Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – April 26th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: There are two paths one can take in life – the right path and the wrong path. The right path has right view and leads to happiness. The wrong path has wrong view and leads to suffering. If one receives help then one can change from the wrong path to the right path.
Some people are born with no mindfulness and wisdom but they can learn and get better. Other people don’t improve and keep their wrong views. Some deluded people are like the insects that fly into the bright light. They fly into the light and die. Even when others warn them that the light is dangerous, they still go into the light and die. Now, let us look at the video that explores this topic further.
The individual who will gain success in life – whether in work and duties or in Dhamma practice – they need to have the Dhamma qualities that lead to success. These Dhamma qualities are that one needs to have satisfaction in what we do and have the determination to progress in it. Like a child who is keen to learn and is interested to study – they are interested in gaining more and more different types of knowledge, they have strong determination, and they are not discouraged when faced with difficulties. So this determination is very important. Or if one has satisfaction in one’s work and duties, and one aims to progress in work with mindfulness and wisdom, and one puts forth effort, then one can succeed. If we have no effort, then even if we like our work or we like learning and study, we won’t be able to gain success. So, we need to have determination and effort. Even if we have less mindfulness and intelligence than others who are smarter, but we put forth more effort than them, we can still succeed. Like some intelligent students can study their material just once, and they can remember it. But we may not be able to memorise very well, so we need to read over it many times, but we can still progress and compete, and we can succeed in our studies. So, effort is important. Those that have laziness won’t meet with success.
There is one story in the suttas of a child of wealthy parents. At a young age, he was not hard working. At the middle of his life, he put forth no effort, and at an old age he was not diligent. He died having nothing. The wealth he had gained from his parents was all gone. The Buddha said that if this man in his young age was hard working and diligent, he would have become a rich man to the highest level. Or if in his young age he was lazy, but in his middle age, he was hard working, then he would still become wealthy. But, even if in his young age he was not diligent, and in his middle age he was not diligent, but in his old age, he was hard-working, he still would have gained some wealth. But here, he didn’t do anything – in his young age, middle age or old age, and so his life come to nothing, and all his wealth was gone. This was because he had just laziness.
The Buddha said further, that if this person practiced Dhamma from a young age, he would have had noble attainments to the level of anagami, the 2nd highest level of enlightenment. If he practiced Dhamma at a middle age, then this person would have attained to sakgadami, the third highest level of enlightenment. If he practiced Dhamma from an old age, then he would have attained to sotapanna, the lowest level of enlightenment. But he didn’t do anything, so he didn’t gain the good results in the world or in the Dhamma. It was all gone. He was closed off from any goodness. Simply, he lacked effort. But those that have effort and diligence will have success – whether in learning or working. They will gain success in life.
Our Buddha, when he was a squirrel in his past life as a Bodhisattva, his child was swept away into the sea. But he had great effort. He ran and scooped up water with his tail, and shook it off on the shore. He kept doing this, until Sakka, the King of the Devas, his throne was hot, and he came to ask, “By doing this, how will you get your child? The sea is so vast and the amount of water is so great”. But the Buddha said that he believed in putting forth the effort and he would not be discouraged. He had to do it. This made Sakka must get his child and return it to him. Our Buddha had great effort and diligence, even in the life when he was squirrel, he had that much effort.
Here we look in the Buddha’s teaching, of those that had effort and eagerness to learn, like Ven. Rahula, who had ordained as a novice at 7 years of age. He did not eat in the afternoon from that age. But he had a keen interest in learning and study. Every day he would put a fistful of sand in his hand and make the determination that he would gain knowledge and he would learn from his senior teachers and preceptor, to the amount of the grains of sand in his hand. He set up his vow of truth, that he would learn and have effort and diligence in learning to a high level. This was why the Buddha bestowed on him the title of being foremost in being eager to learn. This shows that he had effort which was imbued with wisdom, too. And Ven. Rahula was one who was easy to teach. His preceptor was Ven. Sariputta, and his teacher, Ven. Maha Moggallana. Those that are easy to teach and will believe and listen to their elders will gain success in life. So, if one is a child, when our elders give advice that will lead to our benefit, then we should be diligent and put effort in it. We should make our minds be determined to follow in that teaching and advice. And we follow it with mindfulness and wisdom that is attentive. In this way we will progress step by step. Here we will have success in learning. And if one does this as an adult, then one will have good success in work, too.
