Dhamma Video Conference Talk and Q & A with Ajahn Anan – February 23rd, 2018
L uang Por Anan:
Today is Friday 23-02-2018. We all come together to build goodness, or to cultivate that which is skillful. You let go of evil, cultivate that which is good and skillful, and purify your mind. We are approaching the 15th day of the 3rd month, that we call Magha Puja. This is the day that the Buddha gave the Ovada Patimokkha to 1,250 arahant monks. These monks were comprised of the 3 Kassapa brothers and their followers who made up 1,000 monks. And then Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Maha Mogallana and their followers, who made up another 250 monks. There were 1,250 monks, who had gathered together without any prior appointment at Veluvana Monastery. This bamboo grove was the first monastery in the Buddha’s dispensation, that King Bimbisara offered to the Buddha.
That day the Buddha and the Noble Sangha came together for the Patimokkha in unison. It was a parisuddhi patimokkha – a pure Patimokkha – because each of the monks there had a pure heart, in other words, the Sangha were all fully-enlightened arahants. In the Buddha Sasana, this gathering only occurs once, and this is when the Buddha gives the Ovada Patimokkha, which contains a profound teaching, that is the heart of the Buddha’s teachings: Not doing any evil, cultivating what is skillful, and purifying the mind. We are all born in this era and we are still in time to practice the teachings of the Buddha. We should reflect that this is the heart of the Buddha’s teachings. And are we all able to practice according to the heart of these teachings?
Now, we think how do we let go of evil? In this period of time, there are many countries of the world that are materially prosperous. Some of these countries, have a lot of weapons and guns. It’s easy to find guns in these societies. In some cities, even 80% of the population have guns. But at the same time, they don’t lead them to get rid of evil. Someone within this 80%, even 1 or 2 people – will have a mind that is disturbed. If they just go, shoot and kill themselves, then they will just die alone, but instead they go and kill others – 30 or 40 people have to die along with them. This is in a materially developed country. And this is happening a lot. Why? Because they don’t teach them to avoid all evil. They only teach them to prosper materially. Promoting money, education, and finding wealth in the world. They don’t come back to learning about the inside, about the mind. They just don’t have Dhamma, that’s all.
And this country, Venerable Ajahn Chah has been there. One man there asked him, “Thailand is a Buddhist country, but why are there so many criminals and thieves there?” Ajahn Chah wasn’t offended by this, but asked him back, “In this country of yours, does everyone come 1st in the examinations? And in this country, do you have criminals? Do you have thieves?” They laughed. It’s not that in a Buddhist country they don’t have criminals and thieves. Buddhism teaches not to steal and not to be a bad person. But those people don’t practice according to the heart of the teachings.
Killing living beings is considered unskilful or evil. Killing living beings in order to maintain one’s livelihood in order make a living and survive, may be considered necessary in life, but to kill for playfulness of fun, then this is not necessary at all. We should give up this enjoyment in killing other living beings – this is like giving up evil. And when we have enough status and means to live well, then we shouldn’t kill other living beings. We can do this and still get by comfortably. Some people who are struggling to make a living, they might have difficulty being strict in this precept. But when one has more faith and more wisdom, one is able to get rid of evil. There are examples of this too, of those who could give up killing animals.
One of Ajahn Chah’s lay disciples would go out in a big group and go find frogs and toads to kill and eat. This person begun to grow faith and didn’t want to kill living beings. He didn’t want to kill frogs as he begun to feel sorry for the frogs. He didn’t want to kill them anymore. So, what did he do? He just broke their legs but didn’t kill the frogs. Later he thought about this more and more, and in the end, he felt deeply sorry for them. Then he went with his group as usual, and all the captured frogs, he let them all go. He got criticised and blamed, but he was determined not to kill anymore. It took a long time till he could do it. He trained and listened to Dhamma from our teacher Ajahn Chah and in the end, slowly he could let go of evil, and cultivated goodness.
Venerable Ajahn Chah also told another story. There was one person who owned one parcel of land and they sprayed pesticides to kill the insects that would harm their rice crop. But the next parcel of land, the owner had siladhamma, an upright morality, and wouldn’t spray any pesticides. In the end, the one who didn’t spray any pesticides, made more profit and became more prosperous. It is really amazing the power of siladhamma. If the heart is able to get to that level, then it can do it.
So, this letting go of evil, we try to do, bit by bit and more and more. Slowly contemplate, and train little by little. And in the end, we will be able to do it.
In the past, we may have been deceitful, may have cheated – maybe working in stores and cheated the time we worked, or taken the money of the company to be ours, or whatever different methods that come from our greed, this want to get more for ourselves. The Buddha taught us to rid of this sense of self. We don’t just practice giving and making merit in order to get a big heavenly mansion. Or wanting to just offer 100 baht and want to get a big heavenly mansion. That is greed. According to the heart of Dhamma, the reality of giving is to give up greed in the heart. When we give up greed, then the mind is pure. This has much greater benefits for us. We have sila dhamma. This is the highest wealth. The highest wealth. It won’t disappear and we won’t go poor. But if we do dana with the hope to want to get a lot then that is buying merit. That’s not right. When we practice generosity often, we don’t have greed.
And what about this development of Samadhi? Well, we have had this in and out breath of ours since birth. It is our long time, close friend. But we haven’t looked after it or been interested in it and taken care of it. We’ve been wanting to gain and acquire a lot of things outside of us. And when those things we have disappear, they change and cease, then we suffer. Some people have loneliness arise – they ask what is this loneliness? Why does it arise? I ask them, why be lonely? Look at the breath. Is it a good friend? It’s never gone anywhere – it’s with us. Wherever we go, we have the breath. It’s a really good friend.
