Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – December 7th, 2018
Please note: One can listen to the “Video” portion of this talk here: https://watmarpjan.org/en/podcast/clinging-truthfulness-and-the-five-blessings/
L uang Por Anan: Last week we talked about Ven. Cakkhupala and the five types of blessings. Let us discuss these further today.
Welcome to all of you from your centres. Last week there was a question from the center in Thailand about clinging and attachment. We saw that the Venerable Arahant Cakkhupaala, established his sacca-parami, or his vow of truth, in order to practice for ending of all suffering. And he undertook one of the austere practices of not lying down for the entire 3 month rains-retreat. This layperson had the doubt whether practicing in this way was correct? Is this type of practice a form of clinging and attachment?
So we need to understand that clinging and attachment is the cause for suffering to arise. When we cling and attach to something, then suffering arises in our minds. But here, the Venerable Arahant Cakkhupala, upheld his austere practice with the vow of truth that he had determined to keep. If one had weaker truthfulness parami, then if they came to meet with obstacles, they would change and give up their vow of truth. Here someone of vast parami – even if their body would be disabled or have to die, they won’t throw away their vow of truth. In this case, the Venerable Cakkhupala didn’t throw away his vow of truth at all, because of the strength of his mind and his perfection of truthfulness.
Ven. Cakkhupala become totally enlightened, free from having to go around the never-ending cycle of birth and death again. But those with clinging and attachment must be born and die in this cycle of samsara (which means ‘wandering on’). The spiritual perfection of truthfulness is important. Because if one has the perfection of truthfulness, then khanti parami, the spiritual perfection of patient endurance, will follow. If we keep our vows, this becomes strength and power that helps our mind progress well.
Like if we pick up a flashlight, then we need to pick it up, hold it, look at it first and analyse it. When we understand the meaning of the object, that this is a flashlight, this is a cup of water, and we understand what we use it for. When we understand it, then we can put it down. This is attaching, then contemplating with wisdom, then putting it down. But we aren’t attaching to it firmly.
When one knows clearly already, that clinging and attachment is suffering, then one lets go. One stops and becomes equanimous. This is wisdom arising.
Ven. Cakkhupala, the noble disciple of the Buddha, whose mind had no attachment to his body already, who practiced wholeheartedly with his courageous mind, until he had the strength of mind to a high level, then his mind did not suffer over his body, and he contemplated until his mind was free of attachment. Here we rejoice in his spiritual perfections of truthfulness, of effort, and of wisdom. May you all have truthfulness, have effort, and have wisdom arise in your mind.
Today I will also talk of the 5 blessings that the monks give and what their meaning is.
1) The word ayu means having a long life.
2) For vanna, it has many meanings as well. It may mean beautiful skin and features. Or may mean the bright complexion, a radiant face, the receiving of praise from all the goodness and virtue that we have done, having good status, and fulfilling one’s responsibilities and work well, and improving one’s rank and status. Or having prosperity and stability in Dhamma practice and in one’s work.
3) And sukha means the body and mind have happiness. The body is not sick and one has happiness in the heart. The mind has goodness, it feels spacious and fresh and has no worries. Or the happiness from having and using wealth, for example.
4) Bala, this is strength. Physical strength, good health of one’s body, and strength of mind- if one faces different obstacles, then one has the mindfulness and wisdom to help to overcome those obstacles. Or the strength of having good learning, knowing right and wrong. Having the ability and skill in different work and activities.
If we talk of power in terms of the mind, then it can be separated in many ways. Such as having faith – where there is the ordinary faith and there is the faith that is a power. This is the strength of faith that is greater than others, in doing acts of generosity, and in making merit and helping others.
Like some of us who have the effort to offer alms everyday, whether all through the rains-retreat, or even all through the year. Doing this requires one to have faith to do goodness more than an ordinary level.
5) Then when we practice generosity, virtue, and meditation, intelligence (patibana) arises. It’s wisdom that is sharper and quicker, and is able to overcome the feelings that arise in the mind. When we have various forms of suffering arise in the mind or different problems come up, this wisdom and intelligence can overcome them well. On the physical level, there are some things that can be overcome by way of our natural human instincts. But if we have wisdom and intelligence, then we can overcome and get past many different situations and problems that one may face.
There was one lay woman in the time of the Buddha whose husband was a thief. He had bad thoughts towards her and had the evil intention to push her off a cliff. But this was a woman who had the spiritual potential to attain to arahantship in that lifetime. She wouldn’t lose her life for sure. She was imbued with a lot of mindfulness and wisdom and she had the intelligence or quick wit that she could overcome difficulties quickly. She could keep her life, and she later was able to practice until she attained to becoming a bhikkhuni arahant.
We can also look at the story in the Buddha’s time of the the Venerable Arahant Bakula. He had built up much parami from the past by offering medicine to the Buddha Anomadassī and the Buddha Padumuttara, and offered medicines to the Sangha who had caught a disease. By his the power of his merit, he determined to become the healthiest, longest lived monk. Venerable Bakula ordained when he was 80 years of age, and passed away into parinibbana at 160 years of age. He had no sickness, not even a headache.
So we can see that offering alms-food and offering medicines to overcome illnesses are causes for long life, beauty, happiness, and strength to arise. And for intelligence to arise we need to learn and listen to Dhamma, associate with the wise, contemplate, and ask various questions on Dhamma.
May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
Q: If we offer food with the wish to be born with wealth, health, and so on, then what happens?
Luang Por Anan: Offering food leads to the heart feeling goodness and fullness, which is merit. This can lead to a heavenly, or deva, birth. The level of deva birth depends on the level of one’s mind, which is related to one’s virtue and mental development. Be careful about greed in the heart when making offerings. This can make the mind decline and feel sad. Make the mind pure with no gaining idea—this is more merit.
Q: University time is coming. With the fast pace of the university, I feel anxious, busy, I have less time to practice, have more anger, and have less patience and mindfulness. Any advice?
Luang Por Anan: Mindfulness knows bad moods as they happen. Be patient. Find time to chant and meditate. If you don’t practice, your mindfulness will not be strong enough.
Q: I see mostly old people in monasteries. Young people less than 10%. I am worried about the future. How do we teach the young people?
Luang Por Anan: I have a different experience. As a child, I noticed mostly older people in the temple. Now I see lots of young people, like in their 20s. It depends on the person. One must have seen suffering. Adults lead kids to the monastery. Like in the Northeast, you see parents help little kids to give alms in the morning.
Q: I have heard of people who try to do good, but bad karma interferes and maybe they die first. How do we overcome this?
Luang Por Anan: Humans have about a 75 year lifespan these days. It is natural to die. Before 75 karma can arise and lead to death. I will talk more next week on this.
Q: Before someone goes into surgery we chant the 7 factors of awakening chant. Any advice to make this more effective?
Luang Por Anan: Have lots of mindfulness, then concentration. This will make the chant more beneficial.