Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – October 4th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all of you from your centres, all the monks and novices. Today is another opportunity for us to learn about Dhamma. In the beginning, we all have some degree of wisdom, we desire to build knowledge and this leads to our faith. This faith and confidence that we may have, if we have too much of it, we may lack wisdom and in this case then we may end up being deluded. The important qualities that we need are mindfulness and wisdom. This applies to any endeavour we have, whether we are studying, working and especially if we are learning Dhamma, we need to have wisdom. In the Buddha’s time, there were many of his disciples who had great mindfulness and wisdom regardless of whether they were male or female. There was also the chief right hand disciple of the Lord Buddha, Venerable Sariputta, foremost in wisdom. This wisdom is a clear knowing that knows cause and effect. This wisdom knows the merit and demerit of different actions. Things that are of benefit and harm, wisdom clearly knows. So, we will learn about the biography of the chief right hand disciple of the Buddha who was the foremost in wisdom— Venerable Sariputta.
Welcome to the monks, novices, and all the laity.
Today we will learn the biography of Ven. Sariputta, the right hand chief disciple of the Lord Buddha. He was foremost out of all the monks in wisdom. As for the left hand chief disciple, Ven. Maha Moggallana, he was foremost in psychic abilities. The Ven. Elder Sariputta received the praise from the Buddha as “Dhammasenāpati”, the General of the Dhamma in excellently expounding the teachings of the Buddha. He also praised Ven. Sariputta in many other aspects.
For example, when the monks paid their respects to the Lord Buddha before going off to practice in solitude, they would pay their respects to the Buddha, and the Buddha would ask them, “Have you bid your farewell and paid respects to Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Maha Moggallana yet?” This was because they give encouragement and blessings to the monks before they go off wandering. The Lord Buddha compared Ven. Sariputta to a mother who gave birth to a child as he would guide the monks to be established in the fruit of sotapanna, the initial fruit of awakening. As for Ven. Maha Moggallana, he was like a mother who raised a newborn baby as he would advise on the higher noble attainments to the monks, such as Sakkadagami, Anagami, and the fruits of Arahantship.
Ven. Sariputta had great expertise in teaching the Dhamma such that the listener could understand easily. In addition, he was also full of the quality of ‘kataññutā kataveditā’, or gratitude— knowing “what others have done for us and what we must do in return”.
Before Ven. Sariputta was ordained, there was an occasion where he listened to the Dhamma from the Ven. Elder Assaji. Sariputta had a lot of wisdom then, as he could see that the Ven. Elder Assaji had graceful composure and radiant complexion, and he knew that this was certainly an ascetic who had attained to some noble virtues. He followed him to listen to the Dhamma and was wise to wait until Ven. Elder Assaji finished his meal before paying respects and making a request to listen to the Dhamma. And so, Ven. Elder Assaji, preached the Dhamma:
Of those things that arise from a cause,
The Tathāgata (Buddha) has told the cause,
And also what their cessation is:
This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse (Buddha)
Ven. Sariputta had long been seeking the Dhamma that leads to freedom from suffering, and when he listened to the teaching that “all phenomena that arise from a cause or of the nature to cease”, he understood deeply and the stain-free eye of Dhamma arose. He became Awakened (Buddha). He was awakened to the truth that all things are of the nature to arise, persist, and cease.
At this time the Ven. Elder Assaji was going to continue teaching the Dhamma, but Ven. Sariputta stopped him respectfully and asked where was Lord Buddha residing. Ven. Assaji answered, “In Veluvana Monastery”. Ven. Sariputta took the Dhamma he had understood from Ven. Assaji and went to tell Ven. Maha Moggallana. Ven. Maha Moggallana also attained to stream entry at that time. Then, they both went to invite their old teacher, the ascetic Sanjaya to pay respects to the Buddha together. But Sanjaya answered: “I won’t go. In this world are there more ignorant people or intelligent people?” Ven. Sariputta replied that there are more ignorant people. Their old teacher Sanjaya said that he will stay with the ignorant people, because there were more of them, and the intelligent people could go to the Buddha.
The Ven. Elder Sariputta was not only foremost in wisdom, but he was also foremost in gratitude. When he knew in which direction the Ven. Elder Assaji was residing, he would first bow to Ven. Assaji and he would point his head in that direction and take his rest. A rumour arose that the Ven. Sariputta respected Ven. Assaji more than the Buddha. When the Buddha was asked about this, the Buddha said that this was the respect for his teacher Ven. Assaji, who was the one who brought him into the Dhamma. Here, the Buddha praised Ven. Sariputta as being the foremost in gratitude.
Even when an elderly brahmin named Radha gave just one spoon of rice during alms to Ven Sariputta, Ven. Sariputta would later accept this brahmin, ordain him, looked after him and taught him until, eventually, Ven. Radha attained to becoming an arahant. On top of that Ven. Sariputta was praised as being foremost in being easy to teach and instruct. He had gratitude and recollected the virtue of his mother, and went to teach his mother before he passes away and enter into parinibbana.
We also can see the refined nature of Ven. Sariputta’s wisdom.
At one time the Buddha taught the Dhamma beautifully. After the sermon finished, the Buddha asked Ven. Sariputta, “Sariputta, do you believe in this Dhamma that I have taught?” Ven. Sariputta respectfully replied, “I do not yet believe” The Lord Buddha, said, “Wise people shouldn’t believe easily. Investigate and take it into practice before you believe. Don’t believe easily. See the results first and you can then believe.” Here, you can see a person that has all-encompassing and deep wisdom.
Even though it was the Lord Buddha who was giving the Dhamma teaching, Ven. Sariputta would not believe it until he had investigated and contemplated it. He had to contemplate it first. He was an arahant whose mind was purified, and he had the mindfulness and wisdom to contemplate everything that he perceived. This is because in the Buddha’s time, all the other teachers who taught would say that their teaching and way of practice was good and they would then criticise the others.