Like the nephew of Venerable Sariputta, who listened to the Buddha teach at the Boar’s cave. His name was Diganaka Brahmin, the long nailed Brahmin. He ascended to vultures peak to find somewhere no one had ever died. The Buddha asked him, “Do you know that you have died here many lives over?” The Brahmin was distraught, “I have died here before?” In other words he believed in the cycle of birth and death. He started to believe that the Buddha knew. The Buddha asked, “What is your view that you hold?” The Brahmin said, “Whatever I like, that is what I want. What I don’t like, that is what I don’t want.” The Buddha said, “You shouldn’t like a view like this.” The Brahmin thought in his mind that this was a good view. Whatever he likes he wants, because that is happiness. Whatever he doesn’t like, he doesn’t want because if he gets it will be suffering. But the Buddha answered back, “ Brahmin, do you like old age, sickness and death?” “I don’t like it.” “If you don’t like then will you get it?” “I will get it.” “If you get it, will you be happy or suffer?” “I will suffer” The Brahmin understood.
He accepted the truth, that it is this way. He saw the Dhamma. This is purifying the heart to one level. Sotipattimagga and phala, the attainment to the paths and fruits of stream-entry. And what was amazing was that Venerable Sariputta who was fanning the Buddha, contemplated this dhamma teaching and attained to arahantship. The heart was completely pure, bright and radiant. This teaching was given on Magha Puja day. The Brahmin praised the Buddha as one who showed the way for those who are lost, revealed what was hidden, placed upright what was overturned. Then he paid respects and left. Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Mogallana, and their disciples came down to Veluvana Monastery, and the other 1000 monks of the 3 Kassapa brothers, came together and the Buddha gave the Ovada Patimokkha.
And on the training of the mind, we have to have knowing of the in and out breath, which is like our good friend. So try to develop mindfulness.
The true practice, is the practice for us to not be anything. So the term becoming a sotapanna. It means letting go. It’s like carrying something heavy. Carrying something like 10 heavy logs. Becoming a sotapanna – this means we put down 3 of these heavy logs. What we gain is the lightness. Becoming a sotapanna is like gaining lightness. If we put it all down, its like having nothing. Its not heavy. This is attaining to becoming an arahant. Its not that we get and gain and carry more and more. That we become this or that, it’s about getting rid of and putting things down. Till we are not anything at all. We practice till we don’t want anything more. We don’t want to be anything. We want to give up the things that we are right now. Because what we are already is heavy.
The Buddha taught this, so may you follow this path. Follow it until the heart is pure. Train the mind to be pure.
We are all Buddhists, but there are many types of Buddhists. There are those that are Buddhists just by name. And there are the Buddhists that are determined in the practice. They are all Buddhists. Ask the bad person, they will say they are Buddhist; ask the thief, they will say they are Buddhist, ask the criminal, they will say they are Buddhist, ask the one who drinks alcohol everyday, they will say they are Buddhist. We have to see if we are real Buddhists or not?
May you all be determined in the Magha Puja coming up, reflect on yourself, have mindfulness, mindfulness with the breath a lot, or with your meditation object like Buddho, reflecting on the virtues of the Bodhisattva or that which is most suitable for you. Practice meditation till the mind is peaceful with Samadhi, can enter Samadhi, have inner rapture, and have stillness in the mind. Then the mind can be joyous with metta and compassion full in your heart. How ever much Dhamma we gain, this is the amount our hearts will grow in metta and compassion. May you all be determined in your practice and all grow in the Dhamma.
Questions and Answers:
Luang Por Anan: What are your favorite places that you visited in India?
Answer: Bodh Gaya. I felt like I was going back home. I tried not to cry but ended up crying so much when bowing to the Buddha statue in the chedi. When I went home I felt more urgency to practice.
Answer 2: Bodh Gaya and Kusinara. I felt great rapture and joy. Also at Sarnath I felt this way.
Luang Por Anan: This is the mind becoming peaceful. You can reflect on these experiences, recollect them, and use the memories of these places to help with the practice of recollecting the Buddha and helping make the mind peaceful.
Q: If I talk with another I can feel irritated or angry at the other person. What should I do?
Luang Por Anan: You can use a mantra to repeat in your mind to help focus and calm down and endure the discomfort, like say “discomfort, just endure”. Watch the mind, see how long the mood lasts. Is it permanent? You can time it with a clock and see how long it goes for.
Once a market trader came in to talk to Luang Pu Chah. He would talk and talk, and Luang Pu Chah just got in a few sentences, then didn’t say anything at all. The man just kept talking for about 30 minutes. Then he just got up, did a simple bow with just his hands, and left. Luang Pu Chah asked the monks: “Who wins? The one who is quiet, or the one who talks?”
Q: I get mad at a person who I think is insincere.
Luang Por Anan: In this case, look at your own heart and ask: “Have I done good? Is this heart good?” Why do you come to chant? To do good. Just know how others are but do not take on the burden of their faults. How do you know they are insincere?
Q: Maybe they cheat people or do not show kindness.
Luang Por Anan: At Wat Nong Pah Pong there was a novice called monkey novice, that was his nick name that Luang Pu Chah gave. Other monks did not like him and did not see much good in him. But he was the best at polishing Luang Pu Chah’s fake teeth, he polished them until they were white and clean. If it weren’t for this one skill maybe he would not have had anything good about him, either.
Q: But people pretending to be good when they are not, this is different. The person I am mad at is an adult.
Luang Por Anan: It is the same because all people have good and bad within them. Adults can be like children inside. We should know if someone is dangerous. Because we are not 100% good yet we are still subject to meeting with bad people – we should train our hearts further.