Dhamma Video Conference Talk with Ajahn Anan – January 8th, 2021
One can listen to this talk here.
L uang Por Anan:
Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all the laity. This Friday we will study the Dharma on the subject of metta, loving kindness, and karuna, compassion, continuing from the last session, when I talked mainly about metta. So this time I will talk about compassion. What is compassion like?
The virtue of great compassion of the Lord Buddha is vast, boundless, and incomparable. Wise people have given a simile, that if we praise the great virtues of the Lord Buddha, it’s like a little bird that chirps into the infinite universe. This is because the virtue of great compassion of the Lord Buddha is incomparable.
Let’s talk about compassion in terms of the compassion that we cultivate as a meditation, or the compassion in the 4 Brahmaviharas, the sublime abidings. When we want to practice or meditate by developing compassion, then this is the mind that thinks to help free others from suffering. We have to remove all the worries from our hearts and then we contemplate the dangers of harming each other. Harming the lives of other animals or humans, harming through actions of body, speech and mind. We have to be able to see the real dangers in it. And we look to see that causing harm to others is something that harms our own minds to be always troubled. Having thoughts of harm and ill-will will lead our own minds to also be troubled along with it. It will create bad karma for us, as well. Let us see the value, see the benefits of our mind having karuna. When we see the dangers and see the benefits, we see the advantages clearly, and then we determine to practice it. We develop the meditation on the sublime abiding of compassion. We can see clearly that compassion is vastly different from harming, just like the sky and the earth.
Some people in this world have a habit of torturing and exploiting the lives of animals with their own hands by throwing stones, by beating with sticks, harming with weapons, or by other means. This is harming the lives of animals by seeing the animal’s life as being our food. This is a lot of bad karma. Some of them may be cruel, even taking turtles. Taking it to boil so that it can be consumed. This is a very serious karma. But when one doesn’t see the results of the kamma, one has not received the results of those actions, then one will do this kamma and will torture and harm animals like this until one’s mind is dark and blinded, with no siladhamma, morality.
Sometimes there is micchaditthi, wrong view, and the dark and blinded mind does not believe in the consequences of karma at all. But when the karma gives results, then it will inevitably have serious consequences. There is severe suffering to the point of death, or many lose their lives. For those who harm the lives of animals, harm the lives of other people, this makes one’s own life shorter, or one loses parts of one’s body. One experiences torture, loses one’s wealth, loses one’s place of residence, causing loss of any benefits gained. One is disgraced in status, is timid in meetings, and ultimately, one’s faults are revealed. This is the carelessness of that person. And it naturally proceeds so that it is not possible to gain the wealth that may have been able to come, or one loses the wealth that one already has.
Therefore, when contemplating the dangers of harming the lives of living beings, we see that such behavior is absent of compassion. This behavior comes from innate traits that have been continuing on for many lives and existences.
When developing compassion, one should not develop compassion towards 5 categories of people. The first are people we love, the friends who are dear. The people who we are neutral towards, people who one hates, people who are enemies. This is because the person we love retains the position of a loved one. A very dear friend also retains the position as a beloved one. The neutral person remains in the position of one who is neutral, and the hated one retains the position of being hated. People who are enemies are in that same relationship as before. They are not able to be developed in the meditation. Why is this? Because for those who we love, that love has not left our hearts.
The other 4 types are the same, and especially if the person has died already, or it is a person of the opposite sex, these would be an obstacle to the development of compassion. So who should we develop compassion to first? It must be ourselves. It is us, who love ourselves.
Therefore, a person who develops compassion will spread the mind of compassion to all directions. How? They will cultivate a mind of compassion to all living beings and see the value in this. They see those in suffering, in troubles and in misery. We spread our minds in order to wish that they may be free from suffering. We see those who are in suffering and distress, who are repeatedly subject to severe, bad, and painful kamma. We do this often and then we will empathise with people in distress, and who are suffering from an evil, bad mind. Whether it is an orphan lacking food, a beggar, a homeless person, or it is someone who is experiencing pain and suffering, has old age, has disease and sickness, has parasites crawling on the body, or has hands and feet cut off and they are crying out. Our minds then will easily be able to have compassion arise.