Associating with the right people is important. If we aren’t intelligent, but we associate with intelligent people, or those who are considered wise, then we will gain quick results.
Luang Pu Chah said those that have little wisdom, but who stay close to wise people, receive their advice and teachings, and follow those teachings, then those people will gain quick results, all the same as those with a lot of wisdom.
One who thinks one is smart, and who stays close to wise people, still may progress slowly. This is because they are deluded in their own intelligence. There are lots of people like this.
And here we look at the children that have come into this world, and who get lost in sensual pleasures, delighting in things that waste a lot of their time.
This is the modern communication devices, that everyone is using to send information. There is a lot of information in this world, and the more we know, the more we may get lost in it, and end up losing a lot of time. We don’t have mindfulness, we don’t have wisdom. But if use these modern devices well, we have virtue and a genuine interest to gain knowledge, then we can gain benefit from using them. This is for the one who has wisdom. Its like a sharp knife. If one has wisdom then we can use the knife well and it gives us benefit. But those that are deluded, they can use the knife to kill living beings, harming all involved. This is delusion.
So there is one path, which is the path for those with wisdom and knowledge, and there is the other path which is the path for those with delusion.
There are many things that make one deluded. Like insects, especially moths, when it is night time and there is artificial light, they see it as bright and as beautiful. The insects like the moths will fly into the flame. And even if their father and mother, relatives and friends warn them, they won’t believe it. In the end, they believe that flying into the light is really good. They feel that it is something beautiful, and then they enter it and die in that flame. This is because they believe themselves, they are deluded in themselves. and they wont listen to the warnings of their friends and others.
Or the way to catch an eel – people will shine a light into the water, and the eel sees the light and gets lost in the light – and then gets caught and becomes food and loses it life. Because of delusion.
When one is born as a living being, then the instinct of delusion is there already. When one becomes excited and heedless, then one gets deluded, and one goes to the path of death. So we must train to be smart and wise, we must train and develop in mindfulness and wisdom. We should not be heedless. Sometimes we don’t have effort, then we should bring up the the feeling that one knows that one’s life is fleeting, it is not lasting. So we should build goodness and build benefit for ourselves and others in this life a lot. So let us contemplate this Dhamma for today – that in our life we have the choice of the path that is good and the path that is bad. Give up the things are bad, do the things that are good, and make the mind pure. This is the teaching of all the Buddhas. May you be determined and grow in Dhamma. May you grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: If one is deluded and thinks that one already understands the Dhamma, how do you reduce this delusion?
Luang Por Anan: Separate the different types of wisdom – from reading, listening, and learning. Ask oneself: Do we truly understand? Can we let go of attachments? Contemplate. Can you see the drawbacks of greed, aversion, and delusion?
Do your thoughts truly come from wisdom or not? When you have sense contact, do the defilements arise with that contact? If so, then one’s wisdom is not yet true wisdom – one does not understand the teachings yet. One can have ego and clinging to views about one’s thoughts. Following these deluded thoughts is the wrong path.
2. Q: When we say really knowing, what is this like to truly know?
Luang Por Anan: It is natural to not know. This not knowing causes suffering. True knowing is knowing change and seeing change with mindfulness and wisdom. Then suffering reduces or ceases. People who have noble attainments but are not yet fully enlightened still have some suffering. Like Anathapindika was sad when his daughter was dying, he thought she was unmindful. But really his daughter had attained to higher than him. Or like Lady Visakha, she was really sad when her niece died. Her niece was very helpful to the Sangha. But Lady Visakha was a great practitioner. When she listened to the Buddha teach her, her suffering was relieved as she was reminded of the reality of impermanence. Normal people know about old age, sickness, and death, but do not really know them deeply. When old age, sickness, and death happen to oneself then suffering arises. So you can tell how truly you know by how much you suffer.
