Revised February 21, 2019
1. It is customary to say “Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!” before and after reciting precepts, a meditation session, chanting sutta, or a meritorious act (by oneself or another). Since anything is done for a purpose in Buddha Dhamma, it is good to understand why it is done.
- Sādhu comes from “sa” and “hadaya” or a purified heart (not the physical heart, but the hadaya vatthu where thoughts arise).
2. It is important to realize that our minds are associated with the hadaya vatthu, which is in the manōmaya kaya and is aligned close to the physical heart; see, “Ghost in the Machine – Synonym for the Manomaya Kaya?” This is why in a traumatic or joyful event we feel it in the heart, and not in the brain. Brain is like a computer, and when it is overworked, it causes headaches. But our feelings of love, hate etc. are felt close to the physical heart, in the hadaya vatthu.
How is one’s heart (and mind) purified?
- “Kāyena sanvarō sādhu, sādhu vācāya sanvarō; manasā sanvarō sādhu, sādhu sabbatta sanvarō”
- “The heart is purified via moral discipline; one needs to act, speak, and think morally”
Thus when a meritorious deed is done by oneself or another, it is customary to say, “sādhu”. It reinforces the “goodness” of the deed and one makes a determination to do more; the lightness of the heart can be felt if one does it with understanding.
3. Our hearts are darkened with greed, hate, and ignorance of Tilakkhana. As we purify the mind, the darkness fades away and the “white light emerges”; it is like lighting a lamp gets rid of the darkness. Heart becomes joyful.
We get rid of greed, hate, and ignorance via staying away from the ten defilements:
- When we abstain from killing, stealing, and inappropriate conduct (including but not limited to sexual conduct), we are cultivating moral discipline through bodily acts.
- Abstinence from lying, vain talk, gossiping, and hateful speech leads to moral discipline through speech.
- When we forcefully control our bodily acts and speech, the mind will gradually calm down because we thus reduce abhijjā (strong greed) and vyāpāda (strong hate). Then we can cultivate samma diṭṭhi via comprehending the Tilakkhana; this leads to reduction of micchā diṭṭhi too (abhijjā, vyāpāda, and micchā diṭṭhi are the three akusala kamma done with the mind). This is the step-by-step procedure that is discussed in the Bhāvanā (Meditation) section.
4. Thus we can see that by saying “sādhu” mindfully, what we are doing is to make a firm determination to get rid of the ten defilements (dasa akusala) and thus to purify the mind and heart. Or, we are agreeing with a good deed done by someone else, and share the merits of that deed.
5. Now, what is the significance of putting the open hands together when saying “Sādhu!”?
- The gesture that we make by opening the hands fully, putting them together, and bringing them close to the heart or top of head also signify this determination. “With all my heart I make a commitment”, or “this commitment stands above everything else”, or “I agree wholeheartedly”.
The strengthening of the fingers versus making a fist embody two basic characteristics of human nature.
- One makes a fist when hitting someone in anger. Also, someone caught doing a misdeed has clenched hands in addition to a bent posture (you have seen pictures of criminals being hauled off to jail in such timid postures).
- In contrast, open hands indicate “I have not aggressive intentions” as when putting up hands indicating one has no desire to fight. Furthermore, as you may have noticed, people when say “Sādhu!” normally have their backs straight too, especially if they are doing with a joyful mind.
6. As mentioned above, one can make a given meritorious deed much more powerful by doing it with joy and knowledge; such thoughts should be there during that act and also when saying “Sādhu!” at the beginning and end. The most potent kusala citta are done with “joy and understanding” (“a somanassa-sahagata, nana-sampayutta citta”; see, “Javana of a Citta – Root of Mental Power”.