For example, there was one town called Kesaputta, in the Kosala Kingdom. The people of that town were called the Kalama people. The Buddha then taught the Kalama Sutta. When the Kalama people knew that the Buddha came to their town, the Kalama people came to ask for advice from the Lord Buddha. They then asked the Lord Buddha, “There was one Brahmin who came to visit this area, and he confirmed to the others that only his view was the correct view, and he criticized others’ views as incorrect, so is this true or not?” The Lord Buddha said,”Kalamas, your doubts about this are correct”. So the Buddha gave a teaching to the Kalama people that:
Do not just believe, because they are traditions
Do not just believe because they are scriptures
Do not believe because they are one’s speculation
Do not believe because they are one’s logic and reasoning
Or even if one’s thoughts and others’ are compatible, don’t believe
Or more than that, don’t believe just because that person inspires confidence.
And at the highest, even if that person who speaks is our teacher, if we haven’t yet contemplated it for ourselves, then don’t just believe.
One should reflect on whether that thing is harmful? If it is harmful, then one should give it up. If it is of benefit, then one should follow and practice it. This is the origin of the Kalama Sutta, which the Lord Buddha taught the Kalama people. It can be seen that this contemplation on faith based on the principles in the Kalama Sutta will give us great wisdom. Therefore, we should listen to the teachings of various teachers and traditions, and then compare and contemplate them. Is what they said correct? Is it of benefit? Is it of harm? This requires mindfulness and wisdom. So we have to build and instruct our wisdom, following the example of the chief disciple, the Ven. Elder Sariputta who was the foremost in wisdom.
Each person differs in their level of mindfulness and wisdom. Whether rough or refined, it differs according to people’s spiritual development. One who has trained and developed a lot will have refined mindfulness and wisdom, and their minds will be refined. Whereas one who has little training and spiritual development will have a mind that is rough. When they do various work, it won’t be refined. But for those who have trained and developed spiritually, they will do a more refined work in every aspect. I have heard there’s a saying, ‘The thorns don’t become sharp only when the tree has grown big. Even when the tree is small, the thorns that are small are already sharp.” That is, a person born with the mindfulness and wisdom they have previously built, they will be intelligent even if they are a child. When they grow older, their intelligence increases. They have better mindfulness and wisdom than the others. This is up to their spiritual development.
May you all build your parami or spiritual qualities through mindfulness and wisdom. May you clearly contemplate the things that you perceive. This is called having wisdom arise. It is an important aspect in our learning of Dhamma. May you all prosper in the Dhamma. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: If a normal person wants to have good mindfulness and wisdom, what type of merit they have to make or do?
Luang Por Anan: This mindfulness and wisdom, it doesn’t just arise on its own. It is not like it comes out automatically. It also has its own causes for it to arise. So one needs to listen to Dhamma/teachings; associate with wise people; contemplate and investigate the things that they have heard or read; and one has to train the mind to develop and cultivate them, whether its through meditation or methods to make the mind peaceful. When listening to Dhamma/teachings, one needs to contemplate and investigate the things that they hear and understand them clearly. So, all these needs training. So, one needs the right supports in order to train the mind. So this isn’t just through listening to Dhamma but also through reading and developing one’s mind and all these leads to the arising of mindfulness and wisdom.
2. Q: Does the disciple of the Buddha who is foremost in wisdom build their parami in a different and harder way compared to a normal person?
Luang Por Anan: So the disciple of the Buddha who is the foremost in wisdom, they need to build their parami much greater than an ordinary disciple of the Buddha. One would need to build their parami a lot and for a much longer duration of time, as well.
3.Q: Why is it that we are not able to recollect or remember our past lives or even sometimes past events from 3 days ago?
Luang Por Anan: This comes down to a question of training the mind. The mind is said to be the forerunner of all things and the predominant factor of things. So if we train the mind, we can bring to the mind to have special abilities. The reason that we can’t remember is because our minds simply do not have the the level of development required. This level of development of the mind depends on using samadhi to control the mind. This control of mind is very important. We can imagine if we were able to recall all of our past lives then it might be the case that some people that we know in this life, we could remember the times in the past lives where they had insulted us or harmed us in various ways.If we did not have control over the mind then it would be likely that we would get very upset. We can see how just remembering past events from this life tends to make us angry and upset at certain people. So to use this ability skilfully, we would need to be able to have a great deal of control over our minds.
Luang Por Anan: Can you remember everything that has happened in this one life of yours?
Q: No, Ajahn.
Luang Por Anan: So you have to practice well in the present.
Q: Yes, Thank you Ajahn.
4. Q: How does one investigate the Dhamma?
Luang Por Anan: You can say that everything is Dhamma. All phenomena are Dhamma. In the Satipatthana Sutta, The Discourse of the Foundations of Mindfulness, the contemplation of Dhamma is taught. So that sutta begins with mindfulness of the body, then contemplation of feelings, then contemplation of the mind whether it has greed, anger or delusion present. All of these things, body, feelings and the mind itself, we can say all fall under the category of Dhamma. And the Dhamma includes the defilements of the mind as well as the factors which bring the defilements to an end, which are sila, samadhi and wisdom. So, it is necessary to have a lot of wisdom to see the whole picture and to understand everything that falls under the broad category of Dhamma. The important thing is that our mindfulness and wisdom hasn’t progressed into that stage yet, so in the present we practice and cultivate mindfulness of the body first.
5. Luang Por Anan: So, among the young people there, is everyone good friends with one another? Is there any argument or conflict?
Q: No, Ajahn, here we are living in harmony without any difficulties.
