Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – March 13th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: This Friday we come together as usual and recollect the Lord Buddha, who has great metta and karuna, lovingkindness and compassion, for all beings. Why is this? If the Buddha had wanted to overcome suffering just for himself, he could have done that a long time ago. But, instead, he built parami and overcame suffering for the happiness of humans, devas, and brahmas. It is hard to find one who is willing to sacrifice to this level. It is extremely rare, and so many aeons pass by to get one who can be a fully awakened Buddha.
Now we have a virus, Covid-19, spreading around the world. People love themselves, which is normal. However, when this is taken to an extreme, problems arise in society and in living together. We should practice virtue and self-sacrifice, and this is hard to find. This is very rare. Few train to build goodness like giving, virtue, and mental development; dana, sila, and bhavana. People harm each other due to greed and selfishness around the world and do other harmful actions. Today let us watch a Dhamma video about self-sacrifice.
Welcome to all the monks and novices and blessings in the Dhamma to all the faithful laity. When we do our evening puja, we chant praises of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and then we share this heart of metta to others; we dedicate our merit with all those that have goodness towards us, to our karmic debtors, and to all sentient beings. We wish, “May I be happy”, and our mind is happy—imbued with metta, loving kindness, and karuna, compassion. This metta and karuna doesn’t just arise by itself, but it needs to be developed and trained in. We can see that in the present day world, in these times of difficulty that have arisen with this virus spreading, people in the general public have self-love and do things out of self interest. When it’s like this, then there is competition and fighting for the four basic requisites and the necessary daily items, even for specific items like toilet paper. People fight to buy it and get into arguments and disputes over it to the point where there is physical violence. Why is this? This is because of selfishness.
If one knows how to share and give, then this does not arise. As we know, some who have a lot of these necessities may store them up to raise prices in the market. This hurts others and comes from a mind of greed. Those that don’t get these necessities have anger arise. Then there is fighting and struggles to compete for these necessities. Why? Because of selfishness and not knowing how to share.
These times should make us reflect on the parami, the spiritual perfections, of the Lord Buddha that he developed through great self-sacrifice. What did he sacrifice? He had to even sacrifice his own life many times over. In the life when he was King Vessantara, he gave all his wealth and his kingship away. He even gave away his wife and children. He gave it all away in that life in order to build dana parami, the perfection of giving, to the ultimate spiritual level. This was so that his mind would be fully perfected and so that he could attain to becoming a self-awakened Buddha.
In one life when the Buddha was practicing as a Bodhisattva, he was born as a royal elephant. He sacrificed his own life in order to keep and maintain his sila, his morality. He had metta such that he was not willing to kill his enemies. In the life where he was perfecting sila parami, he was the naga Bhuridatta, and he had great forbearance without equal. He wouldn’t harm the person who was hurting him as he was keeping his sila. Or, in the life when he was a hermit Bodhisattva, he saw a mother tiger who had fallen into a valley, had no food, and was about to eat her own cubs. He said to his fellow hermits to go elsewhere, and then he jumped down into the valley so that the tiger could eat the meat on his body. Why? So that it would extend the life of the tiger cubs and so that the mother wouldn’t need to harm her cubs. This was the Buddha sacrificing to the level of an ultimate spiritual perfection.
So, as Buddhists, we should puja the Buddha with our own practice, following the Buddha. Regularly sacrifice and share. In these difficult times, we have to help each other out. If we have things we should share them. We don’t only live for ourselves. When we share with others, and others can protect themselves from the sickness, then the sickness won’t come back to us. If we keep things just for ourselves, and others don’t have these protective items, then the sickness will end up coming back to us.
So share things that are necessities, those things that we are able to share. But we don’t share everything away, one part we keep for ourselves. Give to our family first. This is metta and karuna for us and our family, and to our loved ones. Or to those that we are more indifferent towards. Or, more than that, we can share with others that don’t have. And we don’t harm others. We don’t fight and struggle with others. We are established in goodness. That is, we have dana, giving, sila, virtue—we control our actions and speech. One doesn’t cheat others and is established in morality. One doesn’t take advantage of other people. One is established in Dhamma and advises to do things that are good. One has metta and karuna by giving advice so that others can gain benefit and can protect against sickness. Doctors or those scientists who have knowledge can help the sick and ill. Each person does their duties fully. When everyone has metta and karuna, then this metta and karuna can support the well-being of the world.
We can also observe the behaviours of animals. Like in Thailand, in the province of the Lopburi, there is big infighting between monkeys, which is very strange. They have established themselves into two big groups, with each group having many hundreds of monkeys, and the two groups fight with each other. This year there has also been news of wild elephants fighting each other. Though this probably has occurred in the past, it is still strange.
As for humans, they are fighting the Covid-19 coronavirus. It has spread around the world, many people have gotten sick, and many have died from it. When there are disasters like this occurring, then we come back to the refuge in our hearts—the jewel of the Buddha, jewel of the Dhamma, and the jewel of the Sangha. This is called our refuge. This is our highest wealth. We do our own good deeds of dana, or giving, sila, or virtue, and bhavana, such as making our minds still and peaceful. We have metta and karuna in our hearts. This is the highest noble wealth. Then we enter the Buddha Dhamma Sangha, like we chant: “Buddham saranam gacchami, Dhammam saranam gacchami, Sangham saranam gacchami; Dutiyampi…; Tatiyampi… This refuge is in our hearts. This is the wealth in our hearts. The Buddha said that there is no jewel equal to the jewel of the Buddha, no jewel equal to the jewel of the Dhamma, and no jewel equal to the jewel of the Sangha. In the world there are many jewels. But they never last or stay forever. In the present day, when there is great wealth, we can see the stock market drops greatly. If we have wealth there, then it disappears. Sometimes we have wealth, but then thieves and robbers steal it away. All things can be taken from us, because we have this body. If we don’t have this body, then all the other things dependent on it won’t exist anymore.