Like the example I have spoken about before, of the woman who came to make merit by offering a coffin to the monastery. Then she saw a skinny and starving dog, and compassion and pity arose for the dog, so she hurriedly went to buy food for that dog to eat until it was full. She had happiness. Her mind had compassion. She looked after 50 dogs at home and had a good relationship with dogs. She could talk to the leader of the pack of dogs. If one of those dogs died, then she would go look after an additional dog. And she would entrust it to the head of the pack of dogs. She would speak for a long time, until the head of the dogs understood, and it would not harm the new dogs that came in. This is the compassion of a person who has pity on animals
When we see people in suffering and difficulties, then we have compassion arise. We think of helping them to be free from suffering. We think in our hearts: “The suffering that this living being is experiencing, may they be free from that suffering. May all living beings be free from suffering.” Especially in this period where we can see that sickness has arisen from the pandemic, there are many people in difficulties. There are people who are in pain, suffering, and misery. May they be free from suffering and troubles, from sickness and this harmful disease. There is severe suffering. All the businesses are faced with problems—may they be free from that suffering.
Health workers, doctors, and nurses have suffering and difficulties in their work. May they be free from that suffering. May they not get sick or be in pain. Practicing meditation like this, this is repeated constantly until it causes compassion to arise in our hearts. This will be samadhi concentration. It is a little samadhi that is going to proceed to the level of peace. There is inner joy and contentment. Or it may be a samadhi that is stable and still, which is called one-pointed samadhi. It is ekaggata arammana, one-pointedness of mind. This is the result of having developed a kammathana, the meditation object of compassion.
Some people develop this easily, but for others it is difficult. For those that have compassion arise easily in their hearts, this is because that person has already developed merit and parami, spiritual accumulations, in the past. They have created the causes and conditions in previous lives. It is deeply ingrained in their hearts. They see that others have suffering, troubles and difficulties. When they bring up these thoughts, then compassion arises very easily. They see a person who is suffering due to sickness, who has no one to look after then, no one to nurse them, and who lacks basic necessities. Then compassion arises easily in the mind. This shows that they have accumulated a lot of merit and parami in the past, which leads them to easily have a lot of compassion and pity for others. The mind has contentment, joy, happiness, and calm when helping those in suffering.
May you put effort in practicing to develop this. Then our minds will be able to be joyful.
This compassion does not arise solely in human beings. Even animals like dogs can have compassion. How can they have compassion? There is one good example of this I want to share with you from the Philippines. There was a newborn baby which miraculously survived. It was thrown away, but there was one dog that found this baby and howled out to get the attention of someone who was riding by on a motorcycle. The dog barked relentlessly, until the passerby followed the dog. This news was reported by the Cebu Daily News in the Philippines, that a newborn baby, whose umbilical cord and placenta was still attached was found wrapped in a towel, on a grassy vacant lot near the town’s dumpsite in Barangay Magcagong, Cibonga Town, in the Southern Philippines, on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2020.
The little baby was found and its life saved because of the dog that discovered it and barked non-stop until Mr. Junelle Fuentes Revilla stopped while on his way by, and this dog led him to the location. He was able to help the baby and send it to a nearby hospital. Investigators are still trying to find the mother of the baby and other individuals who may be involved in leaving the baby there. Police are asking residents in Sibonga, located 50 kilometers southeast of Cebu City, to help them identify the mother of the abandoned baby.
The infant is now under the custody of Sibonga’s social workers.
At first they thought the dog was a stray dog. But later they found that the dog had an owner. The dog was named “Blackie,” and lived about 500 meters from this dumpster. This act of heroism led to Blackie and it’s owner Kuya Lyndon to receive an award from an animal rescue organization. The gifts they received were rice, groceries, and other supplies. This made the owner, Kuya Lyndon, so glad that he was teary-eyed. He looks after 10 dogs, and although he is not very rich, he is able to raise the dogs to be well-fed and without difficulty.
So we can see that this is compassion, even though it is a dog finding this baby. It was lucky that the dog was not hungry and was not living off the food in the garbage. The dog had an owner feeding it. If the little baby encountered a hungry dog, a serious disaster could have happened. It may have become food for a hungry dog.
We can see that even an animal can have metta and karuna. It had compassion to help the baby who was in suffering, in trouble, and was unable to get itself out of danger. The baby was able to survive by its merit, parami and goodness. The baby likely had merit and parami from the past.
May we practice developing the meditation on compassion to be a foundation of the heart. Whether it is the meditation object of metta or karuna, these are meditation objects that will stabilize our minds to be well collected. If one has samadhi, then the samadhi will be firm, and the samadhi that has not arisen will arise easily. These are skilful methods that will lead to the arising of mindfulness and wisdom, that will make the mind bright and become more and more pure. May you all grow in Dhamma. May you grow in blessings.