Luang Por Anan: So, these qualities of having harmony and unity in a group are Dhamma. You can also say that even if different thoughts and feelings come up into our mind where sometimes we might feel jealous, or two different personalities might not be compatible and there might be friction between them, then we can say that all these feelings are a kind of Dhamma as well.
6. Q: What different types of training did Venerable Sariputta (Foremost in Wisdom) undergo compared to Venerable Moggallana (Foremost in Psychic abilities)?
Luang Por Anan: They built their causes or parami differently. For Venerable Sariputta, it’s not that he didn’t have psychic powers, it’s just that he wasn’t foremost in them, and it is the same for Venerable Maha Moggallana where he also had wisdom, its just that he wasn’t the foremost in that quality. They built their paramis differently.
Venerable Maha-Moggallana had very strong samadhi and his practice was led by his development in samadhi. He trained a lot to be very skilled and experienced, but he didn’t contemplate a lot. So his samadhi had great strength, much more than wisdom. With that strong samadhi, the wisdom would arise from that samadhi. In his last life, he listened to the teachings of the Buddha and practiced for 7 days. He had build his samadhi into a very strong, very high level and he attained to becoming an Arahant.
Venerable Sariputta contemplated and investigated for 15 days after hearing the teachings of the Buddha and then attained to becoming an Arahant. So, he had to train and investigate and contemplate for a longer time compared to Venerable Maha-Moggallana.
This also comes down to different character traits that people have developed in the past. For instance, some people don’t like to think very much, and, for those people, it’s very easy to calm the mind and develop peace. For us we need to build and train in all aspects of parami or spiritual qualities.
We should determine our minds to build in goodness and with all the goodness that we have built, we make an aspiration: may we develop and be full of wisdom and psychic abilities, and then we spread metta, loving-kindness to all beings. May they be well and happy, and may all the merits that one has made or the parami one has built, may that take care of oneself. So may all these causes lead one to develop both wisdom and psychic abilities.
We build in all the parami and in all aspects of merit. Building in dana, sila, amd bhavana. We develop the mind to make it good and we build goodness along withwholesome qualities to purify our minds. With all the goodness that we build, we share and dedicate this to others, and when we see others doing good deeds, we rejoice and anumodana. With all this, then we train our mind and these are all the causes that allow us to develop wisdom and good samadhi. These factors will help us and be the causes for us to attain, to see the Dhamma.
7. Q: How do the 5 precepts benefit us?
The benefit of not killing, the first precept, is giving oneself long life. If we kill animals, then we will tend to receive the results as diseases that will shorten our life. When we refrain from stealing and we respect other people’s property, then the result is that our own property doesn’t get stolen or taken away from us. When we practice the third precept and we respect other people’s families and their relationships, then we will experience happiness in our own families and relationships. The benefit of the forth precept, speaking truthfully, is that we become trusted and respected member of society. Finally the fifth precept, the benefit of refraining from drinking alcohol and taking intoxicants is that we have a high level of mindfulness and wisdom and intelligence as a result. Another quality of keeping precepts is that, over time this quality of being virtuous is like a noble treasure that develops in our own hearts and minds. This virtue is something that can’t be taken away by anyone else and it can’t be washed away by floods or destroyed the way material possessions in the world can be destroyed. So, you can say that virtue is like a noble treasure that we have in ourselves.
8. Q: How did Venerable Moggallana pass away?
Luang Por Anan: Even though Ven. Moggallana had great psychic powers, he also had a certain amount of old kamma that brought up its results in his lifetime. There was a group of monks outside of the Buddhist religion who saw that Venerable Moggallana was a treasure to the Buddhist religion. They attacked Venerable Moggallana. At first Venerable Moggallana would use his psychic powers to escape, but, after a while, these assassins would come back and attack again. After many rounds, he saw that this was his old kamma coming up, and that it is the end of his life or Parinibbana. Finally, when these assassins attacked, they left Venerable Moggallana for dead, and, for one last time, he used his psychic powers to pay final respects to the Buddha and then enter Parinibbana.
9. Q: Why do Bhikkhunis have more Vinaya compared to Bhikkhus?
Luang Por Anan: You can compare this to laws in different countries. One country might have a smaller number of laws than another country, and those laws would be suitable for those different places. In the Vinaya, the Buddha laid down each rule in response to a situation that had come up. A greater number of situations had come up for the Bhikkhunis. The rules for the Bhikkhunis are suitable for their practice and the rules for Bhikkhus are suitable for the Bhikkhus’ practice. Men and women are different, sothey have different conditions. For example, there is a rule that Bhikkhunis can’t spend time in a monastery alone, they need to have a Bhikkhu Sangha nearby, whereas the reverse is not true for the Bhikkhus.
10. Q: The Buddha was once injured by a rock that had been thrown by Devadatta to the point where he bled from that injury. What past kamma did he do to receive that result?
Luang Por Anan: There was a past life where maybe he was a child playing by throwing rocks, and the rocks either hit a Pacceka Buddha or a Samma Sambuddha in the heel. That may have been one cause. There was a past life, as well, where the Bodhisatta had killed his younger brother in a dispute over property. That would be another kammic condition that could cause him to receive that injury from the stone.
11. Q: Some Kruba Ajahns say that when one lets go, he must let go with awareness. How does one let go with awareness? and how does one knows that the letting go is correct?
Luang Por Anan: When one says awareness, we can also say we let go with mindfulness. However, when there’s mindfulness there needs to be wisdom, as well. One needs to see into suffering/dukkha, and, if one sees into it, then one will see the cause of dukkha, which is attachment. One then contemplates the drawbacks of that attachment and the drawbacks of having suffering. Then wisdom arises from that, and one lets go of that particular thing to which one is attached.
It doesn’t mean that one can let go of everything or that one can do it all the time. However, if one is able to contemplate and see clearly with mindfulness and clear comprehension what the cause of that suffering is, then one is able to let it go. Despite that, sometimes one just forgets about it and one lets go without wisdom. One doesn’t see yet the cause of that suffering, and this isn’t yet true knowing. There is still delusion there, so one needs to build awareness in order to let go properly.
