Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all the laity. This Friday, we talk about the determination to bhavana, to train the mind and look after the mind. Because the mind is the chief, the mind is the leader. In the present situation, we can see that to have a means of living for a human-being is hard, troublesome, and full of much suffering. There is a battle to fight against the taking over of the pandemic, which is an enemy that we can’t see. And this isn’t easy. It’s very difficult. So this infectious virus has spread all over the world. But though we may have the most suffering like this or the most fear towards this, when times of disaster come up like this, what should we do? The Lord Buddha said that if the time comes when we are suffering and troubled, without any refuge or support, recollect him, the Tathagatha. We think of the Buddha, we think of the Dhamma, we think of the Sangha as our highest recollection and true refuge. When we recollect like this, then our minds have a refuge. And if our minds lack a refuge, then it will get a lot worse, it will be a lot more chaotic. We will have more bad thoughts, more bad actions, more bad speech. But when we have the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha as our highest refuge, then it will be a foundation for our minds. The mind that had chaos and troubles, will have mindfulness come up, and there will be more firmness and stability in the mind. And this will help us overcome and get through this economic crisis and pandemic disaster. 

So this strength of mind is important. Although there are other things that are important, but strength of mind is very important. If we lack strength of mind, we are discouraged, and we have no refuge in the mind, then we are defeated from the very beginning. But if we have a refuge, then our minds will be strong and tough, and we can find a way out. And when the situation is like this, then it’s a good chance that we people who have the resources of wealth, the strength of mindfulness and wisdom, and the strength of body, can use this to build our merit and parami, spiritual perfections. So we can help each other out, we have metta, loving kindness for each other, we have compassion and help each other out. We do this according to our ability, not beyond our strength. The frontline workers, the medical professionals, doctors, nurses, are truly doing their duties fully. To the point that it’s too much for them to handle. But we can be another body of strength. So everyone tries to help out. Everyone helps by physically distancing, by protecting oneself against the infectious virus. Be established in sila, morality. By not gathering together and gambling, partying, going out at night. By now it should be less, or it has been cut off completely. Here, chatting and gathering together is a problem. Because if one person catches it , then lots of people will catch it. Here we have to be careful. When traveling somewhere or anywhere, we have to be extremely careful. We protect ourselves from catching the virus, or from us infecting other people. But however it is, as this situation has arisen already, then we need to help each other in order to overcome this situation so that it gets better. This has to be done with every person’s self-sacrifice. What sacrifice? Whatever strength we have, we use that to help in society. So that it is of benefit in order to reduce the number of sick people, or if they are in pain already, we can help them to lessen that pain. Whatever we can do, we help in that way.

I anumodana, rejoice, with the many laity who are considerate to help in this economic crisis and pandemic disaster that has arisen. 

During this period, at Wat Marp Jan monastery, we aren’t going for alms-round. Many monasteries are doing the same. If we go for alms-round then we may catch Covid. There are other monasteries where the abbot has caught Covid. Some monasteries still go alms round but they have caught Covid. Now that we have come to this urgent situation, it is necessary to stop going for alms-round, because we have many monks here, so we have to protect the safety of the monks in the monastery. So as to not be a burden on society as well. But after closing the monastery, there are the faithful lay disciples, in Thailand and from overseas, who have helped out and sent donations, so that the laity in the monastery can cook food to offer the monks everyday. Here, I, on behalf of all the Sangha, give our anumodana to those who have helped out in all aspects and who are considerate of us and have metta always to the monks and laity in Wat Marp Jan. So you have built goodness like this as your foundation. And the foundation of goodness comes from the sacrifices you have make like this. 

Then this progresses to become sila, morality. This then progresses to the qualities of mindfulness and wisdom. It progresses up to knowing and understanding deeply into Dhamma. So even though you don’t come here to the monastery, you send your strength of mind here. This counts as something excellent arising in your life, where you have built goodness and progressed your minds. 