1.(a) Question: What is the meaning of the words in the Anumodanarambha-gatha: “sabbe purentu sankappa”, which is translated as: “may all your wishes be fulfilled”. As the eightfold path is a path of renunciation and letting go, is it helpful, if all wishes are fulfilled?
1.(a) The giving of this blessing is giving strength of heart. The blessing you mention relates to success in ways that accord with siladhamma [virtue/morality], that which does not harm oneself or others.
For children, this could be to succeed in school; a bit older, to succeed in one’s exams; and, even older, to succeed in work—work that is in line with siladhamma. This is the giving of strength of heart to the listener.
Even higher than this is the building and development of goodness, such as in Right Livelihood, but, in this case, one is not yet at the point of overcoming dukkha [stress/suffering]. Depending on one’s circumstances, one should know how to live life as a couple, in a relationship, as a family, or having a job—knowing how to live life well given these different conditions.
Even higher than this is to succeed in doing goodness, doing dana [generosity], and cultivating lovingkindness. One gives this blessing, for instance, after an individual gives dana to the Sangha [monastic community], having made merit with the Sangha, and the Sangha has lovingkindness to give strength of mind to help one succeed.
For a Dhamma practitioner, success can relate to dana and sila, which result in happiness. However, the practitioner sees that this happiness is not permanent. The practitioner sees the drawbacks in conditioned phenomena—sees that they are anicca, not lasting, sees that old age, sickness, and death are inevitable, and sees the drawbacks in the world. Having seen in this way, one walks the Noble Eightfold Path of sila, samadhi, and panya [virtue, collectedness/concentration, and wisdom]. One develops samadhi, develops the mind, and contemplates the body as empty: merely a heap of elements; as not me, not mine, and not a self. This is seeing the Dhamma. This is developing true happiness.
1.(b). Is it true that for wishes to be fulfilled they need the right causes and conditions ?
1.(b). This is correct—one must develop merit and build the causes, as well. One builds wisdom, viriya—energy and effort—and one does not just get the blessing, but one also practices for oneself. One gets the blessing but must also lay down the causes on one’s own. Higher than this is to contemplate Dhamma to overcome dukkha.
2. Question: Could you please explain the deeper meaning of the words: “Mettāya, bhikkhave, cetovimuttiyā āsevitāya bhāvitāya bahulīkatāya yānīkatāya vatthukatāya anuṭṭhitāya paricitāya susamāraddhāya ekādasānisaṃsā pāṭikaṅkhā. Katame ekādasa?” [English translation: “Bhikkhus, for one whose awareness-release through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken, eleven benefits can be expected. Which eleven?”]
2. This is when we are developing metta until we reach cetovimutti, liberation of mind. In other words, we practice metta continuously until our mind is firmly established in samadhi. We can then use this samadhi to reflect on all phenomena as not-self. When we do more and more of this metta practice, it becomes a vehicle for us. Our training in metta will gradually lead us to higher and higher levels of inner stability and peace and it will gradually accumulate more strength. Metta practice is one form of samatha, tranquility, practice. When we practice metta consistently, our mind will feel at ease and become still. It will be a cause for samadhi to arise, and it may lead to a state of appana samadhi. We then use this samadhi to reflect and contemplate until the insight of vipassana arises—until wisdom arises. This is how the mind is liberated through the development of metta. This is cetovimutti. In this way, samadhi is developed first and then followed by contemplation.
Sometimes we practice metta and the mind becomes still and peaceful. Or it may be that we do contemplation, then metta arises through this, we keep contemplating, metta arises again, and we keep doing this until eventually the mind is brought to peace. This is metta pañña vimutti, liberation through lovingkindness and wisdom.
3. Question: May you please explain the refinement levels of all the Silas, starting in the mind. Are there some special Suttas, which would be helpful to get a better understanding in this respect?
3. To put it simply, what is of greatest importance when it comes to sila is our intention. Just like the story of Sumitta, the daughter from a wealthy family who was married to a hunter and helped prepare his weapons. People would look at her as lacking in morality, but, in reality, her intention was established in sila. Even though she lived with her husband who made a living through hunting deer, she never had the intention to kill any living beings. In this way, our intention is established in sila.
As the Buddha taught: cetanāhaṁ bhikkhave sı̄laṁ vadāmi – “Intention is the essence of moral training.” This is also how Ajahn Chah would teach. Do not overcomplicate it. The main purpose of sila is to take care of our bodily and verbal conduct in order to make the mind peaceful and at ease so that we can develop samadhi. The purpose is also not to cause harm to anyone.
