Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – August 18th, 2017
Note: One can listen to this talk here.
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone at their centers. I hope you are all well. Last week, we showed an interview with the group from Singapore that was visiting. Tonight we will discuss the love of a mother for her children. Last week we had mother’s day in Thailand on August 12th.
We will show the story of Angulimala and his mother and show how much his mother cared for him even though he was killing so many people.
Welcome everyone. In Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the 12th August of each year. It celebrates the mothers who are extremely precious to their child, as you all will know. The mother is compared to that of an arahant of their child. Or like the venerable monk at home. No matter whatever bad a child does, the mother will always forgive them. When the child does something good, the mother will be joyous, and if they do anything wrong the mother won’t try to make it worse. And when it’s the right time they will try to teach them to become a good person again. And they will protect the child from dangers.
There is one example of a mother in the Buddha’s time who was extremely praise worthy. She was a Brahmin named Mantani. Her husband’s name was Bhaggava, and he was the Brahmin chaplain of King Passendi of the city of Savatthi. Being pregnant, at night she gave birth to a son. Throughout the city, all the weapons sparkled with fire. The Brahmin Bhaggava knew that his son was born in the constellation of the bandit. He would later kill many people. The next morning, the Brahmin consulted with King Passendi. “My son will be a bandit, acting alone rather than in a group. King Passendi said to raise him properly. He knew that this boy, named Ahimsaka, could pose no harm to himself or his Kingship, as he had many soldiers and could kill him if necessary.
So after Bhaggava received the kindness of King Passendi, once his son was older he sent him to study at Takkasila. Because Ahimsaka was so gifted, the other students were jealous of him. They went in three separate groups to tell their teacher that Ahimsaka was plotting against him. Eventually the teacher believed this false rumour, then the teacher decided in the best way to deal with Ahimsaka. He fooled Ahimsaka into believing that he would teach him the highest knowledge that would require him to get 1000 fingers from 1000 people. Ahimsaka went into the Jalini forest, and killed so many people – even small children and women –until his name became Angulimala – because he wore the fingers tied in a garland around his neck. Angulimala had got 999 fingers in this garland.
The homeless villagers fleeing from Angulimala, trekked to Savatthi. Weeping and lamenting the King heard all about Angulimala. Although Angulimala’s background was not yet known, the Brahmin Bhaggava knew it was his son – he had known from birth that this is what his son would become. King Passendi had no choice but to prepare an army to capture Angulimala. Here, the Brahmin knowing this, consulted with his wife, lady Mantani. On hearing this, she quickly went out to find her son, to tell her son that king Passendi was preparing an army to capture and kill him. She had such great willingness to sacrifice for her son. She risked entering the forest, and if her son did not remember her he would kill her; or else if King Passendi found out that she was betraying him, he may capture and kill her. But out of her great love – even when her son was such an evil murderer – she had the love and compassion to try to help him. Where would you find someone with this good and beautiful heart? But I think that many of those who are a mother would understand this feeling.
Although Angulimala had spotted his mother, the Buddha has earlier perceived that Ahimsaka could become an arahant this life – but if he killed his mother that would be one of the most evil acts possible and that would result in being born in Avijji Hell and being unable to see the Dhamma in this life. So the Buddha came in front of Angulimala – Angulimala saw the Buddha alone, when usually people would fear their safety so travel in groups of 10, 20, 30, 40, even 50 men. But this monk came alone. He must be very heedless. So he ran with his full strength to kill this monk instead. But the Buddha used his psychic powers to seem as if he was just walking, and even with Angulimala’s full strength he couldn’t catch the Buddha. Angulimala stopped and said “Stop, monk! Stop, monk!”
The Buddha said with his voice full of metta and wisdom “I have stopped, Angulimala, it’s you who hasn’t stopped.’”
Angulimala thought, “Why would this monk lie? Though this monk is walking, yet he says he has stopped.”
The Buddha said “I have stopped forever, given up harming any living beings, but you have not stopped killing, so that is why I have stopped and you have not.”
The teaching entered his heart until it flipped over – his cruelty was given up, and he put down and threw away his bow, sword and all his weapons. He realised that he had been deluded and had been misled by the wrong teachings from his teacher. Today, he finally understood. His spiritual merits and potential ripened and he asked to become a monk under the Buddha. The Buddha gave him the Ehi Bhikkhu Upasampada saying “Come forth Bhikkhu, well taught is the Dhamma; lead the Holy Life to make a complete end of suffering.”
Ven. Angulimala was given the eight basic requisities of a monk, and practiced as a very composed monk as if one who had had ordained for 100 years. He followed the Buddha back to Jetavana Monastery. King Passendi was leading an army to kill Angulimala, and passing Jetavana stopped first to pay respects to the Buddha first. King Passendi entered Jetavana and Buddha upon finding out that the King was going to take an army to kill Angulimala, asked him “If Angulimala was wearing the yellow robes and had gone forth from the home life into homelessness, how would you treat him?
“I would invite him to accept the four requisites.”
The Buddha extended his arm and said “Here, great King, this is Venerable Angulimala”
The king was greatly alarmed and fearful but after regaining his composure went over to Venerable Angulimala and offered to support him with all the monk’s requisites.