The Buddha had built his parami until it was full in every aspect, in all ways. His parami was complete. And then he could attain to becoming the Rightly Self-Awakened Buddha. So donating dana are excellent supplies while we walk the long path towards Nibbana. When we are born in whatever life, then we will have everything, complete in all aspects, and in all things. So may you be determined. May you help out in this time of economic crisis and pandemic disaster through establishing your mindfulness by recollecting the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. May you set your minds directly and firmly on the Buddha, that “I have been born into this life, so may I recollect the Buddha as my highest refuge and my protection. Let it be my strength in my heart.”  So may all the laity, whether you live near or far, from Thailand or overseas, may you recollect the virtues of the Buddha as the object of your mind. This shortens to Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho. Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho. 

May this make us safe and protected and to be free from all dangers, to be healthy and complete in strength of body. May you be determined to build goodness like this. May you grow in blessings.

Today is an important day of the Buddha Sasana, the commemoration of the full moon of Asalha Puja. It has been 2599 years since the time of the Buddha, when the Buddha taught the Pancavaggiya, the 5 ascetics, with Ven. Anya Kodanya gaining the eye of the Dhamma. The Buddha taught in brief that “Whatever has the nature to arise, also has the nature to cease.” We all likely understand the significance of the day of Asalha Puja already.  

So here I would like to talk about the Jambudvīpa, the Indian Subcontinent first. In the olden days, more than 2500 years ago, Jambudvīpa, was called the land of the arising of Sasanas, many different religious sects which had been around for thousands of years. There were some groups of individuals who were weary. They saw no meaning in life, of the endless cycling around birth and death, indulging under the power of wealth. So they renounced and took up the homeless life, in order to seek for their own liberation. They had the hope that they could attain to something sublime, which was higher than the worldly happiness that they already had and experienced. So they trained themselves, by disassociating from the world for the whole of their lives. It was like an opposite way of living in the world. For example, they would practise austerities and tortured themselves through various methods, and then believing that they had attained the highest attainment. But that is not the path. 

As for the other group of individuals, they would search for the answer to be able to liberate themselves, by creating philosophies through contemplation and theories. Some groups would argue and debate about different issues, in order to gain more knowledge. They may have argued about whether the world was permanent, or if the world was impermanent. If the world was finite, or if the world was infinite. Questions like this. But there was no one who really knew. They were wasting their time, spending their physical and mental strength, with excessive thinking.

So here, it was the Lord Buddha who gained success and attained enlightenment on the 15th  day of the 6th lunar month. The Buddha had tried out all sorts of methods. He had practised the most extreme torturing of the body and did not gain success that way. The Buddha had passed lots of sense-pleasure, and that clearly wasn’t the path. The commonly accepted practice of that time of torturing oneself did not work, and so he came back to eat food, and attained to becoming a Buddha. He enjoyed the bliss of liberation for 49 days in 7 places. And the Buddha reviewed the enlightenment that he had experienced. He reviewed the Dhamma, that which has causes and conditions, and the way those causes and conditions cease. And the Buddha exclaimed about this peace and cessation, that it was far from the pleasure in form, sounds, tastes, odours, bodily sensations and mental objects, and that it was an excellent/sublime happiness. 

And when it was time, the Buddha had the metta, loving-kindness and compassion to travel to teach the pancavaggiya, in the Isipatana Deer Park. And the heart of that teaching he gave was separated into 2 aspects. The first is majjhimā patipada. The practice that was the middle way, or the Middle Path. The 2nd, is the 4 Noble Truths. The 4 fundamental truths of a Noble Being. Or the 4 Saccadhammas. And this is what makes the one who knows it to be a noble being. And the Majjhima Patipada, we should understand as the middle path, which is not indulging in the 2 sides. So not being deluded and lost in form, sounds, tastes, odours, bodily sensations, or indulging in the sense-pleasures. Letting the mind follow the current of the kilesas, the mental defilements. And letting oneself, one’s heart be defeated by them. This is being a slave of the world, a slave to the flesh and skin. This is being a slave to the defilements. And dedicating oneself in finding more germs of the defilements. Continually indulging oneself.  This is called Kamāsukhallikānuyoga . Indulging in sense pleasures. 

