Curious About Spreading Dhamma? Here’s how you can start

Written by Sylvia Bay
3 mins read
Published on May 15, 2024

TLDR: “In this insightful piece, Sylvia Bay shares practical steps for anyone aspiring to be a good Dhamma emissary, stressing the importance of avoiding evil, generosity, and a calm mind.”

Wanting but not committing

Many of us would like to do Dhamma work but we hold back because we think we cannot commit the time. We conceive that Dhamma service requires dedicated hours taken from life’s responsibilities and leisure time. Actually, there is a way of serving Dhamma without putting in extra hours. Let me explain.

In the history of Buddhism, Dhamma spread the fastest during Buddha’s time. It went from a mere one (Buddha) to thousands in months.

A key reason was that our early Dhamma practitioners were powerful inspirations for the people of their time. 

They achieved that just by their tranquil demeanour and pure conduct. A famous example was the encounter between Bhikkhu Assaji and Sariputta. Sariputta approached Assaji for a summary of the teaching, soon after observing Assaji as he collected alms. 

No words were exchanged: just observing Assaji’s behaviour was enough to draw Sariputta into the Dhamma. Likewise, the first meeting between Buddha (before his enlightenment) and one of his biggest patrons, King Bimbisara, came about because Bimbisara was impressed with Buddha’s conduct during alms round.

Bimbisara was sure the young ascetic would succeed in his spiritual quest and sought a promise that Buddha would come back to teach him after he was enlightened.

Lesson for us

What’s the takeaway for us in the above stories? 

What draws people is just simple, good and pure conduct and a calm and peaceful disposition, not some massive publicity campaign or dramatic acts of compassionate self-sacrifice or mega talk events. 

When we call ourselves Buddhists, the world will judge us on that basis. We will either be a credit or a liability to Dhamma. We thus owe it to the Dhamma to speak and act responsibly.

Simple steps to being a good Dhamma emissary

Minimally, start by putting into practice this teaching “Do good, avoid evil, and purify the mind.”

a. Avoid evil – Minimally avoid causing physical harm to another (no killing and stealing). Avoid harmful verbal activities: lying, slandering, scolding, gossiping, and mindless chatting. Reduce relentless greed and covetous habits. Learn not to give in to ill-will and anger.

b. Do good – Be generous and giving. Speak kindly, gently, with consideration and friendliness. Speak only truth and comment only when your intentions are pure. Learn not to take the ego too seriously. When you can tame lobha (greed) and dosa (anger), metta, compassion, empathy and equanimity would come more spontaneously. Otherwise, they are contrived.

See also  From Doubt to Freedom: My Journey into Buddhism

c. Purify mind – Develop the necessary skills to calm the mind and stop its relentless chatting: sati (mindfulness) and samadhi (concentration). Learn Dhamma well, be familiar with Buddha’s discourses so that you can correlate concepts to practical experience. If you can reduce the unwholesome (akusala) mental activities and cultivate wholesome (kusala) ones, your mind will become quiet and peaceful in time.

Concluding thoughts

By our conduct and demeanour, we directly impact the people in our immediate circle: family, relatives and friends. If we constantly take but not give, scold but not praise, hurt but not comfort, then it would be a matter of time before they turn away to save their sanity and preserve happiness. 

The more akusala (unwholesome) we are, the lonelier we will become as time passes. But if we live according to the Dhamma, act with friendliness, kindness and consideration, not make demands but give and share, and not allow our ego to run amok, then they will look to us for guidance. You don’t even have to preach Dhamma. You live by the Dhamma and they will be intrigued to check out your faith.

Then there will always be people who observe you from afar. We do that to others too. It’s human nature. If you behave badly and unkindly: you will bring your faith dishonour.

If you want to be a Dhamma teacher or a Buddhist community leader, you must watch your conduct and mind, because more people will know and judge you.

So, just by how we act and carry ourselves in daily life, we would either serve or damage the Dhamma. If we live our life wisely and righteously, we will be the light to shine the way for others to Dhamma.

Author: Sylvia Bay

Sister Sylvia Bay has a B.A. (Hons) First Class, in Buddhist Studies. She regular speaker on Buddhist doctrine, Buddhist history, and the practical application of the Buddha’s teachings in daily life.

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