Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – March 13th, 2020
L uang Por Anan: This Friday we come together as usual and recollect the Lord Buddha, who has great metta and karuna, lovingkindness and compassion, for all beings. Why is this? If the Buddha had wanted to overcome suffering just for himself, he could have done that a long time ago. But, instead, he built parami and overcame suffering for the happiness of humans, devas, and brahmas. It is hard to find one who is willing to sacrifice to this level. It is extremely rare, and so many aeons pass by to get one who can be a fully awakened Buddha.
Now we have a virus, Covid-19, spreading around the world. People love themselves, which is normal. However, when this is taken to an extreme, problems arise in society and in living together. We should practice virtue and self-sacrifice, and this is hard to find. This is very rare. Few train to build goodness like giving, virtue, and mental development; dana, sila, and bhavana. People harm each other due to greed and selfishness around the world and do other harmful actions. Today let us watch a Dhamma video about self-sacrifice.
Welcome to all the monks and novices and blessings in the Dhamma to all the faithful laity. When we do our evening puja, we chant praises of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and then we share this heart of metta to others; we dedicate our merit with all those that have goodness towards us, to our karmic debtors, and to all sentient beings. We wish, “May I be happy”, and our mind is happy—imbued with metta, loving kindness, and karuna, compassion. This metta and karuna doesn’t just arise by itself, but it needs to be developed and trained in. We can see that in the present day world, in these times of difficulty that have arisen with this virus spreading, people in the general public have self-love and do things out of self interest. When it’s like this, then there is competition and fighting for the four basic requisites and the necessary daily items, even for specific items like toilet paper. People fight to buy it and get into arguments and disputes over it to the point where there is physical violence. Why is this? This is because of selfishness.
If one knows how to share and give, then this does not arise. As we know, some who have a lot of these necessities may store them up to raise prices in the market. This hurts others and comes from a mind of greed. Those that don’t get these necessities have anger arise. Then there is fighting and struggles to compete for these necessities. Why? Because of selfishness and not knowing how to share.
These times should make us reflect on the parami, the spiritual perfections, of the Lord Buddha that he developed through great self-sacrifice. What did he sacrifice? He had to even sacrifice his own life many times over. In the life when he was King Vessantara, he gave all his wealth and his kingship away. He even gave away his wife and children. He gave it all away in that life in order to build dana parami, the perfection of giving, to the ultimate spiritual level. This was so that his mind would be fully perfected and so that he could attain to becoming a self-awakened Buddha.
In one life when the Buddha was practicing as a Bodhisattva, he was born as a royal elephant. He sacrificed his own life in order to keep and maintain his sila, his morality. He had metta such that he was not willing to kill his enemies. In the life where he was perfecting sila parami, he was the naga Bhuridatta, and he had great forbearance without equal. He wouldn’t harm the person who was hurting him as he was keeping his sila. Or, in the life when he was a hermit Bodhisattva, he saw a mother tiger who had fallen into a valley, had no food, and was about to eat her own cubs. He said to his fellow hermits to go elsewhere, and then he jumped down into the valley so that the tiger could eat the meat on his body. Why? So that it would extend the life of the tiger cubs and so that the mother wouldn’t need to harm her cubs. This was the Buddha sacrificing to the level of an ultimate spiritual perfection.
So, as Buddhists, we should puja the Buddha with our own practice, following the Buddha. Regularly sacrifice and share. In these difficult times, we have to help each other out. If we have things we should share them. We don’t only live for ourselves. When we share with others, and others can protect themselves from the sickness, then the sickness won’t come back to us. If we keep things just for ourselves, and others don’t have these protective items, then the sickness will end up coming back to us.
So share things that are necessities, those things that we are able to share. But we don’t share everything away, one part we keep for ourselves. Give to our family first. This is metta and karuna for us and our family, and to our loved ones. Or to those that we are more indifferent towards. Or, more than that, we can share with others that don’t have. And we don’t harm others. We don’t fight and struggle with others. We are established in goodness. That is, we have dana, giving, sila, virtue—we control our actions and speech. One doesn’t cheat others and is established in morality. One doesn’t take advantage of other people. One is established in Dhamma and advises to do things that are good. One has metta and karuna by giving advice so that others can gain benefit and can protect against sickness. Doctors or those scientists who have knowledge can help the sick and ill. Each person does their duties fully. When everyone has metta and karuna, then this metta and karuna can support the well-being of the world.
