Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – November 29th, 2019Download pdf
L uang Por Anan: Our daily practice is important. We eat and drink daily, many times, to have life and support our bodies. We also breathe constantly—we cannot stop. So we require air, water, and food. In the same way, we need to practice to give peace and wisdom as food for the heart. Food for the heart is even more important than physical food. To practice one needs mindfulness, which leads to concentration and peacefulness. Use mindfulness with the in and out breathing. One has good and bad thoughts, wholesome and unwholesome, the mind thinks here and there—this is natural, just the nature of the mind. But have mindfulness and come back to the breath. One keeps doing this, and one can attain peacefulness. It gets better and better. One can realize momentary peacefulness, or momentary concentration, which we call ‘khanika samadhi’.
During the day, have mindfulness with the four postures of sitting, lying, walking, and standing. Do retreats sometimes. During the day we have our breath with us always as a support for the body. If one only just sits in the evening after a busy day, and one has had no mindfulness, then one would not have enough strength to practice to peace. One needs mindfulness all day long, just like eating. One needs determination and effort. One needs mindfulness in all activities to give strength to the mind and to give momentary concentration, and this can develop into more and more mindfulness and concentration.
If we do this all the time in a balanced way, then concentration increases, peacefulness increases, momentary concentration arises, then piti, rapture, and sukha, deep pleasure and happiness, arise in the heart. One will feel that the body and mind have changed. One can feel as if floating on a cloud, and one has inner happiness, which are a result of increased concentration. This is called ‘upacara samadhi’, or neighborhood concentration. This is close to peace and stillness, a real and true happiness. Then one has faith in practice based on direct experience. One will have motivation, strength, confidence, and energy to practice, and one will want to practice more, like diligently practicing in the mornings and evenings.
The mind has the strength and concentration to get more wisdom and insight. Know the in and out breath and see impermanence and uncertainty in the breath. Then see outer phenomena as uncertain and changing. One sees clearly bit by bit. One sees the body clearly like seeing the breath. Deeper knowing arises. When seeing like this, the mind and body separate. One sees clearly that the body is simply these four elements of earth (solidity), water (liquidity or cohesion), fire (heat), and air (movement, breath). One sees that the body is clearly impermanent, unsatisfying, and not one’s own. Wisdom and purity arise bit by bit. One knows clearly that rupa, or materiality, is the 4 elements, and nama, or non-material phenomena, like feelings of pleasure, pain, or neutral, don’t last long at all. The same goes for perception and memory, mental formation, and sense consciousness—they do not last. All this materiality and mentality arise and pass away.
Seeing impermanence and uncertainty clearly in this way, then one understands clearly and sees the Dhamma. This knowing and seeing the Dhamma starts at the beginning with having generosity, virtue, and lovingkindness. One has virtue and love for others and keeps the five precepts. And this metta, or lovingkindness, is important. Countries need to have metta to each other. People gather together and need lovingkindness—then peace arises. When one has metta to animals, the animals know this. With lovingkindness, one naturally does generosity and morality. Animals sense that metta is there and there are many cases of this. In this video we will see a chimpanzee who was close to death and could sense the metta coming to her. The mind peaceful from lovingkindness as a meditation object can then contemplate and see the Four Noble Truths.
Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all those with an interest to learn and practice Dhamma.
Today we will learn Dhamma on having metta, loving kindness, and karuna, compassion. Having metta and karuna is the aspiration for us to have happiness and to overcome suffering. All our wealth that we possess, may it not be parted from us. May we overcome all suffering. And we have metta and karuna to all beings in every direction. Whether in front, behind, above and below, we establish the mind to have unbounded metta. We have love like a pregnant mother has to her baby in her womb. We have the same metta to all living beings. Everyone likes metta and karuna. If the people we are around have minds of metta, they will have love and karuna to us, and then we will feel love and metta back to them. So in this world, if there is no metta and karuna, then there will simply be people causing harm to one another. Metta is the dhamma that protects the world so that we can live in the world with ease and happiness. We can look at the life of humans and animals, where there is this metta and karuna to one another, there is friendliness to each other, then this leaves an impression in the hearts of those individuals, whether they are a human being or an animal.
I want to talk about a chimpanzee that is a species of ape and native to the African continent. Chimpanzees have bodies and weight that are similar to us humans. They are the most intelligent animal, they learn quickly, and they are the species most closely related to humans. They are a social animal, depending on the pack like a family, and they have relatives. They follow the rules of their society. They have one sole male leader. In the daytime, they search for food on the ground, more than up in the trees. They live off fruits, young leaves, as well as small creatures such as insects. The chimpanzees have the same ability to produce basic tools to hunt for food, similar to prehistoric humans. Chimpanzees have 32 different sounds that they use as a language for communication. When they walk, they lean forward, their arms straight down and their wrists on the ground. They walk on 2 feet like humans with their hands down for balance, or they raise their hands up.
