Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – August 24th, 2018
L uang Por Anan: Last Friday we talked about selfishness. If we have delusion we will act selfishly. We all have delusion, and so we all act selfishly, but if we stay within the teachings of the Buddha we will reduce the harm that we do to others and can build goodness.
We build goodness because we all want good things. How do we learn how to be strong in order to build goodness? Let us learn from the video.
Q: Tan Ajahn, how do we develop the strength of mind to build goodness?
A: We should know that the core of selfishness is delusion. And unless they are an enlightened arahant, everyone still has delusion, whether monks or laypeople. But all the people from the centres today that come to practice Dhamma, are people who have determination in building goodness. This goodness done regularly in our daily life is done in order to reduce delusion. Delusion is just darkness. Building goodness is brightness. This darkness, we don’t need to make it disappear – it disappears on its own. But if our goodness reduces, and the unwholesome increases, then the darkness grows in our heart. It’s like this. They fight each other. Here, the strength of mind to build goodness is the determination to fight against the common feelings and habits of the mind. Because heaven and hell, brightness and darkness are in our heart. And the more that the heart has brightness and purity, the more happiness we gain.
So how do we have the strength of the mind so that we can build goodness in order to overcome selfishness? Here let us watch some interviews together.
Interview 1: What LP Chah taught is that it is uncertain when we will die. The dead can’t make merit, only the living can. When I think like this, then in the morning – I leave the house to go to work at 6am, then I go out and I listen to recorded Dhamma talks of LP Chah and LP Anan. The Dhamma that we hear everyday, slowly changes our minds, and we begin to see the truth of how the world is. When we understand this, then our suffering reduces more and more. The strength of mind that we build up, when we go to work, it guards us against all the bad things that may enter the mind. We can overcome whatever obstacles we face, because we have this strength of mind already. Then in the evening we renew our efforts. The giving of alms everyday, this helps to reduce the weight of the mind, and gives it fulfilment. I notice that in my youth, if I want to gain results only, then it is suffering. But growing older, then we know, we do things with letting go in the heart, and then it is light.
When we do it like this often, our mind becomes courageous in everything – that is, it becomes courageous in all good things – having the courage to do, to speak, of all things that are good. And then when we do it, the good results comes back to our minds. So if our mind is good, we are not scared of anyone, because our mind has courage from the goodness in it.
Interview 2: The days, months, and years pass by quickly. We age quickly. We don’t know how long we will be alive. So we need to do good as much as we can in our life. Do whatever we think is the best in the span of one day. We may die even in our youth, but we won’t regret anything because we did the best everyday. Try to do the best in everything. The wealth we gain, we give and donate and we gain a lot of merit.
Q: I have a doubt, that I may do good but don’t see that I receive good. But I see some people who don’t do good, but they receive good things. So this makes me not have the strength of mind to do goodness.
A: We have to look at what it means when we say we do good and we don’t get good. What do we get then? This means we want something more than goodness. Because goodness is something that when we do it, we gain it already. It’s like we feel hot, and then we shower and we get cool. We receive coolness in the present moment.
Let us look at a video clip about a small act of goodness that we think may not have any results. One young lady was going to a job interview, but when the boss saw her for the interview, he said for her to start work tomorrow straight away. She was shocked. Without even saying a word, she had got the job. What happened? The truth was revealed that the boss had seen her pick up spilled-over trash on the cctv on the way to the interview. And this was different from others who passed by it and did nothing.
This was before she was even accepted for the job, but it showed her good character and the goodness and beauty in her mind.
Also, do not overlook a small, trivial bad action that we may think just has minor results, but it actually may have a really bad result or many people may be affected.
Q: In this clip – the result of this good act of this young lady arose instantly without her wanting any result.
A: Yes. For some people it may be a long time before they see the results of their actions. It is up to many factors such as time and different causes. These are many things to do with the workings of karma.
There was a past life of the Buddha of ours, when he was still in his mothers womb, in the life he was to be Maha Janaka. Wherever she would go, people would be kind and helpful to her. A big teacher in the city of Mithula saw her and wanted to help her. He had kindness for her, adopted her as his daughter and looked after her. This is the result of the many parami that he had built in the past.
