SotW: Listening to Dhamma

Bhikkhus, there are these five benefits in listening to the Dhamma. What five? One hears what one has not heard; one clarifies what has been heard; one emerges from perplexity; one straightens out one’s view; one’s mind becomes placid. These are the five benefits in listening to the Dhamma.

Samyutta Nikaya, The Fifth Fifty, Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is a really interesting sutta! The first part of this sutta is mostly straightforward. Listen to the talk, get some information, understand better. But the last point is worth considering. “One’s mind becomes placid.” Remember all the stories of people being enlightened during or just after a dhamma talk in the suttas. Why? I used to think that it was just a case of wild exaggeration just pointing out how wonderful the sutta was. Now I think there is more going on than that.

Have you ever been to a formal dhamma talk? It is pretty different than what we are used to here. We get stories, and jokes, and learn a little something too. A formal dhamma talk is almost intentionally boring. It is incredibly technical, told in an intentionally monotone kind of speaking style, and is not at all personal. The first time I heard one I was floored.

Only later did it strike me, this isn’t a talk that you listen to in the way we’re used to hearing a lecture. It wasn’t entertainment. It was actually closer to an opportunity for contemplation. You take the mind of meditation and apply it to what is being said. It’s an approach worth trying!

At the very least, there are no more boring dhamma talks. Just opportunities for meditation!

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