The Chimpanzees have a very good memory. Research conducted in Japan found that chimpanzees have better memories than human adults. They also have similar emotions as humans. Chimpanzees younger than 3 years of age will be exempt from punishment if they do anything wrong. But after they are 3 years old, they begin to enter into the rules of the pack. This is general information about the chimpanzees.
And there was one chimpanzee who had a very strong connection to humans. Her name was Mama. Mama lived to 59 years old. She lived in the Royal Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands. She was the oldest and most well respected in the pack of Chimpanzees. People became very familiar with this one chimpanzee. Later, when she knew that she was very sick and that she would die soon, she was in despair and lost hope. She refused to eat or drink any water, and did not want treatment at all. She was simply lying in her straw bed.
But, when her old friend discovered that Mama was sick, he came immediately to visit her. The friend’s name was Professor Jan Van Hooff, a Dutch biologist. He had met Mama for the first time in 1972 and since then had a long-term close relationship with Mama for 47 years. Upon hearing the news of Mama’s sickness, he rushed to go see Mama. He came to the Chimpanzee’s bedside.
At first Mama did not recognize the Professor. The man who was her companion, extended his arm out to hold her, and made her look at him. She then showed signs of recognising him. She cried out with utmost joy. Her face flared full of joy, and her indifference and sloth was replaced with enthusiasm. They both embraced each other and Jan gently caressed her with love, kindness, and compassion. Mama had great happiness that her old friend had returned to come to her again when she was about to die. They had known each other for 47 years since 1972.
We can see that they had a deep, special bond. This was able to bring enthusiasm and made Mama able to eat a little given by her friend. She was very happy and the two embraced each other. They spoke to each other in a special way that was the language of the heart. The current of the mind that was imbued with metta came out and passed through her eyes, which sparkled, and this current brought life back into her. The two spoke softly and her friend was able to take care of her for a few minutes. Then, Mama began to feel tired again. After they said their goodbyes, it was the last farewell that came from their hearts. Then Mama fell back on her bed and within a few minutes she passed away peacefully and with happiness.
So we can see that the mind that has metta is important in love and relationships. We can see this in the chimpanzee Mama. Chimpanzees have less intelligence than humans, but they are still very receptive to the metta and karuna from the current of the minds of others. This metta and karuna is something important that humans need to maintain in their hearts. This will make the mind feel fresh and joyful, and then people won’t harm one another.
The Buddha has said that there are 11 benefits for the one that has metta:
One sleeps in comfort. That is, they sleep well and deeply.
One wakes up in comfort. When they wake their body and mind are at ease; they have overcome their tiredness and don’t feel drowsy.
One has no nightmares. That is, they don’t dream of seeing bad things that gives them a shock in the middle of the night or causes them evil dreams.
One is loved by human beings in general. They are charming and wherever they go they don’t have enemies or those that have ill-will towards them. And even those that don’t like them will change to liking them.
One is loved by non-human beings. Even animals love those who have metta. They don’t bite or harm them, and they are safe from all sorts of dangers.
The devas protect and look after one. Going travelling, or wherever they go, the devas will look after them and keep them safe at all times. They won’t experience various dangers on land, water, or in the air.
Fire, swords, and poison cannot touch one. These things cannot be a danger to them and they are safe from them.
One’s mind can become concentrated quickly. The one who spreads metta regularly, if they meditate, their minds will become peaceful quickly. Or if they read books or do their work, their mind won’t be distracted. The mind will be quickly steadfast. And the work one does will gain success according to one’s wishes.
One’s facial features will be bright. That is, one who has a mind of metta regularly, their face and complexion will be charming, smooth, and will be noticeable to others. They will seem radiant at all times. Even if they are older, they may not be beautiful, and though they may have no make-up, their face is always bright and pleasant to look at.
One does not die in confusion. That is, when the time is close to death, they don’t lose their mental faculties, become mad or struggle, or fall into a distressed state. They die in peace as if they are falling asleep.
If one fails to attain arahantship, one will be reborn in the deva or Brahma realms. One who has metta regularly, even if they have not attained to Dhamma, they will be reborn as a deva or higher than that, a Brahma god. A Brahma god refers to the individual who has entered samadhi and gained jhana or the mental absorptions.
Those who wish to be loved and respected by others, who want peace and happiness in their heart, they should spread metta a lot. Please do this. And this will bring us and those around us peace and calm. The people that we spread metta to will have happiness, as well.
Whatever thoughts we have, this produces a current of the mind, or an energy that is sent out from our body, so that others can receive those thoughts. Because of this, some who have good samadhi or meditative concentration can read others’ thoughts. Or they can communicate through the currents of the mind.
Many researchers, like Professor Fukarai in Japan and De Lavar in England, have tried to take pictures of their thoughts and it showed that thoughts are projected out from us. So we need to be careful of our thoughts. If we think good and beneficial thoughts, others may receive those good thoughts and gain benefit from those thoughts.
