Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – December 22nd, 2017
One can listen to this talk here: Wat Marp Jan Audio Link
L uang Por Anan: Welcome to everyone.
Q: I found the question that was asked last week really interesting – the one about the giver and the one who gives love. From my memory, they said that all religions in the world and their founders stress the importance of everyone being ones who give to others and love others. I think the question was that when one loves others and is a giver, how should one practice love so that they have happiness in their hearts.
Luang Por Anan: This is a very good question about metta, loving kindness or friendliness, and loving others. The Buddha taught that people can live in the world because of love. That is what we call metta. Metta is a quality of Dhamma that protects this world. If people in this world lack metta, then what happens? Think about it. What happens if people in this world lack metta?
Q: There probably will be war.
Luang Por Anan: Is the war and conflict of this era the same as in previous eras? Compare this era to, say, 200 or 300 years ago. There will be a greater number of people being hurt and dying. It would be significantly worse in this day and age. But, the world hasn’t really changed. In every country in the world, all the people need to have metta or loving-kindness. It’s the thing that will protect all the people so that they can survive. The Buddha taught this more than 2560 years ago. It has been 2560 years since the Buddha’s parinibbana. And this teaching of metta is a teaching that is timeless in that it applies equally in any era. It is the practice that leads the world to have peace and harmony. All the world religions and the original founders teach to have love and metta.
An example of this is the Lord Buddha who could have already attained to the highest level of arahantship a long, long time ago. But, the Buddha stayed in the cycle of birth and death for 20 incalculable ages – so many millions of years, an uncountable amount of time, willing to give up his life many times over, repeatedly experiencing birth and death.
What for? It is from loving-kindness and compassion which is a boundless loving-kindness and boundless compassion – to the amount that has no equal whatsoever. The Buddha perfected himself spiritually so that he could lead living beings out of the cycle of birth and death. He had to build all the paramis, the 10 spiritual perfections, to the ordinary level, the higher level where he had to sacrifice small or large parts of his body, or to the ultimate level where he had to sacrifice his life. And he did this many times over. This way is the same for all Bodhisattvas – those that aspire to become a Buddha – whether it is Matreiya Buddha, the coming Buddha, or the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. All Bodhisattvas build their parami to the fullest for the purpose of becoming a rightly self-awakened Buddha.
Can you see that a Bodhisattva possess a heart of metta and compassion with no equal? This is the founder of our religion. Even in the final life, our Buddha had to sacrifice all the ease and pleasure of being a prince – sacrificing and giving up his beloved queen and wife and his newly born son – giving up everything for the purpose of searching for the truth and to teach all beings the way out of suffering and out of the cycle of birth and death. All founders of religion are like this. That is, they sacrifice their own life for the benefit of others.
We have been born into this world and there are some we will know who possess a beautiful mind and Dhamma in their hearts—they are prepared to give and help us and others with metta and compassion. Like a mother and father, who are compared to an arahant of their child. They are prepared to be a giver to their child since the time the child is in the mother’s womb. The wife has to look after the baby in her womb, and the husband has to work to look after and provide for them both. Or even the mother has to work at the same time as she is pregnant. They need to work in a righteous way so that they have enough resources to look after the small child when they are born. This is all given with a pure heart.
Look at this in the current world. The giver has to be intelligent in giving. The receiver may want a little or a lot. The best is that the giver can give everything. If the receiver is in a lot of need, then the giver is able to give and help appropriately to the level of need. But if the receiver only needs a little, then we just give a little. We give with a pure mind and appropriate to our ability and circumstances. We do this until our minds grow higher and higher, until we become a giver that gives and does not expect anything in return. At the start, the giver may be expecting something in return. Maybe that person can give us this or that later on. But the best way to give is with a pure mind. We give without wanting anything in return.
All the founders of the world-religions gave without wanting anything in return. All the Bodhisattvas don’t want anything in return for the help that they give us. What they desire most is to become a self-awakened Buddha. This is much higher than anything we could give in return. They want to give more and more, sacrifice more and more – but they do so in order to become a Buddha. So that they can come back into this world in order to give to us on the level of the Buddha, even more than they have given as a Bodhisattva. This is the purest type of heart. This is a being who has a lot of parami. They could have easily become an arahant. They have the purest intention. Their parami that they have accumulated is like the vastness of the great ocean. They just have one more drop of water required to become a Buddha—for that desire to be realised.
For the receiver, who receives this from the Buddha? How should we receive this? For the monks, they should practice the korwat patipada – the practices and trainings of a monk. They should practice developing sila, samadhi, and panya – morality, concentration, and wisdom – in line with what the Buddha taught. They should train and develop their own minds. This is because the Buddha doesn’t want anything in return. He just wants us to improve and develop our hearts and minds.
We want to offer and give flowers as worship, but the Buddha doesn’t want this. He doesn’t even want us to pay homage and bow to him. What he wants is for our hearts to be free from the mental defilements. For one to be a good receiver, that receiver has to have Dhamma. They need to receive with metta and compassion, as well. They have given something to us and we are happy. We anumodana and rejoice in what we have received – we sadhu to their giving. We believe the giver to possess a good heart.