So to have all these other things, may we firstly have good health. If we still have this breath, then even though some of our wealth may disappear and diminish, we will still be able to gain it back one day. That is, we can do it if we have the strength of mind. A strong mind needs to have a refuge—the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as our sarana, our refuge. We will then see aniccam – impermanence, uncertainty. We can see the large cruise ships with many people travelling in them, but it’s not certain. We could travel by airplane—and this used to be seen as convenient and quick. Those that didn’t have money couldn’t travel. But, this is uncertain as well.
We can see in this present situation where there is impermanence, there is change, then sicknesses can arise. Sometimes those with money go out to pubs and clubs, and this is considered beyond what is necessary for living. Then they may get sick, and this could be a danger to their life. This comes back to the Buddha’s teachings of not frequenting places at night, not going for entertainment and shows, and not indulging in alcohol outside. In the house maybe there is a small amount of drinking for one’s health, but if one goes outside one’s house and indulges in it without caution, then they could become infected.
For example, in Thailand, there were 11 people who went out at night. They thought it would be safe. But it’s not safe, so one should be cautious. If one lives with the virtue of sila, there are still dangers, but they are lessened. If dangers arise, may you be safe and be protected.
You can see that the virtue of sila will protect oneself. If it isn’t a heavy, bad karma, then we should be safe and protected from all dangers. May you take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as the highest refuge in our hearts, as our highest jewel and highest wealth. It is a noble wealth in our hearts. Each of us that has metta and self-sacrifice, then spread this heart of metta to ourselves and to all living beings—to all the people in the world. May all beings be free from dangers and free from sickness. May we have happiness and prosperity.
May you chant the Ratana Sutta that begins with “Yang kinci…” and the Bojjhanga Sutta each day and then meditate to make the mind peaceful. Contemplate the condition of the world, having change like this. In the Buddha’s time there was the spread of illnesses, but there was the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha there. In this present day there is the Dhamma of the Buddha, and if we practice Dhamma we will see the Buddha, as well.
May we be determined to make the mind strong and balanced, complete with dana and sila. This dana and sila will lead to the benefit of heaven. That is, the mind that is the deva, the heavenly being, which is one with hiri, a wise shame, and ottapa, a fear of the results of wrongdoing. When we have these two qualities, this will support the world to have happiness and peace, and people will be able to live in the world well. These two qualities are rare in this world. Those with hiri, wise shame, and ottapa, fear of wrongdoing, they will have a mind and heart of metta, will have self-sacrifice and sharing, and won’t dispute and clash with others.
With toilet paper, one can’t even boil it and eat it instead of rice, but people see it as a big deal. “I need to have it”; “I need to get it.” Then there are disputes to the extent of physical violence. If there is no food, and people are fighting over it, then that may be more of a bigger deal because one is hungry and in pain. But this fighting can arise over no toilet paper if people don’t have enough mindfulness and lack wisdom. Before, when there wasn’t any toilet paper we could still live. These days, however, people have become used to having convenient items and become accustomed to ease and convenience. Then we aren’t able to handle it if we don’t have these things. When we don’t have them, then there is disputes and fighting, there is anger and physical violence. We can see this happening in many countries.
So, we need to have mindfulness and to be cautious. We are Buddhists, and we homage the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, so may we be determined to have dana, sila, and bhavana. This dana, sila, and bhavana will give us the benefit of true happiness. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Can you give advice for my mother who feels depressed and is old?
Luang Por Anan: Can you visit her often? Is she far away? Try to visit her and speak about things that help her feel at ease, happy, fresh, and joyous. Speak of past events that uplift her mind. The important thing is to make your own mind and heart fresh and uplifted first through chanting and meditation, then visit your mother with this strength in your own mind. Then you will be able to help your mother. Make your own mind bright and radiant first.
2. Q: In the video, it says to chant the Ratana Sutta and Bojjhanga Paritta. When should we chant? Morning, or evening, or both? What state of mind should we be in? What should we contemplate as we chant?
Luang Por Anan: If one has time, one can chant in the morning and evening. If one does not have enough time, just chanting in the evening or just the morning is fine. Make the mind still and have mindfulness with the chanting. After one is done chanting, in the case of the Ratana Sutta, one can contemplate that the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are incomparable; they are the highest refuge; they are a jewel higher than all others in the human and heavenly worlds; there is no equal in all the universe or beyond. This is the basic meaning of the Ratana Sutta.
After the chanting the Bojjhanga Paritta, one can contemplate the 7 Bojjhangas: investigation of Dhammas, effort and energy, rapture, mindfulness, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity. If one is sick and contemplates these as Dhamma, diseases can be reduced or go away. If one has high samadhi or concentration, then even strong diseases can be alleviated.