If we think bad thoughts, others may have bad thoughts following from us as well. If there is someone who is angry and they want to argue with us, or harm us, we shouldn’t argue with them or want to harm them back. But we should establish the mind to be peaceful and spread metta to them. And if we have spread metta regularly, the person angry at us will receive some of the current of metta from us. And this makes our mind more peaceful. They may stop being angry at us, or stop wanting to harm us. And we should practice in the same way with dangerous animals. Don’t run away or show fear. Just be still and spread them metta. Then in a little while that animal will go away and will not harm us.
Spreading metta has positive effects on vegetation and trees as well. There was an experiment done by a group of students who experimented with spreading metta to a tree. They spread some vegetation into 2 plots of land. For the 1st plot they spread metta, and for the other plot of land they didn’t spread metta. Both plots of land were given the same amount of water, fertiliser and had the same weather conditions. But the result was that the tree that they spread metta to grew quickly and beautifully. But the other plot which was not spread metta developed at the normal rate. One difference was that the tree that was spread metta grew beautiful flowers, but the tree that was not spread any metta produced no flowers at all. And the trees also had a difference in height of 44.9%. So the spreading of metta is effective. It has great benefit towards us and to the environment in which we live.
Even our Buddha had cultivated metta meditation in many lifetimes. In the lifetime that he was born as Suvanna Sama the ascetic, he cared for his blind parents. Our Buddha had metta and karuna to all the animals, and those animals did not harm each other. This was the life that the Buddha cultivated metta as a supreme spiritual perfection.
So we as Dhamma practitioners , we bring up awareness, and we have mindfulness to know the in and out breath as our object of the mind. We make the mind peaceful and still. And then we contemplate into impermanence, seeing the arising , persisting and ceasing of all phenomena. We have the 4 Brahma viharas, the divine abidings of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity to look after the heart always. Our sila will be perfect. And ultimately we will develop wisdom. May we all establish the mind in goodness. May we have metta to our human friends and all living beings. May you grow in Dhamma and blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Instead of lovingkindness to mother earth and all animals and so on, would it be better to all engage in a plant based diet? With catastrophic climate change near, some scientists have said that the best one thing we can do is all have a plant based diet. Then every meal is metta for all beings and the world. What are your thoughts on this?
Luang Por Anan: With lovingkindness for the world and the four elements then the world will be balanced and just right. One can use one’s life to bring happiness to others. If one lives harmfully and selfishly, living with greed, aversion, and delusion, then this destroys the environment and the climate. Then the climate and the environment come back to harm us. Having no metta is a danger to us. We do what we can, even if it is just a little bit; then at the least we have a good feeling in our own mind. If you have contentment, simplicity, few needs, and can do with less, then this will harm less. For example, keeping the 5 or 8 precepts helps the world and helps to not harm others, oneself, or the world. People with sila can help the world a lot, can help lower the heat in the world and help the environment. Those with sila love nature and want contentment. To help reduce global warming then reduce the heat in the heart first and foremost.
2. Q: A mother has metta for her children. Her son, a novice monk, lives in a separate place. The mother goes to another temple. The novice does good and sends metta to his mother—will she receive that metta?
Luang Por Anan: It is possible for her to receive the metta if the mind stream is strong. Or the mother can recollect her son when she goes to the temple and the son can receive metta, as well. The novice can dedicate merit to his mother. Doing this, then both the mother and son can feel peaceful and happy. The mother and son are naturally connected. Keep practicing meditation and metta.
3. Q: I did a meditation course and felt sad after the teacher left at the end of the retreat. I was sad for 3-4 days. Why was I so sad?
Luang Por Anan: One feels peaceful during the retreat and can love the teacher like a parent. After the teacher leaves, then one will feel this way—being separated from that which is loved. This sadness is normal and happens sometimes. One must have mindfulness, just as the teacher taught to have mindfulness. First mindfulness is not strong and one feels sad, but reflect that the teachings are still with oneself—one can still practice and keep trying to have mindfulness.
4. Q: True metta leads to actions like the 5 precepts. What about dietary change as a practice and a challenge? I think of this as doing the action first before waiting to have enough metta to change.
Luang Por Anan: This is correct—we help the world and help global warming. For example, in metta practice, we think wholesome thoughts all the time. We can put food on the ground and think of giving it to the ants and other life forms; when we put water on the ground we can think of giving it to the plants; or we can do other actions that help global warming. This is metta being often in our thoughts, which is sila, or virtue, in the mind. This is training the mind. This can help the mind become peaceful and realize insight into change, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self. We practice on the inside and the outside.
5. Q: Did you have any special feelings attending a chedi ceremony?
Luang Por Anan: The Dhamma connects us all. The building of goodness connects us all. Like the chedi at Wat Marp Jan, the bottom is Thai style, the middle is Sri Lankan style, and the top is Chinese style. Whether in a monastery in Thailand or at a chedi in another country, we recollect the Buddha, whose virtues of great wisdom, purity, and compassion inspire purity in ourselves. Then we put relics in chedis with faith and recollection, which connects all of us up until the present day. If one has the physical buildings of Buddhism and faith, then individuals need to practice the Dhamma and gain true understanding of the teachings. This helps the Dhamma to prosper. These things need to be in harmony. Wherever we are we can help the dispensation of the Buddha.
