Qualities of a Good Man

A few days ago Ajahn Jayasaro gave a Dhamma talk in English for about 60 people in Pak Chong (Northwest of Bangkok). It was not clear to everyone but the points he was talking about are a teaching called the Sappurisa-dhamma: qualities of a good man.

There are actually a couple of different teachings on this topic such as the 8 qualities of a great man, the 9 qualities of a Buddha etc… Since the clauses are different in each case we can assume that the Buddha was tailoring what he taught to the particular audience of the moment. Another translation of ‘good’ is ‘ideal’ man.

The version A. Jayasaro expanded are in the Digha Nikaya Sutta 33 – Sangiiti Sutta (The Chanting Together).  It is more properly expanded in the Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Sevens #iv (64) (page 74 in book 4 if you have the PTS English version).

The points commented on by A. Jayasaro then, are as follows:

  1. Dhamma-knower: knowing the dhamma, knowing the cause. He knows the stories and teachings.
  2. Meaning-knower: knowing the meaning, purpose, consequences. He knows the meaning of this or that speech.
  3. Self-knower: knows ones own self. He knows Thus far am I in Faith, in Virtue, in learning, in self-surrender, in wisdom and in ready speech. Unless he knows this he should not be called a self knower.
  4. Knowing moderation, being temperate, or sense of proportion: Knowing the appropriate amount of requisites (clothes, food, medicine and lodging) to accept.
  5. Knowing the proper time, how to choose the proper time: He knows this is the proper time for recitation, this for questioning, this for effort, and this for solitude.
  6. Knowing the assembly, knowing the society: Knowing if you are amongst nobles, householders, brahmins or monks – each should be approached in the correct way regarding sitting, speaking etc..
  7. Knowing the individual, high and low characters: He knows who wishes to see the noble ones, who wishes to learn dhamma, who has a ready ear, who is then mindful of dhamma, who will test the truth of the dhamma, who knowing the letter and spirit walk in conformity with the dhamma who conforms for his own benefit, or for the benefit of self and others,

There are a number of interesting points in this list.

‘Knowing the stories’ is something that might be missed – story telling was a chief way of recording wisdom in the ancient world where there was little writing material that would last. Story telling played as important a role as sutta recitation.

Also notice the ‘Self-knower’. So many people get confused with Buddhism thinking that there is ‘no-self’. Actually the Buddha endlessly talked about the self in conventional terms. You have a self, a character, a personality, and this self should be developed and trained. Whether you have a permanent abiding, unchanging attman is another question altogether.

There is a recording of the talk, but it needs some work to clean up the poor sound reception. If time permits it will be posted up.

4 replies on “Qualities of a Good Man”

  1. any pictures from the day?

    i’m going back to NZ today and i’ll catch up with you once i’m back in a few weeks, in time for the series of dhamma talks.

  2. What a shame that the qualities weren’t gender neutralised. Being a woman and trying to fit in somewhere in the Thai forest tradition is becomingly increasingly more tedious.

    1. Thanks for mentioning it – this had not occurred to me.

      One note; the Pali uses three genders, Masc. Fem. and Neuter. Nouns tend to fairly random as to which gender they take. This particular teaching comprises the wodk ‘Purisa’ which is masculine, but used in the Pali to cover both genders much like the word ‘mankind’. So there is no particular gender connotation from the Pali, though the correct translation is ‘man’.

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