Give the mind a refuge. This is very important. Then the mind can overcome distraction and wandering. When one has a refuge in this way, this is of great benefit to oneself and others.
3. Q: If one is in self-isolation with Covid-19, then what should one do to look after their mind?
Luang Por Anan: One must first understand if the individual has been on retreat or meditated before? Are they Buddhist? One can teach them to reflect on goodness that they have done before as a way to uplift the mind. They can also chant, such as chanting “Itipi so…” 108 times or more in a day; maybe one could chant a lot. This helps to not worry and proliferate. Think that, in 14 days, maybe one will find out that one is infected, but maybe one would die sooner than that. So use the time that one has left well—make the mind peaceful and bright as much as one is able.
4. Q: If 3 people had the virus—a child, and elderly person, and a middle aged woman, who should the oxygen machine be given to?
Luang Por Anan: This question a doctor should answer. The doctor would be the one to make this choice.
Elderly people can be strong—this depends on whose body is the strongest and who has the best chance of recovery. Italy has this problem now.
For the older person, one can reflect that maybe the doctor is giving one a chance to take an early rebirth. One can feel good that one is sacrificing to help others, maybe letting others use the medical machine to help others live on if it comes to this. I am old, myself, so I prepare myself in this way, also. One should prepare the mind in case this happens. Make the mind good, chant the Ratana Sutta, and make the mind bright.
5. Q: How does one make the mind confident and feel less fear?
Luang Por Anan: Have lots of mindfulness. Mindfulness gives strength to the mind which leads to confidence. Have concentration and effort; give rise to wisdom. This all brings about strength of mind.
6. Q: Who should one treat first—the person with the strong body or the person with virtue?
Luang Por Anan: In general, the doctor sees who is able to recover. The doctors want to help everyone. Maybe the hospital administrator, if they have virtue, would want to care for the one with virtue due to seeing the benefits that this has for others, as well; perhaps thinking that the person with virtue will be of more benefit. Dhamma protects those who practice. Maybe doctors feel that they want to help a virtuous person. Also, if a doctor receives an urgent case, then they must help that person right away—this is the decision of the hospital and caretakers.
7. Q: What is the difference between a Sutta Gatha and a Paritta?
Luang Por Anan: A Sutta or Gatha come from the Pali Canon, and a Paritta is derived from or is within the Suttas and Gathas.
May all be safe and free from sicknesses. May the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha look after you all.
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – March 6th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: We come together to discuss and learn Dhamma as usual. We discuss and chant Dhamma tonight as we do every time we gather, and we contemplate. These are methods to reflect on the Dhamma and the virtues of the Buddha. We do this regularly, we make this a habit, and, after contemplating, we make the mind peaceful and still. This discussing Dhamma is a highest blessing.
Learning and studying Dhamma is not just sitting in meditation—we can chant, like we did today, chanting the Ratana Sutta that the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught the Ratana Sutta out of compassion for the residents of Vesali, who were suffering from a plague. The Licchavis, who lived in Vesali, adorned themselves to receive the Buddha. When the Buddha reached the front of the gate of the city of Vesali, due to the power of the Buddha and the Buddha’s parami, a great miracle arose. There was a great rain which poured down, the type that flooded the whole city and washed away all the corpses and all the disgusting things away to the Ganges River. The Buddha told Venerable Ananda to learn the Ratana Sutta, which we still chant to this day, which begins with, ‘Yaŋ kinci vittaŋ idha và huraŋ và …’ The Buddha sat in meditation and spread metta, until it became bright. Then the Buddha took blessed water and sprinkled it around the entire city until it was also bright. The next day, Vesali City reverted back to its original state, and the people had their normal lives and happiness back. This all came about from the power of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
The Bojjhanga Paritta, which we also chanted today, comes from the 7 Bojjhangas, or 7 Factors of Awakening, which are part of the 37 Wings to Awakening that the Buddha taught. The 7 are: investigation of Dhammas, rapture, effort and energy, mindfulness, tranquillity, samadhi or concentration, and equanimity. The noble disciple Venerable Maha-Moggallana was sick, and, when the Buddha taught him the 7 Factors of Awakening, then Maha-Moggallana contemplated this teaching and had rapture and happiness arise. He then recovered from his illness. Maha-Moggallana already had Dhamma in his heart and was able to recover.
Perhaps we do not have strength to that level, ourselves, so, we practice patient endurance, or khanti. We might have pain and feel tired so we need patient endurance with unpleasantness as well as with greed, aversion, and delusion. We sit with pain and aches and practice patient endurance—this is one of the highest blessings in one’s life. Let us now study about khanti in the Dhamma video together.
Welcome to all of you with faith in Dhamma. Today we learn Dhamma from the Mangala Sutta, the Buddha’s teachings about the blessings of one’s life. As we know, it begins with: 1. Not associating with fools; 2. Associating with the wise; and 3. Homage those worthy of homage. These are the highest blessings. These initial qualities are important. They are the correct steps to take. If we associate with fools, then the fools lead us to meet with incorrect things. This is wrong view from the very beginning, and it doesn’t lead to self-improvement. So don’t associate with fools on the outside, and also do not associate with the fools on the inside, that is, the mind that is like a fool. We associate with the wise, that is, the ones who have true knowing, those wise people that advise us on what is good and bad. The wise are those who advise us to give up evil, to cultivate the good, and to purify the mind, following the teachings the Buddha gave on the day of the Ovada Patimokkha. When we associate with wise people like this and give them homage, then they will advise us with things that are blessings to us.
