Actually bhante @sujato, it was an extremely good talk, well worth listening to and I’m very very glad I did.
I give it
And I learnt a lot! So…
But I do understand what bhante is saying about people listening to too many talks. One thing I’ve noticed from my little experience of teaching is that people like listening but yet they don’t seem to remember the talk. Which is a bit distressing as a teacher but also quite good, as I realise I can just do the same talk over and over and no-one will even notice!
Or perhaps, it’s a case of drop by drop the pot gets filled…True, it’s a gradual process of slowly conditioning the mind, incrementally building up Dhamma knowledge, but I can’t think of any other area of knowledge where we would expect good results by just allowing the learning to “wash over us”. Shouldn’t we be a bit more engaged?
Another thing I noticed is that more and more people treat Dhamma talks as a kind of entertainment. They want novelty and variety, they need more and more! Of course it’s wholesome to listen to Dhamma, and always beneficial. But sometimes I wonder if this is just another way to fill in some time, or to ease the loneliness, or to feel connected to something.
But having access to heaps of Dhamma can somehow devalue it, because it is no longer precious. In the same way, you see all those free distribution Dhamma books gathering dust, covers bent up, unloved and unable to even be given away for free! Storerooms stuffed full of books. We have so much access to Dhamma, yet we value it less. These days, with covid, we have lots of zoom talks, and we see people online treating a talk a bit like any other entertainment screen, we see people lying in bed, sitting in their bathrobes, getting up to make a cup of tea, eating food, having chats with their partner and much more!
But imagine what it was like at the time of the Buddha - you’d hear a short verse, and you’d have to really pay attention, you need to remember it afterall! And then you use that as something to ponder and take in to yourself. And as a spark for meditation practice.
One of my favourite suttas is Opportunities for Freedom. It lists 5 opportunities for us to gain liberation
Mendicants, there are these five opportunities for freedom. If a mendicant stays diligent, keen, and resolute at these times, their mind is freed, their defilements are ended, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary.
The 5 opportunities are:
- Listening to a Dhamma talk.
- Giving a Dhamma talk
- Reciting the Dhamma
- Pondering the Dhamma
- Using it as a subject for meditation leading to samadhi
For each of these:
That mendicant feels inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma… Feeling inspired, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi.
More and more, I find great benefit is pondering the Dhamma, as it allows me to really take it to heart. Maybe we should spend less time listening to new talks and instead devote some extra time to pondering the old ones more, which helps us understand and, importantly, remember what we have heard.