But as Angulimala had taken up the strict ascetic practices – eating only from the bowl, living in the forest, and using only the three robes – he replied to the King that he couldn’t accept the robes offering from the King.
This is a great miracle, how marvellous that the Blessed One can subdue one of evil mind with Dhamma.
Now, when Angulimala went for alms, people would throw stones and sticks, until blood ran from his injured head.
The Buddha, out of kindness to Angulimala, taught him a verse of truth:
“Since I was born with the noble birth, I have never intentionally killed a living being. By this truth may you and the infant in your womb be safe!'”
He used this verse of truth when one woman was undergoing a difficult childbirth. This helped the woman give birth easily.
Soon, reciting this verse to others would help them to give birth easily as well. With this, the people gained faith in Ven. Angulimala and so didn’t harm him like before.
Apparently, Angulimala had been a turtle in one of his past lives. He had saved the lives of 1000 fisherman, but after this they betrayed him by killing him and sharing his flesh to be eaten amongst themselves. Only one child who had been saved didn’t take part in this, and they became Angulimala’s mother in this life. This is the karma ripening from a deed done in a previous life.
But when he could give up that karma through refraining from killing living beings, then the good karma that he had done previously fruited and he could attain to become an arahant – and was held as one of the 80 eminent disciples of the Buddha.
So, all of you should reflect on the great love of a mother. Who has such great love for her child, giving them everything and even being willing to sacrifice their life for them. Like Lady Mantani – Ven. Angulimala’s mother – who knew she may lose her life by trying to help him, but would still do it. So, reflect on the great virtue of your father and mother.
There is one teaching of an Arahant Bodhisattva, who taught “Your mother and father grows old at home and you never look after them. Then why do you bother making merit by giving to the monks?” The meaning is that the mother and father is like the arahant to their children; the monk in the house, and if we don’t look after them then we have no gratitude at all. One tries to make merit elsewhere, but the ones close by we don’t even make merit there. Then why make merit in another place? This is a teaching of an Arahant Bodhisattva. So contemplate and reflect on this. This is sufficient for the teaching today.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: So how do mothers feel towards their children?
Q: When my son is happy, I am happy, and I try to give him what makes him happy. But if he suffers, I also suffer.
Q: Why is it that people don’t look after their parents nowadays?
Luang Por Anan: Gratitude is important and one should reflect on how one’s parents have helped oneself. Nowadays people care for their parents less, maybe due to being busier or having less time. But we can do our best to cultivate and express gratitude, like calling parents often, even every day or many times a day for some people, looking after parents when they are sick, and visiting them in person when we get the chance.
Q: I am going to help my daughter give birth soon. I know it can be tough having the first child. I will now remember to do the Angulimala chant for her.
Luang Por Anan: I rejoice for you. Now, how do kids feel for their mothers?
Q: Sometimes I notice my mom’s care for me comes from her own insecurity and fear, like wanting her kids to do well so that they will take care of her later in life. How do I relate to attitudes like this coming from my mom?
Luang Por Anan: Teach your mother skillful methods for dealing with fear and insecurity such as doing chanting and building mindfulness with thoughts and feelings. It is natural for such fears to arise.
Q: My parents were sometimes very loving, and sometimes very abusive both physically and verbally. I felt very confused. After finding Buddhism I realized gratitude for my parents. But I feel remorse for the resentment I felt towards them as a child. Any advice?
Luang Por Anan: Parents gave you your body. Once you have this human body you can do many great things with it like making merit and building parami. And even if your parent’s didn’t show it they did love you deep down. And bad thoughts about your parents are in the past, so let those thoughts just be in the past—don’t worry about them. Put the mind in the present and towards gratitude for having this human body. You can just put any bad thoughts to the side.
Luang Por Anan: Now I ask you all, what should you do now that you know how your mothers feels?
Q: I wish to try to pay back the debt of gratitude towards my parents by being a good person and doing good. Also I will try not to cause any trouble and give my mom a headache.
Q: What if one’s parents did not care for the child? I have negative thoughts towards my parents and can’t feel gratitude.
Luang Por Anan: If you look outside, parents may care for their children unequally, but, really, you can’t be born if you have only a mom or only a dad. So you can reflect on gratitude for both parents for giving you a body. This body is the highest form due to its potential for cultivating the good.
Q: I feel it was only my father’s lust that gave rise to my birth.
Luang Por Anan: Are you intent on having a mother and father?
Q: I don’t know.
Luang Por Anan: Its all causal. The kamma of the parents and child give rise to the birth of that child based on past connections. There are also many causes for a human birth and to have a human body at all, which again gives one the priceless opportunity to build parami and goodness.
Q: When I practice having mindfulness with the body and breath, sometimes I feel the body is not self and see things as anicca, dukkha, and anatta. I feel peaceful, also. Is this okay?
Luang Por Anan: This is right and good.
Q: Can we share merits with parents from past lives?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, this is possible. Also to keep in mind is telling one’s parents in this life of the good that one does so that they may be able to rejoice in the good that you do.
Okay, next week we will discuss the Venerable Sariputta.