When it comes to sila, one should not fall into obsessively finding fault. Do not dwell on thoughts like “Oh, my mind is not pure anymore, my sila is not good.” These kinds of thoughts will just cause us more distress. We should keep reminding ourselves that the purpose of sila is for the development of samadhi. Do not let it become a source of worry, because that is not what it is for. Sila is for making our mind peaceful.
4. Question: I am living in a partnership and would like to know more about the importance of the Brahmacarya [celibacy] vow. Could Ajahn Anan explain the refinement levels of such a Brahmacarya life. If I take the 8 precepts – is it okay to just live a celibate life or should I additionally take other points into consideration?
4. If one undertakes the brahmacarya vow, the celibate life, this gives one more time and opportunity to be alone and secluded, to practice and be less involved with others. This gives one more opportunity to bring the mind to peace and samadhi. With a partner, children, other family, and so on, it is more difficult to find this opportunity.
If one lives with a partner and the partner agrees to one’s undertaking the celibate life, then one can do this and realize samadhi more easily. A couple can undertake celibacy one day per week or more, but do not let this become a problem within one’s family or relationship.
For individuals with sufficient parami from the past, they may live as a couple; then, when it is time to put things down, they are able to know and see the Dhamma, just like Lady Visakha and Anathapindika. Even in this example, we can see that the young daughter of Anathapindika, Sumana, attained to sakadagami, once-returner, a higher level of awakening then her father. Sumana was able to achieve this because she had comparatively few duties and responsibilities. Lady Visakha and Anathapindika both had a spouse and a great many duties and responsibilities.
Therefore, the brahmacarya life gives one more solitude and is of a higher quality; one is able to realize the enlightenment level of anagami, non-returner, in this way.
Be determined. If you live alone, live the brahmacarya life, and if you live as a couple then be determined to make effort and practice more.
‘In the same way the sun lights the world, the Dhamma lights the mind.
There is no light, which is as bright as the light of wisdom.
There is no light, which is brighter than the light of wisdom.
There is no light equal to the light of wisdom.’
I would like to know, if the light of wisdom and the light of universal love are not equal and in what way are they different then?
5. Cultivating metta, lovingkindness, for all beings brings about the happiness of samadhi [collectedness/concentration]. The mind that is then gathered in samadhi is able to see anatta, not-self, clearly, which is wisdom. The pure mind, having been purified by wisdom, then has metta included in it.
In the beginning, lovingkindness is used to develop the mind to be collected in samadhi, which is one type of light. Then one sees anatta, the mind is pure through wisdom, and metta is part of this pure mind. Metta samadhi has degradation. The purified mind, with metta as a part of it, is lokuttara—beyond the world.
6. Question: Taking Ven. Sariputta as the one disciple with highest wisdom, is it correct to say that he set the causes in all his many previous lives in samsara for this highest wisdom and when he became an Arahat, the Dhamma did flow through his mind and words, based on all these set causes, which reflected his huge wisdom?
6. Yes, this is correct. Ven. Sariputta built great amounts of parami, spiritual virtues, in the past. Even in the time of the past Buddha Anumodassi, he already had a high level of wisdom. In that life, Ven. Sariputta was an ascetic named Sarada with a retinue of 84,000 followers. On one occasion, the Buddha and his disciples came to visit Sarada and his retinue. After the Sangha sat in deep meditation for seven days and seven nights, the Buddha and his two chief disciples gave Dhamma discourses, whereupon all 84,000 followers realized arahantship. Sarada did not attain to arahantship; instead, he made the aspiration to become the Right-Hand Chief Disciple of a future Buddha, having been inspired by the Right-Hand Chief Disciple of Buddha Anumodassi, named Nisabha.
Ven. Sariputta went on to build even more parami, which took a long time, in order to succeed in his aspiration. He had more wisdom then all the other arahant disciples, even more than the other 80 great disciples of the Buddha. Ven. Sariputta was known as the Marshal of the Dhamma, the Dhammasenapati. He could teach Dhamma in place of the Buddha. Just like a supreme commander has right and left hand chief commanders to help him, just so, every Buddha has right and left hand chief disciples.
7. (a) Question: I have a question regarding the spreading of lovingkindness, metta, to all beings. If I spread this lovingkindness equally to all the beings, is it correct to just let flow peace as wide as it goes into all directions simultaneously?
7. (a) This is correct. We spread metta in all directions—above, below, front, and back, wishing for all beings to be free from hostility and free from danger. In the same way that a mother loves the child in her womb, just so do we spread our love to all beings.