Today I will also talk about a deeper Dhamma subject, that is, the Dhammas that make one beautiful, which is also contained in these highest blessings. This is, khanti, patient endurance or forbearance, and soracca, gentleness and composure.
Khanti is patient endurance or forbearance. This patient endurance makes the mind strong and firm. If it is compared to a warrior, then they would have a strong mind in terms of fighting. We can see these days in our world there is no large scale war that has arisen, but we can understand the warrior that has a strong mind. Instead, these days, there is the white gowned warrior, that is the doctors, nurses, other health-care personnel that are fighting a war with the Covid-19 virus. This war is an important war. There are many doctors, nurses, and medical personnel of different countries, especially the ones in China, who have lost their lives in this war. But the ones left must fight and endure in order to save the lives of those who are sick. Even though they love their spouse, children, and parents, they need to have the endurance to fight patiently, and they may even have to sacrifice their own life. This is forbearance.
This forbearance has 3 characteristics. Firstly, forbearance by refraining and holding back. When one has anger, then one bears it patiently. When one has tiredness and fatigue, one bears it patiently. This is the forbearance in terms of body and speech. If you endure a lot, then austerity (tapa) and power (teja) arise. This is a firm strength that arises more than that of an ordinary type.
The higher forbearance than this is bearing with the rough and bad words of another—we can turn them around to become our friend. One is swore at, criticised and told off, one is struck and hit. Whatever it is we bear it patiently. If one is a subordinate, one is able to endure until the boss has thoughts of metta, kindness, towards us.
The forbearance that is more difficult is for those who have power. They are the leader or boss, and they have forbearance towards their subordinates. This is really hard to do. This is because they are able to use their power, so they need to have a higher forbearance than an ordinary type. It’s not the same as the forbearance of the subordinate towards the leader, as the subordinate needs to do it so they can survive. Those that have power and parami over others need to have forbearance. They may meet people who criticise and curse them, and it would be easy for them to use their power to even take their life, but they don’t do it.
The Lord Buddha was the foremost in forbearance. He had the supreme spiritual perfections. In the life that he was cultivating sila parami, the perfection of virtue, he was born as a naga-King named Bhuridatta. He lived in the naga realm with happiness and ease, but he couldn’t undertake the 8 moral precepts there. So he went to undertake them in the human realm. He was caught by a snake charmer and was forced to perform all sorts of tricks. He also received all sorts of torture. But, the Buddha patiently endured it because he was cultivating sila parami, and it was on the level of paramattha parami, the ultimate level where he would rather sacrifice his own life rather than not to refrain. He wouldn’t harm others in terms of actions and speech, and likely in terms of the mind he also wouldn’t wish any harm on others. This was the Buddha practicing forbearance. Who could have forbearance to the Buddha’s level? It was 1 of 10 lifetimes where the Buddha practiced to cultivate the highest parami, for the attaining of Buddhahood—all done for us. This is the great and boundless compassion of the Buddha that is unequalled. This is forbearance.
The other quality that makes one beautiful is soracca. This translates as being gentle and composed in body, speech and mind. One makes the mind radiant and joyous. The body is composed because when one has patiently endured, then one doesn’t show any abnormal, harmful gestures. Those that have been insulted and slighted by others, and felt hurt by others, they don’t retaliate. They still smile and have radiant features. Their face is not sullen and sour because anger has arisen. They can patiently endure it. They can compose their bodily features and their speech well. How ever much pain they receive, they don’t moan about the pain they are in. They have a high level of forbearance.
There was 1 senior venerable monk who was known to be well-practiced and attained. He had great pain because he had stage 4 Cancer. I paid respects to him and asked, “Luang Pu, how are you doing?” He said, “I am fine”. He said he was fine. And, not long after this, he passed away. His words, “I am fine,” for him it meant that he was fine in terms of the mind. But his body was just following conditions. His speech was normal and he had great forbearance.
There was another senior monk, who was my teacher, named Luang Pu Bunnaa. Even though he was in great pain, he opened his eyes, looked at me, and his eyes were sparkling. He had metta and asked me, “Anan, have you eaten yet?” He was patiently enduring his pain, and his heart was full of the quality of metta. This is really rare and this was a true disciple of the Buddha. He was a direct disciple of LP Kaao Analayo, Wat Tam Kong Pean, along with LP Fan, LP Gongmaa, LP Chob, and many other revered teachers. So this means that to train in Dhamma, this makes our mind radiant and pleasant. It makes our body composed and restrained. When one has pain and suffering, one isn’t overwhelmed by it. One has high patient endurance.
Like doctors, nurses and medical personnel, in the present situation who are treating the patients who have the Covid-19 virus. They have a high patience. They fulfill their responsibilities. And there are even those that have given up their life for this. I anumodana all the goodness they have done, all of them that have sacrificed their lives for others. May you train and develop in these 2 qualities, khanti and soracca. If we have these 2 qualities then this will be a blessing in our life, and it is the walkway to nibbana. It is a step for us towards the ending of suffering.
