Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – January 24th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: Last week was the annual coming together of monastics and laity on the anniversary of Venerable Luang Pu Chah’s passing away into parinibbana. This was the 28th anniversary festival. Over 10,000 total people attended. People came together with harmony and unity, which gave power, strength, and energy to the gathering. This practicing together and having harmony is important. Whether in one’s work, one’s duties, or with one’s family, harmony is important, as well as having lovingkindness and compassion. This way there can be prosperity and growth.
Each individual should have metta for others and help each other. The elderly have metta for the little ones and the little ones have metta for the elders—they help each other and prosper more and more. If one has metta then one also has sila, or virtue, to not harm others in body, speech, or mind. Lovingkindness is important in helping to release views and selfish behavior, and it helps one to be more careful with one’s actions.
Lovingkindness feeds into virtuous conduct, such as the 4th precept on right speech. With metta in the heart, one’s speech is good, pleasant, beneficial to others, and does no harm to others. Speech is important. Proper speech can help children to have good thoughts to parents and relatives, then all relatives can have metta together. One should practice having metta to one’s siblings, too—having only good thoughts towards them.
A higher level of metta is to have metta in the mind whether one is physically near to others or not. One practices having metta and having no hatred or bad thoughts. In the beginning, perhaps only actions and speech are based in metta, but later, with practice, metta improves, then metta naturally flows from the heart. Parents and children naturally have love for each other and have metta in their hearts. Having metta for others and one’s relatives is beneficial to all.
At the LP Chah festival, there were many people. Metta led to harmony in this social group, just like a family having good thoughts for each other. The disciples of LP Chah came together and recollected his good qualities. Similarly, when people gather for Chinese New Year tomorrow then they can have good thoughts for each other. This is Dhamma in itself—this metta and good thinking.
Welcome to all the monks and novices and blessings in the Dhamma to all the laity from your centres that have come together for this Dhamma session today.
Last week I travelled to Ubon Ratchathani district to Wat Nong Pah Pong, for the Luang Pu (Venerable Grandfather) Chah Memorial which commemorated the 28th year since LP Chah’s passing. It is amazing that all the monks and novices in Thailand and from around the world came together with love and great respect for LP Chah. All the lay people came to practice Dhamma with respect for a noble Sangha disciple of the Lord Buddha. There were a great many monks and laypeople coming together. The number of branch monasteries of Wat Nong Pah Pong in Thailand is 346 monasteries, with 20 monasteries outside of Thailand, so in total, 366 branch monasteries. Every individual was determined to come together and give an offering of their Dhamma practice to the virtues of LP Chah. The number of monks, novices, laymen and laywomen totalled to 10,750 people. And this was more than last year which had 9,770 people.
We can see that this harmonious unity is what gives a great driving force to the spreading of the Dhamma. This was able to arise from LP Chah’s Dhamma practice which followed the teachings of the Lord Buddha, practicing until his mind was purified and radiant with full mindfulness and wisdom. Then LP Chah brought the Dhamma of the Buddha that he had realised for himself to teach and guide us in a way that would make us easily understand the proper way to practice the Dhamma.
Even though LP Chah has passed away already, he laid the foundation of respect and harmony, which led the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong to have one unified heart and mind. Even though the Sangha has spread far and wide, establishing branch monasteries around the world, in all their hearts LP Chah is still here. This is the binding quality that holds all the disciples together. It is what makes them all able to gather together on this day commemorating LP Chah’s passing away. It really is amazing.
LP Chah has said that, usually when the great teacher passes away, the disciples would split up and go their own ways, but that LP Chah had laid the foundations in place to stop this from happening. Back then when I heard LP Chah say this, I was still a young monk, so I did not dare to ask him what foundations he had laid down already. I was then focused on developing mindfulness with the breath and watching my own mind.
Whatever LP Chah said I would take it in, but I wouldn’t ask him about it. And I feel a bit sad that I never asked, but even though I did not, we can see that in the present day, the foundation that LP Chah laid down was that of respect and veneration. This is respect and veneration for LP Chah. LP Chah would say that harmony and gathering together is the cause for growth and prosperity. And this is so, whether in the world or in the Dhamma. If sila, samadhi, and panya, or virtue, concentration, and wisdom, gather together – then one can see the Dhamma. So when we come to practice – may you be determined in your chanting, make effort to develop mindfulness, and give rise to this harmony of sila, samadhi, and panya. Actually these qualities of sila, samadhi, and panya gather together automatically. It is like a tree. When the causes and conditions are ripe and ready then the tree flowers and fruits by itself. We just have the duty to water the tree, give it fertiliser, repel insects, and protect it from external dangers.