12. Q: What do the colors mean in the International Buddhist Flag?
Luang Por Anan: They are the six colours in the Buddha’s aura, which are the results of the parami that the Buddha had built up as a Bodhisatta. Those colours are symbolized in the flag. The blue colour is the symbol of the limitless compassion of the Buddha. The yellow colour is the colour of the Middle Way (Noble Eightfold Path) that the Buddha cultivates and then teaches. The red colour symbolizes the blessings of success and victory from mindfulness and wisdom. The white colour is the colour of purity. Orange is the quality of the Buddha’s wisdom. The combination of five colours or the clear colour is the colour of the universal Dhamma or the Buddha’s attainment to the clear perception of the truth. Each colour has a deep meaning.
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 27th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone. Today we learn Dhamma, we listen, and we memorize teachings. This increases the knowledge of Dhamma in our minds. Excellency in knowledge leads to wisdom. In one’s job or field of work, when one has skill, knowledge, and wisdom in that field, then one gains excellence in that field. Venerable Ananda was the monk foremost in memorizing Dhamma teachings in this Buddha’s dispensation. He had great mindfulness and wisdom, and he was the most learned. One of great learning like this has listened to a lot of teachings and memorized them. After memorization, when we then recite and focus on those teachings, that knowledge becomes deeply embedded in the mind. One has deep knowledge of the subject. Ven. Ananda memorized all the suttas and had deep and refined knowledge. The Buddha and Ven. Sariputta both praised Ven. Ananda, saying that Ven. Ananda knew the teachings and could also teach others in a deep and refined way. Learned individuals existed as both monastics and laity who undertook the 5 precepts. Let us now learn about the female lay disciple who was foremost in learning.
Welcome to all the monks and novices and to all the faithful lay people. Today we will learn about the story of Lady Khujjuttara, which is worth studying. Lady Khujjuttara was declared by the Buddha as being the foremost laywoman in terms of learning. This has 2 aspects:
Firstly, she was one who had great spiritual qualities. She had helped others to clearly understand the Dhamma. All the time while the Buddha was staying in Kosambi City, she would go to the monastery of the Buddha at the appropriate time to listen to his Dhamma. And after listening to the Dhamma, she would go back to the royal court of King Udena, and she would relay the Dhamma talk to Queen Samavati and her 500 ladies in waiting. Lady Khujjuttara memorised the Dhamma teachings and she understood the suttas very well.
And the second aspect was that she had made a determination to become foremost in learning for 100,000 kalpas (aeons) already. Some places say that she was one of 2 of the foremost lay female disciples of the Lord Buddha. The other lay woman was the mother of Ven. Nanda, named Velukandakiya. Here we will continue to look at the story of Lady Khujjuttara.
During the era of the Buddha Padumuttara, after he had turned the wheel of excellent Dhamma in the world, and was residing in the city of Hongsawadi, Lady Khujjuttara was born into a family of that era. One day she went to the monastery along with the other lay women to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. She saw that the Buddha had appointed a lay woman as being the foremost in being most learned. She also had the desire to be of that status. So she practiced great acts of goodness so that she could fulfill that aspiration. The Lord Buddha Padumuttara with his perfect knowledge of the future, saw that Lady Khujjuttara in a certain future era would become a lay woman, a noble disciple of the Lord Buddha Gautama. He therefore prophesied that “In the future, you will become the foremost of great learning out of all the lay women in the Buddha Gotama’s dispensation.” When she had received the prophecy from the Buddha, she continued to keep practicing goodness for that entire lifetime and then was born in a deva realm. In her future lives she was born only in the human and deva realms for the period of 100,000 aeons/kalpas.
And during the era of the Buddha Kassapa, she was born as the daughter of a wealthy family in the City of Varanasi. She continued having great faith in the Buddha’s dispensation. She had practiced a great many spiritual accumulations in this era of the Buddha Kassapa. And during those eras which was empty of the Buddha’s dispensation – that is, a Samma Sambuddha had not arisen in the world – there was a time when King Bhramadatta reigned in Varanasi City. He invited 8 Pacceka Buddhas to have the meal in the royal palace on a regular basis. There were 500 lay women who attended on the Pacceka Buddhas, one of whom was Lady Khujjuttara. And one of the 8 Pacceka Buddhas was one who had a hunchback.
Lady Khujjuttara had the idea to make fun of this Pacceka Buddha, so she covered herself in a red cloth and carried a golden bowl and pretended to be a hunch-backed monk, imitating how that Pacceka Buddha walked. She had already done the act of karma. And the result of that karma was that, in the present life, she was born as a woman who was hunchbacked. But also, we see that on the first day that King Brahmadatta invited the eight Pacceka Buddhas to have the meal in the Royal Palace, he had the royal princes hold the alms bowl of each Pacceka Buddha. And he then filled all the alms-bowls with milk-rice and offered them to each Pacceka Buddha. And when the Pacceka Buddhas were holding their alms bowl that was filled with rice-milk, their bowls were very hot. They had to move their hands often. When Lady Khujjuttara saw them doing this, she offered 8 of her bracelets and said, “Please put your alms-bowl on top of these bracelets.” The Pacceka Buddhas did so, and, as she knew their wishes, she said, “I don’t need these bracelets, and as I have donated these bracelets already, may you please receive them.” After receiving the bracelets, the Pacceka Buddhas named her because of this “Nanthamullaka”. The result of this good karma that she had done, made her knowledgeable in the Tripitaka and have great wisdom.