The receiver acknowledges that they themselves are suffering, and they receive the gift and acknowledge its goodness and benefit. This shows that the rejoicing in the mind of the receiver depends on the goodness and beauty of the heart of the receiver. Our minds should have metta and good thoughts towards the giver. We give them blessings and good wishes. We wish for their prosperity and success. We have compassion for them and we wish for them to be free from suffering. If we are able to, then with our strength of body, wealth or other means, we repay them for any help that we have received. We have good intentions towards the giver. We have gratitude for what we have received, and this is Dhamma in our heart.
We should see that if we are a receiver that has mental defilements, maybe we think that we just want to receive all the time, or we think it’s their duty for them to give to us. We want them to give quickly, to give a lot, and to give continuously—this is kilesa, or the mental defilements, operating in the heart. This leads to laziness and not putting forth effort to find things for ourselves. People give to us, then we are satisfied and content with that, and we don’t even consider to repay what we have received. This is a mind that falls lower and lower.
The Buddha taught Ven. Maha Moggallana that when you go for alms into the villages, put on your robes neatly and go with humbleness. Don’t go there thinking that you are a great monk and that people ought to give to you. Establish in the mind that people should give you alms food slowly, taking their time, giving just a little bit of food, and giving only coarse foods, not special foods. Make the mind established in this way. Think in this way – that people can give slowly, a little and just coarse foods. Thinking this way, the mind will be established in samadhi, or concentration, the mind won’t be agitated, samadhi will arise, and wisdom will arise. And we will attain to the paths and fruits of nibbana. The Buddha taught Ven. Maha Moggalana this.
This is something that the monks can use in their training, or even for the laypeople or those of us that receive things can use this teaching. We shouldn’t think that others should give us good things, that they should respect us, and that they should give to us continuously. Can you see that it is important as well for the receiver to have Dhamma? If they don’t have Dhamma, then they just have more and more greed, they don’t have any gratitude, or they don’t repay what they have received. With no Dhamma, the mind falls lower and lower. The mind has just jealousy and lacks virtue, there is no metta, compassion, sympathetic joy, or equanimity.
We come back to compare and reflect on the Buddha when he was a Bodhisattva or for all the Bodhisattvas – those who give with true purity. There isn’t anything that holds back in their minds, not even a little. Their minds are the purest. So, the receivers of this must develop their minds to have more goodness and more purity. We must develop little by little until we are good receivers or worthy inheritors, until we are successors and good followers of the religion. Like the monks who receive the Buddha’s teachings and must practice to develop the wealth of sila, the wealth of samadhi, and the wealth of wisdom, until gaining the first levels of the paths and fruits of nibbana. Then this individual becomes a true child of the Buddha. A true child of the Buddha who is worthy of the inheritance that the Buddha has left us. That is the inheritance of Dhamma – the happiness and peace of nibbana.
If one is a lay person, then they are a child to their parents and they should practice appropriately so they are in a position to receive their inheritance from their father and mother. They have to practice with morality and virtue, they need to have a good character, be industrious, competitive, diligent in work, learn and study well, listen to their father and mother and practice appropriately, until they become a good receiver. They become a person who repays their parents – the ones that have given them a lot who are good givers.
What about the giver who has given the best, but the receiver who receives with greed? There is a story of a monk who goes for alms and receives a lot of food, and good food, too. The other monk goes for alms and doesn’t get much food. Then that one monk eats himself and is contented. This is like receiving good things but becoming one who receives with greed.
There is another story in the time of Ven. Ajahn Chah of one monk who took up the ascetic practice of eating only what one gets on alms round, and not eating what is given later in the monastery. Usually, the monks share all the food and then they eat both what is gained from alms and what is given in the monastery, too. But this monk who took up this ascetic practice got much more food and better food than what the other monks got in the monastery. Ven. Ajahn Chah said to him, “Is this correct, is it good doing it this way?”
Ajahn Chah said this for that monk to contemplate if doing it this way was appropriate. One takes up an ascetic practice – but gets a lot of food. But in the monastery, one who doesn’t take this practice up gets less and not as good food. The point of the ascetic practices is to get rid of mental defilements. But the practice this monk was doing didn’t get rid of defilements but made them grow more. We have more than others and we don’t share it with them, too. This is a receiver who isn’t good. Later, this monk kept this up for a few days and became wiser then gave up this practice. So, a good receiver must be one that shares with others, too. Every person can be a good giver and a good receiver. Not just solely being a receiver. So, it’s important that a receiver is one with metta, compassion, and gratitude. This is a good receiver. In this world, we can be a good receiver and giver.
And what about this body of ours? This breath goes in and out. It enters and sustains this body. The air element enters and allows the fire element to arise. The oxygen goes to the lungs, enters the blood and cleanses it. The water element circulates around the body. The earth element is able to be sustained. Who is the giver and who is the receiver?