When it comes to the season and the right time, then the tree will fruit and flower itself. Then we can eat the fruits. Our Dhamma practice is the same. May we be careful and give up the unskillfulness that arises – the harmful actions, speech, and mental qualities that arise – make an effort to give them up. That which is skillful and good, we should make an effort for that to arise. And maintain the goodness that has already arisen in the mind. If we do this we will have only growth and prosperity.
Tomorrow is the day of the Lunar New Year, which is the new year for the Chinese people. The ancestors have laid down the traditions and ways of good practice leading to harmony, unity, respect, and metta, or loving kindness. The elders have generosity towards the children. And the young have respect for their elders. This is a tradition of a culturally advanced society. No matter where one is, whether in the mainland or abroad, when it comes to Chinese New Year, the Chinese people all around the world will go to gather together with their relatives.
This is similar to the way that Thai people come together with their relatives for the Songkran New Year. Or like those of other religions that may come together with relatives—for example, on Christmas. This is harmony all the same. So each nation and religion will have their own important day that they celebrate. Chinese New Year is the day for the Chinese people when relatives come together, and they share happiness together. They have kindness to give out ampao, gifts and money to children, and the children have happiness.
This is the time of year that the elders have metta, because all through the year each person has been diligent and competitive in their work. This determination has led them to gain success in their work. When we know the causes of happiness like this, then we should be determined to practice them. We can see that external harmony leads to happiness to this extent. Then how much more happiness will the inner harmony of the mind give us? We should practice Dhamma so that inner happiness arises in our minds.
I want to mention again that Chinese New Year is a very important day for those of Chinese descent because they see this as the coming of the new year like the Songkran festival for the Thai people. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring festival. It is the new year for planting and agriculture. The period before Chinese New Year is the winter season and they are unable to do agriculture. So when they enter spring it is the appropriate weather for planting, and the Chinese people can farm fields again.
Respect of the deities is part of the tradition, as well, which has been passed down from generation to generation, following the belief that one needs to venerate the deities and venerate the elders. This will be for one’s blessings. These acts bring happiness and prosperity to oneself and one’s family.
Chinese New Year is one of the 8 days in the year where they respect the deities. The Chinese New Year period is celebrated for three days, which correspond to the day of the heart, the day of veneration, and the day of holiday.
To respect and honour one’s elders is a good, skilful act. For the elders that have already passed away, one recollects the goodness that one has have received from them when they were alive, and then one makes merit and dedicates those merits to them. If one’s elders are still alive, then one looks after them with care. To give one’s family happiness is considered a great blessing of one’s life. Showing respect and honour to those who have given us much goodness is a blessing of our life. This is even more so if we respect and honour them with a mind imbued with mindfulness and wisdom, not simply respecting them out of tradition. This will then be very excellent for us. We recollect the goodness that they gave us—remembering the teachings and advice they gave us when they were alive. When we were kids they taught us, advised us of things for our benefit, and advised us to stay away from things that will harm us. We should be sincere in our respect and veneration, not simply doing it just because we wish to ask for blessings of prosperity.
We have sila, morality, we have goodness, and we have respect towards the devas (heavenly beings) or deities. Devas have these 2 intrinsic qualities: hiri, or moral shame, and ottapa, or fear of the consequences of wrongdoing. Whichever individual has these two inner qualities, they can be considered to be a deva or a devata, a heavenly being. They have a mind higher than that of a human-being.
We should understand that the deva or deity is in our mind, and, to be a deva, this requires a high level of virtue. This is the mind that is a manussa-devo—a human being with a mind of a deva. When we respect and venerate the deities and our elders, we can recollect all the goodness that we have received from them, and we can rejoice in the goodness that we have done. Every time we do acts of goodness, we can bring them to mind. We don’t just do this during Chinese New Year, but we have to think of them regularly. Then their kindness will support us and protect us.
When we gather together with relatives, we recollect the ancestors that have passed away, and we can think of the times when we gathered together and had happiness. We can recollect the different stories of those times. And when they have passed away, then we do goodness and dedicate our merits to them. This is a good act that we need to do all throughout our lives.
This is something we should do which will lead us to follow the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha’s teachings all come down to one thing: the complete freedom from suffering. We haven’t yet overcome all suffering, so when we still have some left, we should be determined to practice Dhamma. Be established in goodness. Practice dana, sila, and bhavana, or generosity, morality, and mental cultivation. We don’t need to practice any other path, because this is the shortest path, which LP Chah taught as well. There is no other path as short as this one. Make the mind peaceful and have clear awareness to have knowing into all things. See all things as impermanent, that their nature is to change, and that we can’t control them. Then we will be able to let go of some of our attachments. Even if we can let go just sometimes, this will still be a blessing of our life.
