Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 22nd, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all. It is a type of adhitthana (determination) and sacca (truthfulness) to come to listen to the Dhamma every Friday; one has to overcome obstacles to come listen. Sacca is based on sila and helps adhitthana as well.
Last Friday I talked on the topic of adhitthana parami, the spiritual perfection of determination. Now this Friday I’ll continue speaking on this subject. There is one story during the Buddha’s time about an individual who built their spiritual perfections, and in particular, adhitthana parami. There was one very poor family, who worked and lived as a farm labourers for a rich man named Sumana. Punna and the wife were very diligent and hard-working. This was one of the great virtues they possessed even though they were poor – that they were hard working. They were poor on the inside, but inside had great spiritual wealth. Even on their day off, Punna and his wife were still working in the fields for their wealthy boss. They didn’t spend their leisure time for entertainment and other activities. They both had a good level of faith in their hearts.
It so happened that Ven. Sariputta, who had just left nirodha samapatti, a very high mental state where consciousness and mental activity temporarily cease, wanted to give Punna and his wife a blessing. Ven. Sariputta went to the field where Punna was working. Punna had clean water and tooth wood, and offered it to Ven. Sariputta. Ven. Sariputta used that to brush his teeth and drink. He then walked off. Punna made a determination with his mind, “May the rice that my wife will make and bring to me, may she offer instead to this venerable monk.” He had great faith to make that adhitthana. Punna’s wife made the rice and went to bring it to Punna, but saw Ven. Sariputta going for alms. She had the thought that some days I have food, but I don’t meet any monks to make an offering, and some other days I meet the monks but I have no food to give. Today, there is the Venerable One going for alms, and I do have food, so it is better for me to make merit first by offering this food. So, she gave an offering to Ven. Sariputta. And she also made the determination that from the results of this good act, may this free us from poverty. It has been very tough and difficult for us for a long time already. Then she went home to make a new portion of rice for her husband. She brought it to the husband late, but he was happy that she had given and ate the food till he was full then went to sleep.
When he woke, he saw the dirt that he had been ploughing was a golden colour. He told his wife. She didn’t believe him and thought he was hallucinating. He picked up one of the golden pieces and it was a real golden nugget. So he put it on a plate and went to see the King in Rajagaha. The King ordered his officials to take all the gold from the field of the wealthy house of Sumana, the gold that arose from the merit of Punna. But here, a court official said that it was due to the spiritual merit of the King that this gold arose, but when the official picked the golden nugget up, it turned back to dirt. The King told the official that what he said was wrong. That he should say that this miracle that this gold arose has occurred from the spiritual merit of Punna. Then the gold that changed from dirt and didn’t go back to being dirt. The King asked if anyone had this much wealth and no one did. The King appointed Punna his chief treasurer and allowed him to take all the gold.
The newly rich family, Punna, his wife, and their daughter named Lady Uttara, was a family who had great merits and great faith. They invited the Buddha and his company of monks to have the meal at their house for many days. The Buddha gave them a Dhamma sermon and, at the end of it, Punna, his wife, and their daughter attained to Sotapanna, the first level of enlightenment. This family had already made a lot of parami in the past. Although this life they were born poor, they were not poor for long, and soon became wealthy as befitting their merits. When the daughter was older, Punna gave the daughter to marry a wealthy millionaire, Rajagaha.