Even if we haven’t ended all suffering, we will still have beauty arising in the present. Beautiful actions, beautiful speech, and a beautiful mind. When we train in this way, samadhi, meditative concentration, will arise. If we train in samadhi, and we sit meditation and feel tired and in pain, we have an itch on our body, sometimes it is cold or hot, if we don’t bear it patiently, then we won’t be able to meditate. But, if we bear it and endure it, then that is productive and a blessing. We patiently endure against pain, cold, heat – we don’t waver in the face of sense impingements. We have khanti. The Buddha praised someone like this as one who can attain to the ultimate virtues.
There were many disciples of the Buddha who practiced developing their meditation close to a chedi high up on a mountain in Thailand where the weather was frosty and very cold. They were cold and numb all over their bodies. I have sat meditation and had some numbness, but just until the feet and legs. They had numbness all over the body. But, they reflected on the suffering of being born. How difficult it was. Or they reflected that, once they died, the body would be as cold as a hell realm and dissolve. These were their meditation reflections. They had the patient endurance to keep meditating. And, in the end, they were able to attain to nibbana. We can see that this patient endurance is the excellent virtue of an ascetic. We all want to be a Dhamma practitioner, one who is on the path to sotapanna, stream-entry. This is one who see the drawbacks in vatta samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death. If one practices like this, then one will go deeper and head to nibbana.
The next virtue is to be easy to teach and advise. Those who are hard to teach and advise are in danger. The Venerable Radha Brahmin was easy to teach and advise. He was praised by the Buddha as being foremost of those who were easy to teach and advise. He listened to the teachings of Ven. Sariputta and did not hold onto his conceit that he was older and was of high learning. He received all the teachings that he was given. Ultimately, he attained to becoming one with the highest wisdom, he attained to becoming an arahant. His virtue of being easy to teach and advise was a great blessing.
There are examples of those who were hard to teach and advise . The Yakkha Nanda saw Ven. Sariputta enter deep concentration and wanted to show his yakkha friends that he was going to give this samana, ascetic, a blow on the head. The friends said that this samana was of great power and great might, he was extraordinary. The friends tried to dissuade him 3 times, but Nanda the Yakkha wouldn’t listen. He gave Ven. Sariputta’s head a strong blow with a big club. Ven. Sariputta was in no danger, he just had a bit of pain on his head. As for the Yakkha Nanda, he dropped to Avicci hell. This is one who is hard to teach and advise. He didn’t listen to his friends’ good teaching. He had good friends and associated with wise people, but he did not listen. He just listened to the foolish person inside his heart, and so this blameworthy conduct arose.
We can see in our present day society that this virus is spreading in many countries. It is able to spread because there are people who are hard to teach and advise. Sometimes there are places that have a higher risk to catch this virus. One may have to go there out of necessity, out of duty, or one has to earn a living there to support one’s family. If one doesn’t go there, then one’s life will be difficult. But, sometimes one is enticed and tempted to go there by the cheap costs in that country. One can get cheap air tickets. The ones who do business in that place try to entice us. Ultimately, one can’t restrain oneself and goes to those places that have a higher spread of the virus.
Then, when those people come back, they try to hide from the government that they have gone to that country and that they could potentially be infected with the Covid-19 virus. Instead, they should tell others to be careful around them in case others could get infected. They must tell others to be careful. This is sila, correct speech, practicing according to the law, and this is having metta and karuna. If they do this, then this is good, and that means they are easy to teach and advise. However, those that are hard to teach and advise, when they come back to their country, they hide information, and this is breaking sila. This is wrong in terms of Dhamma, because they lack metta. They have no metta in their heart.
They are ones who are hard to teach and advise. Why do they do this? Because they are scared of being quarantined for 14 days and losing their freedom. But, before they went, they didn’t think about this. They just thought about having fun. This isn’t people that don’t have money making other people troubled, but it’s the people who have money who are deluded and associate with the fools in their hearts. This causes many others to become troubled.
Some people would say that although they usually wouldn’t have a chance to travel like that, and though they could go now, still they will just go to visit the local beach. This is good. Just make the heart good and have virtue and sila. This is merit already. There is no need to see other countries. Especially during this difficult time, there is no need to make society more chaotic. Those who make society more troubled are people who are hard to teach and advise. It destroys one’s own benefit, it harms one’s family, and many others become troubled. This comes about because of craving. They want to save money, and they want to holiday in this situation that we are in. This is worth considering and being careful of.
We must look after ourselves—for us, for our family, for others around us, for our society, and for our country. This gives only benefit. This is restraint and forbearance. No matter how cheap tickets are, we won’t go. We have to patiently endure this feeling of wanting to go.
Patient endurance, gentle composure in body, speech and mind, making the mind radiant, and listening to Dhamma at the appropriate occasions—these are blessings of one’s life and are part of the 38 highest blessings that the Buddha taught. So practice these, and, when the blessings arise within us, then our minds will receive the highest benefit. Others around us will receive the highest benefits, as well. If we have many people practicing like this in whatever country, then that place will prosper, because those people respect the laws, they listen, and they are easy to teach and advise. I anumodana with all those in Thailand and around the world that are easy to teach and advise, because this will give you inner happiness and give happiness to society and your family. May you all grow in Dhamma and in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: What are the qualities of vitaka [initial application], and vicara [sustained application]?