We can also observe the behaviours of animals. Like in Thailand, in the province of the Lopburi, there is big infighting between monkeys, which is very strange. They have established themselves into two big groups, with each group having many hundreds of monkeys, and the two groups fight with each other. This year there has also been news of wild elephants fighting each other. Though this probably has occurred in the past, it is still strange.
As for humans, they are fighting the Covid-19 coronavirus. It has spread around the world, many people have gotten sick, and many have died from it. When there are disasters like this occurring, then we come back to the refuge in our hearts—the jewel of the Buddha, jewel of the Dhamma, and the jewel of the Sangha. This is called our refuge. This is our highest wealth. We do our own good deeds of dana, or giving, sila, or virtue, and bhavana, such as making our minds still and peaceful. We have metta and karuna in our hearts. This is the highest noble wealth. Then we enter the Buddha Dhamma Sangha, like we chant: “Buddham saranam gacchami, Dhammam saranam gacchami, Sangham saranam gacchami; Dutiyampi…; Tatiyampi… This refuge is in our hearts. This is the wealth in our hearts. The Buddha said that there is no jewel equal to the jewel of the Buddha, no jewel equal to the jewel of the Dhamma, and no jewel equal to the jewel of the Sangha. In the world there are many jewels. But they never last or stay forever. In the present day, when there is great wealth, we can see the stock market drops greatly. If we have wealth there, then it disappears. Sometimes we have wealth, but then thieves and robbers steal it away. All things can be taken from us, because we have this body. If we don’t have this body, then all the other things dependent on it won’t exist anymore.
So to have all these other things, may we firstly have good health. If we still have this breath, then even though some of our wealth may disappear and diminish, we will still be able to gain it back one day. That is, we can do it if we have the strength of mind. A strong mind needs to have a refuge—the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as our sarana, our refuge. We will then see aniccam – impermanence, uncertainty. We can see the large cruise ships with many people travelling in them, but it’s not certain. We could travel by airplane—and this used to be seen as convenient and quick. Those that didn’t have money couldn’t travel. But, this is uncertain as well.
We can see in this present situation where there is impermanence, there is change, then sicknesses can arise. Sometimes those with money go out to pubs and clubs, and this is considered beyond what is necessary for living. Then they may get sick, and this could be a danger to their life. This comes back to the Buddha’s teachings of not frequenting places at night, not going for entertainment and shows, and not indulging in alcohol outside. In the house maybe there is a small amount of drinking for one’s health, but if one goes outside one’s house and indulges in it without caution, then they could become infected.
For example, in Thailand, there were 11 people who went out at night. They thought it would be safe. But it’s not safe, so one should be cautious. If one lives with the virtue of sila, there are still dangers, but they are lessened. If dangers arise, may you be safe and be protected.
You can see that the virtue of sila will protect oneself. If it isn’t a heavy, bad karma, then we should be safe and protected from all dangers. May you take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as the highest refuge in our hearts, as our highest jewel and highest wealth. It is a noble wealth in our hearts. Each of us that has metta and self-sacrifice, then spread this heart of metta to ourselves and to all living beings—to all the people in the world. May all beings be free from dangers and free from sickness. May we have happiness and prosperity.
May you chant the Ratana Sutta that begins with “Yang kinci…” and the Bojjhanga Sutta each day and then meditate to make the mind peaceful. Contemplate the condition of the world, having change like this. In the Buddha’s time there was the spread of illnesses, but there was the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha there. In this present day there is the Dhamma of the Buddha, and if we practice Dhamma we will see the Buddha, as well.
May we be determined to make the mind strong and balanced, complete with dana and sila. This dana and sila will lead to the benefit of heaven. That is, the mind that is the deva, the heavenly being, which is one with hiri, a wise shame, and ottapa, a fear of the results of wrongdoing. When we have these two qualities, this will support the world to have happiness and peace, and people will be able to live in the world well. These two qualities are rare in this world. Those with hiri, wise shame, and ottapa, fear of wrongdoing, they will have a mind and heart of metta, will have self-sacrifice and sharing, and won’t dispute and clash with others.