Q: I’m confused.
Luang Por Anan: Well, I am confused as well. We can contemplate this. The body automatically receives the breath but does it know? Does the mind know? Why do we have to give to the body? Is it because we love ourselves? If we don’t love ourselves, then we don’t need to breathe. We can hold our breath until we die. But don’t do it of course. But it shows that we all inherently love ourselves. The breath goes in and out. There is enough oxygen and the body is strong so we don’t get sicknesses. The body can be sustained and continue on living. But, if we don’t love the body, we may breathe in different gases or impure oxygen – and that will harm and worsen the body, lungs and other organs. This is one who doesn’t love themselves.
So, when we love ourselves and look after ourselves, the body repays us by being strong. We breathe in and we wish ourselves to be well and happy. We wish our lungs to be well and happy, our heart to be well and happy, and our body to be well and happy. When we are well and happy – then we think of others. Do humans want to have happiness? Yes. If we want to have happiness then should we harm and hurt others? No, we shouldn’t. We should be a giver. Or if we are a receiver, then we should be a good receiver and repay the goodness that we have received.
A body that is a good receiver will be strong and healthy. Then both the receiver and giver can live together well. Not just having only people giving and the other people just wait to receive from them. It shouldn’t be like this.
There needs to be the metta that looks after the world. The Buddha taught that metta is the Dhamma that looks after the world. We develop metta, and we start from ourselves and spread this out from the monastery, the family, the home, and out to the district, province, country and to all the countries – spread it to all the people of all religions and nationalities. May all people have love and metta for each other.
Then, to whatever country one goes, there is no need to fear anything. If someone comes to this country, they don’t need to fear anything. For example, in the news recently, one person found a phone on a public car and the owner was nowhere to be found. So, they took the phone they found and gave it to the authorities to give back to the owner. Why? Because they felt that if they lost their phone then they would be suffering a lot. The phone had no value to them. They didn’t want to be a receiver of someone else’s possession through taking it from someone else. They couldn’t do it and had consideration for others.
Imagine if people take things off others or harm others when those people visit another country. Then, when others come to their country, they are likely to do a similar immoral action. Therefore, in this world, if all people have metta to each other, are good givers and good receivers, with a high level of mind, then they are ready to be a child of the Buddha or a Bodhisattva. They don’t want anything in return.
Like the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara – who helps others who are in suffering. He is known to be the Bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world and has made the determination to put off becoming a Buddha if there are any living beings still in suffering. His metta and karuna are so boundless and with no equal.
We can also look at the Buddha, who, after becoming self-awakened, gave and taught the Dhamma. And when there were the first 60 arahant monks, the Buddha told them to go forth in different directions, no two in the same direction to teach the Dhamma—for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, and for the benefit and welfare of the deities and humans. This is the metta of those who have received the highest thing and want to give to others for their benefit to promote more peace and happiness in the world.
This Christmas Day coming up signifies the day Jesus Christ was born. And it is believed that God sent Jesus Christ to help the people of the world. This is metta and compassion all the same. All the people gained metta and compassion, as well. We may have relatives, family, or friends that are Christian – and we should wish them to be well and happy, too. Why? Because we take the labeling of the religion away. We take the name away so that there isn’t Buddhist and there isn’t Christian. Because if we say God is like the Buddha – as in this quality of purity – then we can contemplate that they are the same. There is no Christian, no Buddhist. They are both emptiness. That is purity of goodness. God has given us love, so we need to give love to others. When we gain love, then we need to have gratitude for this and repay this. Like the child who receives love from their parents and repays this. The monks who learn the Dhamma can teach their parents to repay them. This is a display of gratitude—one who has received wishes to be a giver in return.
So, this is a very good question. I hope that you can understand and that the answer is clear. This should be enough on this topic for the time we have today, but maybe later, at a future opportunity, we can say a little more about this.
Questions and Answers (abridged):
Q: How should we use mala beads?
Luang Por Anan: We can chant different mantras to make our minds calm.
Q: How do Buddha relics appear spontaneously?
Luang Por Anan: This depends on the merit and parami of each individual. The power of purity comes down as a light and manifests relics. For some people this does not happen.
Once, in Sri Lanka, about 30 Buddha relics manifested in my shoulder bag when I was on a holy mountain.
In your center, how do you repay the love your mother has given you?
Q: I try to be a good person, appreciate my mom’s love, and be a good child.
Q: My mother told me Kuan Yin is my godmother. True compassion is my godmother. I feel faith in Kuan Yin [the Chinese name for Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara].
Luang Por Anan: I am happy for you. It is good to pay homage to Kuan Yin and recall the compassion of Kuan Yin.
Q: How should I comfort a friend who feels bad when they give gifts but no one shows gratitude?
Luang Por Anan: You can try to show gratitude and pay back their kindness yourself. You can also find the right time to speak comforting words to them, just not when they are angry.
The highest giving is giving from the heart of metta with no wish for anything in return. Like the Buddha who taught us the Dhamma out of compassion for us.