Luang Por Anan: Vitaka and vicara are not thinking—vitaka is taking the breath as the object of the mind; putting mindfulness with the breath. Vicara is knowing: how is the breath? Long or short? What quality is it? If we have vitaka and vicara, then piti, or rapture, can arise. Vitaka and vicara lead to more mindfulness, which leads to rapture. One can also look at vitaka and vicara when using the recollection of the Buddha as one’s meditation. One thinks of the purity of the Buddha, brings up the special quality of purity, which enters deep in the heart, that there was no kilesa, defilement, there, and thinking of this gives rise to rapture. This is not the same as thinking normally, like thinking here and there, one feels sad, small-hearted, depressed, and so on. The thinking I am speaking about here is thinking in terms of kammathana (basis of action; the meditation object), thinking on one object, which then gives rise to peace and stillness.
2. Q: Can one apply vitaka and vicara in daily life like in work or study?
Luang Por Anan: Vitaka and vicara like this are for making the mind peaceful, having rapture and samadhi, and being with one object. Vitaka and vicara with study would not make for rapture and peace, but would lead to learning and understanding—this is not the same as using them for samadhi.
3. Q: Speaking in terms of Right Speech as a Noble Eightfold Path factor, is it wrong to recommend to another person not to associate with another individual who is a bad influence?
Luang Por Anan: This speech is not meant to harm another but to protect another person. Bad speech is speech that harms others. The speech you mention is from metta, advice for a friend, and has a good intention. Wrong speech is when one speaks harshly, speaks in a way that brings no benefit, speaks so that another person loses out, or is speech that comes from a mind of anger and hatred.
This speech is from metta and has dana and sila in it, as well. For example, another person has a cough and other symptoms, but they are wearing no mask to protect themselves, they are sneezing, and so on. One could tell one’s friend to watch out for that person with flu symptoms; maybe they have the coronavirus. This would be right speech. Would you tell your friend?
4. Q: Does the virus have life? If we use alcohol to kill the virus, is this demerit?
Luang Por Anan: Demerit is heat—it makes the mind hot. Suffering arises due to past demerit. If one does not use alcohol then gets sick, is this demerit? Or if one makes others sick, is this demerit? If it was bad to wash your hands, would you still do it?
In terms of not killing it should be a being with breath. Bacteria and viruses are not to that level, they are too small to be in the five precepts. If the mind feels like “I must kill the viruses” and feels aversion, then this is bad, this is wanting to destroy. One should change one’s thinking to being about protecting oneself and others. Make it a wholesome intention. We wish ourselves to be strong, happy, and well.
5. Q: We should not associate with the inner and outer fools. Can you explain the inner fool more, please?
Luang Por Anan: The outer fool gives bad advice, has bad behavior of body, speech, and mind, and they lead us to bad actions of body, speech, and mind, as well. Thoughts in the mind that want to do bad are the inner fool. This is kilesa, or defilement—greed, aversion, and delusion in the heart which destroys goodness in us. One must have lots of mindfulness with the inner fool. We have the inner fool already, and the inner fool leads us to the outer fools. Then the outer fool makes our inner fool come out more. Be with wise individuals, who help our inner fool to become less and help us control the inner fool—this is sila Dhamma, the Dhamma of virtue.
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – February 28th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all. I hope you all are well. Today I wish to discuss an important and fundamental teaching—to do good, refrain from wrong, and purify the mind. On Magha Puja, the Lord Buddha gave this teaching; this occurs only once in a Buddha’s dispensation. The Buddha taught to not do bad, such as undertaking the five moral precepts. The Buddha taught to do good and to practice mental cultivation, to make the mind pure, such as through meditation. We make the determinations, like we have, to not steal, to help others, to be generous, to have self-sacrifice, to help those in need, and to give. In difficult times we help others through body, speech, and mind. This comes from lovingkindness. We have the jewel and refuge of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha—these most important refuges which are above all else, the best refuges of all refuges in the deva or human worlds.
When we have faith in this way, then we practice following the teachings of the Buddha, such as doing goodness. The Buddha taught to give and have self-sacrifice, so we practice even if we only have a little, then we give that. There is no need to wait until one is wealthy to give. This is up to our mindfulness and wisdom how much to help others. Even if we have little external wealth, then we can have faith as our wealth. Faith is an important wealth. If one has small external wealth but a strong faith in the heart, then one makes a gift, and before, during, and after, one feels faith and has a heart of goodness, then this gift becomes of great value and is a good act. This act would have more value than a large gift given with small faith and perhaps a desire for fame, as well. A smaller gift given with high faith is more valuable; it has a big value and merit. Today let us study together more on this topic in the Dhamma video.
Welcome and blessings to all the faithful here. Today we learn Dhamma as we usually do. Today I want to talk about the Dhamma topic of self-sacrifice and doing dana or generosity, and specifically about helping and sacrificing for fellow human-beings.
We know that in this present day there is the Covid-19 virus spreading. To combat the virus, this requires co-operation and sacrifice. Each person needs to be honest. People must disclose whether they are sick with the virus and to find treatment for it, in order to control the illness. There needs to be a lot of effort in order to maintain the lives of the general public. This giving is important. Giving honesty and sincerity. Those with wealth have a sense of self-sacrifice. Those that give will be loved by their friends. Giving is a Dhamma quality that helps people to have consideration for each other. When we have goodness, in terms of bodily actions, speech, and thoughts, then these three ways of acting are imbued with metta, loving kindness; we have a beautiful mind, and those that receive this will have happiness and be at ease. These givers are loved and favoured by others. We can see that the gifts of material things and objects that we give, or nice and pleasing speech become embedded in the hearts of those that receive it.