Recently there was a story of one white buffalo, which was bought from Laos. The buffalo’s other family members were killed already. But this one buffalo could escape. The villagers saw the buffalo and felt sorry for it. Why were they sorry for that buffalo? It may have been because it was a unique white buffalo. The monks helped to get money to buy it and released it in their monastery. When it got to the monastery, do you think a buffalo would know what an uposatha hall is? It got to the monastery and it walked around the uposatha hall three times. And more than that – the monks and people had kindness for it and fed it. The buffalo was at ease there. For the evening chanting time, they would ring the bell, and the buffalo was waiting at the door to the chanting hall already. The monks would go in – and the buffalo followed and joined in the chanting.
And during the chanting, when it had to defecate, it would go defecate outside the hall, as it knew about etiquette. It finished defecating and then would come back into the chanting. And it would do this every day.
This buffalo, on the outside it was a buffalo, but on the inside it was human already, or like a deva. It recollected the goodness of the people, the monks and villagers, who helped it survive and had gratitude to them. And how did the bull think of repaying its gratitude to them? It went to the chanting. And its mind would develop goodness.
We are born and have a good opportunity already. You are ordained as a monk, so be determined to practice meditation and train the mind. We can imagine that it may be the final day of our life. Then we will have great strength of mind to build goodness in everything.
When we die, what can we take with us? We cannot take anything except this goodness that we do. So try to do lots of goodness, which gives rise to true happiness. Having lots of wealth will not give you strength of mind. But this goodness increases the happiness and brightness of the mind. This is the brightness that dispels the darkness of delusion. And this goodness follows us into our future lifetimes, as well. And whether in this life or a future life, this goodness can lead us to go beyond good and evil, to freedom.
Questions and Answers:
Question: I understand helping others is merit. How is meditation the highest merit? How does meditation help others?
Luang Por Anan: All types of merit we do are to make the mind pure, bright, and peaceful. This is the highest merit. We should develop generosity, good behavior, focusing our minds, and wisdom. Each step on this path requires more and more power of mind. Do not be selfish, help others when you are able to, and this is a foundation for building even more goodness.
Q: The spiritual perfection of determination – should I use this to determine to realize nibbana? Or is going step by step better?
Luang Por Anan: Practice making the mind empty and free all the time. You can determine to set the mind on pure emptiness, or nibbana. Our teachers tell us to set our goal very high and then where we end up may lower down naturally. Reflecting on emptiness frequently can inspire you as a meditator.
There was an old woman who went to the monastery regularly. She started determining when she visited: “May this merit be a cause and condition for the realization of nibbana.” Then she would bow to the Buddha statue and meditate. One day the Buddha statue spoke to her: “It is time to realize nibbana. Your determination and merits are due to bear fruit.” And do you know how this old woman responded? Do you think she wanted to go to nibbana? She raised her hands in a bow and said respectfully: “I am not ready to go to nibbana. I still have many duties and responsibilities.”
The abbot of the monastery was sitting out of sight behind the Buddha statue and was the one who spoke to the old woman, having heard her determination many times already.
Q: Do we inherit our personalities from our parents?
Luang Por Anan: Sometimes children have different personalities than their parents. This is up to one’s karma. The parents we have is also dependent on past karma, but we have our personal karma, as well. If we are close to our parents often then we can pick up good and bad habits from them. We should use mindfulness and wisdom to only follow their good habits.
Q: If parents want their child to be near to them, but the child wants to go off and meditate, what should the child do?
Luang Por Anan: One has to look at the situation first. Karma lies in one’s intention, so pay attention to your intention when you act. Ask: Are your parents okay alone? Does helping them interfere with your practice? If you can help them this is good, but also be intent on looking after your own mind.
Q: If one donates money, does the amount of money donated change the amount of merit one makes? And if one tells a friend to help out, and they only help out because you pressure them, is that still merit?
Luang Por Anan: Merit lives in the mind. A small amount of money given with a mind full of joy and faith is high merit. A large amount of money given with little joy and faith is less merit. If a friend is pressured to give, perhaps there is little or no joy in the mind of the friend, so this would be less merit.
Q: I feel like I have to think and reflect first to motivate myself to do good things. Is this bad?
Luang Por Anan: Those with faith tend to want to do good things quickly. Those with more of a wisdom character maybe have to reflect and think first. Both are good, it just depends on whether one is more of a faith or wisdom character type.