Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – November 17th, 2017
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone. We just did our chanting. Chanting is something that is very beneficial. We praise the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and reflect on the beautiful qualities of these three things. The Buddha made a tremendous effort to achieve his enlightenment; this was something very difficult to do. We can reflect on the great effort of the Buddha. We can reflect on the great purity, wisdom, and compassion of the Buddha. In conclusion, we chant with mindful awareness, not too fast and not too slow.
Welcome everyone. Now may you establish your mindfulness with the in and out breath. When the breath goes in you mentally recite ‘Bud’, and with the out breath you mentally recite ‘Dho’. Directing the mind this way improves our mindfulness. If we just establish awareness with only the breath, the mind likes to keep going outside and getting lost constantly. The important thing of training in developing mindfulness, this right recollection, is to make the mind firm and concentrated. When the mind has concentration, this will allow us to understand the Dhamma clearly. This is how we build the causes and qualities that build faith, this firm confidence that is unwavering and has wisdom.
During the Buddhas time, the ones who had sati and wisdom, and who saw and understood the Dhamma, even being unordained laypeople, were many. This was because these individuals had built a great amount of parami in the past. When the Buddha went to teach in the Maghdaha district where King Bimbisara was the King, 3 out of 4 laypeople could see the Dhamma clearly. Really amazing that 75% could understand the Dhamma well. It was because they all had built faith and confidence in the Buddha’s teaching, full in their hearts already.
For example, there was Rajagha setthi, an important individual in Rajagaha city in Magdaha kingdom, who originally didn’t have faith in the Buddha’s teaching because he didn’t believe there were any more arahants in the world. So, he got a sandalwood bowl and hung it on a very high tree, and he announced that if there were any arahants may they fly up and get the sandalwood bowl and bring it back. Those of the other sects who announced they were arahants couldn’t bring the bowl down.
Here, one of the Buddhas disciples, friend of Mahamogallana, used his psychic powers and flew up to get the bowl. And Rajagha setthi gained faith in that monk and in the Buddha and his teachings. And the important thing is that Rajagaha setthi was a friend of Anathapindika. Rajagaha setthi had invited the Buddha and the sangha to eat a meal at his residence. It was around the same time when Anathapindika came down from Savatthi to Rajagaha to trade some goods. Now it was it an odd occurrence because Rajagaha setthi who was good friends with Anathhapinidika, gave little attention to Anathapindika because he didn’t have time to look after him. He told Anathapindika to rest. Anathapindika found out that the reason for all this activity was because the Buddha was coming to have the meal here tomorrow. When Anathapindika heard the word Buddha, joy and rapture arose, a type that he wasn’t able to bear. He wished to see the Buddha that night. But he understood it was an inappropriate time to go and it was better to wait for the next day. This was the parami that he had made in the past. Just hearing that the Buddha had arose in this world, and that the Buddha was coming to have the meal at his friend’s place, just this much and a deep bliss arose in his heart. This was from his past merits.
Like all of you have built merit through this whole life. And in our past lives. We build this merit up. When this merit, that is, this happiness, becomes full, we just think of the Buddha or we chant one of the verses of praise to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Our minds are upright in the Triple Gem. Joy and rapture of the mind arises. The Dhamma arises. Because we are deeply inspired in the great compassion of the Buddha, the great purity of the Buddha, the great wisdom of our Buddha, that which can overcome all the mental defilements or get rid of all the defilements. The Buddha was the first one to be enlightened and did so all through his own efforts. The Buddha had no teacher, and he was the founder of the Truth. This arising of the Buddha is incredibly difficult. There is nothing as hard as this. Because the Buddha had to build his spiritual perfections for a great uncountable amount of lifetimes. We can’t count how many millions of years, or billions of years. Even if we could keep counting the millions of years all throughout our lives it wouldn’t compare to a speck of the amount of lifetimes the Buddha went through.
He had the greatest sacrifice and fulfilled his desire to become a Buddha.
We can imagine we were born in the time of the Buddha and we invited the Buddha to have the meal at our place. The great Buddha was going to have the meal and give a teaching and if we had enough spiritual potential we may see the Dhamma. But coming to this life, looking into the future maybe if we have parami we can meet the next Buddha, Maitreiya, or Mettaya Buddha.
So, this life we build our faith till its strong and firm. And make the determination that if we don’t see the Dhamma this life then may we meet with Mettaya Buddha, may we listen to the Dhamma from Mettaya Buddha and we can hear the Dhamma and see the Dhamma in that life, or if we have enough spiritual potential may we becomes enlightened in this life. When we have a goal in the mind, we call this spiritual determination. We have a strong determination in our hearts may we meet Mettaya Buddha, pay respects, hear the Dhamma, and see the Dhamma in that life. Then we have the strength of mind to build goodness, to chant morning and evening, give dana, coming to give alms, things that are not easy too.
To do that you need to wake early, prepare the food, travel far, and give alms, to build goodness at Wat Marp Jan. Some come from far. Today there are 2 people from Singapore, coming from far and offering alms. Traveling from far to give alms and build goodness. If we have determination parami, then when we build goodness we gain more strength of mind to follow through and act. Whether it is giving, or practicing in chanting, recollecting the teachings of the Buddha, then rapture and joy arises in the mind. This Dhamma allows the mind to become pure and clean. Then when the heart has cleanliness and purity, the heart becomes full and light. This is the food for the heart. The food of humans we eat every day, but it doesn’t make the heart full. If the mind has greed and desire, this becomes a fire that burns and dries up the mind. But if we have food for the heart, that is merit and goodness, this keeps filling up the heart always. Then the heart is full every day. You don’t just do this when you go to the monastery. When you are at home you practice chanting and meditation. Contemplate a Dhamma theme every day. Make the mind full and joyous with merit and goodness. Rapture and concentration that is firm arises from the faith that leads it. Then arises effort and perseverance in the practice. The mind revolves like this and this becomes magga, or path. Then arises wisdom, the all around clear knowing and insight regarding the saṅkhāras, or conditioned formations. Following the teachings of the Buddha, we have to accept and understand the truth.