Now we look at her life in the era of our Buddha. Lady Khujjuttara came down from the deva realm and was reborn in the womb of a babysitter in the house of the wealthy family of Ghosaka. They called her Uttara, but, later on, because she was a hunchback, she got the name “Khujjuttara”. When the wealthy man Ghosaka offered Lady Samavati to King Udena, Lady Khujjuttara was made a maid-servant of Queen Samavati within the royal court of King Udena. During that period, the wealthy men, Ghosaka, Kukkuta, and Pāvārika offered three monasteries in the city of Kosambi to the Buddha. They invited the Buddha and community of monks to receive meals regularly. After about a month, the three wealthy men thought that “Ordinarily, Buddhas are ones who help the whole world, so we will give the opportunity to all the people in Kosambi City to make merit with the Buddha”. Since that day, the people of Kosambi had the opportunity to offer dana to the Lord Buddha and the community of monks.
Then one day, a man called Sumana, who was one of the gardeners of these wealthy people and had faith in the Lord Buddha, requested permission from them to invite the Buddha along with the community of monks to come and have a meal at his house. At that time, Lady Khujjuttara would receive 8 coins (kalpanas) from Queen Samavati, and she would go to the gardener’s house to buy flowers everyday. But on that day, the gardener Sumana saw her and said, “Mother Uttara, today I don’t have time to give you flowers. I am offering a meal to the monks with the Buddha at the head. But since you have come already, you should help me in attending on the Buddha and the monks. If you do this, then you will be able to be free from being a servant of another person.”
Lady Khujjuttara was delighted and therefore attended to the Lord Buddha and the Sangha from the kitchen. And her mind had long been interested in Dhamma. She learned all the Dhamma that the Buddhas had taught in the past. And with this power of goodness and the latent traits from listening to the teachings of the Buddha in the past, she attained to becoming a sotapanna, or stream-enterer.
Before, she would receive the 8 coins from Queen Samavati and buy only 4 coins worth of flowers and keep 4 coins for herself. But, now that she had attained to stream-entry, she used all 8 coins to buy flowers. So, on this day, she brought back more flowers than usual to Queen Samavati. And this is quite normal in this world, that people go to buy things for their boss and they keep a small portion for themselves. This is small corruption. When people keep a lot this is called large corruption. This can be quite prevalent. Whether it is Thailand or other places, it is like this. Whether it is the Buddha’s time or the present day, it is still like this.
Queen Samavati was surprised at the abundance of flowers and therefore asked her, “Mother Uttara, on the other days usually you didn’t bring this many flowers, but why today are you bringing back so many flowers? Is it that King Udena has more faith?” Khujjuttara didn’t want to lie. She wanted to come clean and so she told Queen Samavati all about it. She couldn’t lie anymore, because she had virtue in her heart. This was the goodness from listening to the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha. Now Queen Samavati knew that Khujjuttara was someone with virtue within her heart and wanted to hear the Dhamma that the Buddha taught. So Queen Samavati said “May you share with us the nectar of the deathless (amrita) that you have drunk from.” Khujjuttara replied, “Then please let me take a bath first.” The Queen had her bathed with sixteen perfumed water vessels. She gave the highest respect to the Buddha and his teachings. Then she ordered two pieces of fine cloth. One piece was for Khujjuttara to be clothed in, and the other was used to cover a sitting mat. On the sitting mat, she held an exquisite fan, then she spoke the Dhamma that she had heard from the Lord Buddha to Queen Samavati and all her retinue. Queen Samavati along with all her retinue attained to becoming sotapannas.
At that time, all the women paid their respects to Khujjuttara and said, “From this day forth, please do not do these humble jobs anymore. May you take up the status as our mother and our teacher.” And they established her in a position of respect. Later, these women, with Queen Samavati as the head, asked Khujjuttara to go every day to listen to the Dhamma of the Lord Buddha then come back and repeat the teaching for them. They all had great joy in the Dhamma. She became carried on the Tripitaka. For this reason, the Lord Buddha appointed her as the foremost of all the lay women in great learning.
We have now listened to the story of Lady Khujjuttara, and we can see that she has some good aspects and some bad ones as well. The bad part was that she had made karma by mocking a Pacceka Buddha, which resulted in her being born with a hunchback. But she had faith and confidence in many Buddhas. She had faith in making merit, practicing generosity, keeping morality, and deeply learning the Dhamma. She set the determination to be the foremost of all the lay women in great learning, in which she succeeded. Therefore, when we study Dhamma, practice Dhamma, and investigate Dhamma – we build and grow our parami, or spiritual qualities, and one day, when our parami is full, we will understand and see the Dhamma of the Buddha. May you all grow in the Dhamma of the Buddha. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Was Khujjuttara’s offer of bracelets to the Pacceka Buddhas a karmic cause of her having wisdom and being able to understand Dhamma quickly? Or were there other causes for this?
Luang Por Anan: Khujjuttara had to be intelligent, quick witted, and brave to observe that the Pacceka Buddhas needed bracelets and then to offer them. She was also smart to see that she should specify that the bracelets were a gift for them to keep. She had wisdom and faith already at this point. She also already had the prophecy of becoming the foremost in learning, so the offering of bracelets was a way of building more parami and making it easier for her to succeed in her aspiration.
2. Q: Who was the layman who was the best attendant during the Buddha’s time? What about other foremost lay disciples?
Luang Por Anan: Anathapindika was the foremost attendant among male lay followers. He had determined to be the best attendant to five Buddhas, all said to be of the current aeon: Buddha Kakusandha, Buddha Konagamana, Buddha Kassapa, Buddha Gautama, and the future Buddha, Mettaya, who will be the last Buddha to whom he will attend.
Lady Visakha was the foremost female lay attendant. She attained to stream entry at the age of 7. At this age she was already skilled at organizing offerings to the Buddha and his monks.
Citta the householder attained to non-returning and was skilled at deep meditation. He was the foremost Dhamma speaker among male lay disciples.
