Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – November 24th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Last week we talked about the great faith that people had in the days of the Buddha. Those people had already cultivated a lot of parami. There were many religious seekers in those days, and people were not sure how to tell who was really enlightened, who was an arahant. So, we had the story of Rajagaha Setthi, who put a bowl high up and said that if anyone could retrieve the bowl then he would have faith that enlightened beings exist. Then Mahamogallana’s friend retrieved the bowl.
So, these days, do we have faith that enlightened beings, or arahants, exist?
In the Buddha’s time, there were many people who had built a lot of parami that came to be born at that time. It was a very prosperous time in terms of development of the mind. The Buddha, who had perfected his spiritual accumulations to the fullest, came down to be born at that time. Then the people of that time who had built a lot of spiritual merit already, and had the opportunity to listen to the Buddha’s teachings were able to see and know the Dhamma with little difficulty. Those with great spiritual merits were able to gain to the highest level of Awakening just through listening to a single sermon. Or there were many who listened to the Dhamma from the Buddha and attained to sotapanna – the first level of Awakening – they changed their wrong views to those that were right views. So, these beings were born and had the mental defilements of greed, hatred and delusion, in their hearts, but when they listened to the Dhamma from the Buddha or from one of his Noble disciples, and they contemplated the teachings, those individuals were able to change their views from wrong to right views – and their mind could enter the stream of Dhamma without much difficulty.
Even a murderous bandit, Angulimala – the Buddha could teach him and flip his heart over till he attained to becoming an arahant. Or those who had everything in terms of wealth and riches – like Yasa, the millionaire’s son, who had everything in the worldly and sensual sense – but when he grew dispassionate with the world, he listened to the Dhamma from the Buddha and he was able to attain to becoming an arahant, without much difficulty. This is the merit and the wholesome actions that they had developed in the past waiting to bear fruit.
And those that trained the mind very skillfully were able to develop special knowledges and psychic powers, such as being able to fly or float in the air. An example was Maha Moggalana’s friend who could fly up to get a sandalwood bowl of the millionaire Rajagaha Setthi and bring it back down to prove arahants in this world existed. This made the millionaire Rajagaha Setthi gain faith in the Buddha and his teachings.
For us, we are born in this modern era and we haven’t yet seen a human who can fly. But we may have heard of Luang Pu Ween, who had flown into the sky, and a pilot flying overhead, saw Luang Pu Ween there on top of a cloud. Or Luang Pu Sao, who sat meditation and his body would float up to the beam of the roof. In the beginning Luang Pu Sao didn’t believe he could float up, so he put a matchstick on the beam, and he sat meditation, entered Samadhi and floated up and brought the matchstick back down. So he knew that he could really float up into the air during meditation. This Samadhi that is extremely firm, is able to make the body extremely light to the point where it can float into the air.
I also have personally heard a story of Luang Por Uan, who was a disciple of Luang Pu Chah, followed Luang Pu Chah on alms round and he said that Luang Pu Chah would walk alms but Luang Pu Chah’s feet never touched the ground. It was as if he was stepping on the air above the ground. Luang Por Uan saw it with his own eyes, and when Luang Por Uan was telling this story I heard this story first hand.
So the Buddha’s time, when there were many individuals who had psychic powers, who had trained their minds well, this is called prosperity in terms of the mind. Back then there was little material development. But these days there is much material development, but the development of the mind has diminished and degraded.
So let us imagine that during the time of the Buddha, someone told them that in 2,500 years into the future there will be a large steel eagle that will hold masses of people and fly into the skies and be able to travel tens of thousands of kilometers. The people back then who had no psychic abilities would hear this and they would wonder how would that be possible. Or if they heard of a metal object that could dive into the water and travel far distances. Or a metal object that could travel on tracks and go through tunnels at quick speeds, or a metal object that could go into space and travel to the moon and other planets, etc. The people of that time would find it difficult to understand that it was possible.