And the other side is the practice of torturing oneself, making it difficult and troublesome, wearing out the body and brain, tiring out the thoughts. This is called Attakilamatānuyoga

So the Buddha attained to the Middle Path. Practising the Middle Path, makes one know and see the Dhamma. It can be done easily if one’s parami, spiritual development is sufficient. And the fundamentals of walking the middle path is made up of 8 aspects. We call this the Noble Eightfold Path. There is Right View, Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Action, and occupation that is correct, which is Right Livelihood. The effort to try to give up evil, make merit, and to purify the mind, Right Mindfulness. That is recollecting constantly in the mind, trying to have mindfulness, for the purpose of knowing the truth. Making the mind concentrated, making the mind have wisdom, seeing correctly and rightly, according to the truth. We know the true nature of the Sankharas, conditioned phenomena. 

Like Ven. Anya Kodanya, who knew that the Sankharas, have arising and ceasing as normal. As the Buddha gave this teaching, Ven. Anya Kodanya saw the Dhamma. 

With regards to the 4 noble truths, everyone will meet dukkha, suffering. This is the condition in this human world that we have to meet with. Even though everyone wants happiness, it does not mean that we will get that happiness. There will still be suffering constantly. And it is because we have suffered a lot, which is why people want to have happiness. But they walk the wrong way. Yet we are able to understand that suffering has a cause, which is called samudaya. This is the cause and reason for suffering to arise. If we can know it, we know the suffering in time as it arises, then we can understand this condition/problem. We try to find for ourselves the original reason for why it arose. We may look for the real reason outside of us. That it was because of this cause or that cause that makes us suffer. But if we look inside, that what makes us suffer is upadana, clinging, which we have in our hearts. It makes our hearts a slave to ignorance, craving and clinging. And so we practise Dhamma. Like the Buddha found nirodha, the cessation of suffering. The state of which ends all conditions. It is freedom, release, and sublime. It is being free of the world, or being above the world, which we call lokuttara. This is not being dragged and pulled around by the string of desire/craving. The mind has only joy. It is Buddho, the knowing one, the awakened one, the joyous one. 

The Lord Buddha taught us to practise in magga. This is the path of practice, which is sila–morality, samadhi–concentration, panya–wisdom. And when they gather together then we will see the Dhamma. 

So the result of the Buddha teaching the Dhamma, was that Ven. Anya Kodanya, who was the head of the Pancavaggiya, knew and saw clearly into the truth, that we call the eye of Dhamma, or the Dhammacakksu. This is seeing the chain of causation, the dependent arising of phenomena. That is, “Whatever is of the nature to arise, is of the nature to cease.” If we organise it into stages, this seeing in the beginning is called being a sotapanna. The one who has entered the stream of Dhamma. So the Buddha exclaimed, “Aññāsi vata bho, koṇḍañño, aññāsi vata bho, koṇḍañño”! This translates to “Kodanya has indeed understood, Kodanya has indeed understood.” What did he understand? He understood the Dhamma, he saw the Dhamma, he saw the truth. 

And the Buddha had to build all his parami, and attained to becoming a Buddha for the purpose of teaching those who could be trained. And Ven. Anya Kodanya was the first disciple. He was the pathama savaka.

So Asalha Puja is important because it is the day that the Triple Gem was complete in the world. Because after Ven. Anya Kodanya had seen the Dhamma, he requested for ordination, and was ordained as the first monk in the Buddha Sasana. So the Buddha taught the Dhamma for the first time, and exclaimed the teachings for the first time. And there was a noble Sangha arising for the first time, which was Ven. Anya Kodanya, who was a noble monk. And it was the first ordination as well, because he had listened to Dhamma, saw the Dhamma, and so ordained. So the Buddha gained his first disciple, Ven. Anya Kodanya. And after that Ven. Vappa, Ven. Mahānāma, Ven. Bhaddiya, and Ven. Assaji saw the Dhamma. And in the end they all attained arahantship.