Even children need to have Dhamma – they need to have effort and patience in their studies. On the family level, the elders also need Dhamma. They need to have kindness, compassion, generosity, and sharing to loved ones and to other fellow humans. If we are selfish and if all the countries are selfish, that is, they are out for their own interests, then the world will collapse. The world is warming up, there is much more dust and pollution in big cities, and this becomes more of a danger to life.
This comes from material development and advancement. We should see that external material development cannot give us happiness. Those living in big cities that have only material advancement will have to meet with things that will cause them suffering. Such as more pollution in this present day, which contributes to climate change. But, however much global warming there is, we should not let our minds become hot. Our minds need to have mindfulness. If our minds are hot, then they will harm ourselves and others.
Those with a hot mind, with a mind full of fear, they will create devastating weapons to hurt others in order to protect themselves and their country. This makes the whole world chaotic. It makes the whole world hotter. This simply comes from the mind that is hot. Then there will be scavenging for the world’s resources. But, if we know contentment and inner peace, then mindfulness will arise.
Whatever the situation is during this Chinese New Year, the Chinese people will venerate the deities, ask for blessings, and pray at sacred places. Maybe one can reduce the lighting of incense, joss-sticks and burn less paper. This can help the issue of global warming. Use the mind instead to show respect to the deities. Instead of external veneration through burning paper and lighting incense, which may make the world hotter, we should show our veneration through the building of goodness. This is the most important way we can give veneration.
May all of you, the Chinese people or people of other nationalities, may you all have a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year. May you all have strength and good health so that you can develop the mind. May you do well in your work so that you can give your family and society happiness. May you eventually see and realise the Dhamma. May you be imbued with the unity of the path factors of sila, samadhi, and panya. May you contemplate to see material and mental phenomena, to see the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness as impermanent. See this physical bodily mass as impermanent. See this physical body as suffering. See the body as full of sickness and illnesses. See this bodily mass as full of the unattractive and non-beautiful. In the end, the body must decay and break apart. May we contemplate like this. Seeing this is called having Dhamma arise. May you all meet with success in the world and in the Dhamma.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: Why do people wear red for Chinese New Year? This color red is like the fire element and can be seen as auspicious. The redness or fire gets rid of bad things and brings long life and happiness. It is a powerful color that facilitates success.
1. Q: Which is more important: faith or wisdom?
Luang Por Anan: Faith is belief and inspiration. Wisdom is clear knowing. For instance, one can have faith in the various Chinese New Year customs like not sweeping or buying shoes and do the customs out of faith. But wisdom would say that Chinese culture is hard working and it is good to have a day off to relax. As one grows up, one gains the wisdom of why oneself and others do certain things. If there is just faith, then one can get lost. King Ajatasattu believed in Devadatta and this led him to fall into hell. Sariputta had faith and followed the ascetic teacher Sanjaya, but then left Sanjaya, because Sariputta realized that Sanjaya was not yet awakened. Sariputta left, met Venerable Assaji, then went on to meet the Lord Buddha. Venerable Sariputta had faith but wisdom, as well.
2. Q: I have heard a teaching that goes like this: time is a field, we are the seed with body, speech, and mind, and water is the mind. Can you tell me what this means?
Luang Por Anan: Actions of body, speech, and mind are kept in the mind like a seed. All things are in the seed already. Actions stored in this way give fruit according to time. The karma of body, speech, and mind that are stored in the mind are the causes that give rise to fruits, and these karmic fruits ripen as good or bad according to their causes, whether good or bad.
In this new year let us all re-establish our determinations to improve to mind, make it better, make better thoughts and minds, build goodness, develop mindfulness, and develop concentration. Have mindfulness with the chanting and make the mind new, fresh, pure, and good like a fresh new year.
One year goes by quickly, and it is Chinese New Year again. Life passes and one year has passed by already. We want good and new things. We should see this in terms of Dhamma. There is one less Chinese New Year for us. At this time, we may not see it, but with Dhamma eyes, we see that time passes quickly. Do more goodness so that next year we have learned more, gained more Dhamma, are firmer in our faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and then we will get good results from that year of practice.
3. Q: Do a couple need the same level of faith in order to be compatible?
Luang Por Anan: When falling in love did you think of the level of faith in your partner?
Lady Visakha, the foremost female lay attendant of our Buddha, married someone of a similar status, similar virtue, but of a different religion. However, Lady Visakha had wisdom—she had realized stream-entry already at the age of 7. She changed the heart of her father-in-law, Migara, through her wisdom after a problem arose between them regarding their different faiths. This is hard to do. After this incident, Lady Visakha’s father-in-law called her his mother, “Migara’s Mother”, since she had introduced him to the Buddha’s teachings.
If one’s partner has low faith, then try to increase their faith by taking them to the temple. Or, if they have high faith already, take them to practice more. It is the duty of a spouse to increase the faith of their partner.