Like Digha Nakha Brahmin, who accepted that being born we have to change according to nature. When we have any possessions they have to decay and deteriorate according to nature. We train the mind in this way to accept the nature of how things are. Then we will see the Dhamma. Digha Nakha Brahmin became a sotapanna and praised the virtues of the Buddha. The Buddha shows the way to one who was lost, is a lamp that shows the way in a dark place, or turns upright what was overturned, so it can receive rain, and there will be a day that it will get full of water. Digha Nakha Brahmin praised the many virtues of the Buddha.
So, we are very fortunate that we have been born and our hearts are firmly established in the Buddha’s teachings. We should train the mind to be firm and have faith following Anathapindika, who had great faith in the Buddha. Anathapindika who went to see the Buddha in the middle of the night. The Buddha said: “Come, Sudatta”, referring to Anathapindika’s real name. He gained great joy and rapture, and, listening to the Dhamma, realized stream entry, or sotapanna. His faith was firm in the Buddha’s teaching, and he built a renowned monastery—Jetavana, in Savatthi city. He was the foremost of the lay male supporters, comparable to the foremost lay female supporter, Lady Visakha.
So, may you take these 2 great followers as your example and build your goodness. Do dana with awareness and wisdom according to your means. The important thing is to practice and meditate a lot. Contemplate Dhamma each day, one theme per day. So that rapture and joy arises, so that the mind is firm. This builds our merit and parami. If our parami is full, we may be able to see the Dhamma this life. Therefore, when our heart has this firm faith, we have effort in the practice, nibbana isn’t far away. It’s very close. The seeing of the Dhamma is not far away when the mind has metta—then nibbana is very close. May you all be determined in the practice and all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers (abridged):
Q: There is a famous singer in Thailand raising money for 11 hospitals as they run from the south to the north of Thailand. What kind of kamma is this?
Luang Por Anan: The singer sacrifices to build merit and goodness. They use their fame and physical health to help society, which is a good thing. In the time of the Buddha there was one person who did not have much money to give but encouraged others to keep the eight precepts on the uposatha days. When this person died they became a radiant deva because of their encouraging others to keep the precepts.
The trouble with encouraging others to donate is that one is not sure if their intentions to donate are wholesome or not, maybe they just want recognition. One is also not sure if they gained their money ethically or in a corrupt way.
Q: I sold my big house to get a cheap apartment to have more time for practice, and I reflect that my body is dying every day and I really want to make a strong effort in Dhamma practice. These things, however, are happening on their own, I don’t feel like I’m making them happen. I feel happy and peaceful just letting these things go and letting the body go.
Luang Por Anan: I rejoice for you. These things happening on their own is a result of wisdom from your practice of Dhamma. Keep putting forth effort and keep going, this is good.
Q: What is a chant for brightening the mind when it is dull and bored?
Luang Por Anan: Any chant is good, just pick one that helps you feel joyful and brings about strong mindfulness, and pick a chant that you do well.
Q: While watching my breath, if any sound or image arises, which point should I put my mindfulness on?
Luang Por Anan: The nose or the mouth—feel the breath there. Let go of interest in outside things.
Q: My friend is unwell in body and mind, he feels insecure. He is a Christian. How can I transfer merits to him as a Buddhist?
Luang Por Anan: Do good, chant, meditate, and send metta and merits to him after meditating. You can say: “By this merit, may my friend be well.”
Q: If we know someone made money unethically, in this case, in an illegal way, should we accept the money?
Luang Por Anan: No. Once a monk wanted to give Luang Pu Chah money for a Dhamma hall. Luang Pu Chah refused the money and did not explain why.
Q: Does the singer raising money get mixed merits? I heard once that singers and entertainers make bad kamma because they help create confusion in other people’s minds.
Luang Por Anan: Good actions get good results, bad actions get bad results, yes. Each action gets its own results.
Q: If we eat a cow or shrimp which one is worse kamma? Someone said the cow is better since it is just one death and the bad kamma is shared with many, whereas with shrimp many are killed for one meal.
Luang Por Anan: Maybe one is not lonely in receiving the results of bad kamma in the case of the cow. But really it is about intention—one should eat with the desire to sustain the body. Killing is bad, and if one sees an animal with the desire to eat it then this is bad.
Q: There was the wife of a hunter who cleaned her husband’s weapons each night, but she was supposed to be a sotapanna who was unable to kill. Later the husband and all 7 children became sotapannas after listening to the Dhamma. How is this possible?
Luang Por Anan: The important part is the intention. The wife was doing her duty to her husband, and due to her highly developed mind and parami, she could separate her intention to help and clean from the intention to harm. Wives who help in such a way are praiseworthy.
Q: I want to release my attraction and aversion to praise and blame. When should I bring this up in my meditation?
Luang Por Anan: Be aware of the breath and then contemplate how praise and blame are universal, everyone experiences them in this world, and they are uncertain.
Once someone came and praised Luang Pu Chah, saying he was like a great royal elephant in the forest. Luang Pu Chah would not accept the praise just like that, he said, “There aren’t just elephants in this forest, there are monkeys, too.”