Lady Uttara had a very good heart and had the strong desire to keep the Uposatha-sila or the 8 moral precepts for 15 days during the rains retreat. But her husband, Rajagaha wouldn’t allow it, because there would be no one to do their duties to him and look after him. Lady Uttara asked her father for 15,000 so that she could hire the courtesan Sirima to look after all the needs of the husband. To do everything for her husband. Who can practice like this? Her heart was very liberal. Someone has to be a Sotapanna to be able to practice in this way. She had such a strong desire to keep the 8 moral precepts. During this time she invited the Buddha and the company of monks to eat at her house for 15 days. Out of her great faith in the Buddha, she even worked hard herself to help prepare the food to offer. Her husband saw her during this time and smiled at her, thinking “she is the wife of a wealthy millionaire, but has to work so hard and get dirty in the kitchen to make and offer food to the monks. So he smiled. The courtesan Sirima saw him smiling, but she didn’t know his reason. Lady Uttara saw her husband smiling at her, so smiled back. She thought, “My husband is really stupid. He is so deluded in all his wealth in this present life, but he doesn’t know that these things won’t last. They arise from one’s past good actions and merit, but when that merit and good results have finished, then the wealth will disappear. There is nothing lasting.” So she smiled back.
The courtesan Sirima saw this exchange and felt very angry. She thought, “15,000 to hire me to look after her husband, and now he smiles at her like he is so happy.” A strong emotion of jealousy came up, and she rushed to go take it out on Lady Uttara, who was boiling oil and making food. The courtesan Sirima took a large spoonful of that boiling oil with the intention to pour it over Lady Uttara. Lady Uttara saw Sirima coming filled with hatred. So, Lady Uttara entered jhana, mental absorption, of which she was very skilled in entering. She determined her mind that this boiling oil become like cool water. Sirima poured it over her and it became cool water. Sirima was very shocked. She couldn’t physically harm Lady Uttara. It was only due to seeing this miracle that she could accept her wrong-doing. Any normal response wouldn’t have been enough for her to accept her wrong-doing. Sirima asked for forgiveness straight away from Lady Uttara. Lady Uttara said, “You can’t ask me for forgiveness, you have to ask from my father, that is the Lord Buddha. If the Buddha forgives you, then I will forgive you.”
Sirima told everything to the Lord Buddha, and asked for the Buddha to forgive her. She was scared of making bad karma, which actually meant that she had parami, because she was scared of the results from wrong-doing. Although initially she had this typical, base emotion of jealousy arise in her mind, after she was brought back to her senses, she became fearful of the results of that bad karma. She told the Buddha of all the things she had done and the Buddha forgave her, and when she told Lady Uttara, she forgave Sirima as well. The Buddha taught Sirima that we all have to build a great store of merit. Why? Because our life is uncertain. Being born, we have old age, sickness, and death. So we shouldn’t do any bad deeds. The Buddha taught that “Let one conquer anger with non-anger, let one conquer the unvirtuous person with goodness, let one conquer the stingy person through giving, and let one conquer the liar by speaking the truth.” When the Buddha finished this sermon, Lady Sirima attained to Sotapanna.
We can appreciate the wise method that Lady Uttara used, so that Lady Sirima would ask forgiveness from the Buddha, develop faith in the Buddha, and could listen to the Dhamma and so would have the chance to attain to Sotapanna. Lady Uttara herself was very skilled in entering jhana –the Buddha gave her the distinction of being foremost of his lay female disciples skilled in entering jhana. There were many lay female disciples of the Buddha, many of whom were very remarkable. The excellence and spiritual perfections were not just possessed by certain men, women, children or elders, but rather it was possessed by whatever individual had built in the past. Whatever parami one builds, one will receive that parami. Even some children, some women who had built much parami, could attain to jhana and attain to Sotapanna, like we saw.
Lady Sirima, although she was a courtesan by profession, she had the virtue to attain to Sotapanna. She was one who had parami, who was also a sister of Doctor Jivaka. Jivaka was abandoned shortly after birth in a rubbish heap. Prince Abhaya happened to find the baby and named him Jivaka – one who has life – and Jivika would later become the physician of the Buddha and a Sotapanna as well. We see that those who made parami in previous lives, when the results of their previous meritorious actions come up, they can overcome their poverty, and their adhitthana parami or determinations can succeed. This is due to their goodness and virtue. Like in this story, from meeting the right hand chief disciple of the Buddha, Ven. Sariputta, the foremost in wisdom, and at a very auspicious time, just leaving nirodha samapatti, and the results of that merit arose in this life. So may you all be determined to build your adhitthana parami. You can make determinations to keep the 5 or 8 moral precepts all through the rains retreat. Or to make merit by offerings on each weekly lunar observance days. Make your adhitthana and be resolute to practice following that determination. This is also sacca parami, the perfection of truthfulness, which continues and follows from adhitthana parami.
