Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – February 2nd, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
Now is an opportunity to sit meditation and listen to the Dhamma. If our mind is peaceful and well-concentrated and we listen to the Dhamma, at the highest level, we may be able to understand the Dhamma, plain and clearly.
There emerges a freshness, or true life within the heart.
Like Venerable Anya Kodanya understood that all things are impermanent. They have the nature to arise, stay, then to pass away. He saw clearly into the nature of all things. We call this seeing the Dhamma. Because his mind was one, it was still and peaceful while listening to the Dhamma. Then when he contemplated into the Dhamma, he understood clearly.
Why do some not see the Dhamma clearly? Because the mental defilements, the cravings and attachments, are firmly grasping our heart. They have a deep hold over our hearts. This then leads the mind to have thoughts and proliferations, to have doubts and worries, and to have sensual attraction in different things.
Especially in this modern day, being technologically advanced, all things are more easy and convenient. But the grasping and attachments are also greater too.
Loko, is a word for the world, and means that when the world develops, darkness within develops. If the world develops in terms of material advancement, our hearts become darker because the attachments are greater as well.
When the Buddha gave the Annattalakkhana sutta, on emptiness, and the lack of self, all the 5 ascetics listening attained to arahantship. Thus, listening to the Dhamma has potentially the highest benefits, that it can extinguish the attachments and grasping within the heart.
Wherever you are listening to the Dhamma, make sure to establish your mindfulness firmly and when you contemplate into the teachings, then the mind will develop according to its ability.
Upadana, these attachments that one has within the mind, how can we compare this to? We could compare it to a gecko. Its feet are really sticky. If its stuck on the ceiling, it could die anytime and will still be stuck there. If a gecko sticks on us, it is really difficult to peel or get off.
If we compare the geckoes to the kilesas or mental defilements, that take a hold of our heart, the kilesas are way worse. The attachment lasts beyond this life, they go across lifetimes. Do you think samsara, the cycle of birth and death is long? The Buddha said that we can’t find the beginning of samsara. If we go back to our past life, we may have been born as a human, deva, animal, and what about the life before that? And it goes on and on. And what was our first life like?
We cant find the beginning of it. The future lifetimes in samsara keep going according to our grasping and attachments. Its really sticky and firm within our hearts. When we haven’t got rid of the attachments, then we have to keep being born and dying, over an incalculable amount of lifetimes. Each life that we are born in, we experience both happiness and suffering. But is this happiness real? The thing we call happiness, after no long time, it becomes the cause of suffering. When we get something we like and love, that thing changes and then suffering arises in the heart. We get this body and we like it, but it changes. We can walk easily, but one day we can’t walk too well. The knees are no good, our balance becomes no good. Different pains and sicknesses arises in this body. Can we rely on the things we own or call ours? Wealth, fame, praise, happiness – these are worldly conditions. On the opposite side are loss of wealth, loss of reputation, criticism, suffering – these are the worldly conditions we don’t like.
These worldly conditions have 2 sides – the ones we like and the ones we don’t like. If we like it, then there arises attachment in our hearts – which is sticky, much more sticky then the gecko that sticks on the ceiling. If its something we don’t like, the worldly conditions that we don’t like, then suffering arises. So this all means that we are born in this world, we have to meet with both sides of these worldly conditions.
Ven. Ajahn Chah said something very profound, that these worldly conditions are like a decayed timber log, that is about to snap. We go and use it as a support and we think its strong. But one day the log will break, and it is very dangerous. The roof it is supporting might fall down on us, or maybe if it is supporting us on a high place, we may fall to the ground hard and hit our head, we could even lose our life. Or we may get hurt or even become handicapped. These worldly conditions are very dangerous in the same way. We need to have the mindfulness and wisdom to contemplate them so that we don’t let attachments take hold of our hearts. Or even if the attachments are already there, by contemplating the dhamma, we can loosen their hold gradually.
Like you all coming today on this Uposotha day, and you are all have sacrificed the pleasure one gets from sleeping and relaxing at home. You’ve woken up early and come to the monastery to make offerings, give alms, listen to Dhamma and to practice chanting and meditation, this is letting go of attachments and happiness to one level. The coarse attachments that are very sticky in the heart, and that most people aren’t able to let go off, makes them unable to come here to search for merit and goodness.