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – November 15th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Last month was the month of the kathina. During this month, any monastery that had 5 or more monks staying there for the rains retreat can hold a kathina ceremony, for any monastery around the world. The Buddha’s dispensation grows and prospers today from the mindfulness and wisdom of the community of noble disciples who have purity of mind – the arahants. This inspires faith in the laity from the Buddha’s time until the time of King Asoka, on up until today. King Asoka had great faith and sent Buddhist missionaries around Asia.
Homage to the Worthy One, the Blessed One, the Rightly Self-awakened One
Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all those with an interest to learn and practice Dhamma.
Today we will learn Dhamma from the period after the Buddha had passed away into parinibbana. There was a King who was deeply interested in Dhamma and had great faith in the Buddha. This King was named Asoka, or Dharmasoka. He was the son of King Bindusara and Queen Subhadrangi. There were in total 11 princes and princesses. Asoka was the grandson of King Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty. Since the beginning, King Asoka had firm determination and he succeeded in gaining power over the country. In the process he had to fight against his relatives until he was victorious. Then he turned to come back and be devoted to Buddhism.
This was due to one novice named Nigrodha, who was actually the nephew of King Asoka. Novice Nigrodha was born from Prince Sumana (Sushima), his older brother from a different mother. After King Bindusara passed away, all the princes fought for the throne in the City of Pataliputra. At this time, Asoka was still the Governor in the City of Ujjain. He brought an army to take over the city of Pataliputra, and he was able to conquer and kill Prince Sumana and all of his step-brothers. At this time, Prince Sumana knew that he wouldn’t be saved, so he got his pregnant wife to flee. And she gave birth to a boy named Nigrodha, after the Banyan Tree. In the beginning, King Asoka believed in Brahmanism. He would offer many alms foods to a great number of Brahmin ascetics every day. He would change to offer to different sects in order to find the truth preached by that sect. King Asoka had wisdom to notice the different gestures of each of the Brahmin ascetics. He would notice if their actions were not composed, or whether they were properly clothed, loud, or naked ascetics, or even those who would eat like a dog. This caused King Asoka to try to find a more composed ascetic to receive his alms offerings.
One day, as King Asoka was standing at the window he saw a novice walking in a very composed and beautiful manner. According to the legends, this novice was the grandson of King Asoka the Great. But he didn’t know that it was his grandson as he had previously ordered the killing of all his step-brothers. But one of his sister in laws had survived, along with her son Nigrodha. King Asoka was captivated by the deportment of this novice, and so he invited the novice into the palace to receive alms food from the King. After the meal, the King invited the novice to receive alms food the next day, as well. The King then offered 8 sets of food to the novice, and the novice gave the 8 sets of food to his preceptor. King Asoka again offered food to the novice, and the novice gave it to his teachers and other fellow monks. In total there was 32 monks. After King Asoka saw that all these Buddhist monks were very composed and had peaceful behaviour, he gained faith in them. He was inspired to invite even more monks to come receive alms food each day. He kept increasing his alms offering until he was offering to many hundreds of monks each day.
Ultimately, King Asoka took refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. He built Ashokarama monastery and many other monasteries. He built the stone Asoka Pillars at the sacred sites of the Buddha, and this has enabled these sites to be re-discovered in the present day. His son and daughter ordained in the Buddha sasana and attained to becoming Arahants. As monastics, the Prince’s name was Venerable Mahinda Thera, and the Princess was named Sanghamitta Theri, which translates as the friend of the Sangha. Both of them were responsible for establishing Buddhism in the Island of Ceylon, known in the present day as Sri Lanka.
After King Asoka gained much faith in the Buddha, he had the foresight to send missionaries to propagate Buddhism abroad. He divided these missionaries into 9 missions. The 8th one was to spread Buddhism to Suvarnabhumi, With Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara as the missionaries. He was also the patron of the Third Buddhist Council held at Asokarama Monastery in Pataliputra. He was the great patron supporter of Buddhism. And a great king in the Indian subcontinent. He was a great supporter of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist traditions. He would also support all the other religions, even the Jain religion where he offered many caves to them so that they could conduct their rituals there. He built dams, helped transportation, built hospitals, planted trees, and built public facilities, all according to Buddhist principles. After, he was the first one to go to discover the four holy places of worship of the Buddha’s life. Each of these locations was discovered by Venerable Moggaliputta Tissa Thera, who was an arahant imbued with all the special knowledges. He had the ability to know the exact locations where the Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, first taught the Dhamma, and attained parinibbana.
Following this, an important event was that King Asoka built a chedi containing the relics of the Lord Buddha. This was celebrated for 7 years 7 months and 7 days. During this time, two monks went to invite Venerable Upagupta Thera, who would spend the rains-retreat at the bottom of the sea. His body was not large and inspiring but instead small and thin. King Asoka saw Ven. Upagupta and was not inspired. So he tested him by releasing a raging elephant that rushed at Ven. Upagupta. Ven. Upagupta used his psychic abilities to made the raging elephant frozen like stone. At this time King Asoka gained faith in Ven. Upagupta Thera. Ven. Upagupta Thera was put as the head of maintaining safety and protection during the chedi celebration that lasted for 7 years, 7 months, and 7 days, with King Asoka as the principal lay patron.