7. (b). If I remember certain groups of beings to whom I would like to send Metta, may I then also just observe somehow neutrally with a kind mind these groups of people and places and go ahead as if I would visit them in their dwellings?
7. (b) Yes, that is correct. When we spread metta, it is like sending our mind out to reach them. If the recipient’s mind has the calmness of samadhi and is sensitive enough, they may be able to feel this metta.
8. Question: To what extend is it a person’s responsibility to point out and/or correct people—for example about a break of sila [morality/virtue]. As far as I know, the intention should remain wholesome as much as possible (the best way unintentional). I notice and sometimes admit to myself that my mind vacillates between trying to connect and rejecting the behaviour of the other person. Most of the time I act and accept the unwholesome. I tell myself how else do I want to practise.
8. If you find yourself disliking others’ behaviour, that is okay. Just be aware of that reaction of disliking. When someone does something wrong, and you feel disliking, this is normal. We notice that feeling of disliking, and we put it down; we let it go. We can reflect that others act like this because of their ignorance. The ignorance in their mind is the cause of their wrong actions, wrong speech, or wrong thinking. We just reflect that: “Someone with ignorance is just like this”. We also remind ourselves that it is unlikely that we will be able to overcome their ignorance.
When others fall into ignorance like that, if we then react through delusion by feeling upset or angry about it, then this is allowing that ignorance to enter and take control of our own hearts, as well. We should therefore put our main focus on overcoming the ignorance in our own hearts.
As for other people’s ignorance, we have to let go of that and let it be in accordance with nature. For ourselves, we need to train to notice and catch our own ignorance when it arises. When we feel disliking or ill-will, we notice that feeling and we let go of it. Sometimes we may feel angry, but we let it go—we don’t feed the anger or let it turn into vengeance.
9. (a) Question: In order to act in a more unifying manner in everyday conversations, opinions and views, what kind of conditions are important that I can contemplate?
9. (a) It’s fine to express different opinions, but one should not argue and quarrel over them. Keep in mind the good intentions and commitment of all parties involved. It is normal that sometimes our views differ from one another. We should still strive to maintain a sense of communal harmony. This harmony is something valuable that will help empower and encourage us. We do not split into factions, nor do we have an us-versus-them attitude. We see and acknowledge the good intentions of everyone. For ourselves, we need to be aware of the wishes and desires of each person, including our self. Do not hold on to or attach to your own views.
9. (b) On the one hand I’m thinking of Metta [lovingkindness], Karuna [compassion], and Mudita [sympathetic joy]. How can these levels of wisdom (cinta-maya panna) be strengthened by contemplation? What other causes and conditions are important to know/contemplate in this context?
9. (b) If we all act out of conceit and hold strongly onto our own views, it will be very difficult to have harmony in the community. Each person needs to let go of their conceited views and instead focus on our common goals; we need to unify so that we can all work together towards our goal of attaining, knowing and seeing the Dhamma.
It is normal that, at times, there are objections or grudges and that people have an us-versus-them attitude. But, for ourselves, we should not follow this kind of divisive thinking. We should be willing to make compromises and to give in if necessary within the bounds of siladhamma. We may not always be in agreement, but sometimes we can go along with the ideas of others, and sometimes others will go along with our own ideas. Find things that will help unite and bring harmony to the community with an attitude of metta. Do not fall into conceit or have a strong sense of self.
10. Question: How do I strengthen patience and endurance?
10. See and contemplate the drawbacks of not having patient endurance and the advantages of having patient endurance.
Study the history of Lord Buddha, how the Lord Buddha had great patient endurance parami. One can study and reflect on the Khantivadi Jataka, where the Bodhisattva was tortured by a king and attained the utmost level of patient endurance parami.
One’s goal is nibbana. When greed, aversion, and delusion arise, then practice patient endurance. Patiently endure dukkha.
[The Khantivadi Jataka tale can be found here: https://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j3/j3014.htm]
11. Question: To walk as a group towards Nibbana or to walk alone towards Nibbana, what kind of a difference with regards to later Dhamma-effects will this bring?
11. There is no difference. If one goes as a group, it can be like Venerable Yasa and his friends. Ven. Yasa practiced with his 54 friends in the past, then, in his final life, Ven. Yasa saw the Dhamma and realized arahantship first. These 54 friends, all of whom were close with Ven. Yasa, saw that the Buddhasasana must be very excellent because Ven. Yasa had immense wealth that he sacrificed in order to go ordain and was an intelligent person. Therefore, they thought that this Buddhasasana must be extraordinary.