By getting rid of attachments, that are stuck in our hearts, even more than the geckos sticking to the ceiling, this will make the heart free and light, have brightness and cleanliness, and inner peace develops gradually. When we build merit and spiritual merits like this, then it wont take long, when our spiritual potential becomes full, and we will see clearly in our hearts, we can see the conditions of this world that are constantly decaying.
Last Friday, during the video conference, one Dhamma practitioner in America, Trudy, said that the wisdom spontaneously arose that this life must end in death, and it slowly melts away bit by bit, day by day. This arose on its own, without actively contemplating death. She has a big house, but finds it difficult to look after, so wants to sell it for a smaller house so that she can have more time to practice dhamma. She asked that how can this wisdom arise in the heart, when she didn’t even contemplate death. I answered that it is the wisdom that arises from one’s meditation practice. It gradually overcomes the upadana, the attachments in the heart.
All conditions that we attach to, they arise, stay for awhile, then pass away. No matter how much the world develops, the all these conditioned phenomena still arises, stays and passes away. If we know this nature of things, this is called knowing and seeing the Dhamma. We see the self. That is, seeing the self as not-self. If we see the self as being us, this is seeing it in terms of ignorance, craving and attachments.
So I give my anumodana to all of you who have let go of your attachments, sense-pleasures and comforts in relaxing and sleeping, and instead chosen to come and build goodness instead. If we practice like this, we will loosen, pull off, and can give up our attachments. These attachments in the mind are much more difficult to get rid of then a gecko that is stuck to the wall. If we try to clear the gecko softly with a stick, it doesn’t get it off at all. Its really stuck. The kilesas or mental defilements are the same. If we try to clear them away softly, they don’t loosen for sure. You need to put a lot of strength into it. You have to rub, pull, scrape, rip it off – every method so that we can win over the attachments that arise within the heart. May you all be determined to practice Dhamma and may you all see and know the Dhamma.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Right before dying, such as in a car accident, how should one prepare their mind for this or what should one do?
Luang Por Anan: You should think of “Buddho”. Practice being mindful all the time. Mindfulness leads to good rebirth.
If you do not think of “Buddho” fast enough, you may be reborn as a ghost. A ghost waits for karma to bring them to their next birth. Ghosts can remember good or bad actions and get good or bad rebirth. Yama, the lord of death, leads them to the next birth. Some ghosts can wait for relatives to share merits with them to get a better rebirth.
Q: Is contemplating impermanence and death the same thing?
Luang Por Anan: When you contemplate death you see impermanence, and this seeing of impermanence makes the mind still. Then you can see death with wisdom and insight.
The nature of the mind when pure is to be free from defilements.
Q: My mother really likes this fortune teller, what should I do?
Luang Por Anan: Rituals like that can have sacred beings helping someone to see things, this is up to one’s faith. Going along with your mother can be a type of metta.
Q: How to have mindfulness when very tired?
Luang Por Anan: Walk, look at the stars, splash water on your face, pull your ears, walk backwards, look at bright things—one student even looks at their phone to wake themselves up.
Q: Sometimes when tired I watch too much youtube. This feels bad. What should I do?
Luang Por Anan: One needs to be careful. Being aware and taking a rest is better. You can make a vow to not watch youtube when tired, and keep this vow solemnly like an extra moral precept. The internet can be worse than alcohol since one can use it all the time.
When I practiced I saw the reality of death and uncertainty. I wanted to find something that did not die. I saw all the world burning, burning with old age, sickness, and death.
With this insight I felt great rapture and happiness for three days and three nights.
A young western girl came to visit and asked why I ordained. I wondered how to answer her as she was quite young. I asked about her wishes for her life, and she said she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grows up and that she loved rabbits.
I asked her: ‘If the rabbit goes away would you suffer?’
She said ‘Yes, but it would come back.’
I asked, ‘What if the rabbit died, then would you suffer?’
She said ‘Yes, I would suffer.’
I replied ‘Well, I ordained to find the rabbit that would not die.’
She seemed to understand this.
Q: I have a friend who prays to Kuan Yin to get a baby. Is this good or bad?
Luang Por Anan: This is the parami of determination, also metta and compassion. The obstacle of attaching to outer rituals refers to thinking an outer ritual will lead to enlightenment. If one has enough faith and merit then this kind of prayer can succeed.