Ven. Upagupta Mahathera was able to overcome Mara and make him let go of his wrong view, changing it to right view and gaining faith in the Buddha sasana. And then Mara made the aspiration to become a Buddha in the future. And it is prophesied that he would succeed one day in becoming a Buddha.
During this time there was also another miracle. Ven. Upagupta Mahathera wished to see the physical body of the Buddha as it was back when the Buddha was still alive. He thus asked Mara to transform himself to have the physical form of the Buddha. Mara said that he could do so, but that Ven. Upagupta should absolutely not bow to him as it would be heavy karma. The Venerable agreed to this and Mara transformed his body as the Lord Buddha’s, along with all the chief disciples, Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Maha Moggallana. Ven. Upagupta Maha Thera saw the Lord Buddha with all the aura colours emanating around the Buddha, the Buddha with all the features of a Great Being, with the Chief Disciples, and surrounded by many other great disciples. With all this great splendour, Ven. Upagupta forgot that he would not pay homage and bow to the Buddha. He bowed and worshipped to the form who was actually Mara. Mara was shocked and restored his original form and then rebuked him for making very bad karma. But the Venerable One said that Mara had no need to be worried, as it was natural for everyone to bow and pay homage to the Buddha. Mara did no evil, but instead it was his great merit. After this Mara went back to his abode in the 6th level of the heavenly realm. Mara had faith in the Buddha sasana until the end. He had no more jealousy and would build parami to gain Buddhahood in the future.
Ven. Upagupta is staying to maintain Buddhism for the span of 5000 years. He uses his psychic powers to maintain his lifespan for this period of time. He stays in a crystal dwelling at the bottom of the sea. He will come up to receive alms at midnight on the Wednesdays of the 15th day of the lunar calendar. This is where the tradition of giving alms to Ven. Upagupta comes from. So let us recollect Ven. Upagupta who will protect us from dangers and disaster with his psychic abilities and his parami.
We can see that for Buddhism to come to where it is today, it relies on people with faith such as the great King Asoka, who had enormous faith in Buddhism. He thought for the future generations and so sent many groups of missionaries abroad. This was spread to Sri Lanka through the sending of Ven. Mahinda Thera and Ven. Sanghamitta Theri. And after Sri Lanka, it was spread to Thailand, Suvarnabhumi, through sending Venerable Sona and Ven. Uttara.
The previous generations had foresight and the Venerables then had the self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. They did not tire or think of it as difficult. We can express our gratitude and respect for the virtues, sacrifice and wisdom of the great King Asoka, and we can pay homage to the Arahant disciples who spread Buddhism in many directions, including coming to Sri Lanka and Thailand.
When we recollect in this way, we can see that it hasn’t been easy for Buddhism to come to Thailand and spread around the world. May you all be determined to cultivate the mind and practice Dhamma. When we have this good opportunity and we have the faith, then we should be sincere to practice and train the mind to watch the in and out breath. Train the mind to become calm. Chant itipiso many repetitions a day, 9 repetitions or 18, or even 108 repetitions. Do this so that the mind becomes peaceful. Because the mind that is peaceful, that has mindfulness and samadhi well established, will understand the Dhamma. Or we can contemplate Dhamma, whichever verse that makes the mind peaceful. Then we can see the sacca Dhamma, the truth of reality, that there is changing of compounded things. All things are in this breath of ours. When we have the breath, we have everything. When the breath stops then everything ends with it, as well. The decay and ending of all things comes from this decay and ending of the in and out breath first. So when we travel, we sit, stand, walk and lie down, we have the breath there with us, and these breaths we have left are getting less and less in each passing moment. So may we establish ourselves in not being heedless.
May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: What are the benefits of paying homage to Ven. Upagupta Mahathera?
Luang Por Anan: Ven. Upagupta Mahathera is an arahant, a perfectly awakened being. Recollecting him is Sanghanusati, the recollection of noble disciples, which is an important recollection. Just like we do in the daily chanting, we recollect that the Sangha are worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, well-practiced, who have practiced directly, insightfully, and with integrity. This makes the mind peaceful, one gains samadhi, then one can gain wisdom. One can pay homage to Ven. Upagupta Mahathera for good fortune, luck, and perfection in virtues. I visited Luang Pu Pitsadu, who was a bodhisattva monk in Chanthaburi, and he said the Ven. Upagupta Mahathera would visit his monastery often. He said Ven. Upagupta Mahathera has metta all the time, and that paying homage to Ven. Upagupta Mahathera would result in development and prosperity in the world and in the Dhamma.