The 54 friends went to listen to the Dhamma from the Buddha and succeeded in seeing the Dhamma, all 54 of them. All the friends succeeded in seeing the Dhamma in their own hearts. Before this success, however, they practiced together as a group. A group may succeed in seeing the Dhamma at the same time, or some group members a little bit before or some a little bit after others.
One can also look at the example of the three Kassapa brothers from the time of the Buddha: Uruvela Kassapa, the eldest with a retinue of 500 disciples, Nadi Kassapa, the middle brother with a retinue of 300, and Gaya Kassapa, the youngest, with a retinue of 200. The older brother, Uruvela Kassapa, went forth first then the middle, then the youngest brother, in that order. Then all the brothers and their disciples listened to the Fire Sermon and all realized arahantship together during that discourse. In this case they practiced together and saw the Dhamma together.
12. Question: Can you explain to us a bit more the words: Apacayanamaya [humility or reverence]; Ditthujukamma [straightening one’s views or forming correct views]?
12. Ajahn Anan said he would answer this question with Dhamma talks. Please see especially the talks from the week of November 15 onward or so, and especially the ongoing Friday night Dhamma videoconference talks for detailed expositions on these topics. [For example, the talks found online such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfcA3_7n74I]
“Even though there might be thick clouds all around, the sun actually stays as bright as always, even if it’s hard to see. Just like this, even if the hindrances or defilements are thick and heavy, the mind stays as bright as always even if it’s hard to see.”
The statement, that the mind stays as bright as always, indicates that the hindrances or defilements are in no way influencing the brightness of the mind. The mind seems to be fully unaffected by all the kilesas. In the Pabhassara Sutta (AN 1.49-52) it is said that the mind is luminous but also defiled by incoming defilements, and later it is freed from incoming defilements through bhavana practice. How can it then stay as bright as always? On the other hand, if the mind would NOT be as bright as always, one would have no chance to purify the mind. Could you please give some deeper explanations?
13. In the beginning of our practice, sense impressions enter our mind, and our mind is still lacking in mindfulness and samadhi. Then the mind gets mixed with those sense impressions, like clouds covering the moon. The sense impressions cover the mind and get mixed with the mind so that we no longer see the brightness of the mind.
When the sense impressions have arisen and ceased, the mind is bright. Then new sense impressions enter and mix with the mind, and the mind is no longer aware of the brightness. Later, the mind may become bright for just a moment again. The situation goes back and forth like this, and we do not see the true luminous nature of the mind.
When we have mindfulness, and we are able to see through the sense impressions as they arise and cease, then the mind begins to become more and more luminous—it stabilizes. The clearer we see that all things are impermanent, stressful, and not-self, the more stable the brightness of the mind becomes. The mind gradually increases in brightness like the waxing moon, a little brighter each day, until the mind becomes awakened—Buddha. Then, even when sense impressions come, they simply arise and cease and the mind is as luminous as always. This is what full and complete understanding is like.
In the beginning, we only have a limited understanding of this, so we need to keep practising until, finally, we are able to see through sense impressions. We will then be able to see the mind and sense impressions as two separate things. The mind is one thing and sense impressions are another—they no longer get mixed with each other.
14. Question: Hearing the sound of the heating-system, which starts in the house, one meditator hears this sound and feels very peaceful and calm. She gets waves in the body and mind and even recognizes some smaller waves in her citta [mind]. Can you explain what is happening?
14. One’s attention is fully focused on the sound as a single object – such as the sound of the heater – which, even though it is a human made sound, has a natural and stable quality to it. When we remain in a state of stillness and stay with the sound until the mind becomes peaceful, we may then see refined visions in our body. We may see the energy that is flowing into and throughout the body. We may become aware of the electrical charges in the body that are already all around and throughout the body. We may see this as neutrons, protons and electrons moving around.
This is just how the more refined levels of reality are like—there is fine energy flowing through our bodies that is not visible to the eye. However, if we are well established in samadhi and the mind becomes still and peaceful, we may sometimes see this energy. If our samadhi is strong and wisdom arises, we will then see these phenomena as anatta, not-self.
We can go from seeing this body as being material in nature to seeing the body as consisting of mere energy—of very small particles of energy. When we reflect further on this energy, we can see that it is empty by nature—we see that all phenomena are empty by nature.
15. Ajahn Anan’s response to a sunrise/sunset photograph:
15. This golden sky is beautiful and lovely with an uplifting golden light.
We have the good fortune to be born as humans, to have the opportunity to build goodness, and to develop our minds to higher levels.