There are many more foremost lay and monastic disciples of the Buddha.
All of us can determine to build parami in a specific areas that we ourselves have faith in, then we may be able to succeed in that aspiration.
Ven. Luang Pu Chah spoke of one monk from China. This monk cleaned many Buddha statues and made them beautiful. He was very intent to make them beautiful. Luang Pu Chah said that this monk was foremost in this area and advised the monks that they should each have a skill that they excel in, a skill that they would be better in than the others in the group.
3. Q: Is it difficult to have 8 Pacceka Buddhas arise all at once like in the story? Does this happen only at certain times or happen often?
Luang Por Anan: After this Buddha dispensation the lifespan decreases, then there will be a disaster, but those with sila can escape that disaster. Then sila and lifespan increases among humans, there is no Buddha dispensation, and during this time Pacceka Buddhas arise, sometimes many at the same time. They go for alms and those with faith offer them food. This can happen between periods of Buddha dispensations.
4. Q: After a Buddha dispensation, is there always a time of having no Buddha dispensation? Why is there always a gap?
Luang Por Anan: During this gap people are not interested in Dhamma and tend to have no sila. Then sila increases and Pacceka Buddhas come down and attain enlightenment.
5. Q: I read that the attendants to Queen Samavati and the Queen, herself, all died in a fire. At that time all of them attained to stream entry or higher attainments. Why was there a fire?
Luang Por Anan: Another queen of King Udena, Queen Magandiya, had a grudge against the Buddha and Queen Samavati and tried to kill or frame Queen Samavati many times. But Queen Magandiya failed in those past attempts. Then she and her relatives set Queen Samavati’s palace on fire, which killed those inside.
The cause of this was that, in a past life, Queen Samavati and those attendants were bathing in a river. It was cold, so Queen Samavati ordered a fire to be made. Later they saw that a Pacceka Buddha was sitting in nirodha samapatti, a deep state of meditation called the attainment of cessation, where they had lit the fire. The Pacceka Buddha was not harmed, but the Queen was worried that she would get in trouble with her father, the king. So she ordered the Pacceka Buddha to be burnt to death, thereby laying the causes for her future suffering. The Pacceka Buddha did not die but the Queen suffered greatly due to that action.
6. Q: I heard that one should not do metta for a deceased loved one, but that one should send them merit. Why is this?
Luang Por Anan: It is natural for one to suffer over the death of a loved friend or relative. If one does metta for them, then that attachment can arise again, bringing up suffering in the heart. But one should send the merit that has arisen already in our hearts to them so that they can gain happiness from that.
7. Q: We see that the mind is weak and wants to do bad, but we cannot stop ourselves from doing that bad action. How does one overcome this weak mind?
Luang Por Anan: Have mindfulness to know that one is doing bad and feeling weak minded. Be intent to make effort to cut off bad action. Luang Pu Chah once taught an alcoholic that he should decrease the amount that he drinks and to drink less often. One day he will stop. Luang Pu Chah taught him to see the drawbacks of drinking and the benefits of not drinking. One should keep trying to practice and keep trying to improve.
8. Q: Stream enterers cannot perform the 5 heinous crimes. Is there a sixth crime?
Luang Por Anan: The five heinous crimes in Buddhism are killing one’s mother, killing one’s father, killing an arahant, causing a Buddha to bleed, and creating a schism in the Sangha. There is no sixth heinous crime in the traditional list. However, wrong view has worse results that the 5 heinous crimes. Wrong view is more dangerous and has more grave results.
9. Q: Why is the right shoulder exposed for monks and not the left?
Luang Por Anan: Here is a contemplation for next week: Why is Sariputta, the foremost in wisdom, on the right of the Buddha, and MahaMogallana, the foremost in psychic powers, on the left?
Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – September 20th, 2019
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to all of those gathered here to build our parami, our spiritual perfections, together. Each time we do this, each occasion, each day, month, year, or lifetime, we build parami; and when our parami becomes full, then we understand the Dhamma—the truth of the way things are. In the Buddha’s time, there were those of full parami like Venerable Sariputta, the right-hand chief disciple, who was foremost in wisdom, and Ven. Maha-Moggallana, the left-hand chief disciple, who was foremost in psychic powers.
The bhikkhunis, or female monastics, also had many individuals with full parami who were foremost in various qualities such as Ven. Uppalavanna, foremost in psychic powers, Ven. Patacara, foremost in monastic discipline (Vinaya), Ven. Bhadda Kundalakesa, foremost in quick understanding of Dhamma, and Ven. Bhaddakaccana, foremost in deep knowledge. Let us now watch the video on the bhikkhuni foremost in wisdom.
Welcome to all the monks and novices and greetings to all the lay people with interest to learn the Dhamma. Today we will learn about one senior nun, who possessed great mindfulness and wisdom. The Buddha pronounced her the foremost of all bhikkhunis in wisdom. This nun was named Venerable Khema Theri. She was born in the royal family of Sagala City in the Magadha country. She was given the name Princess Khema, because of her golden skin colour. After she grew up she was married as Queen of King Bimbisara of the Kingdom of Rajagaha.
Queen Khema was incredibly beautiful and, because of this, she was very deluded in her own beauty. It is normal for those who are beautiful like this to enjoy their own beauty. Whether it is a man or woman, they would be very pleased with their own appearance, because they are far more beautiful or handsome than others. Queen Khema was not interested in listening to the Dhamma of the Buddha, because she was attached to her own beautiful appearance. Though she knew that the Buddha was residing in Veluvana Monastery close to the city of Rajagaha, she did not go to pay respects to the Buddha and listen to his teachings. This is because she knew that if she were to listen to the Buddha’s teachings, the Buddha would teach about the drawbacks of this bodily form – that this form is not beautiful and this form has decay as its nature. So she didn’t want to go to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. She wasn’t brave enough to go pay respects to the Buddha. She was worried that the Buddha would criticise her beauty and that was something she really didn’t like.
