the four means of unification

Beneficial Activity (Arthacharya)

Uddyotani writes… Arthacharya is one of the four ‘samgrahavastus’ – the four ‘means of unification’ – the skills needed to bring people together as a spiritual community, encourage and inspire them to practice the Dharma and to do so in a way which is mutually supportive and interconnected, and which recognises the effect we have on each other. The Buddha talks about Arthacharya in his conversation with the lay follower Hatthaka (AN). When the Buddha arrives in Hatthaka’s home town of Alavi, Hatthaka greets him with 500 followers; “All were practising Buddhists who had achieved insight, and they brought flowers and sandalwood paste for the Buddha.” The Buddha asks Hatthaka how he has achieved such a following, and Hatthaka describes four ways of connecting with others – through generosity, kindly speech, beneficial activity and exemplification – all simple activities that create a sense of community. Hatthaka comes across as someone with real empathy and awareness of others, who has the wish just to respond, connected with the wish to give the Dharma. We can picture Hatthaka; friendly, unself-conscious, not doubting himself. We could picture a whole spiritual community acting in this way; with others in mind, with awareness, going beyond themselves – what would it be like to practice in this way? Maybe we feel we are not all like Hatthaka, that we can’t all connect with others, that we have nothing to give or that others can do it better. It is so easy to underestimate ourselves, to doubt ourselves; self-consciousness gets in the way. But spiritual community is a network of friendships, of connection. It doesn’t depend... Read more