In comparison we come to this present day and the people here think, how could those people back in the Buddha’s time see the Dhamma so quickly. Or to train the mind in deep Samadhi that was so powerful that it could allow one to fly and hover into the air wherever they wanted, how is this possible? This is the subject of jhana or mental absorptions. Often they are things we can’t fathom. But if we ask if it is possible? Well in this period, there are already trains that can magnetically float and travel in the air. This is the development of science. But when there is material and technological development, then people don’t search for the training of the mind. The mind becomes attached to material development. This makes the mind not able to be released from suffering. Those in the Buddha’s times had suffering too. They had pain and sicknesses, and didn’t have the medicine to treat it. But these days, there are still sicknesses that we don’t have the medicine to make it completely disappear. But during the Buddha’s time they had great development in terms of the mind. So let us contemplate this comparison, that when the world develops materially, then the mind deteriorates like this.
But after contemplating, don’t be discouraged. Then try to practice Dhamma and train the mind. Sometimes the mind has greed, anger and delusion, and when we are aware of this then we have to practice Dhamma with it. If we have anger, we don’t want it to be there, we want it to disappear. This feeling is vibhava tanha – we don’t want it to be or to have it. We don’t accept the truth. When anger arises, we have to accept that it is normal to have this arise when the mind has upadana or attachment – this feeling of self, of me and them. There arises feelings of love or hate. This is where we practice. We have the mindfulness to know that the mind has anger right now. Have mindfulness to watch the mind that has anger arise. If our mindfulness is good, then the dosa or anger will disappear. Mindfulness or sati is a wholesome object, and the dosa or anger is an unwholesome object. If mindfulness is stronger and we have more mindfulness, then we can know things as they arise, and anger passes away. Then if love arises, then mindfulness knows it in time, and the love passes away. Whether it is feelings of love, anger, hate or fear – they all arise, stay and pass away. If we know to this level, then this is seeing the mind as just a mind. All feelings are just feelings – whether it is love, hate, jealously, disgust, fear, or if there is no love, no hate, no jealousy, no fear, they are just feelings. They arise, stay and pass away. We don’t attach to any of these feelings as ours – that they are just simply feelings that arise in the mind. Then there arises the quality of knowing, ‘the one who knows’ – which looks over the mind. And we also don’t attach to this one who knows as ours – we put that down as well. Then the purity of the mind arises.
But if our mindfulness is not enough, then suffering arises which is a feeling arising – the suffering arises in the heart. We then watch that feeling – that feeling of suffering – if there is anger, thoughts of ill-will – then we have mindfulness present and keep watching it and knowing it. If we know things in time, then the feelings of happiness or suffering will just pass away on its own.
But if we can’t do this and have lingering ill-will or anger, then we should develop metta as the object for our minds. We develop thoughts such as – may I be well and happy – may all beings be well and happy – may no beings harm each other at all.
When we wake up in the morning, we reflect that this life of ours is uncertain, and we determine that today that when we have angry thoughts that will inevitably arise over the course of the day, we won’t get angry and harm anyone. If it arises then we won’t harm anyone and will try to let it go and determine to develop loving kindness instead. Even if determine in this way, when we meet with unwanted external objects, then the anger really arises, we still get angry. But it is a strength of the mind to prepare it with mindfulness and know that this anger is no good and unwholesome, and it just burns our heart. Then we keep developing metta till the anger slowly fades away, then the coolness immediately enters, and the fire of that anger cools down. It’s like in summer on a hot day, we drink a cold drink, and the heat disappears. Or if we take a cold shower then the heat disappears. Or if on a hot day we enter an air-conditioned room then the heat disappears. This coolness of the heart is metta, and can enter immediately. So we train in this way.
If we ask when will this anger completely disappear? We reflect on our life, and we’ve been around for awhile: for 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 years. So can this anger disappear quickly? How long will it take? Well this anger can disappear quickly, if we have a lot of coolness in our hearts. If there is a lot of mindfulness, concentration and wisdom, then we can extinguish anger and hatred quickly. But if we have only a small amount of mindfulness, concentration and wisdom, then to extinguish that anger will take a long time. Because the heat is much greater than the coolness. This is because we have regularly fallen to anger, and so if we want to practice to overcome it quickly, then it just isn’t possible. It takes time. But the ones that can do it quickly, it is because they have developed their spiritual capacity a lot more in the past.