With toilet paper, one can’t even boil it and eat it instead of rice, but people see it as a big deal. “I need to have it”; “I need to get it.” Then there are disputes to the extent of physical violence. If there is no food, and people are fighting over it, then that may be more of a bigger deal because one is hungry and in pain. But this fighting can arise over no toilet paper if people don’t have enough mindfulness and lack wisdom. Before, when there wasn’t any toilet paper we could still live. These days, however, people have become used to having convenient items and become accustomed to ease and convenience. Then we aren’t able to handle it if we don’t have these things. When we don’t have them, then there is disputes and fighting, there is anger and physical violence. We can see this happening in many countries.
So, we need to have mindfulness and to be cautious. We are Buddhists, and we homage the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, so may we be determined to have dana, sila, and bhavana. This dana, sila, and bhavana will give us the benefit of true happiness. May you all grow in blessings.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: Can you give advice for my mother who feels depressed and is old?
Luang Por Anan: Can you visit her often? Is she far away? Try to visit her and speak about things that help her feel at ease, happy, fresh, and joyous. Speak of past events that uplift her mind. The important thing is to make your own mind and heart fresh and uplifted first through chanting and meditation, then visit your mother with this strength in your own mind. Then you will be able to help your mother. Make your own mind bright and radiant first.
2. Q: In the video, it says to chant the Ratana Sutta and Bojjhanga Paritta. When should we chant? Morning, or evening, or both? What state of mind should we be in? What should we contemplate as we chant?
Luang Por Anan: If one has time, one can chant in the morning and evening. If one does not have enough time, just chanting in the evening or just the morning is fine. Make the mind still and have mindfulness with the chanting. After one is done chanting, in the case of the Ratana Sutta, one can contemplate that the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are incomparable; they are the highest refuge; they are a jewel higher than all others in the human and heavenly worlds; there is no equal in all the universe or beyond. This is the basic meaning of the Ratana Sutta.
After the chanting the Bojjhanga Paritta, one can contemplate the 7 Bojjhangas: investigation of Dhammas, effort and energy, rapture, mindfulness, tranquillity, concentration, and equanimity. If one is sick and contemplates these as Dhamma, diseases can be reduced or go away. If one has high samadhi or concentration, then even strong diseases can be alleviated.
Give the mind a refuge. This is very important. Then the mind can overcome distraction and wandering. When one has a refuge in this way, this is of great benefit to oneself and others.
3. Q: If one is in self-isolation with Covid-19, then what should one do to look after their mind?
Luang Por Anan: One must first understand if the individual has been on retreat or meditated before? Are they Buddhist? One can teach them to reflect on goodness that they have done before as a way to uplift the mind. They can also chant, such as chanting “Itipi so…” 108 times or more in a day; maybe one could chant a lot. This helps to not worry and proliferate. Think that, in 14 days, maybe one will find out that one is infected, but maybe one would die sooner than that. So use the time that one has left well—make the mind peaceful and bright as much as one is able.
4. Q: If 3 people had the virus—a child, and elderly person, and a middle aged woman, who should the oxygen machine be given to?
Luang Por Anan: This question a doctor should answer. The doctor would be the one to make this choice.
Elderly people can be strong—this depends on whose body is the strongest and who has the best chance of recovery. Italy has this problem now.
For the older person, one can reflect that maybe the doctor is giving one a chance to take an early rebirth. One can feel good that one is sacrificing to help others, maybe letting others use the medical machine to help others live on if it comes to this. I am old, myself, so I prepare myself in this way, also. One should prepare the mind in case this happens. Make the mind good, chant the Ratana Sutta, and make the mind bright.
5. Q: How does one make the mind confident and feel less fear?
Luang Por Anan: Have lots of mindfulness. Mindfulness gives strength to the mind which leads to confidence. Have concentration and effort; give rise to wisdom. This all brings about strength of mind.
6. Q: Who should one treat first—the person with the strong body or the person with virtue?
Luang Por Anan: In general, the doctor sees who is able to recover. The doctors want to help everyone. Maybe the hospital administrator, if they have virtue, would want to care for the one with virtue due to seeing the benefits that this has for others, as well; perhaps thinking that the person with virtue will be of more benefit. Dhamma protects those who practice. Maybe doctors feel that they want to help a virtuous person. Also, if a doctor receives an urgent case, then they must help that person right away—this is the decision of the hospital and caretakers.
7. Q: What is the difference between a Sutta Gatha and a Paritta?
Luang Por Anan: A Sutta or Gatha come from the Pali Canon, and a Paritta is derived from or is within the Suttas and Gathas.
May all be safe and free from sicknesses. May the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha look after you all.