A Dhamma Talk

Every week, a group of fifteen or so people gather at the monastery for a Dhamma talk  which are lectures on Buddhist epistimology, values, or practice.

An Example of a Dhamma Talk

The group is sitting with their legs folded to the side in the meditation room in front of the statue of Buddha and the two monks, who are seated in chairs on either side.  The Sayadow, Tikkha, is seated on the left with his legs crossed.  Sayadaw is a formal, reverential term for a monk used for all those living the ordained life.  It is even used for ordained children, although in a more diminutive form.  This particular ceremony is in memorial of a deceased family member, which community members can choose to have every year after the death.  It begins with a chant, which Koe says is engrained from a young age – “This is our tradition for a long time, so we know it, we know the timing.”  They each bow three times to the Three Jewels of Buddhism – Buddha, Sangha (the monkhood), and Dhamma (the teachings of Buddha) – in the five-pointed position with feet, knees, elbows, hands, and head prostrate to the floor.

After the chant, the Sayadaw directs his speech towards the couple seated in front of him.  The couples each have a platter with a silver, decorated bowl and a teapot in front of them, a symbol of their marriage.  The woman sheds a few tears, as this is a memorial service for her mother-in-law who died one year ago today.  Then the Sayadaw begins his talk, methodically working his way through a list, counting each of his fingers and having people repeat after him as he moves along.  His tone is clear and even, and every now and then the group and the Sayadaw chuckle.  All are listening to his every word, some with eyes open, looking at the floor in front of them, and some with eyes closed, hands folded in prayer.  I understand only a few words as his talk progresses – “Boddha,” “Dhamma,” “Minnesota.”

The monk is discussing four principles to follow during life on earth as a layperson as well as the four principles to follow in the next life. The first is being a good friend. The second is diligence, working hard and not being lazy.  The third is keeping what you earn and protecting your wealth, and the fourth is watching what you spend and use – in other words, do not spend more than what you earn.  According to Tikkha, if you follow these tenets, you will have no misery.  In the next life, you need Sila, or the five precepts – no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no intoxication, and no lying.  You also need to have faith in Buddhist teachings, in the Buddha, the Sangha, and the Dhamma.  Then you need to share what you earn, and finally that you should try to attain vipassanya, or the highest wisdom which can be attained through meditation.  Koe asks me to repeat the lessons to the Sayadaw, which I do as Tikkha giggles at me.  When I finish, he laughs and hands me jelly cups as a sweet treat.  He also does this for young children when they repeat chants in Pali and when they perform the five-pointed bow.

At the end of the ceremony, the family of the deceased – a father, mother, and daughter – offer robes and envelopes with money inside. Amidst another chant, the father and mother pour water from the teapot into the bowl, water that will later be thrown out to the ground outside as symbolic proof to the earth that they are married.  The group bows three more times, and then people slowly filter out of the room.