2. Q: How do we recollect and pay homage to Ven. Upagupta Mahathera?
Luang Por Anan: Chant his mantra. Recollect him and his lovingkindness for us. Luang Pu Pitsadu recommended this. The mantra is, in pali: Upagutto upaguttang piya mama
3. Q: What is the difference between the Mara in the story and the Mara that disturbs our mind?
Luang Por Anan: The Mara in the mind is called kilesa Mara, or the Mara of mental obstruction. Mara means obstructor or destroyer. Kilesa Mara in the mind destroys and obstructs goodness. The Mara in the story is a deva of great power and parami in the 6 level of the deva realms. Kilesa Mara in the mind is like not wanting to chant, not wanting to wake up to chant, worry and greed that make one not want to be generous, and feelings of not wanting to follow morality, for instance.
4. Q: If one lies with a good intention to protect someone, is this bad karma?
Luang Por Anan: Look at one’s intention first and foremost – is the intention good or not? If the intention is metta and karuna, lovingkindness and compassion, then this is not bad karma. Intention is the most important. If one really wants to help then this is not against morality. If one tries to cheat, hurt, do no benefit, or has greed, aversion, and delusion, then this is breaking morality.
5. Q: King Asoka was a warrior who killed many people, then he did great acts of merit. What happened to him later in life and after he died?
Luang Por Anan: In a past life, King Asoka was a sibling of Ven. Nigrodha. They built parami together. In another life, King Asoka was a merchant and offered honey to a Buddha. Before King Asoka died, he still had faith to do generosity and support the Buddha’s dispensation. But, later on, his ministers did not let him do more generous acts, even though King Asoka wanted to. This made King Asoka sad, angry, and deluded when he died. So he was reborn as a python. His son, Ven. Mahinda Thera, found his former father using his psychic powers and taught the python to be moral and not eat other animals. After the python died the former King Asoka was reborn as a deva.
So we can see the Buddha’s dispensation spread since the Buddha’s time, with Ven. Assaji inspiring Ven. Sariputta, who, at that time, was not in the Buddha’s teaching. Luang Pu Chah taught his disciples to be composed and do things beautifully. Luang Pu Chah taught that this is spreading the Buddha’s teachings.
6. Q: Should one just keep repeating the Ven. Upagupta Mahathera mantra?
Luang Por Anan: Yes, just keep repeating it. Ven. Upagupta Mahathera built parami a lot. The Buddha foretold that in the future, during the reign of a great Dhamma king, there would be someone who would change Mara and convert him. Ven. Upagupta Mahathera put a necklace of a corpse around Mara’s neck. Then Mara went to many devas to try to get it removed, but no one could help, not even Sakka, king of the realm of the 33 gods. This lowered the ego and conceit of Mara. Mara tried to become big, but Ven. Upagupta Mahathera became bigger, Mara became a naga, and Ven. Upagupta Mahathera became a bigger naga. Ven. Upagupta Mahathera was always bigger and better. Mara asked him, “Even the Buddha did not torture me so much, so why do you?” Then Mara accepted the compassion of the Buddha. After 7 years, 7 months, and 7 days, Mara was released from the corpse around his neck. Mara recollected the qualities of the Buddha at this time and developed the desire to realize Buddhahood himself.
So may you have strength, may you meditate a lot and do generosity, morality, and concentration. When you have bodily and mental strength, do a lot of practice, because one does not know when one will get sick, which can be an obstacle to building goodness.
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – October 18th, 2019Download pdf
L uang Por Anan: Now we are nearing the Kathina season. The laity make merit and offer Kathina cloth, following the Buddha’s allowance for this one month period. This allowance was given due to the effort and diligence of monks wandering and practicing strictly. MahaKassapa Thera was foremost in ascetic practices amongst the Buddha’s disciples. MahaKassapa built a huge amount of parami, so that in his last life he was very wealthy. He had a wife but renounced the world to search for freedom from suffering, instead. He met the Lord Buddha, followed the teachings, and was able to realize freedom from suffering. MahaKassapa followed the ascetic practices strictly like living in the forest and wearing discarded cloth.
For the history of the Kathina, this occurred due to 30 monks holding to ascetic practices and wanting to come listen to the Buddha. Let us now learn about this story.
Homage to the Worthy One, the Blessed One, the Rightly Self-awakened One
Welcome to all the monks, novices, and laity here who are interested in Dhamma practice.
After the Pavarana Invitation Ceremony, which marks the end of the rains-retreat, is completed, the next 1 month period that follows is the Kathina season. The end of the Kathina season falls on the 15th day of the 12th lunar month. Let us all learn about the history of the Kathina ceremony. I will be giving teachings on building parami, the spiritual perfections of our Lord Buddha Gotama.