At this time, which is a critical time in terms of the spread of the virus Covid-19, we can look at how the American billionaire Bill Gates is reacting to this. We all know how rich Bill Gates is in the present day world. There was one occasion when someone asked Bill Gates,
“Is there anyone richer than you in this world?”
Bill Gates answered, “Yes. In this world, I am very rich. But there are people who are richer than me. Let me share with you a story.
“During the time when I was not rich or famous like these days, I was at the New York airport when I saw a newspaper vendor. I wanted to buy a newspaper but found that I didn’t have enough change to pay for it. I told him I didn’t have enough for the paper and if I could read it and return it to you? The vendor said, ‘I will give it to you for free.’ I accepted the newspaper and left.
“Coincidentally, 2-3 months later, I landed at the same airport and again I didn’t have enough change to buy a newspaper. The same vendor was still selling newspapers and again he offered to give me the newspaper for free. I refused and said that I cannot accept it because I don’t have enough change today. He said ‘You can take it, I am giving it to you for free. I am sharing this from my profit. I won’t be at a loss.’ So I took the newspaper like last time. 19 years later I became famous and known by people. Suddenly I remembered that vendor who had given me the newspaper for free twice. I began searching for him and after about 1 ½ months I found him. I went to meet him and asked the vendor, ‘Do you know me?’
“He said, ‘Yes, you are Bill Gates. I remember you.’
I asked him again if he remembered me,
The vendor said, ‘I remember you. I met you twice. I gave you two free newspapers.’
Then I said, ‘I would like to repay the help you gave me at those times. Whatever you want in your life, tell me, I shall fulfill it.’
The vendor said, ’I never thought that what I did back then would make you come back to repay me.’
“I asked, ‘Why?’”
He said, “’I helped you when I was a poor newspaper vendor. And you are trying to help me now that you are the richest man in the world. How can your help be the same as mine?’”
“That day I realized that the newspaper vendor is richer than me, because he didn’t wait to become rich to help someone.”
Human beings need to understand that the true rich people are the ones with a rich heart—more than the amount of money or gold one has, or even if one is one of the wealthiest in the world. A good heart is what makes one a beautiful person. They are the most beautiful people in the world. It’s not how beautiful one looks. Humans have to understand that the true wealth is not in having lots of money, but it’s the good heart that makes one wealthy. Having kindness and compassion is what makes someone rich. Having a good character and beautiful mannerisms is what makes one the most beautiful in the world. Regardless of how one looks.
A billionaire like Bill Gates doesn’t just become financially rich and does nothing to help with the Covid-19 virus. He helped to donate a lot of his money. He donated $10 million to help front-line medical teams in China and in Africa, including $5m towards an international co-operative to develop a treatment and vaccine. He also increased his donation to $100m to combat the spread of the coronavirus. So Bill Gates has donated $100m.
We can see that he is rich already, but he doesn’t just keep that wealth for himself. Money that is just kept doesn’t give one happiness. However, one who is smart will know how to use wealth for their benefit. During the time when the world is in trouble, one who uses that wealth to help, share, search, prevent, and find medicine to treat the illness, then that person is one who is considerate and has a truly rich heart. If a rich person keeps, saves, and doesn’t use their wealth, then their wealth doesn’t bring much benefit. And, at the end of one’s life, it is gone.
And Bill Gates, along with his wife, Melinda Gates, who run a foundation, have donated a great amount of money so that China can combat the outbreak of the virus. China’s leader, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to thank the US billionaire Bill Gates, the founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who is generous, kind, and supportive and who has donated to fight against the epidemic virus Covid-19 that has started from China.
President Xi Jinping wrote in the letter, saying “I am very grateful for the benevolence of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, and, in the letter, he expressed his concern and encouragement to the Chinese people at this important time. The Chinese leader wrote that he would mobilise all resources throughout the country and implement measures like never before in order to stop and alleviate the spread of the virus and to treat infected patients. These special measures are showing concrete results.
We can see how one person can know the suffering of another, of another country, and have a sacrificial heart. If there are people helping like this, then we will be able to fight the spread of the virus and develop a vaccine to prevent the virus Covid-19.
The people who have received help are very grateful. In times of difficulties and crisis, if one still has friends that extend their kindness and compassion to each other, then our world will still be worth living in. We will live in a world where there are still people that give and where the receivers show appreciation. They become friends with each other. When different people cooperate like this, then they will be able to overcome obstacles and difficulties, like the spreading of the Covid-19 virus.
In this age, there are people who still sacrifice like this. So, giving is very important.
When we have wealth, we can donate and sacrifice some to help others. If we just keep it, then we may cause ourselves problems. At this time, there is a lack of face-masks available in the marketplace, so people raise the prices to take advantage of the people who are suffering. Some people steal tissues. Some people are so scared that they even keep their face-masks in the safe. How did the world get to this point?
If everyone in the world shares and has sacrifice for one another, then we will be able to live well. We have to help each other. Help each other build goodness. Those that have, share with others. Those that don’t have, they refrain from stealing or taking from others who do have. Help one another to search, develop ideas, help others by sharing information, and help to look after one’s health—have self-sacrifice and sharing like this. Then we will be able to live in this world happily. When we are healthy and strong, then we have a good opportunity to practice Dhamma fully.
