to focus the mind on the Dhamma teaching. One needs to be highly motivated to listen to Dhamma with undivided mind.


         One day five people went to listen to Dhamma sermon delivered by the Buddha. One of them was sleeping while sitting, one was scratching the ground with his fingers, one was looking up in the sky, one was shaking a tree nearby, the last one was the only one that listened to Dhamma attentively.

         While the Buddha was delivering the Dhamma sermon Ven. Ānanda was fanning the Buddha standing behind him. He saw what these people were doing. At the end of the sermon he told the Buddha how these five people behaved while the Buddha was delivering the Dhamma sermon and asked the Buddha why they behaved that way.

         Then the Buddha said that it is due to their own Saṃsāric habit. One who slept during the sermon was a snake in 500 previous lives and he coiled up like a snake. One who was scratching the ground with his fingers was an earth worm in his previous life. One who kept on looking in the sky was an astrologer in his previous life. One who was shaking a tree was a monkey in the past life. The one who listened to Dhamma attentively was a learned Brahmin who had studied three Vedas.

         Ven. Ānanda asked the Buddha while he was delivering very wonderful Dhamma sermon with remarkable skill of delivery conveying most beneficial message, why these four people did not listen to it?

         The Buddha asked Ānanda, "Do you think this Dhamma is sweet to everybody?"

         When  Ānanda was silence, the Buddha himself answered his own question and said, "Ānanda, people are engaged more deeply in useless talks (tiracchānakathā). They are deeply trenched in these habits. It is most difficult for them to pay attention to Dhamma that leads them to liberation from suffering. For many people Dhamma is not very sweet. Attachment, hatred, confusion and craving have conditioned their mind. Even in many Kappas [an immensely long period of time] these people have not heard the word Buddha, Dhamma Sangha. So in this life it is very difficult for them to hear Dhamma. In this beginningless saṃsāra these people have been engaged in animal talks. Turning their mind to Dhamma all of a sudden is very difficult.

What do you do when you have listened to Dhamma?

Fifteen steps to follow to discover the truth.  They are:

1.      First you investigate the teacher.

2.      Then you place faith in him (Atha tamhi saddhaṃniveseti);

3.      Filled with faith you visit him (saddhājāto upasaṃkamati)

4.      Then pay respect to him (upasaṃkamanto payirupāsati);

5.      Having paid respect to him, you give ear (payirupāsanto sotaṃodahati);

6.      When you give ear, you hear the Dhamma (ohitasoto Dhammaṃsuṇāti);

7.      Having heard the Dhamma, you memorize it (sutvā Dhammaṃdhāreti)

8.      Then examine the meaning of the teachings you have memorized (dhāritānaṃ dhammānaṃattahṃ upaparikkhati);

9.      When you examine their meaning, you gain a reflective acceptance of those   teachings (atthaṃupaparikkhato dhammā nijjhānaṃkhamati);

10.    When you have gained a reflective acceptance of those teachings, zeal   springs up (Dhammanijjhānakhantiyā sati chando jāyati);

11.    When zeal has sprung up (chandajāto ussahati),

12.    You apply your will (ussahitvā tuleti);

13.    Having applied your will, you scrutinize (tulayitvā padahati);

14.    Having scrutinized, you strive, resolutely striving, you realize with the body     the ultimate truth (pahitatto samāno kāyena c’eva paramasaccaṃsacchikaroti)

15.    and see it by penetrating it with wisdom (paññāya ca taṃativijjha passati). In this way there is the discovery of truth. (Adopted from Canki Sutta)

How to listen to Dhamma

The way how one should listen to Dhamma has also been stated by the Buddha. Attikatvā manasikatvā sabbacetaso samannāharitvā ohitasoto Dhammaṃ suṇāti.

Listens to Dhamma (Dhammaṃ suṇāti).

This Dhamma is beneficial to me (Atthikatvā).

Paying mindful attention (manasikatvā).

Listen wholeheartedly paying total attention to Dhamma (sabbacetaso samannāharitvā).

Bending the ears, paying entire attention to the Dhamma one should listen to Dhamma (ohitasoto).

         What is heard (Sutā)

         remember (dhatā)

         verbal recitation (vacasā paricitā)

         reflect mindfully (manasānupekkhatā)

         and penetrate with right view or wisdom (diṭṭhiya suppaṭivijjhatā).

Three Kind of Listeners:

 There are three kinds of individuals listening to Dhamma:

         i. One who has turned his wisdom upside down (avakujjapañño)

         ii. One who keeps his wisdom in his bosom (ucchanga pañño)

         iii. One with wide wisdom (puthupañño).

         Suppose somebody goes to a monastery and listens to Dhamma delivered by bhikkhus. They preach the Dhamma excellent at the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the end. Morality, concentration and wisdom are all excellent. This person who goes to the monastery to listen Dhamma does not pay attention to the beginning of Dhamma, does not pay attention to the middle nor does he pay attention to the end of the Dhamma. He is compared to a pot turned upside down. When the pot is turned upside down it does not hold water no matter how much water you pour into it. His mind is just like this pot. So his wisdom is turned upside down.

         Suppose somebody listen to the beginning, middle and the end of the Dhamma while he is sitting. But as he stands up, he forgets everything he heard. He is like a man who sits in a place keeping some fruit or nuts on his lap and eating them. Suddenly he stands up forgetting the fruits or nuts in his lap. Then all the fruits or nuts on his lap falls on the ground and scatters here and there.

         The third person listens to Dhamma while he is sitting. He pays attention to the beginning of the Dhamma, middle of the Dhamma and end of the Dhamma. When he gets up to leave he remembers everything he heard. He is compared to a pot kept turning upside up so that when you pour water into it water stays in it.  

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