During the Dispensation of Kassapa Buddha, Gotama Buddha was a Bodhisatta who was born poor and destitute. He lived in the city of Varanasi and was named Tina Bala. He lived as a worker of a very wealthy person who possessed great wealth amounting up to 80 crores. Tina Bala worked looking after the fields of this wealthy man. His duty was to cut the grass of the fields in exchange for food and shelter. He thought to himself that since he is very poor, he must not have made enough merit in his past lives. He was in a low status where he served another person, he had no friends, and he was born not having even the slightest wealth. With these thought in mind, he split the food he received from the wealthy man into two portions. He offered the first portion to the monks during their alms round, whereas the second portion he consumed for himself. We can see that in whatever life the Buddha was born, even in the midst of hardships and difficulties, he was still able to build parami through his mindfulness and wisdom, as well as his faith in the Buddha Sasana. With thoughts of generosity, he made merit by regularly offering alms to the monks.
From the merit and goodness he had built, this made the wealthy man feel sorry for the poor man and the wealthy man increased the amount of food he gave to him by double. Tina Bala then split his food into 3 portions. The first portion he offered to the monks, the 2nd portion he gave out as charity to poor people, and the 3rd portion he consumed himself. He continued doing this practice for a long time. Even though he was poor and destitute, he had the nature of a Bodhisatta and had the mindfulness and wisdom to make merit. He could even sacrifice his portion of food to give out to charity to help those in need. After the end of the rains retreat, the faithful devotees were prepared to make merit and offerings for the large meritorious ceremony, the Kathina. Even the wealthy man was getting ready to offer the Kathina, and so he announced to the public that he, the wealthy man, Siridhamma was making merit by offering the Kathina. When the Bodhisatta Tina Bala heard this, he gained faith in his heart as the Kathina is an excellent dana.
With this, he went to ask the wealthy man, “What is the benefit of offering the Kathina?” The wealthy man answered that offering the Kathina had many benefits. Among them, the Buddha said that offering the Kathina is an excellent dana. When Tina Bala heard this he had great rapture and his heart was full of joy. He said to the wealthy man that he had the desire to rejoice in this offering and wanted to give dana and make merit on this occasion as well.
“When is the Kathina ceremony?” he asked. The wealthy man answered, “We will begin the ceremony 7 days from now.” When Tina Bala heard this he was very happy. He had faith and a strong wish to participate in doing dana for this Kathina. However, when he looked in front, behind, to the left and right, he couldn’t find anything he could give. His heart was already moved to such an extent that he really wanted to do it but he couldn’t find any money to give because he was so poor. He had no money or possessions to give along with the wealthy man’s offering. The only thing he had is the one cloth he was wearing.
In the end, he decided to wash this cloth clean. Then he sewed clothing out of leaves instead of his own cloth. He went to sell his cloth in the market. He went there wearing his clothing made out of leaves. The people laughed at him when they saw him like this. But Tina Bala said, “All of you should stop laughing. Though it is true that I am poor, and I have no clothes to wear, it is only in this life that I will wear these leaves. In the next life I will be wearing divine clothing.” He had strong faith in merit and goodness, in giving and generosity. In the end, he was able to sell his cloth for 5 masaka, equivalent to about 1 Thai Baht. With this money, he joined the Kathina ceremony offerings with the wealthy man. It so happened that the Kathina offerings of the wealthy person were complete except that it lacked thread to sew the triple robes. The wealthy man used the money Tina Bala gave to purchase thread to sew the robes. This was the great merit and goodness that the Bodhisattva had built.
The story was spread all the way to the devas in the heavens. They were all praising the sacrifice of Tina Bala’s offering. And this rejoicing was even heard in the palace of the King of Varanasi. When the King heard this, he asked for Tina Bala to have an audience with him in the palace. However, Tina Bala refused to come because he was ashamed that he had no clothes. The King kept asking his retinue about Tina Bala and had one of the princes bring Tina Bala clothing worth 100,000 coins. After that, he was given much royal wealth, including elephants, horse, cattle, and he was given the status of a wealthy person in Varanasi. After this, he was named the wealthy man Tina Bala. After living through a meaningful life, he passed away and was born in Tavatimsa heaven as a deva. The rich person Siridhamma was also born as a deva. This was the story of the Bodhisattva Tina Bala in the era of the Buddha Kassapa. This was how our Buddha had made a Kathina offering.
And. Now, coming to the current era of our Buddha. During the Buddha Gotama’s time, there were 30 monks from the village of Patha who had attainments from Sotapanna to Anagami. They had the desire to listen to the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha, so they travelled to Savatthi where the Buddha resided. But when it came time to start the rains-retreat, they could not make it to Savatthi and were forced to spend the rains-retreat in Saketa.
When the rains-retreat was completed, they quickly continued to travel to Savatthi to see the Buddha. It was still raining and the roads were still muddy and wet. When they arrived to see the Buddha in Jetavana monastery, their robes were wet and worn and they were tired from the journey. The Buddha asked them whether they had been living in peace, free from disputes and in harmony? Was alms difficult? The monks replied that they had been living in peace, free from disputes, in harmony, they had sufficient support, and alms was not difficult.
The Buddha noticed that the monks of Patha had old and tattered robes, and that they had quickly gone on a journey to see the Buddha. Then, the Buddha gave the special allowance for those monks who spent the 3 months rains-retreat living in peace and harmony with no disputes in a monastery which had 5 monks or more to receive Kathina cloth. And this is the history of the Kathina.