If we look back, back to our past lives – then we realise that we have had this anger and hatred for many, uncountable lifetimes. But now we will start to do something about it. This lifetime we will train, and then when we train in this life – then next life it will be less. The anger and ill-will will be less and the mind will be peaceful. And we will know in time that the cause of this anger arising in the mind is because of this feeling of me and mine. If we change this view to see that there is no me or mine, that the body is just a body, not my body. That this mind is just a mind; it isn’t my mind, then greed, anger, delusion will be weakened from this knowing and present awareness. We will change the wrong views to that of right views – that is a sotapanna or stream-entry.
In the Buddha’s times, they saw and understood this very easily. This was because they had fulfilled their spiritual potential already. It’s like a full cup of water. Just a few more drops of water then it will overflow. But if the cup is only half full of water then you need to fill it up a lot. So we determine that this life we will go for it and we will try to see the Dhamma this life. We must be able to do it. So we practice this way and we will develop in terms of the mind. And we won’t get lost in terms of material and external development. Because when the world develops, the heart darkens and wisdom doesn’t arise. So we need to make the mind develop as well, so that Dhamma arises in the heart. So we compare and contemplate this way, following the teachings of the Buddha and we will see the Dhamma, and be able to change from wrong views to right views. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: So, do you all believe that people could fly in the Buddha’s time?
Q: Yes, I do. Now how do we identify who are arahants in the world?
Luang Por Anan: Just because one can fly does not mean that that person is an arahant or is enlightened, it is a worldly ability, even Devadatta (the Buddha’s cousin who did evil) could fly, though he was not enlightened. One must know enlightenment for oneself. Enlightenment is about not having mental defilements.
Luang Pu Chah once said ‘’I’m not an arahant, I’m not anything. There is no one here to be anything. Being an arahant is suffering, being anything is suffering. It is better not to be anything.”
Luang Por Anan: Do you believe people could fly, Kruba W.?
Kruba W.: Yes, I believe, but I don’t know if it is true.
Luang Por Anan: This is similar to how Thai people believe in ghosts or spirits although maybe they have never seen one.
Flying beyond the defilements of greed, hatred, and ignorance is the best kind of flying. Luang Pu Chah said that birds and other animals can fly, but they are not free from suffering. Flying beyond the defilements is better.
Q: When a monk flies, I think that they send their minds out to make it appear like they are flying. Like the great monk Kruba Sirichai in northern Thailand, one time he left for Bangkok after some lay supporters, yet he arrived first in Bangkok. They thought he flew there.
Luang Por Anan: Luang Pu Chah had a branch monastery in Perth, Australia. Some layperson was going to visit that monastery but could not find the entrance gate as he was driving there. Then he saw a fat monk with a cane who pointed the correct way to the gate. The layperson arrived at the monastery and asked “Where is the monk who helped me find the entrance?” The resident monks replied that no such monk lived there. Then the layperson pointed to a picture of Luang Pu Chah and said “Yes, that monk there—he is the one I saw.” Luang Pu Chah was in Thailand at the time. So maybe Luang Pu Chah sent his mind to Australia to help the layperson.
Q: Do all arahants have psychic powers or not?
Luang Por Anan: Not all arahants have psychic powers. But all arahants have destroyed all the mental defilements. Only some have special powers from past determinations and cultivation of parami. There are 4 types of arahants: the first one is the dry insight arahant, who has no powers, also the 2nd type. Only the 3rd and 4th type have powers. To have special powers one needs a lot of wisdom and samadhi.
Q: If one meets an arahant can they help with one’s practice?
Luang Por Anan: Yes. Arahants have completed the path of practice, so they can tell you how to practice. If you have faith in them they can help you.
Q: Sometimes it seems necessary to show anger in order for people to take you seriously and get things done. Can you comment on this?
Luang Por Anan: Maybe showing anger on the outside can be useful, but on the inside one can separate the mind from the emotion, like oil and water that do not mix.
Once Luang Pu Chah came into the hall and found that the monks had left a flask out after the evening drink. He looked angry and hit the flask hard with his cane, making a very loud sound. The monks felt upset and surprised, but Luang Pu Chah was smiling and relaxed right after he hit the flask. There was a difference between his outer behaviour and his inner state of mind.
Q: If someone has a fit of anger or has an unstable mind, how do we send metta to them?
Luang Por Anan: You can send metta to alleviate the dukkha, or the suffering, in that person. Anger is suffering. You can wish them: “May you be free from anger, free from stress and suffering.” Do not try to teach someone when they are angry, wait for them to calm down first.