King Bimbisara, who was one of the Buddha’s excellent lay attendants, reflected that, though he had great faith in the Buddha’s dispensation and was a noble disciple, still his chief queen was not interested in listening to the Dhamma. She was deluded in her beauty. He didn’t like it that she wasn’t interested in listening to the Buddha’s teachings. Yet King Bimbisara had a lot of mindfulness and wisdom, as well, so he found a method to trick his queen into listening to the Buddha’s teachings. He knew her character well—she liked beautiful flowers and adornments. So he got a gifted poet to compose a story about the virtues and beauty of Veluvana Monastery. And he had him sing this poem close to where Queen Khema resided so that she would hear this melodious poem. When she heard this poem sung melodiously about the beauty of Veluvana Monastery, she then had the wish to visit the Royal Monastery. King Bimbisara was glad that his trick succeeded and immediately granted his permission.
So Queen Khema went to Veluvana Monastery and enjoyed her visit. Time passed by quickly, and ,when it was about the time for her to go back, her entourage followed orders by King Bimbisara to make sure that they took her to the Buddha’s residence before returning to the palace. The entourage led her to the Buddha, and, before she even knew what was happening, the Buddha saw the Queen and her entourage coming towards him. The Buddha knew immediately that this was the trick of King Bimbisara to have the Queen meet the Buddha. The Queen was already in the net of the Buddha’s compassion. The Buddha used his psychic power to make an image of a beautiful maiden appear, fanning him from behind with a palm-leaf fan. Queen Khema liked her own appearance and was deluded in her own beauty, so she was shocked that this maiden was more beautiful than her and was close to the Buddha, as well. Her own beauty couldn’t compare to this maiden. She would look like a maid servant or even worse when she compared her beauty to this maiden fanning the Buddha. She thought, how is it that this maiden was so beautiful beyond comparison? She couldn’t stop staring at her.
At that moment, the Buddha read Queen Khema’s mind and he made the beautiful maiden’s body gradually age and change little by little. From young age to middle age and gradually changing to old age. The Queen grew dispassionate at seeing that sight, and, when the beautiful maiden changed to being old, the maiden’s beauty disappeared. Her gaze was fixed on that woman, and the Buddha made it so that the woman’s skin went all wrinkled, her hair grey, her teeth broken, and then falling over in front of her. Queen Khema gazed, and her mind became peaceful. Samadhi concentration was firmly established in her because of her past parami, her spiritual accumulations. She saw the form of that woman since the beginning, when it was surpassingly beautiful, up until it turned into an old woman falling over. She saw impermanence. Then she brought this contemplation back to herself and reflected that her own body would be like this as well, and that she couldn’t escape this fate. Even that beautiful woman changed and decayed. Her bodily form was uncertain and changing. Therefore her own bodily form would have this same fate. Then during this time, the Buddha taught:
“Those who are infatuated with lust, fall back into the stream of craving, just like a spider caught in the web it has spun. The wise cut off the stream of craving and become free from longing for sense-pleasures.”
After the Buddha said this, Queen Khema, who had full spiritual development, attained to becoming an arahant with full mindfulness and wisdom, imbued with all the psychic powers, right at that time she was standing there.
So we can see that this was a layperson who was lost in beauty and deluded in the happiness that she had in that life, being the chief queen of King Bimbisara. If we reflect on this, someone with this much happiness and with this much beauty, probably wouldn’t be able to attain to become an arahant just like that. However, this was possible because she made great parami over many lifetimes. She met many Buddhas and practiced a lot, developing mindfulness and wisdom. She made the determination in the past, in front of a Buddha, that she would be able to listen to the teachings of a Buddha and become an arahant.
Though she was in the status of a householder, after attaining to arahantship she couldn’t live in the householder’s life anymore. So, she asked for the permission from King Bimbisara to ordain as a bhikkhuni. The King could understand because he was already a sotapanna, but, as for himself, he couldn’t ordain as he had his royal duties in leading his country. So he gave permission for his chief Queen Khema to ordain. He ordered all the officials to accompany her on a golden seat to the Order of bhikkhunis to ordain. She was then named, Venerable Khema Theri.
We can see that she made the most of her mindfulness and wisdom in attaining to becoming an arahant. Even though she was still a lay person, she could still attain very quickly. The Buddha praised her as being the foremost of all the bhikkhunis in wisdom, and she also held the special status of being a chief bhikkhuni of the Buddha.
Here we can see that this wisdom may be latent in a child, a middle-aged person, a woman, a man, a lay person, a bhikkhu, a bhikkhuni, a samanera, or a samaneri. Before that individual attains to Dhamma, they may still kill or take lives, even of human-beings, or they may have strong delusion in their own bodies. But when the old, latent parami comes up as they listen to the teachings from the Buddha, then they, too, can attain Dhamma easily.
And for us here, we have already built a lot of parami before. It may well be that in our past lives we have already met with the Buddha, and made parami with the Buddha. In this life, the Buddha has already attained parinibbana, but his Dhamma is still here. So may we study the Dhamma, practice the Dhamma, and contemplate the Dhamma, so that our minds can understand the Dhamma deeply. And, one day when we are listening to Dhamma, learning Dhamma, and contemplating Dhamma, we may gain clear insight into the Dhamma.
So be established in heedfulness. Do not think that in this life we are too late to meet the Buddha. We don’t know whether or not we have already met the Buddha in the past. So may all of you who are interested in Dhamma be sincere and determined in having mindfulness and wisdom. May you “Sadhu” and rejoice with the mindfulness and wisdom of Ven. Khema Theri. May you contemplate on this and reflect on the Dhamma. May you grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: If Ven. Khema did not listen to the Buddha, could she have attained to arahantship?