As we bring our attention to the sun, we incline our minds and pay homage to the boundless virtues of the Buddha, the boundless virtues of the Dhamma, and the boundless virtues of the Sangha.
When we incline our minds and pay homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha in this way, we bring our minds to the Dhamma, which means we contemplate and see arising and passing away. We see the sun rise, gradually cross the sky, and then set. The days come and go; they are ever passing by—there is only arising, staying for a short time, then passing away.
May you have effort to develop your minds, to reach the true Dhamma, and to be able to see the Dhamma.
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – June 19th, 2020
Note: One can listen to this talk here.
L uang Por Anan:
Homage to the Blessed One, Noble One, the Rightly Self-Awakened One
Welcome to all the monks and novices and all the laity.
When we talk about dukkha, or suffering, there are many causes for it. Hunger, pain, and sickness. This is one type of cause. The arising of dangers or accidents. Receiving harm or being subject to theft or loss. All these are causes for physical suffering. But it has an effect on the mind. If we talk of the suffering of the mind, then there is just one cause. That is, suffering because of attachment. Clinging. Not willing to let go, not willing to put down. This is the cause for us to have suffering in the mind—due to not letting go, to not putting down—this is the fundamental cause for us to suffer in the mind.
For instance, attaching to things in the past, especially the disappearance of things that we love, the disappearance of people that we love. As well as the pain and grief that has been received from some particular person. In reality, it has passed already. But we hold on to it in the mind. We aren’t willing to let go. So we suffer, grieve, despair, and lament. If we do not suffer from attachment to the past, then we worry about the future. The bad thing hasn’t yet arisen, but we worry and proliferate about it. We have assessed the whole situation already. Sometimes we think of the obstacles that are coming up for us. Some people just get sick only a little, but they think and proliferate far off into the future that they will die from this. This worry of the future is another type of attachment that can make us have suffering.
And so whatever way it is, if we don’t think of the future, then worry won’t arise. Fear won’t arise, as well. Usually we fear what hasn’t arisen. Right now we are at ease, but we think about the bad things that may arise in the future. This is called thinking beyond the present moment. This makes us suffer on and on.
An example of this is of monks that are going to stay and meditate in the cremation ground. In the morning, when they go for alms-round, the mind has no suffering at all. During the day, the mind isn’t suffering. But when it has come to the evening, then the mind starts to suffer. Because they need to go into the cremation ground soon.
They need to go into a place that they are very afraid of. They are scared that there will be some spirits that come to give them trouble and make them lose their mindfulness. They have thought all about it already. But when they really go into the cremation ground, there is no spirit there to trouble them. But they see their thoughts and proliferation within their own mind, that there is a ghost troubling them each night. Why is this? It’s just because they are still attached to ‘me’ and ‘mine’.
Our proliferation may not be about something in the future, but it’s proliferation after we see something with our eyes. We may see a shadow in passing at night, and we may see it as a person or a ghost. Or a branch on the ground, we may think it is a snake. There is anxiety in the mind.
And to give one more example about a young novice monk. This young novice had the duty to sweep all the leaves in the monastery grounds each morning. He would sweep the leaves in the morning out in the frosty, cold winds. Every time after he woke up, he would be in a lot of suffering. Especially in the winter season, many leaves would be scattered all around the monastery grounds. Each morning, he had to spend a lot of time sweeping and picking up all the leaves. This made the young novice furious every day. He tried to think of a way to make it easier for himself. He thought that if this tree here didn’t exist, then he wouldn’t need to sweep its leaves every day, and it would be much easier for him. But he couldn’t do it, as he didn’t have the authority to cut a tree in the monastery which was the abbot’s responsibility.
There was one monk who said to the young novice, “Tomorrow before you start to sweep, use your strength and shake that tree. Shake it until all the leaves fall. Then the day after, you won’t need to sweep any leaves that have fallen.”
The young novice agreed and nodded his head in approval. So, the next morning, he woke up and shook the tree with all his strength. He did this so that he could sweep up all the leaves for today and for tomorrow, all in one go! On that day, the novice was in such a good mood all day. He was smiling and was so happy. He had never had this much happiness in his life since he ordained as a novice.
Then the next day, the young novice looked around the monastery grounds. He had to rub his eyes in disbelief. The monastery was full of leaves just like it was everyday. The young novice fell to the ground, with no strength and sapped of energy to do anything. The Venerable abbot came and saw him, the adorable state of this young novice, and he knew that the novice had shook the tree so that the leaves would all fall.
The abbot said, “You are a foolish child. Even if today you shake the tree with all your strength, the leaves will still fall just as usual.”