I rejoice with you in all the merits you have made, and may the results of these good actions flow on and be of benefit to all your relatives, may all of your deceased relatives come to receive this merit, may all the devas come to rejoice in your good actions. May the Lord of Death come to rejoice as well, may all the deities – our guardian deities, including those in Wat Marp Jan, may they also rejoice with all the good deeds we have done.
Luang Por Anan: Punna’s wife was able to succeed in her determination due to her foundation in goodness and sila. Such as right speech–speaking truthfully, not gossiping, not divisive, or idle (not valuable) speech. This is deathless speech, speech that is in line with Dhamma practice.
When one is speaking the truth, it increases one’s virtues. If one has false speech, it destroys the value and virtue in our hearts. Our bodies and minds can go from being human to animals or ghosts or other lower beings.
Be careful to restrain one’s speech, and one will have the result of happiness from truthful and beautiful speech. This opens the doors to the heavenly realms. Right speech is fundamentally important to living a good life and a foundation for successful determinations.
Questions and Answers:
Q: If those of other religions die in Thailand and don’t have people from their religion make merit for them, do the merits that Thai Buddhists offer them help them?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, the merits do help. It’s like food, water, or oxygen – it doesn’t matter who gives the food, water, or oxygen, once we receive that food, water, oxygen we can feel full, not thirsty, or breathe easily. Merit is like coolness; it is not dependent on a religion.
Q: If one gives offerings to a monk without enough parami, is the merit from that offering able to help those who have died?
Luang Por Anan: There are many causes for receiving the merit of offerings – the intention of the giver, the merits of the receiver, and the being one is spreading merits to. The merits can help that individual, but we don’t know if the monk has enough merit. But we can offer to the whole Sangha and have faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
Q: Which precepts do gambling and swindling break?
Luang Por Anan: Gambling is one of the four paths of ruin along with womanizing, drinking, and being a gangster. Gambling can lead one to lose everything, even their reputation.
Swindling is part of stealing, for instance, stealing time by lying about how many hours you have worked.
Q: Sometimes I feel depressed, how can I help myself with this?
Luang Por Anan: Do chanting, have mindfulness with chanting to lift the mind up or other methods to develop mindfulness. Depression comes along when mindfulness is low. With these mindfulness practices depression can go away.
Luang Por Anan: There is one story of a village headman and his friend who always gambled together. Then his friend died. The friend came in a dream and told him the lottery numbers. The village headman then won a lot of money in the lottery with these numbers. A second time the friends came in a dream to give lottery numbers, and the village headmen bet everything he had to win again. This time the numbers failed and he lost everything. He complained to his ghost friend, who said that another ghost from Laos had given him the numbers and tricked him the second time into giving the wrong numbers.
So, be careful. One may gamble and end up being born as a ghost. Also be careful to believe what comes into one’s dreams.
Q: How do we know what meaningful speech is when one is chatting with family?
Luang Por Anan: When being friendly with relatives, keep the mind with mindfulness and the wholesome intention to have a good relationship with them. This is not wrong speech.
Q: Who do we ask forgiveness from?
Luang Por Anan: We should ask from the person we did wrong to, firstly. Also during the evening chanting we ask forgiveness from the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
Q: When a spirit medium is being spoken through, where is the spirit located?
Luang Por Anan: The spirit sends energy to the spirit medium to influence or change their behaviour and speech. The mind of the spirit or deity, however, is in its usual location at that time, wherever that is.