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Love and Hatred - SAKKA'S QUESTION (SAKKAPAÑHA SUTTA) BY MAHASI SAYADAW
In Buddhist literature, Sakka is the name given to the king of the gods ( devas) and pañha means question. So the Sakkapañha Sutta is the discourse on the welfare of living beings that the Buddha gave to the king of the gods in response to his questions.
Sakka asked the Buddha as follows,
"Lord, there are devas, human beings, asuras, nâgas, gandhabbas and many other living beings. These beings wish to be free from quarrels, armed conflicts, animosity and unhappiness. Yet they are not free from these evils of life. What is the fetter (samyojana) that makes them unable to fulfil their wishes?"
The gods, humans and other beings of the sensual world have their hearts in the right place. They want to be free from hatred, not wishing to bear grudges nor to ill-treat others, nor to be ill-treated or robbed themselves. They do not want to become the enemies of other people. In short, all living beings long for security, peace, freedom and happiness. Yet they are all beset with danger, misery and suffering. What is the fetter that causes this situation? Today we hear the universal clamour for world peace and for the welfare of humanity, but these hopes for a happy world are still far from being realised. This naturally raises the question about the cause of our frustration.
The Buddha answered, "O King of devas! All living beings long for happiness, security, peace and freedom. Yet they are not free from hatred, conflicts, danger and suffering. This unhappy condition is due to the fetters of envy (issâ) and meanness (macchariya)."
The characteristic of envy is aversion to the prosperity and welfare of others, which makes one malicious and destructive. These evil desires occasion suffering right now and also in the future for the person who harbours them, leading also to suffering for those who are envied. All over the world much suffering is caused by envy. The envious person hates to see happy or prosperous people. So the characteristic of envy is resentment of other people's welfare, its function is to make the envious person miserable, and its manifestation is to shut one's eyes to another person's prosperity.
One who is dominated by envy does not want to see another person prosperous, successful, good-looking, educated or promoted to a high official position. Envy is an evil that does not benefit in any way the person who harbours it. It provides fertile soil for bad kamma and makes one miserable. A powerful man will seek to ruin the person whom he envies, and by so doing, he turns the other into his enemy who may pay him back in kind. Even if there is no danger of retaliation, he will surely suffer in an after life.
The Cûlavibhanga Sutta sums up the kammic consequences of envy as powerlessness and a lack of influence. Some men and women do not want to hear anything about the good fortunes of another person—his wealth, intelligence, good health, eloquence and popularity, and so they say or do things that are detrimental to the other person's interest. Propaganda in modern times is motivated by envy. The envy-ridden person suffers in hell for many years and after his release from there, if he is reborn in the human world, he becomes a low-class man with little influence and an insignificant reputation.
On the other hand, a man of goodwill rejoices at the good fortune of others. He is happy when he sees or hears of another's prosperity and helps to promote others' welfare as much as possible, thus cultivating much good kamma. He attains the deva world after death where he enjoys a happy life, and on return to the human world he is powerful and has many followers. So those who wish to prosper in this life and in the hereafter should overcome envy and cultivate sympathetic joy (muditâ). In other words, they should rejoice at the welfare of other people.
Macchariya is meanness to the point of keeping one's possessions secret. Its manifestation is not wanting others to share the object of one's attachment, and it is characterised by extreme possessiveness. It is of five kinds as it relates to: 1) dwellings, 2) friends and associates, 3) material things, 4) commendable attributes, and 5) learning.
The first kind of meanness is to be found among some monks who do not want to see other monks of good moral character dwelling in their monastery. A monk may not want his lay followers to give alms to other monks. Such envious monks, because of their ill-will, have to undergo many kinds of suffering after death.
Vanna-macchariya is the desire to possess exclusively a special quality, such as physical beauty, while resenting the same quality in others, and it may lead to ugliness.
Again, dhamma-macchariya means to begrudge a person his learning or to keep back any knowledge from him. This macchariya may make its victim a moron or an idiot in after lives. Thus meanness over the good fortune of other people makes a man unhappy, poor, friendless and subject to great suffering after death.