Luang Por Anan: The Buddha was the only one capable of teaching her. Without listening to the Buddha she would not have attained to Dhamma in this way. She had built parami for a long time in order to listen to the Dhamma of the Buddha. She had already met many Buddhas. All of this was so that she would meet with the Buddha in her last life, listen to the Dhamma, and realize arahantship. She aspired to this since the time of Padumuttara Buddha. She had done all the requisite causes to succeed in her determination. One must have the appropriate causes in place.
2. Q: I have heard that the path to freedom from suffering can be more complicated or different for those of more parami as compared to those with less parami.
Luang Por Anan: If one becomes a normal enlightened disciple of a Buddha, then one can realize this quickly if one’s parami is full—one can realize arahantship. If one has more parami and determines to do something greater, then this takes more time. One must build parami like patient endurance, mindfulness, and wisdom. In order to meet with the Buddha one needs more parami.
3. Q: If Ven. Khema had a lot of parami, then why did she not want to listen to the Buddha? Was it because she was deluded in her beauty? How can we make sure past merits give fruit quickly in the present lifetime?
Luang Por Anan: Do not think of getting the fruits quickly. Past causes already exist and the present is the result of those causes. Building wholesome causes in the present is the most important thing. If one plants a fruit tree and wants fruit quickly, then what should one do?
Take care of the fertilizer, the pests, water, and so on, and the causes will lead to fruition on their own. Focus on doing morality, concentration, and wisdom in the present, and this will give future results automatically. The tree gives fruits at its own pace.
4. Q: What are the different ways of developing wisdom?
Luang Por Anan: Listen to Dhamma a lot, contemplate Dhamma, reflect and reason about cause and effect, and associate with the wise. Think of Ven. Ananda: he studied a lot and kept close to the Buddha/Bodhisattva in the past. Great disciples were close to the Bodhisattva, the future Buddha, in past lives, like Ven. Khema. For example, in a monastery, there are some good elder monks, learned in Dhamma and Vinaya, who have kindness, and the new monks or novices should study with a monk like that and emulate that monk. The new monks can then develop those same good qualities to become good senior monks, themselves. They should recite Dhamma, understand, reflect, and remember those teachings. Doing all these things is necessary.
5. Q: Did the bhikkhunis do alms round and listen to the Buddha’s teachings along with the bhikkhus?
Luang Por Anan: The Buddha would send monks like Ven. Ananda to give Dhamma discourses to the bhikkhunis. On one occasion, a monk named Ven. Culapanthaka gave a very short talk to the bhikkhunis. The bhikkhunis were disappointed and did not have faith in Ven. Culapanthaka. After this, Ven. Culapanthaka displayed psychic powers like walking in the air, then the bhikkhunis gained faith. The bhikkhus and bhikkhunis lived separately. The bhikkhunis would go on alms round.
6. Q: Why did the Buddha give more Vinaya, or monastic rules, to the bhikkhunis?
Luang Por Anan: Vinaya rules arise from certain situations or events in the time of the Buddha. When there was uninspiring or unsuitable behavior in body or speech from the bhikkhus or bhikkhunis, then the Buddha laid down a rule to correct this. The Vinaya was made to be just enough for the male and female monastics. The bhikkhunis had more incidents arise.
7. Q: How should one make a determination/vow (adhitthana)? In front of a Buddha statue?
Luang Por Anan: Do good—do dana, sila, and mental development as much as one can—all the time. Recollect the Buddha. Then make a determination based on the goodness that one has done in order to be successful in wisdom and so on. One can do this in front of a Buddha statue.
8. Q: Why would someone aspire to be a great disciple? Since samsara is suffering, then why would one be in samsara and be born again for even longer? This would be more suffering.
Luang Por Anan: This is up to one’s development. One still sees suffering, but has more loving kindness and compassion, and wants to help others more. Others see suffering, or dukkha, and feel that this is enough—they decide to attain stream entry, to once-returning, to non-returning, then to arahantship. But others want to build more parami. Those individuals still see suffering, but they want to build more wisdom, meet a Buddha, and help others. Who was the person that opened up your meditation center today? Its like the person who opens up the meditation center before the others arrive. That person wants to overcome suffering just like the others who come, but they have the self-sacrifice heart to help others.
If no one comes to help others in this way, then others do not gain benefit. If no one does any more than anyone else, then no one has the opportunity to listen to the Dhamma. So, it is necessary to have someone who builds more parami in order to help others. Like Ven. Ananda—if he did not build parami to fill his post, then there would have been no one to remember all the suttas that we still read and listen to today. He sacrificed and built parami in order to help others. It is necessary to have the great disciples, otherwise we would not know the teachings. To be a great disciple one does go through more difficulties, but one does it to benefit others, the later generations.
9. Q: What qualities should one have—I know I should build mindfulness and wisdom, but what else should I build?
Luang Por Anan: If one aspires to be a great disciple, one can develop a certain parami as a special focus. If one wants to overcome suffering, then develop morality, concentration, and wisdom, cultivate the parami of renunciation, and doing all of this is enough to see the Dhamma.
10. Q: Two days ago, a friend of mine had seizures and became unconscious. What advice do you have to pass on?
Luang Por Anan: Chant a lot and ask for the parami of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and Bodhisattvas to help them get better and recover. Make a determination to help them get better.
And, lastly, here is another story of a great bhikkhuni disciple who had a similar story to Ven. Khema: Ven. Sundari Nanda Theri was the bhikkhuni foremost in meditation, or jhana. She was the half-sister of the Buddha. She was very beautiful. The Buddha created an image of a beautiful woman that aged and died in front of her eyes, then the Buddha gave her a teaching. Ven. Sundari Nanda Theri then attained to stream entry and later arahantship, full enlightenment.