So we can see that on the day of Asalha Puja, we will build goodness, we build merit and parami, and recollect this important day. We may have traditions of chanting, doing group pujas, Dhamma practice, meditation, making merit, giving alms, keeping the moral precepts, candle circumambulation, and listening to Dhamma. This is the tradition and culture, which those with faith will practice like this.

So we have come today and we reflect that 2599 years have passed already. Ven. Anya Kodanya was the first to see the Dhamma. And after this, there were many individuals who saw Dhamma and attained to Dhamma. And we have faith in Venerable Ajahn Mun and Venerable Ajahn Chah, that they were arahants, fully enlightened. Venerable Ajahn Mun was the one who made the meditation lineage flourish, following the practices and observances of Ven Maha Kassapa Thera. There were the great teachers, which continued in an unbroken lineage till Venerable Ajahn Chah. And we have faith that he was an arahant. And to become an arahant, he practised following the Buddha’s teaching, that is sila–morality, samadhi–concentration, and panya–wisdom. 

So will we ourselves have a chance to know and see the Dhamma like this? All of us, everyone, has the knowing element. And we have the virtue and goodness to be able to be born as a human. We have a human brain that is fully-functioning. We are able to know and to see. The word fully-functioning here, like a body that is fully-functioning, means that we have faith and knowledge. It does not mean we need to have lots of worldly wisdom. We just need enough to walk the path of sila, samadhi, panya. We have the mindfulness to give up evil, to be a person who is established in sila. We give up evil, making merit, and purify the mind. We practise like this and ultimately one day the mind will gather together, and it will be amazing what we can see. We see emptiness. We see rupa, form. But there is emptiness in that form. Or in that emptiness, there is form in that as well. Why is that? Because they are not different. Form isn’t different from emptiness, emptiness is not different from form. Because that form is emptiness. When we separate the elements, we take the khandas, the 5 aggregates of body and mind, and we separate the form out from it. Whether it is the form of material objects and things, or the form of living beings, when we separate them out, they are emptiness. So the form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. They have become one. There isn’t anything. There is no me, no mine. When the knowing element progresses to know this, then we will see arising, persisting and ceasing. We see arising and ceasing. This is seeing the Dhamma.

And in this era, we are able to see the Dhamma without difficulty. That is, if we practise the right way, we practise correctly. We follow the path of the great teachers who had practiced following the teachings of the Buddha.

Sometimes disciples ask that when they are practising Dhamma, who should they believe? Should they believe the great teachers? Or how should they believe? 

Venerable Ajahn Chah answered, not to believe him. But to believe the teachings of the Buddha. However the Buddha taught, to practise that way. But if we think and contemplate about this, the great teachers had practised following the teachings of the Buddha to 100%. This is what made them be able to gain wisdom, the knowledge, attaining to be an arahant. To see arising and ceasing. To attain to the highest level. They were able to become Noble beings to the highest level. 

If we practise following them, then what will we get? If we are close to them,  then be close to them in the Dhamma. Then we will get good things from them. Even though our body may be far away physically, we are close to them in terms of the practice. And then we will see the Dhamma. 

Even though we live in this era, and are not able to meet the great teachers, if we take their teachings to practise with, then we will see the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha. 

So Ven. Ajahn Chah said, “Doesn’t Buddha arise in Thailand? Buddha, here, is the knowing in the mind, being a Savaka Buddha, a disciple of the Buddha. So may we be determined and sincere in the practice. May you all gain the eye of wisdom and see the Dhamma. May you have wisdom in the world to be able to look after your life and your family. May your livelihood be safe. May you be protected from sickness. And may the wisdom in the Dhamma arise in this life. So that it may look after your minds, so that our mind doesn’t run after the power of all the defilements. Come back to having Dhamma. May all of you have Dhamma arise in your hearts. May you be determined in your practice. May you grow in blessings.

Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all the laity. It has been 2599 years since the Buddha has expounded the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. And before giving this Sutta, Turning the Wheel of Dhamma, the Buddha had attained enlightenment on the 15th day of the 6th lunar month, 2599 years ago. The Lord Buddha was enlightened under the Maha Bodhi Tree, and then he enjoyed the bliss of liberation in 7 places, staying 7 days in each place, for a total of 49 days. While the Buddha was enjoying the bliss of liberation, he received the highest peacefulness. And so, the Buddha exclaimed that all phenomena (dhammas) have causes for them to arise, and that the Buddha understands all of those causes. The Buddha said that this peacefulness has great and profound value. The Buddha went over how he attained enlightenment, going back and forth through the Dhamma we call Paticca Samuppada, the dependent co-arising of phenomena. And after enjoying the bliss of liberation, the Buddha then travelled to teach the Pancavaggiya, five ascetics, in the Isipatana Deer Park. And there is a question of why if the Buddha could perform psychic miracles, he possessed special abilities and could have flown there, then why did he have to walk? Here we can see into the practice of the Buddha. He didn’t do things that were excessively supernatural. He just lived his life in a simple way, as normal, walking there. And this contains many meanings. There would be those who would see the Buddha and have faith arise. This could be devas, divine beings, as well. Or it would be a cause for something later in the future. Because seeing a samana, a renunciant, is the highest blessing. By just seeing the Buddha, they may raise their hands in anjali. They may just rejoice and feel joyous because they saw the Buddha’s bright and radiant features. So the people seeing the Buddha may have been joyous and smiled. And this is merit already.

So the Buddha walked and then he met Upaka, the Ajivaka, who was a naked ascetic. The ascetic Upaka asked the Buddha who was his teacher, whose teachings did he follow? The Buddha said that he was the teacher, that he had no teacher. He was a venerable Abhibhū. This meant that the Buddha fully knew for himself, that he was rightly self-awakened.

The ascetic Upaka saw the radiance, aura and the brightness of the Buddha, and he gained faith. He said that the Buddha was an anantajina, he was one who had conquered. And Upaka shook his head. To Indian people, the shaking of their heads means they acknowledge. Upaka accepted the Buddha’s enlightenment. And this was the important reason that the Buddha walked from Bodh Gaya to Varanasi city, in order to teach ascetic Upaka. Because later on in the future, Upaka would have noble virtue arise.

So after departing from the Buddha, Upaka went to a village and met a hunter. The hunter saw Upaka and gained faith in him. He invited Upaka into his house and offered food and a place to stay and the necessary requisites. Upaka stayed there at ease, practising his asceticism. But later he fell in love with the daughter of the hunter, named Cāpā, to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep. And the hunter asked Upaka whether he loved his daughter and if he wanted to come back to being a lay person? He gave Upaka a set of white clothing, and so Upaka disrobed from being an ascetic and married the daughter of the hunter, Lady Capa. And Upaka took up the occupation of carrying meat to sell at the market. When Upaka had a child, the wife would continually mock him, by telling their son that he was the son of someone who carried meat to sell. He had no occupation, was useless, had no skills, but he had wanted to marry and then worked like this in this position. Upaka was mocked and criticised, which is something normal in this world that we can see in society. There is always comparing and competition. That this person has little knowledge, that person has a lot of knowledge. Or even for children, students in the same class, that this kid is skilled, that kid is not skilled. This kid is smart, that kid is not smart. That one is diligent. There is comparing all the time. And if this comparing has attachment, then it becomes a kilesa, mental defilement. But if the comparing has mindfulness and wisdom, there is searching and contemplating, then it could lead to becoming a Rightly Self-Awakened Buddha. Like how the Buddha was comparing when he saw an old person, a sick person, a dead person, seeing it full of suffering. He thought that maybe there is that which does not age, does not sicken, does not die. So he searched and contemplated with mindfulness and wisdom. But mostly, people are comparing with conceit, and ego, and with a sense of self constantly. 