Âvâsa-macchariya largely concerns the bhikkhus. It is the tendency to regard a communal monastery as one's private residence. For lay people it is the tendency to have a similar attitude regarding public religious buildings such as temples, meditation centres and so forth.
Kula-macchariya dominates those monks who do not want their lay followers to have close relations with other monks. Some monks forbid their disciples to see other monks or to hear their discourses. As for lay people, it is macchariya to insist on the undivided and exclusive loyalty of one's relatives.
Lâbha-macchariya is the desire in some monks to have a monopoly of alms and to deny them to other good monks. As an example of the samsâric suffering rooted in this evil, there is the story of Losakatissa.
In the lifetime of Kassapa Buddha there lived a certain monk who was dependent on a lay disciple for the necessities of life. One day another monk came and stayed at his monastery. Fearing that his disciple's reverence for the new arrival might become a threat to his security, the resident monk tried to get rid of his guest. When the disciple invited both of them to take meals at his house, he went there alone. On his return he dumped by the wayside the food offered for the visiting monk. On his death he suffered for aeons in hell and from there he passed on to the animal world where he suffered extreme hunger for many lifetimes.
In his last existence he was reborn in a fisherman's village in the country of Kosala. From the time of his conception, misfortunes befell the villagers and his parents. At last, the pangs of hunger made his mother so desperate that she abandoned the child while he was out begging. Venerable Sâriputta saw the starving child. Moved with pity, the elder took him to his monastery where, some years later, he became a bhikkhu. He was called Venerable Losakatissa because he was so unlucky that he never got a substantial meal even at a great feast. All he got was barely enough to sustain life.
This kammic evil dogged him even when he attained Arahantship. Shortly before his death, Venerable Sâriputta took him into Sâvatthi to see to it that he had a proper meal on the last day of his life. It is said that there was no one to offer food to the elder so he sent his companion to a rest-house. Only then did the disciples offer the food, some of which he sent to Venerable Losakatissa, but the men who were supposed to take it to him ate it on the way there. So he had to bring more food himself and hold the bowl while Venerable Losakatissa ate the food. In this way Venerable Losakatissa had his last meal and passed away on that very day.
This story leaves no doubt about the frightful kammic consequences of meanness. Many kinds of meanness afflict lay people, as for example, lâbha-macchariya in those who seek to monopolize a lucrative business; vanna-macchariya in those who do not recognise the good attributes of others; and dhamma-macchariya in those who do not wish to share their knowledge with anyone else.
The Buddha's statement attributing mankind's unhappiness to envy and meanness was directly relevant to Sakka. For, in view of his approaching end, he was unhappy at the prospect of his wives falling into the hands of his successor, and at the thought of the latter outshining him. So from experience he realised the truth of the Buddha's answer and asked another question.
Sakka continued to ask,
"Lord, what is the cause of envy and meanness? What must we remove to be free from them?"
The Buddha answered, "O King of devas! Envy and meanness are caused by the objects of love and hatred. If there were no such objects there would be no envy and meanness."
As the Buddha pointed out, the way to end suffering is to remove its cause, and the cause of mankind's unhappiness is love and hatred. It is like the treatment of a disease by a competent physician who seeks its cause and eliminates it.
The objects of love are the living and non-living things that please us, such as men, women, sights, sounds, etc., and the objects of hatred are those things that displease us. We envy someone we dislike who owns valuable objects. Ill-will plagues us when we do not want others to have the objects to which we are attached. So envy and meanness have their roots in hated and cherished persons and objects. It is usually someone we hate who is the object of our envy. However, if the person who excels us happens to be our loved one, it is a cause not for envy but for joy. A boy who outshines his parents does not arouse envy in them—on the contrary they will pride themselves on his superior qualities.
The man who is mean wants to deny others the kind of wealth that he has, the use of his possessions and the opportunity to associate with his friends. So jealous men and women frown on their spouses when they have close relationships with members of the opposite sex or even engage in friendly conversation. In short, macchariya is the inclination to be excessively possessive, and to oppose any close contact between other people and the things one cherishes, and so it is rooted in love and hatred.