Boring Dhamma Talks

Have you ever sat through a dhamma talk that just felt like it would not end. I remember for me many years ago I went to see a dhamma talk at a Sri Lankan monastery for a dhamma talk from a visiting monk. It turned out to be a very long, dry talk in Sinhalese. In the end, the monk turned out to be a really great man, scholar, and practitioner. He gave some teachings that have stuck with me to this day. He just wasn’t all that charismatic. It was a lesson to me. Some of the wisest people are not always entertaining teachers. Well, it was always thus. It turns out that not liking dhamma talks was an experience people had even in the time of the Buddha — in this case, actually the Buddha himself.

Once the Buddha the Buddha was living in Pankadha, a region of Kosala, with a large group of monks. The monk Kassapa heard the Buddha teaching his monks to carefully follow the precepts. Kassapa did like what he heard and thought, “ This monk is too strict.”

After a time, the Buddha left Pankadha to go back to Rajagaha on the Vulture’s Peak. Not long after the Buddha left, Kassapa started to feel tremendous regret. He thought, “What a shame! It was bad of me to be so dissatisfied with the Buddha when he was teaching the precepts. I should go find the Buddha and confess my shame.” So he took his robe and bowl and went to Rajagaha.

Kassapa found the Buddha at the Vulture’s Peak, bowed to him and sat to one side. Kassapa said, “Dear teacher, I came to confess that when I heard you teach about the precepts at Pankadha, I did not like what I heard and thought, ‘This monk is too strict.’ After you left I felt such remorse that I came to Rajagaha to confess. I was stupid and wrong. Please accept my confession to help me in the future.”

“Yes, Kassapa,” replied the Buddha, “you were wrong to think I was too strict in teaching the precepts. But you have seen your error and made a true confession. This was the right thing to do, and I accept your confession. When one sees one’s faults and makes confession, he grows stronger in the spiritual path. He will do better in the future.

“When any monk whether senior, junior or novice is not willing to grow and get stronger in the training, or if he does not teach that one should grow and get stronger in the training, or if he does not encourage other monks to grow and get strong in the training then I do not speak well of this monk. If I spoke well of such a monk, he would influence other monks. This would lead to their future misery.

But if he does speak well to growing and getting stronger in the training, if he does teach and encourage others, then I would praise this monk. His teaching and encouragement would lead to the benefit of others for a long time.

-Pankadha Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya

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