So Upaka had no occupation and his wife compared him with others saying that her husband had no knowledge. He could only do the work of using his physical strength to carry meat to sell. So she mocked him through talking to his son. But after receiving a lot of this, the ones with parami, they have shame come up. They have feelings which won’t let them endure it anymore. So here, Upaka had the thought of running away from his wife to go pay respects to the Buddha. But the wife mocked him even more than before. So in the end he really did run away and did meet the Buddha. The Buddha knew already that if Upaka had come to him then he would receive him. And the Buddha taught him and he attained to anagami, non-returner. 

So we can see that the Buddha travelled with the thought of whom he would meet, in what place, and what their future would be like. The Buddha knew clearly. He was a teacher of the devas and all humans. The Buddha was one who knew clearly into the 4 Noble Truths. And the Buddha had the intelligence to teach, satthadevamanussanam. He was a teacher of all the devas and humans. He knew how to teach them, at the appropriate time. Like where the Buddha travelled and met Upaka, and later would teach him to become an anagami.

So the Buddha consistently did not show psychic miracles, because if he did, then his disciples would see the Buddha doing that and would do it as well. And it would become that people would be attached to miracles and psychic abilities. And then they wouldn’t be interested in Dhamma. Because the Dhamma is more important. The Buddha taught that whether it is miracles, psychic abilities, or knowing the minds of others, it can help to spread the Buddha Sasana, but the important thing is the miracle of Dhamma. The miracle of the Dhamma is the teaching of the Dhamma, and having people understand and see that Dhamma. This is more important.  This is called Anusāsanīpāṭihāriya. This is important for spreading the teachings of the Buddha far and wide. If it were psychic miracles, then when that individual performing them dies, it ends there. But the Dhamma can last until this present day. 

So this is encompassed in the period that the Buddha travelled to Varanasi City with metta and compassion. We could imagine that if we had the highest happiness already, alone were already happy, what we would do. But the Buddha had to go through difficulties and hardships in walking, in teaching, in receiving arguments from other sects, all for the benefit and happiness of the multitudes of people. For the devas and all human beings. So this the Buddha’s virtue of great compassion, which is boundless and without equal. We can reflect on the sacrifice of the Buddha, where he traveled to teach the Pancavaggiya, and they evaded him by going to the Deer Park, and so the Buddha followed them. Where would there be another teacher that would have the patience, determination and sacrifice like this. And in the last stages of the Buddha’s life, he didn’t fly from Pataliputra town to Kusinara Town. The Buddha walked. Even though the Buddha’s body was very sick already, having dysentery and bloody diarrhea. But the Buddha had patience and high endurance. These are some examples. 

So tomorrow will be Asalha Puja, which is the 2599th year anniversary of when the Buddha first taught the Dhamma. So we are able to study the Dhamma, listen to Dhamma, and know of the Dhamma. And through learning and practising Dhamma, we can see the Dhamma in this present era. It isn’t just in the past. 

So we don’t need to doubt about the Buddha enjoying the bliss of liberation in each place for 7 days each. This is for one who has strived to build their parami already. Like we can look in this life, where there are athletes who run fast. Can we run as fast as them? Like sports in the Olympics, such as swimming or other competitive sports, not everyone can become the best in the world. Or maybe they can do it this year, but in a later year they won’t be able to do it again. There will be someone who beats them.  

Why is this? It is because of training in this life, or it’s from past causes in past lives. So the Buddha had built his parami and spiritual development an immense, immesurable amount. He gained knowledge and could enjoy the bliss of liberation, the highest happiness. And the Buddha had even built parami for an incalculable amount of lifetimes with past Buddhas. We should think that there are some things about the Buddha which are beyond our knowledge. We should learn about the Dhamma that the Buddha taught, about dukkha, suffering, samudaya, the cause, nirodha, cessation of suffering, and magga, the path. We should know how dukkha is like. That there is Dukkha because there is attachment, and it continues on because craving arises. So we know this and then we train ourselves to be better, to progress our minds each day. We use this good opportunity we have in this lifetime. 

So today we learn Dhamma together and this is the highest blessing of our life. May we be determined to develop our minds to the highest in this lifetime. May you all grow in blessings.