In the end, the young novice understood that there are some things in the world that one cannot do ahead of time. If we are fully into the things we are doing at that time, only then will there be the fullness of a human-being. So the young novice then had mindfulness in the present moment. He didn’t think to the next day where he would have to sweep the leaves again.
And the Venerable abbot said further, “The leaves fall, just like the things that contact with the mind. If we can see it according to truth, then we can see all things that arise, are there, and they are just the way they are. Whether there is a ‘me’ or not, when various things come to contact the mind and affect it – just like the leaves that come to contact with the mind of the young novice – then may you just have the duty to watch, be aware, and to stay in the present moment. Everything, all things, they arise, persist, and pass away. The importance is in our own minds – whether we are able to be aware of it in time, or we aren’t aware of it in time. Just this much.
For people, when we have suffering arise, we aren’t aware of it as suffering and we forget ourselves. But when we have mindfulness, we can see suffering and we know that we are carrying the suffering. Then we can put it down by itself, without needing to be ordered to put it down. When we see suffering as being simply of the nature to arise, then we don’t attach to it. Like when pain and tiredness arise—and we don’t go and attach and cling to it as ‘me’ or ‘mine’. The sense of importance and meaning that, “I am suffering. I am in pain. I am tired.”, does not arise. If we think of the past or of the future, and then anger arises, worry arises, then this is when we have forgotten ourselves temporarily. This worry is the object of attachment that makes suffering arise in our minds.
In regards to work, there are rules we follow, and we are assessed on the results we provide. Though we may suffer over other people’s judgments and assessments, may we see their words as just minor assessments that we can keep and use to contemplate ourselves further. Those people are just exterior causes, but it is the inner causes that decide whether we suffer or not. It’s up to us.
An example of this is of someone carving wood. The wood carver puts their whole heart into carving the wood. Then there is no person who is carving the wood. If we have thoughts and worry that enter in between the act of wood carving, then there is a person carving and there is a self arising instantly. All of what the Buddha taught is about suffering and about the ending of suffering.
Like when carving wood, we just know the carving of the wood, then there will be no suffering. We keep doing it continuously. If we are tired then we rest. But if we do it and then think whether we can sell it or not, then we will suffer. Even if one stops carving and is still thinking like that, then this is suffering. This means that whether one suffers or doesn’t suffer, it is not up to the work one is doing. Even whether one stops and rests, it is also not related to our suffering. It’s about the practice. That is, knowing what we are really doing. If we do not think and worry, then we don’t suffer. When we don’t keep our awareness with just what we are doing, when there is craving and wanting that is covering the doing, then that can be the cause for suffering to arise. Ven. Ajahn Chah taught: “Be immersed in the present moment, don’t be buried in the past.”
The Buddha taught us to contemplate all the things that arise in the mind. The Dhamma is not far away somewhere, it is right here. Just in this body and mind. So all Dhamma practitioners must be strong in the practice. Do it sincerely. Make the mind strong. Make the mind brighter and more radiant. It is then set free.
Whatever good we do, we let it go. Don’t attach to it. Or refraining from doing unwholesome actions—when we practice this way, we let go of that, too. The Buddha taught us to be with the present moment. Right here and right now. Not in the past or in the future.
There are a lot of wrong views and arguments over the teaching about letting go. Like saying “To work with an empty mind”. When we talk in this way, this is called talking in the language of Dhamma. But, when we talk about it through using the language of the world, then there is much confusion. They assume what it means and get it wrong: “Just follow whatever we feel like doing!”
In reality, it is just a simile. Like if we are carrying a heavy stone. We carry it and it feels heavy, but we don’t know what to do. So we just carry it like that. But, when someone tells us to throw the stone away, we think that if we throw it away, then we will have nothing left. So we keep carrying it, and we aren’t willing to throw it away. But, in reality, if we throw it away, there is something left. What is left is just Emptiness. But we see wrongly and we don’t like it. We like to carry it and so keep suffering on and on.
The Buddha gave a deep teaching that, “One shouldn’t have expectations of the future. What has passed is left behind. The future has not yet arrived. Whoever sees clearly in every presently arisen state, not taken in by it and unagitated, knowing like this, they develop it continuously. Eagerly doing what should be done today. For who knows, tomorrow death may come. Facing the mighty hordes of death, indeed, no-one can strike a deal. The Peaceful Sage called this one who is dwelling with energy aroused, tireless both day and night. This is truly a night of shining prosperity.” Worthy of true praise. May you grow in blessings.