I wish to give you all blessings. May you all be safe. May all the Sangha be safe from all dangers and from all sicknesses. May you have good health and be free from the Covid-19 virus or any other diseases. By the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, may all dangers be overcome. May all sicknesses disappear,. May you be free from any dangers when travelling. May you have success in life, in work and duties, and in your Dhamma practice.
May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Sometimes it is difficult to develop true compassion or loving-kindness. I feel that I cannot connect with the person or the situation. How do I develop the Brahmaviharas, the divine abodes, better?
Luang Por Anan: In the beginning, think of oneself first. Make oneself happy, give metta to oneself, give oxygen to oneself first. This is not harming anyone. Repeat, “May I be free from suffering; May I be happy.” Understand how oneself and others want happiness just the same. If one feels good strength and energy, then think of loved ones like children, parents, or friends; don’t think of enemies yet as it can be too difficult to give them metta at that stage.
Q: But I feel that it is difficult to really feel what the other person feels.
Luang Por Anan: Give metta to oneself first. Think of the friends in your weekly Dhamma group who love each other, give each other good advice, practice together, and share Dhamma together—these are all examples of metta for one another.
2. Q: In the Buddha’s time, is there an example of a poor person with great faith who received great results from giving?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, there is. There was a very poor man, who had trouble even just getting one meal. He ate the leftovers at the monastery. But he had wisdom. His name was Dukkhata—even his name meant suffering, as his life was hard. At that time, people would invite the Sangha to eat at their home, whether 3, 5, or 10 monks at a time. Dukkhata thought that he ought to make merit and invite a monk to eat as his home for one meal even though he was so poor. He had great faith and invited a monk to eat at his home even before he had a plan of how he would obtain food to offer.
Dukkhata worked as a laborer for a wealthy man. One day, his employer noticed how Dukkhata was working extra hard—Dukkhata seemed so vigorous and happy, so the employer asked why this was. Dukkhata explained that it was because of the impending meal invitation, so the employer gave Dukkhata extra money that day. Dukkhata bought food, some rice and fish, to offer. However, on the day of the meal offering, the monk in charge of sending monks to houses forgot to send a monk to Dukkhata’s house. Dukkhata was very sad, and the organizing monk found out about his mistake. Then, the organizer said to him that there is just one monk left who had not been assigned to go eat at anyone’s house—the Lord Buddha himself. Dukkhata went to go pay his respects to the Buddha, who, at that time, was surrounded by the king and many others. Dukkhata invited Lord Buddha to the meal, and the Buddha gave his bowl to Dukkhata for him to take.
All the wealthy people in town wanted to make merit with the Buddha and wanted the invitation. They said to Dukkhata, “What are you going to give? Give us the Buddha’s bowl and we will give you [the equivalent of] $1 million….$5 million…$10 million…” and even the king offered $100 million. But Dukkhata said “No” to them all. He was filled with great joy and rapture carrying the Buddha’s bowl and planning to offer a meal to the Lord Buddha. He reflected that he was poor in his present life, with even a name that meant suffering, but he would not be poor in his future life. The king thought to himself, “What is Dukkhata going to offer?” He inspected Dukkhata’s house and found heavenly aromas coming from his house, such that not even the palace kitchen could compete. In the texts it says that given the great merits of the Buddha, Indra, king of the devas, and other devas came to help with the offering—they wanted to make merit, as well. Dukkhata was poor in terms of external wealth, but rich in faith.
3. Q: I suffer from depression. I take a medication.
Luang Por Anan: I recommend talking to the doctor who prescribed you the medication. Also, you can chant softly, in a relaxing way; chant in your heart. Make the mind relaxed and peaceful.
4. Q: When we share merits, we chant to share with ‘all virtuous leaders of the world’, but I cannot think of many leaders with virtue. Who are these virtuous leaders?
Luang Por Anan: This means people with better qualities than us—maybe they think better than we do, are high-minded, or it can be people who have done good and helped us or others. A high minded person could be poor and not famous, this is not necessarily a famous leader. Such as the Bodhisattvas, they could be in a position in society that is not high, not wealthy, but they have a high mind to help others with their goodness—they have parami and goodness.
In India the government discovered a lot of gold. In the Buddha’s time Anathapindika gave his wealth away then found wealth in the ground and became rich again. Bill and Melinda Gates did merit in past lives, and, in this life, they are doing merit again. They have met with success and have enough mindfulness and wisdom to keep doing merit and helping others. An example of people with goodness, such as we mention in the chant, are some people in Singapore that gave money to help fight the virus. Also, the president of Singapore gave part of his monthly wage to fight the virus and to pay more to health workers. This is a heart with quality and a high mind. We can recollect their goodness, and even if they are not in our country, we can spread them metta.
5. Q: How important is metta in our lives?
Luang Por Anan: If there is no metta, then people would not follow the five precepts. Then people would harm each other, and the situation would be crazy—people would hurt others and themselves, such as through lying, stealing, and so on. It would be all bad with more kilesas, more suffering, and more heat in the heart. Metta makes the world safe and okay—when one has metta, one does not want to harm others. We have the four requisites. If no one had metta, then no one would share, then would anyone want to give anything to us? Would monastics be able to live? This is an example. With no metta no one would give or help.