And on the benefits of the Kathina offering, the one who gathers in the offering receives the full benefits. The laity who help with the work and volunteering of the Kathina also receive the full benefit of the offering of the Kathina cloth. So it is not that we only give cloth, we also help with the work and duties of the Kathina ceremony. Then the monks will take this cloth to cut, sew, and dye to complete a robe before dawn the next day. And we anumodana and rejoice at the offering. Then we receive all the merit and goodness.
This is the history of Kathina and the story of how our Buddha made excellent parami by taking leaves to sew them together to use as his clothing instead of his old cloth. This came from his mindfulness, wisdom, and strong faith. It led him to become a wealthy man in that lifetime. This is the building of the Buddha’s parami in the past. So may we reflect on this.
But in our own situation, may we act according to the strength that we presently possess. When we do a Kathina offering, do not do it in a way that imposes on oneself or imposes on others. Imposing here means doing it in a way that gives a bad feeling, an uneasy feeling. That is imposing. As for the Buddha he had already made a lot of parami, so when he gave up his own clothing, he was not imposing on himself, as his heart was full of rapture and joy. This was so before the action, during the action, and after the action. But we are not to that level, so do it just the right amount. Don’t impose on oneself. Don’t take the wealth of others to make offerings. Do it with a heart of purity. Our wealth that is pure will have great benefit. May you grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Why was the Bodhisattva, who had built such great parami, poor in the lifetime in the story?
Luang Por Anan: Bodhisattvas are not just born in good situations. They get born in lower realms of suffering a lot, too. Old karma, the results of past actions, must follow them. In some lives, they will have everything, in others, they will be lacking. But in whatever life, they will have wisdom.
2. Q: How do we build parami in order to have wisdom in every life?
Luang Por Anan: To build wisdom, we must study—listen, read, associate with wise people, reflect and review what we have learned, then try to understand deeply, broadly, and comprehensively what we have learned. This will lead to wisdom in wordly things and in Dhamma.
3. Q: How do we respond to others who impose their values on us? Especially values that we do not agree with.
Luang Por Anan: The person imposing values – do they have more power or seniority than you?
Q: They are more like a peer. Though they may think that they are above me.
Luang Por Anan: Hold firmly on to goodness and virtue. If it is against sila then do not follow it.
4. Q: When doing my retreat, I think if I do good in the present, then the future has to be good. Like I can control the future. Is this true?
Luang Por Anan: Causes done in the past create the present, and causes done in the present lead to the future. One cannot change the past. Make the present good in order to have good results in the future.
5. Q: When we dedicate merit, and dedicate to one person, will dedicating to just one person lead to desire with regard to that one person?
Luang Por Anan: For the second question, we spread merit with metta and compassion. We wish for the recipient to have happiness and overcome suffering. This is a wholesome intention, a meritorious intention. This is not craving—we don’t crave for others to be free from suffering, but we think with lovingkindness, a wholesome intention.
6. Q: Why do people do evil deeds knowingly?
Luang Por Anan: This is because people do not really know what evil is and what results evil deeds will bring about. They fall under the power of mental obscurations, kilesas, and act accordingly. Their mind is dark and they do not fully understand what they are doing. If people knew they would not do evil deeds.
6. Q: People know that ageing, illness, and death are normal. But why is it that when these things happen, people cannot accept these things and they suffer? How does one overcome this?
Luang Por Anan: One knows that ageing, illness, and death are there. One sees these things happen and understands to a degree. But one does not understand deeply. One does not cut off underlying wrong views or address underlying attachments. There is still clinging, therefore, suffering arises. There is not enough wisdom. When we study Dhamma, read, listen, think, and then meditate, we make the mind peaceful. We slowly study more and understand more deeply. Wisdom arises more and more. Then we can cut off suffering and reduce suffering according to the wisdom that we have cultivated.
We can take the story of Venerable Sariputta’s nephew. He was looking for a place where no one had ever died. He encountered the Lord Buddha. The Buddha said that the nephew had died in that area many times already. The nephew said that whatever he liked, he wanted. Whatever he did not like, he did not want. The Buddha said that this was a wrong view. The Buddha asked, “Do you like ageing, illness, and death?” “No”, he answered. “Will you have to receive these things?” “Yes”, he answered. So the nephew gained wisdom and saw Dhamma through this exchange. For ourselves, monks and laity, we may know about ageing, illness, and death, but we do not yet have the wisdom to understand these things.
There was a poor person who asked the Buddha why was the poor man so poor. The Buddha asked him about his present life—did this poor man know about giving and generosity, did he know how to give? The Buddha said that he had a face and so could smile, he could have metta, could speak well to others, and these were all merit. He had a body, so he could help others with metta and compassion. These are all ways one can make merit and do goodness.
The Buddha taught that true poverty is a heart that is not making goodness. One may be poor on the outside but still be doing good in one’s heart.