3. Q: My aunt passed away. Everyone was sad and crying. I was close to my aunt, but I was calm and quiet. I felt peaceful. My relatives tried to comfort me, but I felt like I did not need this. Is this good practice? Or should I have some sadness?
Luang Por Anan: This is a good question. It is natural when there is love and closeness to someone that one has sadness and suffering in the heart when they die, this is the nature of the heart that has not practiced, this is the way of the world. The Dhamma teachings tell us that arising and passing away is natural and normal. If you know this then there is not sadness. This is correct. If relatives try to console one, then that is natural and you can thank them for their lovingkindness and compassion.
Luang Pu Chah taught that if one cries at another’s death, then one should cry at their birth, because death comes out of birth. Most people are happy at a birth. Luang Pu Chah taught with wisdom.
4. Q: What does satisfaction mean in the video? Like satisfaction in one’s work.
Luang Por Anan:Satisfaction here means liking what one does. Then one determines to do that job. Like a musician, if they like playing music, then they dedicate their efforts to doing that. One does this without cease and can succeed. This applies to Dhamma practice- if you like the practice then you see the drawbacks of having no mindfulness and wisdom and see the benefits of having mindfulness and wisdom. Then you can succeed in your practice.
5. Q: My friends get a gift from their parents and do not share it. Then I think if I get a gift from my parents then I will not share it, also. I think this is not right. What should I do?
Luang Por Anan: You know the feeling of your friends not sharing, how does it feel? It feels sad. So you know how your friends will feel if you do not share. It is not wrong to keep the gift to yourself, because it belongs to you. It is good to share some of it, though, even a little. If you share it, this means you have achieved victory over yourself, over selfishness. You also win victory over the selfishness of others. You give up attachment to a sense of self. Sharing goes against this feeling of selfishness in the mind, and developing this at a young age is very good, it develops a good habit. You get a taste for what it is like to self-sacrifice. You share the happiness you are receiving with others.
6. Q: When the Dhamma disappears, does the world change?
Luang Por Anan: The Dhamma does not go anywhere; the Dhamma is always here.
7. Q: When the future Buddha arises, will the world be the same or different?
Luang Por Anan: Be a good person in the present first. Practice the Dhamma with the present Buddha first. Cure suffering in the heart in the present. Make effort, study, learn, develop virtue, listen to teachers, and learn chanting and meditation – all this is more important to do in the present and brings benefit in the present. This is more important.
8. Q: How can we overcome bad thoughts when meditating?
Luang Por Anan: Look at your breath. If you think good or bad thoughts, let them go, just have mindfulness with the breath. Say “Buddho” and be with the breath and this is merit already. Do not worry. Just put all the thoughts down, whether the thoughts are good or bad. Putting thoughts down and meditating is merit because one is putting effort in to meditation.
9. Q: We saw the fly going towards the light. What is the difference between the person hearing or not hearing the warnings? How do you develop the quality of listening to warnings from wise people?
Luang Por Anan: This is a great blessing in life to associate with wise people. The wise will naturally give us good advice and give us the chance to improve even if we ourselves are not wise. Being around fools is not good and leads to having more bad qualities. One has to use one’s own mindfulness and wisdom to reflect on the warnings that we receive. Does the advice lead to good or bad? Reflect and then act accordingly.
10. Q: I should be mindful when I have a problem at work that I have to solve. What should I be mindful of? What is the right attitude?
Luang Por Anan: First deal with the problem with metta and compassion as a foundation. Maybe the problem has not been dealt with well before. Try to overcome the problem, but, if you cannot fix it, then set your heart to equanimity. Do not blame or put others down. Try to overcome the problems, but do this in the way that is appropriate for the situation.
When facing the problems, then try to have a mind with peace and coolness. If people are arguing or in conflict, maybe talk to each person individually in private. One follows the rules at ones workplace. One tries one’s best. If the problem keeps coming up, try to solve it so that is does not come back.